Sarah Kinlaw is a New York-based composer, choreographer, multimedia artist, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, known for multimedia productions and collaborations with Devonte Hynes (a.k.a Blood Orange), Caroline Polacheck, SOPHIE, Dan Deacon and others that feature as many as 200 performs. Kinlaw is also the co-founder of acclaimed JOVM mainstay act Softspot.
The New York-based multidisciplinary artist fully steps out into the limelight as a solo artist with her solo recording project Kinlaw — and the project’s full-length debut The Tipping Scale reportedly finds her showcasing her work in a new light. Lyrically, the album’s material bridges the deeply personal with universal themes, revealing a songwriter exploring loss, regret, confusion, strength, identity and change. Kinlaw explains that the album’s tittle is an ideal metaphor for the album, the idea of an ever-present slipping in and out of change, and an acceptance of this kind of change.
Kinlaw’s debut effort also reportedly finds her unifying her multidisciplinary practice. Initially writing with the goal of finding entry points that felt honest and authentic to her practice, she frequently saw her music relating to motion. “I would start with a gesture and let it build into something until a memory attached itself to it,” the New York-based artist says. “The memory would become a story and the story would reveal itself as something important that needed to be expressed in this album.”
Sonically, the album’s material is generally centered around slick, sometimes dance floor electronic production with a refined, compositional sensibility featuring ornate flourishes. Last month, I wrote about The Tipping Point‘s first single, the slow-burning and dramatic “Blindspot,” which featured Kinlaw’s yearning yet ethereal crooning over shimmering synth arpeggios and stuttering beats.
Beginning with a slow-burning atmospheric introductory section featuring squiggly synths, “Permissions,” The Tipping Point‘s second and latest single slowly builds up tempo with the song capturing a rapidly vacillating array of emotional states including confusion, heartache, self-flagellation, despair and so on, as its narrator seemingly has a difficult conversation with herself.
“I only allowed myself to write this track while I was moving forward physically. I turned it into a bit of a game; there are many mental games woven through all of the tracks, really, but this one has the most,” Kinlaw explains. “I wrote ‘Permissions’ on a bus, in the back of a car, on a plane, and every lyric and melody was written while walking or running. I was in an extraordinary depression at that time and wanted to honor it, yet still, write something for a future that would hopefully feel different.” Kinlaw adds, “It can sometimes be challenging for me to sing it. I like that about this one. The feelings are hard, the words are hard, it’s hard to sing, yet here we are, dancing together.”
Directed by Kathleen Dycaico, the recently released video for “Permissions” is a surrealistic fever dream that follows a red leather jacket wearing Kinlaw as she crawls out of a car wreck that probably should have killed her. As she walks forward, a small group of Instagram warriors pose for selfies in front of the mangled car, a couple of lovers run up to a truck to make out, and a news reporter tries to interview Kinlaw. But as she continues to move forward, Kinalw seems to express a growing sense of joy by the time the video ends.
The Tipping Point is slated for a January 22, 2021 release through Bayonet Records.