Primal Heart – Kimbra (2018)

New Zealand singer/songwriter Kimbra released her third solo album with “Primal Heart” as she continues to fight to make a mark on the music industry internationally which her previous work as surely deserved.

Kimbra came to prominence after featuring on the gargantuan hit with Gotye with on “Somebody I Used To Know” from his album Making Mirrors (2011).

I like Kimbra. I like her music, I like her style, I think she is beautiful and has a great voice. She is naturally compared to compatriot Lorde but that is simply because she is a female from New Zealand and our capacity for comparisons are usually just lazy and ill thought.

This project is a real mixed bag with some outstanding moments but generally it misses the mark because there is a lack of cohesiveness to it’s flow from the vocals to the production.

Too many styles and genres are covered and whilst some would see this as diversity it doesn’t work for me especially when you get some great tracks which are then followed by songs that leave me scratching my head.

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The opening track “Good War” starts things off well with with some booming programmed drums giving the track a real anthemic feel and the chorus is so catchy.

On the verses the production of the song really allows you to hear the tone in Kimbra’s voice and it sounds divine. I really like this track and it’s one of the best songs on here.

The first misstep is on the second track with “Top Of The World”. Clearly Kimbra has been listening to a lot of Kanye West because that is what it sounds like to me. The production is the wrong side of retro and Kimbra decides to basically rap over the tribel like drums.

I really find this song difficult to listen to and whilst I like the fact she has shown her diverse set of influences it really lacks much redeeming features.

“Everybody Knows” tries to tell me that the previous track was just a bad dream and makes everything better. This song was included in my Top Songs Of 2017 and I placed it at number 7. Sometimes you can look back on top 10 lists and regret the choices but this certainly isn’t the case with “Everybody Knows”.

Kimbra uses her vocal range to keep things interesting and the production features some delicious synths. Instrumentally this song would have been enjoyable on it’s own but the lyrics, melody and vocal make this song simply mesmerizing.

“Like They Do On TV” is a solid track and again the production is on the whole interesting with it’s scattering synth beats. Kimbra vocally sounds more strained on this track and there are points where you may have not been able to identify it was actually her if you were not listening to her album.

The themes on this song talk about moving forward on your own without the more experience people in life there to guide you. Sometimes a leap of faith in life is required to reach your goals. It’s a overdone theme in pop music but this song is executed well.

I love the use of the sax in the later stages of the track and would have liked to hear it uses more in terms of a bigger solo to see the song out.

“Recovery” is a bit of a cheeky ode to 90’s R&B/Pop tracks. The instrumental is a little dull but the song is catchy and bright with a more playful vocal tone from Kimbra as opposed to the more serious style on tracks such as “Everybody Knows”.

The 6th track “Human” is the type of song Kimbra just slays. The hip hop style drum programming with a big catchy chorus is where I think she should focus on more because this is where she excels. I really enjoyed this track with it’s little retro moments and great vocal display.

“Lightyears” takes things in a different direction and sounds different to the rest album but it would seem this was recorded a couple of years before recording for this album begun. There isn’t much to the song and its pleasant enough but lacks the depth that many of the other songs include.

“Black Sky” is one of those songs that sound like an amalgamation of other tracks from the album and it has been churned up to sounds just a little different. But its not a bad one and there is a writing credit from English Singer/Songwriter Natasha Beddingfield.

On first listen I found “Black Sky” dull but a few more takes and it started to ingrain itself into my mind and I found it a solid if unspectacular track.

A Motown sounding production comes our with “Past Love”. This sounds similar melodically as some of Kimbra’s previous album work and is a nice inclusion. Lyrically it is pretty standard but the inclusion of some nice Bass work and some pretty strings make it a compelling if unoriginal idea.

The 10th track “Right Direction” is for me hands down the best song on this entire album.

I love this song and it is surely going to make my top 10 list of 2018. It’s got everything I love about a good pop song. It’s downbeat, mellow, a tad moody in it’s tone but the production, instrumentation and the way Kimbra rides over the gorgeous melody just strike a cord.

This song really caught me when I first heard it and on repeated listens it makes me stop and listen intently.

Just as I think the song cannot get any better there is a stunning string section that plays the track out giving it this epic grandness you just don’t see coming. Wonderful.

“Version Of Me” is a song that is regarded as one of the stronger album cuts and whilst lyrically I think there is much more deeper message and well thought out idea I just do not get excited about the track as much as I probably should.

It’s a piano ballad that and a simple one at that. Lyrically it’s strong because the personal nature of how Kimbra is fighting to be something more organic and real rather than a caricature is delivered passionately.

Our final track is “Real Life”. This song is written and produced entirely by Kimbra. Its just over 2 minutes long as she is playing with what sounds like some type of auto tune vocoder like instrument. It’s indulgent and doesn’t make for much of a song.

 

And there we have the album “Primal Heart”. An engaging if not always brilliant album but there are two particular high points with “Everybody Knows” and “The Right Direction” that would be better than just about every track in some other artists entire discography.

It’s well worth a listen and Kimbra continues to fascinate me with her style and voice.

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