words fae Madeleine Dunne (@kohlgrrl)
When announcing their debut album Sunset Blush back in March, Kississippi teased at a move in direction for the band with the accompanying single release, Easier To Love. It’s a synth-heavy track that starts hushed, with lyrics dipped in vulnerability about giving your all to someone and not being enough, frontwoman Zoe Reynold’s confidence strengthens with each verse. She turns a song about self-deprecation and unworthiness into something empowering and reassuring, a testament to her ability as a writer:
Up to now, I’ve given all I’ve got / You could always keep it if you want / I’ll make myself easier to love
A major change in sound for the band was the prominent use of synths. Kyle Pulley of Headroom Records, who produced the album alongside Reynolds,explained that the synths had initially been part of an experimental demo built on Garageband. That experiment was a resounding success: blending the charm of indie folk Kississippi have previously adhered to with powerful and nostalgic synth pop.
Red Lights kicks off with the dreamy nostalgia Sunset Blush encompasses. Opening with a 90’s style guitar riff and subsequent solo, it laments nerves, giddy happiness and feelings of inadequacy surrounded by iridescent synths that shake the shackles of self-criticism:
You’re too handsome to see / you’re too handsome for me.
Sunset Blush exudes confidence, particularly in the striking diversity of each track; Mirror Kisser kicks off with a forceful synth lead which fades to beautifully frame Reynold’s hushed vocals:
Your freckles reflected / On the faces of strangers.
The song grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you to listen, slowly deconstructing itself as it goes. It stands in stark contrast to the following song. Adrift opens slow and gentle. The first twenty seconds intimately focus on Reynold’s airy vocals, accompanied only be a gentle plucking. It’s very Swiftian in this way, leaving you to half expect a raw and heartfelt ballad about doomed love:
I predicted a terrible end / before obvious glances.
A swelling synth hits you in the face and suddenly, it’s a song to move your body to. The prevailing and exhilarating sound compliments rather than overpowers Reynold’s tender vocals. It strikes the perfect balance of bittersweet lyricism and high energy for tremendously fun listening: dance your tears away to this album.
Or you could just cry. Who Said It First starts warm and endearing, with the melody of a music box. At first, Reynold’s sings simplistically from a place of self-criticism:
I could be better / You could be worse
But as the song reaches a gentle crescendo, it’s an apt song about growth that radiates the sense of reassurance running through the album:
Woke up feeling like someone new / for the worst, but only to you
Listening to put-down lyrics uplifted by prevailing vocals which battle dominant instrumentals leaves you with a strange warmth. While some songs tackle topics of hurt and inadequacy, there’s a happiness and comfort that comes from the new, upbeat tempo. Make no mistake: despite the sad girl lamenting lyrics fans have grown to love Kississippi for, Sunset Blush is empowering. Sadness is an undertone next to the lively beats. Nowhere is this more prominent than opening track, Once Good:
Yours is forgotten / made room for new faces / unsure if I would be seeing yours again.
Lash To Lash features driving distorted guitars which bring the album to a sudden, but satisfying end. The staccato rhythm gives way to isolated vocals, leaving listeners on a final, hopeful note:
Is it too late to fall asleep?
Sunset Blush testifies to Reynold’s diversity as a vocalist and lyricist; capable of mingling heavy and tender, powerful and self-deprecating. The amount of growth showcased since their 2016 EP release We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed is astounding when you bear in mind that this is a debut LP. The band reap the rewards of a willingness to experiment with diverse nostalgia-pop sounds while lyrically staying true to their raw and heartfelt origins.