Kotki Dwa - Staycations
Kotki Dwa is both 'the title of a Polish lullaby used to send children to sleep' and a three-piece band from the UK. A band that don't work alongside a record label, they work with the National Trust – a band who celebrated their last EP Lunch by lavishing fans with glow-in-the-dark sandwiches – a band whose work has been used in the Tate Modern; the band in which I'll be writing about on this fittingly unpredictable afternoon. So, after 2007's well-received debut album Onlyyouarenotsleeping – they finally have a brand new album, it is named Staycations.
Like most artistic endeavours, work comes in waves – the same could be said for direction in music. Kotki Dwa wash onto the same shore that bares Yeasayer, MGMT, and was founded by Animal Collective; the similarities are undeniable. When you hear splashes of synthesiser motifs pitted against aggressive drums, it's hard not to think that way; so as the album begins to roll tumble and progress, it sounds extremely... 'now', but it is difficult to create something so sporadic that will appeal to a lot of people, and I'm sure this album will do just that.
'She Likes It', 'Poison', and leading single 'Staycations' are party pieces with an eighties' throwback edge to them and a snare that would make Manny Elias smile. They're both uplifting and interesting enough whilst still being radio-friendly. For the duration of these tracks, you'll find yourself entertained whilst rarely needing to look below the surface. Opener 'The End' is a peculiar place to begin – though the guitar is pleasant and the instrumentation twee, when you sacrifice the main vocal to eye-rolling auto tune, it creates the impression that they have less to offer than they really do.
Kotki Dwa demonstrate a real craftsmanship throughout the whole record. Whether that is the odd-rhythmic emphasis (spikes) on 'Guests' or the displacing of chords in a motif; they show something which is not often paid attention to in indie music. Their arrangements are so unbelievably tactful and agile that they create real depth for the listener (and inner-muso). The John Cale-esque lead vocal performance is thoroughly charming and dynamic throughout; expressive deliveries allow them to communicate with the listener, and when the pacing and dynamics are so intelligent, it takes a lot of focus off of the lyrical content. If you listen to the record, you won't walk away with any defiant messages from the lyrics. It would be untrue if I said the lyrics were bad, they're sharp enough, but unfortunately forgettable.
Much of the record is easy to get on with, and you have to credit ambitious tracks like 'Two Black Flies' and 'Don't Be' but sometimes it feels like Kotki Dwa are trying to re-write the same two songs; alternating between a nostalgic eighties track and a noise-driven twenty first century alternative-pop piece. Songs like 'The Wolf' and 'Bad Timing' seem more like after-thoughts in the context of the record, and this is where the lyrics suffer. "Why you think these people care, anything for what you do." It almost feels like stubbornness in the production has become one of this album's main foibles.
Kotki Dwa have a lot of credibility and depth; interesting pop tracks, inspired artwork, good performances, and clarity in their direction go a long way. They'll carry on working on a very similar vein to what they have been doing for the last seven years – but it feels like lapses in concentration have prevented Staycations from being a really memorable piece.