‘Ash & Ice’ by The Kills Album Review: New Emotional Depth Over Familiar Stylistic Choices
Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart, also known as the alternative rock duo The Kills, have had a music career spanning over 15 years and 5 studio records. Their most recent one Ash & Ice — the first since the 2011 Blood Pressures — shows them in a familiar grungy light with raging guitar riffs, marching beats and sultry vocals. With some subtle hints at emotional openness, The Kills continue to make music on their own terms.
‘Ash & Ice’ by The Kills Album Review
Opener “Doing It To Death” shows that The Kills know how to make a powerful entrance. It deservedly takes the first spot on the record, as it is one of the album’s highlights. Rippling over synthy undertones, the guitar unravels in the perfect balance of raw and contained, sometimes letting out a flourishing note or two. The sound is complex and intriguing, but not overwhelming. Mosshart’s vocals too strike with their ingenuity and boldness which opens up a new emotional depth to an otherwise commonplace track.
While Ash & Ice doesn’t completely break new ground for the band in terms of its sonic qualities, it hints at a certain openness and vulnerability in some of the lyrics. “That Love” is a notable slow, piano-driven ballad, which has Mosshart crooning melancholically about the end of a relationship. The Kills tap into a retro sound that completely exposes the vocals and the meaning behind the words. In a somewhat similar vein, “Hum For Your Buzz” — this time driven by decomposed and sometimes distorted guitar chords — slows things down. Though dynamically more powerful than “That Love,” this track also carries some pastiche undertones that Mosshart owns beautifully. This dynamic intensity — the ability to sustain a powerful sound even on the most stripped down pieces — is perhaps an indication of the duo’s maturity.
On other tracks like “Siberian Nights” The Kills resort to a buildup of tension via fast-paced beats, synths and other electronic feats, which are much more pronounced now on Ash & Ice. This electro-rock strain still has room for improvement in The Kills’ repertoire, but regardless of the reason which may have necessitated its increased use (Hince’s severe injury and extensive hand surgeries), the duo manages to make each track authentic to their sonic identity.
Even with its undeniably heightened electronic influence, Ash & Ice remains in a familiar territory for The Kills. They persist in what has proven to be a relatively successful formula for their sound. And even if The Kills haven’t risen to the headliner status they deserve, this kind of style present also on Ash & Ice is representative of the duo’s artistic vision in which they exult and excel.
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