“Featuring Kilo Kish” and “by Kilo Kish” have different success. Although Kish’s upbeat, cheerful voice turns twisted, maniacaland sparkling in his collaborations with Vince Staples and Gorillaz, this range rarely carried over to his solo work, especially his early music, which tended to be indistinct despite its diartic accounts of life in New York. For Real-time reflections, his 2016 debut, Kish composed the autobiography but struggled to assert a musical identity, his writing crippled by a sparse production. Things started to click on the EPs Mother (2018) and Redux (2019), forays into left-field pulsating electronic music that swapped its signature whispers for charged vocals. For american gurl, a concept album on consumerism, she ventures into pop. Change doesn’t always pay off, but Kish seems renewed and confident.
When Kish began turning to electronic music on her EPs, she credited playing live with the change in direction, saying it prompted her to search for sounds that matched courage and angst. of his personal life. The other key variable was producer Ray Brady (Vince Staples, Santigold, Black Eyed Peas), who produced Mother and Redux in their entirety (and a large part reflections). The invigorating instrumentals he provided for these records, characterized by thick slabs of bass marbled with strobe synths and bubbly melodies, helped Kish refine the kinetic delivery presented here. She rarely uses the supple, conversational whispers that were a cornerstone of her early music, moving instead from breathy melodies to raspy coos to fast raps. Yes Mother and Redux were the proofs of concept of its pop pivot, american gurl is the finished design, presenting Kish as a crazed shapeshifter.
Teaming up exclusively with Brady again, Kish stages the album as a retro arcade game, using the concept to shift genres and spin social commentary into seemingly fun songs. Reminiscence of Santigold 99¢, Kish often speaks as and compares himself to a product. “Do you see me? / I lost my face in the TV,” she sings on “TV Baby V.2 (Latch Key March).” On “Distractions III: Spoiled Rotten,” a meandering two-track sequel to her debut, she’s concise and arching. “I ain’t shit / But I can pay to fix it,” she sings over a frothy house beat.
“You want it/I got it/This soul is/A deal,” Kish raps over Vince Staples’ hilarious ad-libs on “New Tricks: Art, Aesthetics, and Money,” the album’s best song . His gelatinous bass kicks, SFX machine shop and sneering fame would be right at home on big fish theory, to which Kish and Brady both contributed. Yet this is very much Kish’s song, his verses broaching the dark connection between art and commerce and his willingness to let the two mingle.
american gurl fumbles as Kish tones down the sarcasm and guns for a straight pop. It’s a hard sell. A number of choruses are scrambled and anticlimactic, fracturing the songs rather than holding them together. Plus, his beat selections don’t always play to his strengths. The frantic pace of “Choice Cowboy” exceeds its calm vocals. And on “Attention Politician”, Brady’s strident synths swallow his whole voice. american gurlProper sequencing and constant forward motion keep these glitches from stopping the party, but Kish’s game might need some debugging. For now, his pop instincts aren’t as sharp as his mind.