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Tuesday Reviewsday: Kitten, Riff Raff, Claire and How to Dress Well

Riff Raff

Courtesy of Mad Decent

On today's Tuesday Reviewsday we have the artists Claire, How to Dress Well and a guy who argues that James Franco's character in "Spring Breaker"s is based on him, the rapper Riff Raff. We also have a woman Chloe Chaidez from the band Kitten, who's been on the show before. She's been rocking since she was 12 years old.  

Shirley Halperin from The Hollywood Reporter and Chris Martins from Spin Magazine join A Martinez for a chat about these new tunes.

Shirley's Picks:

Artist: Kitten
Album: Kitten
Songs: G#,” “Why I Wait

G#

Kitten is 19-year-old Chloe Chaidez, raised in L.A. on electro music and punk rock, she’s been opening for bands like No Doubt, Paramore and Charli XCX since she was 12 years old. To say she's wise beyond her years is an understatement.

This is her major label debut, but it follows an EP released in 2012 that quickly put her on critics’ radars as a girl to watch – alongside Sky Ferreira and Charli XCX. Here she is having her moment with a stellar first single – “G#” — an arena-ready teenage angst anthem that is both massive, melodic and desperate with wall-of-sound guitars ready to drive the depressed crowds over an apocalyptic cliff.

It sounds a bit like the world is ending, but in the best way.

On another track, called “Why I Wait,” Kitten seems to be hell-bent on being anointed queen of the mopey bad girls and falls squarely into the whispering zeitgeist.

There’s a little Lorde in there and a hint of Lana Del Rey’s hushed bummerscape, while the record piles on the 80s New Wave vibe that occasionally falls into Pat Benatar territory vein when it should be shooting for the grandeur of Berlin.

Still, there’s an underlying sensuality to Kitten that that’s pretty devastating when it’s on and there’s plenty of that throughout this first full-length.

Artist: Claire
Album: The Great Escape
Songs: Games,” “My Audacity

Broken Promise Land

Here we have a group that’s truly of the Internet age.

A 5-piece from Munich Germany who met in a recording studio then recruited their singer, Josie Claire Bürkle, through Facebook , they describe their sound as “Neon Pop” – almost as if you can ascribe colors to the sounds.

So for this first song, I want to encourage all of our listeners to picture shades of purple, maybe some light blue as “Games” plays.

Lots of great female singers out there right now – Phantogram come to mind, Lorde, of course, La Roux — each has synthpop at its core. Likewise. Claire manages to sound really of the moment and yet pretty timeless, even if it too swerves towards the '80s at times.

The production is really clean and totally focused, pretty German in that sense — and closer to Disclosure and Depeche Mode than the Max Martin hit-factory or EDM, for that matter, which with all its fireworks, is starting to sound pretty tinny and annoying.

You certainly couldn’t say that of Claire or “The Great Escape,” as the album is called — named in part after the fact that the group was locked in a studio for the better part of six months “without seeing any sunlight.”

If the result of that isolation brought us a song like “My Audacity” then off to the darkness they go!

Chris's Picks

Artist: Riff Raff
Album: Neon Icon
Songs: "How to Be the Man," "Cool it Down"

How to Be the Man

Where to begin with Riff Raff? I love this dude so much. He's really special to me and I can't quite explain it. If you've seen him, you know how easy he is to write off. He's a white guy with ornate cornrows and tattoos of the MTV and BET logos on his neck. He's completely ridiculous, and totally silly, but he's also 100-percent serious about being those things, which you can really hear on the song, "How to Be the Man."

I think you either love a guy who calls himself "the white Danny Glover" or you hate him. The only mistake to me is assuming, as many do, that what Riff Raff does is parody somehow, when in reality, I think he's long been enamored with rap's more flamboyant side. He's totally this Frankenstein's monster of flossy Bad Boy Records rhymers, legit crazy people like Kool Keith, and messianic social-media hustlers like Lil B. 

To be fair, it doesn't help that he was on MTV reality show "From G's to Gents." Or that he then appended his name then to make it MTV Riff Raff. The man born Horst Simco has his bonafides. He's a high school dropout from a tough part of Houston with his fair share of family drama. Before the rap thing seemed viable, he'd been betting on a basketball career. Now he gets to hang out with Snoop Dogg, make songs with names like "Aquaberry Dolphin," and get 15,000 Instagram likes every time he posts a picture of his pet husky — who it should be noted is often dyed blue. 

I, for one, am throwing no salt on that swag. And one of my favorite songs on the album is "Cool It Down," which surprisingly features Amber Coffman of the Dirty Projectors. 

Artist: How to Dress Well
Album: What Is This Heart?
Songs: "Repeat Pleasure," "Face Again"

Repeat Pleasure

Once upon a time there was a thing we music geeks kinda regrettably called PBR&B — a mashup of the cheap beer preferred by hipsters, and the early '90s music they were weaned on. Our next subject was seen as part of that — a shy bedroom-recording sensualist (and white guy) who used to cover R. Kelly songs and still sings the word "boo" with sincerity.

But Tom Krell has evolved massively since, and his new album under the name How to Dress Well might be a masterpiece. 

He was strongly touched by the boldness and attention to detail of Kanye West's 'Yeezus,' but in terms of his overall identity, Krell sings and writes like a wild mashup of Bon Iver, the-Dream, Tracy Chapman, and '00s Justin Timberlake. He's got a incredible voice, a real mastery over atmosphere, incredible emotionality, and he just plain feels one-of-a-kind. 

The dude's a deep-thinker too. SPIN ran an interview with him this week, and at one point, he completely flips the script on our scribe. Marc Hogan asks him about a lyric that may sound familiar to any fans of Celine Dion or 'The Titanic.' It's a line that seems uncharacteristically corny at first. But he explains:

"What I mean when I say 'my heart will go on' is not, 'I'm broken but I'm gonna keep on keepin' on,' or whatever. What I mean is that what desire at the end of the day desires is more desire. Nothing and no person on this earth will make me stop desiring."


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