Last year was a huge one for Tkay Maidza, and the name of her new album seems to be saying it was a pretty weird one too.
It's an eight track journey that traverses the Adelaide-based singer/rapper's wide repertoire of skills. We've got everything from a feature from Duckwrth ('Flexin'') to a soul-tinged interlude ('Growing My Wings').
First track 'Big Things' has a real Santigold vibe. It's got the reggae backing track, accompanied with Maidza in half singing/half rapping mode. There's a solid beat, and the more monotone chorus is reminiscent of M.I.A. 'Big Things' also has a personal element for Maidza - her dad plays bass on the track.
'White Rose' is by far a stand out. Maidza channels a style that's very prevalent in the UK at the moment (think the slow RnB of Jorja Smith). The faded vocals in the intro particularly fit this form. We also get a taste of a proper Maidza rap in the verse. "I'm bad and boujee/you and me are not amigos" is a line that really stands out. As nice as her voice is, Maidza doesn't want us to forget that she's pretty clever with her words too.
Album closer 'Say It' begins with a slight nod to Destiny's Child's 'Say My Name'. The call and answer structure of the first lines and chorus is similar to the same technique used in the 1999 hit. But it works so well - while the reference is noticeable, it's not overdone. Rap verses are sprinkled in between, emphasising that this is a Tkay song. The instrumentals are very minimalistic, and the vinyl crackles at the start and finish add to the nostalgic vibe. It's just an all round nice song, and it's a fitting end to a very diverse album.
Last Year Was Weird (Vol 1) is a triumphant return from Maidza. It's more down to earth and stripped back than her debut album Tkay, which is reflective of her "pressing the reset button", but it works well for the 21-year-old. Here's hoping Vol 2 (and beyond) maintain the high standard Vol 1 has set.
This review first appeared on Put On A Banger. The full review can be found here.