The neo-soul that enjoyed critical and commercial success in the late Nineties and early 2000s is a popular inspiration for young musicians today. But many forget that the best products of that period were more than just delicious atmosphere, cooled-out phrasing and lazy-but-spine-stiffening rhythm — the songs themselves were immaculate.
The Australian singer Tiana Khasi nails both the aura and the songwriting on “Georgia’s Track,” which appears on her solo debut EP, Meghalaya. Khasi’s lyrics trace a crumbling romance — she accommodates the whims of a selfish partner until she reaches a breaking point. But as Khasi burns — “loving you is like real-life torture,” she sings — the instrumental remains impassive, a Baduizm-like slab of funk. To ward off self-seriousness, Khasi adds jolts of playful pizzicato from a small string section and impressively harmonized backing vocals. The singer describes the resulting track as a tale of “intergalactic heartbreak.”
Khasi grew up listening to her grandmother’s extensive jazz collection and toying with her piano; she got her start as a singer by working with Brisbane-based producers like The Kite String Tangle. “Georgia’s Track” started during another group session. “The instrumental was written as part of an instrumental hip-hop project I’m part of called Astro Travellers,” Khasi explains. “The band had started writing that, but it wasn’t quite fitting in with what we were working on at the time. I felt a lot of momentum lyrically with the storyline, passionate about finishing and releasing the song.”
When she connected with the producer Sampology to begin work on what became Meghalaya, “we turned fragmented ideas from years back as well as current, improvised ideas into full songs.” “‘Georgia’s Track’ is one of the oldest tracks that had been previously written before the recording process,” Khasi adds. “But as we approached it in the studio, we added more vocal harmonies, and Sampology came up with a great string arrangement. It snowballed into a Khasi song.”