Plumbiferous Media

Junior - Kaki King

Apr 15th 2010
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Junior - Kaki KingKaki King
Junior
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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