Sound — 7
After reading up on the band Kessler, it does seem that the Texas band has had a pretty charmed career so far. It wasn't long after the band formed in 2005 that it had the honor of getting one of its singles placed on a locally produced CD sponsored by Coca-Cola. Then following that boost of publicity, Kessler landed a record deal with YMA Records and started a steady touring schedule. That in itself shows the band has popular appeal, but the band's debut full-length CD I Know Your Voice goes a little too far in the direction of Top 40 to truly feel interesting or new. The band does have a tight sound, but there is nothing on the CD that stands out as being that original. I Know Your Voice opens with a 14-second track consisting of whispers, which was likely done for a bit of dramatic effect. I'm not sure if it was necessary to the album, but a band should have the option of starting their debut CD anyway they see fit. After the quick, whispered interlude, Love Is War begins the musical portion. It's likeable in a pop-song type of way, but it doesn't grab you as much as an opener should. Vocally, Mike Mitchell is a solid singer and actually sounds a bit like American Idol rocker David Cook -- only Mitchell's voice actually sounds more geared toward pop than Cook's style. While there are quite a few tracks that seem built to be Top 40 singles, Tear Me Down is a bit darker and more interesting. The guitars and percussion come much more into the forefront, and it works really well for the song. There's a brief, somewhat repetitive solo that gets a little lost amid in the mix, but it's nice that it was written into the song. Another highlight is Hello Liberty, which features more ambient, U2-like guitar parts underneath the vocals, and that element in itself allows the song to have a unique identity. There are some subtle guitar leads played underneath the second verse as well, and it was nice to hear something other than just power chords. Kessler digs into its softer side with Where Are You, which begins with a simple, but pleasant piano line. The stripped-down sound doesn't last long, however, and the band immediately brings all the instruments into the mix until it explodes during the chorus. Where Are You is the kind of song that will do extremely well as an unplugged version because the melody itself can stand on it's own, and the band probably should have kept that one song with nothing but a piano and vocals.
Lyrics — 6
The lyrics tend to be a good match for the music on I Know Your Voice, which often conveys more of a sensitive-rocker vibe. The track Love Is War discusses anticipation of revealing your innermost emotions. Mitchell sings, Tonight I will sing just one song; All the words I've held onto so long; Will come out they will come out; What you need to hear I'll finally say. The track Outside Your Window has a similar theme with lyrics like, The closer I get to you; The harder it is to stay; I'm right outside your window; With a million reasons I can't walk away. For as predictable as they might seem, there is still an audience that will eat these lyrics up.
Overall Impression — 7
Kessler's I Know Your Voice is not an unpleasant listen by any means, but it still feels a bit hollow at times. While the quintet does try some interesting instrumentation here and there, the changes are usually subtle and brief. The audience that Kessler is geared toward is likely more in tune to the lyrical content and the strong vocals of Mitchell, so being daring instrumentally is probably not top on the band's agenda. But if Kessler wants to stand out against the pack and keep it's music fresh 5 or 10 years from now, it's going to have to take a few more chances.