Domino Kirke Takes Us Through Her Debut Album, Track-By-Track

Photo by Robin Stein

‘Beyond Waves’ is very strong and personal

There's a tremble and a shudder, lacing throughout Domino Kirke's debut album, Beyond Waves. It's strangely comforting, though; it feels familiar and intimate. Perhaps it's a side effect of Kirke's offhand vulnerability and keen observations of life, love, separation, and growing up. Perhaps it's the Joni Mitchell-type vibe that saturates each song with dreamy puffs of smoke. Kirke has created a collection of songs that are poetic, complex, and utterly at ease with their own, unique dispositions. It's a lush atmosphere, collected and calm—like, as the title would suggest, a body of water after a storm passes, with only the faint hint of a ripple left behind. It's a testament to Kirke's talent as a songwriter and music's ability to humble and quiet a listener.

Here, Kirke and her friend and frequent collaborator Luke Temple take us through each of Beyond Waves' tracks.

"Friend of The Family"
Domino Kirke: This song is about my folks choosing to divorce later in life. It forced me to scan my childhood and find the gold in the mud. I grew up around a lot of artists and people passing through. I learned so much from them. I felt the safest with them—and the most endangered. It's about realizing that.

"Beyond Waves"
DK: This song is about moving past that breaking point and into a clearing. It's about grief and how it needs to move through you. It's about choosing another life, choosing health, after a separation. It’s about being in the unknown with someone you knew so well, but leaning into that discomfort anyway. My friend, Mike Bloch, brought the demo to me as an instrumental, and writing the lyrics to it was really like medicine. It's about having closure... whatever that means.

"Paranoid Flowers"
Luke Temple: It’s kind of a Brazilian chordal movement, and I thought the image of paranoid flowers was interesting and analogous to our own situation as human beings.

LT: This one's about getting comfortable with the darkness, rather than running from it or avoiding it.

"Half Blood"
DK: This song is one of my favorites. The musicians were so sensitive to the subject. It's about my older brother, and how I always wanted him to see me as an equal, even though we had different fathers.

DK: This song is about being unsure about someone, but it's mostly about unwillingness. It's about not wanting to feel close, so you could go back to being alone and say, "I told you so."

"Out of Nowhere"
DK: This is a song by Phillip Roebuck. After a few friends passed away in one year, I found it easier to connect to them through his words. I've been singing it for years now.

DK: I wrote this song when I was 17 with my dear friend, Jordan Galland. It's about teenage obsession and feeling high off this city [New York City]. I had recently moved from England to New York City.

"Black Jack"

DK: This song was written about my grandfather. He loved to gamble, so "Black Jack" was his show name. It's about making peace and trying to understand his legacy. Writing this song was a way for me to get out from under the family storytelling. I just wrote how I saw him.

"Happy No Happy"
LT: It’s about someone I know who was raised by a single mother who dragged her all around the country to live in different “spiritual” communities, and how damaging it was in the end.

DK: This song is about my son's father and his upbringing. It's about self-acceptance and unconditional love. Honoring where we and who we were when we became a family, and how far we've come. It's about letting go and allowing ourselves real time to forgive. I had to learn to respect the relationship my son had with his father outside of the three of us. The nod to The Band was something I was happy with.

Nail polish is for novices

Fashion label The Blonds is known for its high-intensity looks that you'd only wear if you wanted to stand out (and who doesn't?). For its runway shows, wild press-on nails are the beauty step that can't be missed. So, since the brand has partnered with CND since it was founded, we thought it best to get prepped for the show with Jan Arnold, CND's co-founder.

See why you should take your nail look from a zero to a 10, in the video above.

Shot by Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson
Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Production Assistant: Polina Buchak
Featuring Jan Arnold of CND Nails and The Blonds



Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

It would've been nice if someone said the word "fat"

Back in November, Rebel Wilson claimed to be the first plus-sized lead in a romantic comedy when she appeared on Ellen to talk about her role in Isn't It Romantic. Wilson was not only wrong, but she was—even if inadvertently—erasing the work of Black plus-size actresses like Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique, both of whom have expansive resumes that include romantic comedies.

Wilson's comment isn't the first example of white women taking up a little too much space in the fat acceptance ethos. It's actually quite common. But there is a reason why women like Wilson—women who are blonde, pretty, successful, and white—get put front and center in calls for body positivity. In the same way that feminism—the movement from which body positivity was born—has often failed to address how gender intersects with other identities like race and class; so, too, has body positivity been championed as a cause for otherwise privileged women. And that's why it's no surprise that Isn't It Romantic, which aspires to be both a spot-on mockery of rom-coms and a celebration of body positivity, is actually a perfect example of how very white both the movie genre and the body positivity movement tend to be.

In the film, Wilson plays Natalie, an architect based in New York, who is single and plus-sized—the archetypal rom-com underdog. Very early on in the movie, she endures the double humiliation of both being hit by a runaway food cart and then accosted by its owner for not stopping it with her "cement truck"-like body. At work, Natalie is similarly disrespected: The office manager hands off troubleshooting tasks to Natalie; another colleague always tasks Natalie to throw out his trash; her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) won't stop watching movies (rom-coms, naturally) while in the office; and Natalie is so afraid to present her ideas for more innovative parking garage designs that she isn't even widely known in the firm as an architect, and is treated like an intern.

But is Natalie just a doormat? Or is it that she isn't asking for what she wants? And isn't very nice about not getting it? If Natalie's life is any example, the bar on suffering is set pretty low for white women. In her personal life, Natalie lives alone with her dog, and seems to be pretty well-off, financially; her best friend is actually her slacker assistant, Whitney, and she's close with another coworker, Josh (Adam Devine), who gives Natalie constant emotional support. She's decidedly anti-romantic, having been told by her mother from a young age that there's no such thing as real-life fairy tales; she's level-headed and practical. But also, she's filled with self-loathing. This leads her to be crass, sarcastic, and disconnected from people. And it was this last part that was hard for me. As a fat Black woman who grew up broke, does not have an assistant, and would get fired if I didn't do my job well, it was hard, if not impossible, to root for her.

For Natalie, though, everything changes when she bangs her head while fighting off a mugger. Her mundane life is tinted through rosy rom-com glasses. Suddenly, all the things that sucked about her life are gone, and everything is beautiful and perfect. But was her life so bad before? It didn't really seem to be.

And yet, looking around the theater at the mostly white, female audience, I accepted that my feelings didn't seem to be shared. But that almost seems to be by design; this feels like a movie for a white, female audience. There is only one person of color in the movie who even has a name: It's Isabelle (Priyanka Chopra), who shows up about halfway through the film—after everything has been rom-com filtered—as a yoga ambassador and swimsuit model. But a name is all Isabella has. A supporting character at best, she doesn't have any connection to anyone other than her white boyfriend, and is sketchily drawn. We learn nothing of her familial or ethnic background, and, even when she is shown at her wedding, there is nobody from her family celebrating with her. This huge oversight is particularly bizarre, given that Natalie has already bemoaned the lack of diversity in romantic films.

Another huge oversight? The presence of the word "fat." I don't think I heard it used a single time. Natalie only references her weight indirectly, by commenting on the appearance of straight-sized women; when talking about her own body, the word "fat" is replaced with "girl like me." But by ignoring this aspect of herself, and refusing to address it head-on, Natalie is succumbing to the same fatphobia that shapes her world, whether she identifies it as being a problem or not.

Before her life becomes a rom-com, Natalie feels invisible at work and in the world. Some of this is certainly her fault, but fatphobia is also at play. Fatphobia chips away at the humanity of fat people from different angles. It means that Natalie gets used to being dehumanized; she doesn't expect others to have empathy for her when she's physically hurt, because they don't value her body. And it's no coincidence that Natalie's fantasy world includes a magically bigger apartment with unlimited clothing options, because discrimination against fat people isn't just a matter aesthetics and preferences—it affects everything from our ability to dress ourselves to our ability to make and save money, since there's a price to pay for being fat, even if it's just having to pay more to travel. Just as much as gender and race intersect with fat bodies, so, too, do economics and class.

I knew I could count on a plus-sized white comedian to take down a genre of films that prioritized thin women. But I ventured to see if Wilson could go further than that, and challenge what it means to be white and well-off and fat in the process; it isn't just about taking down rom-coms but about doing so in a way that isn't just a mouthpiece for white feminist values. But, in the end, that isn't what happened. Isn't It Romantic is fine, but it needed to do more than target an audience of girls who are 10 to 30 pounds overweight and still too jolted by the word "fat" to ever apply it to themselves, so they go for acceptable alternatives, like curvy, plus-sized—or thicc, if they're hip. But I'm not afraid to say I'm fat, I'm just disappointed I will be waiting even longer to see a realistic reflection of that experience onscreen.

Isn't It Romantic is in theaters now.