In Debbie Dopamine’s debut EP, Pets, the songwriting project of Brooklyn-based musician Katie Ortiz spells out what it means to embrace being a mess. From catchy instrumental arrangements to brutally honest lyrics, Ortiz has delivered an album that is acutely self-aware and unapologetic while establishing herself as a serious force of an artist. With six songs that span 20 minutes and 49 seconds, Pets is a deeply thought-provoking and worthwhile work of art. In addition to creating a record with a healthily varied sound and style, Ortiz gives plenty of room to each of her songs without them ever becoming drawn-out. Through striking a balance with these elements, Pets commands an attentive listen and gets better with each rotation.
Pets opens with “Get Better,” which is a song that is about not wanting to get better. Anchoring itself in the narrator’s commitment to being unwell, “Get Better” sifts through various layers of emotional complexity with lyrics such as “It’s the instinct to heal that drives me insane” and “I feel my best when I don’t feel anything.” Melodically, the song oscillates between breakdowns and more contemplative moments, leaving plenty of moments for catching your breath. Glockenspiel, synths, guitars, drums, and more are all present in this searingly brilliant track, kicking the record off with a bang.
Following “Get Better” is “Eat Cake,” a track that FTA contributor Mike Borchardt has previously written about and whose music video was directed by our very own Jeanette D. Moses. The song picks up where “Get Better” thematically left off and serves as an excellent transition into the rest of the album. Ortiz continues to sing about coming to terms with accepting mental instability while also proclaiming that she’s going to make her own happy neurotransmitters. In the second verse, she sings “And everybody said I would be better by now/But I got no more tricks up their sleeves/And I don’t want to waste their time any more/Waiting for my dopamine” and by the song’s end, she decides, “I’m not gonna waste my life anymore/I’ll make my own dopamine.”
Providing a burst of emotional sovereignty, is the beautiful and cello-heavy “Rhododendrons,” in which Ortiz seems to reflect on her existence in terms of her past and future selves. “Do the new selves that haunt my home/Ever cross paths with all my ghosts” are the brilliant first lines of the song—prompting the listener to question their own identity while bearing witness to Debbie Dopamine’s conundrum. The song elicits imagery of being in a garden, amongst rhododendrons, large and beautiful flowers capable of sheltering many different types of living beings. Cellist Anthime Miller’s work on the track is exceptional while the track’s composition is remarkable.
Although Pets is only six songs long, it feels like a true and complete album. The rest of the tracks (“Interlude,” “Swimming Pool,” and “Sour”) all hold their own in different ways and round out a truly astounding effort on the part of Katie Ortiz and her entire team. “Sour” is a perfect closer while “Swimming Pool” offers a 90’s rock aesthetic with intensely raw lyrics such as “My mother would be so depressed/But she’s not here and I am blessed/To be left behind/Instead of six feet under, killing time.”
Debbie Dopamine (photo by Cori Schimko)
Through Pets, Ortiz has created a long-lasting impression with Debbie Dopamine as a formidable figure in both music and artistic ingenuity. I am thrilled to see what’s next for her and can’t wait to rock out whenever she plays around Brooklyn.
Pets was self released and is available on all major streaming platforms.