A movie-length fourth LP from the Oregon outfit, and little short of breathtaking.
Alex Denney 2012-06-07
On 2007’s Night Drive album, Oregon outfit Chromatics’ jump from noisy no-wavers to synth-pop sophisticates was as bold as it was terrifically executed. What’s more, their svelte harking back to Giorgio Moroder and Arthur Russell prefigured the indie set’s move towards Sapphic electronic textures at the close of the decade, and helped make the Italians Do It Better label a going hipster concern.
If the line’s gone dead since then, that’s because Kill for Love comes with a bit of a knotty back-story. In short, Jewel was approached about soundtracking the superlative Ryan Gosling vehicle Drive, and composed a score only to learn the job had been given to Cliff Martinez. Some of Jewel’s material was reworked on Music for an Imaginary Film, a sprawling collaboration with Chromatics drummer Nat Walker recorded under the name of Symmetry and released last December.
That might seem like a slight return after five years away, but Kill for Love should go a long way to easing concerns. The band’s fourth album extends to a movie-worthy runtime, offering evidence that Jewel is using an increasingly filmic canvas even with the day job.
The results are little short of breathtaking. With its lonesome, auto-tuned vocals poured longingly over a slow disco beat, These Streets Will Never Look the Same sounds like Gaspar Noé’s ghostly skycam that stalks the city rooftops in Enter the Void. A subtle transfiguration of Neil Young’s Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) continues their run as a fine covers band (check their takes on Kate Bush and Bruce Springsteen tracks if you haven’t already).
The title track offers one of the record’s most conventionally pop moments by way of M83-ish bloops and an unusually exuberant, New Order-like melody line. Likewise, Lady slides like cityscape reflections over the windshield and boasts production worthy of Fever Ray’s still awesome debut, though the intentions may be different. Both are capably handled by singer Ruth Radelet, who is skilled at letting just a whisker of emotion shine through her blank-electro facade.
The band sounds equally at home on extended ambient pieces like the darkly pulsing Broken Mirrors, and the sodium-streetlamp haze of gorgeous slow numbers like The River. Most pleasingly of all, while the record works just fine as an ad for Jewel’s considerable soundtrack smarts, Kill for Love is also one of the finest records to surface this year.