Album Review: Hiatus Kaiyote – Mood Valiant
George Ward reviews Hiatus Kaiyote’s latest album, Mood Valiant
Mood Valiant is the third album from Hiatus Kaiyote, a neo-soul group from Melbourne with a really cool name. If you know them, you’d know to expect jazzy chords, tight drumming and Nai Palm’s powerful voice on top of it all. This album is more of the same which is in no way a bad thing.
The first thing that hits you when listening to Mood Valiant is just how great Hiatus Kaiyote sounds together. The core four are as talented as ever and the grooves always sound effortless. But what is also effortless is the way that the group incorporates strings and horns into their sound, making the tracks sound grander and punch harder.
You can imagine yourself in this room, sunset through the window
Everyone involved in Mood Valiant is obviously very talented but while this shows on the album, the members know when to show off as well as when to hold back. Where ‘Chivalry Is Not Dead’ shows them going all out with slap bass and huge synth lines, ‘Red Room’ is simple, stripped right back: something which can be far more satisfying.
‘Red Room’ is an effortlessly cool track and demonstrates the tactic that Hiatus Kaiyote are going for perfectly. We have Moss’s drums, subtle but tight, Paul Bender’s bass with a smooth bassline, Mavin’s keys laying down the jazzy chords and Palm’s vocals riding over it all. The lyrics here are very repetitive but here, and on most of the other tracks, this isn’t a problem. Every time she sings ‘I got a red room, it is the red hour when the sun sets in my bedroom’, you can imagine yourself in this room, sunset through the window and music just like this playing on the speakers. The simple lyrics are hypnotic, letting you focus on each of the musical components, emphasising the differences with each repetition.
While this is one of my favourite things about the album, it can also be one of its weaknesses. When you have a line or phrase repeated so many times throughout one song, you can often decide pretty quickly whether you are going to like the song or not as, while always nice to listen to, some of the songs don’t really develop much more than when the first line comes in. ‘And We Go Gentle’ repeats the line ‘tell me can I get a light’ over and over again and while it is just as cool as the other songs, you know exactly what you’re going to hear within the first few seconds.
But this lull is quickly forgotten when the next track comes in. ‘Get Sun’ is the highlight of the album with Arthur Verocai bringing Brazillian influences while the band sounds incredible playing together. The horns are punchy, the strings are beautiful and Nai Palm’s voice is at her best. I wish there were more of these Brazillian sounding tracks that could replace the filler tracks like ‘Rose Water’ or ‘Sparkle Tape Break Up’.
When ‘Stone or Lavender’ comes on, it feels like the natural conclusion to the album. It’s a slow ballad with just keys and strings and while not the most memorable moment on the album, it is quite a lovely ending to Mood Valiant.
Or so I thought. We then have a track called ‘Bone and Marrow’ which I am really struggling to get my head around. The song itself isn’t particularly interesting and it isn’t helped at all by the incredibly annoying vocals, with a ‘yip’ noise that gets more annoying every time you hear it: you’ll know what I mean when you hear it. I suppose I could forgive it if it came halfway through the album but the choice to have it as the ending after such a satisfying penultimate track is very odd.
While the highs of Mood Valiant never quite live up to the highs of their first two albums (listen to the track ‘Nakamarra’ if you want to hear them at their best with Q-Tip (!)), if you like Hiatus Kaiyote’s stuff, you’re probably going to like this too. It’s an easy listen and there are definitely enough great tracks to make it worth your time. The band sounds as good as ever together and I’m sure they would be even better live. Also, they have a really cool name.