Finally, Escape has reached the Earth and found its way through our stereos with ripe intention. A phenomenally raw craft of tasteful melodies with soulfully smooth edges, Escape sonically plays on the intricate highs and lows of love through Niko Walters eyes.
If you didn’t already paint the picture of the incredibly humble, gentle, and calming artist that is Niko Walters from his previous spot-releases ‘Moving On’ and ‘Heroine’, then you’re certainly about to grasp an understanding of his true character with this spectacular album.
After appearing on the music scene just over a year ago, our man has earned over 3 million streams on Spotify, with Escape being his first ever complete body of work. To celebrate its arrival, an intimate album-release party was held last Wednesday where Niko performed ‘Not My Neighbour’ and ‘Old With Me’ in the company of close friends and family.
Upon arriving, I could see our Kiwi artist was a little nervous. I get it. Performing in front of a blurry crowd – easy, but performing up close and personal with those you love and care about is a different story. However once Niko took the stage, his rhythm washed over him like a miraculous rescue remedy, and it was stunning to watch. With natural presence and graceful flair, Niko captivated us all with his vibrant echoes. It was undoubtedly a very, very special moment that can’t quite ever be captured with any arrangement of words.
Niko Walters is truly the vision of the dynamic artist of the future, exploding synths that melt all boundaries and breathe grit into lyrical art. Yet at the same time, he quietly depicts a modest man who just adores his family, his partner, and his music.
This new album of his takes you through the richly emotional journey of being in love with 8 divine tracks. The production manages to capture the essence of what it’s really like to be involved with someone in this day and age; it’s not exactly a straight road, nor an easy one.
“The creation of this album was quite visceral for me. I wanted to lay out all my feelings bare, and wave them into stories I’ve experienced and witnessed,” says Niko.
The album opens with the title track ‘Escape’ which is my personal favourite from the album, and sounds phenomenal through loud car speakers – just FYI. When I was a little girl (not too little, don’t panic), I used to go and steal a sip of my Dad’s rum and coke that sat beside his chair. ‘Escape’ reminds me of the feeling. That smoothly heated drip down the back of your throat, followed by a sharp pang of liquor and adrenaline as both gave a quick kick to the heart. ‘Escape’ is exactly that, you’ve got these glossy harmonies and electronic low-fi beats working as one to become the centerpiece of your utmost attention.
‘Not My Neighbour’ is number two on the album but number one on Shazam in NZ at the moment, and for good reason; it’s been on heavy rotation on my personal playlist. If this isn’t the ultimate summertime jam then I’m not sure what we’re doing here. ‘Not My Neighbour’ is god-damn catchy in its spirit, stirring feelings of content, community, and sand getting stuck in your wetsuit. It’s a big yes from me and the rest of the nation on this one.
‘Old With Me’ and ‘Close My Eyes’ come through next and could shatter a heart into dust. What gradually emerges on these tracks are hooks and choruses full of enigmatic beauty. The lyrics “I find it hard to breathe” in ‘Close My Eyes’ together with its sounds of soulful guitar strings genuinely hits different. In a viral American music-review car vlog, that would be the moment the guys slam themselves into their seats with floor-dropping jaws and flailing arms. In Niko’s album thank-you’s he dedicates the full album to his beautiful partner, and these two love-ridden songs craft the most adorable tribute to her.
‘Be There’ is a trippy one to untangle, sonic beats laced with alien-like mixes feels like a James Blake inspired special. It adds a bit of spice to the album and conjures up the feeling of messiness, which is more often than not the reality in some seasons of a relationship.
Once I got past that the beginning of ‘Stay’ sounded like a heavily slowed intro of ‘Your Body Is a Wonderland’ by John Mayer and got brought back to Earth with Niko’s charming voice, this track sent my eyes out the window and into my thoughts. The down-tempo lyrics “It’s a better day when you’re closer, it’s a better place when you’re over, stay a little longer won’t you” were sung as if they were a directly spoken love letter.
‘Sinner’ at track number 7 stirs feelings of recollection and longing, poetically pouring out heart and soul. When it gets round to the chorus “It’s a special kind of love”, you’re taken by surprise with a sound made for summertime at the beach. Finally, ‘Colourblind’ sounds like it brinks on the topic of addiction with lines like “Tryna find my way back from the other side” and “I like it when I’m out of my mind”. It’s laced with reggae-like notes, police sirens in the background and perhaps lets us in on a slice of Niko’s personal struggles.
If this body of work is anything to go by, then it’s clear we’re only witnessing the start of Niko’s musical journey.
Listen to the album here: