Over the past couple of years, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering Los Angeles-born and-based singer/songwriter, guitarist, poet, essayist, visual artist, Dum Dum Records founder, and JOVM mainstay Taleen Kali. Kail (she/they) has made a carer out of writing romantic punk songs that are simultaneously cosmic, dreamy and defiant, and informed by her Armenian heritage and her parents’ birthplaces of Lebanon and Ethiopia. But the material is underpinned by Kali’s desire to seamlessly fuse her cultural heritage and identity with the sounds of the modern countercultures she grew up embracing and exploring as a musician and singer/songwriter.
Kali’s music career started with a stint in Los Angeles-based band TÜLIPS. After TÜLIPS closed up shop in 2016, she stepped out into the limelight as a solo artist, eventually touring across the US with Ex Hex, Alice Bag and Seth Bogart.
The Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstay’s solo debut, 2018’s Kristin Kontrol-produced Soul Songs EP was recorded at Hollywood-based Sunset Sound Studios. The EP, which found Kali’s long-held riot grrl ethos maturing into a multifaceted punk sound and approach with elements of noise pop and New Wave was released to praise from BUST Magazine and Stereogum, who likened her sound to a contemporary Blondie. Soul Songs was also included in Pitchfork‘s Guide to Summer Albums and LA Weekly‘s Best Indie Punk Albums.
Kali along with her backing band followed up with an unplugged version of Soul Songsand covers of The Supremes‘ “Baby Love” and Garbage‘s “#1 Crush.” She also recorded a two-song pandemic project called Changing with her TÜLIPS-era producer Greg Katz.
Taleen Kali’s Jeff Schroeder and Josiah Mazzaschi-co-produced full-length debut Flower of Life is slated for a March 3, 2023 release through Kali’s Dum Dum Records. Sonically, the album reportedly sees the rising Los Angeles further cementing her fuzzy and noisy take on psych punk paired with vocals that run the range of femme punk and shoegaze siren.
Over the past year or so, I’ve written about the following album singles:
- Album title track “Flower of Life,” a grungy psych punk ripper centered around fuzzy power chords, thunderous drumming, soaring organ chords and Kali’s sneering delivery paired with mosh pit friendly hooks and choruses that sonically was a bit of a synthesis of My Bloody Valentine and riot grrl punk. “‘Flower of Life’ was a spiritual concept I held onto for a long time before writing this song,” Kali explains in press notes. “The flower is a fractal, a cycle, ever blooming, ever decaying.
- “Trash Talk“, a jangling Brit Pop-inspired anthem centered around a chugging motorik-like groove, fuzzy power chords, Kali’s unerring knack for rousingly anthemic hooks and a sneering “fuck off” attitude towards haters, trolls and toxic bullshit that almost anyone can relate to.
- “Fine Line,” a Too True-era Dum Dum Girls-like confection centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, a forceful and driving rhythm section paired with Kali’s plaintive delivery and her unerring knack for well, placed, rousingly anthemic hooks.
- “Tomorrow Girl,” a shimmering Too True-era Dum Dum Girls-meets shoegaze-like pop confection featuring shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, Kali’s gorgeous and achingly plaintive delivery paired with a driving rhythm section and enormous hooks. Much like its predecessors, “Tomorrow Girl” is rooted in personal, lived-in experience and hard-won wisdom.
Flower of Life‘s latest single “Crusher” is a swooning, 120 Minutes alt rock-like shoegazer them featuring swirling guitar textures, relentless four-on-the-floor and Kali’s unerring knack for enormous hooks paired with heart-proudly-worn on-sleeve earnestness and a blazing solo from Smashing Pumpkins’ Jeff Shroeder. “Crusher” manages to evoke the sweet ache of having a desperate crush. “Crusher’ is our ultimate shoegaze love song. You ever crush so hard you’ve been brought to your knees? This song is about all those impossible feelings, taking inspiration from some of the greats: Chapterhouse, Lush, Ride, and Curve,” Kali explains. “This song has always been our band favorite and it features a guitar solo from Jeff Schroeder of Smashing Pumpkins so we’ve been saving the best for last…”
Fittingly, the accompanying video for “Crusher” draws from 120 Minutes-era MTV and features romantic imagery — guitars played with roses, roses bursting into flames, shot through kaleidoscopic filters.