New Zealand chanteuse Kimbra’s contribution to Gotye’s Grammy-winning global number one, “Somebody That I Used To Know,” may have only lasted one minute. But as proven by her second album, The Golden Echo, not only did it propel the virtual unknown into the public’s consciousness, it also appeared to have enamoured virtually everyone on the alternative scene.
Featuring various members of The Dillinger Escape Plan, The Mars Volta, Queens Of The Stone Age and Mew, glitchy electro wizard Thundercat and former Silverchair frontman Daniel Johns, just to name a few, it’s almost easier to list which artists aren’t involved in the follow-up to 2011 debut Vows than the ones which are.
The Golden Echo, therefore, surely has the title of 2014’s most star-studded record in the bag already, but although its rock-centric cast may suggest otherwise, it can also lay claim to being one of the most eclectic. Indeed, tackling everything from down and dirty synth-funk (“Everlovin’ Ya”) to dreamy Quiet Storm (“Teen Heat”) to glitchy electronica (“Love In High Places”), these twelve tracks show that the 24-year-old’s high profile hasn’t affected her impossible-to-pigeonhole style.
Occasionally, super-producer Rich Costey appears to have trouble keeping up with Kimbra’s abundance of ideas. Featuring Muse’s Matt Bellamy and Foster The People’s Mark Foster, “90s Music” is a messy collage of trap beats and irritating chirpy synths that, far from celebrating the sounds of the decade she was born in, instead seems like a recent Top 40 chart has eaten itself whole. The sudden shift from eerie bleep-laden R&B to childlike playground chants on “Goldmine” is just as jarring.
Ironically, The Golden Echo is at its most magnetic when Kimbra plays it more straight-forward, as on closer “Waltz Me To Grace,” a gorgeously languid slice of jazz-soul, and “As You Are,” an elegant orchestral ballad arranged by veteran composer Van Dyke Parks – both of which allow her impressive versatile tones to take center stage – and the vintage Prince and Michael Jackson pastiches of “Madhouse” and “Miracle.”
With such an exhausting list of guest artists on board, it’s perhaps not too surprising that The Golden Echo lacks cohesion. But its ambition is admirable and there are enough encouraging signs to suggest that Kimbra will have little problems further extending her sixty seconds of fame.