Over the last couple of years young Wellington soul singer and guitarist Louis Baker has been making a genuine name for himself, both here and abroad. A sensitive singer/songwriter situated within the same local continuum as Dallas Tamaira, Warren Maxwell and, more recently Mara TK, with his self-titled debut EP he adequately upholds the torch and in the process lights the way for those to follow.
Recorded and produced between New York and London under the watchful ear of Breaks Co-Op member Andy Lovegrove, the EP’s five-song running time sees Louis placing the intricacies of life, love and human interaction under the microscope. Fleshing his lyrical observations out with sea shanty-inflected soul melodies and harmonies underpinned by delicately plucked and strummed guitar notes, he transforms the written word into warm-hearted sing-along numbers.
Speaking directly to the magic of New Zealand’s summer, the beauty of our natural landscape and the old school ‘good as gold’ Kiwi mentality, Louis’s songs are the perfect complement to summer-turned-autumn. And as the winter months grow cold, I suspect they’ll only grow in resonance, much like a warm open fire in the midst of June. Stand-out cuts include ‘Birds’, ‘Love’ and ‘Back on My Feet’.
Last year, singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer Liam Finn (son of Neil Finn) holed up in a studio space near his new home in Brooklyn, New York, to write and record The Nihilist, his third full-length album. Making use of 67 instruments and the assistance of his bandmates, he devoted the hours between sunset and sunrise to the creation of new music. The result was a suite of psychedelic folk-rock-rooted songs, equal parts classic pop and lo-fi four-track recorded fuzz. Traversing the hinterland between experimental and accessible, The Nihilist is a crucial work for this deserving musical talent.
The self-titled EP from Yumi Zouma is the work of young New Zealand musicians Kim Pflaum, Josh Burgess and Charlie Ryder, presently divided between Christchurch, New York and Paris, respectively. Trading in the sun-kissed whimsy of classic and modern dream-pop, the four songs on their EP use simple guitar notes, programmed drums and lush vocals from Pflaum to create an effortless and stylish sound. This is the sort of record where your first listen soon becomes your fourth. Regardless of the weather outside, it’s hard to not feel like you’re in the midst of a perfect summer as the smooth songs play out.
For the recording of Emmaar, Tuareg desert blues collective Tinariwen decamped from the Sahara Desert in northern Mali. Relocating to Joshua Tree in California, they spent three weeks creating a series of hypnotic and electrifying guitar rock songs, which as per usual fuse traditional Tuareg folk music with elements drawn from western rock and roll and psychedelica. In terms of content, Emmaar became a vehicle for them to sing poetically in the Tamasheq langauge about the nature of contemporary Tuareg life in an era of fast change. As powerful as their past records, Emmaar reasserts Tinariwen’s importance as world-class purveyors of non-western guitar music.