Forever 21 

The Kingdom Takes Author Back

I'VE ONLY HEARD songs from the Kingdom's forthcoming CD once, last week, as keyboardist (and frequent Mercury contributor) Jenna Roadman played me a rough, unmixed song sampler on her Discman at a local bar. She checked her email as I sat silently listening to this preliminary draft of the as-of-yet-untitled, no-release-date CD. I'm sure that we looked like the most disinterested party in the world—me with headphones on, she pecking away at her computer, but I didn't give a fuck, because that music transported me, man.

The Kingdom's 2005 release, Unitas, was a terrific jewel box of spacey keyboard/guitar pop, albeit frustratingly short at four "real" songs and just as many quickie bumpers. "Fleshfield" was a particular favorite, with Charles Westmoreland's voice sounding so Doug Martsch-y atop light jangly guitar drones, super-clean keyboard hums, and an encouraging, shuffling snare.

Back at the bar, I had fallen into the Kingdom's new songs—in a deep way. Emotionally, I was transported back to Texas, eight years younger, melancholily driving alone at night, and the Kingdom was the only thing charging me up, buoying my fragile spirit. It was like the songs dug a poppy finger into some musical, memory-storing brain cortex and gently swished it around.

So what of the new stuff? The band's sound got huge and organic, thanks in no small part to the addition of live string and horn sections. Jumpy fun acoustic guitars are rolled over by huge, fuzzed out electro-chords; keyboard tones alternate between poppy light and soothingly warm. The main thing you notice, though, is Westmoreland's voice, as his vocal stylings have been pulled and stretched like taffy. Less Martsch-y than on Unitas, his tenor gasps, quacks, and croons all over the album. When the CD ends, I'm not 21 in Texas any more, thank goodness, but I feel better, like this youthful energy, self-import, and urgency had flooded my system and suddenly left. Like I told you, that shit got to me.

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