New Artist Week concludes with the seventh new group you should have your radar as 2011 ends.
While it may seem a tad odd to call any band with Neil Finn (Crowded House, Split Enz) “new,” his latest collaboration, Pajama Club, really is another animal altogether, a Motorik-beat driven, dub touched splash of modern rock that shows after more than 30 years of crafting fine things for our ears he’s still able to surprise us. Born from barefoot, jammy sessions at home with wife Sharon Finn, this is the first time Neil has written lyrics for music rather than the other way around. This switch, combined with a general mood closer to Portishead and Hot Chip than his usual supreme pop stylings, has resulted in an entirely winning self-titled debut (released September 13 on Lester Recordings) that affirms the veteran’s relevance and mutable charms.
If someone didn’t tell you this was Neil’s latest venture one might not pick up on his presence for a few cuts into the debut, which moves in a more relaxed, less vigorously sculpted way than his usual fare. And there’s the intoxicating blend of the Finns’ voices, a new sound that’s neither entirely Sharon or Neil much of the time, a third person glowing with male and female properties cruising buzzing, throbbing boulevards and back roads.
The pair are joined by fellow New Zealander Sean Donnelly, a DIY independent great who brings a thoroughly “now” presence to this music, and the live incarnation is further expanded by former Grates drummer Alana Skyring. What’s inescapable is how Pajama Club is a band and not simply a showcase for its most well-known member, who pleasingly restrains his usual expert compositional tricks and honeyed delivery for something a bit more delightfully roughhewn. There are a few echoes of Neil Finn past – the softly psychedelic Beatles-esque flair of “Golden Child,” the faultless pop skill of “TNT For Two” – but mainly this finds the group feeling their way into interesting shapes, eagerly massaging sound in a rush towards the new.
It’s fair to say few thought that breakbeats and Can style studio exploration were things many Neil Finn fans saw on the horizon for the 53-year-old, which is what makes Pajama Club such a wonderful surprise. Can’t wait to see what their nighttime PJ parties bring us in 2012.