My thanks to Matt Errington, of Medina Music, for keeping me in the loop.
I have been sitting on Kites for too long … but I have heard these tracks over and over again, and it has reminded me of what made the 80s incredible. Stop for a second and consider why 80s pop has survived now three decades removed. Unlike the decade that followed, that frowned upon obvious gimmicks (though its prepackaged angst was the greatest of all gimmicks!), the 80s was a fertile terrain for artists (of any genre) to unfurl their pop sensibilities anyway they wanted, at the same time experimenting with classically standard forms, nascent technology (especially in electro and synthpop), and visually stunning self-expression. At the bottom of it all, these bands understood that music was not about three power chords in succession, but rather about the nuances, about the little details. And Kites not only follows this tradition of grand pop music, they are pushing it to a higher level.
Kites is truly a nascent band, which has only started to pen music early in 2010; however, there is an air of maturity to their music that is reminiscent of veteran musicians. This is testament to their solid craftsmanship and vision. Already this solid craftsmanship is getting noticed (from BBC 6 to XFM), their self-produced demo has all the hooks of grand 80s pop (think Talk Talk), the sophistication and intelligence of master songwriters (think New Order), the urgency of contemporary indie (think Macabees), and yet a singular feel that makes it all Kites.
The latest collection of four songs kicks off with “You Are Dead (To Me)”; on the surface it is an electronically enhanced pop song with big vocals, but as you listen to it again and again (and again), the sophistication of how the different instruments (digital and analogue) are all arranged and mixed to perfection really grabs you. There is no vying for dominance in the soundscape; quite the opposite, everything works together brilliantly. “The Disappearance of Becky Sharp” (a “Vanity Fair” reference, and I love literary references!) mixes up Italian disco with a darker electro. “Art Tastes Better Blind” is the most infectious song in the collection. With a slow, syncopated intro, when the words, “Oh you silly girl, did you think the world was kind?,” the tempo may not pick up, but the luscious arrangements that follow gives that audible illusion – not an easy feat to pull off. Why is the song so infectious? It is not just those luscious arrangements and (again) big vocals; it is the fact that this song is an ingenious pop song … to the point, direct, concise, and potently visceral. Closing with “Take the Reins,” Kites gets the thumbs up for closing their collection off with an “anti-climatic” track. Let me explain. So many bands rush for these big endings, the sort of big sonic finish that is common on too many albums and EPs. Instead, Kites goes for the tighter finish, which capitalizes on inspiring the listener to get lost is the soundscape… contemplate… and feel.
I have one last comparison to make, and it is perhaps one of the highest compliments I could give. When I listen to Matthew Phillips, Kites’ vocalist, sing, there is something there that reminds me of Billy MacKenzie. The ability to convey conviction and drama at the same time is not common; to do it well is even scarcer. When combined with the solid and sophisticated craftsmanship of the rest of the band, Kites has all the underpinnings of a great band. My advice, checkout their Soundcloud site and support the band by following them at one or all of their sites.
1. You Are Dead (To Me)
2. The Disappearance of Becky Sharp
3. Art Tastes Better Blind
4. Take the Reins
Keep up with Kites at the homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.
Here is the track “Art Tastes Better Blind” from their Soundcloud site.
Art Tastes Better Blind by Kites
Here is their video for “Take the Reins” from the BRITSchoolFilms YouTube Channel.