What a crime that this New Zealand native’s debut record Vows (2011) received critical acclaim, but went unnoticed commercially in most major music markets.
Kimbra did makes ripples, and land a Grammy win, as a duet guest on The Police inspired “Somebody That I Used to Know” with Gotye in 2013. In that time, Kimbra worked with a variety of artists and gathered her strength for the sequel to Vows.
The Golden Echo announces that Kimbra is going to be one of the bright lights of pop for years to come. Often trippy, The Golden Echo pulls its sound from everywhere―as all good pop should. In fact, for those in the know of Kimbra’s influences, The Golden Echo pitches its tent between Lovesexy (1988) era Prince and Post (1995) era Björk. Both LPs are evoked within The Golden Echo’s surrealistic sonic sprawl.
The alien lead single “90s Music” only references the decade it speaks of in its lyrics; its beeping-booping bump comes from another planet altogether. Kimbra does get straight new jack swing with “Madhouse” though; it’s a delight to see someone actually recreate an era versus just boasting about it. Kimbra’s groove fetish is expanded on with the staccato skipping of “Goldmine,” the disco flush of “Miracle” and the dimly lit R&B of “Rescue Him”. The trio of songs evince Kimbra’s songwriting is continually compelling―when you can hear it.
The sole problem with The Golden Echo is that its rich production often verges on smothering. The majority of the record’s first side obscures Kimbra’s voice and subsequently her words. Whether or not this was her intention isn’t clear. Last year, V V Brown achieved a weird, but wonderful feat―lyrics, voice and production exchanging the spotlight at various intervals on Samson and Delilah (2013). It’s something that not everyone can do and V V Brown’s project polarized her base.
One gets the impression that this isn’t the case with The Golden Echo. Maybe Kimbra just gets carried away, but a great example would be the aural juicy fruit of “Carolina”. The music is succulent, but Kimbra herself seems to be behind the track, not leading it. For a voice as boundless as hers, it’s a shame it doesn’t get to broadcast itself more until Echo’s last half. On the quieter works like “As You Are,” “Love in High Places” and “Nobody But You” Kimbra is the star of her show instead of its guest.
Directed By: Justin Francis
The Golden Echo is far from a failure, nor is it a transitional bridge-way to her eventual junior recording. It is an artist making her own music and letting its fate rest on each respective listener. Regardless, Kimbra’s growth will generate conversation as all good art should. Rank: Above Average
[Editor’s Note: The Golden Echo available in all digital and physical music retailers now. For more information on Kimbra, visit her official website.-QH]