First Impressions: Alone with the Sound the Mind Makes by koleżanka

There’s a whimsical quality to Alone with the Sound the Mind Makes, the latest outing from Phoenix-raised, Brooklyn-based koleżanka, aka Kristina Moore, that’s rare in today’s world of playlist-ready pop tracks. The 11-song, 38-minute trip into Moore’s pandemic-inspired mental machinations is accented by synths, guitars and backing vocals galore, with the latter often descending into the mix as if from a dream. Omnipresent, too, are her pitch-perfect lead vocals, which—depending on the song—flutter, chirp or soar. The result is an album and songs that are simultaneously quirky, charming and, at times, even ominous.

One warning: Don’t listen while you work as you’ll get nothing done. These are songs that demand attention.

The songs took shape during the early days of the lockdown life, when Moore’s day job—working in restaurants—was put on hold. So, rather than forcing smiles and making idle chit-chat with clientele and co-workers, she focused on her music. She later traveled to Gainesville, Fla., where she and co-producer Ark Calkins fleshed out her initial musings. In addition to all the vocals, she handled guitars, bass, drum machine, synths, glass clanks and piano; Calkins played bass, drums, vibraphone, hand claps and aux percussion.  

The album opens with “Koszmary” (Polish for nightmare), in which Moore digs into two terrifying fantasies: being buried by a dust storm in Arizona and being swallowed by the sea now that she lives in New York. “Mania,” the second track, digs into the pull of either mental illness or caffeine intake (I jest with that latter take), while “Slapstick” trips into the hellscape that the service industry can be. “City Summer Sweet” opens with a polka-inspired motif that’s soon accented by minimal Polish translations as the song develops. (Moore, as her stage name indicates, is of Polish lineage.)

“Cheers!” digs into another nightmare, while the brief “Eye Contact” celebrates a future that’s now at hand. “Canals of Our City” travels back to her Arizona childhood, remembering both the good and bad of a long-gone friendship. “The Body” poses a question that has haunted humankind since Day One: “Where does the mind go when a body’s finished?” “Goliath” finds her eyeing the exit while panicking at a function. “Saddle Up, Cowboy,” which features some of those dream-like backing vocals, shares an unlikely admissions: “I dreamt there was something to see/and everyone could see but me.” There’s also this, which speaks volumes about the COVID era: “Each breath comes as a sigh these days.”

The album comes to a close with “River Rushing,” which finds her delving again into her nightmares for inspiration and turning it into a metaphor of sorts. This time, she’s back home in parched-dry Arizona with her family and friends while flood waters push through and obliterate everything and everyone. It’s a tour de force, accented by martial-like drums, synths, hand claps and a guitar that erupts again and again like a succession of lightning bolts in a darkened sky.

Which is all to say: Alone with the Sound the Mind Makes is the kind of album that connects with the intellect even as it rocks the soul. Give it a go.

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