THE LOCAL LIGHT TOUCH? (2021): Unobjectionable sounds for summer

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THE LOCAL LIGHT TOUCH? (2021): Unobjectionable sounds for summer

Once upon a longtime ago reggae was rebel music and righteously indignant about the world.

For the most part those days are long gone in Aotearoa reggae.

Hard political issues (poverty, domestic abuse, homelessness, disenfranchised communities etc, we gotta lot to address) have been set aside for innocuous statements about love and family.

Certainly a few step up (Troy Kingi, Tigi Ness among them) but otherwise there's a lot summer-vibe and barbecue background sounds.

At the time this was being writen the number 1 New Zea;and single was the excellently produced but lyrically anodyne Mr Reggae: "Just like birds of a feather, we got to stick together, spread our love . . . we got to be alive, to stop the lies, we got love this land, give it a helping hand  . . ."

Black American soul also had something to say but the r'n'b/soul trickle-down sound has also been dissipated and diluted here.

We choose inoffensiveness?

Hmmm . . . 

Okay, it's been a tough year so let's have a look at a few new local albums which just offer little more than calm-balm.

But in the words of Sesame Street: One of of these things does not belong.

You choose which.

Hey, turn those sausages, bro!


Leisure: Sunsetter

Screen_Shot_2021_12_02_at_3.58.26_PMA band which defines “the vibe of the thing”, Leisure go straight to the featherweight-soul end of the spectrum with warm songs about soft subjects: “I only wanna be with you”, “I wanna take you higher” (no, not the Sly Stone shouter!), “I was mesmerised” and “visions of you”.

Think very light Bee Gees, smooth Stylistics etc and wrap the falsettos in a cloak of quiet electronica, restrained guitar and funk-lite bass.

Beautifully crafted mood under an appropriate title.

Pink Teflon: pretty but non-stick?

Which is probably the point/charm/intention.


You can hear this album at Spotify here


Summer Thieves: Paradise Down the Road

ST_PDTR_3000__1__0_600_0_600_crop_fillMore low-range sounds which seems to start well enough with some social observation on the slo-groove of Pages but follows it up with the dancefloor-lite Saturday Night (“think I'm falling in love”) which is a watery version of a minor mid-Seventies Stones urban soul-funk.

Broken Home later revisits the message lyric with further urban soul-funk.

But relationships – broken, heartbroken – are at the centre of Summer Thieves concerns (All For You, Is It Really Over?, Stuck on You, “I hope you're stuck on me too”) which allows for some aching/yearning vocals but there's a same-same voice deployed throughout.

The fine musicianship manages to get these mostly repetitious lyrics over the line and the tough-minded Paper Tiger (the dancefloor stomper with “you make sweat”) stands apart from everything here, doubtless the “jump jump” moment live.

As with Leisure, these guys are sensitive and want you to know it (“I don't want to be the one to hurt you again . . . letting go is the hardest thing”).

The acoustic Three Brothers at the end is the most heartfelt thing here, but much of the rest feels like its playing with a small deck.

It is astonishingly dull, obvious and  . . . bound to be massive.

You can hear this at bandcamp here


Tomorrow People: 21

1b747699-bed2-5cc4-c844-871a85f331b6_1Wellington's award-winning Tomorrow People actually released an album titled BBQ Reggae and embrace a mix of Rastafarian language and te reo Maori.

They also knuckle down and this album is the result of them deciding to write a new song every month, the kind of discipline which focuses the mind.

It has paid off too, because although this relies on familiar reggae lyrical tropes alongside the summery sound, these mostly upbeat pop-reggae songs benefit from the various voices, male and female, in the band.

And the arrangements for keyboards, horns and vocals move this from roots to something close to dancehall, ragga, Latin sounds, and r'n'b soul to mix things up.

And they cover Brian Wilson's Don't Worry Baby at the midpoint. It's great.

Yes, there are the obligatory young-love songs – plenty-plenty actually, but they clearly know their audience – and in many ways Tomorrow People are emblematic of the state of apolitical Aotearoa reggae these days which we would usually be down on.

But there's an internal energy here which makes these 16 songs a fine accompaniment to summer days and sausages wrapped in white bread.

Good stuff.

You can hear this album at Spotify here


Julien Dyne: Modes

8124a6b7_cec7_8428_6f91_f1fc69a7e534It's probably unfair to include producer, multi-instrumentalist and collaborator Dyne's fifth album in this context because it brings various threads to a rolling boil of grooves best appreciated out of direct sunlight.

But there's certainly a Dec-to-Feb humidity in this music where guests Joe Dukie (Dallas of Fat Freddy's Drop), Allysha Joy, Troy Kingi, Semisi, Lady6, Mara TK, Che Fu and others slip in quietly alongside the supple beats and drop their aural personality in deference to the mood (soul-funk, some for the darkened chilling-in room).

If Tim Guy is somewhere on Windows he's so slight as to be unidentifiable.

An aural experience where individual expression is subsumed to the greater project of the head-nod/slow move response.

Anonymity means you never alienate, right?

Niceness but  . . . hmmm.

You can hear and buy this album at bandcamp here

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