Album Review

Kitten - Kitten

Released June 26, 2014
Lisa Sanchez
I was a little alarmed. I thought I traveled back in time to a magical era where women’s hair was big and men were still legally allowed to have jheri curls; when bands put an effect on their vocals that made it sound like they were singing through a field of mist generated by their own aura of awesome, and electro pop reined supreme. Of course, I eventually realized I was still firmly planted in 2014; I had just been lulled backward in time by Kitten's new self-titled debut.

Kitten, a synth-pop, new-wave, indie adjective band out of Los Angeles, California, sounds like they would be a punch line to a joke someone told during the late 90s that no one bothered to answer. But, despite their somewhat self-aware absurdity, there are some gems hidden in their album Kitten. Ranging from nostalgic 1980s super pop hits as well as some danceable, fun present day hits, Kitten have a bit more to offer than just "Girl's Just Want to Have Fun". But, don't worry. That's totally not the last Cyndi Lauper reference I'm going to make.

The first track on Kitten, "Like a Stranger" is annoyingly infectious, but so filled with effects and synth it's like venturing into a haunted house filled with layers of sound. Drum machine, echoed female vocals, exaggerated keyboard effects, xylophone (xylophone?!), and that weird atmospheric sound that sounds like a train passing at high speeds if it was covered in glitter and vasoline. A sound only spawned from the 80s as a response to all the acid wash. But, "Like a Stranger" is catchy, and possibly better than any similar playing on the radio right now.

The next track, "Sensible" seems a bit more experimental, which is fun to hear Chloe Chairdez's vocals melded into a rabble of atmosphere. Her voice blends in with the beats and makes a really good dance track. Initially, I was a bit closed minded about Kitten and could only think, "If only machines were musicians, this is what robot Zeppelin would sound like." But, it takes a lot of skill in composition to control that many different parts of a song. It's mixed so well that each time I listen to it I notice something different, which just makes me want to listen to it more and more.

When "Sex Drive" starts playing is when I've officially decided I'm having some sort of nostalgia-driven seizure. The vocals are clipped and falsetto creating a combined sense of Prince and "Thriller" era Michael Jackson. The mash up is not the most appealing, in my mind, but the chorus of just endlessly repeating the words "sex drive" makes me imagine the next Cadillac ad campaign. It's definitely a weak point on Kitten and I was happy it was over.

However, "Sex Drive" leads into "I'll Be Your Girl" which was one big, needed, slice of sappy girl pop. I felt like I was five again listening to Lauper's "Time After Time" on cassette tape. "I'll Be Your Girl" has the appeal of Breakfast Club with the atmospheric detail and melancholy of the Cure. So, you know, pretty much every thought that went through Ally Sheedy's head in 1985.

But, Kitten isn't all synthesizers and tom beats. There are a few songs that slow down the coke rave and add a bit of melody. "Cathedral" opens up and let's the band breathe a bit more. Its pace is far more relaxed and tantric in comparison to the club dance tracks on the album. "G#" despite its name sounding like a twitter trend, actually ended up being one of my favorite tracks on the album. It walks a fine line of keeping an infectious beat while maintaining a slower tempo and beautiful vocals. "G#" is one of the only tracks on Kitten that feels like it's not specifically written for commercial play. It's a nice reminder that Kitten is made of people, not electro-pop robots.

Kitten goes through ups and downs throughout the album bouncing between pop ballads, crazy synth dance songs, and straight-up 80s rip offs. But, the album ends on a great note with "Apples and Cigarettes". The song plays as an utterly sparse performance with only an acoustic guitar supporting Chaidez's almost whispered vocals. It's like the curtain was finally pulled away, there are no vocal effects, no space noises. Just Chaidez's vocals as she sings in what sounds like a completely empty room. Here voice raises and shrinks as if she's having a conversation with the guitar. "Apples and Cigarettes" ends so abruptly it's like Kitten mic dropped on their whole album and walked away to let the audience figure it out. I loved it.

Although there are some styles and choices that seem overdone in this album, Kitten counteract and surprise throughout their self-titled work to show that they can pull off more than one genre. I legitimately enjoyed Kitten; with a bit of chagrin, but Kitten have bite. Even if every song isn't a master of musical persuasion, they have the pillars to build great sounds.