After a smattering of EP and single releases over the past three years, Upright, Love signals the full-length debut of New York-based five-piece, Blue Kid. Lead singer Lydia Benecke has almost tattooed her heart on her sleeve on this album, and her theater background and opera blood (her parents are noted opera singers) lend to her expressive sound. Benecke’s fusion of piano-based rock, pop, jazz, and cabaret yields comparisons with the likes of Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple, though the cabaret leanings of April Smith may be an even better benchmark. Its in your face, hard to ignore, and painfully honest, almost like Benecke has created a musical persona through whom she can act out her life and maybe through that distance the hurt.
The album opens with the piano and percussion-driven Can You Keep Up” — and the straight answer is, “No.” Benecke spouts the lyrics like an uncapped gusher. Her eerie little girl voice (similar to a technique used by Kate Bush, or Spektor) barely takes a breath until two minutes into a three-minute song. The insistent tune quickly welds itself to your memory bank. In contrast, “Next To You” begins with a soft, jazzy opening, and offers an initially sweet melodic take on a fading relationship that builds into a passionate put-down. If that wasnt enough, the alarminglytitled The Dismemberment Song takes things beyond the pale, showing off Beneckes theatrically dark humour.
Brenecke delivers a powerful soliloquy in Black Sheep, which combines a strong melody with combative lyrics (“Your drive will shrivel / Your mama’ll think I’m rude and brittle / and I’ll treat you like you’re second fiddle/ No it’s never gonna work”). The title song highlights a different musical side to Blue Kid, eschewing piano rock for jazz-funk. The main tenor of the album is found in the singer playing out her emotions, yet with a curtain to retreat back into afterwards. On the bluesy final track, We Were Out Again Too Late, Benecke is at her seductive best, exuding an intensity that makes the story all the more believable. Once again the actress in Lydia Benecke has the last word.
Essential Tracks: Can You Keep Up, Black Sheep, and Have To