Surveying the empty house, it would be tough at first to tell what Big Thief …
Roughly five long years have passed without this fiery half-English, half-American duo. Sure, Alison Mosshart has been busy crooning with The Dead Weather, but what really set the pair back was a gnarly injury Jamie Hince suffered after his hand was slammed in a car door, requiring nearly half a dozen surgeries. After a painstakingly slow recovery and having to relearn the guitar, the wait is finally over and the follow-up to 2011’s Blood Pressures is here. Splitting time between Electric Lady Studios in New York and a rented house in Los Angeles, The Kills change gears for their fifth studio album, Ash & Ice, with a slightly updated, emotionally raw and edgier sound.
“Doing It To Death,” the first track, kicks off the highly anticipated album and is chosen as such with good reason. The thunderous, pummeling bass, and the bright, sharp guitars achieve repeat-worthy status and it’s no wonder it also doubles as the lead single. It’s a catchy tune you hear on the radio and hours later, out of nowhere, you’re singing it while getting all sudsy in the shower. It’s your pump up song — your jam. Before the song is even over, you will want to start it again, but have patience — the second track (and single), “Heart of a Dog,” is equally notable with Mosshart’s vocals howling lyrics like “I get lost but I always come around. I’m loyal, I got the heart of a dog.”
After four hard-hitting tracks, the bluesy punk duo slow down the beat on “Days of Why and How.” At this point, the themes of an emotionally charged push-pull relationship are unwaveringly apparent. Mosshart croons, “When I hear your name it’s like a freight train shake-shake-shake-shake-shaking me off my tracks.” The song closes with exceptional guitar work and drums that imitate the fading sounds of a freight train in the distance.
“That Love,” with a simple piano and acoustic guitar, has one of my favorite lyrics from the album: “If you get a minute, you can find a whole day.” Then, just as your pulse is slowing, “Impossible Tracks” comes barreling in with dark and heavy contrast, proving that Mosshart has a firm grip on the wheel and you should probably get the hell out of her way. Pulling you right back in with effortless ease, “Echo Home” showcases the duo in harmony with soft breathy vocals, slow-building galloping beats and a beautifully bending guitar.
The album’s strong start is only matched by its equally strong finish. Emotionally charged, it draws you in close and then shoves you away, nearly knocking you off your feet. Ash & Ice might just be The Kills’ best album, but don’t take my word for it. Give it a listen and hear for yourself. »
– Wendy Worzalla