Bluebird

Kalen & The Sky Thieves

Ropeadope, 2014

http://www.kalenandtheskythieves.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/20/2014

KST's debut is an enjoyable mashup of musical styles, using melancholy alt-pop as a base and factoring in funk and blues elements. On top of it all is Kalen Lister's lovely voice, capable of grit, emotion, and moments of soaring beauty; the band is solid, but she is the main draw.

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The best place to start is "Never Ending Winter," a funk rocker with a strident beat and plenty of attitude, although the fuzzy guitars and languid attitude of "Kansas City Baby Girl" are just as good, particularly when the hazy verses give way to the bluesy guitar workouts that act as the chorus. The brisk, martial "Somedays" is full of verve, left turns and a foot-tapping beat; it's what this band does best.

Less successful are the slower ballads, which sound fine (thanks to Kalen's bravura, tender performances) but don't really register. Better are tracks like "Bluebird," which confidently moves through its classic rock-inspired sections and which the listener won't want to end. Guitarist Will Hanza is a great foil for Kalen; not that she ever over-emotes, but rather that the two engage in a sort of duel to power home each song. Hanza is equally at ease with bold solos, insistent background riffs that drive the song forward and fill notes that allow the rhythm section to shine.

Unlike many debuts, this one rarely sounds like its influences, preferring to establish its own sound. The pity is that the songwriting doesn't always match up to the talent and ambition, with the disc not really kicking into gear until about halfway through. Had "Kansas City Baby Girl" and maybe the spoken-word "Rabid Girl" been pushed forward, the disc would flow better and capture the listener's attention throughout, although "Bluebird" deserves its closing spot. In time, the guitar work, the rhythm section's dexterity and Kalen's voice and keyboards will coalesce into a consistently great album, instead of the mixed bag that is Bluebird.

Still, the best moments here are proof that this is a band to watch.

Rating: B-

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