Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #167 - Kimbra, "Vows"

I was pointed in this direction by my sister-in-law Junko, who was listening to Kimbra off the back of the hit with Gotye. She's from New Zealand and has a bit of a kohl-eyed look going on; not to judge her by her looks or owt. I don't know what the stage school situation is like down there in the Antipodes, but if she was a UK artist, I'd be suspicious.

The opening track, "Good Intent", has a noir slink to it. The good intent of the album, eh? The second track starts with a Trainspotting lean on the keyboard, but then strays into Pebble Mill, strolling backing singer territory. Don't like the sound of "Open up your heart" over and again with that backdrop. Reeks of Radio Two dogfood: they've got lumps of it round the back. "Call Me" has a bit of a Nineties British R&B feel to it - brassy stabs, scooping bass. Not sure I can identify what it is: a kind of cautious positivity. It's easy to think life is sweet after 100 consecutive days of Californian sun, but good feelings need to tempered by expectations under cloudier UK skies. Or indeed NZ ones.

Judging by the title, this is an album about relationships. "Old Flame" is set in the same kind of situation as "Call Me", but the complicated situation is reflected in some interesting key changes and sounds like thunderclouds. Even her voice has a dark, chewy quality. None of the lyrics stick though. It gets a bit more playful on "Limbo" with bird-like vocal flutterings papering it all behind. It has a fairground coda as well with seagulls on it. "Settle Down" starts out with an imagined settled down life together (and a kid called Nebraska Jones) and I wait for a sting in the tail for quite a while and there doesn't seem to be one. Strange.

Minor vocal gymnastics on "Two Way Street" followed some crackly, pounded piano on "Wandering Limbs". There's a vintage clothes shop feeling to a lot of the production and the directions a lot of the tunes take. It's a duet as well. There are noises like big warning signs hitting the carpet and that Eighties soul sheen again. Her lyrics slip through cracks in the floor again. It's a big cloudy mass of sound that clears away onto a chiming couple of notes. "Withdraw" is belted out like Pink Floyd soul, something about a "heart-shaped hole on hold for you" over scrawled-big swirls.

I'm not sure quite where to place Kimbra. There are some more experimental vocal ideas that pitch her in the Bjork nexus (like "The Build Up"); there are some rather middle-aged sounding tunes that disturb me slightly. She's not quite dark, but not quite sunny. The breaking of tracks into two bits is interesting. There are bits of old jazzy, bluesy torch-singing (like the second bit of "The Build Up"); there are beats. And her voice is a little strange, a little lower than expected; like honey with salt and vinegar. I am not of one mind.

It ends with a gold ring on the finger: "In my heart it will never be Spring/As long as he wears that plain gold ring". So not very straightforward then.

Rating: Dark Honey out of Relationships

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