Before I get started, I’ll say two quick things.
One – I have made no effort to ever hide my love for Forgive Durden’s Razia’s Shadow. It’s easily in my Top Five. And there will surely be a few mentions of it in the coming
paragraphs. Two – man, it’s great to have Thomas Dutton making music again. Here’s why:
On the debut album from glam-pop duo Cardiknox, made up of Lonnie Angle and Thomas Dutton, of the now-defunct aforementioned Forgive Durden, the pair packs California sun and New York City ambition into a dozen tracks, each one as infectious as the last.
“Earthquake” respectfully gets the ball rolling, acting as a solid, catchy opener with a booming chorus. Though it sounds insulting to say the introduction’s lyrics aren’t as groundbreaking as the title would like it to be, “Souvenirs” follows next and has some serious lasting value. Angle grieves over the things left behind by an ex-lover, detailing the process that goes into crafting a mixtape or how the scent of an old sweatshirt can flood you with old memories. Lyrically, it is beautiful and open, revealing how you
can be haunted by things long after you’ve forgotten them.
If the first pair of tracks are good, the second take it from good to great. “Wild Child” is electric and crazed, living up to its name without question. The builds into the choruses pull you in, and each time it drops will drive crowds mad (and if you aren’t miming a mini three-beat drum solo as Angle sings “like a drummer boy I rat-tat-tat” then you’re living your life wrong).
“Doors,” one of the most successful songs on the album, is also one of the simplest. Not counting the [give or take] thirty-second outro, it’s made up of only vocals, some ambient programming and samplings, and what’s basically nothing more than a three-four-three drum thump repeating throughout. Angle’s voice soars above the backing support, helping the most basic of elements build a swirling and complex piece. What’s the term about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, or is it the other way around? Whichever it is, this track is much bigger than the few pieces that make it.
The coupling of “What Do I Do Now” and “Your Love” slow things down, but neither hinders the other. The former is a soft, 80’s-era love ballad, where the second is a darker, frantic cry for love where Angle reaches her voice to new heights and strength. This soft, yet massive sound continues on closer “Shadowboxing,” where a gentle intro leads to a huge, echoing roar and a beautiful finale.
Portrait’s biggest victories come when they let everything go and just have fun with it. On “Supermodel,” the duo deals out gold. Shredding guitars in the foreground, a
whistled backtrack that engrains itself into your brain, and an easy ooh-ooh ooh-ooh chorus all combine for one of the album’s bests. I listened to it like it was a Ke$ha bonus track, and I mean that in the best way possible.
Carefree and confident, “On My Way” is another dance-pop gem. The verses are calmer and soft, but the bridge builds power and the chorus is dangerously contagious*. The one part that sets this track apart from the rest is the added element of Dutton’s voice. A rarity on Portrait, his one non-backing vocal feature is short but sweet. It’s also been nearly a decade since we’ve last heard him sing something new, so there’s that little bit of sentimentality there too. Plus, hearing him yearn over locks and keys and being set free is a total Razia’s throwback, sorry. Take a drink.
To put it simply, Portrait does everything right. And to be honest, I’m holding back a bit on the grade below because it’s only March and I can’t be throwing 5’s around just like
that, you know how it goes.
But, to get back to the point and sum it all up, I’ll end on this: just in time for the start of spring, Cardiknox bring 2016 one of its first great albums and are poised to take the music scene hostage. Get ready.
* I say “dangerously contagious” here because it’s catchy to the point where, hypothetically, you could be driving to work on the first day of 60-degree weather that there had been in months and you have your windows down and you’re too busy singing and dancing to realize you’re going 42 in a 30mph zone so a cop flashes his lights at you and pulls you over but you know him because you went to high school with his daughter and you tell him you’re running late to work so he lets you off with a warning. Hypothetically.
Release Date: March 11th
Run Time: ~45 minutes
Check Out: “Doors,” “Supermodel,” “Wild Child”
For fans of: Bebe Rexha, Marina and the Diamonds, CHVRCHES
3. “Wild Child”
5. “On My Way”
6. “Into the Night”
9. “What Do I Do Now”
10. “Your Love”
11. “Perfect Storm”