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When Kimbra refers to her third album, Primal Heart, as "the most confessional record I've made," she's willing to go beyond the platitude and get philosophical.

"I liked the idea of making a record where it felt like I was holding a listener's hand, looking them very, very strongly in the eye, and telling them stories," says Kimbra Lee Johnson, the New Zealand-born, New York-based musician who, for a stint, called Melbourne home.

Kimbra.

Photo: Micaiah Carter

"The greatest thing I can give my fans isn't an autograph or a cheesy photo for Instagram, it's pouring my heart out and if I'm giving my heart to people … then I have to be honest."

uses words like "purging" and "detoxing" to talk about her new songs, which are studies in "vulnerability" and "self-doubt". Working with producer John Congleton (St. Vincent), the approach was to keep things "very simple, very exposed and raw". Primal Heart's sound echoes its title: the songs built around the essential components of rhythm and voice, its beats evoking the pulse of a heart.

The 28-year-old calls the record "a sonic version of me" and is not afraid of asking herself what that means and acknowledging the limits to how much of herself can be conveyed in music. With the release of her debut album, 2011's Vows, she saw how her videos "unintentionally created a character, a persona", with her op-shop outfits seen as making her "look like some psychedelic Disney character".

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