Kites and Boomerangs is a Fuzzy Face Melter
It starts off with a decidedly laid back, late night jam session vibe - no doubt that’s how the song came about, knowing these virtuosos. Will Appleton’s voice kicks in and, immediately, we get a subdued but unsubtle dose of that baritone soul that Will has always brought to the forefront of Kites and Boomerangs's sound. Sweetly enough, it quickly jumps into a full-on rock session, with bright ascending riffs from Appleton, Jason Ramirez on guitar and keys, Aaron Haskins as a bass player unafraid to take the lead, and commanding, disciplined drums from Hagen Hauschild to hammer it all home. It ends in a desperate gallop towards the finish line, changing the pace from the initial hangout session to a bonafide fuzzy face-melter.
It’s groovy, funky, soulful, and rocking - a nice opener to remind us of both the Kites and Booms we love so much, and to forge the path for some new sounds and evolution. Because that’s just track 1, “Milk on the Windshield.”
Don’t get hung up on spilt milk, ‘cause there’s a lot more to come. Released last Friday, Kites and Boomerangs’ self-titled album is not one to wait on.
“Lovin’” comes on the coattails of the opener with a classic bluesy crooner, something just as easily cranked out by A-listers like the Black Keys, but here, with a little more playfulness, and more importantly, a lot more bass. When it comes to Haskin and the style of Kites and Boomerangs in general, there’s no shortage of funky, fat, slapping goodness. The chorus has a golden-era Chili Peppers vibe - and again, that slapping really adds to that feeling. It’s a groove driven funk-fest here on track three, and Appleton comes in again with confidently delivered vocals. He’s got the range of three other average singers, and he does at least as much work as that many, here on “Lovin.’” He’s got clinched-teeth croons, sultry schemes and butter-smooth singing all around - in addition, unbelievably, to delivering us some delicious licks.
Track three, “Your Wednesday On A Tuesday,” comes in as the moody younger brother to the previous two, with a slower beat, drawn-out guitar screams, and subdued singing. It’s somewhat morose; an admission, almost confessional, with the refrain of “it’s you / it’s you.”
But then it picks up, and Will reminds us “don’t be afraid of something real / don’t let yourself succumb to fear.” It’s that hope on a rainy day kind of feel; a swelling calm that rises warmly through the chest and shivers spineward towards your face, your crown, and it lets you know that storms give way to light, to life. The end is a classic catharsis, eschewing words for the raw emotional conduit of instrumentals, in a bittersweet breakdown that gives one last return to Appleton’s singing before closing out. And at the end, while it momentarily lapses back into the sadness that we began with, we’re quickly faced with a great change of the refrain: to never let “them” hear that “they’ve won, they’ve won.” It’s a song, overall, that I think anyone can and will find dear to them - especially if you’ve had the privilege to see it live.
This next track starts off with a more playful swing to its opening riff, moving into another instant bluesy classic in the form of “Bruised.” Our frontman comes in with a twangy snarl, while a nice organ setting on an accompanying synth makes for a delightfully southern rock, CCR type style, especially with the closing acoustic guitar solo thrown in. It’s a song with grace, with grit, and with unabashed swagger. A steady gallop throughout the whole song marks it as a lighthearted departure from the previously heavy track, and a new stream forward for the next few songs.
Number five keeps up with a playful, albeit ominous, tone for the start of this latter half of the album - and with a name like “This Time Next Year,” it doesn’t get any less foreboding. We love it. There’s something positively witchy to the whole affair - a bad moon’s rising, folks, and it shines through in the compressed vocals, the atmospheric intrusions of Ramirez’s synth, or the moodily minimal guitar work. It’s a modern take on that dark side of blues that’s always talked about as a legend, but rarely seen in the world of popular music today. The timing of the playing on this song is incredibly tight. That mid-song bridge showcases this quite nicely, with a lot of unexpected pauses that continue the song’s staccato style. There’s a hint of Velvet Underground in this track, too - those little “it’s out of sight” exclamations from Will could easily be mistaken for some classic Lou Reed vocals.
“Goonies” opens up shyly with simple snare, and blossoms into a beautifully melodic, dreamy riff. The guitar tone and production here are grade A, with crisp notes and bubbly synth lines thrown into the mix. The song continues to expand as it unleashes the prog-rock side of Kites, heretofore unseen, more or less. It’s a retro homage with modern math and dream pop twists blended in. The title here is readily apt; this is classic '80s at every turn, and sits alongside the eponymous movie just fine - is this what the Goonies became when they got a little older? Prog rock virtuousos? I could believe it. We finish with a spaced-out psych-jam to conclude this stand-out number.
And, lastly, we come to the final track, which is probably titled after what you’re saying right now - “Ain’t No Way.” It’s hard to believe that there have been so many styles packed into one seven tracks, but alas, we’re at the end.
This closer comes back full circle to the classic blues-crooner style that we’ve come to know and love - but in addition to soul, it works in elements from every other genre on this track. It’s got the tightly coiled rhythms, the soulful snarls, that snarky '80s synth and, to our delight, a heavy, crunchy, absolutely monolithic final jam session. The last minute and a half of this album is just consummate, confident mastery of instrument. The rhythm acts like a carrot on a stick, with Hauschild and Haskin beckoning each player through a maze of shifting time signatures and speeds, driving them through as many stylistic avenues as possible. And they’ve got the bravado to match.
Kites and Boomerangs have done it again, y’all. The only thing better than listening through this recording - trust us - is catching them live. It’s easy to take these musicians for granted as another talented local quartet, but watch them play and you’ll see what we mean. There’s a soul to this music, and recording can only do it so much justice.
See you at the next set.