Kaki King’s newest album, “Junior”, is a subtlety of significance — a work for longtime fans to absorb and compare to its most similar piece “Dreaming of Revenge,” and for newcomers to dive into a budding singer/song-writer continuing to find her voice.
For those who have followed Kaki King’s career, “Junior” is an album that gives window into the enigmatic virtuoso who captured attention with incredible guitar technique that blended Van Halen double tapping with Stanley Jordan-like chord harmony into the uterus of a Jimmy Page acoustic timbre, that was fully her own and original.
And with “Junior,” we find an artist that is continuing her journey from the comforts of instrumental to the deep waters of voice and lyric.
The album opens with a classic Kaki King guitar link laying ground for reverb-heavy vocals that set an energetic and introspective tone for the album. The production is superb, with guitars standing first and foremost and vocals coming in soft and delicate. But King’s vocal qualities have appeared to change at a more extended angle than her guitar trajectory.
There has always been a shy-girlish quality to King’s vocals that beguile her instrumental balls-out cockiness. And for longtime fans who can’t help but clamor for more, this will make “Junior” feel like a parting kiss to the closing tracks of “Dreaming of Revenge.” A continuation of a vocalistic and song-writing endeavor that has yet to reach its fork in the road and leave artist truly hanging on limb.
But Junior is significant none-the-less, and not to be unheard. King is growing into her skills as a lyricist, with an amazing poetical timing that breaks lines at their most thought-provoking syllables, and with a vocal innocence that has surely captured the ghostly ear of Elliot Smith somewhere in the cosmos.
Song titles like “Spit It Back in My Mouth” and “Hallucinations From My Poisonous” show King growing in lyrical assuredness, and lyrics like:
I fucked up good and well/ and you put me through fucking hell…/…but now all we can say we have/ is photographs and a wiener dog/ that chews up everything I love/ and all the things you left behind.
Make clear that King writes songs for herself and not for record companies or any other outside, profitable temptations.
But one need only listen to the instrumental guitar tracks to hear how far King’s vocals can, and should go. Sit down on the beach with her on Sloane Shore, be very quiet, and you’ll hear this girl tell you her whole life story through guitar. “Junior” brings Kaki King to her senior year, and we should all be excited to hear what graduation sounds like.