The eponymous opening track of Kisses’ debut LP The Heart of the Nightlife immediately evokes a sound somewhere between obvious influences like The Cure and Talking Heads and more recently trendy (and oft-mentioned) “indie” pop groups Phoenix and MGMT. Much of the album, in fact, could easily sneak into a John Cusack ‘80s flick without anyone raising an eyebrow. So if such music is to your liking, then I think you’ll dig this album. On the other hand, if you want a dynamic LP from start to finish, it may not be your bag. At times, Kisses seems to keep things in a familiar and safe range throughout.
“On the Move” is a happy exception to this rule in terms of instrumentation; I really liked that they held off from inserting a groove and instead used a more nuanced approach to establishing the pulse of the song. Still, its lyrics have a sort of desperation to communicate (“In the night, in the night, in the night, I was dying to be free”), yet the vocals sometimes don’t express that. I still really appreciate this song, though, as being the most cinematic on he album. I can see it, which is always for me a welcome sensation.
“A Weekend in Brooklyn” is another standout track simply because I can hear interesting choices in the arrangement. The groove doesn’t drop immediately, but doesn’t wait nearly as long as the one in “On the Move.” The vocals purposefully fall out of key during one section, creating some tension to be resolved later. Furthermore, the story of the song is grounded in a place–Brooklyn–and sung directly to a “you.” It just feels more relatable and specific while maintaining the danceable grooviness of the album. (Plus, for Brooklynites, it’s an awesome romantic track to add to the local love-fest mix!)
All-in-all, I do enjoy this album. It’s easy and fun to listen to, but at times a little too easy for my taste. I wish Kisses had made some more daring and provocative choices in the way that Cut Copy’s In Ghost Colours exemplifies within this same genre of ‘80s-inspired dance pop. For certain settings, though, I could imagine this whole album being very “chill.” Beside a pool, for instance, as the album cover implies, I think I could really enjoy it and a beverage with a cocktail umbrella. So perhaps Kisses know exactly what they are up to.