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Kaki King - Junior

Kaki King, Junior

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

WITH this album, I felt like I was doing something for the first time, because I was trying totally different things as far as my (album making) process. I felt like a little kid or novice. It made me feel that I was starting something again…” – Kaki King.

It’s an apt description of Junior, the latest LP from the ever-excellent Kaki King, as there’s plenty to surprise. Where former album Dreaming of Revenge comfortably fit into “nu-gaze” territory with its breezy acoustics, Junior is more eclectic and arguably more ambitious. It’s the sign of Kaki King spreading her wings.

In contrast to her previous records, which featured deep textures and layers, Junior was specifically made with only three musicians in mind – in this case, King, multi-instrumentalist Dan Brantigan and drummer Jordan Perlson.

Hence, dance-rock tracks such as The Betrayer and Spit It Back In My Mouth jostle for position with the punk-ish Falling Day, the noisy kick-in-the-gut rocker Death Head and the folk-ish ballad Sunnyside.

And yet her mesmerizing guitar playing – so revered by the likes of Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl – continues throughout the album with a few instrumental pieces, such as the electrifying My Nerves That Committed Suicide.

Hence, if you haven’t leapt on the Kaki King bandwagon already, then now is the perfect time – as Junior promises to bring even more attention and praise upon her, and deservedly so.

Not every song scores maximum points, but all impress in some way… and some just blow you away. Album opener, The Betrayer, for instance, is a real treat: a lyrically ambitious offering that sets a tremendous pace and boasts some extremely impressive guitar work.

Thematically, it’s a tension filled song inspired by the 2007 book Agent Zig Zag, by Ben McIntyre, which is based on the true story of double agent Eddie Chapman, an Englishman who first spied for the Nazis during WWII then later switched over to the British.

It’s followed by her “Cure moment”, Spit It Back In My Mouth, which finds her adopting a more dreamy, spacey vocal style, while hitting you with some of the best guitar riffs on the album – complete with typically Cure-like juxtapositions.

“Like how The Cure would write these really happy, jangly songs and the lyrics would be utterly depressing,” she jokes. “When I came up with that little groove, I thought this is way too happy, so I changed it to make people depressed!”

Her exemplary guitar skills are again at the fore on Everything Has An End, Even Sadness, a reflective offering that’s one of the LP’s first instrumentals. It has a cinematic quality about it.

King punks out properly on Falling Day, another fave, before coming over all psychadelic on The Hoopers of Hudspeth, and atmospheric and brooding on the instrumental My Nerves That Committed Suicide. But it’s a further tribute to the LP that it never sits still for more than a song, constantly hitting the listener with surprises.

There is the occasional offering that feels more like an indulgence, such as the raw punk rock of Death Head, or the tonally shifting Hallucinations From my Poisonous German Streets, which lack the immediate punch or grip of the album’s finest moments.

But even then, songs demonstrate plenty of ambition and a willingness to mix things up. While final offering, Sunnyside brings things to a close in utterly charming, heart-felt fashion to ensure that you’re totally sold on the new Kaki King sound.

To a strummed backdrop, she sings lyrics such as “yeah I fucked up good and well and you put me through fucking hell” in such honest fashion that you’ll want to throw your arms around her. It’s an album that takes you to many emotional places… and duly impresses at almost every opportunity.

Download picks: The Betrayer, Spit It Back In My Mouth, Everything Has An End, Even Sadness, Falling Day, Sunnyside

Track listing:

  1. The Betrayer
  2. Spit It Back In My Mouth
  3. Everything Has An End, Even Sadness
  4. Falling Day
  5. The Hoopers of Hudspeth
  6. My Nerves That Committed Suicide
  7. Communist Friends
  8. Hallucinations From My Poisonous German Streets
  9. Death Head
  10. Sloan Shore
  11. Sunnyside