Death of the Party, the New York-based Kudu's second album (and first that they proudly claim), is potential-packed like a sports car in neutral. It's very much a document of a band still in its infancy, staggering to and fro in search of steady footing, one paw jutting towards the squelches of electro, the other towards party R&B with a few grasps at the rattles of straight-up dance music, too. Even at the conclusion of the album's largely great 14 tracks, it's unclear exactly where Kudu will end up, only that the final destination will be one worth visiting.
"Magic Touch," the album's best song by a long yard, hopefully hints at the shape of Kudu to come. Frontwoman Sylvia Gordon vamps and coos over a marching keyboard burp, her smooth and expressive vocals stomping on each beat in the verses and drawing out the drama in the chorus, her voice drooping with each note of a descending chime-line. It's a completely self-contained song: no fat, no arrangement emaciation, just five perfectly conceived minutes of neo-disco.
It's Gordon's voice — with its minesweeping range and effortless charisma — that so clearly marks Kudu for future success, but it's arranger D. Anthony Parks who delineates the band from all potential challengers. Parks is clearly a fan of the Neptunes 'early '00s heyday, riffing on Pharrell and Chad's minimalist post-funk productions and blending them with East Village grit, as in opener "Hot Lava" with its all-bass melody and drumline (high school and South American incarnations, both) solos.
Lyrically there's little to recommend the band (the multilingual "Love Me in a Language" is clever with a k, but that's about it), but this is merely an indicator of Gordon and Parks 'total devotion to the basic tenets of motion. Lyrics are for standing still, and Kudu most certainly are not.