Kimbra should no longer be somebody you used to know.
In fact, the New Zealand indie-pop singer deserves even higher acclaim for the release of her new album “Primal Heart” than she did for her stint with Gotye in 2011. On the 12-track album, Kimbra brings back the indulgent numbers similar to her 2014 work “The Golden Echo.” While Kimbra’s most recent work is by no means perfect, she continues to impress with her energetic, bass-laden numbers that embody themes such as self-empowerment and strength.
The album opens with the moderately-paced, yet resounding number “The Good War.” A combination of metallic chimes and hearty bass notes start off the track, eventually bursting into enthusiastic harmonies and powerful synths as the chorus draws near. With its amped-up energy and surging instrumentals, the anthem sets the musical and lyrical tones of liberation and relief for the songs to follow. Lyrics like “You and I are going to die free, ’cause we’re fighting in the good war,” also add to the album’s overall tone of freedom and autonomy.
Some of the highlights on the album include the songs “Top of the World” and “Everybody Knows,” both of which Kimbra released as singles earlier in the year. “Top of the World” introduces a fast-paced, racing almost raplike performing style that strays from Kimbra’s typical gentle singing. The steady drumbeat and repeated chanting in the background add to the ambition and confidence exemplified in lyrics like “See me on tele/ See me on billboards and banners” and “I think I’m winning/ Feel like I might/ … Feel like a god.”
“Everybody Knows” mimics the narrative of betrayal and maturity Kimbra recounts. Over a soft, repeating beat, Kimbra quietly sings “You fooled me once … No, I ain’t going to try to forget what I’ve gone through,” demonstrating both innocence and increasing strength. The lyrics depict senses of agency and righteousness that provide an emotional background and allow the following explosion of deep, buzzing synth beats and velvety vocals to evoke a cathartic release.
By the second half of the album, however, the music begins to lose its traction with unimpressionable numbers such as “Lightyears” and “Black Sky.” These songs slow down the exciting musical structure of their predecessors with their generic and pop-influenced instrumentals.
However, it’s not at a complete loss – differing drastically from the rest of the songs on the album, “Version of Me” showcases a side of Kimbra that only a small number of songs from previous albums have explored. Within the decadence of soft piano chords and echoing strings, Kimbra’s careful yet powerful voice carries the aching number, rife with heart-wrenching lyrics of patience and self-improvement.
In “Version of Me,” Kimbra sings “But there’s a better version of me/ Stay for the person I’ll be.” The song allows Kimbra to present her raw vocal and lyrical range and talent without the reverberating instrumentals and vocal belts present in the rest of the album.
“Version of Me” would have made for a satisfactory and emotionally moving ending. But the album goes on, with the somber, aching track “Real Life.” Using minimal instrumental accompaniment, Kimbra closes out “Primal Heart” with robotlike vocals and stripped-down harmonies.
Despite the artist’s relatively experimental approach to her music, Kimbra still implements main themes of heartbreak and empowerment into the bare instrumental framework. She finishes “Primal Heart” with the repetition of encouraging words “Just keep your head up in the real life,” leaving her audiences with some light in a rather dark melody.
Despite the few lackluster numbers, “Primal Heart” is an album that not only showcases the range of Kimbra’s talents, but also highlights the very primal desires to be free and successful – personally or romantically. The album has distinguished itself as Kimbra’s best work to date and definitely lived up to four years’ worth of anticipation.