For her first full-length solo album, Kristin Welchez, founder and lead singer of the indie band Dum Dum Girls, has reinvented herself as Kristin Kontrol. Unlike the straightforward rock of her former project, Kristin has cited her reinvention as a way to channel her passion for 80s pop and 90s R&B, a combination she has described as “Kate Bush covering Mariah.” The ten largely synthpop-influenced tracks on X-Communicate, however, tell a slightly different story.
With proud horns and an optimistic chorus that has Kristin triumphantly repeating, “You don’t need to change yourself,” the record opens with the uplifting and motivational, “Show Me”. It’s a strong and appropriately energetic start to a set that, other than the inclusion of two ballads in the album’s second half, is mostly comprised of tracks built for the dancefloor. Before concluding with a spot-on New Order-esque solo, the record’s title track has Kristin showing off her vocal range as she repeatedly launches into a soaring chorus that has her asking, “Should we excommunicate our love, or should we wait?”
Kristin’s lyrics are a consistent reminder of the double meaning of the album’s title. “I don’t want to be your friend tonight, call me your lover one more time,” she sings on the empowering “(Don’t) Wannabe”. And on the first of the record’s pair of ballads, a track called “What Is Love”, Kristin tenderly implores an erstwhile lover, “Change is hard, but a change of heart is what we need.”
A light hip hop beat and catchy chorus drive the album’s penultimate song, “Going Thru the Motions”, which ends up being as poppy as X-Communicate gets. It’s a track that wouldn’t have sounded a bit out of place on Alanis Morissette’s critically acclaimed and commercially successful Jagged Little Pill, and it reinforces Kristin’s willingness to explore different styles under her new moniker. The record concludes with “Smoke Rings”, a ballad that cleverly brings things full circle by harkening back to the sentiments expressed in the album’s opener. “I don’t need change; I just need to reacquaint myself with you,” Kristin sings during the finale’s chorus before being finally reduced to just the word “change”, echoing away as if having been dropped down a deep well.
X-Communicate is an album about the ups and downs of love. It’s about being in an occasionally problematic romantic relationship and not knowing whether to fish or cut bait. Perhaps most importantly, however, X-Communicate is an exercise in catharsis. Change is never easy, and sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. Fortunately, Kristin Kontrol has provided an ultimately inspiring and empathetic soundtrack to help make the transition a little bit easier.