The Kills

Blood Pressures

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The Kills returned three years after making Midnight Boom -- arguably their best album, and certainly their most immediate -- with Blood Pressures, a set of songs that reflected the changes the band went through during that time. Shortly after the duo finished its Midnight Boom touring duties, Alison Mosshart recorded two albums with her high-profile friends in the Dead Weather, and embarked on a world tour for each. While nothing here sounds like a carbon copy of Mosshart's work on Horehound or Sea of Cowards, the experience of making those albums made her an even more seasoned, confident performer. She leads the way on Blood Pressures, her dynamic vocals demanding the spotlight whether she and Jamie Hince further streamline their familiar sound or carve out new territory. They do the former on “You Don’t Own the Road” and “Heart Is a Beating Drum,” which, with its coiled riffs and ping-ponging percussion, sounds like a perfect cross between Midnight Boom's precisely chopped sample-pop and the dirty garage blues of Keep on Your Mean Side and No Wow. Elsewhere, they forge ahead on “Wild Charms,” daring to put a dead-of-night ballad (and Hince's only solo vocal) in the middle of the album instead of its expected final slot; on “Damned If She Do,” where their usual chug leads into choruses with rapid-fire beats; and on “Satellite"'s dark, slinky pop, which comes the closest to Mosshart's work with the Dead Weather. These songs, and most of Blood Pressures, have the dead-cool attitude the Kills have always displayed, but the vulnerability they allow to peek through might be the album's biggest development. That openness is also the fuel for the brightest highlights, which span the seismic shifts between love and desperation that power “Future Starts Slow”'s massive drums and guitars and “Nail in My Coffin”'s tumbling choruses, or the classic-sounding balladry of “The Last Goodbye,” where Mosshart lets her inner Patsy Cline out to croon. Blood Pressures is a darker, slower ride than Midnight Boom, but it shows the Kills can make subtle innovations as well as bold ones, and make them fit their signature sound to boot.

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