It’s hard to argue with Kimbra’s initial showings of chart success. On its first release in New Zealand and Australia Vows, the Kiwi’s debut album, went Top 5. More impressively, it placed at #14 in the US Billboard charts. A less cynical mind would lay it all on Kimbra’s own talent, but really, it can all be traced back to a song so monumental it verges on sheer force of nature. That song is Gotye‘s Somebody That I Used To Know, and Kimbra is the girl that pops up halfway through it.
For the most part, Kimbra takes on a rawer, huskier lilt to her vocals than she does on Somebody That I Used To Know, and for all its inherent individuality, it’s something of an acquired taste. Opener Settle Down is typically characteristic of the album as a whole: straight up pop hooks embedded in electric, percussive backing. If there’s any glaring weaknesses here, clinky piano and string samples manage to gild over them, though it’s a paper-thin fix at best. There’s none of the grandeur of contemporaries like Ren Harvieu, and while there’s sultry overtones in the hushed breathiness of Something In The Way You Are, it’s more festival fling than noirish Lana Del Rey aping starlet.
Cameo Lover is more impressive, channelling ’60s Phil Spector-esque vibes that easily equals, if not betters, the Noisettes‘ recent attempt to do the same. The definite high-point of Vows has to be Two Way Street though, which packs a chorus so singularly good that the rest of the album might as well shut up shop and go home. Because really, after the stately romantic balladry of Old Flame, there’s little more to be found in Vows that hasn’t already been offered up in its first third.
What’s left is largely aimless guitar-based meandering that peaks with Come Into My Head – imagine fellow Australasian Gabriella Cilmi all grown up – before tumbling away to tracks like The Build Up, little better than a demo, and so minimal it’s in danger of disappearing away into nothing.
Gotye may have given her the legs to stride on to a world stage, but judging by Vows Kimbra still feels a little shaky on her feet. There are moments of brilliance, but it’s bogged down by the kind of watery filler an older, more mature artist would have largely filtered out. Still, for those enticed by the quirk-pop of Kimbra’s Gotye guest-feature, Vows represents an easy leap to make, and one that’ll throw up few surprises.