Review Summary: A remarkable work of art that elevates Kerli as a powerful songwriter and producer.
"Watch me as I'm getting up, see me shaking off the dust."
Kerli has been a musical chameleon throughout her career, with each iteration facing various degrees of success. Initially a bubble-goth niche artist in 2008, Kerli has made efforts to modernize her sound over the years, with each single and EP sounding vastly different from everything preceding it. The EP Utopia
was released in 2013, and while it clearly displayed Kerli's efforts to transition from a niche artist into a pop songwriter, it suffered from generic writing and an overhanded production that exacerbated the unclear direction of her music.
Shortly after, Kerli began to struggle with not only the identity of her music, but her own personal identity as well. "That identity was outdated," she explained in a vlog on YouTube. She released a handful of singles such as Diamond Hard
in 2016, and ended up scrapping a planned album in 2017. When Shadow Works
was announced in 2018, fans were rightfully dubious. Kerli's talent had been simmering for years, but there was question as to whether it would ever reach its boiling point.
obliterates those doubts and solidifies Kerli's newfound prowess and growth as an artist.
The album kicks off with a haunting intro, where Kerli demonstrates her unique ability to toggle between powerful singing and a hushed crooning that is almost creepy, calling back to her bubble-goth days. The following track, Mimicry
, features the same quiet voice, and showcases a careful attention to production value that is present through the entire album. Kerli's new approach to writing lyrics is also on display here, and has been honed to be thought-provoking while staying catchy. She's also not afraid to drop a few F-bombs this time around.
Next up is Everybody Bleeds the Same
. The synthesizers pound, and Kerli sings her heart out. Songs like this are evidence that there is no longer a gap between Kerli and the high-seated pop kings and queens. Put Everybody Bleeds the Same
on a playlist with the likes of Halsey and FLETCHER, and it might just make those artists pale in comparison. Savages
continues this amalgamation of killer production value and expert singing. It serves as a clue-in to the more reserved, pointed nature of Kerli's music, proving she doesn't need huge choruses to drive things home.
is possibly the weakest track due to a repetitive acoustic riff that sounds like it was manufactured on a toy keyboard. The song itself may be above average, but when slated after a song like Savages
, the lapse in quality is painfully apparent.
There is a short interlude, followed the heavy-hitting Legends
. This song veers toward the generic in terms of songwriting, but the dirty bass drops and committed singing mask its shortcomings. Anthems like this belong on the loudspeakers at sports games, but perhaps not in your walking playlist. Where the Dark Things Are
fires up with a deep, driving bass and decidedly more sinister atmosphere. The song breaks genre barriers and dips into what is almost industrial rock, with an absolutely filthy riff that could make Trent Reznor drool.
Next is the radio-ready Better
, which ropes all of the elements back in for a four-minute lesson in masterful songmaking. Kerli flexes her singing muscles again, both lyrically and vocally, and Crash Cove's production shines for this extremely high point in the album. Giving Up the Ghost
does little to separate itself from the rest of Shadow Works
, which is not necessarily a negative considering the overall quality of the album.
is surprisingly lengthy, clocking in at just over six minutes. This song is performed and produced entirely by Kerli, and seems to glorify her Estonian roots. It is a haunting, meaningful track, and it proudly declares 'that's a wrap!' on this labor of love. There is an outro featuring Kerli's stunning voice in choir form, and following her vocal crescendos, the album closes with a drawn out silence.
is a pivotal release built on years of experience, past failures, and a marked growth in talent and ability. It ascends as Kerli's magnum opus, and perfectly demonstrates the importance of mature songwriting and high production value in modern day music.
Everybody Bleeds the Same
Where the Dark Things Are