Review : Kaki King - Junior
SpinListening to Junior, it's apparent that if Kaki King hates her ex this much now, she really must have loved her then. The instrumental virtuoso claims a backing band on her fifth album, and the new rhythm section adds aggression to tangles of guitar and post-domestic disgust. While she's gone from acoustic shredder to Dave Grohl's personal demigod in the course of a decade, King sounds wholly at home commanding an indie-rock power trio. Junior could be just the thing for still-mourning Sleater-Kinney fans or anyone who likes their licks righteous and their indignation more so....full text
SputnikmusicKaki King has always presented her albums as a balancing act. Her earliest outings tried to coalesce glaringly mathematical pieces, such as the Youtube favorite “Playing with Pink Noise” from her 2004 sophomore album Legs to Make Us Longer, with subdued forays into texture driven slow-rock that, while interesting in their own right, made for a rather dreary listen. Thankfully, 2007's Dreaming of Revenge tore down this austere barrier within her music. By combining the technical flair that got her crowned a “guitar god” by Rolling Stone magazine with the atmospheric layering of her more traditional songs, Kaki King stumbled upon the one thing that she had been missing: continuity.
Junior furthers Dreaming of Revenge's model of crafting an album around a unified sound, but this time instead of incorporating all the aspects of her past albums into Junior, Kaki has ditched her occasional fits of Preston Reed-inspired guitar wizardry in favor of a new found simplicity. That's not to say that she has also tossed her knack for making wondrously ornate musical webs out of the most rudimentary of components too, as sprinkled throughout Junior are lush instrumental passages that would put most post-rock bands to shame, but the heart and soul of Junior is contained in its more straightforward numbers. This streamlined sound gives Kaki the opportunity to put her delicate voice in the spotlight instead of her guitar, and her voice doesn't waste its chance to shine. It glides with eerie ease over the semi-distorted tones that plaster Junior; a captivating dance of dream-pop seduction that is an oh so welcome star on the stage....full text
AllmusicOn her fifth full-length, guitar heroine Kaki King re-teams with producer Malcolm Burn and employs a rhythm section that includes multi-instrumentalist Dan Brantigan and drummer Jordan Perlson. That said, this is no mere power trio recording with an uber-guitarist fronting bass and drums. Like 2008’s Dreaming of Revenge, Junior is a songwriter's record, layered in textures and moods, with Burn’s warm production and her band helping to guide a complex, searingly emotional vision. The mood of the recording is dark, even angry, though there are certain themes of political intrigue amid personal turmoil. “The Betrayer” (one of the real rockers on the set) confesses first-person selling out another. It's followed by its mirror image in “Spit It Back in My Mouth,” that reveals a sense of personal betrayal. King uses her electric guitar more than she does her acoustic, played in her singular style that employs lead and rhythm at the same time. There are three instrumentals here, too: the meditative, atmospheric “Everything Has an End, Even in Sadness” that just bleeds warmth and melancholy; “My Nerves That Committed Suicide” begins as a moody acoustic guitar ballad, yet builds itself into a dramatic electrifying crescendo with help from Brantigan’s array of horns and keys; and “Sloan Shore,” near the album's end, presents King’s sophisticated guitar playing in a multi-layered, melodic, drifting ballad that is accented by a Hammond organ that holds the cut in place as her harmonic changes shift all over. It’s among the most haunting and beautiful things here. “Death Head” evolves into a metallic rocker, with King’s flat, quavering voice nearly barking out her lyrics. Here she allows her guitar wizardry to pull ahead of her rhythm section. The closer, an acoustic ballad called “Sunnyside,” is anything but emotional. The biggest drawback, one that can make the listener tire of the album long before it ends, is her terminally flat, undisciplined voice. More often than not, her compelling song structures suffer because of it. Ultimately, Junior feels more like a band record and furthers the sounds explored on Dreaming of Revenge....full text
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