One of the most underrated bands of all time, in my opinion, is Hiatus Kaiyote. This jazz-funk band based in Melbourne, Australia first drew the attention of audiences worldwide in 2013 with the release of their first album, Tawk Tomahawk which included a collaboration with renowned American rapper, Q-Tip.
They followed that up with their 2016 release, Choose Your Weapon, a masterpiece combining smooth R&B, crunchy jazz progressions, and the hypnotic songwriting and vocals of their lead singer, Nai Palm. Choose Your Weapon was not just an album of songs, but a listening experience that brought you into the world of fantasy and video games. It also became a launchpad for the band and was the band’s first release to hit the US Billboard Top 200.
Shortly after, the band went their separate ways for a while, working on solo projects and playing with other groups. At the same time, Nai Palm was diagnosed with breast cancer and things were looking dry for the band. However, after a 6-year hiatus, they’ve returned with a brand new album, Mood Valiant. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, they’ve blown us away again.
The album plays heavily on the strengths of the group, which proved to do well in their first two albums, including their ability to groove seamlessly together, use of psychedelic, soulful sounds, and fantastical lyrics. However, Mood Valiant is much more ambitious than their first two albums. Their sound is more harmonious as they navigate melodies and complex, messy changes to create a cohesive sound. Much of the album is driven by strings and horns, which contrasts to their 8-bit, synthesized sounds in Choose Your Weapon.
The album is much more vibrant and planned out, rather than simply listening to the four members of the band play together (although their virtuosity still plays a big part in the album). For example, “All The Words We Don’t Say” begins with a long synth bass solo that lasts for almost a minute, before the familiar cymbal splash and electric guitar come in. Throughout the song, the instruments continue to build on top of each other like a Jenga tower, before exploding into a wall of sound.
One unchanging factor of the album is Nai Palm’s incredible voice and ability to drive every song. Her vocal acrobatics are incomparable to any singer in the world and are what makes Hiatus Kaiyote distinct from other neo-soul bands. In Mood Valiant, she continues to play with vocal harmonies, building upon herself, creating countermelodies and call-and-responses.
I really appreciated the diversity of this album in its groove and sound. While some songs were very thick and in-your-face, there were also more chill moments such as “Red Room” and “Stone or Lavender”.
Listen to Mood Valiant by Hiatus Kaiyote now: