Here’s an interesting female solo artist, whom we believe should perhaps come with a few instructions. We suggest you kick back and design yourself an environment that suits the music – perhaps late at night, glass of red wine in hand, light up a smoke and let the tunes breathe through you. Actually any situation would suit music this timeless and sophisticated, plus we couldn’t sincerely endorse any smoking.
Originally from New Zealand, Kimbra Johnson now operates out of Melbourne, Australia. She’s slightly more familiar to our antipodean cousins having first released a couple of singles, including Simply On My Lips, as far back as 2007, but her planned debut album, Vows, is yet to meet it’s release date, which seems to have had a succession of delays, but thankfully it looks like we can now finally expect it in late August.
Her music flies in the face of most new female artists out there, refusing to join in with the usual pop or guitar-based themes that are most prevalent in today’s charts. Instead she’s found inspiration in the genre of jazz, particularly when you hear the track Good Intent, which feels like the missing song from Broadway’s Chicago. It tells a story and paints pictures with words, as Kimbra leads at the front of a whispering chorus. Of all her songs to date it is this one that most reflects a 1930′s influence and it’s stage-like production perhaps hides some genuine pop intent.
Like Amy Winehouse before her, she wears her soulful influences like a heavy wardrobe of period clothing, but the pop appears more when you hear Cameo Lover, as verses appear over metronomic Casio beats, before she breaks and re-introduces the drama for the chorus. It’s ultimately too sugary for jazz comparisons, more that she’s simply channelling a period in time through a pop filter, in the same way CockAndBullKid mainlines Motown.
Settle Down is the single that’s gathered most attention, especially having been remixed by Penguin Prison upon it’s release last year. It once again finds her aiming for something more Amaranthine, with an age-less beauty that dramatically defies the modern era. Her vocals stand at their tallest on this song, showing off her restrained yet confident ability that’s head and shoulders above a lot of others out there, although it is unmistakably reminiscent of the artist Hannah Yadi. In fact, both of these new female songwriters try to melt a collection of varied influences into something enduring, but where Kimbra perhaps loses some edge is by failing to turn the mixture into something more contemporary. However, if you’re looking for something different, that flies in the face of the blog-adored hipster pop, burnt-out shoegaze, or psychedelic indie, then there’s plenty of mature craft to enjoy here. (MB)
KIMBRA – SETTLE DOWN (PENGUIN PRISON REMIX)
KIMBRA – CAMEO LOVER
KIMBRA – GOOD INTENT