White Sea: In Cold Blood – One of the more popular discourses in indie music that I’m most passionate about is the vocalist as a musician. Think about some of the more virtuosic female singers in pop music – Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, and a a slew of other dynamic voices negatively characterized by “oversinging.” Even as a fan of melismatic voices, I’ll be the first to admit that too many riffs, runs, and unnecessary high notes can be toxic. However, I’ll also admit that I’m completely infatuated by the power of the human voice both technically and emotionally.
When I was first introduced to White Sea‘s Morgan Kibby from her background work with M83, I was moved by her ability to make Anthony Gonzalez’s already lush compositions soar into the stratosphere with her beautifully airy tone. Her latest solo record, In Cold Blood, is a completely different ballgame though. This album ambitiously bulldozes its way in and out of various genres, all the while being propelled by Kibby’s honestly impressive vocal range. She makes a solid case that you can have your cake and eat it too – really dynamic voices aren’t only restricted to pure pop music. Kibby has the talent to sit amongst some of the more famous vocal divas. But, the way that In Cold Blood bends genres keeps the music interesting enough that Kibby won’t be labeled just another great voice.
Kibby gets things started off right away with the album opener and lead-off single, “They Don’t Know” – an 80′s inspired, operatic synth track that doesn’t shy away from being dramatic. It’s a great track whose theme pretty much defines the rest of the album’s sound. However, one of the more noteworthy songs, Prague, keeps the drama and adds a quite surprising element of angst. The fuzzed out guitar riff during the chorus takes White Sea from dreamy synth pop to glam rock stomp in a matter of seconds.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how well Kibby has a handle on crafting melody too. On Prague especially, the chorus is so unbelievably catchy that you’ll without a doubt walk away with it lodged in your brain. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone considering that she had a hand in co-writing ‘Midnight City,’ M83′s dance rager that completely swept 2011. As lovely and ambitious as her songwriting is, there are a few instances where it came but just a bit too much.
‘Warsaw’ fails to find that balance that the rest of the album lives in and ends up sounding a bit contrived. As Kibby belts out about “seducing your wives, fucking you blind, and gutting your fish” the intensity is lost somewhere with her sweet voice which leaves a little bit to be desired. Even at it’s weaker moments though, In Cold Blood, has plenty of great ones to make up for them. ‘Future Husbands Past Lives’ sounds like it was written by Prince and then put through the musical meat grinder, and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s a mini rock opera that has Kibby reaching the absolute limits of her vocal reach, and it’s quite impressive. Sure, this melismastic singing isn’t for everyone. But, there’s no denying that Kibby has great chops in both singing and songwriting…7.1/10