Los Angeles-born and-based singer/songwriter, guitarist, poet, essayist, visual artist, Dum Dum Records founder, and JOVM mainstay Taleen Kali (she/they) has made a career out of crafting 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 its all 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 Songs and 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. “‘Trash Talk’ is a track that speaks out against haters, trolls, and toxic bullshit in the hope that it gives a voice to anybody who’s been silenced or worn down,” Kali explains. “I wanted to write a song that embodies my favorite jangly Brit-pop songs and the energy of ‘do no harm, but take no shit.’”
- “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. “‘Fine Line’ kicks off side B of the record. I wanted tTo explore the ways we feel marked by love and pain. How much of an impact the smallest of impressions can make. And how they can feel when they fade,” the JOVM mainstay explains. “I wrote this song in the summer of 2018 right when the last album Soul Songs was coming out. The process of putting out my first solo record was so strange and cathartic that a handful of new songs just came spilling out during that time, and this was the first one. I really wanted there to be a demarcation for side B of Flower of Life so ‘Fine Line’ is written in a minor key, setting the tone for the 2nd half of the album.”
Flower of Life‘s fifth and latest single “Tomorrow Girl” continues in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor with the song being 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.
“‘Tomorrow Girl’ is about finding your future self when the present isn’t cutting it. I wrote this song when I desperately wanted change. Sometimes when we want change we seek the wrong kind of love, we take drastic measures, we make dumb mistakes,” Kali explains. “This song is my dumb mistake. There are so many punk songs titled ‘____ Girl’ and I wanted to write a song in that tradition from a female POV. So, it’s a song about a girl, but we don’t know if the subject of the song is a love interest or if it’s the narrator having an inner conflict, which I wanted to leave purposefully vague; an inherently queer song.”