Kate Borkowski has gained traction with her haunting, sultry voice and her unique affinity for combining the lofty byproducts of her worried brain with melodies that, despite their darkness and quirks, feel like old friends. Beautiful Little Fools, Borkowski’s exquisite (and unreleased) debut album, is among the must-hear albums today. And for all intents and purposes, it should not exist in today’s music world. After all, it boasted a large independent budget yet wasn’t ‘kick-started’, it doesn’t wreak of cliches, nor is it the product of forced musical sacrifice. The intoxicating quality of Borkowski’s music and personality has allowed her to quickly become an artist that many of the industry’s best are openly enthusiastic to collaborate with. It doesn’t hurt that Borkowski is also business-minded and loves a good challenge. Today’s music industry, seeming almost directionless at times, provides a needed challenge for this Notre Dame English major and wordsmith. The current industry, with its monomaniacal attention to and funding of the ‘single’, cannot hope to see the same landscape of great albums it once looked out upon. And, if the music industry is no longer investing in great albums, how can it ever hope to see its customer base pay (yes, pay) for music that has been so pitifully devalued, to the point of becoming a bribe for a Facebook ‘like’? And a lot of it isn’t worth much more, truthfully; in fact, it seems everyone now thinks it is a cool idea to be a musician. The do-it-yourselfers are transforming the terrain and outlook of the music industry as much as, if not more than, the major labels. So what does this all mean for music-lovers and audiophiles alike? The album’s genius has been all but obliterated, we bow to singles, we have pumped up the volume to compensate for less than stellar songwriting, as though loudness is akin to meaning, and we use studio magic to SoundShop projects where true talent is lacking and to hide the downright emptiness of many songs. Fewer and fewer of those that actually are musicians are able to (or allowed to) fund projects that possess any real quality, song-wise or sonically.
Borkowski is changing all that, from the outside. As Borkowski neared the finish of her self-funded debut album, Beautiful Little Fools, she gained the interest of longtime Tori Amos mix engineer, Marcel van Limbeek. Borkowski and Van Limbeek worked for nearly a year on Beautiful Little Fools, joining forces to create a record possessing the freedom had only in independence, using the budget and tools had only by major labels. During the recording journey, Borkowski traveled from Seattle, WA to London, eventually being invited out to Martian Engineering in Cornwall, UK to re-record her piano parts on Martian’s Bosendorfer piano, and finally ended up at New York's renowned Sterling Sound, where the album was tenderly mastered by Greg Calbi (Paul Simon, Graceland). Along the way, Van Limbeek introduced Kate to the striking and multi-talented string arranger, John Philip Shenale, who lended his own creativity to the record, and who has continued his work with Borkowski on other projects. According to last fall’s Notre Dame Magazine article by Carol Schaal, Ben Smith (Heart), who performed drums on Borkowski’s entire album, says of Beautiful Little Fools, “I was very pleased to hear that Tori Amos’ production and engineering partners saw the potential in the music and love what they’ve come up with together.” The album’s title is taken from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and its themes of profound regret, self-doubt and almost obsessive worry wind their awkward ways honey-like through 12 expertly crafted songs, each recorded, produced and engineered with the same care, painstaking attention to detail and sonic representation, and genuine love by the surrounding team. There are no singles here. Of course, some songs are better suited for radio formats than others, but Borkowski refused to place all eggs into a single basket. It is for this very reason that Beautiful Little Fools, as an emerging album in today’s suffering music industry, proves a refreshingly cohesive and beautiful standout
Borkowski will be premiering songs from the album for the first time at Drom NYC next Saturday June 23, 2012. Bassist Jon Evans (Tori Amos) and drummer Steve Holloway (Riverdance) will be supporting Kate’s performance on stage. Tickets are on sale now. $10 in advance through Ticketfly and $15 at the door. Doors open at 6:30pm and the show will begin at 7:15pm.