Review: Kimbra - Vows

A formidable artist in her own right.
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kimbra - vowsProbably best known to North American audiences for her part in Goyte’s megahit “Somebody That I Used To Know,” New Zealand’s Kimbra proves she’s a formidable artist in her own right with Vows.

Her debut record was released in August of 2011 in her native country and peaked in the top five in New Zealand and Australia. Now, Vows has made its North American release with a special version of the Australian release to help earn her some new fans.

Kimbra’s effortless, windswept amalgam of jazz, pop, dance, neo-soul, and world music elements is intoxicating and refreshing. Her work on Vows invites comparisons to the likes of Björk and Amy Winehouse, but she fortifies her presence as an individual thanks to a rascally, inspiring vocal range and a sure nose for the groove.

The album’s lead single, “Settle Down,” brings Kimbra into earshot with an a capella intro that calls in handclaps to her song of playful love. The tune has a light African feel and finds her showcasing a wide vocal range that her Hillcrest High jazz choir teacher would be proud of.

The energy continues through other singles like “Cameo Lover” and “Good Intent.” The latter calls to mind some of Winehouse’s more upbeat tracks, making great use of a bass-heavy groove and a substantial plateful of jazzy funk.

The George Stone-penned “Plain Gold Ring” is an album highlight, with more delightful vocal tapestries and Kimbra’s range coming into play. When the melody kicks in after a subtle intro, the groove is off the page. Kimbra’s vocal blends are superb, too, creating drama with every passing bar.

Another standout track is “Posse,” a new song for the North American edition. The track, which talks about resisting a certain social scene and rejecting the front seat, carries a mean rhythm built on resolute drums and a stop-start bass line. Kimbra’s upper registry gets a workout and her handling of the track’s idiosyncratic pulse makes this a sure winner.

“Warrior,” which is technically the fourth single from Vows, also makes an appearance on deluxe editions of the record in New Zealand and Australia. The song is an effervescent hunk of dance pop, with clear Kylie Minogue influences waving through the whitecaps of synth. Kimbra handles the 80s delightfully and her smiling presence is infectious.

With Vows now appearing in North America, the time for Kimbra is indeed upon us. It may be a challenge for someone so diverse to break the market, but the quality of these songs indicates that she’ll have every occasion to be branded as someone else besides “that girl from the Goyte song.”