Hobbit land’s jazzy songstress.

Kimbra, “Cameo Lover”

Vows, 2011

New Zealand is a bit like Iceland. You don’t really hear much from them musically, then all of a sudden an artist bursts forth from their fertile lands and stuns the rest of the world. Think Bjork, Sigur Ros, and now Kimbra.

Cameo Lover was one of three charting singles from her debut album Vows (the other two being Settle Down and Two Way Street), and it displays Kimbra’s obsession with vocal experimentation and jazzy back beats.

Weaving her elastic vocals above percussive beats and stabs of synth and glockenspiel, the effect is part pop/soul mashup, part Alice in Wonderland dinner party.

The chorus throws up a motown beat, overlapped by string pads running up and down the melodic line, along with Kimbra’s own soaring, twisted vocals.  The piano then steps up and thuds out the ascending line, which punches through as Kimbra belts:

“Open up your heart and let me pull you out of here”

What’s brilliant about Kimbra’s songwriting is her ability to take a song to a completely new level (tempo, instruments, pulse, everything) and still manage to hold it together coherently. The verse and the chorus are pretty well opposite ends of the spectrum, and yet somehow she manages to steer through the melee and deliver an incredibly catchy song. She obviously paid attention in song writing college.

The constantly changing nature of the song (watch the transition from second chorus to the bridge, it will slap you well and good) means that we are given no opportunity to get even the slightest bit bored.

The last 30 seconds build and build and then drop off entirely, leaving us with cute harmonies, some strings and a tambourine. It feels abrupt even though it fades away softly- like we’ve just been shaken and then smoothed down.

It’s a year to the day that this song was released, and the song gets better with every play. One of the best written tracks of the year, by an incredibly talented lady.

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