It is beginning to look a lot like summer. Europe is reaching record-breaking temperatures; the UK set a July-high, while Paris suffered their hottest day in history. While you may not find any end-of-the-world weather in New Zealand, a storm is brewing. LEISURE, the self-described supergroup, have been crafting sweet soft funk, R&B, psychedelic fusion since their breezy but suave self-titled debut in 2016. Since that album picked up, with the help of single ‘Got It Bad’ taking off, LEISURE have become desired property. Guaranteeing favourable bass lines and teasing vocals, their music invites you to the cookout for a beer.
On ‘TWISTER’, the band’s second album, LEISURE have proved their status as the premier groovy guys of New Zealand. The group give themselves fifty minutes to take you on a sunset-filled walk along the beach; plenty of time to loosen up and chill out. This beach walk just happens to tread a very thin line between spacious and empty.
‘TWISTER’ is a coherent, flowy record that treasures summer love like nothing else matters. LEISURE’s sophomore album is more synth-driven, more hazy than their debut. However it is when they strive for the party where the group’s layered sound fleshes out.
‘Easy Way Out’, one of nine(!) pre-released singles, is one of the most entertaining stand-outs from the album. You get that infectious energy: the shuffling rhythm, the same staccato note luring you in. As the washed out vocals sing loosely about attempting to maintain high spirits (“I’ll stay cutting my teeth, walking on a good thing and see it through”), your feet will have surrendered to the groove before your mind does. The bouncy chorus understands that the funky instrumental is far more engaging than another repetitive hook – more on that later.
Then ‘Too Much Of A Good Thing’ feels like anything but. It is a riskier track from the album; a wobbly bass supports enviable harmonised vocals on the song’s catchy chorus. Disco overlords Daft Punk (a notable influence) come to mind with the background robotic voices.
There are moments when ‘TWISTER’ becomes all too familiar. The songs are particularly similar, so as to create a conceptually cohesive sound. LEISURE are very comfortable with their sound, which helps to conjure a confident record but one that lacks any real ambition. The lyrics are repetitive and sluggish at times (see: ‘The Hype’) and fairly uninspired.
LEISURE are at their best when they bring the party. Opener ‘Feeling Free’ is a smooth introduction, with lyrics that invite you in. Vowels are exaggerated, so the chorus is less “feeling free”, more “feeeeliiiiiing free”; less “cutting loose”, more “cutting loooooose”. It is playful, charismatic and as successful as any song on the record.
There are plenty of strong points. ‘Tied Up’ is an exercise in sultry, desirable groove. A sexy pitched-down vocal dominates the verse with lyrics of late nights: “If you wanna feel, turn the lights down”. As it enters the final stretch of the album, this sound does begin to wear thin. On its own, however, it is a solid cut. ‘On My Mind’ is another commendable gem. With its cooing chorus and bell-laden rhythm, it is another single worthy of your dance.
Upon listening to the album, your first thought will not be: ‘wow, THIS is a band with range’. The songs do blend into one after the first few listens. That being said, non-singles ‘S.L.Y.’ and ‘Ultra Violet Light’ do offer hazy outings that pad out the album – albeit unnecessarily.
Album closer ‘Alone Together’ is where LEISURE thrive. The Auckland five-piece may be repeating themselves again in the chorus (“We can be alone together”), but the sincerity is there. It is a slow-burning climax to the album, one that bows out with a slow dance under the moonlight. And… is that a saxophone? Fair dos!
It is the power of simplicity that makes ‘TWISTER’ work. It isn’t all that great, but when it clicks it is irresistible. They aren’t here to convince you they are smarter than they are – they just want you to dance. “I’m not saying I know the best way out but I can promise you that tonight I’ll be yours”, the second verse of ‘Alone Together’ concludes. After listening to the album, you cannot help but give in to that promise.
‘TWISTER’ by LEISURE is out today via Nettwerk Music