Here we have the debut album by Wellington band Tahini Bikini, who at the time were Mads Taylor, (lead vocals, lyrics) Alex Coffey (keyboards, rhythm guitar, production), Lukas Jury (lead guitar), Cae Heke (bass), Chev Fraser (trumpet) and Barney Johnson (drums) although since the recording they have also been joined by saxophonist Rachel Andie. The band started when Mads met Lukas at random on a night out, while Alex and Mads are long-time friends and he joined he moved to New Zealand to escape the Melbourne lockdowns. Cae and Mads met working at a cafe together while Barney and Mads went to high school together. Lastly, they met Chev who coincidentally grew up in the Wairarapa where Barney and Mads grew up although they had never met. Mind you, Chev’s mother used to play music together with Mad’s dad, so with Mads as the central point there seems to be fate playing a part here as well. 

From the off one would not imagine this was self-recorded, as the production is excellent with a good separation of the instruments so there is lots of space for everyone to move in and find their place. Mads definitely has some vocal similarities to {Gin Wigmore}, but while she is always going to be the centre of attention being the singer, what makes this album is the quality of the arrangements. There are too few bands properly utilising brass instruments, often turning instead to synths, but there is nothing which quite matches the timbre and style which comes from the real thing. I am also a fan of how they use some quite different keyboard sounds, and while the guitar and bass are often further back in the mix, the part they play is essential.

It would be very easy to say this is a modern pop band, but there is some funk here, plenty of soul there, and stacks of classic RnB which has been brought up to date. This is music which is full of sunshine and is out just in time for summer, where I am sure these guys are going to make a load of new fans at the festivals they are playing. This is polished, but it does not have all the edges taken off which means there is a solid dose of reality in this which provides more depth to what they are doing. This reality is brought home in Life’s A Beach, which sounds more American and edgy, but lyrically this is Mads opening up about personal mental health struggles living with anxiety and ADHD. I can see this release making waves on radio, and for those who want a modern-sounding album which is really worth checking out which contains good songs, great vocals and accompaniment, then this is for you.