Katy Lied

Katy Lied

Alongside Pretzel Logic, 1975’s Katy Lied forms the hinge point between the warm jazz-rock of early Steely Dan and the almost antiseptically tight sound of such later efforts as Aja and Gaucho. Song for song, it’s probably their sweetest album. Or, at least, it’s the only album that gives you the sense that the members of Steely Dan were as susceptible to tenderness and nostalgia as the rest of us—even if it’s nostalgia for an awful relationship (“Rose Darling”), or for that guy who used to lure neighborhood teenagers with porn (“Everyone’s Gone to the Movies”), or for being a loser in general (“Bad Sneakers”). You can picture the potential ad copy for Katy Lied on a billboard—maybe over the LA freeway, maybe amongst the lights of Times Square: “Steely Dan makes bad vibes sound good.” It’s still amazing to trace Steely Dan’s cultural trajectory over the years: While contemporaries like the Eagles sound definitively like products of their time, Steely Dan only seems to get more relevant. Their fragmented-but-obsessive studio practice has filtered down to modern artists like Frank Ocean, and their interplay of cynicism and sincerity helped lay the foundation for Charli XCX and Lana Del Rey. This was a group that pleased crowds, but could hardly be described as “crowd-pleasers”; a group that sounded polished and professional, but that taught you to be suspicious of polish and professionalism. Art could be messy. But Steely Dan? Get the right equipment, and keep the workers in line, and Steely Dan could be perfect.

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