Release Date: May 22, 2012
Record label: Warner Bros.
Genre(s): Pop, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
On her debut, Kimbra – a.k.a. Gotye's counterpart in "Somebody That I Used to Know" – sounds like New Zealand's answer to Björk. Vows gives R&B a wacky art-rock spin, with a cappella vocal chorales mutating into sumptuous funk pop. Listen to 'Vows':. Related • RS Live: Kimbra.
It’s no wonder Gotye tapped Kimbra as the object of his obsessive longing on the chart-topping single ”Somebody That I Used to Know. ” After all, who wouldn’t get hung up on the New Zealand sprite’s bewitching wail and gift for teleporting spryly across the sonic pop spectrum? Gotye’s inescapable hit is actually a misleading entry point into Kimbra’s universe; her sparkling debut wants little to do with his bleeding-heart Sting-isms. She’s more interested in multiculti chaos, darting between musical branches and gleefully snatching the juiciest fruits: funked-out horns, orchestral indie shimmer, radio bounce, sexy cabaret slink.
New Zealand songwriter Kimbra Johnson was the sinuous star turn on Gotye's Somebody That I Used to Know, and the exposure sent this solo debut into the top 20 in various regions. Not in the UK, though – presumably, its propensity for skipping from jazz to Latin to digi-funk made it too difficult to classify. It opens with a cosmic funk number that scores highly on the cackling-whimsy scale ("Won't you raise a child with me? We'll call her Nebraska Jones," she giggles, nerve-shreddingly), but by the second song, Something in the Way You Are, she's veered off into luscious slow jam territory, which gives way to girl-group buoyancy on Cameo Lover.
It’s a shame that Kimbra Lee Johnson (just “Kimbra” professionally) is largely relegated stateside as “that girl in the Gotye song.” If there remains any justice in today’s music industry, the New Zealand singer’s debut album, Vows, will correct that disservice, proving Kimbra is a talent ripe enough not to need the crutch of a one-off pop duet. Of course, the irony here is that without that collaboration, there likely wouldn’t be quite the demand for Vows to finally see a U.S. release, close to a year after it appeared on Oceania record store shelves.
Kimbra Johnson is young (22), kinda-sorta sexy (not hating the Mary Tyler Moore hairdo) and blessed with both a genre-hopping musical sensibility and a hair-raising voice that swoons and soars straight to your deepest pleasure zones. If you’re a non-New Zealander, it’s likely your first brush with Kimbra euphoria came from the singer’s brief-yet-memorable cameo on Gotye’s lush break-up jam “Somebody That I Used To Know,” quite possibly the year’s most inescapable pop sensation. But Kimbra’s not exactly a newbie: Her solo debut album, 2011’s Vows, was a goldmine in both Australia and her home country—now the rest of us get a chance to catch up with this re-issued (and slightly re-adjusted) American version.
Coming off the surprise worldwide success of her duet with Belgian-Australian musician Gotye, New Zealand’s Kimbra seems to be in a good position to break out in North America. Of course, the same could have been said for Gotye, whose Making Mirrors is scattershot and unexciting, a dud that seems to leave him poised for one-hit-wonder status. Kimbra’s Vows thankfully proves much more auspicious, a confident debut that compounds on her brief appearance on “Somebody That I Used to Know.” Like Making Mirrors, Vows opens with a killer lead single: “Settle Down” is slowly constructed from a dissonant burble of voices, with a good 70 seconds of a cappella acrobatics before its strange, minimal beat kicks in.
Echoing the experimental nature of recent collaborator Gotye, whose number one single "Somebody That I Used to Know" she stole the show on, New Zealand songstress Kimbra's debut album, Vows, is a schizophrenic affair that is almost impossible to pigeonhole. Effortlessly flitting from bubblegum pop starlet on the playful old-skool beats and '60s doo wop vocals of "Cameo Lover" to avant-garde banshee on the melancholic music box-inspired closer, "The Build Up," Kimbra's chameleon-like tendencies ensure that predictability is certainly never an issue on any one of its 12 genre-hopping tracks. Occasionally, this "cover all bases" approach lacks focus, but for the most part, Kimbra's invention is a marvel to behold, as her enchanting and swooping jazz-pop tones glide across a veritable feast of sounds, from the hypnotic double basslines and '30s show tune harmonies of "Good Intent"; to the plinky piano hooks and rhythmic R&B grooves of opener "Settle Down"; while a beautifully gothic take on "Plain Gold Ring" is one of the rare instances of a Nina Simone cover matching the original.
Esthero broke into the Canadian music scene back in the late ‘90s when things were changing from the grit of grunge music into the short-lived fad of electronica music. Electronica was ultimately replaced with synthesized pop music, still going strong approximately 10 years later. Esthero’s debut release Breath from Another was an expertly crafted meld of rock and hip hop, complete with strong vocals and scratching DJ loops.
Thanks to her duet with Gotye becoming an inescapable sensation on the internet, radio, and beyond, Kimbra is an artist everyone is about to know. Already a hit Down Under, her debut album, Vows, has been reworked to feature new tracks for its official American and European release. Kimbra’s take on pop music is one that demands attention, so much that if Vow were to be summarized in one word, it would be “overwhelming.” Where is the New Zealand singer going on Vows? Musically, everywhere.
Kimbra is the Kiwi singer who provided the female verse on Gotye's chart-topping Somebody That I Used to Know. That track was stealthily infectious, creating something unshakable from sparse musical elements, but not much here creeps up on you so engagingly. Instead, she overstates her proper pop star credentials with an underwhelming run through the requisite tricks; a jazzy, smoky-voiced turn on Good Intent, sassy self-affirmation on Posse, faint nods to Florence-style floridity elsewhere.
For most in the United States, the first introduction to Kimbra, New Zealand’s soulful songstress, were her vocals on the breakout summer hit “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye, but Kimbra is hardly the new kid on the block. Her debut solo album, 2011’s Vows, broke the top five on both Australian and New Zealand album charts, and has now been re-released with a few alterations for American audiences. On Vows, the 22-year-old leaves her role as second fiddle and takes center stage, showcasing her signature jazz-soul-pop style.
More than just the voice of the woman Gotye used to know, New Zealand chanteuse Kimbra has such powerful pipes it's hard to believe that someone with a voice so worldly and womanly is just 22. Vows, released Down Under more than a year ago but only just landed stateside this spring, reveals a young artist in search of an identity. "Old Flame" would fit well on the soundtrack to L.A.