You may know of Kimbra as the siren singing “Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over” in (do I even have to say it?) Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.” However, the New Zealand-born Kimbra Johnson (known only as Kimbra) has recently released an LP of her own.
Well, not exactly recently. More like recently in the US. The album was released in the Kiwi countries around last September, and for some reason Kimbra has been kept a secret from America until her feature with Gotye. And even before that, her first single and Vows opener “Settle Down” has been a single since June of 2010. The single consists of catchy bubble gum pop so sugary sweet it’s infectious. With an impressive acoustic intro of Kimbra’s vocals layered over one another strung into rhythmic hand claps, the instrumental doesn’t start until the second verse, but Kimbra could probably do without it for even longer with her almost intrinsic tempo.
“Something In The Way You Are” (available on the US deluxe edition) continues the toe tapping beat, and features Kimbra’s bluesy vocals. With hushed croonings of, “something in the way you lie…” under explosive “oohs” and “ahhs,” Kimbra’s full range and tone is demonstrated. Australian second single (and probably soon-to-be US single) “Cameo Lover” has almost a 60s-meets-modern-dance-pop sound with fast paced soprano and sing-song-y verbalized instrumental. It’s light and airy but packed with so many rich tones.
“Two Way Street” stays light on its feet, singing of love and a heart’s beat over chimes, tings, and gently plucked strings. Quite the opposite, “Old Flame” demonstrates Kimbra’s quality low tones and brings a heavier feeling and warmth. The juxtaposition of these two songs shows the duality in Kimbra’s voice, all while maintaining the same catchy vibe. “Old Flame” even features a “hidden” snippet of fierce ragtime jazz.
Australian third single, “Good Intent” is much like previous songs, with a funky, dance inducing beat. However, this track almost has a feisty “told you so” attitude to it, as displayed by Kimbra’s occasional dissonant notes and sassy undertones. Continuing the sass, “Plain Gold Ring” (which is actually live on the US edition) is similar to something you might hear at a chamber concert, with its solemnity and darkness. The repetitiveness and soulfulness continues to build up until a powerful end, with full out vocals.
The instrumental of “Come Into My Head” sparks visions of walking down a street in an early 90s sitcom (Kimbra was born in 1990 after all). With edgy lyrics and youthful “la-da-das” her age is evident, but certainly not a downfall. Next tracks “Sally I Can See You” and “Posse,” both US edition of Vows songs, fit into the tone of the original album. That said, they don’t add or subtract from the album, just provide more examples of Kimbra’s range and soul. That and the latter features a redox of “Settle Down” at the end.
“Home” starts to drive the album home as one of the shortest songs on the album, but a perfect culmination of every aspect previously portrayed. Last track on the original album “The Build Up” is a soft and gentle lullaby highlighting on Kimbra’s tender tones and smooth clarity in her vocals. As an added bonus track, “Warrior” featuring current tour mate Mark Foster of Foster the People and A-Trak, is a song that is rightfully included, as it provides a different sound and an awesome collaboration, showing Kimbra’s versatility.
Overall, Vows is the perfect blend of bluesy bubble-gum pop, infectious rhythms, dance-inducing beats, soulful crooning, and explosive vocal trills. While the album might be a tad long with all of the added songs, bits and pieces might be a little much, but nothing too distracting from the overall quality. As an added note, the duality of Kimbra’s voice might be something she should harp on in future albums and her versatility in collaborations is a definite plus.