*** (out of four)
Kimbra is still best known for appearing on Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know,” so maybe it’s fitting that the singer’s sophomore album “The Golden Echo” recalls many artists that everyone knows. Stylistically all over the map, the record makes clear that the 24-year-old New Zealand native has no musical identity of her own.
This only bothers me to an extent.
The disco-y “Miracle” rocks shades of Janelle Monae (whom Kimbra also resembled on her 2012 debut “Vows”), while the synth snarl of “Madhouse” rings of Janet Jackson. “Teen Heat” is a grown-up version of Lorde’s “Royals.” And I would’ve absolutely sworn that “ ’90s Music” was a Sleigh Bells tune had I heard it in any other context.
Yes, “Golden Echo” could’ve been a Rookie magazine mixtape comprising editor-in-chief Tavi Gevinson’s favorite artists (not a dig). Yes, it gives sonic whiplash as it dances between tones. BUT. There’s a big, fat asterisk that comes with this criticism: These songs are really, really catchy. I caught myself doing an unconscious neck roll to “ ’90s Music,” and I have to invent an entirely new dance style to go along with “Carolina,” even though it reeks of a peppier Imogen Heap.
So this is a tough one—I greatly enjoy “Golden Echo” on the merits of its music. I just don’t feel like it’s 100-percent Kimbra, or even 40-percent Kimbra. What would she sound like if her material was stripped down, if her album narrowed its focus, if all kinds of superfluous noises weren’t happening in the background? Maybe we’ll never know. Or maybe Kimbra’s due for a defining, quarter-life crisis.
In concert: Nov. 1 at Lincoln Hall. $20.