White Sea: In Cold Blood

Before this night is through, White Sea wants to do real bad things with you.
White Sea
In Cold Blood
Crush Music

“Dear friend just undress me.” That’s the opening line on Morgan Kibby’s (aka White Sea’s) debut album and, yes, it would appear it is indeed “Business Time”. The actress, multi-instrumentalist and M83 crewmate who co-wrote some of their most treasured tunes – “Midnight City”, “Kim & Jessie” – is newly single and ready to mingle and wants nothing less than to sweep you off your feet and generally “tickle your fancy.” Kibby’s euphoric vocal gymnastics and wuthering whirlwind of sound blow through In Cold Blood like a feral spirit unchained, unleashed, unbound. Best lock away your breakables and delicates. Though it’s described by its maker as “a break-up record,” it’s clearly a break-up that’s more “WOO! HOO!” than “BOO! HOO!” Folks welcome to White Sea’s sensual world …

In Cold Blood is all about the rapture. The rhapsody. The release. From the first burst of recent single “They Don’t Know,” this is a record willing to whip off all its clothes and run wildly down the street “as nature intended,” waving its arms in the air like it just don’t care. “As we head for the cosmic dust / We know how it’s gonna end!” A wide-eyed, elated moment of clarity in the hours before Armageddon time. Epic, gospel-tinged and burnin’ bright with ecstatic joie de vivre, it’s Kibby swinging on the church bells deliriously daring the world to “split me in two” whilst a flock of white doves all but fly out of the sun. Sure it’s a bit like being groomed for some new age “suicide cult” but damn, who could resist when it all sounds like such fun?

This almost relentless lust for life and hunger to “walk on fuckin’ sunshine” proves infectiously inviting. The brazen “Prague” is as funkily whipsmart and sassy as St. Vincent sharing a picnic in Paisley Park. Its pulsating predator pound is steamy, slinky and sultry, “Can I stop the want? / For anyone in my bed / Anyone / Anyone I can fuck.” In Cold Blood ain’t no wallflower. The luxurious, poptasmic Mark Ronson hook-up “Future Husbands Past Lives” pitches itself between True Blue-era Madonna and Sophie B. Hawkin’s ravenous “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover.” Kibby’s extraordinary rollercoaster vocals, sunbeam synths, bubblegum burstin’ bass and a steamy hot tub of satisfied sighs. “I’m the only woman in your church” it exhales and it’s nigh on impossible not to say three “Hail Mary’s” and fall in. The stomping pillage and plunder of “Warsaw” doesn’t bother to knock either preferring to burn down the door and drag you by your hair into its romping street march. Unapologetically frank, Kibby tells of “a devil cat with endless lives” who’ll “steal your men”, “seduce your wives” and ultimately “fuck you blind”. Topped off with a Phil Collins worthy drum solo, it’d all be completely ridiculous were it not so triumphantly jolly. Although, it’s still slightly ridiculous obviously.

Amongst the rampant booty looting there are some tender traps on In Cold Blood which are equally captivating but, y’know, still not suitable for Vicar’s tea parties. “For My Love” is like a drunk on desire Kate Bush rummaging through Prince’s drawers and whipping out a stone cold “from-the-vault” bedroom heartbreaker. Top half “How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore”, bottom half “Little Red Corvette.” Over a delicate, 4 a.m. piano intro Kibby cries n’ pines before a string-laden Studio 54 climax which flashes intermittently with an unflinching, fatal shot to the heart ” … but you just want that pussy.” It’s filthy, oh, and it’s gorgeous. The sweet “Small December” won’t give the PMRC any sleepless nights though. A gentle aside with piano, strings and acoustic guitar, it’s more of a “lets-hug-this-out” type of apocalypse. “It’s high time / For the wrecking ball to come” it tearfully sobs as the scythe slowly swings.

The only time In Cold Blood finds White Sea veering up the creek without a paddle is oddly during the two Greg Kurstin collaborations which are neatly snuggled together inside the latter half. “NYC Loves You” is a homeward bound, mulleted ’80s power ballad which inexplicably finds Kibby belting it out in a white, willowy dress atop a mountain whilst Kurstin records the action from a circling helicopter. It’s by no means terrible, but it’s a tad generic and noticeably less regally enticing than its bouncing bedfellows. Kibby’s feisty humour still raises a smile though, “For a man with big hands / You sure let let me slip through your fingers.” The Scooby Doo, arched eyebrow melodrama of “Flash” is a bit rum though. A little too “Tori Amos? … Trapped in the psychiatric ward!? …AT NIGHT!?!” bombastic to convince. “Say whatever filth you want / I was ever all you need” it scrawls across the wall, possibly in crayon. Luckily “It Will End in Disaster” delivers a finale the listener and Kibby deserve. Our guide’s spirit, now bruised and battleworn, begins a determined “Cloudbusting” slow stride up the hill before the “Devil horse” breaks toward a thundering “I Will Survive” ascent. A final sweep into the hurricane. Like most of In Cold Blood, it races with open-armed acceptance not sheepish reluctance, “You will be loved / And it will end in disaster”.

In Cold Blood is a seductive, sophisticated and hot-blooded debut simmering with feverish desire. A charming, sometimes cheeky, record ripe with unexpected musical flourish, deliciously rich melody, hungry hearts and, yes, heaving bosoms. Kibby’s vivacious vocals too are truly a force of nature. Though the magic and the mercury drop a degree in the second half, In Cold Blood remains refreshingly passionate with an appeal and allure which will surely draw you back for more. Dive in and brace yourself for a good ol’ ravishing.

RATING 7 / 10
Call for essays, reviews, interviews, and list features for publication consideration with PopMatters.
Call for essays, reviews, interviews, and list features.