Hidden Vagenda, Kimya Dawson's fourth post-Moldy Peaches solo album and her first for K Records, adopts a fuller, more polished sound than her earlier work, but her songwriting is just as innocent and heartfelt-sounding as ever. She uses this naïve (in the best sense of the word) approach to get at deeper truths about heavy subjects such as war, capitalism, death, and abuse; lyrics like "Fire"'s "you swallow hard and you bottle it up/try to pretend you're a half-full cup" are both charming and incisive. And even though turns of phrase such as "weapons of mass instruction" are a bit on the obvious side, Dawson usually pulls them off, thanks to her whimsical, somewhat self-deprecating delivery. But every now and then, Hidden Vagenda loses its way and crosses over from sweetly whimsical to gratingly faux-innocent: on the goofy "Parade" and "Anthrax (Powerballad Version)" -- a strangely overwrought song about Dawson's nightmare about post-9/11 New York City -- it's hard to tell how much of the music is earnest and how much is ironic. Still, most of the album seems genuine, particularly "Blue Like Nevermind," a pretty, folky round with intricately linked lyrics, and the bittersweet "Singing Machine," which boasts one of the album's prettiest melodies. Although it's a little too long for its own good, Hidden Vagenda's message is out in the open: caring may be painful sometimes, but it's the only way to cope with the world around you.
Hidden Vagenda Review
by Heather Phares