Saturday, January 21, 2017

Album Review: Tommy Nee - Colorblind (2016)

Niuean-born and NZ-raised, Tommy Nee is a recent graduate of Auckland University’s school of music, and Colorblind is his highly polished debut EP. Putting aside any deliberate irony – or otherwise – in the use of the American spelling in the title, the five-track release appeals first and foremost for its borderless qualities, and the wider inclusiveness of the soulful saccharine pop music contained within. Nee has a lovely voice, full of subtle emotional nuance, soft in places, and rich, full and honey-drenched when called upon to hit some of the higher notes. The R’nB-geared music underpinning that vocal is flawlessly played and produced, but it’s the arrangement, and his ability to craft a distinctly Pasifika-flavoured set of sun-soaked tunes that serves him best here. As hinted at in the title, his lyrics don’t shy away from important issues, those of race and identity being most prominent. But mostly the message is delivered amid lovingly disguised hooks, which makes it even more compelling. The highlight of these five tracks is the gentle acoustic centrepiece 'Feel', which is anything but politically motivated. It showcases Nee as being equally at home when lamenting on matters of the heart. This is a more than promising start for an artist we’ll surely hear a lot more from in years to come.

This review was originally published in the December 2016/January 2017 issue of NZ Musician magazine.