The maturation of the Kills continues with this taut, emotionally complex fifth record, which deepens their sound even if it doesn’t break new sonic ground. The songs lack the ferocity of the duo’s most potent work but still possess dark intensity, thanks to Alison Mosshart’s fraught take on relationships, and ever-turbulent vocals. She’s developed into a revealing songwriter with a hard-boiled, poetic eye. For her, love is messy, slippery, and dangerous. She sings, “You’ve given me reasons to turn my teardrops into death threats” on “Let It Drop,” and wrestles with pain and loss on torchy piano ballad “That Love” (“That love you’re in is a [expletive] joke”). Having undergone extensive hand surgery since 2011’s “Blood Pressures,” guitarist Jamie Hince leans heavier on splintered riffs and texture rather than chainsaw power, yet still commands, growling through the feral blues of “Heart of a Dog” and powerhouse closer “Whirling Eye.” The Kills’ electro-rock dynamic could have turned to schtick by now; instead, it’s grown focused and remains relevant.
ESSENTIAL “Whirling Eye”Ken Capobianco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.