“I caught you reading my diary last night but I didn’t mind, I knew you’d find it,” murmurs singer-songwriter Alyssa Gengos, aka Kythira, on a spoken word interlude during “In the Attic Room.” The song arrives halfway through Kythira’s full-length debut Cut Through. It’s a telling line on a record that unfolds like a series of diary entries written not only to be read, but explicitly understood—its lyrics are plain-spoken and stripped of flowery metaphor, and its gently strummed, guitar-based indie pop songs are straightforward and uncomplicated.
Self-produced on a laptop while the Sydney-Copenhagen-New York-based artist traveled the world, the songs on Cut Through take the perspective of a solo voyager tasked with navigating and existing within the spaces between time zones. They are, in a more poetic sense, an ode to the people who seem to slice effortlessly through our stiffest defenses, Gengos’s “on the road” missives intersecting with the discomfiting grey area that is the slow decay of the on-again-off-again relationship.
“Can anybody see I got so far? Can anybody tell it broke my heart?” Gengos wonders on “My Name,” a plea for acknowledgement that her personal pain is universally meaningful—or, at the very least, outwardly visible. Later, on “Silver Shears,” she ponders the cold comfort of an assured defeat, her voice melting like ice cream as she admits that it’s useless to fight her heart’s desire. “I’m stringing my guitar / While you and your silver shears / They cut right through my heart,” she sings.
If Colleen Green has been around long enough to qualify as a genre touchstone, Gengos is of Greenite stock in that she constructs her songs from the barest, most portable elements: guitar, a Casiotone, and the tinny beat of drum machine keeping time behind her simple songs. Yet while Gengos lacks Green’s punky tartness, she’s no shrinking violet when it comes to excavating her own anxieties, and Cut Through finds its edge in the myriad ways Gengos conducts her unvarnished self-interrogations via songs as sweet and light as whipped cream.