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Kimya Dawson: A Songwriter Tackles Motherhood Head-On

Kimya Dawson released her latest album, <em>Thunder Thighs</em>, on Oct. 18.
Courtesy of the artist
Kimya Dawson released her latest album, Thunder Thighs, on Oct. 18.

Kimya Dawson is considered an indie-rock icon by many. She has won acclaim for her work as half of the duo The Moldy Peaches, as well as for her solo work, which was featured on the soundtrack for the 2007 movie Juno. Since becoming a mother five years ago, Dawson has released albums for children and adults. Her new album, Thunder Thighs, features material intended for both audiences.

As the songs on Thunder Thighs make clear, Dawson has been many things — troubled teen, troubadour, activist — but it is a new role, mom, that now shapes her work. She isn't shy about broaching serious topics, and divulges things most singers obscure in analogies — singing about dead friends, the troubled state of the world, and her recovery from drug addiction. She slots these serious songs next to sing-alongs about "a bear at the fair," where she is backed by her daughter and a chorus of preschool pals.

As Thunder Thighs progresses, it becomes clear that it is really two records trapped in one body and tangled together, one inspired by the delight of being a mama and seeing the world with parental eyes, and the other reflecting on Dawson's life pre-motherhood. Thunder Thighs is as much about raising her daughter as about Dawson herself growing up.

It's hard to imagine either her kid or adult audiences having very much patience for the others' songs, but Dawson's playfulness and positivity keep the record from being too heavy or too goofy — though Dawson would clearly be fine with the latter. It's this earnestness that makes Thunder Thighs such a refreshing listen. With Dawson, there's no cool posing; she is the anti-rock star, with her heart on her sleeve and her daughter on her hip.

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Jessica Hopper