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20 Watts Reviews Kaki King’s Junior by ambiguitron
April 13, 2010, 11:25 am
Filed under: Releases of the Week, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

20 Watts Reviews Kaki King's Junior

PREVIEW: Visit Kaki King’s MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 12/20 Watts

I specifically remember my first encounter with Kaki King.  She was a young female guitarist and I was an impressionable young boy.  Kaki King’s guitar techniques were out of this world, unlike anything I’d heard at that point.  The music – exciting, new, and technically impressive – made me melt like butter on warm bread.  Blending beautiful folk acoustic guitar passages, jazz harmonies, and distinct percussive sounds from the body of her acoustic guitar, she created her own style and sound.  Sadly, I am no longer as aroused by her music.

It all started back when she began mixing in tracks of electric guitar and singing, creeping in new foreign sounds that stray from her original sound palette.  I am by no means against progression and change but in this case I am only hearing musical regression with her change in style. Kaki King is no longer creating something new but rather bringing back what seems to be old and predictable.  The tracks are structured according to pop formulas, covered with fuzz, and backed by simplistic drumming and accompaniment.  It is clear that Katharine King is sacrificing her once celebrated instrumentally virtuosic style for more lyric-driven music.

King’s voice is smooth and angelic yet in a way that compromises her music’s expressiveness. Her band sounds more and more like other competent but unspectacular indie pop bands  Popular music and especially new indie music lacks original musicians, so to see such talent used for mere formulaic pop seems almost criminal.  “Sloan Shore,” one of the only tunes reminiscent of her old style, leaves the listener hungry for more of the same bold sonic innovation.  However, her application of old in new styles works wonderfully in slower tunes such as “The Hoopers of Hudspurth,” “Hallucinations From My Poisonous German Streets,” and “Spit it Back in Your Mouth.”  Such instances show how her beautifully layered vocal lines work well with her new rhythm section.  In the second half of the album all her old and new styles of writing are employed and combined successfully.

Junior is half wonderful and half mediocre.  While it’s clear King is still an incredibly talented player and arranger, she has not yet successfully balanced her method of writing.  She jumps from post-rock, to punk pop, to folk, mashing together her original techniques with borrowed music from other similar sounding indie pop bands.  Artists should be able to create freely and experiment with new styles and I believe Kaki King is just doing what she wants to do with her music, which is singing more and playing less. I just wish she were as unique of a songwriter and singer as she is a musician and guitarist.

-Andrew Nerviano

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