Moon Kissed are a New York trio whose music is equal parts pop, indie and attitude. It’s an angle they hit you with, straight off the bat and in no uncertain terms, on their sophomore album’s lead-off track, “Bubblegum,” which has a gritty synth-pop sound, an indelible hook and, well, “I know your tiny ego’s bruised/ Don’t try to blame me” singer Khaya Cohen sweetly snarls. “Chew you up, you’re just like bubble gum/ Spit you out when I’m done.”
Their sound is somewhere between indie rock and lo-fi synth pop — most tracks have live drums and several buzzing vintage-sounding synthesizers, and songwriting-wise there are elements reminiscent of early Charli XCX and even a couple of shouty choruses not worlds away from Taylor Swift’s “1989.” But although Moon Kissed’s music would be compelling regardless of gender, they have a strong female-centric stance not only in their songs but especially in a brief, succinctly stated spoken-word piece called “Asking for It” (written and recorded by featured artist Samkae) that should be read in every high school boys’ gym class. It’s worth reprinting in full:
“My friend thought I was hitting on him because I was being nice. He thought I was pretty, and since I agreed to get dinner with him, he thought I wanted to take him home. He also assumed that I would sleep with him because a rumor spread that I had slept with his friend. I never slept with him, just like I never slept with his friend. He thought I was ‘asking for it’ because I was being nice to him.
“I’m not asking for it if I smile at you. I’m not asking for it if I wink. I’m not asking for it even if I offer you a drink. I’m not asking for it if I go to dinner with you, and I’m not asking for it if I’m being nice.
“If I’m asking for it, I’ll ask for it.”
Indeed, as singer Khaya Cohen says in the press materials, “For me, this album very much speaks to my experience as a woman. It starts out light and flirty, then gets angry, then gets broken down and sad, coming to terms with some harsh realities.”
Yet the group stands out musically just as much: Despite the unvarnished sound, there is clearly at least one budding pop genius in this band. Although not all of the songs are great, there are strong pop hooks lurking in the melodies that could easily fit on polished, major-label albums by superstar artists. Oddly, it’s in stark relief on two of the mostly-solo tracks here, “Chameleon” and “Monopoly Man,” which are demo-quality recordings but actually have some of the strongest melodies on the album.
It’s still early days for the group, which isn’t even two years old: Longtime friends/collaborators Cohen and keyboardist Emily Sgouros met drummer Leah Scarpati at a New Year’s 2019 party, and released their debut album, the mysteriously titled “I Met My Band at a New Years Party,” just months later. They’ve since played more than a hundred shows and it shows in the chemistry on this album — which promises that they’ll have something even more important to tell in the near future.