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Courtesy of Atlantic Records

October 24, 2019

TEST SPIN | Electric Guest — ‘KIN’

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When indie-pop duo Electric Guest, who performed at Cornell last spring, stepped into the studio to start writing their third full-length album, they faced the biggest challenge of their career; how do you forge into the mainstream pop world with a joyful, lighthearted album that still feels substantive and true?

The duo, made up of vocalist Asa Taccone and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Compton, struggled to strike that balance throughout the process of creating KIN.

“It’s fucking hard right now, it’s a difficult time in the States. [It’s] pretty uncomfortable out here and so it’s this question: Is there room for this? You know what I mean? Is there room for a lighter album? And I came to the conclusion that it was desperately necessary,” Taccone reflected in an interview with Billboard. 

“That was the challenge,” he continued. “How do you navigate putting some substance in there and saying something with having it being really pop?”

In many ways, the duo was successful in striking that balance between mainstream pop and substantive music. On KIN, Electric Guest allows Taccone’s vocals to shine in a new way and explores the ups and downs of life and the importance of making the best of what you have. Most prominently, the pop duo sheds light on the importance of surrounding yourself with people who love and support you through all of the good and the bad times — in other words, the importance of finding your kin.

While there are certainly a few tracks off of KIN that fall flat and victim to trend-chasing production and cheesy lyrics, Electric Guest achieves its goal of creating a good, lighthearted pop album. And sometimes, a little bit of danceable pop music is exactly what the world needs.

The opening track “Dollar,” which was also released as a single over the summer, is essentially an ode to making the most of what life has given you, and enjoying what you have with the people you love. Over a bright, catchy beat, Taccone sings, “Ooh, I got a dollar in my pocket / I see you and I really wanna rock it” in his signature falsetto.

The fun continues on “1 4 Me,” a bass-driven, funky, little love song that’s clever title is enough to convince anyone to give it at least one listen. This track draws clear influence from pop heavy-hitter Carly Rae Jespen, who the duo collaborated with on Jepsen’s “Feels Right.”

“More” is a wistful, yet hopeful track about wanting more and feeling empty. It is disguised by punchy beats, but this track is ultimately home to the album’s strongest lyrical content and offers somewhat of a thesis statement for the entire project: “So many days feel like I’m drowning / Looking for help but I still haven’t found it / But I still wake up for the hope of what’s in store.”

While tracks like “24/7,” “Get Out” and “Birthday” continue to showcase Electric Guest’s eye for unique and innovative production, there are definitely a few tracks on this record that don’t live up to their mission statement for the album.

On “Freestyle” the cheesy lyrical content and R&B influences feel forced. “Basic” is another track that falls flat both sonically and lyrically, reverting to trend-chasing tactics of mainstream pop. While tracks like “Play With Me” and “Max It Out” aren’t particularly offensive, they also aren’t necessarily ear-catching upon first listen.

KIN accomplishes what Electric Guest set out to do. It is a fun, pure pop record that features more successes than failures. This album certainly lacks substance on a few tracks and falls victim to trends in some spots, but it is ultimately innovative.

3/5

 

Jean Cambareri is a sophomore College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at jcc444@cornell.edu