That Kerli Kõiv claims no musical influences aside from Björk is a tad suspicious. After hearing her debut album, Love Is Dead, it would come as a surprise to find out that Evanescence’s Fallen and Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill weren’t also in heavy rotation on the singer’s stereo while growing up in post-Soviet Estonia. The title track is a gothic pop-rock anthem driven by heavy bass and guitars, swooping strings and Kerli’s refrain of “Love don’t live here anymore!,” which she sings as if she’s got a bag of marbles in her mouth—that is to say, exactly like Björk. “I’m a cre-a-tion-ist!” she wails on “The Creationist,” an optimistic little pop ditty embellished with a classical-style piano melody, while the curious goth-hop oddity “Walking on Air” takes a different tack, laying out a Neptunes-esque backdrop on which Kerli unravels an autobiographical tale of a weirdo who takes on the world with her gift of song: “Little creepy girl/Oh, she loves to sing…She will go and set the world on fire/Nobody ever thought she could do that.”
Those first three tracks are the album’s best, and they display enough diversity and musical savvy, if not actual talent, to warrant an endorsement. Unfortunately, songs like the over-the-top “Creepshow” take the living goth-doll imagery of the album’s artwork and the “Walking on Air” music video a little too far. And the plodding “Butterfly Cry,” ostensibly the most personal track on the album, doesn’t work on any level—lyrically, musically or vocally. Love Is Dead works best when Kerli sticks to simpler topics, like strange boys (“Strange Boy”) and beautiful days (“Beautiful Day”). It would be tempting to dismiss Kerli as just another Estonian pop singer trying to breakthrough in the U.S.—if there were any others. The formulas employed throughout Love Is Dead are often trite but the undeniable excitement and awe with which she approaches them is just as frequently refreshing.