Residents of Northern California are known, from time to time, to belittle their neighbors to the south. Los Angeles, the city that intellectuals love to hate, is an emblem of the stereotypical, vapid SoCal lifestyle. There’s an old joke about the difference between New York and Los Angeles, the two most populated U.S. cities. When its seventy degrees in LA, the joke goes, its two degrees in New York. But if you meet seventy interesting people in New York, you meet two in LA. Kids in LA, the second LP of the indie-pop dance duo Kisses, stays true to this stereotype. The sun is shining and there’s a lot of beautiful people around, but the bookshelves are dusty.
While their attempts at being genuine amid insipid glamour may be praiseworthy, Kids in LA lacks originality. The album has a few decent moments on it, like the cool detachment of Jesse Kivel’s vocals on “The Hardest Part,” or the gooey pop-philosophical contemplation of “Bruins,” but for the most part, it falls short. Even the few memorable moments become tiresome after a few listens.
Nevertheless, Kisses make some fun (I’m using this liberally), light music that may please some indie pop-fans or fans of dance music in general. Their tracks sound like they were created in a parallel universe, a universe absorbed in a nineteen eighties culture that is trying, however slight the effort may be, to be more earnest; to be less vapid. There’s whimsical tales of summer romance and moments of introspection that are washed away by groovy beats. Jesse Kivel’s vocals are conventional and sleek enough to fit the melodramatic moments of broken hearts and mix drinks by the pool that most of the lyrics are concerned with. His subdued delivery resembles so many of the fashionable, young bands today that equate coolness with apathy. Zizi Edmundson, the other half of the duo, makes her first and only vocal appearance on the final track of the album, “Adjust Glasses.” Her conflicted optimism presents a needed change from the monotony of Kivel’s croons, but it’s hard to take her seriously when she sings a line like, “adjust your glasses before you start/find love in the Western world.” Comments about the ‘Western world’ are amusing when they are uttered from the self-righteous mouths of liberal arts undergraduates, but the irony, like elsewhere on the album, seems lost on Kisses.