Review Summary: Soul baring Kimbra
Kimbra went through some rough times after all eyes turned on her due to the massive success of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know”. She wasn’t ready to become a pop star and her music didn’t fit the trends either. As she gradually embraced a wider spectrum of styles with The Golden Echo
(2014), blending everything into an eclectic sonic mass, new doors were opened. No matter the outcome, for Kimbra the most important factor was to be at the helm. The main way to do that was to break away from her major label record deal before being assigned undesired producers to help boost the commercial appeal of her output. It is true 2018’s Primal Heart
wasn’t very successful on the charts, yet it portrayed a more mature side of hers and represented a noteworthy step in discovering new strengths. Thankfully, things worked out in her favor and here is A Reckoning
, the fourth studio album and first as an independent artist.
On this latest effort, Kimbra combined on one hand hip hop and occasional trap beats with glitchy, atmospheric sound scapes that range from ambient type to poignant ones. She paid attention to current electronic music trends and fused them with previously self developed sonic mixes. “Gun” and its jerky pace builds up tension through its wavy synths and abrupt kicks. You could say there is an industrial touch to the song, but what matters most is how engaging it turns out, especially during the last minute. Moreover, “replay!” boasts the most aggressive instrumental on the record, where the minimalist groove is pushed up front, while her voice constantly switches from beautifully melodic to sampled-like shouts. It might be a tad messy upon a first listen, however, it grows on you. Still, I can’t help but think it could have been mixed to hit harder. Meanwhile, on the bouncy hip hop ditty “la type”, complete with a nice, laid back vibe, Kimbra offers a cute performance alongside guests Tommy Raps and Pink Siifu.
On the other hand, dynamics change slightly during the middle stretch, as there is a certain Radiohead influence that pops up here and there. The cyclic rhythms and percussive elements that resemble the British act’s antics do grant extra spice to some of these songs. “the way we were” & “new habit” combine syncopated grooves with various sequenced bits that fill the spaces in between. The choruses tend to go in a powerful, straightforward fashion, pleasantly tying the more experimental segments of the track together. Additionally, “save me” uses quiet, low-pitched piano chords to create an intimate atmosphere, gorgeously complementing Kimbra’s sweet croon. A highlight on the LP, the overall warmth of the tune is enhanced by marimba bridges, gospel-type background vocals and breezy chimes. She took the liberty to branch out in whatever direction she felt needed and it actually gave the album an odd sense of cohesion.
Although R’n’B takes a backseat on A Reckoning
, her vocals remain rooted in the respective genre. “personal space” might be the closest she comes to it, whose discreet hooks became a guilty pleasure for me after a couple of listens. Furthermore, her penchant for chamber pop ballads fuels the final stretch of the LP, leaving the shy yet lush “foolish thinking”, as well as the late night lounge cut “i don’t want to fight” to end it on a high note. I’m happy she included these since her voice suits them perfectly and offer a more delicate side too. In the end, despite not being Kimbra’s most chiseled affair as a whole, there is considerable raw emotion all over A Reckoning
whether it is anger, sadness, tension or happiness. There’s enough drive from that to keep things in motion over the 40 minutes length. You could say she should have aimed higher at times, but the results are tight to say the least. Nevertheless, most important is for her to feel comfortable now and free to do what she desires. The record manages to provide a strong picture of where she is now as an artist and there’s always room for growth.