Caiti Baker | Zinc Album Review

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7.8/10

Zinc is nothing short of a triumph for Darwin-based singer Caiti Baker. Through her unique and remarkable story, Baker has produced a defiant LP that twists and turns whilst maintaining an air of class, soul and originality, with some top singles thrown in for good measure. 

Caiti Baker's story is striking to say the least. Decade. was fortunate enough to hold a Q&A with the Darwin singer, in which she unveiled her story and musical influences. Her debut album, Zinc, is a marvellous concoction of neo-soul, blues and contemporary pop.

Zinc opens with 'Believer', a sincere track with delightful harmonies that break up any potential monotony. There are plenty of layers hinting at Baker's broad musical past, not to mention her father's influence - after receiving his USB drive containing hundreds of licks, riffs and instrumentals, Baker got to work writing lyrics and collaborating with long-term creative partner, James Mangohig.

Baker's debut record is a triumph, rising from the ashes in the wake of her previous illness - one that was treated with zinc supplementation, hence the album title. Not only is Zinc a commendable achievement, but the optimistic, defiant tone entwined in Baker's story is just as evident as her demeanour and the record itself. Punchy basslines, riveting instrumentals and percussion are rife throughout, securing a determined and persuasive sound.

'Believer' flows into 'I Won't Sleep', a track which begins with a promising riff before being overridden by a mass of claps and trumpets to generate a thumping single. This track portrays Baker at her most witty and confident; think Kali Uchis, but more soul and less sun-drenched beats.

For the tanned fans and beach goers, however, sun-drenched beats can be found on the very next song, 'Could It Be Nerves' - an idling, delicate piece with similar harmonies to the opening track, except with a far more relaxed chorus intended to maintain the song's carefree attitude. It is evident at this point that Baker is largely comfortable flicking between being assertive and reposed, which allows the record to breathe after the prominent singles seemingly intended for late night joyrides or seductive jazz and soul clubs.

The second half of the record feels different than the first. The switching of personas becomes less apparent, and instead the listener is treated to a kind of unperturbed middle ground, which helps the later tracks flow without interruption. From 'Thursday' to 'Dreamers', Baker is at her most tranquil but still utilises the punchy rhythms gifted to her. The twinkling keys added at the end of the latter track finish it off in lulling fashion, before 'I Got That' delivers a bossy wake up call.

The Australian cites Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin as influences - for a neo-soul artist, that's not unusual, but the fact that a subtlety of class can be heard towards the end of the album is brilliant; Mangohig's assistance with the synth sections and arrangements is what glues the record together, but it's Baker's sophisticated and intelligent approach that allows her own style to shine and to push Zinc into a league of its own. 

The word 'promising' comes to mind throughout the record's endearing first listen. Baker is original enough, talented enough and cool enough to be whoever she wishes to be, and one can only hope that an eventual follow up album will allow her to obtain the traction she deserves, because Zinc refuses to be branded an LP of half-measures.

Zinc is a true journey between the loud and the soft, the dreamers and the grounded, the asleep and the alert, and most importantly, Baker and her past, present and future.