Album Review: Kim Boekbinder – The Impossible Girl (2011 LP)

The Impossible Girl is the debut full-length solo album from Canadian-born singer/songwriter Kim Boekbinder, produced by Sean Slade(Radiohead, Hole and The Dresden Dolls). Boekbinder began her career performing with her sister Zoe Boekbinder as the colourful circus-cabaret indie outfit Vermillion Lies. Stepping out solo appears to have allowed Kim Boekbinder to flourish, and produce an impressive and refreshing collection of unique and wonderful songs.

The album opens with a rhythmic clapping and echoey vocals of the first track, ’The Impossible Girl #1.’ An intro that sets the scene for the album: simple, sweet and instantly infectious. The Impossible Girl is a patchwork; a stitch-up of moods and styles; of lo-fi, alt-folk storytelling and effortlessly grand orchestral numbers. The track ‘Big Easy’ has a big-band, film noir sexiness, whereas ‘Slip Away’ combines Boekbinders honest, wistful vocals with gentle lullaby of strings and guitar. There is perhaps a kinship in Boekbinder’s style with the Regina Spector who has a similar ability to shift effortlessly between genres and styles, while still remaining unmistakably herself.

There are moments in this album of seemingly heartfelt depth, but there are also moments where the fun, quirky aspect of Boekbinders’ character presents itself. ‘Sex, Drugs, & Nuclear Physics’ is a jaunty country pop number about science-love. The line “I like brains, and I like them big” definitely appeals to the geek in me. Boekbinder had previously performed a song with Vermillion Lies about how sexy planets are. I’m glad I’m not the only one that finds science so alluring. Equally odd-ball is the cheery, piano accordion number ‘The Organ Donor’s March,’ which is adorably catchy and romantic in an icky kinda way. Then there is the grandiose and strange mexicanish-folky number ‘Gypsy.’ These fun, theatrical tracks give the album personality, yet and entire album of such songs would not work. Thankfully, Boekbinder has managed to keep the album grounded by the genuinely lovely, folky numbers.

The Impossible Girl is a collection of songs that are like a bunch of wildflowers; startling in their variation, but beautiful when all bound up together. There is no filler, with every track holding its own. ‘Anyone At All’ offers up an eighties sound, afro-pop layering of vocals creating the rhythm for this soft and sweet ballad. Simpler songs such as ‘Rainbows and Unicorns’ and “Open/Avocado’ are equally amazing and it is on these tracks that Kim Boekbinder truly surprises. Her beautiful, melancholic songwriting is complimented by her superb and honest vocals, which are not swamped in or distorted by post-production affects of auto-tuning.

Boekbinder recently toured with Amanda Palmer (Dresden Dolls) and the pair seem a fitting match, as they both share that post-punk cabaret aesthetic and both seem to love a bit of ukulele. Palmer has been a strong advocate for the blessings of being a free agent. Boekbinder similarly demonstrates that there is plenty of room for more entrepreneurial artist like her on the web-powered, creativity locomotive. Independence from the constraints of a label allows for spur-of-the-moment ideas to flourish, and the internet has allowed artists like Boekbinder to self-market in creative ways. Palmer and Boekbinker just recently collaborated to record a cover of The Postal Services’ ‘Such Great Heights,’ a recording which was just a twinkle in the eye of the two artists but was eventually born thanks to the support of their fans. The duet was funded via Kickstarter (an online funding platform for artists and creative folk). Fans appear to be more than willing to support this kind of on-line self-promotion. Boekbinder was offering a Skype ukulele lesson to those generous folk who pledge $120 to the cause. This sort of thing is the artistic equivalent of wearing your heart-on-the-sleeve and it’s infinitely preferable to the cold, hard impermeable walls that usually divide the fan from the artist.

It’s rare that you discover an album that truly catches you, like a hook in your heart and reels you in. It is hard not to be captivated by a collection of songs so perfectly conceived and delivered. The Impossible Girl is an impressing effort by an endlessly engaging and creative artist. Boekbinders voice has a sublime honesty and with these songs she demonstrates that she possesses the rare ability to convincingly weave her impassioned and tender songwriting together with a sense of whimsy and humor. The result is a multi-dimensional album full of sensual storytelling.

Review Score: 9/10


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