Kitsch II is the second EP from NYC’s Sur Back, the experimental project of a former Floridian ballerina Caroline Sans, whose foundation in the classics pairs with a penchant for employing the nouveau. Complex and trippy soundscapes flirt around teasing but technically pristine vocals on each song. “A Botticelli mouth to talk / smack,” Sur Back sings on opening track “Valentino.” It’s a lyric indicative of the EP itself.
“Anyone Else” starts with a psychedelic opening and swells into what sounds like another time, another place–the Oak Room at The Plaza in the 1940s under the Bavarian frescoes. “Anyone Else” moves into a vocal that haunts with its delicacy, a slowed musical beauty that goes nearly silent halfway through the track.
Strings play over a piano line, and there is her voice, “And I couldn’t do this / with anyone else,” and once again there is that aching of forever. Sonic twilight reverberating as the song fades out.
“Providence” opens with a resounding orchestral base, all promise of springtime and the leaves changing. The lyrics are mournful and observant, “we were just having fun,” a sentiment that is weighty and reminiscent. “Honey / we were just having fun,” and, “honey / like something / I read in a book,” and we’re on the moors, we’re in the lush dark and, “everybody’s holding / onto nothing / onto nothing.” Sur Back’s “Providence” echoes words from cult-classic writer Joan Didion, “I know what ‘nothing’ means, and keep on playing.”
On the final track of the EP, titled “Jane Eyre,” (another nod to the canon) we are given the most mainstream-adjacent track yet. There’s a speedier tempo and the most discernible lyrics we’ve encountered. High drama remains but the vibe is less orchestral than on preceding tracks. There is still the shadow of influence, the Tchaikovsky, the Debussy, the Billie Holiday, all ringing with the complicated nature of being. “Jane Eyre / you wear me like a glove / in the goodnight fistfight / that you’ve been dreaming of.”
Kitsch II is a soundtrack for all seasons, an apt musical display of the “American smirk,” a description Sur Back calls out in “Valentino.” I am smitten. Listen.