Published Aug 15, 2014Despite being prominently featured on one of the most omnipresent and inescapable singles of this decade so far in Gotye's "Somebody I Used To Know," the profile of New Zealand singer/songwriter Kimbra is comparatively low. That's a shame, because her eclectic and experimental approach to music blending pop, R&B and electronica elements is an intellectually rewarding experience. Her 2012 debut, Vows, highlighted Kimbra's penchant for audacious genre dipping. On her sophomore effort, The Golden Echo, Kimbra hasn't reined in her sonic exploration (where else would you find ex-Silverchair singer Daniel Johns and bassist Thundercat as primary contributors on the same album?), yet there's a more cohesive feel to the project.
The herky-jerky debut single "90s Music" name checks "MJ and Mariah/Nirvana and Aaliyah," to give you a sense of the musical touchstones of her youth, but the underlying sound of the album seems to come from an influential artist who actually emerged in the '70s: Prince. Listening to The Golden Echo, it's hard to discount the influence of the Minneapolis icon on the album. Funnily enough, it's his maligned Diamonds and Pearls '90s era that seems to have resonated with Kimbra for this project, but she is far more than a wide-eyed devotee recasting the sound in her own vision; she uses her impressively elastic voice to ride over the impressive musical arrangements and production, adding muscle to tracks like "Love In High Places" by wisely recruiting bassist Thundercat to pluck throbbing low-end frequencies.
While the tracks she reportedly completed with Thundercat's affiliate Flying Lotus and Dirty Projectors frontman Dave Longstreth are not included in the album, songs like the funk strut of "Everlovin' Ya" featuring Bilal and the infectious "Miracle" play like summer soundtracks, and their unapologetic immediacy can and should be enjoyed right now. (Warner)