Pop singer-songwriter Kiiara quietly burst onto the scene in 2015 with her breakout debut single, “Gold.” The Illinois-born artist had a fresh sound and modern pop foundation with an unorthodox chopped-up vocal production that created an odd but effectively lyrical sound. The song racked up millions of streams, a Billboard chart position and even led to a high-profile collaboration on Linkin Park pop crossover track “Heavy.”
In the years that followed, she’d release an EP, record collaborations and release individual tracks—but never a full album. That all changes with the release of Kiiara’s full-length debut, lil kiiwi. The title references the singer’s earliest days of her career, a nickname of sorts as she was coming up as an artist. The new album is a mixture of previously released tracks with new material.
“So Sick,” a collaboration with artist-producer Blackbear, opens the album with expansive pop production and warlike rhythm. “You got me feeling so sick/ How could you move on so quick,” Kiiara sings on the chorus of the lovelorn breakup track, with Blackbear providing the second verse vocals and harmonies throughout.
“Feels” is a callback to Kiiara’s first EP. It’s a breezy laidback track with an ethereal and atmospheric synths. Kiiara’s vocal stylings are uniquely interesting—quiet and controlled, almost shy and whispered, but still bright and compelling. “I’ve got way too many feels/ Way too much emotion,” Kiiara sings about attempting to numb anxieties. “Brightside” is begins sparse and experimental before slowly growing more complex. Quite a few of the album’s 13 tracks clock in at under three minutes, saying what they need to say without superfluous filler.
“Don’t Get Confused” mixes in a stomping, toe-tapper of a beat with a repeating guitar and bass line. It’s bouncy and playful, a different emotion than the opening trio of tracks. Felix Snow collaboration “Whippin” recalls the singer’s trippy, choppy vocals of “Gold” to effective results. “I Still Do” is another lyrical kiss-off cut, with Kiiara singing about long-term self-doubt after ending a broken relationship. Sonically, it’s less experimental than much of the other material and is a welcome change of pace.
“Gold” will be an abundantly familiar addition for early Kiiara fans. The older cut helps to build a cohesiveness throughout the other songs and reflects her career trajectory. Serene ballad “Empty” channels the electro-pop of “Lights,” with a quiet restraint on the verses building into a more lush and driving chorus. The introspective “Never Let You” has a more prominent rock influence, bouncing from an acoustic guitar to a dirty distorted guitar sound over a heavy bass beat on the chorus—maybe a slight nod to the Linkin Park from her initial collaboration.
The dark and brooding “Numb” is a collaboration with DeathbyRomy and PVRIS. The echoing arrangement is complemented with multilayered vocals that are soaked in reverb, which only adds to the intensity. “Accidental,” meanwhile, bounces between several percussion tracks and tempos at a stop-and-start pace.
“Two Thumbs” is an ode to unrequited love through unanswered texts. The album closes out with with upbeat “Bad One,” a more conventional pop banger that’ll keep your head bobbing from start finishing. “I’m with a good, good boy/ I’m still in love with the bad one,” Kiiara sings, still trying to find her way around lost love and broken relationships.
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.