Phoenix songwriter Cait Brennan knows how to share. For starters, her new album, Third, shares its name with Third, the final record by her musical idol, the cult band Big Star. Both albums were recorded at Ardent Studios, which has hosted everyone from Led Zeppelin to R.E.M. And both are full of daringly personal songs. Like her hilarious social media feed, where she riffs on her life as a transgender rocker, movies, politics and her struggles with Parkinson’s disease, Brennan imbues her songs with as much personal detail as glam rock
attitude. Here, Brennan reflects on three of Third’s best.
• “Bad At Apologies”
This soulful shuffle kicks off the record. Singing over crisp R&B guitars, Brennan sings bluntly: “Yeah, I’m the asshole.” It’s a lyric designed to showcase Brennan’s candor. “As a kid I really loved Elvis Costello, but it always seemed like he dished out the most withering, brutal, vivisecting takedowns of everybody he ever met, but didn’t spend a lot of ink on himself,” Brennan says. “I’m not going to sit there and catalog your supposed flaws without subjecting myself to the same treatment.”
• “Benedict Cumberbatch”
Brennan is a big fan of the Doctor Strange actor, particularly his work on the BBC TV show Sherlock, but for the purposes of her song, a Queen-style arena rock epic boiled down to a tight three minutes, “Benedict Cumberbatch” just suited the melody. “Honestly, it was the sound of the name as much as anything else,” Brennan says.
• “Catiebots Don’t Cry”
Despite her willingness to share, the slinky psychedelic ballad “Catiebots” started as a studio in-joke about her aloofness. “I’m a little bit odd… people find it hard to read me,” Brennan says. But the song turns the concept on its head, resulting in one of the most emotive and tender songs on the record.
—Jason P. Woodbury
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