For her follow-up to The Golden Echo, Kimbra could have expanded on any one of its eclectic sounds. Instead, on Primal Heart she combines all of the styles she explored on that album into a more cohesive -- and immediate -- approach. That she co-wrote and co-produced every track here helps put her stamp on late-2010s pop and R&B trends: "Like They Do on the TV" mixes a tropical melody with murky trip-hop-inspired rhythms, while trap beats add an edge to the brassy, brooding "Human." "Top of the World," a collaboration with Skrillex, doesn't really resemble anything either he or Kimbra has done before, but its slow-burning stomp sounds like a rising pop queen coming for her throne. As clever as she is at reinventing the mainstream, Kimbra is still most exciting on the album's more left-field tracks; the soulful, bubbly "Recovery" and the subtle hints of swooning '60s pop on "Past Love" are the kinds of unexpected moves she pulls off brilliantly. Still, Primal Heart takes listeners on a smoother journey than The Golden Echo's wild ride, and if some of these tracks are a little more straightforward, they're also great showcases for Kimbra's soul-baring. Her writing feels more personal than ever as she tackles getting older, wiser, and stronger on songs that range from "Lightyears"' soaring exuberance to the defiance of "Everybody Knows." The album's ballads are some of Kimbra's most compelling yet, whether it's "Version of Me"'s torchy drama or the late-night searching of "Real Life," which features some of the most evocative processed vocals since Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek." A consistently winning album, Primal Heart finds Kimbra hitting the sweet spot between imagination and accessibility -- if her nods to the mainstream get more ears pointed her way, so much the better.
Primal Heart Review
by Heather Phares