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Kaki King’s ever-expanding universe 

Atlanta guitarist feels at home on Miley Cyrus collabos and in scuzzy men’s rooms

"Can you guess where I am?" Kaki King is on the phone. "I'll give you a hint." Then, indiscernible noise. "Did you get that?" Nope. She sighs, disappointed. "I'm in the men's room of a bagel store in Connecticut." The noise was a flushing toilet, or maybe a dude peeing. How did I miss that? This guessing game shouldn't come as a surprise from a woman who resolutely refuses to be pigeonholed. An Atlanta native and Westminster Schools graduate, King moved to New York City 12 years ago to attend NYU. After that, like many, she fell in love with the place and decided to stay. "It started to feel more like home base [than Atlanta]," she explains.

King is a proficient musician and a noted virtuoso on guitar. Her first couple of albums featured only her percussive guitar playing layered on top of itself to create brawny waves of texture. Junior, her latest recording, is her most immediate to date. It is the sound of Kaki King turned outward: Band members – mostly multi-instrumentalist Dan Brantigan and drummer Jordan Perlson – played key roles in the album's arrangements. "It was very different from everything I've done," she says. "There wasn't a lot of agonizing thought. It was just three musicians in the room, making music. That's how we rehearsed it, and that's how we recorded it." The result is a relatively straightforward brand of rock; but lest anyone accuse King of abandoning her experimental roots, her oddball tunings and unique playing style remain intact, hidden under layers of candid post-pop.

King's world is ever-expanding. Besides making the late-night talk show rounds, she recently collaborated with über-producer Timbaland on a new song featuring the vocal stylings of one Miley Cyrus. "I know," King groans, but her smile is audible. It's clear she's excited about such endless musical possibility. And who wouldn't be? All this opportunity aside, when I ask her if she gets excited to return to Atlanta, King is ebullient. "Are you joking? Goddamn, I can't wait to come!" she spurts. The family is here, as are friends. In King's widening world, home is an essential constant ground.

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