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Album Review by Tom Beninate
Kimbra - Vows
Summary

Produced by F Tétaz, K Johnson, M-Phazes, Ryan Ritchie, Jimi Maroudas, Michael Tayler,
and Hotae Jang.

Kimbra’s well-crafted debut album contains twelve songs written by herself, some of which have co-author credits. Additionally, “Plain Gold Ring” was written by George Stone. This record falls into the Indie Pop genre and has a slight jazz influence.

Most of the tunes on Vows stand up on their own merits. Each song seems to have been written from scratch rather than the typical “use one song for the basis of an entire album” trend. The vocal arrangements are first-class and the overall arrangements are very good. As a pop vocalist, Kimbra can compete with the best. She sings convincingly throughout her wide range and effectively conveys the emotion of her well-written, mostly positive lyrics. Imagine that!

Overall, this is an easy listening, feel good record. Though there are not a lot of hooks, the music is fresh, organic and interesting. It will fit nicely into most music-lover’s collections.


Songs

01 “Settle Down” This unique and creative opener sets the tone for the rest of the record. The vocal arrangements are precise and complimentary. The typical verse/chorus approach to songwriting has been substituted for snippets that are woven together into a fine piece of art.

02 “Something in the Way You Are” This easy-to-listen-to tune is full of rich vocal harmonies. Kimbra’s lead vocal is just right and her vocal improvisations weave in and
out of the mix perfectly.

03 “Cameo Lover” This very good upbeat pop song is one of the two best songs on this CD. The arrangement is very good as it does what it is supposed to do – support and compliment the lead vocal. The bass part is clever and is an integral part of the song.

04” Two Way Street” Here we have a nice track that is not as memorable as the rest. It seems to play a support role on this album. Every song cannot be a hit.

05 “Old Flame” In typical Kimbra fashion, “Old Flame” musically and dynamically starts small and ends big. This is the second of two best songs on Vows. For some reason “Old Flame” was never released as a single.  The emotion that Kimbra conveys is unmistakable. Interestingly, there is a 30 second snippet appended onto the end of this song.

06 “Good Intent” For some reason this was released as the album’s third single. I would have selected “Old Flame” instead. Although the song is weak, its beat seems to be the perfect follow up to “Old Flame”. There is a nice atypical guitar solo at the end of this song.

07 “Plain Gold Ring” George Stone wrote this song. Again, Kimbra starts off by accompanying her lead vocal with a rhythmic vocal arrangement. Eventually a guitar and bass beef up the background voices. This song sounds a bit traditional. The big treat is towards the end when Kimbra goes all out with a vocal improvisation. It’s not quite Clare Torry nailing the vocal on Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky” (on Dark Side of the Moon), but then again this is a debut album. Let’s see what we get on the next one.

08 “Come into My Head” There’s a lot of rhythm happening here. “Come into My Head” sounds a bit retro and familiar. It is a good song with another good arrangement.

09 “Sally I Can See You” A typical Kimbra songwriting tool is to vary the verse, chorus and bridge each time they are repeated. “Sally I Can See You” is not a great song nor is filler. Think of it as a tune that keeps the momentum flowing.

10 “Posse” A big kick, snare and bass start off and are needed because the rest of the song needs the extra lift. Like all the songs on this record, Kimbra’s vocal performance is 100%. Again the arrangements are very good but there is only so much that can be done with this one. At the end, the song segues into the second of two mildly jazz-influenced pieces.

11 “Home” This song seems to have one less dimension than the rest of songs on Vows. I suppose you can get used to the catchy chorus but overall the piece is not up to snuff.

12 “The Build Up” This interesting piece does not build up like most of the other tunes. But then it doesn’t need to. The contrast in style is apparent and welcome. “The Build Up” is a good song that stands up on its own.

13 “Warrior” Mark Foster is the first songwriter listed for this song. This dance-style track is a good choice to end the album. The chorus repeats often but it seems to work here.


Components

Songwriting Kimbra did a fine job on this one. Her unique style is refreshing. In contrast, most CDs that get released are not listenable from beginning to end. Vows is an exception.

Arranging It’s not clear who arranged what parts on this album. It is clear that the arrangements are very good. These arrangements are generally supportive and interesting. The vocal arrangements are outstanding for pop music.

Album Presentation Alex Tenta is responsible for Vows’ design and layout. Its black text on white paper, sans serif fonts, and clean organization reminds me of Apple (Computer’s) work, and perfectly fits this record.

Artwork The 16-page brochure contains the lyrics to all songs including the bonus track. Kimbra occasionally sings something other than what is listed. Credit is given to Rhys Mitchell and Raphael Rizzo for the artwork. It also acknowledges Nick Blair as the photographer. Essentially, there are three (different) photos of Kimbra wearing the artwork. The actual disc is silk-screened in flat black ink and its text is gloss black. Therefore, the text is only revealed when you hold the CD at an angle – nice job!

Originality Give points to Kimbra for originality. It’s not easy to write music that is both unique and familiar at the same time. The first time you listen to Vows you get a sense of something very different, yet you can relate to it right away.

Performance Kimbra gave 100% to this record. And it shows. The rest of the musician’s performances were fine.  
Website design by
Date: July 18, 2013
Artist:Kimbra
Album Title: Vows
Artist's website: www.kimbramusic.com
©2012 Warner Bros. Records Inc.

Rating:
out of 5

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