After a six-year gap during which he focused his time on public transport advocacy alongside developing a successful immersive solo live show, Whanganui-based singer-songwriter Anthonie Tonnon has returned with a terrific new album.
Inspired by his acquisition of a Deluge synthesiser, the songs on ‘Leave Love Out Of This’ are a massive departure from the more traditional analogue sound of 2015’s ‘Successor’ and previous releases under the Tono and the Finance Company banner. Tonnon embraces electronic and synth sounds to the absolute maximum on this new record, experimenting with song structure in the process. Layers of synths dominate right from the opening bars of main single Entertainment, a synth-pop anthem unlike any Tonnon has recorded before and a track that sets the tone for the rest of the album with its hooky uptempo nature.
The process of recording this album, which features input from the likes of Anna Coddington, Jonathan Pearce and Elizabeth Stokes, began a few years ago. Therefore it’s no surprise that some staples from his live show, such as Two Free Hands and the title track appear in the tracklist. These and others like Old Images offer a warm, familiar presence amidst the newer synthy tracks, and show that at the heart of his newer approach, Tonnon is still first and foremost a singer-songwriter who puts lyrical content first.
This lyricism has allowed Tonnon to explore political themes, something he did well on ‘Successor’. Here though, instead of climate change and public transport, Tonnon turns his focus to things like neo-liberalism, the intergenerational divide, and the closing of a paper mill in Mataura.
Such themes could have been buried amidst what is quite a heavy production at times. However, they end up being brought more to life thanks in part to Tonnon’s ability to craft quality pop, songs that can carry the weight of such dense topics. There is also the help of his instantly recognisable vocal delivery that has an uncanny knack of easing listeners into his songs.
‘Leave Love Out Of This’ is an album of evolution musically for Tonnan and a fine example of an artist confident enough as a songwriter to adapt to new technologies and incorporate new sounds into their music. As a body of work this is one of his best yet.