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Album Review
New Hat and A Haircut

New Hat and A Haircut
by Tommy Ill

EMI/Loop Recordings

Review Date
31st May 2012
Reviewed by
Alistar Wickens

Tommy Ill has come a long way since his days of touring with an iPod, rapping over pre-recorded beats made on his laptop at home. If you want proof itís in his sophomore album New Hat and a Haircut, which serves as a testament to his hard work, perseverance and the wonders that label support can bring. While it may seem as though he takes a laissez-fare approach to his music, in reality the album is a culmination of Tommyís constant songwriting, recording, touring and honing of his songs.

Having support from his new label, EMI, has meant that he has been able to create a fuller, richer album than his debut (2010ís Tommy Ill). Everything on the New Hat and a Haircut just sounds bigger, better and more polished. Thatís not to say that big money was lavished on this album, as it was still recorded in a wardrobe and followed Tommyís usual DIY ethos. Itís just a lot less apparent on this recording than on everything heís done before it. The songs also, for the most part, sound as though heís put more thought into them. The exception being 'New Car Money', which is sure to be the next single as it has a similar sound and feel to his tracks that have had the most success ('Best Damn Evening' and 'Come Home Mr. Ill'). Yet, unlike those two,'New Car Money' doesnít seem to have the same impact and you get the impression itís there solely as an attempt at emulating that success.

While the sound may be bigger, the content hasnít changed much at all since his first release, the Toast and Tea Kettles EP in 2007. Heís still rapping about how hard his life is, how heís never got any money, and the constant partying that he portrays his life as. Heís never been one to get you thinking too deeply about the big issues, but he might just get you to forget your problems for an hour or two. At the least heíll make you feel like your problems might be valid too, and that he shareís them; as long as itís nothing more serious than working too hard for little money, or running out of beer.

Always closer to the indie crowd than the hip hop scene, the album still manages to give nods to both. A guest appearance by Alphabethead, albeit delivering little more than some token scratching, hints at the respect Tommy gets from local hip hop artists and provides another layer to both songs he appears on (No Magnets and River Tam). Auckland indie wonderkid Pikachunes also shows up singing the chorus on Home and providing a refreshing counter to Tommyís energetic and enthusiastic delivery.

If youíre not a fan already, there might be little here to win you over, although itís definitely worth a listen if all that was putting you off in the past was low production values. But if youíve already joined Tommy Illís party, then New Hat and a Haircut is sure to keep that party going for a while to come.

Birdbath, by Tommy Ill
From: Unreleased, (2011)