Music is why we do this. It’s in the fall air. As the wind carries the leaves, they rustle and scrape rhythmically across the ground. The crisper air blows away the sloth of summer’s end and hoodies are back again. Cooler weather and shorter days mean longer, more chill listening sessions.
Hiatus Kaiyote is an amazing band from Melbourne Australia. Their style is jazzy, funky, and complex. They aren’t afraid to throw everything into their music. Layer after layer is available to dissect as Nai Palm sings and navigates strings. She is accompanied by Simon Mavin on the keys, Perrin Moss on drums, and Paul Bender on bass. In addition to their main elements, we get electronic vibes, hip hop sensibilities, and soulful depth.
Nakamarra is the first track I ever heard from them, the same year they formed as a group. I don’t remember what I was doing at the time, but I do remember having it on repeat. It starts with such an amazing groove, then Nai Palm enters. Her voice is fiery, with a bit of depth and rasp, but her control over it provides a smoothness that melts atop the track and blends well with the band. She’s given lots of interviews and through that I was able to get an appreciation of just how grounded in culture this song is. Nakamarra is a skin name, given at birth among Aboriginal people to represent their families and communities, as well as identify with others. In the song, she opens with Hannah, someone she loves dearly and counts as family. This ode to her and her skin name is wonderful.
Ocelot is another track from Tawk Tomahawk that struck me immediately. The complex percussion almost reminds me of a drumline. I can’t help but move my feet in a way that feels like my body is trying to decode the rhythm. The track has an earthy vibe to it that Nai Palm supports well with raw vocals and harmonies. It is short at one minute and twenty-three seconds, but it left its mark on me.
Choose Your Weapon is Hiatus Kaiyote’s second album. The opening track shares the same name and is more fun than it seems on the surface. Spotify has a commentary album that I stumbled upon by mistake, and in it they reveal the “Dolby THX rip off” sound was a result of just finding it in a new keyboard that Simon was exploring. After this they played around with the track, adding collected elements and making it a menagerie of things to come.
Breathing Underwater opens with a similarly quirky electronic rift, but quickly transitions to a more acoustic sound. Though the vocal opening isn't a round, it reminded me of learning rounds with Row Row Row Your Boat in grade school. I found this amusing since breathing underwater is the last thing you’d want to have to do in that instance. Tangent aside, listening to the commentary album reveals this track is a tribute to Stevie Wonder’s music. Nai Palm comments on the complexity of Stevie’s music and how it influenced her. That makes a lot of sense since that’s really what sticks out to me about the band overall. The track lyrically is about love and how it only takes a little bit to change someone. She comments on the Rose of Jericho and how it can last a hundred years with no water, but all it takes is one bit or rainfall and it blossoms in minutes. Making connections like this really adds to the beauty of music. Even if I didn’t have the benefit of commentary, the depth of this song would still exist.
By Fire gets me moving in a similar fashion to Ocelot. The complexity in the percussion can be felt throughout the body. It brings out their funky side as the elastic bassline is complemented by synths. Vocally, Nai Palm follows the instrumentation’s peaks and valleys. We’re told a story about an eccentric shop owner who used to make arrow heads the traditional way, by fire. Then of her father who was not Native American but loved and emulated their art. Art that he one day destroys, by fire. This cost him his life. Creation and destruction are also echoed in the complex groves of this track. All in all, one of my favorites on the album.
Building a Ladder wraps up this album beautifully. It opens with piano and a vocally vulnerable Nai Palm. I’m reminded of Lauryn Hill’s rendition of Joyful, Joyful. After that beautiful intro, we’re led into the familiar complexities of the percussion, bassline, and keys. This is a song of reaching out. Building a ladder of love and hoping someone does the same for you. Person to person connections are important in times of joy and of suffering, and that’s what this song expresses.
I haven't been able to sit down and listen as much as I'd like to lately. Between moving back home and starting a new semester with challenging courses, I've found most of my weekly listening is now during the commute. I stumbled along the way, but now that it has been a few weeks I think I've found my daily stride through all these new changes.
I normally don't listen to rock, but I rediscovered an album by Cö Shu Nie titled Pure. In it, there's a song called iB, which in context of the rest of the album, is a comforting respite. The surrounding tracks contain many complex movements and individual sequences, yet this song is a break from the math rock tracks - which admittedly I do love. This song feels steady and constant, which resonates with me right now. The separation of instruments keeps things interesting for me, and it has notably more dynamics than other tracks on the album, which can come across as brick walled. Nevertheless, this discovery led me to also find the group's new single titled Show Me A Dream. This song also lends a sense of comfort, but has a more somber, reminiscent tone. I fell in love with how the experimental, flutter-like claps, snares, and plucks while the vocals and piano carry it forward. At the end it culminates in an elevated chorus and piano outro.
Another group I found called mamerico also offers relaxing, leisurely tunes. Their album homemade is perfect for that background soundtrack, or rainy day mix. One of my favorite songs that reinforces this mood is called magic hour, which has a fantastic selection of instruments. Each one is arranged in such a seamless, natural way which ties in well with the vocalist's soft singing.
Through some YouTube algorithm magic, I stumbled upon a catchy, unforgettable song by Kairi Yagi called Shigeki ni yoru Karera. I immediately knew it was my type of song once the underlying mid-bass and vocals kicked in. The chorus has such a good payoff with the fast paced, upbeat lyrics, and falling synth in the background.
Whether we want to or not, we tend to prefer habits. Music can lend us a guiding beacon that contextualizes how we feel at the time. This connection is special, since we can later think back on what we were doing at that point in our lives. It is this rhythm that keeps us going.