I Am Kloot
I Am Kloot
very six months or so I read a column explaining the demise of the album—attributable, I'm told, to downloaders' focus on songs, the quick-fix of one click and 99 cents. Without fail, these articles don't convince me, and the past few years have produced strong albums at the same rate as ever. I'm always happy to find one of these discs, the type that I want to spend start to finish, finding connections between songs or watching themes develop or listening to a musical progression. I Am Kloot's self-titled second album is one of these, with its continuous supply of good songs and smart assemblage geared toward the long play.
Few albums can succeed without memorable individual tracks, and I Am Kloot contains plenty of such moments, each steeped in Britpop tradition but decidely Klootian. On the lighter side we have the mostly acoustic single "Proof." This track owes less to its British ancestors than to New Zealand, sounding like a lost B-side from David Kilgour's A Feather in the Engine. Kloot opens it with a steady strum and breezy melody, with the lyrics more ambiguous than the music: "Hey, could you stand another drink / I'm better when I don't think.” On the album’s other standout track, "Cuckoo," singer John Bramwell criticizes the sense of stability he craves in "Proof." Someone who could "stand like a rock" must be cuckoo, lacking the sense to see the reality of life in their shared town. The desire for stability in "Proof" makes the narrator of "Cuckoo" seem less secure, though. As we question his stability, we're lead through further explorations of the meaning, dangers, and value of uncertainty.
For all the strength of the individual songs, I Am Kloot finds its true power when taken as a whole. The album maintains a gloomy atmosphere, but the feeling modulates. The band matches these subtle shifts in tone with movement from electric to acoustic and back, from rocking up-tempo to mellow come-down. It’s such a perfectly sequenced album, in fact, that it feels like Kloot conceived and birthed the album in a single foggy day, each track matching a mood experienced during precipitous reflection.
Scott Alexander and Julian Gaskell handle that work (production), keeping Bramwell's voice at the fore and allowing each of the instruments just enough space. They feel airy, without being substance-less; a perfect complement to the emotional lyrical struggle. That light and openness supports through the turmoil, leading to the album’s lyrical and musical apex, "Same Deep Water As Me," in which Kloot put their own spin on the redemptive power of water. Despite the anxiety and distance of parts of the album, Kloot ends up suggesting our need for companionship in liberation.
Over the course of twelve songs and 40 minutes, I Am Kloot display a cohesive vision in which imagery and sound take the place of narrative linearity. It takes little details to make a big picture, and I Am Kloot succeeds at creating both. Luckily for all of us, albums that hold together like this are no more rare than they used to be. I’m just glad I found one so early in the year.