Fat Freddy's Drop – Blackbird
The third album proper from super-tight New Zealand outfit Fat Freddy's Drop achieves what it sets out to in spades. From the title track onwards, its blend of rootsy, dubbed-out basslines, smooth vocals, slick horns and pulsing keys pull off the trick of sounding like a meeting point between reggae, soul and funk, aimed squarely at summer festival crowds. The playing is immaculate, the instrumentation tight, the songwriting adequate if unadventurous.
Ragga vocals are added to the mix on tracks like Russia, while a more louche, reflective bent is showcased on Clean The House. There are even hints of proto-acid house on Never Moving, and gentle Italo disco on Mother Mother. But the overall effect, despite some minor excursions into experimental territory, is rather drad, particularly in terms of lyrical content and vocal delivery. Live, they're sure to astound, but on record, they're just plain yawn-inducing. [Bram E. Gieben]