On Youth and Growth in The Bluest Star

How sweet it would be if we acknowledged our friendships in music as much as we did our romances.

My familiarity with Katie Bennett’s heart project Free Cake for Every Creature is founded on years of us moving in the same spaces in Philadelphia. Her music feels like it’s been a constant in conversations and memories since I was in high school. Her latest LP, The Bluest Star, embraces youth and memories from childhood, but goes deeper by recognizing their impermanence and accepting the fleeting—like a giant metaphor for summer.

Since 2012, Bennett has been releasing under the name Free Cake for Every Creature. The Bluest Star seems to stand for everything the project has always been: reflections on personal moments, thoughts about the world, and an outlet for Bennett to engage with processes of growth. The Bluest Star, however, demonstrates a newfound sense of understanding in all of these things. Bennett’s listeners have always gotten to walk alongside her, but now they get to feel her assuredness.

Despite the new confidence Bennett shows us now, she manages to maintain what always made Free Cake so special: an honest account of what it can feel like to be young. The first song, “Riding Into The Sunset In A Busted Car,” establishes this with its first words, “All the days that I fucked around/ I wouldn’t take them back and I wouldn’t go back either.” She sings on, “Riding into the sunset in a busted car/ burning another hole into the art project of my heart.” Bennett’s opening ideas frame her whole work: a nostalgic reflection on youth, growth, and relationships.

“Around You,” probably my favorite song on the record, initially feels like a bouncy love song by Go Sailor, only for the listener to realize it’s about a different version of true love. Bennett sings admiringly about an old friend, “The light just wants to hang around you/ time capsules already sorted through.” The song reminds me that love comes in so many different forms, and how sweet it would be if we acknowledged our friendships in music as much as we did our romances. Bennett sings, “Tell me all of it/ you downplay the weight/ by talking quick/ while I braid your hair with my hands.” It’s an ode to intimacy in any shape.

Bennett also explores intimacy, not in the context of a particular person, but in a place or a memory. Songs like “In Your Car,” “Tom or Mike or Pat or,” and “Hometown Hero” paint vivid pictures that we all can relate to, like sitting in the passenger seat or feeling a breeze. She uses nostalgia in a way that relaxes listeners, like the familiarity of having a relentless high school crush.

There’s a balance of youth and confidence that Bennett strikes in The Bluest Star. Her reflections feel more processed, and in songs like “Shake It Out,” “Took A Walk,” and “Goodbye, Unsilently,” you can tell that she’s learned so much about herself and her relationships. In “Took A Walk,” Bennett sings wistfully about someone from her past, but she holds herself sacred. “I welcome an endless becoming/ and with each step you lose a little grip/ I didn’t always run from you/ but toward what I had to do.” She continues exploring boundaries in “Goodbye, Unsilently,” in which she sings, “I want to try for love but also protect my world.”

In the song “Sunday Afternoon,” Bennett leans out. She sings only four lines: “Walked for hours aimlessly/ washed in the nothing, happily/ the world went on without me/ and I let it, happily.” With growth, there’s serenity, and an understanding of what you don’t have control over. Bennett’s assuredness lets listeners feel at peace.

In “Christina’s World,” Bennett gives poetic context to the famous painting by Andrew Wyeth. Bennett thoughtfully memorializes the painting’s subject by singing, “You aren’t just a moment/ you’re moving all the time/ and the sky is still enormous/ when there are shadows in your eyes.” This song makes me wonder if Christina is a mirror of Bennett. Bennett’s words resemble her attitude throughout the album—that it’s about encouragement, support. Her acknowledgement of Christina’s worth feels synonymous with Bennett’s strong sense of self.

The final song, “Night Music,” is maybe the most abstract song on the album. It begins with a recording of an older woman, perhaps Bennett’s grandmother, leaving a voicemail. In the voicemail, the woman says that she prays for Bennett everyday. Bennett’s voice is like a lullaby, and the intimacy of the song supports an ongoing idea throughout the record: that everything is going to be fine.
The Bluest Star is a stunning album that will be sure to please her listeners. In Free Cake nature, the album deals with the trials and tribulations of being young. But this time around, listeners get to hear how much Bennett has grown. Her self-assuredness is a beautiful reminder to be nice to yourself, because at the end of the day, you’re all you’ve got.

Emily Yacina currently resides in Brooklyn and attends The New School for Environmental Studies. Originally from the greater Philadelphia area, Yacina has been recording her own music for 8 years. She explores the difficulty of heart ache on her new album, Heart Sky. Written and recorded mostly in Alaska, Yacina used the time she spent there to reflect on a year of growth and love. On her latest album, she brings her intimate narratives to life with careful chord progressions and wandering synths.