Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sound of a Woman | Kiesza


★★★★☆

The rise to musical stardom for Canadian singer-songwriter Kiesza has been a surprisingly quick process. After dropping a four-track extended play and two top-ten singles in the United Kingdom (most notably, her debut track "Hideaway," that got her to the number one spot across the pond), she has quickly followed-up with her debut album, Sound of a Woman. While many contemporaries have faced delays with releasing a full body of work, the time between the release of Kiesza's debut single and this album measures out at a mere six months. Impressive, to say the least, but how impressive is the work represented in Sound of a Woman?

Kiesza's ticket to fame was her nostalgic house touch and the impressive choreography in her first music video. Sound of a Woman not only delivers a fair amount of euro-house bangers, but also a few outliers that are both surprising and well-welcomed. (Kiesza promised that "people will be surprised to hear some of the songs on this album" because of their dissimilarities to her pigeon-holed status as a house artist.) The most noticeable sound changes come as she breaks away from the safety of her heavy beats and recedes to acoustic cuts like "What is Love" and "Cut Me Loose" to exude confidence in her voice. She also experiments with mid-tempo R&B and pop on the Mick Jensen-assisted "Losin' My Mind" and "Piano," a track that ironically doesn't incorporate a piano until its outro.

Ultimate throwback vibes radiate from new cuts like "No Enemiesz" and "Vietnam," as Kiesza hop-scotches between 1980s and 1990s house influences. The former track has been lifted as the album's third single, after "Hideaway" and "Giant in my Heart," and finds Kiesza sounding more like Cher in its ad-libs, but the lead vocals let her hit some of her highest wails yet. Meanwhile, the nineties live on through the deep-house tracks "Over Myself" and "The Love," as well as the album's flowing title track. "Baby, that's the sound of a woman / Baby, that's the sound that her heart makes when she's crying out to the one man chaining her to love that she can't escape," sings Kiesza on "Sound of a Woman," in between crooning ad-libs and persistent strings. Those lyrics easily sum up the album as a whole, which follows the thoughts of love and heartbreak through a relationship.

While she lyrically brings nothing extraordinarily new to the table, her vocal ability and production techniques do. Her gleaming production choices blast nostalgia in full force, which follows this year's most popular trend without sounding tedious; one listen to "Over Myself" or "No Enemiesz" makes that fact obvious. Yet, these huge production backings can be taken away without stripping away Kiesza's power. Her vocal technique is quite unique as she manages to sound consistently strong, even as she reaches the bounds of her vocal range (à la Sia Furler). Normally, new acts aren't always so ambitious on their debut albums, but Kiesza has pulled out all of the stops for this record: push play and bask in the old school euro-house glory.

Sound of a Woman will be released on October 21, 2014 under Lokal Legend and Island Records.

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