Kenna released a modern new wave record when no one wanted a modern new wave record, which is a shame because 2003’s New Sacred Cow was a pretty good pop album that just happened to be produced by Chad Hugo of the Neptunes. Yet when 2004 rolled around, No Doubt covered Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life” and suddenly new wave became cool again. So what does Kenna do? Why, he makes another great new wave-infected pop album, but this time it’s even better than his first one. Could it be because that other Neptune known as Pharrell stopped by to helm a few tracks, or is it the more likely case of Kenna’s songwriting just getting better? As “Daylight” proudly announces, it’s definitely the latter. After a minute of harmonic synth washes, drum machines attack the speakers as Kenna’s piano-pop leniencies come front and center, something that’s refined on the spectacular lead single “Out of Control (State of Emotion)”, featuring a chorus that eats inferior pop melodies in order to sustain itself. Kenna gets his U2 on with the excellently titled “Baptized in Blacklight” and also manages to pen his best ballad to date with the absolutely timeless “Static”. Even with the biggest production team in the world at the helm of Make Sure They See My Face, the Neptunes personal touch doesn’t crop up too much (“Say Goodbye to Love” excepting), giving Kenna room to develop his own personal songwriting touch. There are a few missteps here and there (“Loose Wires/Blink Radio” being the most glaring), Face remains a giddy, guilt-free taste of electro-pop that single-handedly renders Kenna as a force to be reckoned with. Almost makes you want to see his face.
// Notes from the Road
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