Sweden’s alluring iamamiwhoami (helmed by Jonna Lee) project began at the tail-end of 2009 with a bizarre stream of YouTube videos that were backdropped with frighteningly incredible electronic synths and pop melodies. As months went by we were slowly introduced to the mysterious Lee, albeit still to this day very mysteriously. Through video and song, the iamamiwhoami project has gone from being a mind-boggling tease to one of the most interesting and intriguing pop acts of the last 10 years. Lee is incredibly in-tune with the audio-visual aspect of her art – every single released on iTunes to date has had an accompanying video clip and the release of her (long, long awaited) debut album will be no different. Clocking in at a perfect nine tracks in total, each song on the record has its own video component (being released separately on DVD in September but available to watch on YouTube now) and, unlike most records that suffer from being anywhere between 3 and 6 tracks too long, KIN manages to present a flawless, cohesive, relevant and refreshing record. If you’re after stereotypical Swedish pop then you’re looking in the wrong direction, but that fact alone shouldn’t deter you from listening to what really is one of 2012′s best releases. There isn’t a dud in sight, not a bad egg anywhere – iamamiwhoami has exceeded most of our expectations since her first release and this record does not disrupt that notion.
Whilst it’s easy (and, perhaps moreso, lazy) to compare iamami’s sound to the likes of Bjork, Portishead and even fellow Swede’s The Knife (when, to be honest, things like the precious “Idle Talk” – a monolithic synth-ballad that is more Human League gone Swedish Acid Tab than Bjork), there’s something undeniably authentic and original about what is on offer throughout KIN. The sound of Lee’s voice with these very hypnotic synths and basslines is bliss to sit through, and subtle album opener “Sever” does so magically before merging itself into the slightly crazy and 100% amazing “Drops”, a chaotic moment in frantic beats and haunting harmonies. There’s a lot going on but not too much for you to be unable to keep up, which is perhaps what makes KIN such a reward to listen to. Another long-player highlight is “Rascal”, a slower-paced moment that harks slightly on the Kate Bush side of things (yes yes, more lazy comparatives) – should she ever find herself making electronica on Ableton Live that is. Stuff like “Good Worker” harks back to the original iamamiwhoami synths from their 2009/2010 video releases, and the album’s rattlesnake, titled “In Due Order”, is a mental, borderline demonic moment of glimmeringly dark proportions.
The final two moments on KIN are undoubtedly iamamiwhoami’s finest. “Kill” is a six and a half minute excursion into exactly the kind of goosebump-inducing sounds Jonna can generate – a song that builds upon itself into some seriously massive moments. The lyrics (if you can understand them – they’re all in English but sometimes you’d be pressed to realise it) are monstrously good too, but listen to Kill’s final two minutes and try to stop the waves of musical euphoria take over your senses – it’s the kind of climax that has been sent from the Music Gods.
The most commercially viable song on KINS (which does not necessarily mean it’s the record’s most conventional song because there isn’t a conventional moment among these nine pearlers) is the just-as-bonkers “Goods”, complete with one of those choruses that you’ll hear once and never forget. On a production level as well this is her most extravagant adventure by far and, fittingly, is the records breathtaking closer.
iamamiwhoami has come a long way since releasing 30 second YouTube videos that the general populous at first thought were Christina Aguilera. Such a debacle as that seems nothing more than a very distant memory in light of this truly impressive debut album. If you’ve never heard of iamamiwhoami and are a little disillusioned with pop music at the moment then you’ll find KIN to be an absolute revelation. It does everything that pop isn’t doing at the moment and hasn’t – really – been doing since Roisin Murphy decided to pop babies instead of music. KIN is definitely an album your high-brow ‘real music’ listener (WHATEVER THAT IS) can enjoy alongside your local pop freak.