The Kickdrums

Thinking Out Loud

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The Kickdrums are a one-man deal and Alex Fitts is the man behind the music. He got his start in Cleveland producing tracks for local rappers, then moved up to the big leagues to work with MGK, Kanye, and Kid Cudi, among others. On his own he makes music that's barely informed by hip-hop at all, instead sounding a bit like a more serious, slicker Beck, a heavier, introspective take on emo pop, or even in a few spots, like a tougher, more punk-than-pop Owl City. On his debut album, Thinking Out Loud, Fitts surrounds his yearning everyman vocals with perfectly placed banks of keyboards, punchy beats, and intricate layers of guitars to get a sound that's technically very pleasant but lacks the kind of grit and emotion that help to make the songs hit hard and stick around for awhile. That's not to say that the songs are bad or boring in any way. There are a few that have strong hooks; some are even sharp enough to get beneath the skin. The moody "Can't Hide Love" has a really interesting breakdown and a soaring chorus, "I Know"'s stuttering beats and blues-rock riffing help it stand out from the rest of the album, and "Fake Guns" has some nice internal drive and a fun singalong chorus. Really though, one has to wish that Fitts had spent a little more time on the songs and a little less on honing the sound of the album. A little more energy and a little less craft. Maybe bringing in a few collaborators may have helped scuff up the sound or added some freshness and feeling to the songs. As it is, though, Thinking Out Loud ends up a somewhat promising debut that falls a little short in some important areas, but will still sound good if you are looking for very smooth, almost emo (but not quite), background music to the soundtrack of some of life's small moments.

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