LIVE: Nai Palm of Hiatus Kaiyote, CMJ

Review from her pre-CMJ show at Rockwood Music Hall. Photos from her performance at Free Candy, Brooklyn. 

Once a year, New York plays host to a deluge of fresh, new talent hoping to gain the hearts of new listeners. The CMJ Music Marathon attracts a diverse set of artists and tastemakers eager to break new ground in music. Some come wishing on a prayer; others have a steady momentum and seem on the verge of a breakthrough. Nai Palm is definitely part of the latter group. As the co-founder and lead singer of the Australian band Hiatus Kaiyote, her enigmatic style has built a steady steam of buzz. A self-professed child of soul, Nai Palm fuses folk, electro soul, and even opera for her music. The soundscape provides the foundation for lyrics that range from the beauty of love to the plight of social justice.

Before CMJ’s full onslaught was upon the city, Nai Palm played a formally informal set to a packed house at Rockwood Music Hall. Throughout her 45 minute set, she was able to wow the audience with the charms of her music and her personality. She moved easily through seven selections that showed the depth of her range and influences accompanied solely by her electric guitar. After an introduction, she moved to the Hiatus Kaiyote track ‘Malika.’ Drawing on her soul influence, she then deftly moved into a cover of her “favorite song” ‘My Cherie Amour.’ By this point, the audience was in full connection and she continued to weave through her set list. She gave a preview of new work while also doing inspired takes on Donny Hathaway ‘Someday We’ll All Be Free’ and Jimi Hendrix ‘Have You Ever Been’. Each selection was a surprise, and yet by the end of each one, they were obviously perfect choices.

It’s quite apparent that this will not be the last time we hear from Nai Palm. Her songwriting doesn’t dodge any topics and maintains emotional maturity. On top of this, her creative interpretations of melody infuse so many influences that it creates an enchanting experience for the listener. She’s definitely one to watch.