Can’t get Keeley Shade’s track off my mind

Ambient, Folk, INDIE, indie pop, Pop

Canadian born alt-pop-folk artist Keeley Shade seems to have materialised from nowhere. Her debut track On My Mind has sparked intrigue, featuring on the NZ top 20 and earning over a thousand streams on Spotify. The track is an impressive first release, establishing Shade as a force worth watching.

Keeley Shade’s On My Mind swells into existence like waves on the sand. The instrumental intro is built by fading piano and a crackling microphone. The producers use every ounce of sonic space. The simple melody in the first verse allows the dreamy soundscape to speak for itself, and Shade’s lyrics are mysterious, allowing for an open interpretation.

The introduction of high guitar in the interlude feels like your mind opening. One My Mind’s production is flawless and creative, experimenting with texture and painting colours. The empty space is always meaningful, building a pensive atmosphere. The purity in Shade’s vocal delivery is calming.

The bridge provides a low moment in the song, as Shade thinks about throwing it all away. The backwards vocals are otherworldly, giving the sense that we are caught in a trance as the piano plays reverberating scaled. The sudden shift in tone is a risk that pays off when the track returns to its original vibe.

On My Mind is an innovative first release, and I look forward to seeing where Keeley Shade goes next with her sound. You can keep up with here on Facebook and Instagram.

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Ministry of Folk – Hoop, Jazmine Mary, Being., Looking for Alaska

Acoustic, Folk, folk rock, Live Music

Artists meet sporadically at the Ministry of Folk to deliver intimate live performances in an old church hall. The audience munches on snacks brought from home, enjoying the fairy lights and ambience. The event is hosted by the inimitable Hoop, who make the stage feel like the lounge of a family friend.

Running a little late, we stumbled through the door at 7.35 with a bottle of what we’d just realised was cork wine. Hoop’s talented and kind violinist Emily welcomed me into the kitchen where we found a rustic corkscrew, and their drummer used brute strength to release the stopper. The band was huddled in the kitchen for a pre show chat; it’s clear that they’re a well bonded and comfortable group of musicians.

Hoop opened the stage like the audience were old friends. Based on the Australian bush fires, Devil’s Choice is a stand out track written in 5/4. The violinist imitated an ambulance’s siren, and the band built the atmosphere with a jungle rhythm on the flute. Nick and Al’s voices blended impeccably, allowing for that classic “folk” sound riddled with harmonies. 

This Year was written from the perspective of a family who had battled COVID, cancer and chemotherapy throughout 2020. The song claims 2021 as a new and brighter year – a sentiment the room was holding on to with hope. It was a pleasure to watch Hoop perform again.

Jazmine Mary and Being. are a duo founded on the common ground of the name Jasmine. Both artists appeared comfortable on stage, drawing the audience in with sarcasm and a genuine friendship. The set began with Jazmine Mary’s latest release Dancer. The track is melancholy and features impressive vocal depth from Jazmine Mary. We rediscovered our love for Dolly Parton when the pair delivered a haunting cover of Jolene. 

Being. fronted the second half of the set. Her music was driven by modal shifts and a precise vocal performance. Count Me In was moving, arranged with sliding synths under a soft guitar. Beings.’s lyrics have a poetic quality to them, as she described the feeling of defeat as “dragging around a lifeless body. Truly, the clarity in her voice held the audience captive.

The final set for the evening was performed by the enchanting Looking For Alaska. What defined their time on stage was the mesmerising stories they had to share. Each song was driven by human emotion; frontwoman Amy told the tales of her late little cousin and a Grandmother who used to laugh so hard her teeth fell out. The duo’s trust for each other was tangible. It was a mesmerising set.

It’s difficult to pick any one piece that stood out, as each song boasted a certain ‘X Factor’. Where Have You Gone was a sultry slow jam with tight harmony that built to a phenomenal belted section. Home drew the audience to sing along and Hey You was a display of love coupled with a drinking game. Each song in the set was polished and precise, featuring flawless guitar playing from Aaron and out of this world vocals from Amy. The duo’s voices blended impeccably.

Part way through a song the room erupted into surround sound alert level 3 warnings. Despite the anxiety the sound always entices Looking For Alaska remained comfortable on stage, and soon had the audience yelling for several encores. I’m glad we spent our last night of freedom listening to such an astonishing display of musicality.

Set Me Alight – Georgia Maria

Folk, folk rock

Fire up your steampunk pirate ship surround sound, because Georgia Maria is back. Earlier this year the lyrical songstress impressed us with her complex rhythms and captivating storytelling. Born out of the hellfire of 2020 is her fiery new single Set Me Alight. 

The track begins with an almost theatrical build. The band bores into your mind, building a unison rhythm before falling into a “Celtic rock” groove. Set Me Alight lets you settle in the new feel before introducing Georgia Maria’s distinctive soaring voice. As always, there is an “other-worldly” feel to her composition. She seems to tell tales of another dimension, blending folk with distorted instrumentation. Her sound is unique and distinctive, inspired by the past and future. The middle of the song explores a tasteful distorted solo, paired with the swaying groove of Set Me Alight.  

Set Me Alight is nothing short of epic, which is what we’ve come to expect from Georgia Maria.

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.

Age of Reason – Georgia Maria

Ambient, Folk, Indie Rock

Georgia Maria is back with more sharp edged ethereal magic. Age of Reason builds like a storm from bar one. It starts with a gripping fingerpicking line which dissolves into a rhythmic moment matched with the percussion. She then introduces an epic distorted guitar, and that’s just the first five seconds. As always, I was struck by the complexity of Maria’s instrumentation and writing; no decision is a filler as she modulates and shuffles metres with engaging precision.

Maria’s lyrics are once again poetic, and almost prophetic, too. Featuring killer guitar lines, rumbling percussion and eerie vocals her sound could be described as “apocalyptic jam”. The chorus and verses are rich with chaotic drum fills and guitar lines that move with the vocals.

She brings diversity with a brief palm muted section and breathy vocals warning the listener to “beware of where (they) tread”. It feels like a key cinematic scene riddled with foreshadowing. Maria doesn’t pause here for long though; it’s straight back to a driving rhythm section and full noise from the guitar.

Georgia Maria is a name to watch out for— we certainly are doing just that. Keep up with her edgy brilliance on Facebook or Instagram, and listen to Age of Reason here.

Not Ready (To Leave Just Yet) – Leaving Lennox

Folk, Pop

Leaving Lennox are the Nashville based duo with “unreplicable on-stage chemistry”. The pair began their musical journey in Sydney, Australia and toured the country with their folk-pop magic. Leaving Lennox moved to the states to chase their dreams of playing their music all over the world.

Not Ready (To Leave Just Yet) begins with an arpeggiated piano that promises to break hearts. The duo sing the first few lines in harmony, painting a picture of a relationship hanging on by a thread. “Shoes by the door, suitcase on the floor…” The chorus laments being stuck in the same loop of almost leaving, but ultimately forgiving your partner.

The second verse adds movement with guitar and percussion. The sentiment I’m not ready to leave just yet is all too familiar to anyone who’s found themselves stuck in a relationship that’s not right for them. Leaving Lennox communicates this feeling with poetic expertise— the little details paint a picture so real that the stoniest heart becomes sentimental. The addition of a slide guitar adds to the pining nature of the song, and both vocalists perform with conviction.

With all the uncertainty that 2020 has thrown in Leaving Lennox’s direction, they are to be congratulated on their tenacity and innovation. In the place of tours and live gigs they’ve hosted an array of virtual concerts on their social media. We can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Always You – South For Winter

Acoustic, Folk, Singer Songwriter

South For Winter is the otherworldly folk trio comprised of Nick Stone, Dani Cichon and Alex Stradal. Stone and Cichon met as volunteers building greenhouses in the Andes Mountains. Here they wrote Fallen Seeds, the first of many mesmerising pieces they would work on together. Upon moving to Nashville in 2017 they met the missing piece in their sound: classically trained cellist Alex Stradal.

Always You summons the sun in the winter. It begins with a strong acapella sentiment from the pure voice of Cichon. Her signature lyrical style sounds Oh my love when I lose my hold / when my eyes forget their youth / when the wind’s worn down these bones / oh there’s always you. South for Winter’s lyrics often walk the line between poetry and song, and their latest creation is no exception.

Cichon is joined by a bright ukulele and full band arrangement. Stone’s harmonies add colour and depth to the timbre, and the piece sets off on a boundlessly enthusiastic journey. It’s easy to hear the fun the musicians have when they work together. The three stylistic inputs result in a masterful and well balanced soundscape.

Always You is a more optimistic offering than the eerie murder ballads South for Winter is famous for, but there is a distinct familiarity hidden in it. It’s easy to hear the intricate sound of the band when the cello is introduced and the song breaks for a cheeky guitar solo. Perhaps this cotton candy track is exactly what the world is in need of this year. The song promises that despite all the darkness and inevitable passing of time, love will remain. 

The band is set to release a full length album this year, and we couldn’t be more excited for more magic. Keep up with their progress on Instagram and Facebook.