We first discovered Pretty Stooked last year at a spontaneous Wunderbar gig post lockdown. We were taken by the humble way he owned the stage, and his epic songwriting. Christchurch was riding the high of any kind of outing, and the audience clung to each moment of music and magic. Eddie, the man behind Pretty Stooked had just returned from a stint in Melbourne and was hoping to gain momentum in the NZ music scene. A packed out Wunderbar served as an excellent welcome home party.
Over a year later it’s exciting to see Pretty Stooked backed by a star studded five piece. The band have already lit the fire, touring the South Island and playing a sold out headline show at Grater Goods. Now, with the help of Josh Logan (Loho Studios), they’ve prepared their debut single “My Line” for your ears.
Groovy from bar one, “My Line” is a meandering tour through the much loved indie pop-rock genre. The opening lyrics reveal that Pretty Stooked can’t sleep at night, wondering if they’ve lived their life the right way. The soundscape is one of pensive melancholy – they’re reflecting on mistakes, but not outright defeated by them.
The drop into the first chorus is satisfying, as Eddie holds back on a full belt, delivering the defeated line “I want you to feel it”. It’s a controlled performance; each moment feels intentional. This isn’t a proper breakdown, but these thoughts have lived in his head for a while now. Eddie’s brother Cullen Kiesanowski keeps it groovy with a driving bassline, and Mitchell Bowley-Black (The Hootz) keeps it steady on the drums. His tasteful fills in the chorus drops added energy without detracting from the vibe. Jayden Bowley builds a dreamscape with his affected guitar lines, aided by Tyler Robbins on the keys.
The track comes with a stunning music video. Colour graded and filmed to perfection, the team (Adam Hogan and Soane Jones Pamatangi) capture the natural overthinking state of your 20s. The slow motion shots and dreamy garden-city moments were so familiar to me, having grown up in Christchurch and spent enough time doing “nothing much”. “My Line” a stellar first track, and I can only imagine where Pretty Stooked will go from here. The band have plans to slow release an EP over the next 12 months.
Grab your safety hats kids, because Odds & Ends dropped a track today and it hits hard. After leaving us waiting for two years their much anticipated single “Picture” tackles the tricky subject of mental health. “Picture” is a gut-wrenching exploration of life on the brink, driven by musicality and power wrapped in an indie rock bow.
Powerhouse vocalist Koen Aldershof captures what it’s like to scream into the void. “Picture” boasts a stunning and emotional delivery of sensitive lyrics. The hookline “let’s take a picture by the edge… I’m not scared in case we fall down” promises to both rile you up and give you chills. It’s a timely reminder, with New Zealand’s latest lockdown to check in on your mates.
While this latest track takes on a “darker flavour” than the band’s tasty earlier work, it’s still characteristic of the Odds & Ends sound. “Picture” features cheeky verse licks and a monster guitar solo that shreds like a cheese grater. Josh Johnston delivers a heart palpitation of a rhythm section, while Jonathan Meyer (underscore) holds it all together with steady bass.
After an enticing build up for their new single on Tik Tok, Underscore have finally released their sophomore single Never Coming back, and oh boy it slaps like a prima donna.
Unlike their first release Dirty Word, Never Coming Back hits hard and heavy with a lumbering blues groove that finishes on a crunchy chromatic descent. Front man Jonathan Meyer describes the track as a “bitter breakup song that draws on progressive rock influences”. Never Coming Back builds on this idea switching between sarcastic verses and emotionally charged choruses. A soulful solo leads into a fast paced bridge that carries the song into a final heavy iteration of the tracks iconic riff.
Underscore features Hon Manawangphiphat on bass guitar, Josh Johnston on drums, and Jonathan Meyer on guitar and vocals. The trio started playing music together as students at the University of Auckland, and have performed shows throughout Auckland ever since. While Jonathan is the principal songwriter and guitarist, the whole band brings together their backgrounds in pop, rock, metal, and jazz to create the one-of-a-kind sound Underscore is known for.
This track was a lot of fun to listen to, and we’re keen to see where Underscores following releases take them.
We like to think we know better than our parents, but sometimes we really need to listen to our mum.
With his latest single, Chris Pidsley talks through the confusion of navigating a relationship with struggle, and the value of just taking advice from your parents who often do know what’s best. The lyrics are beautiful and evoke a general nostalgia that leaves interpretation up to the listener. He takes the song in a similar direction to Cavetown, who also write looking back to teenage years. The sound is fitting and works well.
Chris collaborated with other musicians for the first time with this track, bring in brass from his friend Ryan. Lockdown hasn’t stopped Chris making new music, as this was all done virtually and has come together swell.
Listen in to the full arrangement or the acoustic version below.
It’s been a long time coming, but Gecko has finally released his sophomore album Climbing Frame!
Gecko is an absolute gem of a musician that I had the pleasure of seeing perform in a ruin of a chapel in London before I even knew he had graced the stage at So Far in my home turf in Auckland, New Zealand.
He’s a just a completely different breed of musician to any other I have ever come across. Gecko gets up in front of an audience and leaves them uncertain whether or not they’ve just seen a comedianspintheminto fits of laughter, or a thoughtful singer songwriter leave them introspective for the evening. Listening through Climbing Frame is no different. Gecko starts off the album with his playful single “Can’t know all the songs”, a fun jab at people who always expect every musician to have an encyclopedic knowledge of their own musical taste. We’ve already had the delight of reviewing this song, if you want to read more check out what Isla had to say here!
This is then juxtaposed with the title track “Climbing Frame”, which is a beautiful take on children’s ability to take a bad situation and take a creative, fun spin on it. This song “tells the story of a tree that had fallen down in a storm in the middle of Queens Park. Without a seconds thought, it had become a new climbing frame for the kids who frequented the park.” Gecko muses that “there’s hope that the youngest people in this world will turn the apocalyptic hand that they’ve been dealt into something positive that we have not yet seen.”
The album also throws perspectives at you that you wouldn’t expect. “Laika” tells the story of the first dog sent into space but the Russian space programme to become a “distant canine, drifting in space time”. The song is playful in nature, but delves into an oddly relatable existential crisis of a dog who is riddled with self doubt and not feeling worthy to be sent to space. Although Laika thinks “I guess the sooner I go, the sooner I can come home”, the song twinges at the heart strings with the sad reality that this was a one way trip for Laika.
“A Whole Life” tells the endearing story of a younger Gecko explaining to Nursery kids how difficult his first year at school was and the importance of not calling your teacher mum. The song progresses through life always telling a younger gecko that although you “might not want things to change” you must grow up, and that there’s a whole life ahead. The song touches on the difficulties in each stage of life, but how each stage is bearable, and that we get through it. It’s a reassuring sentiment, especially in times such as these.
Gecko’s first album was called ‘Album of the year’ in the Morning Star, and his music has taken him across the world from Stockholm to over here in lil old New Zealand. We wish all the more success to Gecko in his future endeavours, and look forward to seeing more music come through.
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.
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.
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 MyNose, 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.
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!
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.