Matt on More Music: Kimya Dawson

Kimya Dawson gained mainstream attention when many of her songs appeared in the 2007 film “Juno.” Still, she had a following in the indie scene years before that. She is known for her soft, friendly voice and lyrics that use heavy wordplay and humor. When Ke$ha sang, “We make the hipsters fall in love,” I like to think she was actually singing from Dawson’s point-of-view.

Dawson was originally a member of The Moldy Peaches, trading off vocals and lyrics with Adam Green. Since the group’s debut in 2001 (and breakup in 2004), she has released plenty of music, either solo or with other bands. Sadly, she’s never been able to properly replace Green. With her new band, The Uncluded, she may have finally found somebody worthy to take his place, but it’s not who you’d think it would be.

Here is my overview of Dawson’s discography and what lead to The Uncluded.

The Moldy Peaches: “The Moldy Peaches” (’01, Rough Trade)

The Moldy Peaches were fronted by Kimya Dawson and Adam Green, who were so ideal together that, when they went their separate ways, neither managed to top this album. Dawson recorded several terrific efforts, albeit not as terrific as this, while Green sort of lost his touch. Here, however, the two of them managed to create one of the most unique albums of all time. Catchy, bizarre and often hilarious, the majority of the nineteen tracks on “The Moldy Peaches” are solid and, the few times where they aren’t, they at least fail in interesting ways.

Grade: A

Kimya Dawson: “I’m Sorry That Sometimes I’m Mean” (’02, Rough Trade)

Listening to “The Moldy Peaches,” one would probably conclude that Dawson was the main reason the album worked so well. Listening to Adam Green’s solo work would reinforce this conclusion. But on Dawson’s solo debut “I’m Sorry That Sometimes I’m Mean,” her flaws begin to show. The most notable of these flaws is the fact that she’s just too nice. This niceness was noticeable on “The Moldy Peaches,” but it was also supported by Green’s knack for surprise. “I’m Sorry That Sometimes I’m Mean” contains no surprises on the level of The Moldy Peaches’ “Anyone Else But You” (a beautiful weirdos-in-love song that ends with a ridiculously unexpected line), no hooks on the level of “Who’s Got the Crack?” and no moments as hilarious as “Steak for Chicken.” Green’s presence is definitely missed here. Regardless, for two songs (the adorably dark “Wandering Daughter” and the tearjerking child abuse song “Hold My Hand”) Dawson makes you forget who Adam Green even is.

Grade: B PLUS

Kimya Dawson: “My Cute Fiend Sweet Princess” (’04, Important)

Somehow, Dawson followed her mediocre solo debut with an album that comes incredibly close to recapturing the magic of
“The Moldy Peaches.” Of course, “My Cute Fiend Sweet Princess” isn’t as good as “The Moldy Peaches.” It features ten less songs and just about as many forgettable ones. At the same time, she seems more aware of her flaws and tries harder to work with them. This time around, the funny songs are funnier, the dark songs are darker and the hooks and production are all around superior to her previous effort. And listening to it will take little more than a half-hour out of your day.

Grade: A MINUS

Antsy Pants: “Antsy Pants” (’06, Plan It X) Dawson gets a lot of attention for her childlike voice, so it would figure she would pair up with an actual kid. Featuring French anti-folk singer Leo Bear Creek, 12 years old at the time, Antsy Pants seems like a perfect group for Dawson, and her best qualities definitely shine here. But after a pleasant enough performance on the very enjoyable opening track “Big City,” Leo Bear Creek’s voice begins to become a lot less welcome and a lot more irritating. Still, “Antsy Pants” is cute, weird and funny; in other words, it’s what you expect from a Kimya Dawson album. I just wish more of the tracks came close to being as phenomenal as “Tree Hugger,” easily one of Dawson’s top five tracks.

Grade: B PLUS

The Bundles: “The Bundles” (’09, K)

The Moldy Peaches worked because of Kimya Dawson and Adam Green’s chemistry. The Bundles don’t because of the way Dawson tries to recreate that chemistry with Jeffrey Lewis. Two tracks (“A Common Chorus” and “Ishlicious”) are pretty great. Everything else is skippable.

Grade: B MINUS

The Uncluded: “Hokey Fright” (’13, Rhymesayers)

In attempting to find an Adam Green replacement, Kimya Dawson has recorded with everyone from a 12-year-old boy to Jeffrey Lewis. Now, she appears to have finally found a worthy recording partner in indie-rapper Aesop Rock. This isn’t a collaboration that seems like it should work, but does it ever. The Uncluded shows a level of consistency and genius that Dawson hasn’t shown since 2001 and Rock hasn’t shown since ever. Containing some of the best material either artist has ever recorded, “The Uncluded” is bound to be one of 2013’s most irresistible releases. Highlights include the organ-donation anthem “Organs,” the sentimental “Teleprompters” and the killer finale “Tits Up.”

Grade: A

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