REVIEW: Kitten RATING: 8.3/10
Conor Soper, Avid Sound Staff Writer
Kitten’s long-awaited debut album is here and, with three EP’s and live support for a bunch of huge acts under their belt, it feels ripe for release in order to see what they’ve got in store for us.
The influences of these acts are present in some of the newer songs, though not all of them click with the listener as belonging to Kitten. Kitten has never been the same band, with various lineup changes over the years accompanied by changes in sound, the band is rooted in its own uncertainty. Sometimes it works on the album, when it brings different musical visions together, yet these elements clash at times.
All the tracks on the album are good in some respect, but the moments where they stray from their usual sound are audibly the weakest.
Kitten also feels bland at points because, remastered or not, the fact is that we’ve heard a good chunk of the tracks on this album already, assuming you’re a dedicated fan.
Nonetheless, this a good debut for Kitten and it’ll be great to see where they progress from here.
The album is currently streaming online, listen to it here.
For the track-by-track review, follow the read more link below.
Like A Stranger Kitten opens their album with their poppiest song yet. “Like A Stranger” first appeared on Kitten’s third EP by the same title, and while I’m not surprised that the song made the cut for the album, I am surprised to see it as the album opener. I’m usually against an artist using the song with the most radio appeal as their album opener, but I just can’t help loving it anyway when it comes to Kitten. I love it because it does deserve to be a new listener’s first impression to Kitten: the 80’s soaked production, lead singer Chloe Chadez’s vocal range paired with her breathy whispers, and the captivating lyrics.
Sensible Previously, I said I didn’t disagree with “Like A Stranger” as the album opener; the opposite case exists with “Sensible.” This track should definitely not be the second song new or dedicated Kitten fans should be listening to for a few reasons. Before I start, “Sensible” isn’t necessarily a bad song, it’s just not a song one would expect and sets up a strange mood and air of expectation about the rest of the album. The first minute of the track consists of a heavy synth beat with drowned out vocals from Chloe seemingly faking some type of British accent. “Sensible” is a song that would more suitably belong to an artist like Crystal Castles or Sleigh Bells; I can personally see Alice Glass adding some interesting production to this or Sleigh Bells adding some slamming guitar and (more) screaming. Despite this song being out of character, it’s a grower and a catchy one.
Sex Drive Again, this is another song I would not have put towards the front of the album. It’s not a Kitten song and frankly I can’t attach it to another band like with “Sensible.” Chloe doesn’t sing much and relies on her breathy vocal effect, some sing-talking, and a few shrieks here and there that seem out of the place along with the largely bass-slappy vibe I feel when listening to the song. The only redeeming quality is the catchy guitar riffs and some La Roux-esque production. Definitely one of the weakest attempts on the album.
I’ll Be Your Girl Originally from the Like A Stranger EP, I was never a fan of this song or “Yesterday.” I believed that “Graffiti Soul” and “King of Kings” were better songs off that EP that deserved to make the cut for the album, and still do, but one day this song just clicked with me. Maybe it was the lyrical content, the powerful chorus, or the way Chloe seamlessly ties emotion to her ethereal vocals. Either way, I’m glad this track found its way into my heart.
Cathedral Probably my favorite of the new tracks that we received from this album; on first listen I was concerned about how this song would translate in the live show. I’ve seen Kitten twice now and neither time have I seen a horn instrument present, yet the strength in “Cathedral” is derived from the presence of two intense trumpet solos in the song. I soon realized horn instruments dipped in here and there on “Like A Stranger” and I have nothing to worry about. I always overlooked the intense buildup to the chorus where it plateaus into a trumpet solo that sounds like some grand announcement of triumph, and I agree, “Cathedral” promises Kitten’s victory.
G# Hands down, “G#” is Kitten’s best song of all time. It comes from their second EP, Cut It Out, but with a remastered twist. I was worried about the fate of “G#” before the release of the tracklist for the album because the song has such an insane energy in the live show that I didn’t know what I’d do if it was absent later when Kitten had to eventually move past their EP material and start playing new stuff live. Thankfully, “G#” made the cut for the album and my heart can rest easy. As this song is absolutely amazing and draws you in with intense guitar riffs and drums that slam in your face, I didn’t think it could get any better. However, the remastered version proved me wrong. Chloe’s vocals are elevated a bit more over the guitar where they used to be drowned out and the addition of a new guitar adds even more gusto to the hurricane that is “G#.”
Why I Wait Earlier this year, Chloe released a mixtape titled MXTP with some more experimental songs than stuff that Kitten would do. “Why I Wait” sounds like it belongs on that mixtape. Don’t get me wrong, I love this song, its minimal production coupled with Chloe’s soothing whispers makes for a slow jam that can captivate anyone. My only issue is that it’ sound just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the album, especially when placed after two of the most aggressive songs on the album. The lyrics might explain this sort of confusion as Chloe calls out, “I really don’t know what I want lately,” maybe justifying this song’s presence on the album.
Devotion “Devotion” is the obvious pick for weakest song on Kitten. I don’t even know what Chloe’s trying to do with her voice on the track at certain points. The production is reminiscent of the 80’s sound of “Like A Stranger,” but more in an attempt to live up the latter’s glory. It’s a lackluster track where EP standouts like “Sugar,” “Kitten With A Whip,” or “King of Kings” might have fit in more comfortably with the rest of the album.
Doubt From here until “Kill the Light,” the album devolves into a dangerous territory of tracks we’ve already heard before. These are all amazing tracks, but again, tracklist order an arrangement seems to be an issue here. Having three previously heard tracks all clustered together near the end of the album just seems lazy and is boring for the devoted Kitten fan. Me being picky aside, “Doubt” was definitely another standout from the Like A Stranger EP, and is the only track with a male vocal on it with Chloe’s. This adds an interesting layer to the song, but it’s strongest moments come from the mix deep synth bangings with more glittery moments and, yet again, the catchy-like-herpes guitar riffs.
Cut It Out Just like “Like A Stranger,” “Cut It Out” is one of Kitten’s successes with songs in the pop territory. It was an outtake from their second EP of the same name, and I had no doubt in my mind that this would make the cut for the album. May absolute favorite thing about this song has to be the chorus and the subtle but powerful bass guitar in it. The ever present background synth noise may seem distracting and overproduced to some, but to avid listeners of Kitten it feels like home.
Kill The Light The only song to make the album cut from Kitten’s debut EP, Sunday School, makes sense, because it’s a great song, but also doesn’t because Kitten’s most powerful live song from that album is clearly “Kitten With A Whip,” and “Kill The Light” wasn’t added to the live show until very recently. Leaving the live show out of the question, “Kill The Light” was also remastered for the album. Sadly, this wasn’t done in such a helpful manner as was the case with remastering “G#.” The guitars of the original are toned down and the synths are boosted up, making the track sound slightly overproduced. “Kill The Light” loses the “oomph” it’s original version had in favor of a sound more in line with “Cut It Out.”
Apples and Cigarettes Here is an example of a song that is completely different from the rest of the album, but fits in better than tracks like “Why I Wait” or “Devotion” as a light, acoustic sounding closer for the album. Two demo versions of this song has existed for a while, so this technically adds to the streak of songs dedicated fans have already heard, but I’m willing to pretend I’ve never heard it before for the sake of it being “new.” However, I can’t ignore the differences between the album version and the demos, technically making this a new song. The more high quality version didn’t take the acoustic approach of the album, had far more interesting production and use of synths, and more of a buildup with Chloe’s vocals. The other was basically a rougher version of what made the cut for the album. While I would have preferred the former demo, the album version shows us the bare strength of Chloe’s vocals where they have been absent for the majority of the album. The choice to be more minimal and sentimental with acoustics is more fitting for an album close, whereas a better mastered version of this track might be better suited to take the place of “Why I Wait.”