I think it’s fair to say that dream pop is to the shoegaze style what albums like Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix and Matt & Kim’s Grand are to the indie rock subgenre; that is to say, taking the grand emotions and moody atmospheres that these genres are most known for and putting them out in the croft for bleaching until the textures are bright and distorted, and the end result is generally more cheery and uplifting. Both offer similar, yet very different dynamics, and artists in both genres make for rewarding and wholly entertaining listens.
Today we’re looking at the upcoming debut release from Seattle-based solo musician Lena Simon, also known as Kairos, whose debut EP under this stage name is set to release on the 19th, called, as you might expect, the Kairos EP. Simon has already had some experience in the Seattle music scene, as a contributor to other Seattle bands including Pollens, Tomten and Throw Me the Statue.
While the music of Kairos is best describable as dream pop, it draws influences from plenty of other genres and styles, including indie pop, neo-psychedelia, ambient/krautrock, and new wave synthpop. The end result is a flawed, but ultimately ambitious and impressive EP on the level of many of her dream pop peers. It’s more delicate than My Bloody Valentine, less ridiculous than Grimes, far less unsettling than Sleep Party People, yet not as radio-friendly as Chvrches or Phantogram.
The Kairos EP presents itself with six tracks, which toy around with different formulas, which offer up some nice variation. While a song like “Dirt & Grit” wouldn’t sound out of place on Sky Ferreira’s Night Time, My Time, the way the vocals are utilised on “Sister” reminds me of MGMT and Portugal. The Man’s “Modern Jesus”. It tries on different outfits, while still maintaining an identity of its own, and the EP never comes across as thieving or like it’s just banking on modern trends.
For all of the admirable musical ideas that this EP experiments with, probably its biggest selling point is the vocals of Kairos. Simon has a very comforting singing voice, and the way it’s able to fit in so well with each and every one of these different styles is just a testament to her talent. If an impressive and enjoyable singer at the forefront of a band is all you need to be sold on an album, the Kairos EP is recommendable on that front alone.
With that said, though, Kairos’ debut certainly isn’t a perfect record. The weak songs on this EP (“November” and “Cold Habits”) are a slog to get through, and at times the lyrics can be a bit too alienating and cryptic for the audience to really empathise with the sentimentality, and nowhere is this more apparent on the otherwise solid “Can/Cannot”.
But I guess you could say these are just nitpicks. I liked the Kairos EP a lot despite these shortcomings, and the less cynical listeners out there probably won’t even notice these things. It isn’t breathtakingly groundbreaking by any means, but for what it is, it’s entertaining, and worth checking out if you’re a fan of dream pop that isn’t afraid to take risks in its fundamentals.
The Kairos EP is set to release on May 19th, but you can preorder it at this location. Similarly, you can stream the song “Dirt & Grit” by means of Fin Records’ Soundcloud page, which is a good song to start out with. Kairos is also playing a handful of shows in support of the release, including this weekend’s Fishermans Music Festival and an EP release party with fellow local musicians Dude York and Sundries. Click either of those for more information.
If nothing else, the Kairos EP is good proof that Lena Simon knows what she’s doing, and it serves as a good jumping off point for Kairos, and I can only hope things will get better from here, with future releases having even more creativity and inspiration. Maybe on her debut full-length, we’ll see a song in which warm, lovely dream pop is suddenly interrupted by a loud and raucous brostep bass drop.
…On second thought, let’s hope that doesn’t happen.