Graham Reid | | 2 min read
From the Yandall Sisters, Māori showbands and Mark Williams through to Aaradhna repurposing Motown and the R'n'B of Vince Harder, Black America's music has long been a reference point for local artists, notably soulful Māori and Pasifika singers.
The sound of spiritual yearning but secular concerns – that short distance between pleading to the Lord or to a lover – is the amalgam of the church and the street.
The archetypes in high register and falsetto-soul male singers – among them Jimmy Scott, Smokey Robinson and Michael Jackson – created a template which today is often appropriated by young men to convey sensitivity.
But for Teeks – Te Karehana Gardiner-Toi (Ngāpuhi, Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Ranginui) -- the higher end of aching soul has been a natural home, just as is his more scuffed lower register.
That range and the thoughtful lyrics on his 2017 debut EP The Grapefruit Skies announced a major talent effortlessly bringing together gospel language (Wash Over Me) and classic Sixties soul (If Only, Never Be Apart) in the same emotional space with Teeks invested in every word.
His debut album Something to Feel has arrived by the familiar pattern of a drip-feed: Eight of the songs were released on two EPs (I and II) last year with four more now added.
These are crafted songs of love and longing where the language draws from scripture and universal imagery: the healing balm or eddies of water, redemption, poignant yearning . . .
There's muted drama here as on the spare piano which underpins the subtly string-enhanced ballad Just for Tonight (“set fire to my soul and make me whole again”)which opens the collection on a suitably intimate note before the song swells into expansive heights.
These Hands offers supple funk, Into You is a simple declaration of love over soft harmonies (“I'm crashing like a falling star, into you”), Without You is a piano ballad (a genre he possesses with ease), and the gorgeous First Time is sensual in the seductive way Marvin Gaye had.
The elegant Waves revisits a timeless metaphor: “Wave after wave . . . caught between the motion of a changing tide”.
Amid the outstanding songs is the beautifully arranged Please Remember Me, the lament of a patient lover: “If you go it's okay, I'll be right here waiting . . . I don't care about my pride . . . please remember me . . .”
Co-produced by Teeks with Simon Gooding at Auckland's Roundhead, Something to Feel explores sincere emotions with a rare sensibility and through astute understatement.
Teeks is of that waiata-soul whakapapa but has set a new threshold with Something to Feel, aconsistently impressive album of original, sweet soul music which narrows that distance between the spiritual and secular, the universal and the intimate.
Something to Feel by Teeks is available now on digital platforms and limited edition vinyl.
Elsewhere has a video essay of Teek's progression to this quite lovely album here.