Many Scandinavian artists are known for their icy cool. But for the most part, Sweden's Kate Boy have dropped the icy and kept the cool. They're closer to The Knife and Niki & The Dove than, say, iamamiwhoami.
There's still a sense of frigid cold and cool detachment to much of 'One', but it feels more grounded, more earthy. Its sound is dry, percussive, and almost tribal with a focus on shuddering rhythmic beats. That's only heightened by Australian-born Kate Akhurst's vocal, which ranges from deep and menacing to primal, animalistic calling and always sounds faintly threatening.
Just listen to Higher, the album's major highlight. The beats thump, the synths twinkle, the vocal is guttural, and the last minute is amongst the best pop moments of the year as it erupts in a wave of pure euphoria. Close your eyes and let the magic wash over you.
This same formula is repeated throughout, creating an album of shouted choruses and insistent beats. It makes the line "it's adrenaline that you're traveling" from Lion For Real seem like something of an understatement, the beats visceral to the point of erupting into your ears. Even if the lyrical content borders on shallow, there's a deep rooted dynamic energy to the music that provides plenty of feeling and is guaranteed to get your feet shuffling, from the wordless chorus hook of Midnight Sun, to the darkly dramatic Human Engine and its crystalline synth explosion, and the shuddering funk bass of Run As One.
That said, it's no coincidence the album is called 'One', and not only because it's the band's debut. There is a singular sound to the album that does begin to grate as repetitiveness sinks in. And considering their first EP, 'Northern Lights' was released back in 2012, it's disappointing to see a lack of development.
Equally, the band display economy of sound, creating a whole album of urgent pop from a limited palette. With electro-pop so prevalent in Scandinavia, Kate Boy have managed to carve a sound that's all their own, full of nagging hooks, a unique vocal, and production with an alluringly dark edge.
* Midnight Sun
* Run As One
Listen: 'One' is available now.