Kimbra’s ‘Primal Heart’ Is A Surging Pop Experiment That Shouldn’t Be Ignored

05.03.18 1 year ago 3 Comments

Micaiah Carter

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Kimbra has one of those sorta unfair pop stories. After lending her vocals to Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” — a song that became ubiquitous in late 2011 and all through 2012 — the New Zealand pop singer’s entire oeuvre has been seen through the lens of that undeniable earworm. It earned her Grammys, accolades, and radio cred, but from the sounds of the two albums she’s put out since, 2014’s The Golden Echo and the just-released Primal Heart, external validation from the industry is far from her own personal goal as a musician. I’ve had her latest album on repeat since it came out a couple weeks ago, and all I can surmise is that it is a record out of its time — which makes it all the more precious to me.

When I spoke to the pop auteur for Consequence Of Sound back in her 2014 era, the singer-songwriter explained her process with music, not as someone who sees it as an industry at all, but as one of the first languages that felt viable to her. “Music is a language, and it comes to some people in time, and some people are speaking it from the word go,” she told me back then. “Melody and poetry were always strong parts of my childhood. They weren’t thought about. They were just ways of expressing myself.”

On her latest album, Primal Heart, which came out late last month, that throughline of melody and poetry is even more front and center, and even the album title indicates how instinctual and natural the music is to her. This record feels beyond rare for a mainstream pop album in 2018; there’s no special hotly-tipped producer dragged in as a big name, there’s no gimmick or strange album rollout, there’s no remixes or hip-hop features — in fact, there’s not a single feature on the entire record. In a pop era where every hit feels like a jumble of two pop stars or more, the album is refreshingly straightforward and utterly weird, and it shines because of those very factors.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t fascinating collaborators sprinkled throughout Primal Heart, which was slated for release earlier this year and suffered the dreaded push back to late April. (Kimbra softened that blow with an initial release of “Hi Def Romance” from the album sessions, a sultry, jittery track full of the same surging energy that made the album, but maybe a bit darker.) Co-writers like Skrillex, Robin Hannibal (Rhye), and Natasha Bedingfield all crop up across Primal Heart, and it’s almost entirely co-produced by Kimbra herself and John Congleton, who has worked extensively with St. Vincent on her early albums, along with plenty of other musicians.

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