April 16, 2018 Kimbra – Primal Heart (Album Review)
Versatile. Sassy. Candid. Primal. The exceptional Kimbra returns this Friday, April 20, 2018, with Primal Heart, thanks to Warner Bros. Records.
You might know New Zealand’s spicy Kimbra as the lovely lady who dueted with Gotye on his superb, Grammy-winning single, “Somebody That I Used To Know.” The Singer-Songwriter and Multi-Instrumentalist released her debut album, Vows, in 2011 in Australia, though us American folk had to wait until 2012 to snap it up. Working the music industry into a bit of a frenzy, Kimbra continued to spread her diverse talents across the globe thanks to 2014’s The Golden Echo, leading to her success as only the third New Zealand singer to win a Grammy Award. The winner of a slew of other awards, she has performed on Saturday Night Live and had her music appear on TV (Grey’s Anatomy), in films (Frankenweenie), as well as in video games (The Sims 3: Pets). This talented Kiwi has also shared stages with the likes of Gotye, Foster the People, and Janelle Monáe, to name but a few.
On her third studio offering, Primal Heart, Kimbra hones her vocal skills while remaining marvelously eclectic. The twelve-song collection sees her collaborating with the multi-talented likes of Natasha Bedingfield, Skrillex, and Grammy Award-winner John Congleton (Blondie, Modest Mouse), crafting a versatile collection that runs the gamut from Pop and R&B to Synthpop with moments of 1980’s Dance Pop.
Primal Heart begins with a heavy bass beat that anchors the pace of “The Good War,” a delicious little Synthpop whetting of the palate where whimsical electronics weave throughout its schnazzy core. There is a gentle Aboriginal influence embedded in the chanting harmonies of the Skrillex co-produced/co-written “Top of the World,” which comes together with Kimbra’s Rap-saturated verses full of intensity. Then, the soulful “Everybody Knows” sees Kimbra injecting an R&B pizazz into her collection, with her vocals fluttering beautifully like a hummingbird’s wings around some lovely ‘80s synths.
Saccharine sweet choruses balance against wispy verses on “Like They Do On the TV” (“They all advertise it, I’m not buying it”), a glittering bop of Synthpop, while the emphatic beat of “Recovery” sees Kimbra trying to overcome a broken heart. Meanwhile, glittering electronics anchor the core of “Human,” a cross-genre sway of jazzy vocal splendor (“I don’t know much, but I know that I hurt as much as you”) that provides the album’s title.
It is true, electronic Dance Pop circa the 1980s weaves into the pulsating thrust of “Lightyears,” perfect to score a Molly Ringwald flick, and “Black Sky” sees Kimbra collaborating with co-writer Natasha Bedingfield, crafting a darker, meandering track that perfectly displays her inner Pop Goddess. Next, she moves on to the soulful, retrolicious sway of “Past Love,” a fairly minimalist piece that serves to highlight her lovely, sultry vocals, before “Right Direction” sees a gentle beat keeping the pace for this beautifully sweet, soul-searching serenade.
Delicate piano ballad “Version of Me” sees a stripped-down Kimbra reflecting on the past in this gut-wrenching, confessional plea (“If there’s a next time I’ll fight harder for you”), a clear highlight amongst a stellar collection. She closes out the album with “Real Life,” a short finale where synths creep back in to place a deliciously ironic spin on the track’s title.
Kimbra is one of those rare artists who does not give a flying squirrel about genre: on Primal Heart, she crosses back and forth without a care to craft songs that are cohesive and yet display her beautiful versatility. From Hip Hop to Synthpop, Kimbra can rock it all with her vocal finesse and a hefty dose of primal pizazz. What is more, her lyrics are intelligent and candidly sincere, authoring a collection of eclectic tracks that cross the board to bring unity to all facets of music. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Kimbra’s Primal Heart 4 of 5 stars.