Two years after her Grammy-nominated sophomore breakthrough, genre-spanning singer/songwriter Kristine Flaherty (aka K.Flay) dialed back the menace on Solutions, delivering a buoyant, beat-driven collection of synth-leaning pop with a '90s rock edge. Bright and full of life, the ten-song set continues to toy with the idea of genre, pulling in multiple styles and influences that veer in her most accessible direction to date. In terms of vocal delivery, she's spitting fewer bars than before, but the hip-hop cadence is still there. Instead of leaning on that early style, she's experimenting with fresh ideas, not only concentrating on more dance-centric energy, but also stretching her voice. On crunching anthem "Bad Vibes," she deftly weaves her rhymes with raspy singing, all while the beats pound like late-era Phantogram. The funky throbber "This Baby Don't Cry" -- co-written with Dan Reynolds (Imagine Dragons) -- adopts a garage rock vibe, complete with elastic bass and handclaps reminiscent of late-2000s indie pop duo the Ting Tings. Standout oddity "Ice Cream" is a cute little ditty with a '90s alt-slacker vibe that recalls Santigold fronting Garbage. Lyrically, Flaherty retains her wit and sharp tongue, but tracks such as "Good News" and "Not in California" bring world affairs into the mix, maturing both the album's content and her general worldview. On the former, she sings "I still got faith/I still got hope/We still got time/We still got soul" with enough conviction to convince listeners that she truly believes this newfound optimistic outlook. "Nervous" and "DNA" are the most vulnerable moments on Solutions, focused on her romantic partner and her father, respectively. Even with the subdued production, the songs brim with drama and emotion, due in large part to her confessional lyrics. Elsewhere, the touching "Sister" is a loving ode to her sibling, another heartfelt break in the spunky attitude and defiant spirit that bleeds through the rest of the album. Refusing to be categorized, Flaherty has taken her disregard for genre rules and applied them to Solutions' content, incorporating new sounds and subjects to her usual mix with exciting results.
by Neil Z. Yeung