Entertainment Music

Sunday 25 February 2018

K is for kooky Kiwi Kimbra

John Meagher

John Meagher

album of the week

kimbra

Vows

(Warner Bros)

HHHHIThere are touches of jazz here, pop there. In places, her compositions are pure radio-bait -- think Robyn meets Feist. Elsewhere, she channels her inner Bjork in quietly spectacular fashion

New Zealand's Kimbra Lee Johnson lent her vocals to one of 2012's biggest hits -- Gotye's Somebody That I Used to Know. Now, almost a year after her debut album was released Down Under, a significantly modified, re-jigged version featuring new tracks is being released here.

And you know what? It leaves the Sting-loving Australian, Gotye, and his album, Making Mirrors, for dust.

Vows is a wonderfully assured collection of smart pop songs and it can flit between various styles with ease. There are touches of jazz here, indie pop there. In places, her compositions are pure radio-bait -- think Robyn meets Feist.

Elsewhere, she channels her inner Bjork in quietly spectacular fashion.

It is to her credit that her genre-hopping approach rarely feels strained.

Often, such attempts at eclecticism result in an album that's all over the place.

Not so here. The 22-year-old is in full command of her material, equally at home in the languid, cabaret-like numbers or the blissed-out orchestral flights of fancy.

Opener Settle Down is a funky, meticulously composed beat-heavy concoction while Good Intent is a sophisticated slice of R&B.

Her voice -- a fragile, enchanting thing -- has little difficulty in making its mark in both songs.

Cameo Lover, meanwhile, takes the listener on a sonic journey that calls at '50s doo-wop and '80s bubblegum pop and the super-catchy Good Intent appears indebted to Prince, in the days when his every new release was cause for celebration.

Occasionally, Kimbra loses focus, with Plain Gold Ring appearing stuck in first gear. But such quibbles should not detract from a warm-hearted collection that frequently surprises.

Disappointingly, "non-deluxe" versions of Vows don't include Wandering Limbs, which appears on the US version of the album.

A soulful electro-pop delight, it sees Kimbra duetting memorably with Melbourne newcomer Sam Lawrence.

It could do for Lawrence what Somebody That I Used to Know did for Kimbra.

KEY TRACKS Cameo Lover; Settle Down

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