White Sea, the solo vessel for L.A. singer/songwriter and M83 collaborator Morgan Kibby, is not subtle. For a project that began quietly in her home, Kibby's White Sea debut In Cold Blood is a hammering power-synth attack with one foot in big-budget, late-'80s pop and the other in a Lloyd Webber production where Arcade Fire is the pit band. At first blush, it can be overpowering, but as with Bonnie Tyler's immortally heavy-handed power ballad "Total Eclipse of the Heart," if you allow yourself to be swept away by the emotions, it can be a pretty fun ride. Album-opener "They Don't Know" pairs the thundering bottom-heavy synths of the digital age with a celestial stadium anthem featuring choirs that go to 11. As far as pop confections go, it's really something to behold, and leaves the rest of the album running to catch up to its grandeur. Equally ornate, though with slightly less intensity, the lead single "Prague" mixes moments of Goldfrapp-style electro-pop into the heady mix, while "Future Husbands Past Lives" references the opening drum pattern of Prince's "When Doves Cry" before channeling Diva-era Annie Lennox and other early-'90s production styles. But even as it hits on all of its major influences, In Cold Blood retains a dark undercurrent that Kibby has shown in all her projects. The ethereal "Ex-Pat" and the angry "Flash" show a bit more range before closer "It Will End in Disaster" winds things down with a lovely, orchestrated, and more subdued tone. While much of the album is laid on a bit too thick, it somehow succeeds in spite of itself. Plenty of other modern acts have gone for the gold with this type of powerhouse, '80s-inspired electro-pop, but Kibby's material feels more memorable and has the weight to back up the heavy production.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger