Written by Gilbert Mullis, posted by blog admin
The first studio release from electropop twosome Kittens Slay Dragons is another expression of singer/songwriter Sarah Donner’s distinctive depth and approach to popular music. She collaborates with beat master $hClane! on the album’s ten songs and they have an unique personal chemistry reaching far beyond anything we typically hear in this genre. It isn’t a knock to claim the primary purpose of this style is to get people moving on a dance floor, but Donner subverts that some with her insistence that these songs say something of some import. Big Big Heart has just that – an enormous heart that does its best to encompass much of human experience without ever once falling prey to self indulgence or otherwise losing its way. She manages to entertain from a solid base of fundamentals in this musical area and has the ability to transform it into something more.
“Gatekeeper” begins Big Big Heart with a decidedly strong uplift. Much of this is due to the wide open vocal style that Sarah Donner employs. Make no mistake – this isn’t an unrefined, raw vocal. Instead, wide open means that she manifests tremendous vulnerability while still imposing the necessary finesse on the tune to make it take a definite shape and resonate more strongly with the audience. “Smile Pretty” is a more inward looking number than many of the album’s other songs and has obvious commercial potential thanks to the strength derived from counterpointing her gorgeous vocal melody with the occasionally flashy synth work. The flash exhibited in these musical arrangements is never too much – consider it closer to the flourish someone puts on the end of a letter when signing their name. It’s just a little additional flair and it goes a long way towards spicing up otherwise solid synth lines clearly geared towards serving their respective song.
“Love Is Surgery” is another song with clear commercial potential. The brightly lit synth lines are quite complementary to Donner’s beautifully emotive voice. She soars at all the right points and the plainly engaged, pleasing qualities of her vocal instrument are a highlight here like they are elsewhere. Her phrasing gives everything a little extra glow. “Under the Waves” has a more insistent pulse than what we’ve heard so far and $hClane! joins her on vocals for the first time on Big Big Heart. This is a bit more atmospheric than most of the songs on Big Big Heart, but not in an overtly theatrical manner. Kittens Slay Dragons conjures up an improbably groove centered number with the song “Symbols in the Sky”, but Donner’s lyrical acumen is another critical factor in the success of this song. Big Big Heart concludes with “Head Down, Heart Up”. It’s a song with a slightly melancholic edge but, overall, this is a hopeful closer to the album that eloquently testifies about the strengths of going on. Despite its electronic textures, this is an immensely human album that has tremendous personality and appeal.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars