Excepting any dark horses still set to leave the gates in the coming weeks, I'm secretly tempted to call Kevin Blechdom's Eat My Heart Out my favorite record of the year. This, in spite of the fact that in the five months I've owned it, I've listened to it in its entirety roughly four times. This, in spite of the fact that every time I try to listen to it, it fills me with the staggering sort of projected embarrassment usually reserved for awkward teenagers and the mentally handicapped—the sickly, patronizing pathos that, more than any other emotion, fills me with a nullifying sense of dread for the whole of the human condition. In spite of—or rather, because of—all of its myriad obstacles, Eat My Heart Out is the most powerfully realized challenge you're likely to face this year: a hodgepodge of ham-fisted electro sonics, oppressively cheesy saxophone solos, and cartoon sound effects meant not only to be taken seriously, but also to be emotionally poignant. And I haven't even mentioned the song about the porcupine and the jellyfish yet.
Initially finding recognition as half of celebrated Bay Area IDM deconstructionists Blectum From Blechdom, Mills College grad Kevin (born Kristen Erickson—oh right, Kevin's actually a woman, if the picture to your right hadn't made that abundantly clear already) set out on a solo career shortly after that band's breakup, charting a trajectory that to this point has been marked primarily by a fascination with all things amateurish and sophomoric—an estrogen-infused extension of the Bay Area's reactionary IDM scene. Her previous full-length, the deceptively brilliant Bitches Without Britches, was an unholy union of high pretense and goofball, juvenile themes—45 minutes of radioactive semen, HIV jokes, and joyful bestiality—that was oppressively jokey, but transcended the stale air of irony primarily because of Kevin's earnest dedication to the music's base humor and clunky soundscape. Where the electroclash phenomenon before her attempted to recontextualize criminally unhip sounds and styles for the expressed purpose of making them seem cool again, Blechdom's more sophisticated approach goes one step further: endeavoring to instill the cheap, graceless, and lowbrow with an effective emotional sensitivity—and doing so with consistently surprising success.
Which brings us rather conveniently to Eat My Heart Out: a dense, stupidly overwhelming concept record that shoves listeners through too many stylistic square pegs to even begin to make up names for. (Oh, what the fuck: how 'bout cartoon pop, electro-preset-country, laptop show tunes, Moulin Rouge waltzing schmaltz, etc., etc., ad infinitum.) It's not the album's sonic absurdities alone, however, that make Eat My Heart Out such an emotionally grueling experience—anyone familiar with Bitches will have at least an idea of what to expect in that department—it's the salt-wounded, hyper-indulgent self-occupation at the very nucleus of the whole convoluted mess. (Sample lyric: "This it baby! I love you! I fucking love you! So fuck you!") It's 19 tracks of breakup, neuroses, ugly clichés, art as therapy, and enough self-affirming bullshit to fill a library's worth of self-help tomes. It's also totally hilarious—but mostly in that Solondzian human train wreck kind of way: You know she meant to do it, but that doesn't make it any less awkward. But for all of its irony-tinged lyrical and sonic garishness, master recontextualist Blechdom is able to transform Eat's most impossible leaps into a cohesive vision that's both honest and effecting. Kevin Blechdom is clutching her giant heart in her hands—are you willing to take it?