Kisses - Kids in LA (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
IT’S always frustrating when you want to like something more than you actually do. Sadly, Kids in LA, the new album from Kisses, falls into that category.
The LA-based pop project of Jesse Kivel and Zinzi Edmundson, this sophomore record is designed to represent a departure from the luminosity of their first album, The Heart of The Nightlife, focusing on the starker wintertime in southern California.
Thematically, it explores the empty and slightly haunted off-season of the vacation world, complete with abandoned beach loungers, covered swimming pools and peeling wallpaper. And yet, it still manages to sound impossibly upbeat a lot of the time.
It’s driven by crisp and thudding drum machines and is dotted with the rhythms of late ’80s freestyle (Debbie Deb, Lisa Lisa), as well as analog keyboards and light guitar riffs.
There’s even a linear story as a group of teenage protagonists and their friends from Bel Air explore the overblown emotions and distinct chasmic boredom of privileged high schoolers.
But maybe therein lies the fault. There is, dare I say, a boredom that accompanies a lot of the album too. The ’80s thing feels dated, the analog keyboards and light guitars often in need of a little punch.
Tracks like Air Conditioning and Having Friends Over, for example, simply wash over you and leave you feeling underwhelmed. Even album opener Up All Night lacks any real clout to get things started despite some interesting electronic arrangements.
There are a couple of good tracks. Huddle has a cool vibe attached that benefits from some sharper, more polished beats and a synth sound that mixes the retro with the contemporary to more satisfying effect. The chorus, too, is one of the album’s best.
And final track Adjust Glasses, with its layered female vocals and hip-hop leaning beats, draws things to a close on a very definite high. It’s vibrant and full of life. Sadly, it comes too late to save the album as a whole.
Download picks: Huddle, Adjust Glasses