Back in 2012 Kimbra seemed to become an overnight sensation thanks to her part in Gotye’s global hit “Somebody That I Used To Know.” So when her debut album Vows was released here in the States later that year I expected it to be a huge success. Unfortunately, all those downloads of “Somebody That I Used To Know” didn’t translate into downloads of Vows. Don’t get me wrong, the album did sell. It just wasn’t the huge breakthrough album people expected it to be. To me, however, it was one of the year’s very best albums.
Well, as you’ve probably heard, Kimbra has just released her sophomore effort, The Golden Echo, and it seems to be getting a lot of buzz. Lead single “90s Music” fared well, if I understand correctly, and the video for her new single “Miracle” seems destined to get a million views. What I’m positive about is this: it’s an incredible electropop odyssey.
The album begins with “Teen Heat,” which starts off with what sounds like an ’80’s drum machine beat and a bit of synth. Then Kimbra’s soothing voice enters the picture. “I don’t want to ruin a good thing,” she sings, practically purring, over a down-tempo beat you wouldn’t expect to hear at the beginning of an album. But once it hits the chorus, bang, the beats get boisterous, her voice also growing louder — not to mention more intense — and we have something that sounds like a grand Prince song like “1999.” It’s joyous and also gives off a celebratory vibe.
The off-kilter “90’s Music” follows with punchy beats that sound like something from the wild imagination of Pharrell Williams. The song might be called “90’s Music,” and it’s actually about listening to the stuff, but it sounds wholly futuristic. Or like music from another planet. It’s like Bjork covering a song by N.E.R.D. Well, maybe not that far out there, but you get the idea. It’s a bewildering track, to be sure, but it’s also insanely catchy. Maybe not the first time you listen to it, but after a few spins it’ll have you held firmly in its clutches.
If you’re looking for something that’s not quite so eccentric, you ought to check out the current single, “Miracle,” which has a lively mix of disco-style beats along with layers and layers of glimmering and intoxicating sounds. “Like a cast away / Sometimes I feel so separated / But I could never forget ya,” she sings in an almost sultry manner and one thing’s for sure — you won’t forget Kimbra after listening to this song.
In the super trippy department, we have the down-tempo ballad “Rescue Him,” which is like neo-soul meets trip-hop. And I’d be negligent if I didn’t mention the similarity between this ditty and The Weeknd’s brand of twisted R&B. It also resembles Dawn Richard to some degree. Suffice to say, this song is many different things at once. Yet it doesn’t sound overly complicated at all. In fact, it’s one of the album’s most accessible songs.
Funk is the word with “Madhouse,” a song with a deep groove if ever there was one. It’s also loaded with delicious synth that erupts here and there, dazzling the listener every time. If you’re looking for a song for your Back To Mine playlist, I assure you that “Madhouse” would get the job done.
If you’re one of the smart ones who indulged in Vows, you well know that Kimbra is the queen of quirky and she wears her freak flag with pride on The Golden Echo, proving once again that her songs are genuinely inspired, highly original gems, audible treats that seldom go where you first expect them to. If you’re an electro-pop fan then it’s a must-have, an instant classic of the genre. And if you’re a casual pop fan who wants something of more substance than what you’re currently hearing on Top 40 radio, this one is a no brainer — precisely because it does require a brain to truly absorb it. These are songs that take time to get to know, but if you give them that time then they pay off in spades.
KIMBRA ON TOUR:
10/20 San Francisco, CA The Independent
10/23 Los Angeles, CA The Roxy
10/24 Santa Ana, CA The Observatory
10/25 Las Vegas, NV Life Is Beautiful Festival
10/27 Salt Lake City, UT In The Venue
10/28 Denver, CO Sherman
10/30 Minneapolis, MN Fine Line Music Café
11/01 Chicago, IL Lincoln Hall
11/06 New York, NY Bowery Ballroom
11/07 Philadelphia, PA World Café Live – Downstairs
11/08 Washington, DC U Street Music Hall
11/09 Allston, MA Brighton Music Hall
The Golden Echo Track List
1. Teen Heat
2. 90s Music
6. Rescue Him
8. Everlovin’ Ya feat. Bilal
9. As You Are
10. Love In High Places
11. Nobody But You
12. Waltz Me To Grave