Kimbra’s ‘Primal Heart’: A retrospective awakening

Photo:  Consequence Of Sound

‘Primal Heart’ is New Zealand musician, Kimbra’s third studio album.

The album features 12 contemplative, electronica-fuelled tracks in which Kimbra pours out all of her heart and soul. Far from monotonous, with the fusion of various talented, well-known producers, including the likes of John Congleton (St. Vincent) to Skrillex on the track ‘Top of The World’.

‘The Good War’ opens the album with some ascending tropical electronica which is constantly evolving, like a kaleidoscope of colourful sound. As you peel back the layers of the song it’s fair to say it has a bit of everything, from the twinkling chimes, bleeping bass to the childlike synth keyboard which together creates a very unique and progressive sound, which is almost hypnotic.

There’s almost something primal with the skewed humming background vocals and fast-paced zesty bassline in ‘Top of the World’. This track has that instant ego-tripping sound accompanied with uplifting vocals describing an awakening to understanding your own greatness. Additionally, it almost sounds like Kimbra has infused some hip hop influence as evident through the rather contagious rhythm and heavy sound.

‘Everybody Knows’ sheds a rather confronting light on domestic violence. This track appears to be a rather empowering escape for domestic violence victims as Kimbra sings out, “I was young and gullible, but I grew,” and “everyone’s watching you”. The more candid instrumental of chiming bells and a dulled bass-line allows Kimbra’s pertinent resonating vocals and message to take an important front seat.

‘Just Like They Do on the TV’ is a real eye-opening track, lyrically. Kimbra explores the current world of social media and streaming, particularly its effect on the music industry. In this track, she explores how currently many artists exist mainly due to how popular they are which is ultimately now based on how many streams or likes they have online. However, this track rather makes the point that despite these paths being fundamental to these new artists, ultimately its really up to the dedication of the artist and their fans which will make them last end.

‘Human’ has this compulsive swagger about it with its rather repetitive, echoing beat and bold, driven piano melody completed with the clinking of metal chains in the background. Additionally, the accompanying music video emphasises the song as representing the inner-fight with have with ourselves, as Kimbra sings, “This is it what it means to be human”. 

‘Past Love’ is a tune that you could listen to on repeat quite easily. The kicking drum and wild guitar throughout radiates this 70’s nostalgia feel. I particularly admire the more relaxed, rawness of this track which is more instrumental and less electronica production. This further allows Kimbra’s warming vocals to glisten alongside the steady instrumental. Complementing the soothing sound are some rather refreshing lyrics which emphasize on freeing yourself from the burdens of a toxic relationship. 

‘Version of Me’ is one of the more personal tracks on the album. As we see a more stripped-back Kimbra, as she proclaims, “there’s a better version of me’. Furthermore, this track is about Kimbra being self-critical and asking herself to be kinder and ‘take it lighter’, perhaps to herself. Accompanying the retrospective lyrics is a simple yet classic piano melody fused with some rolling waves in the background, and then some enlightening yet suspenseful high-pitch strings which could suggestively symbolise her inner-voice calling out.

‘Real Life’ is short yet memorable and rather describes where society is now. The clever instrumental fuses Kimbra’s raw humanistic vocals over the domineering technology production. As the track progresses, the humming flicker of Kimbra’s distorted human vocals slowly flickers out. This song perfectly sums up the struggle that many artists have in finding the ‘real’ and creating ‘real’ art with the impending rise of technology and how although technology offers much opportunity, it’s also destroying the very essence of our creativity and what it means to be a ‘real’ human.

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