10 May 2021

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Compilation Review: Home Alone: Winter 2020

02 Jul 2020 // A review by Mike Alexander
Wellington boutique label Home Alone has developed an exceptional roster of artists since it announced itself to the world in 2006. And while the creative backbone of the label has always been the triumvirate of Timothy Blackman, who actually launched the label in Dunedin with his debut EP, Lake South and French For Rabbits' Brooke Singer, it has expanded its repertoire and reach with such as internationalists Helena Massey and Shenondoah Davis.

Winter 2020
is another exceptional showcase compilation, finishing off the slow whirl around the seasons, which began with the release of Summer in 2012. It features new and recent material and hoisted its flag with the first single Red Red Red, a beautifully tempered and intimately intense love song by Mystery Waitress, an alias of the uber-talented songwriter Tessa Dillon, which also features Olivia Campion and James Morgan.
The uniquely toned voice of Davis glides over a rolling piano melody on the second single Get Out, which billows into a lightly flourished orchestral setting with the vocal soaring to and fro, whisper thin, delicate and almost fragile.

What stands out so readily is the quality of the songwriting, which has always been Home Alone's forte. Fraser RossJackie is a mesmerising slowburner. Massey's Chinkara's Heart is ethereal with a chant-like tinge. Ida Lune's pristine voice is beautifully balanced on plucked and strung strings on Bittersweet. Dawn Diver's chug-along The Letter Part 1 is a tear-jerker, Glass Heart Choir's Affliction also pulls at the heart-strings but with a mixture of yearning and acceptance while Grawlixes Immortalised is a cleverly worded 'snapshot' of life seen through the lens of love and/or photography.

There's a touch of wit and wisdom in Blackman's Will It Always Be This Way, which name-checks Singer, who is seductively enticing on the dreamy toe tapper Middle Of The House, while South's History/Present glistens and shimmers with a contemporary lyrical reality check.

The most powerful and possibly perceptive lyric - "Don't talk to me about sadness/ It does not excuse our choices" - comes courtesy of WHIM's (the alter ego of Deanne Krieg) Mother Tongue, which has an alluring electronic lustre, piano and strings and, along with Mali Mali's sinuous Harlequin Bay Rushes and the skewed, haunted cabaret flush of AM Aeroplane's My Blue Heaven is one of the most interesting tracks in terms of musical structure.

There's definitely a gentle chill in the air on Winter 2020 but the kind that invites some quality contemplative time in front of a warm fire.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

Other Reviews By Mike Alexander

Mark de Clive-Lowe - EP Review: Midnight Snacks Vol.1
16 Apr 2021 // by Mike Alexander
Mark de Clive-Lowe’s musical palette has always been so refreshing engaging and diverse that each new release is like receiving a care package – you don’t know what’s inside but you know you’ll find comfort in it. The Los Angeles-based Kiwi musician, DJ and night club and record label owner has been particularly busy in the last few years with albums and EPs ranging from the chillingly melodious jazz quartet outing Live At The Blue Whale, the steamingly funky club party Church Sessions with various cohorts and the conceptual Heritage I and II, which celebrated his bi-cultural heritage (he is half-Japanese).
Serpent Dream - EP Review: Nova
11 Apr 2021 // by Mike Alexander
Serpent Dream's Nova is the debut release on Blood & Wires. The Tauranga-based boutique label was founded by Scott Brown last year with the express aim of raising the “profile of New Zealand based electronic and experimental artists.
Mecuzine - Single Review: Blue Skies
15 Mar 2021 // by Mike Alexander
The slim-line edition of Mecuzine - brothers Joseph and Tony Johns – seems to have gained more than it might have seemingly lost. Blues Skies is the second single released since five became two and it’s another brooding, sonic masterpiece with an but almost tragically self-effacing punch line: “She wanted him to stay/Instead she got me/What an unlucky break”.
Ant Tarrant - Single Review: Candle Lights
09 Mar 2021 // by Mike Alexander
Ant Tarrant has served his apprenticeship and it shows. Now back in New Zealand after following his muse to Central America and the US, where he was mentored in the art of song-writing and production, he’s settled in Kare Kare and opened up a music studio.
Naircol - Single Review: Turbo Outrun
04 Feb 2021 // by Mike Alexander
In an interview with Naircol, following the release of his debut album Isolate late last year, he put collaborative ventures at the top of his wish list. It seems Santa Claus came calling in the form of Canadian producer Tokyo Rat, the result of which is the dynamic driving anthem Turbo Outrun.
Claire Cowan - Composition Review: Hansel and Gretel
16 Dec 2020 // by Mike Alexander
The Brothers Grimm fairy tale Hansel and Gretel is, ah, rather 'grim' to say the least. It’s the story of a brother and sister who get lost in the woods and are befriended by a cannibalistic witch who lives in a house made out of sweet things, most notably gingerbread.
Mahoney Harris - Single Review: The Shifting of the Light
19 Nov 2020 // by Mike Alexander
There's an evocative image conjured up early on in The Shifting of the Light that beautifully illustrates the underlying theme of letting go. In referring to "paradise ducks made for life returning to their bowers time after time" singer-songwriter Mahoney Harris might well be talking about 'soul-mates' or a similarly intimate relationship that felt as if it was meant to last but didn't.
Eden Iris - Single Review: I Just Can't Turn It Off
12 Nov 2020 // by Mike Alexander
Having exorcised a few ghosts, so to speak, on her soul stirring 2018 EP Demons, Eden Iris is finally set to release her debut album next year. It’s been an age since the now LA-based, singer-songwriter first came to national attention through Mike Chunn’s Play It Strange competition.
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