Steve Kilbey & Martin Kennedy: You Are Everything

"One of the best records I have ever worked on," says Steve Kilbey. Beware of an artist's hubris. Because, sometimes, it can almost be dead on.

Steve Kilbey & Martin Kennedy

You Are Everything

Label: Inevitable
US Release Date: 2013-06-11
UK Release Date: 2013-06-11
Artist website

The third time... is it the charm here?

Actually, that's the wrong question to ask. A question like that implies that Steve Kilbey and Martin Kennedy, of the Church and All India Radio, respectively, did not get it right on their first two attempts together. But if you are familiar with those two bands (why else would you be reading this?), then you already know that that's not really the case. Let's go back a few years.

In 2009, Kilbey and Kennedy released Unseen Music Unheard Words, a masterpiece of subtlety. Sounding mostly like an All India Radio album with a guest vocalist, Kennedy's minimalist approach to ambient pop proved to be a perfect match for Kilbey's melodies, lyrics, and vocal delivery. With this and the Church's Untitled #23 being released within the same calendar year, Church fans were beside themselves with joy. Two years later, the duo went at it again with a slightly altered approach. Martin Kennedy downplayed his ambient tendencies and upped the smoothed-over pop components of his sound. The resulting White Magic was not so much minimal as it was plain. Even Steve Kilbey admitted in his blog that White Magic was a little disappointing. So, back to the drawing board they went. And rather than retrace the blueprint that gave them the magical sound of their first album together, Martin Kennedy has instead embraced every musical sensibility he has -- pop, krautrock, ambient, minimal, busy, soft, loud, comforting, unsettling -- for their third album together. The musical backdrop for You Are Everything is a tall, wide canvas and every inch of it is filled with color. Intense shades may come and go, but there's never a moment on the album that resigns to autopilot.

You Are Everything isn't just thick in sound. The very title itself casts its net wide in some kind of be-all-end-all statement in universal affairs. And what better way to start an album like that than with conversations with the devil and god? "I Wouldn't Know", taking its tea with the Prince of Darkness, lets the listener know right away that You Are Everything isn't going to be an album full of midtempo numbers. The tempo is brisk, not speedy, providing a nice anchor for Kennedy's spaced-out three-note guitar lick. But your toe can't get used to this too quickly, because next comes the wandering souls on "Everyone" (again, with the I share cells with this album or something?). Kilbey and guest vocalist Leona Gray trade their doubts and follies but unite in an strangely positive chorus of "Hold on, you're everyone." Be it self-assuaging or an assuaging of the masses, it is one of the numbers of You Are Everything that uses the duo's full dynamic range. The song's climax accidentally segues into "Lorelei" just right, bursting forth with guitars from the Chrome-era of the Catherine Wheel.

Choosing a climax for You Are Everything is tricky. I feel like the album peaks numerous times and for many different reasons. "I Find" succeeds in Martin Kennedy finding a totally original piece of music for Kilbey to sing over, the kind of which he probably never encountered before. This could explain the use of the word "imbecile" in the chorus. "Knowing You Are in This World" is a lovely continuation of the sound of Unseen Music Unheard Words, albeit with a more beefed-up sound (close your eyes and imagine the forceful inertia of a backwards piano). The start of "All the World" is an attention grabber in its own right simply because the introduction is so eerily unaffected. Seriously, hearing Kilbey's voice with an acoustic guitar with no reverb added to either is just that strange. But if a gun was held to my head, I'd have to go with "Brother Moon Sister Sun" as the album's centerpiece. A fond echo of some of the Church's best psychedelic ballads, it's the kind of song that drips from the guitars and pianos without aid, willing itself into existence, no effort from either musician required.

If the remainder of You Are Everything feels even-keel, it's only because they share album space with such strong material. Elsewhere, they would probably be recognized as masterpieces in their own right, like "Can't Get Free", a mysteriously uptempo song readymade for an indie film. "A Better Day" feels like a lost magic key, waiting for the uninitiated to go and unlock Steve Kilbey's peculiar solo career. The duo may not have swung and missed on their first two times, but You Are Everything is really the charm. Now all we need is for Kilbey's rumored collaboration with Greg Dulli to materialize, and a new Church album, and we can safely say that the world is set for this decade.






'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.


Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".


PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.


Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.


Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.


Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.


Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.


Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.