Covered in Dust the debut LP from Louisiana's Kindest Lines, opens suitably with a beat that sounds a lot like an industrial rendition of The Ronettes' "Be My Baby." Brian Wilson cited that song by the legendary New York girl group as the greatest pop recording ever, and many refer to it as the perfect example of Phil Spector's "wall of sound" production. Those artists established many of the templates for how modern music is made, but what still stands out is the sense of that music having been simply dreamed-up. With organic washes of layered melodic guitars and lush songcraft, this New Orleans-based trio is definitely doing some dreaming of their own. Kindest Lines are blazing a unique path into an enchanting realm of darkened electronic indie pop that is at once welcoming and foreboding.
Just as Phil Spector clearly had his demons, and just as post-Katrina New Orleans in the wake of the BP environmental disaster has become as much an emblem of loss and destruction as of Mardi Gras festiveness and upbeat jazz, the tension between dancey jubilance and the cold heart of darkness lurks in each song. Lead singer Brittany Terry expertly navigates the listener through these terrains with a voice that's never so cold as to sound detached, and yet never saccharine. Her sultry earnestness effortlessly compliments songwriters Jack Champagne and Justin Vial's moody, punchy compositions while her diary-like lyrics and unassuming delivery invite the listener into her charmed universe.
The title of the album's second track sums it up: "Destructive Paths to Live Happily." It's music by and for people who are neither committed to sullen defeat nor blind optimism, but rather for those that tend toward the kind of affirmative, outsider attitude that refuses to take either side and instead finds a way to embrace the ways in which the two coexist. As "Running Into Next Year" commences with its aggressive dance beat and ominous minor key synth melodies, the lyrics take an unexpected turn: it's a song about the possibility of being happy in love. Colored though the scene may be by neurotic overthinking and booze-induced confusion, it's an honest portrait of those most elusive pangs of longing that mean so much precisely because of the way that doubt interjects itself. Tracks like "Record Party" and "Prom Song" cement those themes as they play out like bittersweet, nostalgic audio snapshots.
Produced by cerebral electro-experimentalists Alfredo Nogueira and Josh Eustis of Telefon Tel Aviv, yet brimming with spacey guitar work and hooks aplenty, Covered in Dust is a record that thrives on harmonious disparities while maintaining all of its thematic and sonic cohesion. The Ronettes pined, "Oh won't you please be my baby." Updated by Terry? "Psychotic outbursts in the name of love, always wanting." When you get down to the bleeding heart of the matter, it's kind of all along the same lines.