Nailah Hunter
Lovegaze


3.8
excellent

Review

by Brendan Schroer STAFF
January 21st, 2024 | 19 replies


Release Date: 01/12/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: We could all use a little more harp in our lives.

For those of you who play an instrument, how was your first experience with it? What emotions were associated with hitting your first piano keys, or strumming your first guitar chord? Well, as someone who’s been playing the piano for a long time, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I didn’t feel anything when I started taking lessons. Granted, I was only six years old, but it all felt more like an obligation than a real passion. It wasn’t until much later that I gained a true appreciation for the craft and really started feeling what I was playing. Why do I bring this up? Well, there usually seems to be that one time in which everything just clicks. That eureka moment that ignites (or otherwise reignites) your passion for the instrument. But in the case of new age songstress Nailah Hunter, that moment didn’t arrive so early on.

Hunter had already been playing the drums and guitar during her upbringing in the church, but it wasn’t until her first harp lesson at the California Institute of the Arts that everything fell into place. According to her Bandcamp page, the instrument evoked “fantasy, psychedelia, and dream worlds”; she would subsequently practice six hours a day to perfect her craft, a feat that must have required an ungodly amount of discipline to maintain. Needless to say, it’s pretty clear that the harp was her true calling.

When you hear Hunter’s debut LP Lovegaze, it becomes clear just how much of that passion, practice, and dedication were poured into her music. After two promising EPs, this is her chance to stretch her wings and make a real full-length statement – and judging by the results, it’s safe to say she succeeded. Lovegaze is an ornate, layered affair that combines the relaxing ambience of new age with the tight songwriting of pop music, creating a strange juxtaposition of sorts. And yet, the unlikely blend works beautifully; polished art-pop arrangements are adorned with the same mystical, dreamlike atmosphere I alluded to earlier, creating an experience that’s equal parts catchy and mesmerizing.

“Strange Delights” kicks off the proceedings nicely, the elegant piano work lending an air of melancholy as Hunter lays her haunting, enigmatic vocals over it. And it’s in this opening track that the magic of Lovegaze becomes apparent: the record is just as suited to focused, concentrated listening as it is to relaxation or meditation. And there’s a trick to this; while the atmosphere is enveloping and otherworldly, the rhythm section is still active and on the move. Whether it’s in “Through the Din”’s stoic unwavering drum part, the vaguely trap-oriented beat found on “Finding Mirrors”, or the rapidly shifting basslines throughout the record as a whole, there’s always something interesting to latch onto.

Of course, as we dive deeper into Lovegaze, the harp starts becoming more prominent as well. The title track and “Bleed” are where it gets to shine the most, as the sorrowful-yet-soothing melodies are a perfect match for the equally plaintive vocals. And yes, the instrument really does sound like it’s creating dream worlds on this project; the swiftly ascending runs on “Cloudbreath”, the subtle jazz chords on “Garden”, and the lovely arpeggios of “Into the Sun” all make it feel as though the portal to a different world has been opened for the listener. Much of the best new age music serves as a transportation method or escape from the real world, and Lovegaze certainly delivers on this front.

Sadly, despite the more engaging moments I mentioned previously, the music does get homogeneous from time to time. This is usually the case with the slowest tracks, particularly the ones that don’t feature much (or any) percussion. The expansive soundscapes are still relaxing, sure, but they’re not always interesting enough to make up for the lack of any rhythm or low end. Combine this with Hunter’s gentle, sedate vocal delivery, and the experience occasionally devolves into musical mush. Perhaps a few extra instruments or tonal shifts could help iron out these kinks for her next record.

Regardless, Lovegaze is a cryptic, elaborate affair that skillfully juggles a unique atmosphere, tight songcraft, and calming vocals to create a lovely new-age-meets-pop crossover. It would be nice to hear more emphasis on the harp next time around, as Hunter is incredibly adept at crafting transcendent, ethereal musical worlds out of it; she really has a knack for painting a picture with her music, and the creativity she exhibits on her chosen instrument is undeniable. In any case, she’s certainly found her calling; here’s hoping all other aspiring musicians can achieve their big light-bulb moment as well.



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user ratings (18)
3.3
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Koris
Staff Reviewer
January 21st 2024


21105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

First review of 2024! And quite a positive one too. Anyway, this thing is very lovely... certainly better than most of the new age I heard last year

InfernalDeity
Contributing Reviewer
January 21st 2024


596 Comments


This sounds extremely interesting.

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
January 21st 2024


32015 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Didn't expect anyone to review this one, nicely done Brendan. Very nice album.

Koris
Staff Reviewer
January 21st 2024


21105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Appreciate it! Yeah, this was a really pleasant surprise tbh

Purpl3Spartan
January 21st 2024


8460 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This sounds good will check



Nice rev btother

Hawks
January 21st 2024


86768 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Gotta czech this.

hel9000
January 21st 2024


1526 Comments


Nice review! Haven't listened yet but been looking forward to this

Koris
Staff Reviewer
January 21st 2024


21105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Thanks guys 🙂

mouldypigeon
January 22nd 2024


92 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Album is worthy of several replays and a featured review for sure, nice one. I did find the Spells EP a more unique listen though and wasn't expecting a vocal-driven album here, feels like some of the ethereal calm is lost because of that despite this album still bringing fluffy 13.5 tog comfort levels.

kildare
January 22nd 2024


262 Comments


Great review. But you didn't mention what piece you were playing that made "everything just click"?

mkmusic1995
Contributing Reviewer
January 22nd 2024


1714 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Very nice write up Koris! I have this on my list to check out and now I'm really looking forward to it! :D

Koris
Staff Reviewer
January 23rd 2024


21105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Thanks everyone!



"But you didn't mention what piece you were playing that made "everything just click"?"



Funny enough, it wasn't actually a singular piece for me. What made it all click for me was the Final Fantasy XIII soundtrack. Despite how polarizing the game itself is, the soundtrack is absolutely gorgeous and helped me discover the artistic possibilities of the piano -- especially from an atmosphere perspective

kildare
January 23rd 2024


262 Comments


"Final Fantasy XIII soundtrack": Very cool, something exotic. If I had money on it I would have bet it would be something typical like Fur Elise or Moonlight or the Turkish Rondo. Interesting to hear of something different, I'll have to check it out

mkmusic1995
Contributing Reviewer
January 23rd 2024


1714 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is probably my first AOTY contender which is insane! I've listened to this front to back three times already this morning and it's just so gorgeous.

Koris
Staff Reviewer
January 23rd 2024


21105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Nice! Glad you enjoyed it so much :]

Hawks
January 25th 2024


86768 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Well this was disappointing.

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
January 25th 2024


32015 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

FFXIII OST is god tier

Purpl3Spartan
January 25th 2024


8460 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice vibes

Koris
Staff Reviewer
January 26th 2024


21105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

"FFXIII OST is god tier"



It really is. Masashi Hamauzu is an incredible composer



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