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Kerli - Topic

Love Is Dead Play

Nobody asked for a mix of Björk, Natasha Bedingfield, and Evanescence's Amy Lee, but that's what Kerli offers -- served up with a touch of gothic Lolita -- on her debut album, Love Is Dead. It's an odd blend of influences, but these songs have enough quirks and enough polish (courtesy of producers David Maurice and Lester Mendez) to be mainstream and strange at the same time. At her best, Kerli brings a bewitching mix of light and shade to her music. "Walking on Air" is the finest example of her spooky yet uplifting sound: her slight Estonian accent adds a subtle otherness as childlike, whispery backing vocals that sound like they come from singing dolls hover over skittering breakbeats, while the moody, string and brass-laden bridge could have been borrowed from Björk's Selmasongs. Despite its theatricality, it's a surprisingly subtle yet catchy song. "Up Up Up" and "The Creationist," which skips along on a charming, spiraling piano loop, also show off Love Is Dead's sweetness and light. However, when Kerli ventures deeper into darker territory, the results are mixed. "Love Is Dead" sounds like Amy Lee covering "Army of Me" (in a good way), and the fiery "I Want Nothing" and industrial dominatrix rock of "Strange Boy" -- which rhymes "innocent" with "magnificent" -- show that Kerli can brood convincingly. On the other hand, the very Evanescence-ish power ballad "Bulletproof" gets too close to predictable melodrama, and "Hurt Me"'s masochistic rock is run of the mill. There's nothing typical about "Creepshow," however: a minor-key but funky dancefloor workout, it sounds a little like Fergie's "London Bridge" transported to Eastern Europe, but even stranger than that. It may be odd, but it's not boring, and the same can be said of most of Love Is Dead -- despite its faults, it is one of the most unique albums released by a major label in 2008. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi
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