Friday, March 8th, 2019

Nakhane ft. Anohni – New Brighton

…and New Hove?



Ian Mathers: Oh, this is gorgeous, and to my ears a successful evocation of some of the emotional/psychological costs of colonialism, which works a lot more directly than something more dry or intellectual. Two individually beautiful voices that just blend so naturally, although when they really get going some of the mixture of the two weirdly puts me in mind of David Byrne? Not a complaint, just not what I would have guessed from the beginning of the song.

Iain Mew: Anohni’s voice is still like being smothered by cotton wool, but “New Brighton” is the most I’ve ever enjoyed her. It goes through parodic over-sincerity and right out the other side to affecting in a way which reminds me of Pet Shop Boys’ mocking-but-not-entirely cover of “Where the Streets Have No Name,” were it to be updated for the mid-00s of Arcade Fire and Bloc Party.

Tim de Reuse: Lush — maybe too lush? God knows I’ve come down hard on songs for using less reverb than this, and the instrumental in isolation feels a little one-note in its endless climbing I – IV – I. But Nakhane’s voice pulls it together; his wide, deep vibrato is joyous, and the song clearly centers around the dramatic build to the line “Never live in fear again.” It’s believable precisely for how effortless the delivery is, less like a prayer and more like a standing of ground.

Alfred Soto: Two queer singers harmonize, swooping and diving, over a chugging rock arrangement, not unpleasantly. The Eno-esque sound-as-statement approach is diverting too.

Josh Love: As stark as his pate, Nakhane is a natural heir to his guest here, Anohni, creating pop that’s rich (or, depending on your perspective, freighted) with political, cultural, and sexual context, attempting the tough work of lifting up a host of varied marginalized voices. Such ambition is prone to be sunk by pretense, which is why it’s a blessing that “New Brighton” is buoyed by such lovely, lilting guitar.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Unremarkable instrumentation that masks its drab synths with a slinking guitar melody. I suppose there’s something to be said about the contrast between the lively tone and the lyrics about colonialism, but it’s hard to register “New Brighton” as anything other than semi-impressive vocals ruined by poor songwriting. For Anohni, that’s been her downfall this entire decade.

Edward Okulicz: Nakhane’s got a wonderful voice, both singing and half-narrating the verses here. And I’ve generally not been a fan of Anohni, but her and Nakhane harmonising together is beautiful, too. The slightly uptempo, lightly skipping music seems a bit basic for the rich combination of voice and story, but if I focus on the voices it doesn’t matter.

Iris Xie: “I was upset.” The understated phrasing of this line is lovely, because Nakhane chooses subtlety to prove the self-evident wrongness of white colonialism, slavery, and missionaries and what it has done to his people, and resulted in the erasure of the actual people who matter, which Nakhane notes here as the Black women in his life. He expresses the pain in seeing names of colonizers define buildings, when it should be the names of his mother and sisters. Listening to the soulful harmonizing, I also think so much about my queer and trans Black friends and elders who have been through absolute hell but also create their own joy, and how important it is to center their voices and struggles, for they have borne the brunt of so much unjust systemic bigotry during their battle to exist fully as people. Additionally, “New Brighton” embodies a powerful decolonial imaginary that reaches up to the heavens of which Nakhane and Anohni are holding accountable by singing “never, never again.” This is resilience, and to me, this is the sound of having to squeeze every last ounce of strength to believe so strongly in your own spirit, of having to rise up again after being burned so many times due to intergenerational trauma, oppressive institutions, hurtful homes, and countless other pains. But you are still here, you can find comfort in yourself and your loved ones, and you can build, once again, but for a new vision.

Ramzi Awn: “New Brighton” is far from perfect, but it sure knows how to mix a vocal. The single’s desert landscape is vivid, but in the end, Nakhane’s U2 heartstrings can only take him so far.

Scott Mildenhall: Whether as a musician or an actor in Inxeba, Nakhane is a powerhouse. Even if “New Brighton” can only convey a fraction of his personal catharsis, its force is immense. At once, he confronts the multifarious, intertwining issues of colonialism, religion, sexuality and his own experiences of them, and with the fiercest of affirmation refuses to be overcome by them. The sense of triumph — even if only personal triumph — is not only more than justified, but a delight to hear externalised. Nakhane says himself that all things considered, his “existence is miraculous.” Yet here he is, saying with confidence (and Anohni’s booming back-up) that he’ll “never live in fear again.” It’s a powerful light to shine.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: “New Brighton” sounds like a cleansing fire, its guitars and drums prickling with a anger that has been transmuted into joy by the power of Nakhane’s vocal performance. It’s the sound of winning the fight by abandoning its terms altogether, leaving what petty concerns of conquering men to dust.

Reader average: [9] (1 vote)

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One Response to “Nakhane ft. Anohni – New Brighton”

  1. Don’t forget Albion.