For some music fans, trying to figure out exactly who was behind the series of viral music videos credited to iamamiwhoami in 2009 and 2010 was addictive. The mysterious artist's work was certainly presented in an obsession-making way: each clip offered tantalizing snippets of atmospheric music set to equally eerie and beautiful imagery like a trail of virtual breadcrumbs (it's no wonder that iamamiwhoami was nominated for, and won, several awards for this innovative strategy) that led to guesses that artists such as Björk, the Knife, and Fever Ray's Karin Dreijer or Trent Reznor were behind it all. However, when it was revealed that the much lesser-known Swedish singer/songwriter Jonna Lee was iamamiwhoami's creative force, it was more intriguing than if it had been the work of a more established artist. Lee's earlier music was pretty, but much more straightforward and less attention-getting than this equally public and cryptic career reboot. Fortunately, the project's debut album lives up to its lengthy viral campaign, as well as Lee's decision to stick with the iamamiwhoami moniker even after being revealed as the artist behind it; on Kin, she and co-producer Claes Björklund make the most of this opportunity to play with and expand on her musical identity. While there's a similarly Scandinavian air of witchy electro-pop mystery akin to Björk and Dreijer's work on many of these songs, Lee finds her own niche within this territory, whether she's translating the atmospheric qualities of her viral campaign into full-fledged songs like the opening track "Sever," which drifts in like a rainstorm and sparkles like one, too, or dropping a slow, club-tinged groove like "Play." Kin also allows her more range than ever before, spanning songs such as "Good Worker," which comes the closest to the more structured pop she made previously (albeit with an edgier makeover) as well as "Kill," which moves from swooning to urgent with the same kind of ambitious scope that defines the whole project. While those especially entranced by the album will want the deluxe version, which includes a DVD of Kin's videos, listening to the album sans visuals proves that it wasn't just the mystique that Lee and her team so carefully crafted that makes iamamiwhoami's music compelling; "Rascal"'s glowy synths, subtle percussion, and the focus on her raspy soprano are more than enough to make it a gorgeously sensual song. Kin's only drawback is the amount of time it took for the album to be fully revealed: since it arrived a full two years after Lee's unmasking as iamamiwhoami, it sometimes feels more like a greatest-hits collection than a debut. Still, Kin shows that there's more than just gimmickry to iamamiwhoami. It will be interesting to see and hear how Lee and Björklund build on the fascination they set in motion here.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
Track Listing - Disc 1