Based on sheer talent and magnetism, Kyle Gervais — a.k.a. KGFREEZE — is easily at the top of the heap of the Maine music scene. He’s a great guitarist, singer and songwriter with an extremely large bag of stylistic tricks at his disposal, and he’s a dynamic live performer. It’s not surprising he’s played on albums and in bands with everyone from fellow County boy Dominic Lavoie to Portland mainstay Spencer Albee. Everybody likes him, and with good reason. He’s a solid dude.
On “HYPOCRITE,” his third album as KGFREEZE in as many years, Gervais continues on the path he started with “Sociopath” back in 2013. His sound is rooted in the kind of accessible pop-infused indie rock that’s the provenance of so many Portland bands, but fleshed out by a genuine love and understanding of hip hop and modern-day r&b. It’s that embrace of drum machines, sexual innuendo, guest rappers and falsetto vocals that makes KGFREEZE such an engaging and enjoyable project — and it’s what sets him apart from everybody else.
Much of “Hypocrite” goes further in the r&b direction than ever before, like “Anniversary,” a gorgeous six-minute ode to monogamy that’s the most Prince-esque thing Gervais has put out yet, and “F&%K With Our Love,” which rests on a cloud of electric piano and soars thanks to that lovely Jeff Buckley-esque falsetto. On “Rope,” Gervais combines dirty, funky riffage with a memorable chorus, and on “Party, Eh,” he shouts distorted spoken vocals over dueling guitar lines, in a song that’s got to be fantastic live. The nearly nine-minute “Self-Control” is a ballsy, confessional piece that’s more of an electronic sound collage that it is a regular song; same with the woozy, mesmerizing album-closer “Visions Voodoo Screw.” It’s exciting listening, more akin to contemporary rock-r&b boundary-striders like Miguel, Frank Ocean or The Weeknd, or, yes, Prince.
All those rock-r&b hybridizing songs are outnumbered by the more traditional indie-pop-rock songs, however. It may just be personal taste, but I find that Gervais is at his best and most vital when he’s embracing his experimental lothario side, and is less reliant of his more accessible indie rock side. While several of those more rock-centric songs are very, very good — “Sakura” is a highlight, as is the undeniably catchy “Before We Go Home” — they can be a bit hard to tell apart. At 17 tracks, “HYPOCRITE” is a long album. It feels like two albums. In fact, it could have been two albums; the freaky, sexy, heart-on-your-sleeve r&b side, and the pop-loving, crowd-pleasing indie rock side. They’re both good. They’re just different — though they both come from the brain, and heart, of Kyle Gervais.