Plumbiferous Media

Junior – Kaki King

Apr 15th 2010
Junior - Kaki KingKaki King
Score: 76

Atlantan singer-songwriter Kaki King released her fifth LP, Junior on Tuesday. After four critically-acclaimed albums, as well as Black Pear Tree, a 2008 collaborative EP with The Mountain Goats, Junior has a lot to live up to. And though it’s not quite perfect, it doesn’t disappoint; on Junior, King tells tales of spies and espionage, creates accounts of love and betrayal, and above all makes the album a joy to listen to.

Many of the tracks on Junior are very interesting. The album opens with the equally lyrically and instrumentally powerful “The Betrayer,” setting the mood for the entire album. And while the album never quite manages to be that forceful again, it does very well with even the most relaxed of tracks. Not only is the album nearly always good at matching the images created by the music to those created by the lyrics, but the elements making up the overall sound are also expertly performed. Most noticeably, save for the vocals, the drums are generally excellent and at times astounding. The end of “Hallucinations from My Poisonous German Streets” does amount to what is effectively a terrific drum solo, but even preceding that the drumming is, though often subtly, amazing.

The album, however, does have its share of more mundane tracks. Many of these are the purely instrumental ones that litter the album (while a few of the instrumental tracks on Junior are very good, it remains a mystery why King would decide not to grace more tracks with her voice). Additionally, there are some tracks that just don’t quite work out. “Communist Friends” is not a bad sounding track, but the relaxed chords and mood simply don’t fit with the narrator’s declarations that her Communist friends are going to kill her.

Through all of her work, King has proven herself an excellent vocalist, and it shows just as much on Junior as anything else. Given how important the story of each track is to its tone, King’s vocal expertise is an essential and quite welcome part of the album. Displaying this skill, King alternates between the varying tones of the album, from the thriller-tinged excitement of “The Betrayer” to the quiet anxiety of “My Communist Friends,” in each case doing the lyrics and their stories justice. King’s voice, both in its tone and style, matches the instrumental backing quite well, never becoming jarring (save the few instances where it’s meant to be).

From the first track of Junior, King sings of disguises and “the great escape,” making careful use of sound clips related to the album’s theme, most notably on the first track from British show The Prisoner (the “Don’t be too hard on the girl, she was most upset at my funeral” clip follows directly after the show’s first betrayal of many). “The Betrayer” is followed by ten other tracks, which alternate between that track’s blend of narration and excitement and more reminiscent accounts of missions past. Through it all, King does an excellent job of creating an “espionage theme,” the sound drawing the outlines of the scene while King herself introduces the nameless, ever-changing characters.

Junior is definitely not a perfect album. The best tracks are excellent, but too many are just okay. Still, the album showcases Kaki King marvelously, from the album’s interesting theme and terrific vocals to its generally great instrumentals. The problem is clearly not with Kaki King, only with parts of Junior. And even with all its faults, Junior is still very much worth the listen.

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3 Responses

  1. David Foss says:

    Thanks for identifying the Prisoner clip. I knew it sounded famliar but somehow didn’t recognize No. 6’s voice…

  2. David Foss says:

    I now understand why I didn’t recognize No. 6’s voice–that line is spoken by a character named Cobb (played by Paul Eddington), not by No. 6. But the very quiet clip at the end of the song, also from The Prisoner, IS No. 6’s voice–actually that of his “double” also played by Patrick McGoohan, in Episode 5: “Switch that idiot thing off.”

  3. David Foss says:

    And one more Prisoner thing–the sounds at the very beginning of “the Betrayer” are also from the Prisoner. They are the sounds associated with “rover,” the giant bubble that always traps would-be escapees from The Village. Very clever.

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