Lydia Jenkin

Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Album review: Electric Hawaii - Opossom

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Kody Nielson's debut solo album is multi-layered in its musical scope. Photo / Supplied
Kody Nielson's debut solo album is multi-layered in its musical scope. Photo / Supplied

Hitting play on Electric Hawaii is like entering the swirling, hallucinogenic world of a garage party in the 60s, filtered through a futuristic astronomical lense, with a touch of the Pacific. It's somehow retro and post-modern simultaneously, irresistible in its mad blend of blues, psychedelic rock, Motown, fuzz pop, harmonies, and jazz, and it's hugely entertaining with its occasional snatches of humour and irreverence.

That's not to say it isn't a serious album, but it's unmistakably the product of a Nielson brother - Kody Nielson to be exact - who, along with his brother Ruban, helmed the Mint Chicks, notorious for their playfulness and flaunting any notions of conformity.

It could be overwhelming in its layers of sound, but the strength of this album is that the songs are so intrinsically strong and catchy; the extra sonic exploration adds to the appeal rather than burying the ideas.

Plus Nielson understands the importance of dynamic range - though there's occasionally a sonic assault (like on Inhaler Song, which is actually a piano-based love ballad) there's also delicate beauty (like the fluttering harmonies with Bic Runga on Fly), and always a deep sense of groove.

With the drums, bass and keys parts written before anything else, it's an album that's overflowing with uber-cool melodic basslines, and intricate linear drumming that winds around those lines.

There's the joyful youthfulness of young love on album opener Girl, then it dips into Fly, on which we get to hear Nielson's voice almost naked of any processing - which is a real treat - adding to the floaty tropical holiday vibe with a hint of melancholy.

The psychedelia is turned up a notch on Blue Meanies, which has one of the best basslines you'll hear this year, and a cascade of keys like a golden rain firework.

Getaway Tonight is the most Mint Chicks-sounding track, with its urgent propulsive beat and almost baroque organ lines to the forefront, along with an almost comically abrupt ending.

And then Watchful Eye swings in with its jazz undertones and avant garde sonic palette, before we hit Why Why - a highlight in an album full of highlights.

It's an explosion of energy, a driving, celebratory trip, featuring lauded percussionist Miguel Fuentes playing some snappy world rhythms, and Kody's father Chris on trumpet, along with Runga's lovely vocals being given a bit of room to rock out.

And then hot on its heels is Cola Elixir, a heady, eastern-influenced, twisting ride, interspersed with a sweet pop jingle.

After all the excitement you get a brief sonic reprieve in the title track, a 90-second instrumental, before the lullaby-esque organ slow jam Outer Space rolls out, followed by the Inhaler Song ballad.

It's a delightfully brief but filling album, and though you can hear the influence of The Mint Chicks and his brother Ruban, it announces Nielson's brilliant and distinctive voice as a solo songwriter and musician.

Stars: 5/5
Verdict: Ex-Mint Chick throws unexpected genres together with brilliant results

-TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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