Performance artist Khaela Maricich's favorite theme is likability — people trying to be liked by potential lovers or actual lovers, and sometimes people making themselves so likable they get chewed up and swallowed — and her thin, innocent-sounding voice is the closest singing can get to a wide-eyed, smiling, palms-up gesture. The Blow used to be a more-or-less solo project of Maricich's, and now it's a duo of Maricich with drums-and-electronics guy Jona Bechtolt. Her collaboration with Bechtolt is also a likeability makeover for the Blow, which has started taking the cues for its arrangements from old synth-funk and new wave, with a few marching-band breakbeats thrown in (especially on "The Long List of Girls"). Who doesn't like that?
The second or third or fourth or fifth Blow album, depending on how you count (and whether you count the album Maricich originally released under the name Get the Hell Out of the Way of the Volcano), is loaded with great first lines: "I must admit that I'm a little bit afraid of your relationship with the universe," "I guess I'm on the long list of girls who love the shit out of you," "Pardon me, but wasn't that your heart that I felt on the bed, in the bed, in between the sheets?" (If you've noticed that all three of those begin with a deferential gesture, why, so they do — the Blow is nothing if not polite.) But then her lyrics go deeper and get darker. "Babay" has a one-word chorus so catchy it's easy not to notice that the verses are sung from the point of view of a creature passing all the way through somebody's digestive system; the Depeche Mode-on-a-20-cent-budget electro synths and handclaps of "Pardon Me" are draped over a desperate plea for more emotional openness from a lover. As most likable, deferential people know, those strategies let you get away with a lot.