Album Review: Kimbra- ‘The Golden Echo’

On her 2nd LP the Melbourne based songwriter shows off a fantastic collection of indie pop songs which consistently excite through their joy and variety.

The Golden Echo is a long album. It clocks in at over an hour and could have been longer, being cut down to 12 tracks from over 50 that were written for it. Cutting down a collection of 50 plus songs to just 12 sounds like a difficult process, and you have to imagine it was, but clearly Kimbra got the process right because the songs that form the album make for a consistently interesting and rewarding listening experience. By drawing on a wide range of influences, Kimbra Johnson has produced a record containing elements of pop, soul, R&B and jazz, which is every bit as good as her 2011 debut album Vows.

Soul tinged ‘Carolina’ is the stand out track which summarises what The Golden Echo is all about. Summery and upbeat, with its multitude of vocal harmonies showing off Kimbra’s fantastic range, it’s a wonderful piece of dreamy escapism. This is followed immediately by the R&B influenced chorus of ‘Goldmine’ which aptly shows how smoothly Kimbra manages to transition between styles and simultaneously maintain a coherent flow to prevent a jarring effect on the listener. Both of these songs are joyful and triumphant, with the chorus ‘I’ve got a Goldmine it’s all mine, nobody can touch this gold of mine’ demonstrating the carefree attitude which informs the album.

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Other highlights include the synthpop infused opener ‘Teen Heat’ and the upbeat pop hook found on ‘Miracle’. Johnson is so unashamedly self assured here that she manages to pull off a chorus like ‘send me your love again, ’cause you’re my miracle’ without seeming corny. Similarly the track ‘Nobody But You’ contains fairly self explanatory, and hardly original, themes about her devotion to one man but actually ends up being one of the best songs on the album because it’s just so damn catchy. If ‘Miracle’ and ‘Nobody But You’ are shining beacons of simplistic charm, then ’90’s music’ shows Kimbra at her most experimental. The song is a tumultuous mixture of sounds which happily end up being more hit than miss, something which encapsulates The Golden Echo quite nicely.

As might be expected when attempting to juggle so many ideas, there are a couple of places where The Golden Echo runs into difficulties. ‘Everlovin Ya’ is forgettable, mostly due it being the  song with the worst vocals on the album, as both Kimbra and Bilal (who joins her on this track only) are off putting and overblown here. ‘Waltz Me to the Grave’ is the other blip, plodding along for over seven minutes without really going anywhere and resulting in the album going out with a bit of a whimper. It’s a shame then that the album ends on a low, but right to the end Kimbra keeps mixing things up, which has to be applauded.

This is the key strength of The Golden Echo. A whole range of styles are used, and they’re almost always used effectively, to produce a pop album containing something for everyone, whether it’s the soaring vocal harmonies of ‘Carolina’, the eclectic ’90’s music’ or toe-tapping ‘Miracle’. Whilst not all the songs fully realise their potential you can’t fail to be won over by the infectious blend of  jubilation and confidence that runs through all of them, and the best part of all is that Kimbra  manages to keep this theme consistent whilst traversing a varied landscape of genres and influences.

Jack Langslow  



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