The Upshot: Surreal and supercharged, with smart words and polished sounds occupying a singer musical space.
BY JENNIFER KELLY
The Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling” ranks high on the list of songs that I’d like never to hear again, and yet, here it is on The Blow’s eighth full-length, its macho excised, its smarminess surgically drained, its moony 1970s balladry tamped down to a staccato percolation of electro-acoustic arch-ness. It is the kind of pop cultural inversion that Khaela Maricich and Melissa Dyne are so good at, as she sets the tired-est tropes on their heads, gives them a fresh gender-bent coat of paint and couches them in the soft glow of analog synth arrangements. Later, the duo takes on Whitney Houston sideways, in a blurping, blooping, finger-snapping minimalism of “Greatest Love of All,” though the phrase in the lyrics is not the “greatest” but the “hatest love of all.”
It’s hard not to focus on the lyrics, in breezy, but wonderfully complex cuts like “The Woman You Want Her to Be,” and the single “Get Up.” The former track bounds and prances cheerfully, while casually destroying every cliché ever spoken by men about women (sample verse: “There will always be more of her, unless you prefer less, she can do that, too, it’s totally no problem, just let her know what you want her to get rid of, she’ll take care of it.”) The later ponders our place in the universe with a mercurial wit, ending each philosophical query with a call to “get up, get up, get up.”
Maricich’s vocal delivery is sly and intricate, pitched somewhere between a rap and a chant and occasionally dipping even into clear sung melody. There is a lot of space in her lyrics, sudden intervals of clarity in which the clever constructions are allowed to sink in. The instrumental backing, a gleaming construction of space-age modular synth blots and programmed drums, also leaves plenty of white space. In lovely, “Dark Cold Magic,” synthetic sounds echo across in large sonic expanses, taking on an enchanting, unearthly luminosity.
The Blow’s songs surround an entirely natural, unaffected flow of words with a surreal, supercharged space. The words are as smart as they come, full of sudden puzzle-twists and casual apercus, the showy part of this musical enterprise. Yet the music is just as polished and fine, even if it takes a supporting role.
DOWNLOAD: “The Woman You Want Her to Be,” “Get Up”