Karen Meat is a pop genius. Karen Meat sings a lot about barf. Karen Meat is not her real name — Arin Eaton is. If you peruse her music on Bandcamp, you’ll hear someone with an impeccable ear for pop music, and an appealing voice, which has a bit of Miley Cyrus’ nasal edge, the better to cut through lush keyboard & Omnichord arrangements.
She’s Drunk Like the Rest of Us is the product of her first recording sessions at Flat Black Studio, produced by Dana Telsrow. The songs are still based around programmed drums and software synths, but the album is filled out with Telsrow’s guitar & bass. “Doowop” is a full band track featuring Curt Oren on saxophone, Justin LeDuc on drums and Brendan Spengler on keyboards. The song sounds a bit like ’50s rock & roll, but updated with Eaton’s lyrical weirdness: “I’ve dismissed from my mind/What it is like to feel alive.”
Karen Meat’s deadpan brings to mind Sarah Vowell, if Sarah Vowell sang, and was a character in a Todd Solondz movie. In “Sad,” she sings, “I want to barf on you/I hate what you put me through,” which is emotionally direct and inappropriate. In “6-12-16” she sings, “I probably should seek some professional help. Instead I will medicate myself.”
I’d be worried about Eaton, but she combines an almost cinematic artifice with her surprising bluntness. Karen Meat is a character, a girl with no filters and a bit of a drinking problem, a regular Dawn Weiner. The perfectly damaged pop music of her previous releases is still present, but more fully realized in Telsrow’s ambitious production and arrangements. At the end of “Sad,” she sings, “I’ll admit I’m sad,” trailing off into rattly vocal fry. It feels like it’s over too soon and you want to hear more.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 211.