Warner Bros. Records
Kimbra’s third LP finds the heart and soul not revealed in her previous two offerings.
Primal Heart’s predecessors, Vows and The Golden Echo, had a satisfyingly shiny pop veneer, but once cracked the songs didn’t provide much emotional depth. Primal Heart, however, has vulnerability in spades. This is by far Kimbra’s most honest and open work to date; exploring self doubt, a failed relationship, personal growth and her own gender struggles in the music industry. She also explores wider concepts around ego, social expectations and the pressures and pitfalls of chasing success.
Album openers The Good War and Top of the World allude to the pressures faced by many in performing industries, reinforcing the need to stay true to oneself in the artificial reality of a hit factory. They also contain wider connotations of complacency and tunnel vision that can accompany greed and blind ambition. Everybody Knows is Kimbra’s contribution to the #metoo conversation, drawing from her own experiences of sexism in the music industry as detailed in a Tumblr post last year.
Recovery details an experience most of us are familiar with; discovering just how hard it is to recover from losing someone who’s been a huge part of your life, and the self-realisation that goes along with the experience.
Human is the closest thing the album has to a title track (‘Got a heart that’s primal’) and it’s another song that draws from the inescapable side effects of being human—you just can’t control how you feel sometimes, and that’s okay, we’re only human.
Lightyears is a classic Kimbra pop song, carrying the themes of self-realisation and the need to reset, but this one comes in a shiny summery package.
There are couple of songs toward the end of the album (Past Love and Right Direction) that don’t quite stand up to the rest, which makes the album labour slightly, but it finishes strongly with final tracks Version of Me and Real Life.
Version of Me uses strings to accentuate the vulnerability of Kimbra’s lyrics. It’s a confessional that acknowledges the common human failure of taking love for granted. It’s delicate, heartbreaking and gently dramatic.
In stark contrast, Real Life just puts it all on the table. Vocal effects and sparse instrumentation create a cold and empty feeling to echo the reality that life is complex and sometimes things don’t go your way, but that’s life, so just keep your head up.