Originally published on So So Gay on 16 November 2013.
For the uninitiated, Boomkat are brother/sister duo Kellin and Taryn Manning who come from Pennsylvania in the US. No doubt inspired by their love of hip-hop rhythms, the name comes about because ‘the ‘boom’ is the kick and the ‘kat’ is the snare drum’, as the pair explain on ‘Rockin’ With the Best’, the b-side to debut single ‘The Wreckoning’ that appears on their first studio album,.
Released back in 2003, it received some success with ‘The Wreckoning’, which has the brilliant opening gambit of ‘I came, I saw, I kicked some ass’, and remains their most successful single so far. Filled with attitude driven and hip-hop flavoured pop songs,was a perfect introduction to the Boomkat sound. With Kellin providing the beats and Taryn the lyrics, the siblings are the perfect halves to a single creative whole.
Their first album no doubt received extra coverage thanks to Taryn’s duel career threads of singer and actress. Shortly before the release of, Taryn could be seen on the big screen alongside Eminem in 8 Mile and Britney Spears in Crossroads, with Boomkat songs also appearing on the official soundtracks for both films; ‘Wastin’ My Time’ and ‘CrazyLove’ respectively.
She has also appeared on TV shows such as CSI: Miami and Boston Legal, but people will have most recently seen her act in the utterly brilliant Orange is the New Black, appearing as Tiffany Doggett, the main antagonist to the show’s lead character, Piper Chapman.
This pursuit of acting is a double-edged sword since it’s no doubt brought a spotlight to her musical output as one half of Boomkat, but will have likely impeded the creation of new music for fans who were itching for more after the excellent. Indeed, second album A Million Trillion Stars wasn’t actually released until 2008, though it was most certainly worth the five year wait.
Released through Little Vanilla Records (Taryn’s own label), Boomkat’s sophomore album is a distilled version of their debut. The introduction style songs fromare replaced, necessarily, with more polished pop perfection. Some of the frivolity of the first album is sadly gone, though the increased maturity brings a sonic cohesion that was arguably missing to some degree from their debut record. With production from the experienced hand of Mike Elizondo (Dr Dre, P!nk, Tegan & Sara), A Million Trillion Stars is simply a superb collection of infectious tunes.
Its lead single, ‘Runaway’, is a chilled-out lament to the negative impact of relationships and wanting to escape it all: ‘You see we’re born with light in our hearts / And people come around and tear us apart’. This was followed by ‘Run Boy (Here I Come)’, a forceful and flirtatious music assault against the object of Taryn’s affections: ‘Here I come / You better run, boy / Here I go / You better follow’.
As if serving as ‘The Wreckoning (Part II)’, third single (and album highlight) ‘Stomp’ shows Taryn back in post-break-up mode again, as she sings decisively: ‘I’m ready / Stomp you out my memory / Here’s the remedy / Stomp you out my memory / Now you’re next to me / I slap you out my memory’. One thing is certain, Taryn’s heartache prompts her to write some brilliant tunes, as ‘Stomp’ has a domineering bassline that takes no prisoners, much like her lyrics.
Follow-up and fourth single, ‘Don’t Be So Shy’ is one of the most upbeat tracks on the album, and revisits the frothy romance of ‘What U Do 2 Me’ from. Its playful lyrics and catchy chorus make it a perfect track to have dance to, ideally at a summer pool party like in its accompanying video, of course.
The fifth and final single was ‘Lonely Child’, one of the more sombre notes on the album. Touching on childhood loneliness and lack of affection, it’s certainly quite the contrast to the previous single’s jaunty nature, though shows the duo’s ability to touch on a breadth of topics while also creating quality material.
Elsewhere on the album, the hip-hop beats are just as deep and the melodic hooks similarly strong. ‘Four Track Dub’ is probably the most beat-driven number and is irresistible. ‘Heard you talking shit again…’ introduces ‘Instead’, and shows that Taryn still has a knack for an attention-grabbing opening line. ‘Fall On Me’ finds her in the predicament of a guy falling too deeply for her when she only wanted something more fleeting and is now trying to move on.
The album comes to a close with the epic ‘Dressed In Grief’ and finds Taryn morosely philosophising: ‘Every day is a struggle / And trust me, this I know / I wake up in the morning / Feeling so low / It hurts so much to think that I was born / Well, I was born this way’. It’s a melancholic finale to the album, but is certainly one of its many highlights as it combines distorted guitars with an emotive vocal performance from Taryn.
Taryn may have moved front and centre with singing duties on their second album (although her brother only sporadically appeared vocally on their debut), but combined with Kellin’s skill for infectious rhythms, Boomkat are a dynamic and incredibly talented duo. Here’s hoping album number three isn’t too far around the corner.