Review Summary: An album that flowers in both sound and in theme, Mood Valiant is Hiatus Kaiyote’s most focused work yet.
Despite vastly different runtimes (30 minutes, and 69 minutes respectively,) both of Hiatus Kaiyote’s previous studio works had five transition tracks that ultimately served to emphasize their weaknesses. With Tawk Tomahawk, it was the realization that if it weren’t for the transitions, the album would have only been EP length, causing these tracks to feel like padding. As for Choose Your Weapon, these transition tracks made an already lengthy album feel overlong without adding much positive. Both albums have forgivable examples of this (namely “Ocelot” and “Choose Your Weapon”,) but Mood Valiant’s decision to only contain three under 2-minute tracks and to have an overall runtime of 42 minutes is a wise fix.
The non-transitory tracks on both previous albums were typically fantastic and Mood Valiant follows suit as the band progresses with a more adventurous, more necessary, and even more sonically diverse sound. “Get Sun” incorporates horns for the first time, adding an obvious brassy element that was surprisingly missing from their previously established soul-jazz soundscape. Both the band’s complex and constantly shifting rhythms and Nai Palm’s soothing yet passionate vocals sound more confident than ever. Ear catching percussion, pretty strings, and their signature jazzy bass and piano are all still present and as tightly written as ever. While the album leans typically more on the weird and upbeat side of soul, the penultimate track “Stone or Lavender” still manages to provide a slow-burning pop ballad filled with passion. This sound diversity hardly interferes with the album’s cohesiveness as the flow between tracks is clean and natural.
Thematically, the album is far less nerdy than Choose Your Weapon. No references to 80s video game systems, select screens, Miyazaki films, or DC Superheroes are present. Instead, the lyrics feel more connected to flowers and intimacy. Tiger lilies, roses, waratahs, lavender, and chrysanthemums all grace the lyrics and are often compared to love and sex. Even the one nerd allusion is of a fire flower (from Mario,) that Palm sings of kissing. It may be a missed opportunity that the album cover isn’t a tribute to Georgia O'Keeffe’s yonic floral paintings -or maybe that would be too on the nose. This theme change, along with a greater presence of the strings creates a new vibe of maturity and thoroughness.
If anything is missing here, it's the funk elements on their previous effort, but those were never the project’s focus -just another spice in their soul-jazz stew. Though this may make the album less fun than its predecessors, fun is far less the goal here. Somehow Hiatus Kaiyote managed to hold onto all of the best ideas of Choose Your Weapon, while incorporating enticing new ideas, all with a satisfyingly medium runtime.
Album highlights: “Chivalry Is Not Dead”, “Get Sun”, “All the Words We Don't Say”, “Rose Water”