A Papua New Guinea-born singer and former Australian Idol contestant joins our high scorers…
Megan Harrington: In an era of music that isn’t afraid to cannibalize history, that delights in feasting on the bones of what time didn’t properly appreciate in context, Ngaiire pulls from the past askance. She isn’t lifting old hooks or interpolating several genres at once. Instead, her world feels like one where time is fluid in every direction, seeping through cracks in the surface. “Diggin'” is a bit of the future and the past at once.
Jonathan Bogart: I’m always going to love a percussion track that doesn’t sound like one I’ve heard a thousand times before, and the repetitiveness of the tightly-strummed guitar part ratchets up a tension that, in a conventional modern indie-house song, would be released in a big dumb drop. Instead, the only release is the shock absorber of Ngaiire’s throaty vocal — until she reaches a middle eight that breaks so funkily that I was only slightly surprised when the dancers in the video started Charlestoning. Skeletal new-wave indigenous house pop? Sign me up every time.
Will Adams: The majority of “Diggin'” is assembled from tiny, gorgeous elements — close harmonies, muted guitar picks, woodblock hits, percussion so tactile you can almost see it. It’s like watching a pointillism painting being brought to life before your eyes. The synths are the let-down, then; blurting in the verse, smearing in the chorus, they attempt to offer contrast and instead offer distraction.
Brad Shoup: All that careful composition tossed aside for a remarkable chorus: Ngaiire in full freakout, cutting you off with whatever flaw you thought you could help with, wailing at the immutability of it all. The snaps and synths should signify calm, but she plays them at cross purposes, and it’s unsettling.
Alfred Soto: Her nimbleness impressed me: she syncopates her vocal to the click track yet acts, like all naturals, as if she’s performing in her own head space, extending long fingers to the audience. And what a track — the synths tighten while the rhythm keeps going.
Rebecca A. Gowns: This song pulls me in hypnotically, teasing me forward with the flicking guitar lick, arrhythmic synth line, and beat perched on tenterhooks. Ngaiire’s voice hovers over it, never sinking down into the lower registers, further tantalizing me with the suggestion that if we keep on digging, digging, digging, we’re going to hit… what, exactly? The song never answers. There is no resting place, just digging deeper, deeper, deeper.
Edward Okulicz: “Diggin'” is a tightly-coiled spring harbouring a load of nervous energy. Working with dance producers gives her personal songwriting a really rich backdrop though like “Once,” you couldn’t actually dance to it. When she has her mid-song freakout (the song’s about anxiety) she’s forging paths which would have suited Roisin Murphy or VV Brown just as well. That her voice sounds like it could crush a banger or a traditional ballad (her Australian Idol days showed it had sufficient power) but is too scared to fits the song as well.
Cassy Gress: “Diggin'” has that same bottle-tapping motif running through it that we’ve heard elsewhere, but here it doesn’t evoke hazy isolation in a club; here (especially in the last two minutes) it’s empty bottles rattling among the dead leaves on the platform as a train rumbles into the station. The time I was rescued from my own hole that I was digging, it was by someone who thought they helped me step much further out of it than I did, and who never really understood that, so I’m a touch cynical about the theme. But I can hear where that train is going, and I’ll hop on and take my own self there.