Review Summary: "I will follow you into the sunrise under desert skies"
Hiatus Kaiyote is one of those hidden gems that, upon first listen, feel like a band you and everyone else should already know and love. But for reasons unknown, the Australian quartet has remained relatively obscure, spending the past two years carving out a humble but cozy niche for itself in the underground scene of the band’s home continent.
Their 2012 debut LP Tawk Tomahawk seamlessly blends earth-shaking soul, hip-hop sensibilities, and the warm flow and glow of smooth jazz into thirty minutes of the most organic music I’ve heard in a long time. Though not revolutionary in any sense of the word (in fact much of their music can be attributed to very obvious influences), HK are able to pull off this eclectic mix of genres without ever sounding forced. Nai Palm, the singer and proud owner of some of the strongest pipes this side of the Pacific, never hesitates to assume her rightful place at the fore of the musical front while being equally comfortable taking a backseat to the music when appropriate. This sidesteps the potential catastrophe of the frontman overwhelming the band and allows the listener to explore the twists and turns of Kaiyote’s meticulously layered instrumental soundscape undistracted.
And the instrumentals really are quite nice; Hiatus Kaiyote are masters of laying down a consistent groove but aren’t afraid to experiment either; you can hear them throwing in dissonant chords that resolve into cascades of melody, or laying an edgy hip-hop beat over lounge piano. “Malika” is a great example of HK’s unique style, a well-executed number that peppers layers of electronic effects over a solid polyrhythmic groove, complementing Palm’s vocals to great effect. These moments are what really separate Hiatus Kaiyote from being just another generic poppy soul band, but coming from such obvious talent, I can’t help feeling like they played it just a little too safe on their debut album. Tawk Tomahawk also contains quite a bit of short filler songs. Though not particularly bothersome, they feel more like afterthoughts than completed compositions. These are minor concerns though, and don’t really diminish the overall quality of the album.
Hiatus Kaiyote have come together to create some very interesting music here. Tawk Tomahawk is a quite solid first album that, though not without its faults, may simply be a new band testing the waters for the first time. Frankly, I’m excited to see how this HK evolves, and will most certainly be picking up their next album.
Recommended tracks: Anything 2 minutes and over
Final score: 4/5