Album Review: Kevin Krauter — ‘Full Hand’
Posted: by The Editor
On Indiana musician Kevin Krauter’s debut solo record Toss Up, they opened up a space of clear-headed, if lackadaisical, indie pop. Toss Up felt like Krauter finding their own lane after the hiatus of Hoops, for whom they played bass. On their new record, Full Hand, Krauter revisits the space they’ve created, with its hypnotic, looping guitars, and turns it into something incredibly special.
All press about the record wants you to know that Full Hand is an album of Krauter dealing with religion and sexuality. Raised in a religious household, Krauter recently came out publicly as bisexual and nonbinary. So, while these themes are of course foundational to what Krauter is singing about, they’re not present at first glance—Krauter has buried them in poetic lyricism and a soundscape as colorful as the rainbow pictured on the album’s cover.
I first became aware of Krauter after seeing them open for Soccer Mommy last July. While much of their recorded music feels quite calm and reserved, their performance was lively and animated. From appearance to general tenor, had you not known you were in the beautiful Mr. Smalls Theatre in Millvale, PA, you would have thought you were at a house show. Krauter and their band members were funny, engaging, and authentic in a way that many acts lose after attaining some notoriety. At this time, I had not listened to any of Krauter’s music, and so my thought was, essentially, that this was a slacker rock act. They ended their set by saying, “This is a new song we just wrote,” and proceeded to cover Weezer’s “Island in the Sun.” With this as my conception of the project, the contents of “Full Hand” left me absolutely poleaxed.
Musically, the album is at home with acts like Homeshake or Triathlon, with their grooving bass lines and shiny synth work. The sound Krauter is working with is not a new path being cleared. However, Full Hand is leaps and bounds more introspective and human than anything else that sounds like it. Krauter’s voice carries an acute longing in every word they sing, and the emotion it conveys is palpable.
Full Hand opens with a minute long instrumental appropriately titled “Intro” that, while very pretty and engaging, is really just one brush stroke in the masterpiece it precedes. “Wake up to a morning so listless / come to, sun is looming in.” These are the first words we hear Krauter sing, and they paint a vivid scene in the listener’s mind. That song, “Opportunity,” feels like the album’s mission statement. While their voice is muddled as if trying to become part of the synthesizers, Krauter vacillates between choosing a new path or retreating to what feels comfortable.
On the lush second single “Surprise,” Krauter sings “sometimes I feel like a guilty pleasure / sometimes I don’t feel like pleasure at all” over a combination of woozy guitars and shimmering synths. “Surprise” is a song built around learning that things are not necessarily as they appear, and where to go from there. “Even if it feels too hard to handle / I know it’s just a reason to let it fly” encapsulates its tackling of the nature of growth; that it’s generally unpleasant in the short term, but ultimately good. This is more or less the album’s central ideology. The coiling guitar and bass is the song’s secret weapon, despite every facet of the track being perfectly executed. They make for a hook that is absolutely spellbinding.
On the albums closer, a moment of structured chaos entitled “How,” many of those themes of self acceptance found throughout the press narrative peer through most clearly. Krauter sings with an inflection bordering on soulful, over synth chords that call to mind a church organ and a glitchy patchwork of drum machines. While much of this record is guarded behind Krauter’s poetic prose, this is the moment we get lyrics like “What a trip to confront the truth inside your heart” and “Fully honest, fully honest, fully honest with myself.” While much of the album is covered in a shiny electronic polish, Full Hand has many moments driven by acoustic guitar. The album’s title track is perhaps the best of these. The track feels uniquely like an unambiguous moment of comfort on a record of internal struggles, a moment of sun shining through the clouds of a rainstorm. The acoustic guitar lead combined with Krauter’s hushed delivery calls to mind Elliott Smith’s classic “Rose Parade.” While Smith spends that song looking out at the world with aversion, Krauter is offering an outstretched hand, inviting us. Singing “Tell me about your weekend / climb into my clothing,” they give the listener a sense of inherent security.
With Full Hand, Krauter has created their most powerful and empathetic piece of work yet. While the record may be focused on serious topics, it’s important to make explicit just how much fun it is to listen to. It’s a hazy dreamscape, but the guitar and bass parts are ridiculously catchy and feel familiar on a strange, deep level. I’m certain that the next time I see Kevin Krauter play, it will feel just as much like the last time; that, alongside crafting polished work, they genuinely love playing music.
Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal
Eric Bennett // @seething_coast
The Alternative is ad-free and 100% supported by our readers. If you’d like to help us produce more content and promote more great new music, please consider donating to our Patreon page, which also allows you to receive sweet perks like free albums and The Alternative merch.