Rating: * * * *
Verdict: Songbird finds love, and a staunch new voice on fourth album
Anika Moa has released three albums that were nice enough. Thinking Room was her bashful debut packed with catchy tunes, Stolen Hill was a quiet yet staunch reaction to being put through the music industry mill, and In Swings the Tide was a sweet, swooping set of autobiographical tunes.
On Love In Motion she reveals a self-assured proud voice not heard before - and channels a good dollop of 80s pop into her traditional singer-songwriter approach too.
On first single Running Through The Fire (Storm) she comes on like a smouldering Sharon O'Neill-meets-leather clad Pat Benatar (or for the younger generation think the jaunty pulse of Ladyhawke, only more dulcet); and Blame It On the Rain recalls Madonna in one of her pensive and thrumming moods on something like Crazy For You or Live To Tell.
Although, it's worth pointing out that since our Anika recently married a stripper she is now far more bad-arse than Madonna ever was.
The upbeat 80s pop influence aside, Love In Motion's singer-songwriter songs are where her strong and often prickly voice comes through.
She never loses that sweet and passionate coo but manages to blend it with some cutting lines (like "I will walk in your shoes for a day and rip your heart apart" from opener Two Hearts); there's some don't-mess-with-me outpourings on the beautiful and biting Secrets and Lies; and even some naughty innuendo with the repetitive "do its" of Love Me Again.
Though the preoccupation with love (which is understandable considering she is obviously madly in love with her wife) is, well, lovely, it becomes a little overbearing and leaves you wanting a few more songs about her "old man" or some other insights into her life.
In saying that the eerie and spooky wispiness of In the Air is apparently about her fear of flying, even though it comes across more like a love song than an ode to aerophobia.
Musically the album is her most diverse and interesting, helped by an array of instrumentation (including horns and smoky keyboards), the solid-yet-subtle rhythm section of Chip Matthews (bass) and Nick Gaffaney (drums), and guitarist Geoff Maddock who adds clever touches and flair to take the songs beyond the singer-songwriter focus of her previous albums.
And the deft skills of Moa's co-producer Andre Upston helps make her songs sound big but not overblown - this comes through best on the stylish and swooning I Am the Woman Who Loves You with its sprays and runs of horns and stirring groove changes.
She reckons this is her last album for a while, which is a shame considering this cheeky little Maori girl-turned-happily married woman is getting better with age.