Round Trip Mars
Southern Lights is the third (count em!) album by Auckland producer/singer/songwriter SJD. His last, Lost Soul Music, with its distinctive Ninjatunes meets softrock sound, was quite the critics favourite on its release in 2001. This new album offers more of the same, with the added CD-selling punch of a host of Auckland-based guest popstars – Heather Brunette, Don McGlashan, Anika Moa et al.
References to this album as electronica are a little misleading – really, it’s rock music made on a computer. And I don’t mean techy, kitsch ‘electropunk’ either – SJD’s inspirations seem to be planted firmly in the hippy psychedelic heyday of the 1960s. Think Stephen Stills with ProTools, right down to the cod-Californian accent, chamber pop orchestration and folky lyrics. Probably the best reference point for this album is the neo-psych ‘experimental-music-for-people-who-wouldn’t-normally-listen-to-that-kind-of-thing’ of The Flaming Lips or Radiohead. Sure, there’s lots of squelchy synths and the occasional glitchy digital drumsound, but in it’s attention to songwriting, and it’s overall aesthetic, this album is all rock.
Once you’ve got your head round that, it’s a great listen. S.J.D. draws on influences far and wide, from the krautrock-lite of the opener, ‘Rising, Falling, Rising’, to the understated Dimmer-funk of ‘The Place is Surrounded’, to the Bono-esque falsetto of current single ‘Superman, You’re Crying’. Southern Lights is a subtle, immaculately crafted set of songs that bear repeated listening. Buy it now and I promise you won’t have gotten sick of it by the time summer rolls round.
(Review for The package)