Though And the Kids have always been deceptively worldly, the Northampton, Massachusetts, trio had a charming innocence about it when the band released its 2015 debut, Turn to Each Other. It was as if they believed that the longstanding friendship among singer/guitarist Hannah Mohan, drummer/singer Rebecca Lasaponaro and multi-instrumentalist Megan Miller, and their shared sense of whimsy, would be enough to insulate them from whatever sick shit the world tried to pull on them.
In a sense, it has. With Miller exiled to her native Canada since Christmas 2014 after a visa issue, And the Kids have persevered with whimsy intact, supplemented on their latest album by an unbowed, if affable, defiant streak. “Life is a bastard / Life wants to kill you / Don’t get old,” Mohan sings on “Champagne Ladies,” giving the impression that she doesn’t intend to. Mohan sounds that way because she sings with unflappable serenity. The timbre of her voice is always warm and resonant, and her vocals have a certain magnetism, whether she’s singing about the vagaries of trying to be happy on “Religion,” or musing on the effects of life choices on “Butterfingers,” shafts of keyboards mingling with a measured, sinewy guitar lead. She’s a confident singer, in a nonchalant way.
Confidence has never been a problem for And the Kids (shout-out to June Millington and the summer programs for teenage girls at the Institute for the Musical Arts for their role in that), but When This Life Is Over finds the band at its most assured. They handle robust songs like “Champagne Ladies,” with its muscular guitar riff and thumping beat, with the same equanimity they show on “Get to That Place,” which has the ambience of a scratchy demo with acoustic guitar, chiming percussion and vocals sung in overlapping rounds. The album is split between those seemingly disparate aesthetics. Opener “No Way Sit Back” features bold wordless vocals on the refrain and a punchy combination of guitar and drums, accented with subtle keyboards. The title track, by contrast, sounds like they’re pouring their hearts into one overloaded microphone, acoustic guitar, booming drums, tight harmony vocals and, at the end, a sonorous trumpet, all packed together in a way that is buoyant, and also intimate.
Really, buoyant intimacy is at the core of what And the Kids do. Mohan, Lasaponaro and Miller are making music that lifts each other up, but it’s not just for them: their songs are inclusive and inviting, with an endearing sincerity that seems impervious to shallow irony. Given that And the Kids have warned us about life, that bastard, joining their party seems like the most reasonable way to fight back.