Kisses have learned a thing or two since 2011’s The Heart of the Nightlife, they just haven’t learned too much. Their songwriting a bit trickier, their palette broader, but they still sound like the soundtrack to a breezy summer night in a city filled with neon lights, caught in an ’80s time warp. Even the song titles on their latest record, Kids in L.A., set up little scenes that reflect the pleasures of the season (“At the Pool”, “Air Conditioning”, “Having Friends Over”) in a way that’s familiar to the band. But the youthful vibe belies the fact that the two masterminds behind Kisses, Jesse Kivel and Zinzi Edmunson, are, in fact, married — a very adult commitment for such fresh-faced babies.
These are lush and carefree love songs, without a trace of hurt or heartbreak in sight. “Don’t be so cynical,” Kivel sings on “At the Pool”, and you’re inclined to agree. The song opens up into a chillwave soundscape, with hints of the kind of over-the-top melodrama we’ve come to associate with the soundtracks of ’80s films like The Breakfast Club. To their credit, Kisses rein themselves in before they become schmaltzy, keeping everything tight and focused. In this way, the songs on Kids in L.A. remain sleek and modern.
It’s also easy to hear washes of The Smiths on several of the tracks, perhaps most prominently on “Having Friends Over”. Kivel can do a convincing Morrisey when he wants to, adopting a slightly sadder, more morbid air for the song. Even if it wasn’t meant to be a direct homage, it still shows that the record doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The optimistic “Adjust Glasses” closes out the album, finding Kivel and Edmundson harmonizing on a dreamy ode to youthful love and hope.
This album is being released just in time for summer, which is an appropriate time for the sort of sounds in which Kisses traffic. The strength of this record is that, even without sunshine to bolster it, these songs remain enjoyable and nuanced. Basically, Kids in L.A. is exactly the type of record that will be able to conjure summer back up, even once the weather turns cold again.
Essential Tracks: “Having Friends Over”, “At the Pool”