The pure tropical, fun in the sun atmosphere of Hawaii may conjure lots of play, but there is plenty of nuance to be found. Whereas other musicians cater to summer party beach vibes, artist Kimie Miner lurks in that quiet reverie just before sundown. That brief moment of peace stolen not for cameras and pictures, but for the soul. Her third album, Proud as the Sun, invites listeners to bathe in the shimmering beauty found within. Her songs and the melodies accompanying them are so comforting and retreating, you’ll soon discover that paradise isn’t just a place, but an emotion.
This particular getaway is easy to get to. All it takes is a little bit of surrender. “Bamboo” sings of an enduring love that grows side by side without stifling the other, reaching unimaginable heights even when it threatens to break: We’ll see the world from a bird’s eye view/Yeah we’ll be taller than bam-bam-boo. The song’s playful inflection of the word is as catchy as it is mood-setting, a beckoning to lose oneself in this bamboo forest.
Kimie is clearly searching for something and we are on that journey with her. “Electrify Me” is a rousing spiritual anthem about the awakening that comes with venturing into the unknown, one that is sure to spark the traveling wanderer in all of us. She sings of rainbows and flashing green lights, reminding us there is beauty in getting lost from time to time.
Kimie’s lyrics are both soothing and empowering. If traveling allows one to be free and independent, then Kimie registers this independence as a strength of the utmost importance. There are strong undercurrents of sovereignty and femininity across the album; “Of a Queen” brings both to the fore. We will reign, we will rule, we’ll do more than survive/It’s who we are. True liberation comes with conquering one’s self and “Of a Queen” charts that inner transformation in distinctly pop fashion.
It’s a tough line to tow being a Hawaiian music artist, to acknowledge past traditions while carving your own path in the modern world. “Navigator” assures that Kimie is always looking to the horizon. There’s plenty of artistic territory for her to explore, layering a trap beat over an acoustic melody or throwing in a ukulele amidst wave-cresting synthesizers, Kimie Miner nonetheless finding clever new ways to expand her musical vocabulary.
Music was her expression, songwriting her therapy. At age 14, Kimie Miner taught herself how to play guitar and began writing her own songs ((in similar fashion to the self-taught Henry Kapono). Studio labels came knocking, but, wanting to retain her independence, she decided to launch her first album through Kickstarter. Her musical upbringing bears resemblance to fellow artist Anuhea. No surprise given they are of the same generation of artists who grew up inspired by the likes of India Arie’s motown jazz, Lauryn Hill’s R&B soul, and Hawaii’s own musical legend, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. Rather than be intimidated by those who came before, Kimie cites her place of upbringing and the wide-open future for the local music scene as reasons to journey into the unknown: “We have to know where we come from to know where we are going.” What comes next is as exciting a prospect as can be and Kimie rides on that wave of endless possibility, onward and forward.
Hawaii may not be in need of a replacement anthem, but “Proud as the Sun” could very easily be sung on the steps of the state’s capitol. Kimie pays tribute to Polynesia’s voyaging past (Our guiding star comes from the east/And we’ll navigate back home across the sea) while honoring the Hawaiian monarchy that once stood proud and continues to stand today as a people (The light of a nation/We are proud as the sun). Accompanied by a lone ukulele and a Greek chorus of harmony, this is Kimie’s most quietly affecting yet profoundly felt track, a rallying cry for togetherness – a sentiment even more pronounced at a time of political divide.
“Sea of Love” is the soft-spoken sunshine singalong made for those carefree strolls along the coast. The Pacific is all encompassing, inescapable, but through Kimie’s lyrical stamp the ocean becomes an open embrace, a place of cleansing as it is a place of gathering where all are welcome in its escape.
Kimie Miner often finds ways to subtly imbue her influences, but sometimes even she can’t help but let them take center stage. “A Change is Gonna Come,” originally composed by soul artist Sam Cooke, is covered spectacularly, replete with horns and saxophones swinging in the background. The song, written at the height of the Civil Rights movement, was an ode to the ever-changing times. Kimie sings with a similar hope (and similarly smooth runs), continuing the album’s themes of femininity and empowerment with a little bit of soul.
Album closer “Vein of Gold” wraps up this journey of self-discovery in vibrant fashion, a song both reggae and jazz-inflected and thrumming with melody the whole way through. Just a glimpse of amber light/We know it’s there but it’s hard to find. Kimie is our guide bringing us full circle, lighting the way home to our own inner paradise and whatever form that may take.
It might require some effort getting there, but the best journeys often do. Paradise is merely the destination. Kimie Miner reminds us to not fret over the end result. The journey, after all, is where it’s at.
Adrian Manuel is a freelance writer. He’s published articles on Thought Catalog, written a flash piece for A Quiet Courage, and submitted feature essays for The Good Men Project and Mamalode. He also runs an entertainment news blog where he reports on film, television, and music. He lives in Maui.