Monday, August 11, 2014

The Golden Echo | Kimbra


★★★★☆

Three years ago, Kimbra's career was just beginning. Her debut album, Vows, released in 2011, met critical acclaim and moderate success. In 2012, her voice exploded worldwide with a feature on Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know," earning her a number one single on the Billboard Hot 100 and two Grammy Awards for the song. Then when 2013 came around, she went mute and quietly planned a timely comeback. Just one year later, we now have our hands on her sophomore follow-up, The Golden Echo.

Our first taste of the album came in the form of its second track, "90s Music." The song, which debuted in May, is a chaotic dedication to tunes from two decades past and somehow seems to clash with the placid aura of the album's cover. The song is much farther than a stone's throw away from the sounds of Vows, so I was initially disappointed with the song. However, after the initial bitter taste of "90s Music," I suddenly grew quite fond of this new-age Kimbra and found myself crawling back to YouTube to listen to the song repeatedly.

However, "90s Music" definitely did not give The Golden Echo a fair representation; if anything, the song is the black sheep of the twelve-track herd. The album opens with a hazy drum beat on "Teen Heat," which is expanded upon after a seductive gasp in the chorus. The song oozes with influences from 1980s pop and rock and 2000s R&B, as does the rest of the album. Kimbra's strongest influences shine through on impressive cuts like "Madhouse," a twenty-first century reincarnation of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" with a sampling of the best sounds that a 1980s synthesizer could offer, and "Carolina," a summery, upbeat bit with beautiful harmonies and vocals that drift in and out of a vocoder's grasp.

Kimbra also adds herself to a growing list of artists to recently use strong disco influences on "Nothing But You" and the infectious "Miracle," before diving into a tribal-inspired sound on "Goldmine" and "Love In High Places." The former is a percussion-beaten, trip-hop infused track, while "Love In High Places" is an atmospheric piece following the lead of a tapping beat. Like "Goldmine," the track "Everlovin Ya" nods towards trip-hop and funk while tossing in some sparkling, disorganized synths and spacey vocals.

Only two songs constitute as ballads on this album: the sultry "Rescue Him" and the piano-guided "As You Are," which highlights Kimbra's strong vocals and the lush harmonies that many songs on The Golden Echo thrive on. The album's last echoes (I haven't had a pun in a while on here) are heard on "Waltz Me To The Grave," which is a whopping seven and a half minutes long. The core of the song, in actuality, is around three and a half minutes long; tacked onto the back-end of the song is an outro of instruments and vocal ad-libs.

With Vows, Kimbra was a promising artist with some great songs to back herself up. Expanding to The Golden Echo, she is now a blossoming artist who is not afraid to experiment with some new sounds. The album displays a mixed bag of nostalgic guidance but also retains outstanding originality. In some ways, the album is nearly indescribable because of the multiple sources of inspiration; usually that results in either a disaster of an album or a completely unique gem. But this album is a Kimbra creation, so of course The Golden Echo fits the latter category.

The Golden Echo will be released in the United States on August 19, 2014 via Warner Bros. Records, in both standard and deluxe formats.

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Maira Gall