The last single by Kelsie Kimberlin I heard was “Shattered,” released in August. “Turn Back” very much follows on from the stylings she established in that earlier song, relying heavily on vocal harmonies, and soft but lush production, and delivers an overall pleasant listening experience.
“Turn Back” sees Kimberlin doubling down on her affinity for vocal harmonies. After an ethereal intro section characterized by a relaxed synthesizer pad and reverb-drenched piano riff, she enters the verse with a heavily harmonized vocal part reminiscent of Imogen Heap or Bon Iver but to her credit and vocal prowess, without the use of any autotune or harmonizer which is really unique and appreciable. The song introduces itself with a mesmerizing, dreamlike quality; the soundscape emerges as if from a mist, atop which Kimberlin’s voice sits like rays of sunshine peeking through the fog.
Much like “Shattered,” I assume the softness of Kimberlin’s vocal delivery seems to be a deliberate choice to emphasize a sense of sensitivity and perhaps vulnerability. The gentle instrumental backdrop, enhanced by strings and a filtered, sparse drum beat underscores her performance.
Although lyrically this is a very standard “don’t leave me” type of song, it’s not aggressive or mournful – it’s almost jarring how gentle and unpretentious it is. It’s almost soothing – the kind of song you could put on in the background on a relaxing day or even just sink into; it feels like more meditative than mournful, resigned than pleading.
The standout moment in “Turn Back” is a brief post-chorus interlude featuring a key change and a Beatlesque mellotron flute line in the instrumental arrangement. While it feels somewhat out of place in the totality of the song, it’s an exciting gear change in what is otherwise a very placid piece of music.
The production on “Turn Back,” much like the majority of Kimberlin’s work, is immaculate – the arrangement is well thought out, and the mix allows her rich vocal layers to dominate a spacey sonic landscape.
Although I think the song could benefit from a variation in vocal delivery (the Imogen Heap harmony stacks do feel a bit grating by the end) and some more pointed lyrical moments, that’s my ear as someone who has a penchant for in-your-face pop music and tight songwriting. I don’t think that’s necessarily what Kimberlin was going for here – and if I’m right in assuming that, she’s done exactly what she was trying to do.
This is a song to comfort you when you’re sad, much as was “Shattered.” I would happily situate it on an easy-listening playlist, and it certainly stands as a comfortable addition to Kimberlin’s discography.
Listen to "Turn Back" on Spotify here -
You can check out Kelsie Kimberlin’s website here:
A brilliant addition to the repertoire -