Kaia Kalise is a singer/songwriter from Madison, Wisconsin who makes piano-based pop music. The style that she displays on her recent EP Tangents certainly isn’t anything new but nonetheless there is no denying that she has a copious amount of talent. She has a great voice and is also an exceptional piano player. Her songs feel more destined for the mainstream rather than the underground and I don’t think there is any denying that when you listen to her music. No one would flinch if they heard one of these songs on FM radio.
Even though these songs contain instrumentation like drums, guitar and bass it’s ultimately her piano and vocals that are the core of these melodies. In fact any of these songs could easily work with just a piano and her vocals. Kalise opens up with “Malady” which is a kinetic, pop song that rocks out more than anything else on the EP. Kalaise finds a nice balance between a narrative and ambiguity with her lyrics. She sings, “a jail cell, a pretty face, these are the things we can't replace / with cotton swab memories for shame for shame for shame for shame.”
“Paper Boy” is a straight up pop song that is undeniably radio friendly. It goes down easy, is unthreatening and could be enjoyed by a large demographic of people. Kalise continues to avoid tropes when it comes to the lyrics. She seems to be singing about a departed lover but interjects clever metaphors much like Paul Simon comparing himself to a rock Kalise compares another person to paper and stainless steel. She sings, “were you made of paper/ when they built you/ were you made of stainless steel/ have you even noticed/ that i've hurt you/ or have you been programmed not to feel?”
You can make an argument for “Looking Out” being more of a pop song than “Paper Boy.” It’s a good mix of melancholy and hope. It contains that hopeful sensibility that tends to be present in commercial music. The closer “Scars & Stars” was an interesting way to end her EP. It’s more melancholy than anything else and it revolves around just her vocal and piano. I especially loved the piano towards the beginning, which sounded mysterious and beautiful.
Kalise is unequivocally talented but also has some stiff competition out there in the pop arena. She has a good foundation and knows how to write a song. I think she still needs to do some digging as to what can separate her from her peers and she should be well on her way.
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