Laura-mae from Golden Bay spent her lock-down writing music and live-streaming concerts from her backyard. Boasting a nation-wide tour, a performance on Maori television, taking the stage at Wellington’s garden festival, and the NZ X-factor bootcamp experience, the rising artist is no stranger to mahi. Rug of Numbers is the second of three singles Laura-mae has scheduled for a 2020 release.
One of modern society’s downfalls is its tendency to measure worth in statistics. We’re obsessed with followers, likes and quantity over quality when it comes to connections. Rug of Numbers is an introspective indie pop track about how it feels to be “just another number” to somebody. The track begins with a swelling indie-pop soundscape, setting the scene for its pensive nature.
The instrumental after the first chorus is bright and fun, before moving into the more poetic second verse. Laura-mae muses on feeling like a ghost hiding in a rabbit hole before moving into another chorus with the classic hook line. The bridge takes things down a notch, allowing space to build back up for the final chorus. The song’s energy ebbs and flows with expertise, ultimately creating a charming mid tempo road trip song.
Laura-mae shows no signs of slowing down with another New Zealand wide tour planned for the end of 2020, and a beautiful music video on the way. Keep up to date with her adventurous plans on Facebook and 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.
Award-winning singer, songwriter and producer Villette is back with a bang on her new single ‘Curious’ – the first track from her upcoming EP. The single immediately grabs you with a brisk beat and chorusy guitars straight out of a Mac Demarco track. The song develops into an upbeat R’n’B groove with hints of disco and funk that could’ve come straight outta Michael Jackson’s catalogue.
‘Curious’ is an ode “to the girl that’s on a mission but enjoying the journey,” explains Villette. “It’s a tale of enjoying the ups and downs of life and venturing further down forbidden paths”. Produced by Ben Malone and co-written with Max Gunn and Jono Boyle, ‘Curious’ signals “a new chapter” in Villette’s journey. She describes her upcoming EP as “upbeat and exciting”, a diversion from her usual smokey slow jams of the past. “The writing style and content is reflective of where I’m at in life as well, and that is mirrored in the whole EP,” Villette says.
Villette’s release of curious has been coupled with an official music video, which is filled to the brim with nostalgia, kiwi summer, and infectious good vibes. Don’t miss it! Watch below.
Born and raised in New Zealand, Villette has cultivated her sound through experience singing, producing, DJing and songwriting. Her music has taken her on tour across NZ, Australia and the USA with her last mixtape “Drip Crimson“. Earlier works had her putting together a one of a kind 360 Music Video, Money, which took her visual performance to a whole other level.
Born in Ukraine and seeking refuge in New Zealand post Chernobyl, VÏKÆ is no stranger to adversity. Finelines is her second 2020 single soaked in beautiful tragedy. In this song VÏKÆ “explores the way in which human interaction has changed because of party culture and how this can have an adverse effect on mental health”. The song touches on a similar message to Kendrik Lamar’s “Swimming Pools”, with a bleak but poetic story touching on how good mind altering substances can feel, but ultimately that overuse is “dancing with the demons”.
With a voice reminiscent of Lana Del Rey and Sia, VÏKÆ evokes the similar feeling of a message spoken by a tragic hero. Finelines is co-written by and produced by Abigal Knudson (aka Missy) who provides rich and eerie production. The chorus percussion bounces around your head like a strobe giving you the delirious feeling in a club that the song describes.
VÏKÆ’s music brings to light “struggles with bipolar, addiction and poor judgement”. She describes her art as “brassy to purposefully make the psyche uncomfortable”. In an attempt to steer clear of coming across “disingenuous”, her “unique DIY approach” to making music, costuming and directing and editing her own music videos allows her to have “complete autonomy” of the authenticity of her artistry and music.
Vikae will be going on tour with Prins later in the year playing in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington and Ohakune.
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.
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.
Georgia Maria is back with more sharp edged ethereal magic. Age of Reasonbuilds 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 Reasonhere.
Leaving Lennoxare 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.