Published May 09, 2018Sarah Tudzin didn't set out to be a rock star. But in trying to hustle work for her day job as a producer, she caught the artist's bug and stumbled into the role anyway. What was originally conceived as a collection of songs to show off her skills behind the boards is now the L.A.-based singer and guitarist's debut album, Kiss Yr Frenemies. And damn is it ever good.
Tudzin has tapped into a rich vein, mining similar musical territory as artists like Soccer Mommy, Snail Mail and Vagabon, a sort of nexus of DIY punk and indie rock whose spirit animals include Liz Phair and Kim Deal. Yet Tudzin wrote Kiss Yr Frenemies in something of a vacuum — Illuminati Hotties didn't even play their first gig until half the record was recorded. These unique conditions birthed a record that balances slick riffs and hushed intimacy.
At first blush, songs like "(You're Better) Than Ever" and "Paying Off the Happiness" feel like a fleeting sugar rush, but underneath the sheen are deep sonic and emotional layers, equal parts earnest and casually dismissive. Tudzin's vocal range is thin, but she knows how to imbue it with emotion; sparser fare like "boi" or the slow burning "Declutter" might sound like rough voice memos, but their production (or lack thereof) only amplifies her vulnerability.
Kiss Yr Frenemies teems with hooks, as sure a sign as any of Tudzin's natural gifts as a songwriter. But her skills in the studio ensure that everything here pops, whether it's the pummelling chorus of "Cuff" or the shimmering guitars in "For Cheez (My Friend, Not the Food)." Then there's kiss-off "Pressed 2 Death," where she describes her own writing skills with the sound of a wailing finger-tapped solo while the song written by the object of her ire "sounds like shit." Rarely do sharp comic timing and professional sound design skills come together. Rarer still is a song this funny, yet still grounded in real emotions.
A slick summation of much of the past five years in the DIY trenches, Illuminati Hotties simultaneously stand apart from their peers. Unburdened by expectations, Tudzin pieced together a fun, emotionally satisfying record that should become the sound of this and many summers to come. (Tiny Engines)