Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Kimbra - Vows LP (Warner Bros.)

Literally the interpretive dance of music, and the metaphor is implied. Which is confusing, yet a pointed confusion. Like two ships meant to pass in the night, the space that doesn't connect is exactly where sense rests, pure and perfect. Leave it alone. Don't even touch it with your mind - that would be salt to slug.



If indie labels are the new majors, one must assume major labels have now been usurped by even more almighty power structures, operating in cahoots with organizations that go as far into the Earth’s crust as you can fathom. These projectionists are so skilled at crafting reality, you might think the words you are reading are actually real and possibly that I am really fucking crazy. Still, imagine what they are manufacturing beyond a thousand Linda Perry clones on steroids: the synthetic opiate of the masses, popular music. It is for this reason that when questions of authenticity are raised by dubious journalists, albeit cast from a reactionary embrace, the answer seems obvious. Of course, they wrote this music—it is horrible. Unfortunately, with Kimbra’s Vows, released on Warner Bros, nothing is that tidy.
Although Kimbra could be read as CocoRosie with a benefactor and good parenting, we are not dealing with the kind of Svengali-manipulated pop star of the past. Vows is 100% quirk, coming from a voice so young that there can be no anxiety of influence. Kimbra was born in 1990, and while Vows’ referents can be deftly placed by any music journalist-as-anthropologist, they were offered to her on a unilateral platter of space and time, a platter no doubt real to her. Post-internet pop is here, with Kimbra’s unique cocktail being vocal jazz, neo-soul, ’90s R&B, big band, and swing revival.
Vows starts off with Kimbra spitting a skillful new wave Bobby McFerrin interpretation on “Settle Down.” But while “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was somehow never construed as sardonic, “Settle Down” is a confused statement. Kimbra dead-pans how she wants to “settle down... raise a child,” and if this is meant to be a statement of sorts, it is not an issue for this girl’s target demographic but a gross affront to her assumedly riot grrrl babysitters. What this song does is provide a case example of Kimbra’s unarguable talents at vocal styling, which she continues to flaunt throughout the album. But what money and an instant musical history will not buy you is the grace and intuition as to when to use this gift. An effective pop star will till the groundwork, so when it is time to dig, it goes all the way in. There is no self-control on Vows and no sense of self.
It is hard to contextualize music like Kimbra’s today because it is unclear for whom exactly it is made. The demarcations that used to exist and separated the underground from the mainstream are fading; serious music journalism is deep in the aforementioned pop embrace and mainstream music outlets are allowing ever more potent incremental doses of eccentricity on the airwaves. This is a good problem, especially for Kimbra who is “not aiming just to be a mainstream, middle-of-the-road pop artist,” whatever that means. All aesthetic judgements aside, Kimbra is going to be huge. How could she not be?
Elizabeth Murphy

-from Agit Reader