On Shuffle: Kalen – "Island"


(self-released, 2012)

This isn’t my usual fare. Those reading me regularly (two of you, anyway – hi mom and dad!) are probably wondering why I’m not tackling the new James Ferraro mixtape, Cold, or some other bizarre 3-unit-run tape comp. Well I’ll tell ya – a friend of mine sent me Fallen from the Sun, the debut EP by Brooklyn chanteuse Kalen, and it’s worth telling you about. Its lead track, “Island,” is a nicely melancholic introduction to the artist, who dabbles in a sort of piano ballad/trip hop hybrid, and succeeds in wringing maximum emotion from every note.

The dark-haired/eyed singer/songwriter painted a piano on her face for the EP’s artwork, which immediately brought to mind, visually, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who has been known to do stuff like that. I guess it’s a Brooklyn thing. (What do I know, I live on the Florida coast. I wear shorts.) The comparison stops with antics, and likely doesn’t even go beyond face paint.

Lyrically Kalen wanders metaphorical relational paths, an example summed quite nicely in the repeated chorus of, “You are an island, and I am the sea,” poetic grandness meant for universal understanding. And that’s good, because Kalen’s voice, beautiful, deep, and rangy, calls for lofty material to deliver to anyone and everyone who can’t quite vocalize their feelings similarly. “Island” is a song of longing, and its goal is to reach the masses. We’ve all been there.

Oh, wait, TV on the Radio’s Jaleel Bunton plays on “Fallen from the Sun” and “Neda”? Woops, didn’t get deep enough yet, I guess. This is a pretty neat revelation.

RIYL: Portishead, Kate Bush, David Gray


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