Nai Palm – Needle Paw – Album Review

If you don’t know Hiatus Kaiyote or haven’t listened to their music – this is a chance to bring yourself forward and repent for your blasphemy by listening to Needle Paw.

Naomi “Nai Palm” Saalfield is the frontwoman of the R&B neo-soul futuristic, Grammy-nominated band from Australia, and she just gave us her solo offering recently, which is effortlessly raw and emotional.

“I wanted to take it back to basics. I don’t have shit to prove.”

Nai Palm explained herself during an interview with Billboard when she performed the album’s songs at an intimate concert in Brooklyn. Palm specifically wanted the album’s focus to be in her voice. She “wanted to explore the potential for immortality and timelessness within her music by stripping away the produced layers to focus on the element that is closest to the source of the human soul, the voice”. And she did that.

Photo: Blank Tape

Needle Paw is a 13-track journey of reclaimed energy. The first track is a healing chant  – “Wititj (Lightning Snake) Pt. 1” and eventually closing with its “Pt. 2.” features Jason Guwanbal Gurruwiwi and pays homage to the indigenous culture of Nai Palm’s native Australia. No lies, I’m not as clued up on with my history regarding the native/indigenous Australian people – but from the little I know, this group of people (Aboriginals) are amongst the most oppressed and often silenced.

Rappers such as Drake, Kendrick Lamar and singer-songwriter Anderson .Paak have sampled Hiatus Kaiyote staple songs. “Atari”, the second song to appear on the album was also sampled on Kendrick’s DUCKWORTH from his 2017 studio album DAMN. “Crossfire” is a Needle Paw original that pairs with a classic cover of Tamia’s “So Into You”, a perfect transitional balance for an R&B bop.  

Needle Paw is filled with gospel-like harmonies, sweet-broken guitar strums, vocal runs and sharp lyrics that make you hum along throughout. She demands her voice to be heard. It’s an acoustic intimacy more than anything. Her song choice and merging of classic songs as well make it nothing but perfect.

Palm honours music legends and probably her biggest inspirations such as Jimi Hendrix on “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)”, David Bowie’s cover of “Blackstar” and Radiohead “Pyramid Song” paired with Hiatus Kaiyote’ Grammy-nominated Best R&B performance “Breathing Underwater”.

This woman is a dream. She also gives nod to 80s gaming console sounds and references Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time character on “Mobius” – (“ancient psychic tandem war elephant”) as she sings on the song.

She draws her inspirations from reality and a metaphysical realm and exhaling that energy into her pen game and vocal deliverance.

Needle Paw has a consistency whereby the album’s palette allows the songs to merge and blend together if you had to play it in one sitting. Most of the song’s on the album are HK reworks that have been stripped down.

Artwork by @iseejowy

My favourite songs on the album have to be Homebody, Borderline With My Atoms, Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)

Album Rating: 9.5/10

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