Kindness’ debut album, World, You Need a Change of Mind, is a great sounding record. It’s a glossy, sparkling showcase of high-end disco production, custom built for four-figure sound systems in posh, spacious rooms. There’s more to good music than fancy production, and low fidelity has never been a detriment to good music — just ask Lou Barlow. But having endured several years of cassette-copy Ariel Pink sound-alikes recorded on what may as well be cell phones, it’s refreshing to hear an album that sounds like it was made with a budget of more than $10, and most likely some knowledgeable people working behind the knobs.
Adam Bainbridge, the sole songwriter and performer behind Kindness, displays his fondness for slick, professional disco and R&B on World, You Need a Change of Mind, which was recorded with Cassius’ Phillipe Zdar, whose hand in the matters most likely had a bit part in its pristine sonic quality. Its 10 tracks present a remarkably diverse array of influences, from house to pop, `90s R&B and funk, and the more dreamy and hypnotic Bainbridge’s songs get, the more successful the outcome. His cover of The Replacements’ “Swingin’ Party,” for instance, sounds impeccable; while some of the desperation and sadness have been frustratingly neutered, however, there’s no denying the groove in this thing, so credit to him for that. And leadoff track “SEOD” is the strongest moment on the album, a huge, glorious stunner of a disco epic, synths and guitars twirling in a big mess of drugged-out beauty.
As interesting as it is to see where Bainbridge goes from there, however, it becomes clear less than halfway through the album that he just can’t seem to decide what, exactly, the album should be. There’s something to be said for mixtape-style albums, which is more or less what the primary objective appears to be. Some of these stylistic divergences work out better than others; “Anyone Can Fall In Love” is a pleasant enough slow jam, while the instrumental guitar funk of “Gee Wiz” meanders too much to leave any lasting impression. “Gee Up” is one of the stronger tracks, all rubbery Off the Wall-style funk, but it ends far too early, while “That’s Alright” gets too bogged down in maximalist cheese. Needless to say, however, it does sound amazing.
World, You Need a Change of Mind is, for the most part, an enjoyable checklist of genre exercises that Bainbridge pulls off with style, and for that matter, some actual studio know-how. Beneath much of the gleaming pop veneer, however, many of the songs seem undercooked. Throughout the album, there are so many flashes of raw talent that show Bainbridge is clearly on to something good with Kindness. He’s off to a promising start — just a little more time to flesh out his grooves should do it.
Stream: Kindness – “Swingin’ Party”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.