The debut album by recent Kitsune signings Is Tropical is a feast of hazy and innocent dance music aimed straight at the indie fan who thinks they hate anything you can move more than just your head to.
First single and opening track ‘South Pacific’ is straight out of “how to write dream pop 101” and is a clear summer anthem that reflects the band’s sun-kissed youth. You would think they are from a beach somewhere in California, not three boys from the city of London.
They are a charming band with charming lyrics – “drift me off to the land of the nod.” They sing lazily and by the time most choruses come for the second time you will be singing with them. It’s incomprehensible just how catchy they actually are and they manage it all without being insidiously so. Vocals are the best thing about the album, sounding childlike without being whiny and annoying; instead they sound trustworthy and believable. ‘Zombie’ shows the true potential of the vocals as they switch for a darker song becoming deeper and jilted.
New single ‘The Greeks’ has a darker feel than most other songs on Native To with lyrics chanted repetitively throughout the track: “you only get what you give away/ so throw your hate away.” Its loose guitar melody is haunting and layered effectively under synths, drums, bass, and keys. Their desire for perfection is akin to Everything Everything’s intricacies and this song fades immensely into ‘What???’ so seamlessly you won’t even realise it’s a different track for about a minute.
A great addition to the Kitsune label Is Tropical fit in with their roster of intellectual cross over dance perfectly. Native To mixes familiar dreamy indie sensibilities with bass heavy tracks like ‘Lies’ which would be great for those club nights in Ibiza, but this reliance on bass to make the beat becomes repetitive and boring by the time you’ve got half-way through the record which is a real shame because some of the albums finest tracks occur in this section. ‘Take Any Chances’ is one of the best songs on the album, its verses are right out of The Cribs back catalogue and an infectious game like melody painted over with feedback is delightful.
The problem with Is Tropical is that you want to like them so much more than you actually do and once you realise this they lose that spark that drew you in to begin with, that sense of nostalgia and that’s the point. They sound like you’ve heard them before and you can imagine home videos playing in your head as you listen to this album; they are coasting on the wave of successful throwback bands like Summer Camp and Cults, but sadly pale in comparison to both of these bands. Native To is like the soundtrack to a non-existent John Hughes movie.
The album has high points and glimmers of potential; the zoned out riff on ‘Berlin’ is a direction where Is Tropical could be unique, but they rarely explore it instead preferring to stick with the safe and comfortable and finale ‘Seasick Mutiny’ has flair to it that the album as a whole lacks, it’s repetitive yes, but as a chaotic instrumental it works masterfully.
A decent debut with promise it will be interesting to see where they go next, but Native To is nothing life changing.
Release date: 13/06/2011