Austin-based musician Emily Bell, along with her band The Talkbacks, is releasing her forthcoming EP, “Kali,” on Friday, April 21. The EP features five new tracks that fit together seamlessly, while each having their own distinct sound. Emily Bell and The Talkbacks have mastered alternative rock and garage rock, but don’t shy away from lighter elements and pop sounds.
Review by Jackie Ruth
“Kali” opens with the loud, guitar-driven track “Can’t Talk Back,” which oozes attitude both in the lyrics and vocalization. Adding to the catchiness of this earworm is a pattern of clapping during the chorus that no listener could resist. A high-quality music video for this song is available on YouTube, and seems to double-down on the attitude with a feminist focus. The video features a coach talking to his all-male football team using gendered words that are meant to emasculate the players, then Bell and her all-female teammates use their strength against the men on the field. Bell herself is presented as both feminine and tough in the video, and there’s a brief but interesting homage to the movie “Flashdance.”
The EP’s second track follows this trend of feminist anthems, with a chanting aspect to the bridges before each chorus repetition that begs to be repeated by an audience. The track, “Girls That Never Die,” also has layering rounds that blend into its ending fadeout that give away the EP’s high production value.
“Goddess of Destruction” is the third song on “Kali,” and opens with heavy drum beats and a rhythmic guitar threading through it. The Hindu goddess Kali is the inspiration for the EP’s title, and her name is repeated throughout the track. This song showcases Bell’s vocals more than the first two and it feels more raw, but has the same rough-around-the-edges tone as the others. Following that is “Goldmine,” which is heavier on the piano rather than the guitar and drums that are so prevalent on the rest of the EP. This track sounds like it has the most potential to go mainstream, as it tells a narrative with a personal, first-person touch, and repeats the phrase “love is love is love” toward its end.
The EP’s closer is the almost-acoustic “Crashing Hearts,” which seems to be a melancholy love song. Its chorus feels more repetitive than those of the other tracks due to the title lyric being repeated and barely elaborated on, but the song finds its course just before its halfway mark, building up toward the end so the second half of the song is stronger.
“Kali” is a strong EP with few weak spots, and anyone who enjoys female-led alternative or garage rock should give it a listen when it’s released, as well as keep an eye on what Bell and The Talkbacks will do in the future. The EP also has release party on April 29 in downtown Austin. If these five tracks are a peek into what the party and live show will be, it’s sure to be a fun and energetic event.
Originally hailing from Pennsylvania, Jackie has called Austin home since choosing to attend the University of Texas, where she graduated with a degree in multimedia journalism. She loves spending time with her dog, writing about pop culture in all its forms and spending time with friends – eating, drinking and doing trivia. You can follow Jackie on Twitter and Instagram.