Hide your babies, White Sea travels through time with In Cold Blood
LA’s Morgan Kibby, the name and face behind M83’s floaty vocals as well as some of the songwriting, continued her solo career as White Sea with Tuesday’s release of debut album, In Cold Blood. Four years after This Frontier (2010), In Cold Blood witnesses Kibby experimenting with offbeat digital soundscapes and big band brass. Unlike her part in M83, White Sea grounds its vocal harmonies at the forefront.
Kibby wails like an angelic banshee on “For My Love,” a moving violin and piano ballad, reaching impressive high notes at the top of her range. The song’s sparkly texture quickly turns urgent and desperate with a slight tempo shift at the addition of a grooving bass. Shortly thereafter, “Warsaw” transforms Kibby into a power pop star along the lines of P!nk or Kelly Clarkson as she delivers threats such as, “Hide your babies I can travel through time […] cause I’ll steal your men and I’ll seduce your wives.” Watch out, she’ll also “fuck you blind.”
“Ex-Pat” is not so much threatening as it is demanding, a characteristic listeners might attribute to Kibby’s strong vocals. “Small December,” on the other hand, reveals their soft vulnerability, while “NYC Loves You” takes on gospel-style choruses. The title lyric of the latter song is a quote from one of Kibby’s friends during their time in New York. Finally, “It Will End in Disaster” brings closure to In Cold Blood, confirming it as a “breakup album".
There’s winter, a feeling of once-removed coldness that emanates from more than just the album title. Kibby’s mostly isolated vocals play off equally isolated piano and brass parts; they blend like trains in passing at the station, at the same frequency, but not in a way that allows each to build off the other. In Cold Blood’s warmer violin lines don’t last. The album has its intricacies, but its sum is unfortunately less than its parts. Its opening items, "They Don't Know" and "Plague," are the most tourist-friendly and rightly marketed as the album's singles. Perhaps ice queens will enjoy the rest.
“Nothing’s simple,” Kibby whispers conclusively. “Nothing will be simple again.”