Childlike cool: Andy Mannix reviews Kimya Dawson


Kimya Dawson Cedar Cultural Center, April 16 Review by Andy Mannix

Kimya Dawson doesn't look the part.

Not of a hipster. Not of a folkster. Not of an indie-rockster.

She wears a navy blue zip-up hooded sweatshirt, and a plain, brown dress. She has tattoos crawling up her arms, piercings on her face and a messy afro that sticks out about a foot in every direction. If you were to see her on the street, she would be difficult to place. Her music is the same way.

A sold-out audience seemed to dig her Wednesday night at the Cedar Cultural Center. The former Moldy Peach was received with booming applause and cat-calls after every gently strummed tune.

Dawson is a strange act. She is by no means brilliant, and no prodigy of guitar or lyrics. She timidly strokes simple chords, and sings in a glorified whisper. But that doesn't mean that she disappoints. In fact, that's exactly what her fans come to see.

With her recent escalation in success derived from performing a hefty portion of the “Juno” soundtrack, Dawson has staked her claim in the music business as the awkward girl in class. She is a genuinely shy, modest, mama's girl who sings quirky songs that are the antithesis of cool (somehow resulting in a backwards subset of coolness).

Her music is refreshing. Instead of singing about things like war and politics, she sings about things like bowel movements and “Babbio, the skinny brother of Fabio.” Her songs are dream-like narratives filled with playful life advice. She's charming, and makes people laugh.

At one point during the show, Dawson performed about a half dozen songs off her upcoming children’s album “Alphabutts.” Like much of her work, these are barely one minute delves into fart jokes and kiddish messages on topics like the importance of sharing. No Radiohead, sure. But her fans seemed to love it.

And that's exactly it with Dawson. If you pick up an album like “Remember that I Love You” expecting it to be good in the sense that “The Bends” is good, you are destined for disappointment. But if you want something light-hearted, funny and evocative of previously forgotten elementary school memories, you're in for a treat. -- Andy Mannix