One-time Microphones member, Khaela Maricich, is a performer, but not a performer in the most base sense. Yes, she stands around a stage with a mic. But once injected with the energy of a crowd, she can transform it into an act that is both humorous, sharply critical and wildly entertaining. Such is The Blow, her decade-long solo project. But like many solid solo projects, she’s surrounded herself with those who can accentuate her distinguishable sing-spoken monotone vocals with perfectly-timed melodies.
It’s been seven years since the release of The Blow’s debut, the fabulously off-kilter pop record, Paper Television (K Records). And like any act may over the course of time, this sixth, self-titled album shows a noticeable maturation. Opener, Make It Up, sets a scene that could actually be a preparation for Paper Television, though it’s thumpy, pseudo-dance beat is the album’s exception. Instead it’s Maricich’s lyrics, full of insecurity and instability, that rule here. Jona Bechtolt, also of YACHT (who provided the punctuated electro-pop beats on Paper Television), left The Blow a few years back. Maricich’s girlfriend and visual artist Melissa Dyne, who has been an active part of The Blow since 2007, has taken the reigns, toning down Bechtolt’s more expansive, thumping pop moves, opting for sublimely steady rhythms.
A yearning desire to make love work has been a recurring theme in The Blow’s music. Though this time around they’re concretely composed between an actual couple, and are thus more honestly endearing. But not in the twee Bambi-eyed tunnel-vision oft favored by indie couples. The Blow looks at complications and quirks of relationships rather than gooey, prepackaged wedding march hysterics. Invisible and the wonderfully macabre Not Dead Yet (“You know you could kill our love/And so could I”) are distilled versions of real, multilayered relationships with all their ugly moments of insecurity. Like Girls, a sly lyrical ballad about eschewing gender “norms” (and a noticeable contrast to Hey Boy from 2004′s Poor Aim: Love Songs), spells it out quite obviously: “I flashed powder pink handgun and walked through/Walked up to you/I’m glad to see you have one too… Sometimes I get loud/We draw a crowd/Don’t worry ’cause I’m only seen by you.”
“My mother was the only one who refused to believe that I wasn’t made for the spotlight,” Maricich writes on her personal website, but The Blow, a collection of honest and wry tracks, adequately disproves that statement.