Lucky Stars – Mikaela Cougar

pop rock, rock, Singer Songwriter

Mikaela Cougar is a force to be reckoned with, releasing three killer singles this year alone. Her latest feat is the cosmic Lucky Stars EP, which she hopes will “shoot people through moonbeams, landing them amongst the stars”. Dude. You gotta hear it.

The EP slaps from the get go, starting with nostalgic “grrl rock” single Lucky Stars. The track is moody gold, and it took me straight back to watching 10 Things I Hate About You in the early 2000s. There’s a certain No Doubt energy to the song, but it’s definitely that little bit edgier. It builds through the use of classic palm muting, distortion and layered vocals. It’s a good time.

I Don’t Wanna Be In Love is one of my absolute favourites. It was great to listen to the track again; it impressed me just as much this time. From there it moved into Stupid Love Drunk, which gave me major Lorde vibes. Mikaela’s pop alto shined in this track as her vocals walked the edge of spoken word in the verses. I can picture Stupid Love Drunk being  s o  m u c h  f u n  live as the audience yells the words with her. Don’t be fooled by the groovy rhythm section and fun chorus though; the song has secret lyrical substance. 

The fourth track See Straight is the single that made me fall in love with Mikaela’s music earlier this year. It was just as eerie and mesmerising this time, and nice to hear it in the context of the rest of the collection. The final track Scared begins a little more sultry than the earlier tracks. It’s cool to see Mikaela experimenting with different sounds and topics. It launches into her iconic “grrrl rock” sound before long. Overall the Lucky Stars EP is a really well balanced set of tracks. Mikaela has managed to develop a distinct and coherent sound while still delivering a diverse set of songs; a feat worthy of recognition.The full Lucky Stars EP will be available to the public this Friday, and Mikaela will take to the stage with her band at Wine Cellar. If her live performance is anywhere near as epic as her discography then the crowd will be in for a super fun night. Get your pre Halloween boogie on, and maybe I’ll see you in there!

You can find Mikaela Cougar and her music on Instagram, Facebook and Spotify.

Queen of Disaster – Chiara Foschiani

electro pop, INDIE, indie pop

If you love Christine and the Queens as much as I do then you’ll adore Chiara Foschiani. Ignoring the fact that her age makes me feel like a recent retiree, I was incredibly impressed by her debut single Queen of Disaster. Born in 2003, Chiara Foschiani is a Parisian multi instrumentalist and producer who left high school to pursue music full time when she was 16. Having generated notable interest on soundcloud, Chiara released her first Spotify track in October.

I was suspicious at first of the “poppy” introduction, but Queen of Disaster quickly melts away into a super groovy pre chorus. The lyrics are simple but effective, with some killer moments like the line the earth is on fire. The chorus layers epic vocal harmonies and what sounds like an electric banjo. The production is creative, and you can hear how much fun Chiara had in the studio.

Chiara Foschiani is a new kid on the block, but she’s not to be underestimated. Her debut single is both creative and impressive. I look forward to following her musical career! Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

Time Is Laughing – Jessy & The Volunteers

Uncategorized

Self proclaimed “Taranaki beach bum” Jessy Wadeson built her band brick by brick in her basement. The result is the effortlessly cool, contagiously funky experience of a band Jessy & The Volunteers. The groups takes elements of RnB, blues and soul, weaving them together to make a distinct sound. 2019 brought with it the release of debut music video “Phone Face”, and performances at summer festivals alongside “Goodshirt”, “Sola Rosa” and “Katchafire”. Jessy & The Volunteers’ latest masterpiece is the release of Time is Laughing.

I was lucky enough to catch Jessy & The Volunteers live last year, and it was one of the most captivating performances I’ve seen in a while. Their on stage energy is mesmerising, and their musicality is flawless. Wadeson is a phenomenal front woman, keeping the audience engaged and moving like a natural. The way the group manages to translate this energy from stage is impressive.

Time is Laughing rolls in with a funky guitar line and epic synths. Wadeson’s voice is soulful and characterful. She utilises backing vocals to build a nostalgic soundscape. Her performance is lively. I was particularly impressed by the kit, which refuses to stay still, keeping the groove alive from 00:00 to 4:23. The use of funky synths is super fun, too – the piece breaks for a heartbeat to allow a quick solo before opening back up into an epic chorus.

I love the way Jessy & The Volunteers always develop their songs. They don’t sit in a regular form, they transform and develop, allowing the group to both explore, and create a distinct sound for themselves. If you haven’t discovered this Aotearoa gem, I’d thoroughly suggest following them on Instagram and Facebook.

Familiar – Calon

Uncategorized

Based in London, Calon is an emerging singer-songwriter from Swansea. His alias means “heart” in Welsh; a fitting translation for an artist who focuses on self development, existentialism and catharsis. Influenced by Jeff Buckley and Corinne Bailey Rae, Calon’s latest track “Familiar” is laidback and pensive.

“Familiar” begins with a shuffling rhythm section and husky vocals. Calon speaks in metaphors, playing around with creative use of rhyme. I loved the way the first verse stumbles straight into the first chorus, like a stream of consciousness.

The track lulls you into a place of peace through its repeating rhythm section and Calon’s vocal performance. He’s got a calming writing style, and a lovely voice with a bit of an edge to it. I look forward to seeing where Calon goes next with his music; he shows great promise as a songwriter and performer. You can keep up with his journey on instagram and facebook.

Wanderer – Molly Devine

Ambient, Easy Listening

After years of working collaboratively with New Zealand songwriters and musicians, the isolation of 2020 has inspired something completely different from Molly Devine. It’s been a year of polar opposites for the artist. One moment she was touring the country with her new single Call Me Up, the next she was home alone crowded by her thoughts along with the rest of Aotearoa. Fortunately for Molly she runs a music school out of her home, so she spent her hibernation in a mini recording studio.

Wanderer is about the “magnetism (Molly) feels towards simplicity and easefulness”. The track is a first for Molly, as she wrote and produced it solo. Wanderer comes with a beautiful music video that paints pictures to compliment the soundscape.

Wanderer begins with a sparkling right hand piano line, and twinkling city lights to match. The introduction is based around a montage of busy modern living; a time-lapse of traffic, flight times at the airport, a crowd at a zebra crossing. As Molly’s soothing voice describes a “familiar silhouette leaning against the door frame”, the imagery settles into a warm indoor scene. There’s poetry in Molly’s lyricism. She “loves you like the ocean loves the moon”, drawing imagery from nature to parallel human emotions.

I particularly enjoyed the appearance of classical guitar; an intricate line written by Jayendra Birchall. The dynamic blend of Molly Devine’s songwriting and Birchall’s mystical performance results in an ethereal piece of writing; reminiscent of some of Sufjan Steven’s work. Wanderer is a beautiful piece of writing. I look forward to keeping up with Molly’s journey on Facebook and Instagram.

Photo: Nik Brinkman

Going for Broke – Good Habits

Folk, Uncategorized

Alt-folk duo Good Habits completed a 40 show tour of Aotearoa moments before the nationwide lock down. With the help of the “warmth and support of new friends”, the duo made the most of their surprise hibernation in Paekakariki, taking the opportunity to introduce the enchanting Going for Broke album to the world. Comprising of singer-cellist Bonnie Schwarz and accordionist Pete Shaw, Good Habits are an innovative and electric breath of fresh air for this blog writer losing her mind in lock-down.

Going for Broke starts with the mesmerising See How The Evening Goes. Appearing to be set in another century, the lyrics step over winding cello and string counter melodies. The accordion adds depth to the sound, and Schwarz’ voice makes the piece feel like fantasy. The melody is tasetfully simple, allowing the intertwining instrumental section space to shine. It’s simultaneously chaotic and peaceful – a combination for which the pair have a genuine gift.

Immediately demonstrating their innate ability to create diverse music, the second track Hitch is a metre-jumping circus tent track. It features the sickest accordion solo out. As “nomadic musicians”, much of Good Habits music is inspired by travel and adventures. Hitch feels like a lightning paced road-trip to the busker’s festival. Providing a moment of serenity is the third track on the album Forget It. Here, the cello almost takes on the role of a harp, lulling the listener into a lullaby mindset.

This serenity doesn’t last for long, as What Else Would We Do demands that you listen. With melodic writing reminiscent of Regina Spektor and a soprano to match, the track is just f u n . I’ve never heard an accordion played like that. The half time moments in the percussion keep What Else Would We Do moving for the full duration. Another favourite is Under My Nose, which launches relentlessly into a dreamy, shimmering accordion and hyperventilating snare sound.

The Going for Broke EP utilises cello to its full potential in a way I haven’t heard for a while. Schwarz writes ribbon-ing lines that genuinely shine in their own right. The haunting You’re Not Alone is a sincere piece of writing with the first verse settled on top of exclusively pizzicato. Going for Broke is wrapped up neatly by the groovy Racing The Hour Hand. The EP ends on a hopeful note.

Wow. If you didn’t get the vibe, I was sort of blown away by this EP. Going for Broke feels genuinely fresh and optimistic – each of the nine tracks brings something special to the collection. Keep up with the masterminds behind Good Habits on Instagram and Facebook.

I Don’t Wanna Be In Love – Mikaela Cougar

INDIE, Indie Rock

Following the release of her singles “See Straight” and “Lucky Star, Mikaela Cougar is back with another banger. “I Don’t Wanna Be In Love” channels nostalgic 90s girl band vibes combined with that laid back bucket hat aesthetic we know and love.

In this track Mikaela reflects on passing pages of life as she walks into a new chapter. She found the track “basically wrote itself… like a stream of consciousness.” The artist’s choice of conversational lyrics brings an element of “realness” to the song; like we’re sharing a beer as she externalises her thoughts. The hook line “I don’t wanna be in love because it’s way too hard” is charmingly matter of fact. There’s no need to dress the sentiment up in poetry and metaphors; it stands on its own with intrigue and vulnerability.

I loved the pauses in the first chorus, as Mikaela chose to match the rhythms of the instrument with her rambling lyrics. Moments of silence can be what makes a song, and she utilised these to their full potential. The psychedelic breakdown and Gwen Stefani vocals in the bridge lifted the song to that “effortlessly cool” sound that Mikaela is famous for.

The blending of bitter lyrics with an optimistic soundscape in the chorus were effective in capturing the hindsight that comes with stepping out of a situation. Mikaela has moved on; the negativity of this failed relationship can’t touch her now. Overall, “I Don’t Wanna Be In Love” is another killer track from what is quickly becoming one of my favourite emerging artists. I can’t wait for the 2021 release of the full EP.

Boomers in Disguise – Hazza Making Noise

Uncategorized

Harry Platt is a “disillusioned architect and slightly average singer-songwriter / producer” based in Tamaki Makaurau. Platt releases “electro plunge” music under the “irreverent pseudonym” Hazza Making Noise. Hazza’s sound is distinct, often shining a light on the hypocrisy and self righteousness of humanity. Following his collab with The Countdown Self Checkout Lady (Do You Wish To Print A Receipt?) Hazza has returned with Boomers in Disguise.

Boomers in Disguise is the first track off Hazza’s upcoming EP Vengeful Millennial, and it is every ounce as satirical and punchy as the title suggests. It’s a raucous anti-establishment anthem, driven by catchy riffs, 80s synths and sardonic lyricism. Boomers in Disguise is relentless, sprinting off the starting block with a hectic tempo and shouted chorus vocals. 

Hazza challenges the hypocritical tendencies of millenials. Boomers in Disguise critiques the tribalist division between the two generations the media would have us believe are at war. The hook line “blame the baby boomers, blame the government” points towards the inclination our generation has towards self righteousness, when it is very easy to critique a system from afar.

Hazza’s production is famously creative. He experiments with synth timbres and unusual samples, bending genres and seeking new sounds. The strobe-like movement of the chorus vocals between left and right is suitably overwhelming as the piece plunges into chaos. Hazza’s songs are never just songs; they’re a sonic experience. Ultimately a talented instrumentalist and lyricist, Hazza’s writing is both impressive and innovative. 

Hazza Making Noise hits the stage with his band of open mic brothers The Ellice Road Boys on October 16th as Casette Nine to celebrate the release of Boomers in Disguise. His power house Dave Grohl vocals and enthralling on stage persona guarantee a high energy and entertaining night. Get in there!

Big Bam Boom – The RVMES

INDIE, Indie Rock, Uncategorized

Dynamic and bold, The RVMES are a genre-defying “stir-fry” band of brothers from the big smoke. The four piece waste no time, and in their short two years as a collective they have “caused mayhem” on a 10 day North Island tour, and released a self titled 9 track EP. The RVMES show no sign of stopping with banger after banger under construction and a brand-spanking-new single Big Bam Boom out September 12.

RVMES’ latest track starts with as much of a bang as you’d expect from a track so bold as to go by Big Bam Boom. The lads launch into a scurrying rhythm section and gang vocals to sing the title line, before a stupidly catchy falsetto “ooh”. The vocals lie somewhere between indie-rock and acoustic rap as lead singer Edwin Judd riffs about people watching.

The arrangement is so fun, and so creative. It’s impossible to send praise in one direction in particular, because the band refuses to sit still for a micro second. The rhythm section diversifies with every bar, finding epic moments where drums, bass and guitar can lock together. While the verses themselves are riddled with cool lyrical and instrumental moments, nothing beats the soaring Big Bam Boom chorus. If that’s not enough for ya the band launches into a killer instrumental section at the end enough to have your fitbit asking if you’re okay.

The energy is r e l e n t l e s s l y e l e c t r i c . I’ve never had the pleasure of witnessing Big Bam Boom live, but I can feel the floor rattling with the mosh pit through my headphones. You can hear how much fun The RVMES had recording the beast, and it makes it a riot to listen to it. Keep an eye out for their live gigs on Facebook and Instagram – I might see ya there.

Knock Things Over – Jaqualyn Taimana Williams

rock, Rock

Kindergarten teacher by day and certified badass by night, Jaqualyn Taimana Williams released Knock Things Over today. Williams is passionate about promoting Te Reo Maori in Aotearoa, and has dedicated much of her time to creating valuable resources for parents and teachers to help the language thrive. Knock Things Over tackles a different cause, but is just as rebellious in nature. Described as “defiant rock”, Knock Things Over is an anthem riddled with conflicting advice for Williams’ younger self.

The track begins with five seconds of hurried advice and single guitar strums before dropping into full noise. Enter drums, distorted guitar and bass. The chorus introduces a more mellow vocal line with tight harmony before launching back into more suggestions. The production is so fun on Knock Things Over– I love the garage band punk feel; I can almost see the song being performed as I listen. Of course it wouldn’t be rock without a killer guitar solo, and the track delivers.

The lyrics advise her to “stay still, be quiet, shout out and start a riot”. The contradicting lyrics and hectic feel of the song capture exactly what it is to give advice. Who could possibly say what the right way to live life is, and yet I think we all fantasise about what we’d say to our younger selves if we had the chance. I love the punch of the hook line “knock things over”. It’s not clear exactly what’s meant by the lyric, but I think that’s what draws me to it. For me it’s about making your mark on the world through change, even if to some people the change might feel destructive.

Follow Jaqualyn Taimana Williams on Facebook and Instagram for more world changing music.