Kimbra's worked on her third album, Primal Heart, for two years. It was due for release at the start of the year but she pushed it back to work on it some more. It's been a gestation less primal than pored-over.
As an artist she's always been innovative, imaginative and inventive. But also exhausting. Her tendency was to overwhelm, mushing four catchy but completely different songs into one three-minute mind-bending pop opus complete with tricksy stylistic changes and endless vocal ticks. Impressive always, but often overwhelming.
Reflecting the title here she keeps things relatively straightforward. The 80s-style ballad Right Direction, electro-pop banger Lightyears, the Motown-flavoured Past Love, and the infectious Recovery are completely devoid of any clutter, unexpected tangents or extraneous flourish at all.
The album opens with The Good War's ominous 808 boom and finger clicks that can't help but remind of a hit by a certain other Kiwi songstress before its chorus soars blissfully to the sky on a cloud of synth arps and neon vocals. Crashing back to earth immediately with Top of the World and its primal chanting and Bey-style rap vocals this sees Kimbra bending drop-ambassador and song co-producer Skrillex to her artistic vision and newfound restraint. It works so much better than you think it will.
The 80s sheen of Like They Do On TV should be an inescapable pop-hit as Kimbra brings the sound of dreamwave to the masses. But it's over the shuffling beat of Human where Kimbra sums up the album best, "I go, where I go, where I go." As an album Primal Heart is good enough to ensure you follow her.
This range of influence shows that even stripped back Kimbra is ornate. But her greatest strength has always been the way she subverts pop-trends to put her own idiosyncratic stamp on them. This makes her songs far more interesting than the average pop star, a supreme vocal talent but one who remains a strangely devoid presence. A pop chameleon who nails every style with ease but remains hidden behind her art.
Album: Primal Heart
Label: Warner Music
Verdict: Kimbra's arty twist on pop-trends captivates.