Album Review: Hiatus Kaiyote’s “Choose Your Weapon”

By Izzy Yellen

Neo-soul quartet Hiatus Kaiyote released their sophomore album “Choose Your Weapon” on Friday, May 1.

The album used video game samples and a beautiful mix of vocal tracks, influences from various artists such as Erykah Badu and Flying Lotus, and a maintained groove throughout. Thus, this album quickly became a record that I look forward to both deeply listening to again and playing as a soundtrack for the upcoming summer.

The second track, “Shaolin Monk Motherfunk,” was a favorite of mine due to the different sections and orchestrations that flowed easily from one to the other, many of which were prevalent during the rest of the album. This first song is packed with different sounds and really showcases the band’s diverse style. It is a sampler, a gateway to the rest of the album.

Of course, the track did not foreshadow all that the other songs brought to the table, and that is why it is a beautiful and enriching experience to listen to the album straight through. It is not a concept album, but band leader Nai Palm’s voice ties the whole hour together seamlessly without making it monotonous.

Throughout the album, the band has constants—Nai Palm’s voice and the electronic-sounding but acoustic drums—but they also experiment with other sounds and feels to keep the album moving forward in an interesting manner. In “Jekyll,” an acoustic piano is used instead of the often-heard keys, and in “Atari,” easy-to-hear video game samples are featured. Both tracks—as well as various other instruments, tactics and techniques—spice up “Choose Your Weapon.”

This is not just a soul album. It is not just a collage of unusual and funky electronic sounds paired with drums. It is a wonderfully executed blend of both and more. The album keeps the listener guessing and engaged. As soon as I thought I was in the groove of things, a new concept or idea emerged.

As a fan of Robert Glasper’s “Black Radio” and an even bigger fan of all of Flying Lotus’ work, “Choose Your Weapon” rated highly for me. It is simple on the surface—a rhythm section accompanies a soulful voice—but when you dive into it, the music becomes much more complex. Much like “Black Radio” and Flying Lotus, it is accessible to most people and can be put on in the background, but it also has a density of layering to it that is just begging to be heard and analyzed.

After hearing the name “Hiatus Kaiyote” so frequently the past two terms, I’m surprised and a bit regretful that I didn’t listen to them sooner. Don’t make the same mistake I did and listen to “Choose Your Weapon,” as well as their other record and extended plays.