A Reckoning by Kimbra album review by Sam Franzini for Northern Transmissions


A Reckoning


For better or for worse, singer-songwriter Kimbra’s fourth album A Reckoning is bombastic, a little all over the place, and jittery — the music exploding as if it couldn’t wait to be released. Her style varies wildly, from the softly spoken “save me” and “foolish thinking” to the energetic “replay!” and “gun”, to the point where cohesion is thrown out the window. The 10 different samples of songs don’t really feel like an interconnected album, but interesting works are thrown into the mix.

Although the production sometimes makes exciting leaps, the writing feels firmly stuck in 2015: “la type” describes a doe-eyed version of the city, where she sings, “Guess I’m not that into fame and Hollywood too… When you pull up in your damndest, damn, the guest list’s full up.” It’s almost as if artificial intelligence was tasked to describe Los Angeles solely through romantic comedies. On the chorus, she even sings, “If you’re young, willing, and able / Then all your dreams will come true,” which is debatable. And though she possesses the requisite swagger and vocal performance on “GLT (girl like that)”, the lyrics are unfortunately Hillary 2016-girlboss-coded: “Maybe I want to be the president or / Fly me to the moon and be a new language inventor / You don’t want me to do all the things that you do / Looking in the mirror for someone to validate you.” On “new habit”, too, the writing isn’t even dated, just trite: “’Cause you’re my new habit / You know, you know, you know I gotta have it / I ain’t mad at it.”

When she slows down, takes her time, some of the most heartfelt and powerful songs come forth. The opener, “save me,” deals with her feelings of inadequacy and how she uses a partner to lift her up. Across gorgeous, ethereal background vocals, she sings, “So go on and save me / I’m sinking into my feelings / And I’m scared they’re gonna drown my confidence.” On “foolish thinking,” too, she processes her inability to control a previous partner. “Who am I to tell you what to do with your life?” she asks, “You’re gonna do what you want anyway.” The closer, “i don’t want to fight”, doesn’t pose any new ideas, but the imagery of a once-great relationship turning sour cements the song: “Is this what love is? / Waging a war / With the one who holds me.”

You could listen to this album on shuffle, or the way it was designed, it really doesn’t matter — the one throughline is Kimbra’s performance. She always sells the song, whether it’s the yelling to get out of one’s head on “replay!” or the barely-there vocals of the closer. And on songs where the arrangements are eclectic, like on “la type”, “the way we were”, or “GLT”, she manages to make pop music fresh. Kimbra’s big ideas don’t always work, but it’s far better to swing big and miss than stay complacent.

Purchase A Reckoning by Kimbra HERE


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