Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

AMNESTY 2013: Kate Boy – In Your Eyes

Back on the tarmac for another international whirlwind tour…first stop Sweden!


Will Adams: Kate Boy’s lyrics focus on human potential. On “Northern Lights,” Kate Akhurst reaches out, hoping to turn everything to gold. On the unreleased “Human Engine,” she envisions herself as that titular machine, always “changing changing changing.” “In Your Eyes” takes the dream to its logical conclusion, finally achieving that potential in a stunning four and a half minutes. It sits in its ethereal intro for a while, assuring its subject that yes, there is something there in your eyes. But then, a pre-chorus rises from the murk: “Activate the open changes flowing out!” Right after, the song slams into a heavy drop, with giant toms and icy synths arpeggiating multiple octaves. From this moment on, this apex is the new normal; the song has leveled off in this massive soundscape. The chant of “In your eyes! In your eyes! In your eyes!” is no longer a promise but an affirmation. And when it seems the song can’t get any bigger, Akhurst begins to just wail, reveling in the activated energy. Point of perfection, indeed.

Jer Fairall: Reminiscent of the already forgotten, briefly enjoyable Canadian pop ingenue Lights in voice and melody, these Swedes are nevertheless considerably chillier in their employment of synths-as-atmosphere. The rigidity of this particular rhythm is both the track’s greatest asset and biggest hinderance; as fascinating as it is to listen to the vocalist negotiate the tight parameters of her boxy surroundings, the absence of a solid pop hook at the centre of it all is glaring.

Alfred Soto: Scandinavians’ knack for complementing vocal angst with jagged, contrapuntal electrobeats is peerless, and while Kate Akhurst doesn’t have much to say and is unhinged about it this track is impressive.

Anthony Easton: There is something isolating and ennui-laden about the failures of this piece. That the failures are part of the aesthetic is kind of exciting — and the historic patina of new wave breaks things down a bit further. 

Katherine St Asaph: Earlier this year, not quite grokking Kate Boy, I researched their origins: Kate Boy factors into Kate Akhurst, jobbing Disney songwriter drawn more and more toward dark Cathy Dennis electro; and Rocket Boy, a Swedish production collective that worked with Icona Pop-before-“I Love It” and several other Scando poppers. I wrote a piece. Then I got really worried people would read it not as genuine curiosity but a takedown. (Protip: no freelance writer spends money on a takedown. Other protip: I bought and liked albums by Tik-n-Tak and Sister Soleil; when I write “Disney songwriter” I don’t mean a pejorative, I mean a genre.) I might’ve just listened to “In Your Eyes” instead; the B-side and synth-twin to “Northern Lights,” it’s like a track off Dawn Richard’s Goldenheart with its Genesis aspirations and metaphorical scienciness. And unlike “The Way We Are,” it’s got a good verse and a good chorus.

Cédric Le Merrer: At some point in 2013 I remember feeling drowned in “Knife soundalikes.” Now I only remember Kate Boy & Chvrches only sounding a bit like the swedish duo (who certainly didn’t care for sounding too much like themselves on Shaking The Habitual). It turns out “sounds like The Knife” is a lazy shorthand for something that doesn’t really exist, a platonic ideal of some kind of icy synthpop they perfected on “Heartbeats” that certainly influenced a lot of other bands but is also a sound you can get at from a lot of different starting points. Well Kate Boy ARE mysterious, and DO want to talk about gender, and HAVE icy synths stabs. So maybe the comparisons are not totally undeserved, but they mainly need to be celebrated for putting out a song that embodies so perfectly a sound that we all collectively half misremebered and half dreamed up. 

Patrick St. Michel: There are parts to “In Your Eyes” besides the synth workout. Those segments are alright, meant to raise the drama up and put Kate Akhurst’s (very good) vocals on full display. But ultimately I just want to hear those electronics and try to figure out what they remind me of — errrr, besides The Knife at their sunniest, but we’ve already been over that. A swarm of digital bees? A ping-pong-ball lottery machine made of neon lights? I just want to keep listening to individual sounds.

Crystal Leww: It drives me nuts that Kate Boy aren’t the go-to band for this kind of synth-heavy pop that seems to be particularly trendy right now. Their short discography so far puts together such a clear and coherent identity without ever becoming stale, each release doing something different. “In Your Eyes” continues to bridge the divide between the robotic and the human, but it’s built on the smallest explosion of the three tracks and the most subtlety and nuance. In particular, I love how Akhurt’s voice seems as though it’s the motherboard for this very sophisticated robot, giving out little commands for the music to follow. On her cry of “activate!”, the beat kicks it up a notch. When she declares a “point of perfection” at the end of the pre-chorus, there that moment is, with only a slight build before the explosion of the chorus’s “In your eyes” repeated. There, the point of connection is established as a very quiet male vocal backs her up. I can’t help how much I love this: I sympathize with the robots, too.

Brad Shoup: Reducing human interaction to a wave exchange… pretty sure that’s been done. “Whenever I cross the light/To keep that connection!” Akhurst shouts, like someone calling tech support on a bad signal. It’s only with the dudely doubling of “in your eyes” that I start to extract something fleshy. It’s… resignation, I think, which would make that sequencing idle fingertapping on a table for one. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all, and the gradual incline from lyrical frippery to some kind of emotion ends up a fine journey.

Josh Langhoff: Peter Gabriel and his old man breath can go away already. While we’re at it, so can made up band members, Swedish electro-pop “outfits,” Sweden itself, looking people in the eye, and good taste in general.

Mallory O’Donnell: Like a lot of our amnesty picks, this finds a global pop artist using electronic instruments in a familiar but interesting way. The long buildup and dense analog swells recall early Fairlight tracks by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, the knockout punch around 1:30 brings to mind Tangerine Dream or Synergy. Something visceral and rhythmically smooth in the layering of the tracks makes me think of African electronica, but the overall piece is firmly modern, thanks to the care taken in the programming. It could certainly teach a thing or two to US and UK producers about not just plugging in your kit and going with preset sounds.

Zach Lyon: I could’ve learned to love this song for everything it was and everything I thought it’d become before the massive tubular synth thwacks come in and inaugurate its cliff jump. I didn’t have to, but I really don’t want that to sound like a mark against what could’ve been. Now can anyone tell me what this song is about?

Reader average: [7.25] (4 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

One Response to “AMNESTY 2013: Kate Boy – In Your Eyes”

  1. this song is brilliant, easily a [9].