Something in the Way You Are

Kimbra is underrated. She deserves to be well-known as an innovative vocalist. She uses technology and her own vocal range to create a sensual wall-of-sound effect. She’s an example of the way the full range of digital technology can be used to make a very rich sound filled with layers and centered with heartfelt songwriting. Kimbra may be techie but she’s also, deep down in her bones, an earnest girl who like to write about love a lot. She could easily give many of her songs an acoustic makeover and play them in coffeeshops. That just shows that it’s a damn shame that so many writers of intimate songs are content to just stick with the piano-and-guitar format.

Settle Down

Kimbra wrote this song when she was sixteen years old. (And recorded it as an adult, thankfully.) In the video she represents her settle-down-wanting little self as a girl much younger than sixteen, which I think implies that the fantasy of white-picket-fence domesticity is something only a complete naif would fall for. If you’re the type of little girl who dreams up names for hypothetical future children while still playing with dolls, you’ve got a lot of learning about the world to do, not least probably how to leave whatever cult you’re being raised in. The broader implication here, I think, is that childhood dreams very frequently go up in flames, and that it’s sometimes for the best that they do.

Rescue Him

On the other hand though, what if you could be the rescuer? Through the power of love, and whatnot? Shut up, Kimbra. The only thing stupider than believing that a lover will come along who can rescue you and mend you, is thinking that you can do the same for them. SPOILER ALERT: It doesn’t work like that. Fucked-up people may eventually get better, if they’re truly motivated to change, but a lot of times they just don’t ever change, and you can’t luv luv luv them all better. If you think your problems will go away if someone just loves you hard enough, you are a lazy, selfish narcissist. If you think that the other person’s problems will go away if you just love them hard enough, you’re a masochist. Either way, you have an antediluvian view of romance and no conception of how relationship dynamics actually work. That, my friends, is how abusive relationships grow and proliferate. The road to the battered women’s shelter is paved with your own good intentions. Of course, not everyone who trods that path ends up needing to go to the women’s shelter; most people wake up and pull their heads out of their beloved’s ass before they get that far. Still, this is a relationship dynamic that nearly everyone to some extent has experienced, and it’s so toxic because it involves a degree of ego on both sides. In a sick way, it takes its own special kind of narcissistic delusion to think that you and your bright shining love are so powerful and special and pure that it grants you the power to cure an asshole of being an asshole. Or that you are saintly enough to tirelessly forgive and keep giving of yourself. I’m not shaming you; you’re not immune to it, I’m not immune to it, nobody is ever fully immune to it. Because there’s always That One Guy™ who fucking makes you want to do dumb shit that you otherwise never would do, just so you can go on looking at his stupid face.

Miracle

What on Earth has Kimbra been up to in the years since she did that one song with that one guy? Waiting three years between your first album and your second is risky – the pop star saturated world might forget all about you. I didn’t know Kimbra released an album last year until I did my year-end internet deep-trawl for things I might have missed. Nobody wrote about it. But now you know; Kimbra released The Golden Echo in August of last year. My initial impression is that it’s less satisfyingly eccentric than her debut. On that record, Kimbra used her voice to interesting, almost instrumental, effect, citing Bjork as an influence. This new single is pretty straightforward pop, and though you can’t blame the artist for offering something designed to sell, it’s not an exciting direction. On the other hand, she looks fantastic; that outfit is seriously one of the best fashion statements I’ve seen in a long time.

ACL Fest Special

In honor of a long and grueling Austin City Limits weekend, I’m doing a little feature on some of the acts I saw there (and elsewhere). This is partly in benefit to people in my life who have access to my photo galleries but may not know who-all everybody is. So, in order, chronologically…

He’s My Brother She’s My Sister

A new discovery, highly recommended

 

Patrick Watson

Misrepresented in the schedule as ‘Patrick Wilson’, another new discovery. Recommended, for fans of the mellow and emo.

 

Esperanza Spalding

A brilliant musician, well-deserved Grammy winner, and a great beauty.

 

Florence + the Machine

Quite simply, a goddess.

 

Zola Jesus

Her atmospheric style would have been better served playing at night, but she worked it. A beautiful voice and image.

 

Rufus Wainwright

I’ve found Rufus to be too campy in the past, but his new song for his little daughter is absolutely sweet.

 

Andrew Bird

A very good songwriter and musician, but a bit too low-key for the big stage, in my opinion.

 

The Roots

Really expected it to be torture to sit through, because I hate hip-hop, but DAMN! These guys are old school – they have things to say and they are real musicians. Damn good ones.

 

Neil Young & Crazy Horse

As cantankerous as ever. No playing the hits for old Neil. Just blistering, ear-shattering, never-ending brand-new songs, generating more noise than

 

Kimbra

I didn’t have very high expectations for Kimbra, because I only knew her from her collaboration with Gotye, which was kind of a typical slightly annoying pop song (ok, kind of good actually). But, if it makes it any easier, think of her as an EDM Kate Bush.

 

Iggy & the Stooges

Iggy fuckin’ Pop.

 

Die Antwoord

Weird South African hip-hop. Not for everybody, ok. But how can you not love Yo-Landi?

 

Sleigh Bells

I’ve promoted this noise pop duo before. They’re loud and pretty and harsh and modern all at once.