Kami Thompson | Love Lies
album review by John Powell
Kami Thompson has guitarist/songwriter extraordinaire Richard Thompson as a father and friends like Martha Wainwright. Although she started writing songs to pass the time, invariably her influences were strong. It was only a matter of time before something like Love Lies would come to fruition. I will compare her to Richard in this way: they both have a somewhat monotone voice that also has a way of carrying deep emotion, like it’s curbed in spite of itself. I’ll also say they have love of folk-y blues with timeless grace.
Richard, Martha, and a handful of other famous guests appear on this record, but Kami’s really in her own limelight here. Is the album earth-shattering? No. Kami sounds like Sarah McLachlan or a really depressed Jewel. Like these two, Kami can write a thoroughly thoughtful song that follows pop song outline standards. There are strong points, for sure, and nothing is bad. It just has its own way about it.
The opener, “Little Boy Blue”, is a great example. It careens in with what sounds like Dire Straights as a backing band, a dessert-life drone with Kami singing, “I’m thinking of you/all of the time/and the parting words so sweet/you almost kissed me.” The interspersed guitar is sharp and the drums hit the beat stoically. She bears her heart and it’s good. “4,000 Miles” is better. The bass is fuller and there’s some hand percussion worth noting. Kami has a lot of heartbreak to unleash. “I used to think I missed you,” she sings. “That was just the child in me.” She clearly has some scars but walks around with a knife, you know? Some lyrics are cutthroat. “Please don’t call anymore,” she begs.
A break in the pace is “Gotta Hold On”. “Now I only care for me/but I take you home at night.” The song steps up the pace and returns to the chorus often in a radio-friendly manner. It’s the catchiest song on the album, presented by a strong woman with a soft heart.
A key track is “Nice Cars”, on which Kami’s lyrics are the most original. Many of the songs are well constructed, but sound like any rock/pop icon could have written them too. “Nice Cars” breaks new ground. One finger-picked guitar creates the foundation. The melody is tight. “Gear stick’s stuck/what the fuck?/Oh ladies shouldn’t drive nice cars.” It’s poetry wrapped in a woman singing hard ass and badass. “Don’t call my husband/he won’t understand.” It’s proof that less can be more, and that less is what Kami does best. She needs very little to convey a message.
Every song has a similar feel, which I compliment. The album has a sound, cohesively, and no song drags on. It’s a tight collection with a killer backing band. “Want You Back” throws in slide guitar and counter rhythm backbeats. “Blood Wedding” introduces mandolin and that timeless aspect, splurging on an immortal melody and Kami softly brooding, “Be careful of love/it only brings pain.”
The closing track pulls guitar effects from the 80s, spooling them around a dark rhythm and Kami crooning, “I know he’ll always be the only one for me.” It’s hard to differentiate what is her and what is the studio. The instrumentation is tight, varied, and simply perfect for the songs, and while the album isn’t that glossy, you do wonder how much was Kami saying, “Do this” and how much was everyone else telling Kami, “Do this.” Kami sounds at times bored, but that’s just her style. It’s almost as if she’s separated herself from her emotions, and presents them to us as an afterthought, like she’s moved on.
For a debut, Love Lies has really found its sound and shows off Kami’s songwriting ability. Nothing is outlandishly metaphorical, but rather comprehensible, which is rare. Not much is flourish. There’s no fluff. Props.
Bottom line: Kami Thompson comes from a highly set bar of musical excellence, and delivers a safe but poignant set of tracks.