Hiatus Kaiyote
Photo: Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore / Courtesy of Brainfeeder

Hiatus Kaiyote’s ‘Mood Valiant’ Is a Rich and Vibrant Return

Following six turbulent years, Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote return with their third LP of neo-soul virtuosity, Mood Valiant. It’s effortlessly likable and rich with heart and soul.

Mood Valiant
Hiatus Kaiyote
Brainfeeder / Ninja Tune
25 June 2021

Even a cursory listen to a Hiatus Kaiyote track reveals an immediate truth – the Melbourne quartet can play. Dating right back to their 2013 debut Tawk Tomahawk, Hiatus Kaiyote have proved themselves as young masters of jazz, funk, and neo-soul. Built on a combination of endlessly creative instrumentation and Nai Palm’s ridiculously charismatic vocals, they’re one of those bands that from day one had mastered the generic conventions. Thus, they have spent their career breaking them apart and building them anew.

Mood Valiant comes six years after its predecessor Choose Your Weapon, and in that time, Hiatus Kaiyote have turned into something of a cult act. While they are still a way off becoming a household name, the group’s undeniable ability and immense likeability mean that further success is all but guaranteed. They have some friends in high places (including known fan Drake), and in March signed to Flying Lotus’ label Brainfeeder – one of the most respected indie labels in North America. 

Things weren’t always so rosy, however. In 2018, deep into the process of recording Mood Valiant, Nai Palm (real name: Naomi Saalfield) was diagnosed with breast cancer. Following a life-saving operation in Australia, she thankfully recovered. However, work on the album was temporarily halted. These circumstances, combined with the small matter of the pandemic, meant that the wait for Mood Valiant was longer than anyone, least of all the band, would have wanted. 

Fortunately, the finished product is more than worth the wait. Following a wild 18 months, Mood Valiant is set to provide the perfect soundtrack to a summer where many of us are starting to see the light again. The clue to this tone is in the album’s title. Mood Valiant implies resolute strength, a will to remain courageous and determined. Following all of the turbulence that its creators faced, Mood Valiant is brilliantly bright and colorful – rich and complicated but always hopeful and deeply in love with life.

Listening to the album is a journey through a vibrant jungle. The amount of color, movement, and life on display is simply a joy to behold. Every track contains creative high points – “Red Room’s” laid-back groove and effortless melodies are captivatingly evocative, “Get Sun” (featuring legendary bossa nova composer Arthur Verocai) lives up to its bright, joyous title, while “Rose Water’s” tribal funk is layered beneath ethereal vocals and lush strings that entrance like a shamanic spell.

“Get Sun” and “Hush Rattle” even make use of lush, natural sounds, further underscoring the teeming, vibrantly alive quality of Mood Valiant. These seemingly minor adornments are actually a smart thematic decision. Mood Valiant is a celebration of the richness of life, in all its different shapes and forms. Album highlight “Chivalry Is Not Dead” is sheer ecstasy, a virtuosic slice of future funk that features wonderful lyrics imagining two people as “seahorses” and “hummingbirds”. It ends with the beautiful mantra “I want to be close to your molecules” – a lovely image that’s almost spiritual in its open-hearted, transcendental perspective.

The penultimate track “Stone and Lavender” is Mood Valiant’s most grand and resplendent track. The piano ballad is rich with poetic insights, and contains the lyric that best reflects the serene, almost meditative quality of the album – “please believe me when I say, someday it’ll be ok”. Hiatus Kaiyote have crafted something brilliant with Mood Valiant – an album that’s effortlessly likable, commandingly confident, and rich with heart and soul.

RATING 9 / 10
PopMatters