If I could give everyone a holiday present, it would be this album–Tawk Tomahawk – Hiatus Kaiyote. Unfortunately, this article is the closest I’ll come to that.
As students at Kenyon, we’re somewhat expected to have our fingers on the pulse of what is up and coming in the music world. On prospective student tours, we emphasize that, while the Horn Gallery doesn’t have a huge budget, they dedicate their time and attention towards artists who are about to break out (The Lumineers, Macklemore). As you go home for the winter, perhaps this can be the album you show your big university friends when they pester you for music.
More on the album after the break.
A fire dancer who developed her chops singing lullabies to soothe dying animals, Nai Palm (yes, like napalm) fronts Hiatus Kaiyote, a new band from Melbourne, Australia. The band combines Australian roots music with 21st century neo-soul – the natural and the synthesized, here synthesized – to create one of the most polished and unique sounds out today. They delve into themes and sounds inspired by the natural splendor of the Outback atop spiraling electric piano, adventurous jazz bass, and crisp, hip-hop influenced drums (think Thundercat meets Dirty Projectors but with a more soulful, female singer).
From the first track on the album, you will be eased into their new psychedelic view of Australian outback. “Mobius Streak” begins with quick, nylon-stringed acoustic guitar overtaken by thumbed bass, swirled synthesizers, and pulsed white noise. Palm’s cascading voice beckons you into a fluorescent desert filled with bright furs and passionate cooing.
One feat the band accomplishes well is the treatment of changes in meter (or, the number of beats in the phrase). They effortlessly flow into bars of varying lengths all without changing the tempo or the groove. Often in pop music, when not done well, this can appear obvious and even startling, as a song will conspicuously miss beats (as though the drummer hiccupped). However, Kaiyote’s feel remains unchanged and still as danceable as ever. When listening to “Nakamarra,” the album’s closing track and an ode to their motherland, you can sense this in the bridge. The song indeed misses a beat, but never a step.
Tawk Tomahawk is rightfully one of the most adored albums in the music industry this year. Artists like ?uestlove and Erykah Badu have been promoting it and Q-Tip even loaned a verse to the remix of “Nakamarra,” which was then tweeted by Prince and is now up for a Grammy (probably the lowest honor in this list, but still an honor). It’s a sound that harnesses the complexity of modern jazz, the soul of blues, and the spirituality of the aboriginal roots. There’s something enjoyable for everyone to find – a good stocking-stuffer for your musical friend.