‘Spend my nights with an old guitar, playing my pain away.’ From the measured opening piano chords of the thoughtfully upbeat title track to the outro clapping of mournful closer Baby Says She Cares, this is a charming and delightful debut album from Dominic Blaazer, well known as a member of some quality Auckland acts, including The Peter Stuyvesant Hitlist and Smoothy.
While audiences of those various bands will know he plays a mean piano/Hammond organ, wields a meaningful guitar and can sing to boot, he’s not known as a solo artist. That’s just changed because ‘The Lights Of Te Atatu’ is a special record (released on vinyl and digital) that will surely lead to demands for more.
Clearly personal, it covers pop, soul, AC rock, blues and more, in the way your own vinyl collection might. It’s likely that most of these tunes were written on piano and therein lies much of the oddly fresh appeal this album has – unfussy chords and clever progressions supporting intelligent, clearly articulated lyrics.
There is plenty else to enjoy here, notably the string arrangements of Jon Cook, as performed by The Black Quartet. Cook adds his own flugelhorn to the mix and there’s also oboe and saxophone alongside the largely unobtrusive pop/rock basics.
And then Blaazer’s singing. His is not a voice of impressive strength but his conscious use of it and willingness to take vocal risks is impressive. Honesty springs to mind, as to me does Tim Finn, his voice fully expressing vulnerabilities of the songwriter and in the un-retouched, almost live performances.
In tandem with great musician friends, smart and diverse lyrics born from three-or-more decades as a music detail-ist, performing musician and sensitive bloke, Blaazer delivers a wholly enjoyable album.