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.
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.
17 year old Aidan Ripley grew up wrapped in alternative music. He’s always been intrigued by the juxtaposition of an “intense emotional reaction” to the “apathy of the modern world”. Drawing inspiration from epics Gorillaz, Radiohead and Tame Impala, Ripley “amalgamates hyper emotion with complete detachment”. The resulting sound is intriguing and impressive. Ripley made his Spotify debut this year with three singles, each complex and fascinating.
Clown is a sinister and experimental piece of writing. The opening bars reminded me of the brilliant Eels, but the track quickly walks in several different directions. The weird synths and dripping water percussion lock into a groove, and Ripley croons about how “tomorrow cries for yesterday”. The chaotic energy in the track feels perfect for the unhinged nature of 2020. The piece plays around with reverb and repeating synth lines, building an immersive and consuming soundscape. I particularly loved the bassline, which does an awesome job of making Clown feel winding.
All of Clown was improvised as it was recorded, which explains the unpredictable nature of the track. Ripley uses surprise falsetto to unnerve the listener – the melody goes where it shouldn’t. In combination with eerie flute and a trumpet outro, Clown is somewhere between a bad trip and ingenious. I live for the chaos though; I can honestly say the track is wildly different from anything I’ve heard in a while.
Aidan Ripley feels like an act to watch. I’m interested in following the direction of his music – it’s amazing the complexity and maturity he’s found in his sound already. You can follow him too, on Instagram.
Wellington indie-pop artist Jack Panther released his sophomore single Headlights earlier this year. The “electro-pop anthem” is a response to an “epiphany” about his ex. Jack Panther uses the song to explore the dark feelings of anger and hurt surrounding a particularly challenging breakup. Headlights is accompanied by a moody “video short” that captures the atmosphere of the track.
Headlights is an interesting piece of writing. It goes in guns blazing; late in the narrative, with a driving bass drum and eerie synths. Panther’s voice feels defeated as he talks about “gunning for the headlights”, and how he “should have seen the signs”. The song suddenly drops away for a sparse moment, and begins the slow build back to the chorus line.
There’s an element of tension in each moment of Headlights. You can feel the angst in the writing – Panther has been knocked around by this relationship, and just as there is no resolution for him, there is no real resolution for his listeners. It’s a clever piece of writing; Panther pulls his audience into his head space for a minute. Keep up with Jack Panther on Instagram and Facebook.
Wellington artist Seralynne created her first “pop star alter ego” when she was 10, and hasn’t looked back since. Her journey through genres and songwriting led her to complete a Bachelor of Contempory Music at SIT, graduating in 2014.
The most important thing for Seralynne is that her albums “represent (her) as an artist, regardless of whether that is the mainstream media norm”. She wears her heart on her sleeve with the What Love Is album, weaving between electronic pop and piano ballads with finesse. The album its self is as diverse in subject matter as it is genre – she explores ieas of giving up dreams, lost love, suicide, and taking ownership over the reality that you were the toxicity in a relationship. It’s a heavy line up of themes, but Seralynne tackles the subject matter with maturity.
There are a few quiet gems buried in the pop gold mine of the What Love Is album. “Ribbons” is a pensive moment where Seralynne reflects on love and her “irrational” behaviour in a relationship. You can hear the waver in her voice as she describes her partner as loving her even when she can’t give them everything. It’s a vulnerable, but brave piece of writing – Seralynne apologises for her mistakes, and thanks this person for staying with her through these challenges.
I enjoyed the creative comination of ethereal piano lines and echoing percussion. “Ribbons” feels like a swaying ballad for the final moments of a big night; it maintains the pop soundscape while providing a moment to reflect. You can listen to “Ribbons” along with the rest of the album on Spotify, and you can keep up with Seralynne on Facebook and Instragram.
EJ Barrett is a musical phenomenon releasing music that straddles soul, blues and jazz all while using nothing but her voice, body percussion and a Boss RC-505 loop station. The unique New Zealand based artist writes about her adventures in polyamory as a queer, neuro-divergent, millennial parent. The resounding success of her music and steadily growing followers suggest that she fits a niche in media that an underrepresented community needs filled.
EJ’s latest track Paint Me A Picture is unique not only in sound, but lyrical content too. It opens with Kimbra-esque backing vocals, and a breathy “shaker”. The sultry soundscape moves into the lyrics “paint me a picture of how you hold your wife at night, and how I might fit there too”. EJ wants to send the message that monogamy is a social construct, and by no means compulsory.
Paint Me A Picture is accompanied by a mesmerising music video showcasing EJ’s circus arts training. The video was created in collaboration with Tairawhiti TV. EJ fire dances on a dimly lit stage, delivering the song with confidence. The video ultimately ends with her swallowing the fire, making the video a spectacle to view. I would love to see EJ Barrett live; you can almost sense the energy of a live show through the screen.
Keep up with EJ Barrett and her music making, fire eating, world changing shenanigans on Instagram and Facebook.
Photo Credit : Katie Fromings
Following the success of her earlier single Lucky Stars, the effortlessly cool Mikaela Cougar is back with See Straight. Mikaela Cougar is a free spirit from West Auckland’s black sand beaches whose music reflects the eerie beauty of her environment.
Cougar wrote See Straight at a time when she felt “alone and helpless in this big world”. She surrounded her lyrics with “sounds that reflected her yearning for support and belonging”. The track begins with an eerie repetition of the title “can’t see straight”. She uses her natural affinity for words to describe herself as “honey dipped… but I don’t feel like it”. She uses the metaphor of “getting dusty on (a) shelf” to capture a sense of feeling left behind. This poetic lyricism makes the song otherworldly, and despite the vulnerable nature of the subject matter the See Straight somehow feels empowering.
The production of See Straight is creative – the use of a combination of synths, backing vocals and strings give the track a building, foreboding feel. See Straight is heading towards the swelling bridge, which almost becomes overwhelming. This moment is meant to provide a “glimmer of hope” as it dissipates into a final chorus. Just as the intensity of the song has passed, so too will the space Cougar was in when she wrote it.
See Straight is accompanied by a self directed and edited music video showcasing beautiful New Zealand beaches and retro indoor scenes. The music video is artfully paced to compliment and emphasise emotional points in the music.
For those of you (me) who’ve fallen in love with this up and coming artist, I have good news. Cougar is releasing not only a third single, but a full EP later this year. Keep up with her on Instagram and Facebook.
From the ‘As Told By Ginger’ artwork to the small town NZ lyrics, Belladonna’s debut EP Salty Dog will punch you in the gut with nostalgia. Belladonna may be new to releasing music, but her songwriting is far from amateur. There is a maturity and sincerity in her writing that promises to impress. Salty Dog is a collection of songs about “adjusting into late adolescence through a pretty New Zealand perspective”.
The title track begins with an engaging synth before rolling into a classic indie soundscape. It’s an endearingly apathetic piece of writing; the little details like calling her Mum, who’s “got more on than (her) most days” ground the track in whimsical reality. Belladonna’s dreamy vocals bring a sense of fantasy to the every day. In the second track Hands she thinks of sweet every day moments like wearing someone else’s sweater. This track is accompanied by a lyric video compiled of footage from the early naughties show ‘As Told By Ginger’; it’s a genuine coming of age love song. I love the simplicity of the sentiment “you didn’t have to be the last to leave, but you were, and I think I like it.” Hands is a track sewn together with first time butterflies.
Calling Out Your Name brings a change in vibe with a brighter tone, and the use of a quirky synth lead in the chorus. The chorus is catchy and well written— I’m expecting to hear this track on my next trip to Countdown. I love the embrace of the New Zealand accent and the dynamic groove. This track in particular I could see being very fun to watch live.
The song that hit home most for me was Perfectly Good. It held hands with some of my high school memories. It made me want to travel back in time to make hot chocolates for friends processing the emotions that Perfectly Good embodies. The song resonated bitter sweetly with memories that are both vivid and fading.
Salty Dog is a collection of songs that I’d love to see live. The production is polished and fun, and Belladonna is to be congratulated on an excellent first release. Head over to Newtown Library in Wellington to celebrate on the 28th of August.
Aidan Verity is a breath of fresh air from Wellington, New Zealand. Her music, written in a retro time lapse, sends the listener straight to a 1960s prom. Classically trained, Verity uses her musical knowledge and intuition to walk between acoustic and electric soundscapes. Her latest release Believe in Me is thoughtful and clever.
Believe In Me was written from the pits of self doubt. Verity found herself swaddled in a blanket lamenting her inability to back herself. She explores her struggle with changing her own mind, and asks the question “how long until I can say I believe in me?” This question eventually fades away, unanswered.
Heavily influenced by Christine and the Queens, the track has a mesmerising, swaying feel to it. A quarter of the way through Believe In Me develops with epic use of affected backing vocals. Verity demonstrates her skill as a writer and performer, concluding the piece with an almost spiritual use of reverb.
Keep up with her on Facebook and Instagram.