Music

Bic Runga: Close Your Eyes

Made up of ten dreamy covers and two dreamy originals, Bic Runga's latest is a gentle reminder of the versatility and skill of one of New Zealand's national treasures.


Bic Runga

Close Your Eyes

Label: Wild Combinations
US Release Date: 2017-01-27
UK Release Date: 2016-11-18
Amazon
iTunes

When Bic Runga won 2016’s New Zealand Herald Legacy Award and was inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame, it marked two decades of work as one of the country’s premier pop artists. Released alongside these accolades, Close Your Eyes sees Runga’s dreamy vocals in play on ten cover songs and two originals, and while it isn’t the kind of masterpiece that won her awards, it’s a gentle reminder of the versatility and skill that earned Runga her place in the hearts of her fans, both in New Zealand and worldwide.

Close Your Eyes starts with its title track, an original composition that Runga takes to dizzying heights as she hearkens back to the sweet sophistication of 1960s Parisian pop and ethereal psychedelia. The chorus is catchy, Runga’s voice is spun sugar against the kaleidoscopic melody, and “Close Your Eyes” carries the kind of high drama that makes it fun to listen. It sticks in the mind, but it doesn’t irritate; the track satisfies and has enough structure to warrant repeat listens. The other original track, “Dream a Dream”, reiterates her flair for vintage yé-yé music, complete with a backing vocal track that emulates a chorus of ingénues.

Her covers span a wider range of genres and eras, some of which Runga handles with more grace than others. Simplicity is key for Runga; when she croons out long notes on the warm, simple backdrop of Roberta Flack’s “The First Time I Saw Your Face”, it gives her clear, soothing voice the perfect platform. A less expected but even more effective match is her cover of the Beach Boys’ “The Lonely Sea”, where Runga’s voice echoes, a divine maritime presence among soft waves of minimal, melancholy violins and achingly sharp drum beats. Nick Drake’s “Things Behind the Sun” was practically made so that Bic Runga could cover it here, centered as it is on acoustic guitar and voice, the best skills in her repertoire.

While none of the covers crash and burn—this is a solid group from start to finish—a few do fall flat, lacking any real style from the singer herself. Runga’s voice always feels good to listen to, but covers like “Tinseltown in the Rain” and “Life Will Get Better Some Day” don’t have much to them. They sound more like high-quality karaoke than studio recordings. Her cover of Kanye West’s “Wolves” is harder to categorize as either a standout or a flop. It, like some other tracks, suffers from an oversimplified arrangement that cheapens the track, but it gives Runga’s voice more space for expression than most other cuts on the album.

There’s a double purpose to Close Your Eyes: it allows Bic Runga to pay tribute to songs and artists that she loves, many of which have doubtless influenced her fruitful career, and it also lets her demonstrate how well she can sing and play across the musical spectrum, jumping from Kanye to Neil Young to Françoise Hardy to compositions of her own without missing a beat. It’s a celebration of a stellar career still in progress, and though she’s had more exciting releases in the last two decades, Close Your Eyes is an utterly listenable pop playlist from one of New Zealand's national treasures.

6


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Prof. Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.