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French Kicks
One Time Bells
Star Time International

You know how your friends who were quiet at first always end up being the most interesting ones?  One Time Bells may not stand out the first time you hear it, but it’s the type of music that improves with multiple listens.  I promise that by the fifth or sixth time, you won’t be able to get these songs out of your head. 

The 11 songs on the French Kicks’ debut are thoughtful and at times melancholy.  Packed with nervous energy, the drums are like an anxious heartbeat, the keyboard struck with sweaty palms.  It’s not so much a party album as the bookends for a party, channeling the pre-party giddy anticipation and the post-party letdown, the disappointment of an evening that doesn’t go your way.  Play the anxious “Trying Whining” while you’re lacing your Converses and “Wrong Side,” the down-tempo opening track, (Ended up at home/ on empty with the windows down) when you’re kicking them off.

The NYC-based foursome is made up of Nick Stumpf (lead vocals, drums), Matt Stinchcomb (guitar), Josh Wise (keyboard, guitar), and Lawrence Stumpf (bass).  They separate themselves from the current crop of post punk/new wave/no wave reinterpreters by picking substance over flash, making complex songs that are more than just catchy.  Every song is a little different—take the soul-infused “Close to Modern,” the keyboards-and-harmony New Wave tribute in “1985,” or the dark atmospheric title track.

With garage-y guitar hooks, “Crying Just for Show” features Nick Stumpf sounding slightly defeated as he wraps his voice around quasi-sensical lyrics like And you love all everybody here/ even when you want some all to disappear.  Airy keyboards, rolling drums, and the Kicks’ trademark vocal harmonies give “Where We Went Off” a mellow and introspective tone (Falling into your hands/ into my arms/ is where we went off/ is where we belong).

The Kicks exhibit impressive control on their music, spare on tracks like “One Time Bells” and gradually building in intensity on songs like “Wrong Side.”  The keyboard clangs, guitar grates, bass is gritty, and drums pop.  In its best moments, One Time Bells perfectly balances moody atmospherics and upbeat hooks.

Jennifer Conrad

Track List:

  1. Wrong Side
  2. When You Heard You
  3. Down Now
  4. Crying Just for Show
  5. Close to Modern
  6. 1985
  7. Right in Time
  8. Trying Whining
  9. One Time Bells
  10. Where We Went Off
  11. Sunday Night Is Fair

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