Malihini - Hopefully, Again - - Soundblab

Malihini - Hopefully, Again

by Howard Scott Rating:9 Release Date:2019-03-08
Malihini - Hopefully, Again
Malihini - Hopefully, Again

The gods of musical kismet work in mysterious ways. Sometimes duos find themselves under the same lunar eclipse, sometimes they are down the hall from each other in the same recording studio. Others bump into an eventual partner while vying for the same parking place in a retail parking lot, and sometimes they have known each other for years, and just decide to give it a whirl.

Italian duo Malihini have a story all their own of how they came to be a musical pairing, and it is not quite as romantic or destiny driven as others. It turns out Giampaolo Speziale was cruising towards Rome about 5am one morning when he spotted Federica Caiozzo hitchhiking. He picked her up, took her to her home, and then they didn’t see each other for a few months. By chance, they eventually found themselves at the same concert but didn’t make an instant connection there either. They eventually spoke, retreated to her house, and have been together ever since. It took even more time before they decided to meld their musical talents, but the choice seems to have turned out pretty well for all involved. 

Malihini’s debut album “Hopefully, Again” is ten tracks of personal and exquisite songwriting which tells the tale of two soulmates finding each other. All of the uneasiness, fear and eventual surrender of a new relationship is included, with a minimal but majestic soundtrack to back it up. The duo wrote all the songs and played most of the musical instruments themselves. Alberto Paone handles drums on several tracks, and producer Richard Formby helped glue everything together. 

An unusual twist to Malihini’s music is that both players handle vocals. Sometimes, such as on opener “House On A Boat”, they sing together, but the similar timbre of their voices gives the lyric a double tracking effect. Several of the tunes also contain a nautical feel, and this one is no exception, with a rollicking melody line that just sounds salty. 

On the title tune window-rattling bass backs up a “she said, he said” offsetting vocal that does a nice job of putting the unsettling pieces of new love front and center. Both vocalists have a soulful affectation to their lyrical style, and it bounces back and forth very nicely.

“Song#1”, which is the last cut on the album, is the first tune the pair wrote together and must have given them the confidence to move on from there. Most of the composition is instrumental, and we are over three minutes into the four and half minute song before a vocal appears. It is a pleasant little seaside ditty that gains additions as it flows along, eventually culminating in a spacey atmospheric vocal that highlights both singers’ talents.

I found “The Afterdays” to be one of the more interesting cuts on the disc. A basic guitar strum backs a hip-hop style vocal mainly dominated by Speziale. Again, as the song flows, more and more is added via bass, synth, and beats, but the song still feels raw until everything jumps in at the very end. It is one of the more unusual pieces of songwriting I have heard recently.

The bluesy soul is in command on “Can’t Stand That”, which again acts as a tuneful taste of couples counseling for the vocalists. You get the feeling there aren’t a lot of secrets between these two, and their ability to put their insecurities to music is rather incredible. The bass and keyboard riffs give just enough uneasiness to keep the listener entranced.

A touch of American jazz appears in “If U Call” to change the musical tenor just slightly. Rather excellent and interesting guitar lines are especially prominent, and the ghost of Steely Dan of albums past obviously inhabited the heads of the composers. That is never a bad thing, as American rock-jazz was never done much better.

“Delusional Boy” (don’t worry, it isn’t really sexist. The chorus bounces back and forth from Delusional Boy to Delusional Girl!) is the most pop-laced anthem here, with the dueling vocalists sounding a little more optimistic than elsewhere. The music carries a jaunty, jumping beat that just sounds happy and enriching. 

The throbbing bass line of “Nefertiti” sits in full contrast to the upper register vocals from both members and just oozes a sexy, heartfelt “river of love” that forms the chorus. “The Snow” manages to accomplish a ceremonious level of grandeur while being musically minimal at the same time, which isn’t the easiest task to accomplish. 

Malihini means “newcomers” in the Hawaiian language, which belies the fact that the pair have been recording together since 2016. Previous works include a single and an EP, but the first Malihini long player fully introduces two singer-songwriter musicians who seem to have absorbed decades of experience in a very short time. I think it is always a good thing when the two players seem to have an honest affection for one another, and though it gets edgy sometimes, it is always obvious that the mutual respect on display aided in composing a fine example of pleasant and therapeutic music. 

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