Album Review: Kimbra – The Golden Echo

A household name with a Grammy to call her own, Kimbra established herself in the world of music with the vocals on Gotye’s smash-hit ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ in 2011. On her second album The Golden Echo, Kimbra Lee Johnson (who co-produced the album with Rich Costey among others) steps out on her own with a bombastic effort that occasionally demonstrates her vocal talent while ultimately echoing the sonic properties of her pop competitors.

The Golden Echo opens with the soft and tender ‘Teen Heat’ which strikes as an odd choice to lead the overwhelming ’90’s Music’, a track that demonstrates the album’s best and worst qualities all in one single.

’90s Music’ is catchy-as-could-be with production likely to create a head-bob in most listeners, but ultimately the repetitive and familiar track has little resonance beyond Kimbra’s whiny interludes. We already know the Kiwi vocalist can sing, however tracks like ’90s Music’ and the bubble-gum burst ‘Miracle’ fail to play to her strength, instead forcing her voice to take a backseat to a sonic clashing of production.

It’s no surprise the song’s theme revolves around listening to music on the radio, just as Russell Simmons understood back in the 90s when advising LL Cool J Kimbra’s crew has also recognized the importance of playing to their audience. It’s simple: if you sing about the radio they will play you on it. And in this case Kimbra seems very aware of all the elements that went into making The Golden Echo such a bold miss-step into over-produced pop mediocrity.

“There wasn’t one moment on this record that wasn’t important.” 

Kimbra’s bold statement to The Guardian regarding The Golden Echo make the album’s demise quite predictable: by attempting to give importance to every moment on the album she has created an effort that is entirely devoid of important moments, constantly bogged down by a crowd of musical elements shouting over each other. Take into account a lack of lyrical substance Kimbra’s lengthy second effort gets old fast, leaving listeners to only hope the echo won’t come back quite as clear.

Speaking of lengthy, The Golden Echo’s list of collaborators (Thundercat, Dirty Projectors’ Dave Longstreth, Mars Voltra’s Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Bilal, John Legend, Foster The People’s Mark Foster, and many more) offers another hint as to how the album became such a clash of sounds without the necessary room to breathe. Whereas ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ and other Kimbra singles like ‘Settle Down’ (especially this live version) left space for the singer to showcase her beautiful voice, she has clearly failed to provide herself the proper space to demonstrate her talent on The Golden Echo.