Singer/songwriter/actress Emily Kinney issues her debut full-length album, This Is War, shortly after a four-year run on the hit AMC horror series The Walking Dead, during which she released two EPs. Also having appeared on Broadway in musical and dramatic roles prior to her breakthrough TV role, Kinney has a crystal-clear, musical theater-friendly voice that delivers her unapologetically cherubic indie pop that out-chirps twee. If that sounds appealing, this album may afford a special treat as it skillfully avoids crossing the line into the show tune/vocal music realm of an actor who sings, and instead stays anchored in sweet, quirky, and personal (legit) indie songwriter territory. If not a breakup album, at least a relationship album, its topics include missing companions, jealousy ("I know about Molly/She likes to sing and get high/She likes to kiss my boyfriend/When he comes walkin' by"), and equating an unsteady relationship between two musicians to war in "This Is War" ("I know you've got your battle plan mapped out in inches/But I'm not scared of you, I'm jumping right into these Brooklyn trenches"). Musically, Kinney has a way with bright melodies and clean, feel-good arrangements of acoustic and occasional electric guitars, bass, strings, and percussion (including recurring glockenspiel) that focus on vocals. Despite emotionally vulnerable subject matter, the tone of the music remains mostly upbeat, at times outright perky, possibly an inescapable consequence of the singer's pixie-like vocals, the likes of which may not have been widely heard since Jane Wiedlin in the '80s. Ultimately relatable, catchy, and charming, some may find This Is War even irresistible. Having said that, those who are repelled by, say, Zooey Deschanel will want to stay clear.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson