Kimbra
The Golden Echo


5.0
classic

Review

by Greg Fisher STAFF
August 15th, 2014 | 258 replies


Release Date: 08/19/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Kimbra strikes art-pop gold on her second album.

As it bounces off a surface, an echo distorts a sound in order to astonish the listener. Even though this phenomenon can be scientifically explained, there's a dash of magic in an echo, a sense of wonder when you hear something eerily familiar yet quite uncanny. Kimbra Johnson ties this concept in with the music on her second album. The 24-year-old New Zealand native, whose jazz-pop debut Vows was already defined by mature songwriting, channels the numerous influences of hers with admirable shrewdness, delivering a set of finely condensed evocations of iconic sounds from the immense pop-music jukebox.

The Golden Echo revolves around stimulating genre mash-ups distinguished by a dreamy, fairy tale aura and a hint of futurism loitering beneath the surfaces. It encompasses a dazzling array of track modes from the hyperactive pop extravaganza of '90s Music' to the lushly orchestrated piano balladry of 'As You Are.' However, the album's sense of cinematic grandeur links its wildly eclectic tracks together, while the sparkling production wows the listener and smooths over the rough edges. It all bears more than a passing resemblance to Janelle Monáe's daring genre work-outs, but Kimbra imbues these tracks with her unique artistic vision and positive attitude.

Sheer joy at creating music permeates through the album. “Gotta find that light shining in the hard times,” she states on her scintillating spin on fame, the aptly titled 'Madhouse.' Her affection for Prince and Micheal Jackson glimmers through this superb space funk jam, but is also palpable on the sleek 'Miracle' that gets the glittery disco ball rolling. As it happens numerous times during the record, Kimbra advances from a simple melodic line to a sophisticated passage that later morphs into an explosive chorus. In the process she develops a newfound aptitude for high notes, which only adds to her impressively wide vocal range. Another of the record's many strengths lies in ingenious vocal layering. Take 'Carolina' which glistens with delirious multiple vocal lines built atop oriental soundscapes, or 'Goldmine' that takes stone-cold African beats and embellish them with Erykah Badu-echoing soulful harmonies.

In creating The Golden Echo, Kimbra was assisted by a slew of renowned collaborators who left their stamp on the end product. Producer Rich Costey lends the record its booming, deeply layered sound, enhancing the choruses with extra oomph. Thundercat provides sturdy bass lines that add a psychedelic touch, whereas the great Van Dyke Parks is responsible for lavish string arrangements. With such tremendous talent involved, it could be easy for the album to be a hodgepodge of overly obvious influences. Actually it’s anything but as it feels like Kimbra's project from the ground up. Not only does her complete dedication to the music she crafts attest to that, but also distinctly unpretentious lyrics. The opener 'Teen Heat' is as nostalgic as it is sensual. 'Love In High Places' reveals the artist's respect for her fans. “I see the love in all the faces,” she tenderly concludes the song's poignant refrain. Meanwhile, 'Waltz Me To Grave' gracefully reflects on passing, ending the album on a high note.

Reportedly cut down from 50 to 12 best tracks, the album succeeds mightily. There's pure pop gold to be found here, but also envelope-pushing alchemy that turns these songs into unforgettable aural expressions of joy. It takes ages for some artists to reach their full potential. Yet Kimbra has achieved precisely that with only her second outing. The Golden Echo never ceases to amaze, taking the listener on a fascinating journey through a variety of music styles. It's a shape-shifting marvel of a record from beginning to end.




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user ratings (113)
Chart.
3.7
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other reviews of this album
GooGuGajoob (3)
This could well be gold, but all I’m hearing is the dull aftermath of an echo....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Gyromania
August 15th 2014


15717 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

hype hype HYPE


tempest--
August 15th 2014


13510 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

AOTY HYPE

Digging: Jake Kaufman - Shovel Knight Original Soundtrack

Gyromania
August 15th 2014


15717 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

the song you posted is decent. lots of cool little flourishes and it's very polished, it just doesn't really grab me.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
August 15th 2014


7391 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

then you must be dead inside lol

Digging: Lo-Pan - Colossus

Wolfhorde
August 15th 2014


13486 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'm not sure I dig all that's going on that in that song.

tempest--
August 15th 2014


13510 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

what's not to love? it's an upbeat funky disco tune!

Wolfhorde
August 15th 2014


13486 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Idk, there's just a lot going on and I think being "too ambitious" can go really awry. (see orchestra metal)

I mean, it's definitely better than 90s music which.. yikes. Also, a friend of mine sent me a live video of her doing some kind of street performance or some shit which was really good - I'm not entirely sure about her studio material.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
August 15th 2014


7391 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I don't think this is too ambitious, and I also really dig 90s Music tbh. It's definitely too much going on for a regular pop listener I can imagine... but not for me. I really enjoyed deciphering all the intricacies of this record.

Gyromania
August 15th 2014


15717 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

it's clearly ambitious and very well put together, it just comes across as sort of contrived, imo. the chorus in particular, despite how catchy it is, doesn't really interest me much. it has all the right ingredients and the math adds up; i should love it, but i don't

it's definitely better than 90s music which is really annoying. so far the first track is my favourite

Gyromania
August 15th 2014


15717 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i would have to disagree with that, greg. that song you posted is very accessible. it's not something many people will dislike and it's got that skyward gospel/funk chorus that'll have people lining up to purchase the record

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
August 15th 2014


6114 Comments


The streaming track is cool

Digging: Disasterhate - Sacrifice To Eclipse

greg84
Staff Reviewer
August 15th 2014


7391 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I dig how this record constantly jumps from one mood into another, surprising the listener all the time. Sure you may not like all tracks on here, but it's a helluva fun ride.

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
August 15th 2014


28527 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

MY BOI GREG!

Digging: Chris Brown - X

tempest--
August 15th 2014


13510 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this is just Kimbra being Kimbra

don't head into the album expecting plain old pop music, it's something different entirely

ProjectFreak
August 15th 2014


1356 Comments


Dang. You sold me on this. This actually sounds like a more refined Janelle Monae from what I'm reading. Nice work.

Wolfhorde
August 15th 2014


13486 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

agreed with Gyro.

As of right from the 4 tracks I heard I mostly like "Nobody But You", 90s music is - as Gyro said - kinda annoying, "Miracle" is okay I guess but I'm not feeling it and "Love In High Places" is just one of those sleep inducing, kinda monotonous mellow tracks.

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
August 15th 2014


28527 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

wow and see I was locked into 90's music from the first listen

U guys should check out Carolina and Teen Heat for sure

Gyromania
August 15th 2014


15717 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i'm running into the same problem with this that i experienced with janelle's last album (i think the archandroid is a fantastic album, for the record): it has an expansive sonic palette but it bores more often than not. the best production and all the instruments in the world can't save it from sounding monotonous and calculated. i am definitely enjoying some of the tracks here though, don't get me wrong, i just find a lot of it underwhelming

Wolfhorde
August 15th 2014


13486 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah I'll still have to give a listen to the rest of it but I'm not sure whether I'm gonna dig it much more, either.

Gyromania
August 15th 2014


15717 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

goldmine rhymes 'mine' with 'mine' which is kind of lame, and is a perfect example of one of those well thought-out, polished choruses that's perhaps a little too measured for its own good



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