After listening to Illuminati Hotties’ first single, “(You’re Better) Than Ever,” it would be reasonable to assume the project’s debut album would be full of similarly jaunty vaguely-surfy indie pop songs. That’s maybe half-right. Kiss Yr Frenemies is about a fifty-fifty split of bright fuzzed-out jams and moodier, slow-burning ballads.
If the lead single represents the former category, then second single “Cuff” is probably most indicative of the latter. It’s ambient and atmospheric, and even its blown out chorus feels restrained compared to the loudest moments on the record, Sarah Tudzin’s voice never rising above a plaintive croon. It doesn’t even sound like the same band as “(You’re Better) Than Ever,” let alone like it belongs on the same album. And this is a trend throughout Kiss Yr Frenemies; nearly every single song brings something entirely different to the table. There’s an “ooh-ooh-ooh” backed chorus on the sugary gem “Paying Off the Happiness,” there’s a noisy, brassy climax to the meditative “For Cheez (My Friend, Not the Food),” there’s the raw singalong energy of “boi,” and none of it feels out of place.
It’s impressive in its own right that Tudzin tries out the million and one different styles she does on the record, sure, but that becomes markedly less impressive if she can’t pull them off. Thankfully, she can. There’s hardly a miss anywhere on the record, and every song adds to the world of Kiss Yr Frenemies. The pop songs don’t just feel like throwaway singles, but, looking past the hooks (which is admittedly a feat in itself – Tudzin has quite the ear for melodies), they’re fairly intricate in their own right.
Probably the best songs on the album, and likely the ones that best nail Illuminati Hotties’ sound, if they can be said to have one singular sound, are “Shape of My Hands” and “Pressed 2 Death.” They find, somehow, a middle ground between the album’s two distinct sounds, blending the more subtle and accessible. “Shape of My Hands” has a slow, fuzzy first verse which gives way to what might be Tudzin’s catchiest chorus (which is saying something), and “Pressed 2 Death” reverses that formula. While its verses are pure power-pop earworms, the chorus slows the song down almost to a halt. Still, it manages to be just as infectious as the album’s most radio-ready pop hooks as Tudzin sings, “You only like me when I’m sad.” As it turns out, though, she was wrong. It’s just about impossible not to love Illuminati Hotties whether they’re sad, like on “Paying Off the Happiness,” or happy, like on “boi.” It’s all just too good.