Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums Ever Made, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
By the mid-point of the last decade, a bleak form of musical futurism gripped the pop genre. Innovation had been swapped for convention. In that context, Lady Gaga stepping into this vacuum in 2008 and her inevitable domination made sense; she understood that a mixture of musicality and “the visual event” was needed, even if her angle was a bit on the nose. But, five years later, a young New Zealander demurely showed that technical deftness wasn't the whole of the equation. A heart and mind had to be accounted for too.
Vows was the sort of effortless genius not seen since Prince or Bjork―both primary (and obvious) influences on Kimbra's debut with respect to the scope and consistency of the record's songwriting, production and vocal reach. But Kimbra's own personality was forceful too, heard in the sensual ardor of “Something in the Way You Are” and the fusion of Motown and freestyle on “Cameo Lover.” Kimbra's voice, an ever-changing entity all its own, made the music engrossing, and nowhere was this more apparent than on her cover of Nina Simone's “Plain Gold Ring.” For people looking for pop music with artsy mettle versus pomp or flash, Kimbra's Vows is one of this decade's best kept secrets.