>> People trying to describe Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s sound have always had a difficult time. With “How To: Friend, Love Freefall”, they’re not making it any easier on us.
From the name to the music, Rainbow Kitten Surprise is something different. They’ve made a career out of picking the things that work from different genres and blending them into a radio-friendly smoothie. They’re not out to play any set genre, which can be refreshing. While the execution may be lacking in some areas, the core idea is a breath of fresh air.
Each instrument, in a vacuum, has some really interesting stuff going on. The guitar tone is jangly but shy of the pure twang that’s popular right now. The drums have some neat jazz influences, and there are even some moments where the bassist gets the spotlight. Were they to be split into four solo albums, each one would have a few fun tracks. Putting them all together, though, makes for some issues.
Immediately upon putting on this album, you’ll notice the first flaw: the mixing is really, really bad. The vocal EQ is caught between Modest Mouse and Father John Misty, and the center of that Venn diagram isn’t pretty. Beyond that, every instrument seems to overwhelm the next. The vocals bury the bass, which drowns out the drums, which make the guitar almost inaudible until there’s a solo. It sounds like the studio didn’t know a good way to separate out every piece of this group, and decided on volume as the great equalizer.
The mixing could be forgiven, however, if it weren’t for the apparent ethos of RKS. Rather than mixing genres to experiment, to try something new, their approach seems to be to make something as marketable as possible. Despite all their influences, the myriad sounds you can hear in each of their songs, they manage to not come across as inventive. There’s a lot of different here, but nothing new. It’s all recycled from other hits, trying to make something that appeals to as many people as possible.
“How To: Friend, Love, Freefall” takes the normal range of influences we’ve come to expect from Rainbow Kitten Surprise and cranks it to eleven. The standard “Kings of Leon meets Modest Mouse” sound is still there, but now it’s melded with everything from R&B to Frank Ocean-style vocals. Rather than being experimental, though, the resulting sound comes across as market-tested and a bit disingenuous. Worse still, that sound is buried under some of the worst mixing you’re likely to hear. It’s cacophonous, disjointed, and overall unpleasant to hear. 3.3/5 <<