Multi-skilled guitarist Kaki King has returned with a fourth album, a seemingly logical progression from her previous work ...Until We Felt Red. As with the last album, this one is a diversion from her first two albums, which were almost exclusively instrumental and guitar-centered, and focused primarily on her finger-tapping style. Once again, she has assembled this overall mild-mannered album, which does not limit itself to any single genre, but rather dips in and out of various worlds of style, including bits and pieces of non-aggressive rock, folk, ambient jazz, and subtle post-rock, all the while retaining a sensible flow. She also takes on the role of a vocalist more strongly on this album. Much of her vocals here are very outright, as opposed to those on ...Until We Felt Red, where they were more subdued and delicate. With the vocals being more outright, it becomes more apparent that vocals are not exactly Kaki's forte, yet one still must admire her seemingly increased level of confidence in assuming the duty of singing.
The album starts with a short, semi-acoustic/semi-electric instrumental prelude with jazz/funk overtones. Throughout the rest of the album, there are several instrumental interludes, which contribute to the overall flow of the album, and do easily stand alone as individual works, such as the Metheny-invoking songs "Sad American," and "Open Mouth," and the shifty "Montreal." "Life Being What It Is" is the first track to exhibit Kaki's "new" vocals, giving you ample time to decide whether or not you like them. She does however still utilize wordless vocalizations in the background that add to the instrumental section, reminiscent of past songs such as "You Don't Have to Be Afraid." This harmony-rich technique prevails on other songs such as "Saving Days in a Frozen Head," and it is in this technique that Kaki's voice always does seem to succeed. "Pull Me Out Alive" may raise a few eyebrows at first, but it evolves into a catchy pop tune, and an album highlight.
Overall, this is a very good album. It may not have the staying power or even the full appeal of its predecessor, but it remains an indication of Kaki King's skills as a musician and songwriter, and her abilities to diversify and not limit herself.