Kimbra is no stranger to enormous pop success. She has a Grammy under her belt and one of the most-played songs of the 21st century thus far. But to define her own profile and become an artist beyond “Somebody That I Used to Know,” Kimbra has joined up with one of the most au courant producers in pop music, John Congleton (St. Vincent, Angel Olsen), and EDM stalwart Skrillex, to collaborate on her third studio album, Primal Heart. Less R&B than 2014’s The Golden Echo, Primal Heart is reminiscent of Vows in its electro-pop joie de vivre.
The release of the album was delayed for a few months, from January to April, so there has been plenty of time to enjoy the singles as standalones. The first single “Everybody Knows” is swaggering and sexy, Kimbra’s voice at its breathy best. There is the signature Congleton electroclash beat and enough oomph to stand out on an album of several great pop tracks.
Her second single “Top of the World” is a loud, exciting track with production help from Skrillex. It’s a breathless anthem, triumphantly claiming Kimbra’s return to the pop music charts. Whereas you can bop along to most of Primal Heart, “Top of the World” grabs you by the collar and shakes you. Skrillex, someone a little harder to digest on his own, is diluted to perfection in the synth hits and looping vocal samples that help the song charge along uninhibited.
After the singles, there are a handful of notable tracks. The album is not the most cohesive record you’ll hear, but every song is strong enough to succeed on its own merits. “Human” is signature Kimbra, with creative percussions and samples. Primal Heart meanders a bit toward the end, but Kimbra’s vocals are such a pleasure that slow-burn tracks like “Version of Me” make a start-to-finish listening session totally worth it.
From “The Good War” to “Real Life,” Primal Heart is solidly compelling pop. A middle ground between a noisier Lorde-style sound and stripped down FKA Twigs vocals, Kimbra has quietly released an incredibly strong album. It stands out as balanced and gratifying electro-pop that serves Kimbra well, a canvas for her gorgeous range and theatrical vocals. While it checks the boxes of several pop trends, Primal Heart still sounds fresh. And though it probably won’t get the relentless overexposure of “Somebody I Used to Know,” people are sure to pay attention.
Notable Tracks: “Everybody Knows” | “Human” | “Top of the World”