Listening to Sunset Blush by Philadelphia’s indie darling Kississippi—otherwise known as Zoe Reynolds—feels like sitting shotgun in the summer, windows rolled down halfway, a lukewarm breeze passing by your shoulders. It gives the sonic effect of goosebumps. A fairly big step away from 2016’s EP We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed, this release has pulled the project into a much more pop-influenced direction. This move comes across as extremely natural for Reynolds, who is diving into her own sound following the departure of former bandmate Colin James.
Her vocals are more confident than ever, and her songwriting is tender and sharp all at once. She bares it all on the breakout track “Cut Yr Teeth,” with lyrics that tap into the anxiety of realizing someone may not actually be who they appeared to be (“The person you made yourself out to be / would feel sorry for what you have done to me.”) There’s something about the distance created by the use of the second person—that biting “you”—that makes it even more intimate. It’s almost as if she’s having a conversation with the listener, like they’re tapping into something they shouldn’t be. But then, in a way that only she knows how to, Reynolds brings you back into her world mere minutes later on “Red Lights” with one use of the word “we.” One of the sweeter tracks on the album, “Red Lights” is the unmistakably slow burn of a blush you can’t shake, with simple lyrics that say more than words usually can (“Red lights / Kisses on the nose / Hope we hit traffic on the way home.”)
There’s an energy present on this album that we haven’t seen before from Kississippi—partially thanks to anthemic tracks like “Easier To Love” and “Adrift,” which both drip with synths, while retaining an edge. With saccharine harmonies and upbeat, driving guitar parts, both tracks appeal to her new pop sensibilities. They are also undeniable highlights of the album, giving her vocals a chance to soar. Not only does Reynolds avoid the cheesiness that is often symptomatic of indie rock artists experimenting with pop flirtations, but she does so triumphantly. She creates a novel sound, a possibility which is always questioned in our ever-skeptical-of-pop world.
Sunset Blush is rare and remarkable, unearthing a ferocious femininity that has been there all along. It shows a clear progression for the artist, who is (unsurprisingly) seeing well-deserved success in the wake of its release. It’s already surpassing older releases on streaming platforms and showing no signs of slowing down—especially not after her tour with Dashboard Confessional.
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Kississippi Dives Into Pop With ‘Sunset Blush’: Featured image courtesy of Kississippi