Kaki King’s new release “Junior” offers a very uneven listening experience.
The album recalls her past moderately assertive album “Dreaming of Revenge” more frequently than the unassuming coherence of her earlier efforts. Sadly, this is because the best moments on “Junior” are reminiscent of Katherine King’s highly successful transition from percussive acoustic instrumentals to electronically-infused atmospheric pop on the album “Until We Felt Red;” these gems are likely to be lost on listeners who refuse to traverse a moat of pop-rock sensibility. Which isn’t to say that the rock songs on the new album are completely without merit, but simply to say that they fail to live up to the promise of both Kaki King’s early albums and more recent outstanding compositions like “Air and Kilometers” or “Gay Sons of Lesbian Mothers.”
Equally, the transitions between the more up-tempo and vocally oriented tracks and the lushly multi-tracked guitar-focused slow songs can be a little jarring. In fact, they suggest that there was little cogent attempt to create an album; instead, “Junior” retains a somewhat arbitrary-seeming sequence of individual tracks.
But, given that most listeners will download a track or two from the iTunes Store or on BitTorrent, perhaps this criticism suggests outmoded expectations.
Despite these critiques, fans of contemporary indie pop bands like Tegan and Sara or The Bird and the Bee might find in Kaki King’s rock songs more sophisticated and compositionally rewarding versions of a popular hipster aesthetic, while her retro angle might discover unexpected vocal similarities to bands like Liz Phair.
In the process, one can hope that they notice the amazing “folktronica,” math-rock and post-rock elements that are cleverly folded into some of the best songs. If so, perhaps these instrumental interludes will ultimately lead them to discover the ground-breaking and beautiful experimentation of Kaki King’s early albums.