Review: Bailey Wiley – Bailey Wiley EP

Bailey Wiley

First appeared:

Ambient Light

If the name is slightly familiar then it’s possible you’ve been to a Fly My Pretties show recently. That’s when this young, vibrant soul singer’s talent bubbled up towards the mainstream. But she’s been around for a while. A ‘Naki’ girl, originally, Wiley grew up with the vintage sounds of 60s/70s soul and the syncopated grooves of late 90s/early 2000s RnB. With stints in Dunedin, Christchurch and Berlin, she’s picked up some street smarts and blended it into her own template of sweet neo-soul. You get huge dollops of golden syrup, mixed with a little raspy fibre for body. She’s released three projects in the last five years, Inevitable, IXL, and S.O.M.M, and performed around the globe alongside Charlotte Day Wilson, SZA, Ladi6, Jess B, Tokimonsta, Rubi Du, Eno x Dirty, and Melodownz, and headlining her own shows. Then, of course there’s Fly My Pretties.

I’ve been watching a lot of cooking shows lately, and I can’t help drawing parallels with the personalities and styles of the contestants and their individual cuisine interpretations. Wiley, it seems to me, is well on the way to becoming a master chef herself when it comes to mixing it up. Collaboration is the key to a good recipe. This e.p. is a collection of material that’s been brewing for a while now. Cooked to perfection at Auckland’s Red Bull Music Studios with producers and engineers such as Josh Fountain, 2019 Taite prize winner Tom Scott (Avantdale Bowling Club), High Hoops, Smokey and Eno she’s boxed up some delicious treats to brighten up your autumn evenings.

Her entrée, DWN4U, sets the table. Her sound immediately reminded of early Erykah Badu and made me sit up accordingly. Familiar and comforting, with a just a hint of challenge on the tongue. It’s a mid-tempo, rich, sexy beat set of love and valour, boosted with extra elements like Noah Slee’s cool-as-cucumber vocal turns. A tasty starter. I was well happy.

Last year, Wiley whetted our appetite with the syrup-sweet R’n’B tune Sugar, which featured extra flavour enhancement from the slick raps of Melodownz. This one features mid-point on the menu, as a palate cleanser after the weightier servings like Between The Lines and the bass heavy main liner Zaddy (her second single). The retro keys and flutes in the intro to this are pure gold and what a video! A stylish, very slick animation.

baileywiley 1

According to the liner notes Zaddy is meant to ‘detail the battle of the sexes at the start of a relationship…a tug of war, a power struggle”. I was expecting salty, sweet, spicy, zingy and maybe some confrontation or irony. But instead, I got a more mellow, nourishing listen, with observations that paid respect to the hero, optimism for a coming relationship. Not quite the punch I was promised.

But don’t think Wiley isn’t capable of wagging her head and finger when she needs to. In the hot and fiery mole sauce of Afford This Love she finds her inner Ramsay and lets fly. “All you do is bore me, Love, You know talk is cheap, You can’t afford this stuff! Fuck your deposit slip…you wanna buy my company…you talk too much but you never talk to me…talk is cheap!” It’s a clever, caustic delivery. Yet it remains subtle. The vibe never gets wild, remaining slow and funky with lyrics that are pure scorn. She’s annoyed and not afraid to let us know. I don’t know who this player is but he certainly better stay out of the kitchen!

For all of the above, the best comes last. With hints of Randy Newman’s Broadway piano glamour through the intro, Yours Truly is the perfect way to sign out. Literally: “I love you but I’m signing off…” It’s a bitter sweet break up song dripping in seductive, velvet chocolate thick harmonies. “It’s like saying goodbye, here’s what you are missing.” Damn!

There are no outright fancy tricks or hooks. Still nothing’s undercooked or burnt either (unless you mean the partners that inspired the backstories to these songs). This is honest and satisfying. Wiley’s fare is pure soul food – delicious, flavoured and good to the last. As she sings in Zaddy, “My plate is full but I could make some room for you”.

Bailey Wiley you served up your self-titled ep, a gorgeous, rich take on neu-soul, and that’s why I give you…an 8!

NZ Music Month 2019

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