Essential New Music: Kississippi’s “Sunset Blush”

It was difficult not to get too excited when Philly’s Kississippi released “Cut Yr Teeth” back in December. It felt like a harbinger of something special. “Cut Yr Teeth” is basically a perfect pop-rock song, an anthem of warranted anger and bewilderment that feels less cathartic than enlightening—as if the song captures someone in the midst of realizing all the hurt they’ve been put through. The single remains vital after an outlandish number of listens, with its way of exhaling good hook after good hook alongside glistening Trasatlanticism verses and a bursting Get Up Kids chorus.

It took another four months to get to this point, and it’s exciting to say now that the resulting album is as essential as the single. Sunset Blush glows softly in a space built of prickly guitars and hazy synthesizers, telling a story of bad things that end but refuse to leave us alone. The record is loaded with glorious hooks that slide off the tongue again and again, hitting hard right away and never losing its shine. It’s one of the best debut full-lengths we’ve heard in a long time, one that deals honestly with a complex and painful subject; Sunset Blush is an album about the things a toxic relationship can do to you, and how bad it still can feel after it’s over.

A great deal of what makes Sunset Blush so special is Zoe Reynolds’ ability to write songs that are sharply detailed and somewhat opaque at one moment and stunningly blunt in the next. Opener “Once Good” weaves this line gracefully, Reynolds shortly delivering lines like “Blowing bubbles in your milk/So your palette smells of it” before the chorus ushers melancholy clarity in a refrain of “Yours is forgotten/Made room for new faces/Unsure if I would be seeing yours again.” Later, the bare, luminous “Who Said It First” reaches its apex in a lightly devastating delivery of “If you’re feeling perforated, too/I don’t feel it the way you do.”

It’s “Easier To Love” that most clearly distills everything great about Sunset Blush. It’s a lush pop song that rises as if out of smoke, sliding into the room slowly and then all at once. It’s a song about feeling like you need to change yourself to feel worthwhile to somebody, in the end feeling like you’ve forgotten yourself (“I know how hard it is to admit/I don’t belong here, I am not this”). “Lash To Lash” is a standout on the sharper end, a tricky rock song like a shifting staircase, taking surprising turns and letting the best lines stand alone in silence. Here, Reynolds is at the top of her game vocally, drawing out repeated lines in woeful emphasis. Sunset Blush tends to play out this way—emphasizing the hurt as a means of confronting it head on.

—Jordan Walsh