On A Little Touch of Schleicher in the Night, Katie von Schleicher is a luckless harlequin on a velvet stage, showcasing an array of indignities against a luxe backdrop of strings and woodwinds. She’s a clown; a loud talker making faux pas; a deadpan underdog. Like Harry Nilsson on A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night, she makes being a loser sound lush, teetering between cheeky, aggressively charming pop and dreamy balladry.

The Brooklyn singer-songwriter’s latest album is more acerbic than 2017’s Shitty Hits and 2020’s Consummation, the pay-off, perhaps, of writing classes taken during a lean period without a booking agent or a plan. “Honestly my tight five needs work,” she confesses on opener “Montagnard People,” but the songs here delight like a series of clever, well-timed punchlines. Her candor makes her a protagonist worth rooting for. “When you’re mourning the past/You’ll remember your ass,” she sings, recalling lapsed advice to take nudes while she’s still young and hot. She snoozes the alarm under a heap of pillows and suffers from week-long migraines. “I wear becoming like a burlap sack,” she says on “Elixir.” Somewhere between Faye Webster and Eleanor Friedberger, von Schleicher delivers her sermon from inside a conversation pit, sunk deep while the hubbub transpires a few feet away.

The quips are the album’s most noticeable gems, and they shine all the more inside such atmospheric production. A Little Touch of Schleicher in the Night is an excellent attestation to von Schleicher and collaborator Sam Griffin Owens’ direction: Every song sounds textured and multifaceted, with steady builds and decrescendos that juxtapose joy with the comedown. The arrangements—a menagerie of saxophones, clarinets, and violins with the jaunty bounce of guitar chords—walk a tightrope between the schmaltz of a Herb Alpert record and the evocative swell of Brenda Lee’s “Emotions.” It succeeds as party music, the kind that starts jubilantly and lapses into wine-drunk silence. Although occasionally, like on “Bottle It,” von Schleicher slows down the tempo and risks killing the buzz.

The album is not all joyless rides and parties, surfacing raw anxieties about failure and being left behind. But it finds solace in revelry: “Tonight I’m a dancer/I wanna feel alright/There are a million worries, I know,” she sings on “Elixir.” If time and existentialism comes for us all, the best we can ask for is a picture of our ass at 25 and a pop song on the radio while we languish on a California highway. A Little Touch of Schleicher in the Night gilds indignity with glamor, a winsome paean to shiftlessness and melancholy.

All products featured on Pitchfork are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Katie von Schleicher: A Little Touch of Schleicher in the Night