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Tawk Tomahawk’s singer Nai Palm, right, captivates with coffee-flavoured vocals and beat-like lyrics.

Luke David Kellett

3.5 out of 4 stars

Title
Tawk Tomahawk
Artist
Hiatus Kaiyote
Label
Flying Buddha

The fine singer named Nai Palm is not so much incendiary. Rather, she is mermaid-like and an Erykah Badu enthusiast. With her coffee-flavoured vocals she will "breathe you a message in condensation written in your glass heart," to use her words. She is limber, she is chiffon, she is footloose and sometimes fancy, too. "They sat and pawed a moment at the ocean's velvet," she sings and oozes on the sublimely jazzed soul of Lace Skull, a song about vulnerability. "I've died and gone to heaven, and swung softly as a feather, swung softly as a feather."

And she is a new star born.

Palm, if I may, is the breezily confident vocalist of Hiatus Kaiyote, an Australian tribe on a quest and a fresh hope for soul. The band has been championed by the hip-hopped R&B elite in this hemisphere – Canadian dates include shows at the Garrison in Toronto (Aug. 7) and Petit Campus in Montreal (Aug. 8).

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This debut album includes seven numbers proper, plus three trippy lulls. One of them, Leap Frog, uses a fat, slow-funk bass line and watery atmospherics. With its wind chimes, hand claps, wordless vocals and signature keyboard sounds, Rainbow Rhodes waits for Roberta Flack, D'Angelo, Flying Lotus and Feist to get in the same room to finish the thing off.

Lyrics are esoteric-poetic, sometimes beat-like. "Origami birds flock from my heart, burst out in colour to wherever you are." Yeah, just like that.

There is a jam aesthetic at work, though it is never heavy-handed anywhere, nor are there any solo flights involved. Fluid arrangements come together in the spinning manner of a pottery wheel.

The friendliest full track is Nakamarra, which may refer to Doreen Reid Nakamarra, the late Australian Aboriginal artist and painter. Milky keyboards sprinkle about as Palm offers devotional lines: "We fly, rise together with our hearts upon our sleeves for all to see."

If this record were made in New York and put out by a major label, it would no doubt come with all sorts of high-profile cameo raps. (Indeed, a second version of Nakamarra has been tacked on to the CD, with an appearance from A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip.) But it doesn't need any verses dropped in by parachuting celebrity rhymers. Its flow is just right as it is.

The only drawback connected to Tawk Tomahawk is that D'Angelo might listen to it, dig it and be so scared by its beauty that he'll go back to drawing board, further delaying that long-awaited new album of his. Which is fine – we can wait, now.

The week in music

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Top selling albums in Canada for the week ending July 28

Stars Dance, from Justin Bieber's fondue partner, Selena Gomez, makes its debut at No. 1. Other big sellers include LPs from Jay Z (Magna Carta Holy Grail), Imagine Dragons (Night Visions), Bruno Mars (Unorthodox Jukebox) and Pink (The Truth About Love).

Top single

For the eighth week, Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines occupies the top spot on Billboard's Hot 100. Meanwhile, boy band One Direction's Best Song Ever rockets onto the chart at No. 2, perhaps justifying the song's audacious title.

Also released this week

Buddy Guy's damn-right, double-disc Rhythm & Blues, hip-hop phenom Earl Sweatshirt's debut, Doris, Robin Thicke's summer blockbuster Blurred Lines and the Backstreet Boys' In a World Like This. B.W.

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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