Electro-pop act Kitten has been making a name for themselves in and around Los Angeles, and with a few well-received EP’s. I’ve been in anticipation to hear a full album from Kitten, and am happy to say that the wait was well worth it. The album is full of the kind of dance music that reminds me of the kind of music I used to dance to in Hollywood clubs in the late 80’s, New Wave edgy female fronted bands like Berlin and Missing Persons come to mind first, merged with some of the new indie female fronted bands like Haim and The Like and Best Coast. In terms of the latter, though, this is less fuzzy and more retro electro in sound and style. There is a sensuality present, too, that veer into Cocteau Twins territory, which is no small feat to venture into.
Without a doubt, Apples and Cigarettes is my favorite on the album. I am wildly in love with this song. There is something so emotional to this song, vulnerable, desperate, gorgeously heartbreaking. Vocally it reminds me of early Sinead O’Connor (circa The Lion and the Cobra) and Dolores O’Riordan from The Cranberries (circa 1993). I love the line: “delayed by the traffic/delayed by your motives/delayed by what you know can never happen“
Kill the Lights is a close second. This is the obvious single on the album, catchy, with a strong build and a memorable refrain. The background keyboard work is very New Wave/80’s (Yaz, Depeche Mode), and the vocals have moments of Elisabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins) and Siouxsie Sioux, with a bit of Florence Welch and Hayley Williams (Paramore) in there, too. Singer, Chloe Chaidez has an incredible vocal range, and such a unique sound. I already feel like such a big fan of her voice, these songs, this album.
This is definitely one of my favorite albums of the year.
Apples & Cigarettes
The only thing I don’t like about July Talk’s EP, Guns and Ammunition, is that it is only an EP. As I reach the last of the five songs I can’t help but want to scream out “this is not enough!” Imagine Nick Cave and Emily Haines joining a psycho-billy/rockabilly/indie rock band, and you might have an inkling of what July Talk sound like. There’s more to it than that though, something that kicks down the walls of what a lot of indie rock bands have offered up lately. Infusing 50’s sound and style, with a punk rock sensibility, incredible guitar and bass lines, and lyrics that singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay volley back-and-forth in dysfunctional relationship kind of way – this EP will have you clamoring for more, too.
Paper Girl is my first listen favorite. The back-and-forth between the Peter and Leah, the chord progression that builds and falls, that remind me of first album Libertines (Up the Bracket), and the lyrics “and if you think its your turn to ask a question/its not“, has me turning the volume way, way up and already singing along. Halfway through this song I found myself frantically searching to see if the band was playing live in Los Angeles anytime soon because I want to hear these songs live! Yes, yes please.
Summer Dress is incredible. Leah’s vocal delivery is fantastic here, strong, seductive, and quietly devious delivering a punch to Peter’s growls and screams. I close my eyes and picture them pushing and pulling at each other, a musical give-and-take, lovers who sizzle and burn out, then light another fire again. The sugar and gravel juxtaposition of Leah and Peter is at its very best in this song.
The last song, I’ve Rationed Well, belongs in a David Lynch film, or something shot in the stark desolation of a nearly abandoned desert town. Haunting and lush and gorgeous, I see stories unfold with each note. When the song ends I am not ready for it to be the end. This EP is tremendous, and a tease, at the same time. It just leaves me in a state of longing, wanting more, more, more.
My initial thought, one song in, is that Dinosaur Jr. and the Pixies collided, and produced a musical offspring in Beverly, especially heard in the opening track, Madora. There is something very 90’s here, in that grunge meets low-fi, meets shoegaze meets alternative/power punk rock. Lead singer, Frankie Rose, is lilting and lovely one minute, and Kim and Kelly Deal rough and wonderful the next. This is my favorite Frankie incarnation yet, though I did enjoy her work with Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls in the not so distant past.
The album cover suggests a Summertime getaway, perhaps a cross-country road trip, or some sunscreen heavy reinvention of route 66. The sound suggests something a bit more complex. Perhaps you get a little bit lost on your warm weather getaway, winding up on a road to nowhere, wondering if you can read a map still, realizing you are going to have to figure it out since there seems to be no cell service on this road to nowhere.
My first listen favorite is heavy in the 90’s vibe, but also crosses over to the Bangles and first album Go’Go’s sound. I can’t help but wonder if KROQ’s notorious Rodney Bingenheimer, the 80’s Christopher Columbus of discovering new girl groups and alternative before the term alternative was coined singers. All the Things is already receiving heavy replays, and it is yet another song this Summer that I can already tell I won’t be able to get enough of.
You Can’t Get It Right reminds me of some of the garage rock/surf punk sounds an ex-boyfriend of mine used to obsess over. Turn it up and close your eyes and tell me you don’t picture a “beach blanket bingo” type scene play on the inside of each eyelid. I know that’s all I see.
All in all, this is another album that will wind up on my favorites of the year. It is one of those that get better with each hit of the repeat button and is overflowing with numbers I want to slip and slide into my next playlist. Black and Grey ends this album with a lush, lullaby of a number that I may let play as I fall asleep tonight.
You Can’t Get It Right
An indie/alt-rock super group made up of members of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Broken Bells, Hella and Gnarls Barkley, Dot Hacker does feel like the clever work of a musical hacker, who has taken from this album and that artist, this era and that rhythm and beat, and created something magical. What How’s Your Process? actually is, is Josh Klinghoffer’s sophomore release brought to life by he and his gang of talented session musicians with one hell of a pedigree (see the name dropping resume list of bands above).
At first listen, the album reminds me of Hole’s Celebrity Skin (especially the first two tracks). There is a little of Courtney Love’s vocal sound here, too. The beach is everywhere in these songs, Malibu and Zuma and Santa Monica especially. I can almost taste the salt water on my tongue and feel the sand on my skin. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it makes me want to hop in my car and head to the ocean.
There are so many layers at work on this album, musical instrumentation layered on melody and harmony and genre-crossing sound. It feels like all these seasoned musicians who often play a supporting role are giving it their all here, showcasing every trick and talent they possess. The thought of that could seem chaotic, but as songs like Floating Up the Stairs, and my first listen favorite, Aim, can attest, the results are fluid and free, and fantastic.
I hope they decide to tour to support this release, as I’d love to experience these songs live.
Whatever You Want
Gorgeous vocals against electro-dance DJ sounds, Louisa Rose Allen (Foxes) first full album will fit right in with artists such as Robyn, Lorde, Florence Welch and Ellie Goulding. There is uniqueness here, though, and she stands way out from her counterpoint comparisons. Glorious is just that, and it is hard to listen to without wanting to move, spin around, and dance into the night.
At times you can hear the same girl who made waves with her collaboration with Zedd, other times she goes bigger, taking the music into her own directions. My first listen favorite is Let Go For Tonight, which possesses an 80’s anthem energy to it, powerful as it builds and crashes, showcasing Louisa’s incredible vocal range.
Talking to Ghosts reminds me a bit of Natasha Khan (Bat For Lashes), and again, of Florence Welch, which are some truly impressive artists to be compared to. Echo is expressive, and showcases Louisa’s quirky nature, channeling the ghost of 70’s Studio 54 Donna Summer and bringing her danceable qualities into the 2000’s. I mean it, this album makes me want to dance something fierce.
The album ends with a raw vulnerability which is irresistible. Count the Saints makes my chest ache and my feelings go into a whirlwind spin of melancholic memories. This is the song on the album that I want to write something to. I turn it up and can feel stories unfolding under the goosebump prickles on my skin. This song is, like the album title states, Glorious.
Holding Onto Heaven