Cooking Vinyl, 2008

Having scored a Golden Globe nominated film soundtrack with Eddie Vedder, appeared on recent albums for Tegan and Sara and the Foo Fighters, and being named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the new gods of guitar, you’d think that everything is coming up roses for Kaki King, the 28 year old Georgia-born songstress, but as her fourth album Dreaming of Revenge shows, this is just the beginning.

This diminutive guitar virtuoso has been quietly working on the fringes of the singer/songwriter scene for several years now, recording largely acoustic and instrumental albums since 2003. Dreaming of Revenge continues in the same progressive/post-rock direction as 2006’s ….Until We Felt Red (informed and helmed by no less than John McEntire of Tortoise), creating ambient textures to provide a backing to her evocative guitar style, as well as contributing vocals to several of the songs.

Much attention is made to King’s unusual finger-picking guitar style and hand slapping rhythm creating a percussive sound, but I hear a lot of Elliott Smith in her style, especially with her ability to engage in a multitude of intricate and complex rhythms, giving the impression there are twice as many fingers plucking the strings than usual. The Brooding instrumental track “Sad American” and the driving “Montreal” highlight her deft talent, creating their own momentum and groove.

King has admitted as such that Dreaming of Revenge is her most personal album, with two out of the four vocal-accompanied tracks reflecting on what sounds like a bitter break-up. “Life Being What It Is” (from a line in which the album gets its title) is based around King’s acoustic guitar and her softly sung voice reflecting on a farewell “I can’t stay till you’re gone/won’t wish you well/won’t see you off”.

The vocal tracks tend to shift the emphasis away from the guitar to focus on King’s voice, which on gentler, less-instrumentally accompanied tracks such as “Saving Days in a Frozen Head” and “Life Being What It Is” works, but when competing with a full band on the ethereal rock of “Pull Me Out Alive” it lacks the weight to match up. King’s strengths do lie in her guitar-work, and being as the album is largely instrumental it’s in these songs and in particular the tensely beautiful “Open Mouth” where the album shines.

Fans of Tegan and Sara (who’s last album The Con, King played on) will undoubtedly find something worthwhile here, post-rock, post-folk, whatever you want to call it, you’d be best to take a listen.