SxSW Review: Sarah Kinsley, Fly Anakin, Kimbra , March 16, Central Presbyterian Church

Wednesday night at the Central Presbyterian Church saw a string of showcases presented by the podcast Song Exploder and curated by host Hrishikesh Hirway. As a marker of my ignorance I will admit that, while Song Exploder has appeared on the radar many times, BBC World News always triumphs over most podcasts on my frequencies. So, its focal exploration of the singular motivation behind just one song remains a refreshing format to me.

Sarah Kinsley

20220316 Sarah Kinsley
New Yorker Sarah Kinsley got the attention of Song Exploder with “The King”, which is indeed a sweetly catchy pop tune. Besides the hit song, “I’m Not A Mountain” is similarly interesting. Kinsley’s songs become less orchestral and complex when the layers are simplified to a 4-piece band, losing some of the original theatrical weight that made them appealing in the first place. For this reason, it might be the rare instance where live isn’t better.

Fly Anakin

20220316 Fly Anakin
Richmond, Virginia’s Fly Anakin stepped up with his brother playing DJ to his observational rapping. I don’t have much to comment on here … but not because I wouldn’t do my homework. I gather that much of the material was from his debut album Frank that just dropped a few days ago. But from where I was sitting in the church, I couldn’t make out much of what was said in the breathless attacks. I grant that his is a skill few are equipped with. But whenever the accompanying beats clash with the lyrics for clarity, comprehension becomes a battle that I (willingly) lose every time.


20220316 Kimbra

In contrast, there wasn’t much content to understand from Kimbra in the first place. Spawned from the same secluded avian paradise as other equally hollow pop stars, Kimbra’s Song Exploder hit was “Top of the World” from her last album, 2018’s Primal Heart. While I may have found the songs to be somewhat lacking, Kimbra did put on an impressive performance. Here, we are reminded of the tried-and-tested philosophy in which performance and manipulation of expectations, not substance, is the key to adulation. And no wonder she has since moved on to an acting and producing career. At the church, she made use of voice loops to back her eclectic singing and gesturing. I couldn’t tell you whether she played a Theremin or conducted a Buddhist exorcism – but it was certainly a mesmerizing distraction from the pedestrian lyrics.

Posted on by Gary in South By Southwest

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