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.


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.

Misconceptions – Lévyne

indie pop, Pop, Singer Songwriter

Lévyne is an alt-pop gem who’s been flying a little under the radar in Auckland for a while now. She’s released consistently intricate and creative singles such as Pause, and Look at Me which culminated in her Debut EP ‘Being Low‘ which easily differentiated itself amongst the sea of kiwi pop released this year. With Misconceptions coming out last Friday Lévyne is ramping up the excitement for new things to come.

Misconceptions is a scathing review of a heartbreak. It’s “ultimately about a relationship ending with each person having a different side to the story.” The song begins meek but cuts to self assurance and an empowered retrospect. The song “serves as a realisation that it’s not worth spending your time stressing about people that don’t want to understand your perspective.” tells Lévyne “It was quite a liberating song to write – to draw a bit of a line in the sand and express that enough was enough!”

Lévyne teamed up with Daniel Martin and Ølympus to write and record the track before adding Oscar Keys, and Matthew Twyman into the mix to make the magical music video released today!

Lévyne has managed to keep busy despite the lockdowns this year sharing the stage with kiwi heavyweights Daffodils and Foley. This summer she will be taking her music to the crows of Rhythm and Vines

In between lockdowns in Auckland, Lévyne has still managed to play shows, supporting the likes of Daffodils and Foley and now she’s set to play NZ’s biggest New Year’s Eve festival Rhythm & Vine! Don’t sleep on Lévyne, this girl is going places.

Check out Lévyne on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Spotify.

Gecko – Climbing Frame

INDIE, Singer Songwriter, Uncategorized

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 comedian spin them into 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.

Make sure to follow Gecko on Facebook, Instagram and Spotify.

Time Is Laughing – Jessy & The Volunteers


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


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.