review bic runga close your eyesAlthough it does include two new originals, Kiwi songstress Bic Runga’s latest album is pretty much a covers record in which she pays tribute to some of her favourite artists and songs. 

And a pleasingly eclectic collection it is, too, an intriguing blend of the old and the new, and spanning pop, folk, funk and even hip hop. Admittedly, Runga – who last week was inducted into the New Zealand’s Music Hall of Fame – is at her strongest on the acoustic flavoured material, whether it be gorgeous readings of Love’s Andmoreagain and Nick Drake’s Things Behind The Sun, or her assured takes on more familiar songs like Neil Young’s Only Love Can Break Your Heart and Roberta Flack’s The First Ever I Saw Your Face.

However, Close Your Eyes is more interesting when she steps outside of her comfort zone. Although she doesn’t quite manage to nail the furiously funky groove The Meters brought to What ‘cha Say, Runga successfully transforms Kanye West’s Wolves into an elegant trip-hoppy ballad, while the Mint Chicks’ robotic Life Will Get Better Some Day is recast as a cheery acoustic lullaby; incidentally, the presence of the latter’s former drummer Kody Nielsen – who, together with partner Bic, plays all the instruments on the album – ensures that the record mainly steers clear of MOR territory.

If the covers serve as a neat distillation of her influences, the two new songs give an indication where Runga might be heading in the future. The twitchy title track is faintly reminiscent of Stereolab and there is a similar retro electronica vibe to the lush 60s pop of Dream A Dream; let’s hope this collection will help inspire more new songs in a similar vein.

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