Key To Music Grades

A - You will never be whole without it
B - Highly recommended
C - Flawed, but still pretty good
D - It's your money, not mine
F - Why couldn't this have been burned in Fahrenheit 451?

Friday, April 4, 2008

Kaki King - Dreaming Of Revenge (2008)

Haven't heard of Kaki King yet? Even after she made an awesome guest appearance on the most recent Foo Fighters disaster or may have eluded your attention on my top 50 list of guitarists? Well, she's just made her fourth album, and it's by far her best. Her first two albums, Everybody Loves You and Legs To Make Us Longer were blow-your-fucking-face-off instrumentals featuring her ridiculous finger picking fret-tapping technique. Ok, not all was explosive; there were some very beautiful and more subdued textured pieces as well. With her third album, Until We Felt Red, Kaki had a band with her, and it didn't come off too well. I mean, she's a virtuoso, and yet had lesser musicians to work with, and she sang, quite limitedly. This is not to say her singing was awful, but that it just doesn't play to her strengths. So on her new album, Dreaming Of Revenge, it's refreshing to see she's playing much more cohesively with her band, and she doesn't sing as much. "Bone Chaos In The Castle" begins the album, and it's a doozy. Polyphonic guitar triplicate with loops -- very prog, methinks. It's delicious. "Montreal," another instrumental piece, works from a slow fret-tap to a what I would call an equivalent of a boogie jam. "Open Mouth" is a beautiful instrumental with strings, like many of her others, for that matter; "So Much For So Little" is probably my favorite song. It's guitar fucking tastiness.

As for the vocal tracks -- "Life Being What It Is," "Pull Me Out Alive," "Saving Days In A Frozen Head" and "2 O'Clock" -- like on Until We Felt Red, Kaki seems to be focusing more on keeping within her range and mouthing her lyrics than with expressing emotion, which the lyrics clearly indicate otherwise that they should possess. Fortunately, the music itself overpowers the relative weakness of the vocals -- relative, I say, because she's not awful; she simply amazes musically (and besides, I'm not a fan of forced rhyming schemes). In fact, "2 O'Clock" is an interesting song symbolically, I think, because of its divisible halves. The first part features vocals, but the lyrics seem flat to me; they simply don't resonate, though they are clearly personal -- and yet the second part, which easily can be described as an Irish fucking car bomb, fulfills the emotional lack left by the lyrics. In other words, Kaki's guitar is much more emotive than her voice. Which is, of course, the real question: where does she go next? The musical divide couldn't be more clear: to preserve the insistent bombast of her terrible, beautiful fingers, or continue to become more accessible and break through to a wider public? For now, I'll savor this.

And go see her next Saturday. B+

1 comment:

Master Cianan said...

Oh yes yes yes. The thing I like about her vocals is that she knows what her limits are and stays within them, rangewise and lyrically. And while some dislike the fact that her singing isn't very expressive, it's her vocal minimalism that makes it work. Yep, better album than until we felt red, although I have no real complaint with that one. There are a couple tracks I skip, no biggie. It does have a big "tortoise" thumbprint on it, since john mcentire produced it, but I like tortoise, so whatever. I think people tend to overlook what she did right on that one, though, which was a lot. Goby is a great track, and gay sons of lesbian mothers probably sold more lap steels than anything else in the past 30 years. Anyway, she could hardly have done better than she did on dreaming of revenge. A bit more guitar craziness, the singing works, the band has gelled, and she's playing more ambitious music and pulling it off with aplomb.