White Sea Flies Close to the Sun
Over the years, Morgan Kibby has fronted LA’s classical indie band The Romanovs, collaborated with electronic maximalist group M83, and now lends her vocal prowess to White Sea, her first solo effort. In Cold Blood is White Sea’s valiant and triumphant white horse that carries the world’s savior at the end of times. At least that’s how it sounds. Kibby’s debut album offers equal parts ’80s synth pop and atmospheric dream pop. Her penchant for theatrics is apparent in how instrumentally dense and lyrically emotive her music sounds. The album is a self-described post-breakup catharsis. Kibby uses soaring synths, celestial vocals and pummeling drums to create one of the year’s more ambitious and dense records.
In Cold Blood opens up with the spacious and beautifully structured “They Don’t Know,” Kibby’s first single off her record. Kibby chants, “they don’t know what we know, / and they can’t see what we see, / all the things that we could be.” This “us vs. the world” mentality spills into the melodramatic “Prague.” In “Prague” Kibby recounts moments of passion she had with a friend in Prague, Paris and Perth. The lyrics may be a bit vague at times, but Kibby’s sensual vocal inflections speak louder than words transmitting and oozing a lust that runs deep. “Future Husbands Past Lives” is an even more life-affirming pop song compared to her two first songs, if that’s even possible. Listening to it feels like you’re soaring through the sky toward the edge of the universe as shooting stars shoot past you, feeling weightless and alive.
In “For My Love,” Kibby continues with the epic stampede of infectious ’80s pop in a song about a love that can’t seem to fill the void inside her. She sings, “but you just want that pussy, / you know that you can have me, yeah, / you just want to love me, ooh, / baby, baby, baby you got me.” The lyrics may be a little simple at times, yes, but she more than makes up for it with her vocal delivery. It’s more about how she sings than what she sings. In Cold Blood is more of an emotional release for the lustful Kibby, who uses sexual imagery in an attempt to highlight the union of two souls in the physical form and how that simply isn’t enough.
“Warsaw” provides the listener with an abundance of sugary synth tones and inspirational themes. It has slightly darker undertones than the rest of her songs, as she sings “I’ll drink your wine and I’ll slap your wrists, / I’ll spin your clocks and I’ll gut your fish, / I’ll fuck you blind and make a run for it.” “Ex Pat” slaps on even more heartbreak during this down-tempo interlude. The album takes a breather with “Small December,” which offers a bleak but atmospheric take on lost love accompanied by gentle pianos, milky acoustic guitars and an ebullient string section. “NYC Loves You” could be boiled down to a simple power ballad if it were not for Kibby’s powerfully high vocals and the masterfully crafted synth-pop instrumentals. “Flash” and “It Will End In Disaster” provide the bow on the gift that is this album.
Kibby does more to position herself with the likes of M83 and other pop craftsmen like Arcade Fire in her debut record. Her overwhelmingly catchy first attempt at an album is a definite success. Sometimes the album sounded like Crystal Castles and other times like Passion Pit, but vocally, Kibby stands triumphantly apart from the crowd.