Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Kimbra Grows on Me

Remember Kimbra? Of course you do. She's the featurette who made Gotye's Somebody that I Used to Know warm and listenable. Unlike Gotye's distant vocals, Kimbra's pierced right through us, making the song a hit that connected worldwide.

Most people don't seem to be aware that she has her own music out - at least not most mainstream music listeners, like moi (though I am aware, obvi). While most of us can agree that the Vows album cover is FLAWLESS (seriously, gurrl is glammed OUT, looking like the female Prince), the music on the disc seems to be more divisive. It's actually quite interesting, but that's it. It's interesting. It's not instantly catchy. In fact, I find it quite sleepy. I want to like it so much because I want to see her live. Who doesn't want to see a girl with perfectly hair-sprayed brunnette locks, red lips, and poofy pastel and neon dresses perform? Her fashionable ensembles scream POP! Unfortunately, the record doesn't. Let me clarify; this is unfortunate to me, not to the indie fans who prize their left-field songstresses.

However, after multiple spins, the American version of Vows has grown on me. These songs explain why:

Cameo Lover - Imagine Duffy's Mercy sped up with stronger beats. (Sidenote: the other day I recreated the Duffster's video in a Bertucci's parking lot as the song played over the loudspeakers.) The chorus is retro POP perfection. There's nothing more to say! Just "open up your heart!" 

Old Flame - While this number ain't particularly catchy, the production is '80s heaven. Imagine a smooth, synthesized guitar (ahem, Dr. Luke, take notes) with 808 drums that literally POP (like balloons)! The lyrics are some of poetry's finest.

Come Into My Head - Produced by Mike Elizondo, I wasn't sure what to expect. While I don't love this song, I really appreciate the backing track. This man is famous for producing some of rap's kings, like Dr. Dre and Eminem, but drops the hip-hop beats when working with acoustic princesses like Fiona Apple (on Extraordinary Machine) and Regina Spektor (on Far and What We Saw From the Cheap Seats). Fortunately, here, he maintained the funk qualities of his hip-hop productions without compromising Kimbra's alternative sensibilities. I don't even like funk, but I find this track utterly intriguing.

Posse - This is the best song on the album, and it's all due to the genius who is Greg Kurstin. I love this song's melody and production, and I love love LOVE that this song is not about love (hey Fiona!). Instead, Kimbra chose to write about a bookish chick (herself, supposedly) who emphatically states that she doesn't want to be part of an elitist, uber cool, hipster girl's posse. I find this a bit strange, seeing as Kimbra is incredibly glamorous and not at all nerdy, at least not aesthetically, but I love the song's sentiment.

Warrior - While it took me a while to get hooked onto Warrior, I'm officially chained. The song was this year's Converse collaboration. Each May, the footwear company assembles a few artists from different ends of the alternative spectrum to create a promotional track. In 2012, they did a marvelous job, combining the production prowess of former Jay-Z and Kanye protege, A-Trak, with the vocals of Mark Foster (from Foster The People) and Kimbra. Bravo, Converse! (I still won't wear your shoes). Fortunately, Kimbra included this clubby collab on her American album release. This is the kind of music I wish Kimbra was making, but alas, she's not. At least she's willing to try out different styles.

So that's my take on New Zealand's hottest import. While rocking out to these songs, take the time to listen to Kimbra's vocals. She's extremely experimental with her voice, using it like an instrument to create a multitude of sounds. There's a sort of stop-and-go quality to her singing that reminds me (in a good way) of Katy Perry's first album vocals. Enjoy!



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