“Primal Heart” shows Kimbra in all her forms

Alex Toth

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Whenever an artist goes an unusually long time without releasing an album, it means one of three things. Either they’re losing their touch and struggling to come up with new ideas, they’ve gone on hiatus, or they’re taking the time necessary to create something truly special. Luckily for Kimbra, “Primal Heart” represents the latter option.

Landing somewhere between the artsy jazz-pop of “Vows” and the individualistic diversity of “The Golden Echo,” Kimbra’s latest represents her best effort yet. While both her previous records were successes in their own right, neither of them quite captured the perfect sweet spot between the avant garde and the accessible. That’s where “Primal Heart” comes in.

It’s clear from just the first three songs on the album that Kimbra hasn’t given up her genre-hopping (and often times genre-busting) ways just yet. “The Good War” leads off with a fun pop anthem, while “Top of the World” utilizes the production skills of Skrillex to become a dark, bombastic beast of a track, and “Everybody Knows” strips everything back in the first of a few ballads on the album.

The way Kimbra is able to include the most vulnerable and most explosive songs in her discography back to back and make it work is a testament to her adaptability not only as a vocalist, but as a writer as well. And even though it’s clear that “Primal Heart” takes influence from the versatility that Kimbra showcased in previous records, not a single track here would feel like it belonged on either “Vows” or “The Golden Echo.”

Instead, this Kimbra feels like she could finally break through the wall that’s been keeping her music off the radio since her feature on Gotye’s “Somebody That You Used to Know” in 2011. With the help of the aforementioned Skrillex and other well-known songwriters such as Natasha Bedingfield, the mainstream influence on “Primal Heart” is more fine-tuned than it’s ever been on a Kimbra album. Each track feels specially crafted to keep Kimbra’s individuality intact, while making things palatable enough to appeal to the ears of as many listeners as possible. If radio is smart, one of these twelve tracks will be inescapable within the next few months.

And based on the lyrics, it seems like Kimbra feels the same way. With lines like “See me on tele / See me on billboards and banners / See me with white picket fences / Now watch me build up my palace,” it’s clear that the New Zealand songstress is fully primed and ready to join artists such as Beyonce, Rihanna, and her compatriot Lorde at the top of the pop music food chain. And to be honest, it’s hard to think of someone more deserving.

Sails: 4/5

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