Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Kills Goes Big For Blood Pressures

The KillsEver since American singer Alison Mosshart heard British guitarist Jamie Hince in the hotel room above hers, it seemed like two kindred spirits had struck sparks. Air mailing tapes back and forth across the Atlantic, the results eventually produced a minimalist indie garage rock sound with vibrant songwriting that sticks.

While it took several months for Domino Records to release their fourth installment after three years, the wait has been worth it. Blood Pressures is big sound delivered by a duo that keeps getting better, even if the album creates fewer shivers than No Wow did in 2005.

Blood Pressures is a tamer, richer, bluesier sound for The Kills.

Blood Pressures came together much the same way No Wow did, with both bringing something to the table. But unlike No Wow, they wrote more than half of it in the same building, surrounded by sketches and notepads to spark inspiration.

Even the bigger sound was planned out, which Hince has said came out of his fascination with how different instruments and sounds strike different emotional chords while listening to Roxy Music. He really wanted to pursue such rich arrangements, with sounds that begin minimalist and then build in complexity with every verse.

The result, including the addition of gospel singers on some tracks, makes Blood Pressures an excellent companion to their other three outings. Hince himself has said Blood Pressures is less external and more insular because there is less to observe while being stuck on the road during the tour. Some of this thinking even comes across in the first single from the album, Satellite.

At the same time, not all of the sparks are personal. Mosshart, who writes most of the lyrics for The Kills, tends to look for inspirational sparks like a line from a movie, picture, or observation. Once that happens, she moves the spark to a personal level until the lyrics start to feel as if the songs are writing themselves.

If this sounds more methodic and planned than No Wow, it absolutely is. As they both concluded after Mosshart moved to London, everything too planned eventually becomes pretentious when people chase the cool and forget to have fun. It's something they will need to find again before their fifth album.

Still, Blood Pressures is hardly a disappointment. DNA maintains some of the band's minimalist qualities. Baby Says is almost soothing with all its down-tempo steadiness. Nail In My Coffin hints at some of the urgency that was once synonymous with Mosshart. And Pots And Pans is one of the most underrated as it seeps in with restrained personal angst.

Blood Pressures By The Kills Skids In At 3.4 On The Liquid Hip Scale.

Mixed into a playlist with other songs by The Kills, Blood Pressures provides a striking contrast to everything else with its bigger sound and richer, slower and more complex rhythms throughout. At its best, it breathes out some new sound for the talented duo. At its worst, it almost seems like they've become a bit too comfortable — a state they used to warn others away from.

Blood Pressures by The Kills is available on iTunes. For a limited time on iTunes, you can even download Future Starts Slow for free. Otherwise, you can download Blood Pressures on Amazon or pick up the CD at Barnes & Noble.
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