In this day and age, there probably aren’t a whole lot of ways to stir up the well-established genre that is synthpop, having had a 3 year run that is still going in some shape or another. Even so, the modernised explorations of the genre are captured in fine form on Mr.Kitty’s 2013 Life, an hour long wash of unabashed new wave and synth tunes that are spilling over the brim with infectious melodies and catchy choruses. Nostalgia and winks at the genre’s past achievements are all well and good for artists trying to tug at the memories of aged listeners, but Life steps up the game with a knack for captivating songwriting.
A charm of Life that makes itself apparent after a few listens is the youthful angst permeating through the lyrics and the minor-key compositions, which masterfully bypasses sounding cringe-worthy and settles in among the ranks of a young Depeche Mode and New Order, embracing the subjects of loneliness and obsession with style. The throwbacks of nostalgia settle in with the modern influences like soulmates. For example, the 8-bit electro-punk of fellow contemporaries Crystal Castles can be found snuggled in with the clean and shiny gloom Mr.Kitty assembles, such as the fuzzy shouts on “Sacrifice.” The use of auto-tune sprinkled through select moments in songs emphasizes an icy teenager apathy, as opposed to the convenience it proposes to the mass-marketed noise pollution in the mainstream. It’s this unison of technological experimentations with the meek and sensitive negativity prevalent in 80s alternative that equips Life with the sort of young, fragile innocence that Mr.Kitty embraces.
Ambition and craft aside, Life is simply chock-full of songs that are really, really good. “Heaven” would cause any alternative dance night to erupt into frenzy, replete in haunting verses and a memorable chorus. “Labyrinth” is cold and distant, but danceable enough to invite the listener in. “Scars” is irresistible in its naïve charm, calling out through walls of shyness to a far-away lover.
Even at over 60 minutes, Mr.Kitty has crafted an album that is very easy to enjoy. The mixture of influences is never substituted for the quality of songs, and even without its cultural context, each melody and chorus can resonate with anyone who has ever tapped their foot to a synthesizer.