Kimbra – ‘Primal Heart’ (Album Review)
Kimbra is a pop artist – emphasis on artist – and Primal Heart is one of the best albums you will hear in 2018.
“Kimbra Version 3 is a priceless upgrade”
Those are strong words – but their strength reflects the uninhibited intent that willed Primal Heart into existence. Kimbra has tackled many experimental pop formats, but this is her most vulnerable, exposed, and outright awesome album to date. There’s a heavy focus on spacious, often minimalist production here, soundscapes supported by deep bass beats and laced with expensive-sounding synth chords – and a very up-front vocal delivering lyrics sent from the darkest recesses of heart and gut.
Third track Everybody Knows has already proven outstanding as an advance single, addressing toxic and violent relationships and providing literary touchstones during a recent Kimbra Tumblr post about Harvey Weinstein. But overall, Natasha Bedingfield co-write Black Sky seems to present itself as the heart of Primal Heart as Kimbra sings “I’m gonna show you a side you never knew…you’ll only really know me when I fall apart”.
In that light, the rest of the tracks on Primal Heart meet the ears with even more impact. From breakup songs with a classic Kimbra vibe (Recovery) to personal favourite and Skrillex collab Top Of The World, which ends with the defiant yet embattled line “they built me up to be beaten”; the more optimistic slab of immense synth-pop Like They Do On The TV; and the densely mixed and equally driven Human…frankly, if you fail to respond to Primal Heart in a viscerally emotional way, you might want to talk to your doctor. It’s a sure sign that you’re either dead, or have no soul.
Even Primal Heart’s B-sides beat with the kind of vitality you so rarely see in modern pop – and they do that because they’re artistic creations, not just unit-shifting products. The Good War sets the whole thing off with finger clicks, playful 8-bit synths, and a wordless vocal melody before Kimbra’s voice steps up and nails the first of those key none-more-direct moments. Electro-disco excursion Lightyears borders on Jamiroquai territory; Past Love draws on a stirring evening soul vibe; Right Direction contemplates the unknowable future; and brief closing track Real Life sees Kimbra utilize Imogen Heap’s influence, experimenting with digitized harmonies and loops as Primal Heart fades away.
All that leaves Version Of Me, still another standout track made up of lonesome piano, swelling strings, and Kimbra turning regretful, bargaining with an unknown intimate hurt by a fiery temper. It’s a key track, balancing out the intensity found elsewhere and inviting Kimbra’s listeners to see the artistic onion peeled back a few layers more than usual.
It also highlights the fact that musically, Kimbra Version 3 is a priceless upgrade. The world needs more people willing to stretch themselves well beyond their comfort zones – and fortunately, in Kimbra anyone with such aspirations has an exceptional role model.
LTK RATING: 100% (Essential Listening!)
Pre-order Primal Heart (out April 20) on iTunes.
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