Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pulses | Karmin


★★★★☆

After multiple different delays and two different single attempts, pop duo Karmin have finally managed to drop their debut full-length album, Pulses. After an image change from their extended play debut, the Hello EP, they're back to show the world what they really have got in store.

After a small introduction track, the album is already pulling out the title track, "Pulses," which is an electronic track with Nick Noonan doing the vocals and Amy Heidemann rapping Iggy Azalea style. "I wanna raise pulses / La chica with the mostest / Not in the mood for the average Josephs," raps Heidemann over a light trap track.

The third track, "Acapella," is supposed to act as the lead single, although it was released all the way back in July of last year. Pulses was meant to be released soon after the release of "Acapella," but feuds with Karmin's record label pushed the release date all the way to this month.

Although I absolutely hate the typo in the title (It's a cappella, people. A cappella.), I actually like the song. It's half-rapped, half-sung, with a cappella ad-libs in the background. The completely a cappella "woah-oh-oh-oh-oh" round from Heidemann obviously doesn't sound good, but I think it was meant to sound somewhat funny. The lyrics are kind of stupid too ("We hit that Olive Garden, my Little Italy / Daddy always said, 'Let the gentleman pay. / Never ever go Dutch at the buffet.'") but in the end it's a harmless little pop gem.

The second single, which was released back in January, feels more like lead single to the album thanks to its proximity to the album's release. "I Want It All" pulls in a seductive funk-inspired sound that could inspire some smooth moves on the dance floor. The chorus carries some simple lyrics ("All I need is one more night with you / It's amazing what just one more night can do / I want it all") but in the end, like "Acapella," it's another guilty pleasure of mine.

"Night Like This" finds Karmin in a light pop sound. The song is dominated by the sounds of a guitar and drums and it's a perfect track for summertime driving (I seriously cannot wait for summertime and taking long drives from city to city shopping, and I know this one will be on my playlist). The much more mature ballad "Neon Love" follows; Heidemann's vocal strength is top-notch in this song and the lyrics improve as well. "I never noticed how hard it is under these lights / This neon love is burning too bright / Baby, sometimes it's hard enough just getting by / This neon love is making us blind," sings Heidemann, with Noonan accenting vocally under her.

The mid-tempo "Drifter" takes some tips from urban and dubstep inspirations and uses both of them lightly to create a nice little sound. The lyrics aren't fantastic, but they'll do just fine for a fun little pop song: "I'm a drifter, yeah / No, I don't know where to be / I'm a drifter, yeah / No, it really ain't much to see." Keeping the mid-tempo pace, "Tidal Wave" is a nice duet power ballad with metaphoric lyrics about... Yep, waves and water. Heidemann and Noonan sing, "The tidal wave is forcing us to swim at a distance / So our love is washing away / With all the push and pull we're caught up in / Can we brave the tidal wave?" It is in this song that I can hear just how well the two blend in terms of vocal tone; they sound phenomenal.

Karmin brings in a surprising mixture of a light tropical beat and an overall electronic sound with "Gasoline" before "Puppet" brings back the catchy, trippy pop sound that the album was founded on. Like in "Tidal Wave," the metaphors in "Puppet" are pretty obvious: "Don't you get the feeling that you're tangled up / I can pull a string until it's good enough / But don't you love it, love it / When you're my puppet, puppet." Both songs are great additions to the album before the inevitable filler track hits the tracklisting: "Hate to Love You." It's an alright song, but it's quite obvious that it was made to fill up space because there's nothing quite special about it.

"Try Me On" is a nice little summery bop that eventually allows Heidemann to throw out her rap skills in a small urban breakdown: "I be comin' at you like a ragin' bull / You better be gunnin' with a cannon full / I don't wanna hear you say a thing at all / Unless you're sayin' baby do you want some more." The urban grooves keep flowing in the album's finale, "What's In It For Me." It sounds like a throwback to 1990s dance and as a child of the 90s, I love the sound. Many artists are looking towards the 1970s and 1980s for their inspiration nowadays, but I'd like some nostalgia of my own!

Karmin has got just the right type of style to make themselves stand apart from everyone else out there right now. They're kind of hip-hop, they're kind of pop, and they're kind of electronic; they've just got a really cool little vibe going on. The lyrics may not be spot on all the time, but I didn't expect them to be; it's supposed to be a fun little pop album. Regardless of lyrical content, the vocal talent is there. Heidemann sounds great in both rapping and singing, while Noonan compliments her well with his vocals (the fact that the two are actually engaged is adorable; what an amazing musical couple).

Pulses is set to drop on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 via Epic Records. Be sure to go out and pick yourself up a copy; I'm sure you'll enjoy it just as much as I do.

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