Saturday, September 5, 2015

Like a Stranger...No More

The existence of LA-based band Kitten came to my attention not by way of oral recommendation from another music enthusiast, not by way of spontaneous sound-identification via Shazam, but by way of of an unpredictable source: browsing the thumbnail pages of, an online digital art community where users post their modified renditions of artists' album artwork. The user in question, Koalesse, posted a stunning reworking of the band's self-titled album artwork that instantly caught my eye -- the piece exuded an early 1980's post-punk underground aesthetic. Lead singer Chloe Chaidez adorns the cover, front row and center, with her faux-fur coat, tousled hair, and tenacious pose.
Reconfigured album artwork conceived by Koalesse,
Courtesy of

Visuals aside, the bands sound was a complete mystery to me. However that mystery immediately transformed into intrigue, after stumbling upon "Like a Stranger" online (the band current single). Sixty-seconds in, I found myself completely immersed in the musical gestalt characterize by pulsating synths, heavy electronic base, bouncing rhythm guitar, and Chloe's prowl-like "ha-hoo-hing" vocal affectation, before it surrendered to her lead counterpart, which would come sweeping in and take command of this musical affair. At this juncture, I descended deeper into my curious state, wanting to explore what lies beyond this "Stranger".  So I did...

One of the benefits of living in the "streaming music online" age (via Rdio, Spotify, or more recently, Apple music) is the ability to use it as a tool to fully preview albums. If it meets the criteria of being "vinyl worth", which is, an album that can sustain the listener's appeal, front to back, without bypassing a single track, and more importantly, bears repeating, then I will go to great lengths to seek it out on vinyl format. Fortunately, "Like a Stranger" was no fluke, and after three rounds of their 2014 full-length self-titled album via Rdio, I was hooked! Next stop, vinyl city...

Produced by Chad Anderson and Gavin Mackillop, KITTEN (the album) is an amalgamate of new and previously released material: eighties-infused "Like a Stranger', "Doubt" and "I'll Be Your Girl" formerly appeared on their 2013 EP release, LIKE A STRANGER, while nineties alternative-rock drenched "Cut it Out" and "G#", were lifted off their 2011 EP release, CUT IT OUT. These five tracks are presented here in unaltered, original form. "Kill the Lights", a track that originally appeared on the band's first EP release, 2010's SUNDAY SCHOOL, is the only recycled track that has been subjected to a serious reconstruction in sound. However, the results are stellar, and far superior to the original recording. Chloe's re-recorded vocals display more range and gusto, as they ride the waves dictated by the stark nature of the song's lyrics and symphonic arrangements.  It packs a vigorous punch each time it escalates and lands in the chorus region. Amped-up guitars and dynamic drums collide with Chloe's high-powered vocals, while sparse electronic church bells dance lightly in the background. With each listen, you can ensure a spine-tingling reaction (or two). A definite album highlight.

The vinyl edition of KITTEN contains a lyrics insert,
as well as a voucher to download the entire album
in MP3 format, bonus track "Lia" is included.
As for the newly-committed to wax tracks: "Sex Drive" and "Devotion" perpetuate the sexually-charged stride exemplified in "Like a Stranger" and "I'll Be Your Girl", engulfed in a neon-wash of eighties sonic landscapes; "Sensible" duels between a cacophonous  environment accentuated by distorted-incoherent punk vocals,  and erratic instrumentation, but occasionally seeks refuge to more calmer grounds, painted by a pacing kick-drum, rhythmic guitar and bass line, allowing Chloe's wistful vocals to momentarily breath and plea, before succumbing to another thunderous assault of sound; "While I Wait" and "Cathedral", bookend the placement of "G#" on the record, create a sequence that explore more delicate grounds: lighter-raising, swaying, mild-motion head banging grooves that anchor the listener in, and allowing them to drown in a sea of passionate decrescendos and crescendos. "Cathedral" features a spine-tingling saxophone solo that culminates graciously by the second run, one cannot help but raise their hands in the air by the sound of this, particularly the climatic build-up and crashing of percussion that illuminate the track, moments before it takes it grand exit. "Apples and Cigarettes" is the albums closer, with it's minimalist execution, reminiscent of a acoustic coffee-shop confessional.

A magnificent introduction to a band that has been making its rounds since 2010, KITTEN, the album, perfectly encapsulates sonic textures that the band has a penchant for: eighties-style new-wave, synth-pop tinged melodies, juxtaposed to the hardness and rawness of nineties alternative-rock. One can easily forgo what came before this release, however it will eventually be of interest if the listener is keen on tracking the evolution of the Kitten sound. Rolling Stone has taken notice of the band, particularly this release, but adding it to their top pop albums list of 2014, placing the record at number 16 on the list. That's just reinforcement though, perhaps enough to ignite interest and encourage the reader to get acquainted with this stranger that dwells somewhere in the congested, current musical landscape.

Like a Stranger (below), Sex Drive, I'll Be Your Girl, Devotion

Kill the Lights (below), Cathedral

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