Disclosure’s Settle wasn’t just the best debut LP of 2013, it was also the best dance-pop crossover record from last year; with no dominant trend in the sub-genre cropping up this year, the Lawrence brothers have dominated 2014 by proxy, too. Their rising success can be found in industry-shepherded superstar collaborations and dance veteran co-signs; they were also responsible for putting the most boring new pop star of the year on the map. All of which has lead to the music industry’s typically craven search to find something, anything comparable when it comes to satiating the fuzzy-boots crowd’s sudden micro-thirst for vocal-driven house. It’s why UK producer Duke Dumont’s ebullient, bursting “I Got U” could be found on U.S. pop radio earlier this summer, and it also explains why the market has been flooded with knockoffs supposedly meant to catch some of Disclosure’s heat. If you thought the glut of post-dubstep singer/songwriter types or tortured alt-R&B auteurs proved tiring, the 4/4 onslaught that mainstream pop is about to undergo could prove even worse.
Recently, the market’s been hit with two new artists in the Disclosure mold: first, there was Gorgon City’s competent, ultimately ineffective debut LP Sirens, and now we have the debut album from Calgary’s Kiesza Rae Ellestad, Sound of a Woman. Kiesza’s earliest music leaned toward folk, and then she hooked up with producer and current collaborator Rami Samir Afuni, who has written and arranged for the likes of LMFAO and Miley Cyrus. In 2012, Kiesza and Afuni released the single “Oops”, a pop trifle about unprotected sex that mixed bright, MOR synth-pop with the requisite wub-wub elements that marked big-tent dance music at the time; at the top of this year, they hit the pop bullseye forcefully with “Hideaway”, a throaty blast that sounded like the duo’s attempt to remake Robin S.’ “Show Me Love” for the millennial crowd.
A minor U.S. hit that went platinum in four European countries, “Hideaway” was a stroke of low-level pop mimicry genius, and Kiesza and Afuni are clearly aware of its winning formula: Sound of a Woman, a record that proves as generic and bland as the catch-all title that adorns it, is largely made up of attempts to recreate that song’s success, right down to replicating its basic structure. Sometimes, this works: the effervescent “No Enemiesz” finds Kiesza shouting over squiggles and a hollow, pounding beat before hitting a chorus that utilizes her oversinging tendencies effectively, while “Giant in My Heart” blooms into a satisfying 4/4 pulse that carries superficial charms similar to off-brand cereal.
Elsewhere, though, Sound of a Woman fails to spark, as its homogenous textures blend together to rob this music of the personality and emotion it has when done right. Kiesza and Afuni treat house music with all the studiousness of someone reading a textbook, as evidenced by her sorta-viral, sacrilegiously po-faced cover of Haddaway’s “What Is Love”. On one level, they’ve committed cultural thievery of the laziest kind, right down to European dance culture’s obsession with dusty, pre-2000s hip-hop (the shiftless “Losin’ My Mind” and “Bad Thing”, with respective features by American rappers Mick Jenkins and Joey Bada$$). Kiesza and Afuni come across as guests at a dinner party who couldn’t be bothered to bring anything and expect their presence to do the work for them.
So Sound of a Woman’s most memorable moments are when the duo deviate from their established norm: “So Deep” is a brooding, bleeping slow jam that, midway through, breaks into a moderately appealing 2step rhythm, while “Piano” soothes and swerves with the druggy melancholy of certain strains of R&B, building to a pleading, drum-assisted chorus that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Jessie Ware’s 2012 debut Devotion. They’re capable, pretty songs, and like the rest of Sound of a Woman, they don’t give any clues as to who Kiesza is.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1s66t6W