“Sibling pop duo” Klashing Black, out of Northwest Ohio, dropped their debut full-length album, Who We Were. Who We Are. last Friday, August 17. Smooth lyrics deal with nostalgia, growing up, and the classic and ever-constant theme of change as the background is filled with either rich synth or mellow guitar picking and ’80s-inspired drum beats.
Who We Were. Who We Are. opens with a half-title track, “Who We Were”, that serves as an introduction and a palate cleanser all at once. Clocking in at just under a minute, the warping synth and quiet vocals welcome you into the album just before the first few tracks.
It is slow and rich at first; the first six tracks are, for the most part, ballad-type pop songs and between sweet guitar picking and decadent, languid synth, there’s a heaviness to them that adds to the weight of the nostalgia as frontman Kyle Benner croons, “Stay on the playground/Where you can be who you are/Stay on the playground/Don’t drift too far” on “Playground”. It is all sauntering in pace, in no rush to grow up, but clear bell-toned melodies chime through on everything, maintaining a delicate touch among otherwise sentimentality-soaked lyrics.
The album does jump around in sound, however; about halfway through, “Emptiness” and “Who We Are” are buzzing, harsh electronic pop songs. That is not to say that they’re not well-written tracks–”Emptiness” is intricate and thick and just downright cool when it bursts into the chorus, with layers upon layers of sound piling up–but the timing is abrupt. It is a surprising shift every time, and it is mildly aggravating that the transitions are not as smooth as they could be.
The last five tracks are just as back-and-forth. “Sandbox” is acoustic and mellow again as Benner sings, “I’m scared and unprepared/Is that the way it’s meant to be?”, but almost immediately after, “Magic” is light and poppy with a cute, bright guitar melody that shines through the sadness of the previous tracks. The album ends in the same alternating way, although thankfully, the final track–”Drift Away”–aligns a little more with the first part of the album, echoing and grinding all at once.
Klashing Black exhibits a clear mastery of the alternative pop genre by bouncing from sound to sound in each new song. It is impressive, but it is also a little jarring, and Who We Were. Who We Are. could stand to be rearranged or have smoother transitions between slow pop ballad and driving dance track.