Critical Voices: Kitten, Like a Stranger

September 12, 2013

Elektra Records’ up-and-comer Kitten has found its voice again. The band’s self-released debut EP, Sunday School, showcased a mix of entry-level punk rock and dance rhythms. But, after getting signed, Kitten experimented with a trendy and ethereal alternative sound, à la indie music darling Sky Ferreira. This second EP, Cut It Out, felt like Kitten had suddenly become timid in its synthy 80s sound.

Luckily, Kitten sheds this insecurity in their second major label EP release, Like a Stranger. Gone, however, are the excellent guitar backings from Sunday School and Cut It Out’s track “Japanese Eyes.” Instead, Kitten has put the synthesizer at the forefront of their new sound, while still leaving room for guitar solos later in the EP.

 Like a Stranger begins with bang. As the synth builds to Chloe Chaidez’s first words on the title track, it toes the line between pop and Kitten’s typical dance-rock style. “Like a Stranger” is pleasant and easy while still retaining enough mystery to warrant repeat listens on a favorite playlist.

Eventually the anthemic instrumentation fades into “Yesterday,” the EP’s weak point. The verses are unnervingly dissonant, and the disturbing vocals are too quiet to follow. A much-anticipated coda brings the track to a relieving close.

The dominant bass line and ethereal vocals of “I’ll Be Your Girl” immediately bring to mind The Cure. This love song’s sound has an interesting finality—almost as though it should be played at the end of a John Hughes movie.

“Doubt” marks a shift in the EP as it moves away from a mysterious and yearning sound. Kitten, it seems, has discovered its sex appeal. The track is a back-and-forth between Chaidez and her male counterpart, evocative both lyrically and rhythmically. The EP wraps up with “King of Kings,” a Joy Division-influenced track that is abrasive but stirring.

Like a Stranger is distinctly danceable but with a wistful edge to it. To a listener not schooled in Kitten’s characteristic—and fantastic—sound, Like a Stranger sounds as though it was produced right alongside its influences. Chaidez, throughout the EP, presents a vocal approach that is simultaneously enveloping and luxurious, not unlike that of Dave Gahan. She moves like him, too.

Voice’s Choices: “Like a Stranger,” “I’ll Be Your Girl”

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