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CD of The Week

Week of 5/30/16

    Kristin Kontrol - X-Communicate (Sub Pop)

    Kristin Welchez has been nothing if not a creature of transformation. As Dee Dee in Dum Dum Girls, she morphed from the gritty girl group ditties of 2010's I Will Be to the noirish noise pop of 2014's Too True with the majesty and malleability of Mystique from the X-Men. One can only shapeshift within the same skin so many times before she has to shed it for something completely different, though. After hinting at creative unrest and stagnation on what may or may not have been "Dee Dee's" swan song, Welchez reintroduces and redefines herself as Kristin Kontrol with X-Communicate, her first, fully solo release as well as her most effortless and evolved album to date.

    Welchez classified her new sound in press releases as "Kate Bush covering Mariah." That may sound surprising at first from someone who spent the better part of a decade mining the myriad modes of indie rock. However, anyone who has followed Kristin and fallen for her massive melodies knows that a full tilt into sleek synth-populence isn't as jarring as it might have seemed on paper. Her songwriting is nothing if not tailor made for the top of the pops. On this record, her catchy choruses have never sounded so confident, so crystalline.

    As usual, multiple meanings abound in her music. The title track shimmers and shimmies with a narrative that could just as easily detail Welchez's trepidation around leaving her former self behind as it could highlight the hypothetical hesitancy to leave an unfulfilling romantic relationship behind. Elsewhere, "Skin Shed" makes her mission statement even more obvious over a clubby, Cathy Dennis-esque stomp, while leadoff track "Show Me" promises to prove that "there's no need to change yourself." Whether she's assuring the listener that she's still the same artist she's always been or affirming to herself that this has been her true artistic persona the whole time is left deliciously ambiguous.

    Less mysterious is Welchez's mastery of any musical style she tries. She has made her growth from garage to glam look as graceful as any of the great left-field transformations in rock history (RIP Bowie, Prince), and guaranteed that whatever name and style she dons next, Kristin isn't losing control of herself or her craft anytime soon. She makes her return to Philly under the Kristin Kontrol guise as a very appropriate opening act for Garbage at The Fillmore on July 30th.

    **Donate $20 or more to Y-Not Radio this week to receive a copy of X-Communicate as our thank you gift. Click here for details.**
    Review by Rob Huff

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