A simple snare drum back beat, the echoing of lyrics, or references to our favorite childhood films and games, music has the tendency to bring nostalgic memories to the present time or even create new ones to reminisce over in the future. It is rare when one album can do both. Choose Your Weapon, the sophomore album from the Australian band Hiatus Kaiyote, contains elements of sound and lyrics that can bring us back to days of the past, both good and bad, whether it be in love or in the lessons of life.
For almost 70 minutes, listeners are taken on a poetic journey that ventures through the musical genres of R&B, neo-soul, jazz, hip-hop, electronica, latin and funk, just to name a few. The album was produced by the band with help from Salaam Remi, the producer famous for bringing us classic albums such as Amy Winehouse’s debut Frank and many works with rapper Nas. Lead singer Nai Palm’s jazz-like voice in comparison to the band’s debut Tawk Tomahawk, is noticeably stronger, while the players of the band (Paul Bender, Perrin Moss and Simon Mavin) experiment with more sounds that fit the mold of the band’s uniqueness and ability to step outside of the typical neo-soul box.
Choose Your Weapon has tracks that appeal to just about any youthful memory. The opening track titled after the album starts off with the sounds of the farm See N Say that most of us had as a kid then flows into a futuristic electronic sound. The first full song, “Shaolin Monk Motherfunk”, is a lyrical plea to a lover juxtaposed over a funky uptempo beat that combines jazz and musical backbeats we are used to hearing in old school kung fu films. There are also a few tracks that specifically tug on the heartstrings of fantasy and game lovers alike.
“Laputa” references the floating island in the sky from the classic story Gulliver’s Travels, while the song “Atari” literally has sounds from the popular video game from the 80s turned into a tune with elements of latin funk. “Prince Minikid”, the interlude track before “Atari,” has a melodic fairytale-like sound that is similar to that in the RPG games Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy. In songs like “Borderline With My Atoms,” “Molasses,” “Building a Ladder” and “The Lung”, the R&B and soul elements are evident in both lyrics and melodies collectively as Hiatus Kaiyote sings and plays effortlessly to tell the story of a love desired, lost and coming to terms with said lost and with self.
Each song, some connected by brief interludes, transitions effortlessly and smoothly into the next in a quirky but hip way of familiarity as if Hiatus Kaiyote musically throws us into a time machine. This is shown especially between the two tracks “Swamp Thing” and “Fingerprints”, going from a high energy hip hop infused beat into a slowed down R&B tune, both songs of recollection.
Hiatus Kaiyote uses metaphors referencing supernatural and fantasy worlds as well as elements of the earth and nature making it is easy for a listener to want to go back over and over to find another meaning to their favorite tracks. With the album debuting at its release in May at #1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Chart, the band stays true to their unique sound and expression via music while figuring out a way to overcome the so-called sophomore jinx. An easy listen from beginning to end without skipping any tracks, Choose Your Weapon will become an instant modern classic to those who desire have been looking for the a new way to listen to sounds of yesteryear.