It’s no wonder Gotye tapped Kimbra as the object of his obsessive longing on the chart-topping single ”Somebody That I Used to Know.” After all, who wouldn’t get hung up on the New Zealand sprite’s bewitching wail and gift for teleporting spryly across the sonic pop spectrum?
Gotye’s inescapable hit is actually a misleading entry point into Kimbra’s universe; her sparkling debut wants little to do with his bleeding-heart Sting-isms. She’s more interested in multiculti chaos, darting between musical branches and gleefully snatching the juiciest fruits: funked-out horns, orchestral indie shimmer, radio bounce, sexy cabaret slink. She shifts effortlessly from harmonizing with herself a cappella to growling over a hiccupy hand-clap groove, before bursting into a dance- and-shout refrain — and that’s just the opening track, ”Settle Down.”
The rest of Vows is equally fresh and surprising, its genre leaps held together by Kimbra’s pliant coo — a remarkably expressive instrument that can evoke toughness, heartbreak, and humor over the course of a single line. Her earnestness on the breezy ”Two Way Street” is disarming, though ”Something in the Way You Are” proves she’s also a pro at plumbing psychological depths. But even when she’s playing mind games, she’s still somebody you’ll want to know. A