Naomi Saalfield first came to the world’s attention in 2012 as Nai Palm, the frontwoman of Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote and a wildling rock star with soul-music chops and a steampunk aesthetic. Their 2012 debut album, Tawk Tomahawk, would position Hiatus Kaiyote as key purveyors of future soul—a sound that marries the spacious production values of EDM and jazz with the lush harmonies and boom-bap rhythms of neo-soul. Following their debut’s follow-up, the 2015 epic Choose Your Weapon, Saalfield retreated to the Australian desert, where she recorded Needle Paw, a whisper-close collection of songs that connect the dots between Hiatus Kaiyote’s music and her own inspirations.
Pulling together a smattering of originals, a number of acoustic arrangements of songs from Hiatus Kaiyote’s repertoire, and a few daring covers, it is an unusual proposition for a solo debut—a calculated risk for a two-time Grammy-nominated artist presumably nowhere the end of her career, nor severing ties with her bandmates. But it’s a risk she can afford to take after being cosigned by Erykah Badu, accompanied by Q-Tip, and sampled by Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Anderson .Paak within the past year.
With Needle Paw, Saalfield turns inward to pull from herself what Hiatus Kaiyote’s massive arrangements could not. She is alone at the wheel in the unenviable but courageous position of bearing sole responsibility for an album featuring songs that people have heard before. Some are fodder for nostalgia, others the stuff of legend. They are songs that would surely haunt her if she got it wrong. Thankfully, she does not. Instead, her performance as vocalist, producer, arranger, and musical director confirms her talents—and, in her interpretive care, reaffirms listening as an act of love.
|A1||Wititj (Lightning Snake) Pt 1|
|A3||Crossfire / So Into You|
|B3||Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)|
|C2||When The Knife|
|C3||Blackstar / Pyramid Song / Breathing Underwater|
|D1||Borderline With My Atoms|
|D3||Wititj (Lightning Snake) Pt 2|