Review Summary: Accessible in the best possible way, King has taken a sure step-forward as a songwriter and instrumentalist.
Kaki King is the pseudonym for music artist Katherine Elizabeth King. Currently in her late twenties, she is a multifariously talented musician, and an accomplished singer-songwriter. Her first two records focused on acoustic guitar compositions. On ...Until We Felt Red
, she began incorporating a larger ensemble sound. Using loops and electronics she has today become more versed in alternative post-rock then singer-songwriter pieces.
Of course the acoustic guitar has not been left behind. “Life Being What It Is” is led by it, accompanied by a simple metronomic bass drum and thick bass guitar. She is quite the acoustic guitarist. In fact, in the film August Rush it was her dexterous hands that performed the guitar parts the boy-genius plagiarized on screen. Named the first ever female “Guitar God” by Rolling Stone in 2007, she has a right to swank. However, rather then begin ostentatious or flashy her music focuses on the pretty and melodious.
Singing on “Life Being What It Is”, she makes use of her plain but cool voice. “Pull Me Out Alive” is another pop song and one of about half of the tracks which include vocals. Then there are the instrumental tracks like “Montreal” and “Sad American”. These are the standouts for me because of how refreshing they are. Being an accomplished solo guitar player, she brings her own flair to the instrumental rock sound. Just the instrumentation is different and it is stimulating to hear something so fresh. Tracks like “Open Mouth” sound more like soundtracks then post-rock numbers. Filled with emotion yet revitalizing with their fresh musical elements, the emotion doesn’t bring the listener down. “So Much For So Little” especially showcases her adroit fingerpicking and propensity for affecting melodies.
“Saving Days in a Frozen Head” has King singing in her petite voice yet again. Not a voice oozing with talent like Amy Winehouse or perhaps Alison Sudol, her voice is still dynamic enough to support her music. Lacking a bit as a lyricist, the music saves her where other artists would drown in their lyrics; “2 O’Clock” reads as an average pop song, but the melodies, guitarwork, and even her syllables make it so much more then that. I personally find King at her best on tracks like “Can Anyone Who Has Heard This Music Really Be a Bad Person” and "Montreal" where the music ebbs and flows beneath strong melodies and beautiful instrumentation. It isn’t so much that I find fault with her voice, I just find her in her most poignant form when she is concentrating on the music. Vocal tracks like “Pull Me Out Alive” feel slightly aimless in their direction.
The sexy superstar is openly gay, news which may dishearten some male fans; surprisingly however, her sexuality has stayed beneath her music. Having toured with the likes of John Butler and Tegan & Sara, her popularity is increasing. Mentioning a talented bloke like John Butler, it is quite easy to imagine King having gone down that bluegrass jammy road, or perhaps dabbling in the heavy-metal acoustic world such as artists Rodrigo y Gabriela. Yet, King has found her own niche in the world of alternative indie music, and it is a fitting match. Expounding upon her musical progression, King says, “Everything I write tends to be dense and chordal, but this time the idea was to layer the challenging guitar work under very simple, beautiful melodies. I really wanted them to be memorable.” That shift in focus towards melodies and less technical display was a choice move, and one that may bring her the acclaim she deserves. Accessible in the best possible way, King has taken a sure step-forward as a songwriter and instrumentalist.