Reviews

Naima Bock
Giant Palm

(Sub Pop/Memorials of Distinction)

8/10

Naima Bock was born in Somerset to Brazilian and Greek parents, spent her childhood in Brazil, and then wound up in south-east London where, trading as Naima Jelly, she played bass in Goat Girl on their early singles and first album. Since leaving Goat Girl in 2019, Bock has founded a gardening business and started a degree in archaeology, and now, with the help of 30-odd musicians and Speedy Wunderground’s producer du jour Dan Carey, is putting out her debut LP of, well, all of the above really: if you tried to imagine an album that tied all Bock’s myriad experiences – from Latin folk to scuzzy-sultry Windmill indie, imbued with bucolic horticultural flutters and earthy excavations – Giant Palm might just be that record, and a charmingly off-kilter thing it is too.

Amid the multiple stylistic touchstones, though, the throughline of Giant Palm is Bock’s personality, whether it’s the pretty melodies of the title track intertwined with ethereal atmospherics, the spectral, woozy folk at the starts of ‘Campervan’ and ‘Toll’, or the winning breeziness of ‘Instrumental’, which you can almost imagine a ’70s soul label’s house band slinking through on a lazy Sunday afternoon. A sort of open-minded, gently foraging inclusivity abounds, welcoming the listener into a soundworld that’s strange but accessible, easy-going but self-possessed, and almost jazzy, in approach if not tone.

When the record really asserts itself – a bracing, heartrending string section at the end of ‘Dim Dum’, for example, or the gorgeous brass and wind flutters of ‘Campervan’’s central waltz – the shift in gear is a real treat, and is a tribute to Bock’s decision to give her troupe of instrumentalists a looser leash elsewhere. Those momentary landmarks, among the other more unassuming vignettes, combine for an experience similar to a gentle walk in unfamiliar countryside: steady and calming, intimate and revelatory, and sporadically startling – it’s a record as unique as Bock’s history.

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