The yearning gaze that Adam Bainbridge – better known as Kindness – wears on the cover of his second record Otherness and its scrawled titles suggest pure 80s-over-the-top-cheese-pop-balladry. While he does indeed take a clear heavy influence taken from the decade, to call Kindness merely a shameless 80s pastiche just wouldn’t be cricket.
Otherness doesn’t particularly break any new ground for Bainbridge but it does push his sound a little further. As evidenced in ‘This Is Not About Us’ airtight beats and protruding basslines are still often Kindness’ go-to weapons much like they were on older favourites such as ‘House’ and ‘Gee Up’ but it’s pretty clear from the get-go that it is the horns that steal the show on Otherness. The strutting groove of ‘World Restart’ kicks things off in sparkling fashion with its volleys of saxophones tarting up Bainbridge, Kelela and Ade’s intertwined melodies. This isn’t the only time Bainbridge employs multiple vocalists either as he wisely combats the overuse of his own at times weak voice by enlisting a number of more show-stealing guests throughout. ‘Who Do You Love?’ for instance stands out purely for Robyn’s sheer star-power and is only a few four-to-the-floor beats and a drop away from becoming the next wonder-house-pop hit and ‘Why Don’t You Love Me’ contains some more three-way harmonies with friend and collaborator Devonté Hynes. Despite the somewhat awkward transition Ghanian rapper M.anifest’s verse on ‘8th Wonder’ is a welcome change of pace too – that wasn’t actually meant to be a pun about him mentioning Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ but I’ll take it.
The trouble often seems to come on the songs Bainbridge tackles on his tod. Lyrical depth sure isn’t his strong-suit but he keeps things far too thin on ‘Geneva’ which barely ventures past its ‘if you could read my mind/you know what you’d find’ mantra for nearly six minutes. It plods along musically also without any direction and thus ends up coming across as a lengthy interlude and the same can be said for the overly long ‘I’ll Be Back’. Later on while admirably trying something different the messy combination of out-of-tune strings, Christmassy keys and a clipped vocal sample in ‘For The Young’ falls short and stands as the worst example of Bainbridge’s usually pristine production talents.
While not as much of a rush as debut World, You Need A Change Of Mind, Otherness is still a largely enjoyable listen, it just appears that it’s weaker moments come when the tempo slows down to 80s crooning levels, so hey, maybe that cover isn’t a million miles away after all.