Monday, October 28th, 2019

Ngaiire – Shiver

Back after three years to make her third appearance on the sidebar…


William John: The most enthralling Ngaiire moments are when she launches like a rocket, fearlessly, reminding the listener of her awareness of dynamics and the way that power can be wielded for dramatic effect. “Shiver” shuffles along moodily, until the cup runneth over with about a minute left and it hits you “right between the eyes.” Here, Ngaiire throws her head back and commits to a howling loop befitting the song’s haunting subject. The result is enough to blast any unwelcome demons out of sight, and to at least raise the eyebrows of any friendlier spirits in her company.

Hazel Southwell: This is every deep tone, keyboard like a threat under the bubble of the vocal. It’s a crush you know you ought to fight, it’s the electric thrill of making some new decisions that people would tell you not to, it’s the prickle of feelings springing like green shoots where you’d been carefully curating fallow husks. It makes me want to go and misbehave.

Joshua Lu: “Shiver” is a slow burn — it slinks by, with Ngaiire’s steady coos pushed by an incessant snare drum and faint handclaps. The chorus lies past the three-minute mark, and it hits like the song’s coming up for air, as the vocals quicken in pace before gradually fading into melodic wails. The payoff isn’t as powerful as what such a buildup warrants, but it’s still enough to make you shiver just a bit. 

Joshua Minsoo Kim: I like the series of repeated synth notes that occasionally appear — they cut through the song’s pleasant atmospherics. Sadly, “Shiver” lives up to its title: you can feel something when it happens, but I’m not left thinking about it after the fact.

Alex Clifton: Smooth as a good glass of wine, and makes me feel just as buzzed. A lovely song with a wide range that never feels showy but makes you feel disappointed to hear silence once it ends; I immediately played it again, and I hope you do, too.

Katherine St Asaph: A verse of low, doomy piano and palpable tension, there with the best of those; I can’t tell whether the rest of the song delivers on it or lets it die, but at home in flannel pajamas isn’t where or how I’m going to figure it out.

Alfred Soto: Less manic than “Diggin’” and “Once,” this track by the Papua New Guinean singer doesn’t shiver so much as simmer, thanks to a beat that alludes to “Matador.” Too low-key for its own good even if I’d known nothing about her. 

Julian Axelrod: When’s the last time you heard R&B this antsy? The synths mutter like a migraine, the percussion putters like impatient fingers, and the backing vocals battle the main melody like a mind at war with itself. The only constant comfort is Ngaiire’s voice, which is as incredible as every other blurb is sure to mention: clear, controlled, and strong enough to crush a crystal. She’s the truth.

Kylo Nocom: Billboard equating the importance of the last time Ngaiire released music with the election of Trump is a bit much, but “Shiver” is a fantastically desperate dirge that’s best heard at late night or early morning.

Nortey Dowuona: Shuddering, slipping drums carry a arching, heaven lidded-drum track with loping, one-sided percussion as synth progression hops around with big owl eyes, and a warm, synth bass smothers it with slithering trance synths popping in. Ngaiire, on the other hand, slowly ladles her heavy, aching croon slowly through the verses, lifts it a bit as the chorus hits, then layers and drizzles during the bridge and outro. This little scalding drops from her higher register, which fades as she squeezes out the last drop.

Isabel Cole: I’m having trouble identifying what precisely I find so utterly captivating about this — something about the tightness of its structure, maybe, broken at just the right times with a lovely unspooling that mirrors the story being told of a desire that undoes you amidst the world’s unceasing noise; or how effectively the vocals layer on each other to fill up the landscape; or those deep dramatic piano notes anchoring the verses, and how they drop out for the smaller, tenser headspace of the chorus. I don’t know what the magic ingredient is, but I keep coming back to it.

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