Vonnie Kyle’s latest album, Imperfect Parts, documents a transformative three-year journey during which the Portland, Oregon-based artist made some painfully complex decisions, and bravely emerged to embrace self-love and true romantic love. The 10-song album is a thrilling mix of vulnerable self-disclosure and visceral, hook-laden alt-rock.
“I make it a goal when I write my songs to engage with those who might have similar experiences,” Kyle reveals. “This record addresses my past faults and traumas in ways I feel a lot of other people can relate to. It’s about processing the pain, but also learning to heal and accept that I will always be an extremely flawed person who, no matter what, still deserves to be loved.”
Kyle’s forthcoming, genre hybrid of a record boasts a program of diverse songs that sound cohesive because of the well-defined artistic identity of its creator. Her prismatic musicality is influenced by Sleater-Kinney, Jenny Lewis, and St. Vincent—artists whose hooks are as distinct and strong as their musical identities. In addition, Kyle’s personal and artistic outlook has been shaped by the places she’s lived. She was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and spent a formative time as an adult in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“When I think of my old life in Minneapolis, I think about riding my single-speed bike to bars to see shows that ranged from rock, to hip-hop, to folk-pop to metal,” she details. After Minneapolis, Kyle spent time in Santa Fe where she wrote most of the songs that appear on Imperfect Parts. Vonnie continues: “I think the beauty of New Mexico heavily influenced my lyric writing, but a lot of the music comes from the person who wanted to play noisy pop songs in a noisy city.”
Since 2013, Kyle has released three EPs and emerged a successful touring artist who began making a name for herself playing DIY and taproom gigs, and selling burned CDs out of a suitcase. During her time living in Santa Fe, she released an EP under the pseudonym Ten Ten Division, as well as a self-titled EP showcasing her solo acoustic work. Prior to her solo career, Kyle performed in the Minneapolis band Skittish and was featured on their 2010 double-record release.
Imperfect Parts was written while Kyle was retreating from the music career grind, and reassessing her path in life. Kyle and her fiancé, at time, decided on a clean-slate beginning in Santa Fe. However, their marriage was short lived, and with that rupture came some serious soul searching. Thematically, Imperfect Parts spans the unraveling of that relationship, the self-questioning that came in the wake of the divorce, and, ultimately, the healing that has brought Kyle back to centered and joyful living.
The 10-song collection traverses sassy pop-rock, folk-rock, and artful balladry, among other satisfying surprises. The first single, “The Brink of Breaking Down,” is artfully aggressive, recalling snarling, 1980s pop-rock and the jagged riffs of My Chemical Romance. The song bursts with pent-up longing; that kind of feeling you have when your life slows down so much that your past desires float to the surface and drive you mad. The lyrics on “The Brink of Breaking Down” are desperately poetic. One choice bit is: I’d have to pull apart my wings/To keep me grounded in this ring/And read a novel every day/To pull me from the brink of breaking down. Another standout tune, the cinematic, “The Hell Did We Do,” boasts stately strings and therapeutic self-talk as Kyle grapples with romantic turmoil. She sings: The hell was I thinking/Letting whispers knock me down like a wave/The coward I am/I thought I was just being brave.
Kyle, the executive producer of the record, teamed up with Portland-based engineer/producer David Badstubner to record Imperfect Parts in a variety of locations, including Long Play Recording in Portland, and a garage converted into a home studio. Notable Twin Cities musicians Jillian Rae and Eric Martin, performed on and also provided significant tracking and production for the record at their home in Minneapolis.