Album Review: Hiatus Kaiyote – Love Heart Cheat Code (2024 LP)

Three years after the breakthrough release of Mood Valiant in 2021, Melbourne’s own Hiatus Kaiyote return with an 11-track, genre-bending album, Love Heart Cheat Code, out now via Brainfeeder Records. Continuing their inimitable blend of neo-soul, funky jazz and psychedelia, this latest release firmly establishes the quartet as one of the most exciting, entertaining, and creative Australian exports to date.

With multiple Grammy nominations and the title of “your favorite band’s favorite band,” thanks to samples from industry heavyweights like Drake, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Kendrick Lamar, it would be easy for Hiatus Kaiyote to coast on their success or crumble under the new found pressure. Love Heart Cheat Code however, feels both effortless and deliberate, carefree yet meticulously crafted and devoid of any sense of laziness or self-consciousness.

Produced in collaboration with Mario Caldato (renowned for his work with the Beastie Boys and Seu Jorge), Love Heart Cheat Code is a testament to the band’s continuous evolution of musical fusion. The album seamlessly blends familiar jazz stylings with fresh, novel elements from hip-hop and psychedelia, showcasing the band’s ability to honor their roots while exploring uncharted sonic territories. A journey through eclectic soundscapes, the album mixes ethereal melodies with infectious grooves, intricate rhythms, lush harmonies, and an abundant fearless creativity.

Kicking off the album is “Dreamboat.” With lush keys courtesy of Simon Mavin and the dreamy vocals of Nai Palm (Naomi Saalfield), “Dreamboat” serves as a unique album opener that feels more like the beginning of a Broadway production than an album. Ethereal moments highlighted by whispering harps and grand cymbal crashes open the velvet curtains and invites listeners to witness the show. Despite the great production the song is quite short, and works best as an opener to an album in concept more than a song itself. It sets the perfect context for the album and creates a great atmosphere, with the tradeoff that the grandeur is lost outside of this.

“Telescope” follows with a distinctive blend of Nai Palm’s crooning vocals set to a danceable backbeat. Shifting from grand to groovy, this track marks a sonic shift from the opener. Lyrically exploring themes of outer space, the song muses on lines like “A place behind the light, between galaxies” and “A star with no light to mention, suddenly overshadows our sun.” An intriguing addition to the album, the song includes a playful rendition of The Temptations’ “My Girl,” with a twist on the iconic line: “I guess you could say, what could make me feel this way?” followed by the reply, “Is it kush? Or outer space?”.

“Make Friends” is up next, featuring some outstanding vocal runs and moments from Nai Palm. The song exemplifies the fine balance the band strikes between classical jazz theming and subtle modern touches that incorporate neo-soul elements with hints of hip-hop. This blend provides the perfect backdrop for the song’s themes of friendship and the qualities people bring that define our varying relationships.

“BMO is Beautiful” serves as a brief interlude in which Nai Palm harmonizes with the cartoon character BMO from Adventure Time. This fun and playful prelude leads seamlessly into “Everything Is Beautiful.” With a chorus line matching the song’s title, the happy, upbeat vibes stand in contrast to the flawless bass and guitar work happening underneath. While the happy-go-lucky lyrics circle around, you might miss some of the best instrumentation on the album. Massive props to Paul Bender for keeping the groove with his funky, driving bass lines on this track and complimenting drummer Perrin Moss spectacularly.

The album continues with “Dimitri,” which arguably features one of the catchiest chorus lines on the entire record. With a head-nodding groove from start to finish, the line “I see colours in the sound, draw them down and out. Give it all up to you” will be stuck in my subconscious all week. Including references to The Wizard of Oz and drawing inspiration from the 20th-century classical composer Dimitri Shostakovich who supposedly could hear atonal melodies when he turned his head due to shrapnel lodged in his brain, this track is undoubtedly one of my favorites on the album.

Next up is “Longcat,” a song inspired by a trinket purchased in a Japanese petrol station gift shop. With no hint of subtlety or metaphor, the song is, in fact, a wonderfully composed piece about a very, very long cat. Lyrics like “He is the longest cat in the world” and “He is the longest cat in the meow” define the oddball nature of this one. Despite its whimsical subject matter, the track showcases the band’s creative prowess and playful spirit.

“How To Meet Yourself” is up next, featuring some of the most intriguing lyrics on the album. Phrases like “To milk a stone and keep from harm” reflect how we learn from difficulties and extract something valuable from adversity. An ode to inner peace found on the other side of tough times, the song includes frank admissions like “You can open up or stay the same” and “It is not up to me how you choose your healing.” These lines, accompanied by soft piano stylings, deliver both a gentle and piercing clarity.

The title track, “Love Heart Cheat Code,” follows and stands out as one of the more experimental songs on the album. Featuring a mixture of fuzzy, almost spiraling bass ran through a harmonizer and an abundance of intriguing lyrical choices, this track is a highlight. The chorus is wonderfully catchy, even as it swims in and revels in the avant-garde nature of the band’s sound at full tilt. The song’s finale spirals into grainy, fuzzy controlled chaos, contrasting with the song’s message that love is a cheat code for life, and viewing things with love in your heart can get you through challenges. Despite the chaos, it’s a fun and engaging listen. The only downside is that it reminds us of what the band is capable of and how they can really push boundaries, yet that off-the-wall sound is reserved exclusively for the end of the album.

If the ending of “Love Heart Cheat Code” was off the wall, “Cinnamon Temple” might be somewhere in an adjacent suburb. With fuzzy, driving guitars and frantic underlying motifs that feel like an audible panic attack, the lyrics about releasing the pressure are particularly apt. A ton of fun, the frenetic and crazy nature of this track is enhanced by the band’s inversion of regular phrases, as in the line “Suck it up, buttercup. Fuck it up, buttercup.” The energy and inventiveness here showcase Hiatus Kaiyote’s ability to push boundaries and keep listeners on their toes. This one reminds me of what the band can do, while feeling a million miles away from the tunes that opened the album.

Adding to the acid-tinged run of songs that finish Love Heart Cheat Code is a cover of Jefferson Airplane‘s “White Rabbit.” Wringing every drop of psychedelia out of its source material, it’s impressive how concise and beautiful the production is without devolving into pure noise. A wonderful journey down the rabbit hole, it’s unfortunate that this one comes right at the end. The track features a fascinating sonic landscape filled with drums and strings, peaking vocals, and some utter madness, making it a lot of fun to listen to. Ending the album, I felt that I wanted much more of whatever THAT was.

As the album closes, Love Heart Cheat Code proves to be a remarkably creative work elevated by the undeniable musicianship of its members. Drawing out moments that surprise, delight, and likely confuse, it’s a wonderful litmus test for individual taste. The band’s ability to blend genres seamlessly and infuse each track with their unique style is commendable. However, despite the album’s many strengths, I found myself wanting a bit more. This feeling is perhaps intensified by the recency of enjoying the final tracks so much more than the first half, leaving me yearning for an intangible metric of “more.”

This might be an impossible ask, and one that would draw the band equal criticism. An album that consistently mirrors the intensity and creativity of the final few songs from start to finish could easily be seen as overwhelming rather than just right. Despite this, the concentration of the most innovative aspects towards the album’s end may leave some listeners wishing for a more even distribution of these moments throughout the record.

With that in mind, the album’s structure—starting with a gentle introduction and building towards a climactic finish—is still effective in its own right. The opening tracks invite listeners in with soothing jazz influences and smooth transitions. As the album progresses, it gradually introduces more complex and experimental elements, culminating in the high-energy, psychedelic finale. This journey from the familiar to the avant-garde guides listeners through an ever shifting musical landscape before becoming massive but not entirely out of the blue.For that, it must be commended.

Ultimately, Love Heart Cheat Code by Hiatus Kaiyote stands as a testament to the band’s musical prowess and fearless experimentation. While the concentration of its most off-the-wall moments towards the end may leave some listeners yearning for more, the album ultimately succeeds in showcasing the band’s unique sound and artistic vision. Whether you’re a longtime fan or new to their music, this album is sure to leave a lasting impression. It highlights the band’s ability to push boundaries and explore new sonic territories, making Love Heart Cheat Code valuable to anyone looking for a fresh and exciting musical experience. Plus, it’s better to hear it now before it’s borrowed by your other favorite band!


Love Heart Cheat Code is out now. Grab it HERE