Album Reviews

Album Review: MELODOWNZ - MELO & BLUES (Liightside)

Sam Smith
MELODOWNZ performs 'Adundance' live in the RNZ Auckland studios joined by Troy Kingi.

2018 has been a golden year for Aotearoa hip hop with the likes of SWIDT, POETIK, High Beams and Diggy Dupe releasing great projects. But just when you thought the year was wrapped up, Avondale rapper MELODOWNZ decided to join the party, releasing his stunning double EP MELO & BLUES.

Following in the footsteps of last year’s AVONTALES, MELO & BLUES sees MELODOWNZ move in a slightly different direction, incorporating new sounds and styles in what could be described as him exploring outside his comfort zone.

Yes, the classic MELODOWNZ sound is still there on MELO & BLUES, but he also widens his pallet so to speak dabbling in grime, jazz, and soul complete with guest vocalists and separate producers for each of the ten tracks.

The EP is split into two sides named Melo and Blues, with the first side tending to be closer to the sound of MELODOWNZ previous release, while the second explores new territory sound-wise.

The first side kicks off with the Gil Scott-Heron inspired intro Get Money. On here, MELODOWNZ lays down some spoken word lines set to a delicate Fender Rhodes piano before the jazzy instrumentation builds climaxing with some vocal flourishes from guest vocalist Louis Baker.

This is then followed by the album’s first single Peace $igns, Gang $igns. On this track, MELODOWNZ experiments with a more dead-pan grime style vocal delivery to good effect, while the catchy chorus is bound to get crowds up and singing along at festival’s this summer.

$moke featuring R&B sensation Villette is a mellower affair with producer Frank Keys from Yoko-Zuna laying down some chilled beats while MELODOWNZ and Villette trade vocal licks on top including some nice harmonisation moments.

The Melo side of the EP then comes to an end with Infinite featuring rapper Coops, a track which very much keeps in line with the more aggressive rap style MELODOWNZ perfected on AVONTALES, and then the pop-rap track Wiiild produced by the in-demand Haan 808 and Mikos Da Gawd. It is cool to note that Mikos is part of Soulection and has produced for Sir TDE and Anderson .Paak

After we got a taste of the experimental nature of this project on the Melo side, the Blues side started in a more familiar fashion with the laidback Kava and Herbs featuring Israel Starr. On here, MELODOWNZ takes influence from his Samoan heritage with the slow-jam nature of this track and the lyrical content very much an ode to the islands.

It was then back to the synth-pop rap vibes on Loyal, a bouncy, slightly more up-tempo track, produced by Baccyard, where MELODOWNZ moved from the beach and sun of Samoa to the late-night club life of Auckland. A strong pop jam proving his versatility as an artist and ability to change tempo track to track.

Things then got smooth again on Natural, a downtempo keys-driven track where MELODOWNZ newly developed singing skills took centre stage. This is definitely a skill he has worked on and the results have paid off on this project, with his vocals oozing confidence and at times even displaying a touch of swagger.

The EP then winds down with Abundance featuring soul maestro Troy Kingi on vocals set to a hazy psychedelic instrumental backing track, before climaxing with the lo-fi industrial sounding title track Melo and Blues.

In conclusion, MELODOWNZ has provided the goods with Melo & Blues. He has gone out on a limb here, moving away from a successful formula that he perfected on AVANTALES and instead chose to experiment more with different styles and sounds. This move was indeed risky and it might alienate some, but it has paid off in spades as he has shown progression and evolution as an artist on which might just be his best work to date and what is definitely one of the best local rap projects this year.

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Released: 23 Nov 2018

Written By: Sam Smith When he is not writing for Radio 13 Sam works in media and journalism at 95bFM radio and the University of Auckland. He also has is own personal music blog Nowhere Bros.