While most know Kimbra for the bold backing vocals she provided to “Somebody That I Used To Know,” the hit that slingshot Gotye from the all-inclusive (albeit contained) expanse of Australian pop to global domination in 2011, the New Zealander has long since broken out on her own with a sizable amount of success. Her debut full-length, Vows, capitalized on the momentum left over from the Gotye smash in 2011, with the record sitting pretty in the Top 5 spots on the Australian charts and rising as high as No. 14 stateside. Still, for someone whose voice can be recognized from one of the biggest earworms of the decade, naming a Kimbra single is a difficult feat for those who casually encounter her via streaming, radio, or festival lineups.
“The” Kimbra hit that comes to mind is still the one she sits in on for a few seconds, not a solo production swelling with her r&b and offbeat pop vibes that features her front and center, though she’s more than deserving of the attention, especially in the current pop landscape. And while The Golden Echo was clamored for in Australia and peaked in the Top 5 of the charts once more, the record didn’t receive the same juice in the States, despite extensive touring and a number of major festival engagements. Her show at the Bowery Ballroom this coming Thursday has sold out (as it should have!), but like Mary Lambert, who’s currently firing all cylinders on her first major tour behind the breakout record that shoved her out of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Same Love” shadow, she should be playing larger venues and turning heads with her delightfully quirky, synthed-out experiments in approachable pop, instead of being forced to bank on the might of that one collaboration.
That should change, and thankfully it’s about to.
While Kimbra’s records live in an undeniably modern, electropop place, her Soho House set was one that took her out of a two-dimensional, digital space and threw her into the intimate gauntlet of a cabaret stage. In a room full of glass-clinking, chatting people milling about in a luxe loft setup, Kimbra commanded attention with little more than a microphone and a couple of guys behind her working some bleep-bloop magic. Her voice, as always, was captivating; her presence wasn’t as vivacious, big-eyed, and peppy as the uplifting nature of her music implies, but demure and devoted without the distractions of intense big-stage lights or milling crowds.
Short and sweet, the set saw her running through a handful of songs — “Miracle,” “Love in High Places,” ” ’90s Music” (which segued into a fantastic cover of TLC’s “No Scrubs”), and “Magic Hour” — that touched on a number of the varied stylistic strides she made on The Golden Echo, from beat-heavy r&b to disco to adventurous rhythmic choices. The lens of the small set allowed us to focus on Kimbra’s vocal prowess instead of her maximalist musical identity, and it just furthered the point that she’s hovering under a radar that should’ve picked up on her sensational qualities years ago.