How many great albums are named after cheap box wine? I can’t think of many, but can now name one; this slice of sun drenched dream pop from Philadelphia. After a series of EPs and demo releases, it sounds like Kississippi have now found the sound that Zoe Reynolds and co. had been looking for. That sound is emotive, sunny, and hook-laden, and in Sunset Blush we may have found that ‘sound of the summer’ music journalists are always on the hunt for anytime between now and August.
From the first to last moment this is a release that radiates heat; there is a hazy quality to the production making the crisp and often angular guitars shimmer in the background. But most of all, there is a sharp focus on Zoe Reynolds’ varied vocal style; it’s a delicate voice which still manages to convey the entire spectrum of human emotion. There are moments on Sunset Blush where the vocals pair beautifully with the musicianship, creating a sound that is very hard not to swoon over.
Opening track, ‘Once Good’, contains a subtle post punk sound, full of nostalgic charm; the drums and chugging Pixies-esqe bass line create the melody whilst guitars gently weep underneath breathy vocals. Lyrically, this song sets a precedent for the rest of the release with a close understanding of emotional strength and fragility. ‘Cut Yr Teeth’ follows this lyrical and emotional theme and plays somewhere between a love song and a break up anthem; the words slowly turn from amorous to sharp tongued much like the transition in to out of love.
‘Red Light’ is almost the polar opposite with saccharin sweet vocals pairing with synths and the gentlest guitar line imaginable. Lyrically this is an open declaration of love full of innocence and self-doubt. The closing line is so beautifully real: “Red lights mean kisses on the nose, hope we traffic on the way home”. Despite the simplicity, this kind of songwriting is so emotive, paired with a soothing almost whisper like vocal ‘Red Light’ is an early emotional peak.
A bit of self-depreciation is added for the track ‘Easier to Love’, creating accessibility and empathy with the lyrics, while the soft vocal is full of emotive cracks. The backing in particular, with its combination of deep bass lines and sharp high-hat, plays with a slower hip-hop tempo, before climaxing with cymbals crashing and layer upon emotive layer of vocal harmonies.
The synth lead ‘Mirror Kisser’ has the empowering lyrics and bouncing keys of a live favourite. The guitar breakdown is inspired; its the sonic equivalent of standing in a sunny field with a sense of yearning suspense. It’s enough to make the hairs on a neck stand on end.
There is a Nile Rogers element to the guitars in ‘Adrift’, which is once more full of infectious yet haunting hooks. This haunting theme continues with ‘Shamer’ which utilises an Owen style guitar part; so fragile it links with the vocal to create a knife edge balance. As this fades out, heartbeat drumming and guitars build with emotion creating the opportunity for a dramatic change of tempo in the form of ‘Rinse, Repeat’ which could have fitted nicely into the latest Paramore album. The eighties pop sound is clever and combines Duran Duran style hooks with some of the darkest lyrics on the record, there is a definite sense of vocal power to the chorus.
On the other side of this track lies another slice of pure emotion; ‘Who Said It First’. The gentile nature of this track makes the vocal and lyrical emotion hit even harder, while the final song, ‘Lash to Lash’, which plots the last stages of a relationship, perfectly rounds off this emotive pop masterpiece.
These emo inspired pop songs fit effortlessly with technical musicianship and a voice that could make even the toughest hearts weep. It’s been said a lot this year, but until the unlikely event of something even better coming out, Sunset Blush is possibly the best LP of 2018.
Sunset Blush is out now on Alcopop! Records.