This article previously appeared on Crossfader
Genre: Indie Rock
Favorite Tracks: “Cut Yr Teeth,” “Mirror Kisser,” “Lash to Lash,” “Who Said It First”
When searching for Kississippi on Spotify, one of the top results is the curated “Badass Women” playlist. This comes as no surprise—the Philadelphia pop indie group is fronted by the very badass Zoe Allaire Reynolds. The only thing better than their name (which you can’t help but spellout in your head every time) is how they got started: on Tinder. Reynolds and her match, Colin James Cupson, released a six-track EP in 2016, and while Cuspon has since departed the band, Reynolds has found other collaborators to create Kississippi’s 10-track debut, SUNSET BLUSH. Running just over 30 minutes start to finish, it’s a quick listen with lots of gems, giving plenty of reasons to keep coming back.
Before even listening to a single song, there’s some obvious rebranding going on here. Whereas the EP was titled WE HAVE NO FUTURE, WE’RE ALL DOOMED and accompanied by dark artwork, SUNSET BLUSH features a name that already sounds more positive, and is an inviting pink color. Fittingly, the first two tracks talk about change, about cutting people loose, and they feel cathartic. “Once Good” is about making space for new things and honestly, it’s the perfect way to open an album. “Cut Yr Teeth,” a song familiar to fans via live performances, is tinged with more resentment, hounding, “You never felt sorry at all” again and again. It’s an album filled with many sad and reflective lyrics, but Reynold’s best line is also one of her simplest, where on “Who Said It First” she sings, “I could be better / You could be worse / We both said forever / Who said it first.” It’s complacently somber and truthful. Reynolds captures the relatable feeling of not wanting to show your hand to someone when you don’t know theirs in the aftermath after things have fallen apart, trying to figure out who gave themselves away first.
Reynolds is an emotional singer, and she’s crafted feeling into each line and knows how to tailor the melodies to make the right words pop. When she repeats a phrase, each repetition has purpose beyond filler, but where her words carry weight her voice keeps to a middle ground— full, and not airy. However, there’s a threshold she never crosses, refusing to break her voice for the sake of emotion. She doesn’t yell and yet you can still hear how, if spoken, her lyrics might be screamed or sneered by a lesser artist.
Sonically, the first three tracks are pretty standard indie rock, emulating the feeling of being lo-fi without sounding rough and under produced. It’s more D.I.Y. and in line with what they have put out in the past. But the fourth track takes a very sudden turn. Abruptly, the album is suddenly flush with electronic synths and drums, a nice but out of place change of pace considering all these electronic tracks are grouped together in the middle of the album. It wouldn’t be as odd if the track were integrated, purposely showing duality, but it feels as though they intentionally want to separate the group’s dual nature. This type of shift is something that was hinted at in their EP, but came out in full force here. The indecisiveness in approach is a little surprising, refusing to firmly root them in one camp or the other, but as a relatively new band this could be beneficial for widening their horizons from the get-go and not cornering themselves.
SUNSET BLUSH is a very enjoyable album. It’s an easy listen that works great in the background but also has enough depth to be latched on to. It’s a strong release that gives the fans exactly what they were looking for in a full-length by shifting in sound and appearance, but will it be enough to establish them in the saturated indie rock world? With their debut, Kississippi has certainly earned a spot on all indie “Badass Women” Spotify playlists to come.