Earlier this week, the ‘handpicked’ support acts for Lorde’s New Zealand tour were announced. In case you weren’t up with all of them, Lauren Spring has made you a playlist.
New Zealand’s high priestess of pop is coming home for a string of shows in early November, supporting her sophomore album Melodrama. She recently announced a rad local support act for each show, and, judging by this list, she keeps her finger well on the pulse of up-and-coming local music. For Lorde, genre ain’t no thing, with these meticulously curated acts running the gamut of what New Zealand sonically has to offer.
Out of respect for this huge local lineup, we have put together a by no means definitive playlist of some of the biggest tracks from these openers ahead of the tour, kicking off in Dunedin on 7 November.
Yumi Zouma – ‘Depths (Pt. 1)’ and ‘Alena’ (Christchurch, 8/11)
Yumi Zouma are one of the few bands to both have a regular musical output while living in various cities across the world, and successfully replace a vocalist without losing their distinctive aesthetic. Their dreamy pop sound is the softest and most delightful caress to the soul, with synths that gently tickle your skin, and bass and guitar lines that happily bop along; a soothing summery cocktail of sound. ‘Depths (Pt. 1)’, from this year’s sophomore release, Willowbank, is a perfect illustration of this.
‘Alena’ comes from their earlier work, EP II from 2015, and shows Yumi flirting with club banger territory, with its dark pulsing synth lines, driving four-to-the-floor drumbeat, complemented by shaky hi-hats and ’90s house style use of piano. I’ve been to multiple Yumi Zouma shows, and this song is usually played as an encore and never fails to get bodies jumping and gyrating.
TAPZ – ‘Killa’ and ‘Didn’t Know’ (Wellington, 11/11)
This 22-year-old Wellington rapper by way of Zimbabwe is starting to make waves on the global circuit, having (maybe) been signed by Kanye’s label G.O.O.D. Music in 2016. ‘Killa’ shows off his melodic style of rap, similar to a meld of the styles of Drake and Young Thug, and is complemented by dark synths and quivering hi-hats. ‘Didn’t Know’, goes further into the realm of vocal melody, reminiscent of The Weeknd with its pulsating synths, breathy falsetto, and distorted guitar riff. Both songs deal with the perils of romantic relationships and women who are just plain trouble. Having already played with hip-hop giants Danny Brown, A$AP Ferg, and plenty more, TAPZ is seriously set to blow up, so jump on this hype train if you haven’t already.
David Dallas – ‘Runnin’ and ‘Don’t Flinch’ (Auckland, 14/11)
This Kiwi hip-hop icon likely needs no introduction, but for the uninitiated, David Dallas has been working quietly but industriously in the New Zealand music scene for over 14 years now. The Papatoetoe native has five acclaimed albums under his belt and shows no sign of slowing, with his latest album Hood Country Club released in April of this year.
‘Runnin’ is Dallas’ best-known track, from his 2013 album Falling Into Place. It begins with a chain-gang blues style vocal sample from Sister Gertrude Morgan, and evolves into a thumper of a track. It features a dense, self-aware discussion about his constant grind, always flirting with that trope of the self-aggrandising rapper, but never quite going that far. This is Dallas in his darker, no-holds-barred mode; ‘Don’t Flinch’ shows off his softer, jazz-inflected side. It’s a bona fide head-nodder, about a childhood friend whose influence he feels still.
Drax Project – ‘So Lost’ and ‘Wildfire (Live)’ (Auckland, 12/11)
Drax Project started out busking for the drunken punters of Wellington on Courtenay Place. They mostly covered pop and hip-hop songs (you may have caught their mildly viral ‘Thrift Shop’ cover in 2013), as a drum and saxophone duo, hence the name ‘Drax’. They were soon joined by two other members and started writing originals, such as the R&B inflected electro-pop banger ‘Falling Out of Sight’, with shimmering synths reminiscent of the work of Aussie electronic artists Flume and Hermitude.
Drax also released a live covers EP at Wellington haunt Caroline, and this is where you can truly feel the spirit of the band. I caught this cover of SBTRKT’s ‘Wildfire’ at the Botanic Gardens a couple of years ago, and though their music isn’t exactly my thing, I was pleasantly surprised by the startling strength and range of singer Shaan Singh’s voice, and their strong technical ability, making this dark electronic track into a jazzy dancefloor banger. Say what you will about the young Wellingtonians, but they know how to put on a stellar live show that gets people moving.
Matthew Young – ‘Hey’ and ‘Lean Close’ (Auckland, 15/11)
Speaking of R&B inflected electro-pop, enter slinky Auckland crooner and producer Matthew Young. He released his debut EP DIVE in 2015, and it garnered hefty praise on indie pop blogs across the internet. ‘Loveblind’ comes from this release, and is indicative of much of Young’s work: sensual, slapping bassline, swirling guitars, lyrics that are all about romance and sexytimes, and minimalist synths that ebb and flow throughout. He will strike a chord with those who enjoy up-and-coming futuristic R&B stars like The Internet, NAO, Jorja Smith and Daniel Caesar.
‘Hey’ is a more pop-leaning single, starting with a King Krule-style laid-back guitar line that rapidly surges into a bouncy, summer pop anthem with an earworm of a hook. His meld of 80’s pop and modern hip-hop/R&B styles will no doubt hook you in.
French For Rabbits – ‘It Will Be Okay’ and ‘Gone Gone Gone’ (Christchurch, 9/11)
Fresh off of a UK/EU tour, French For Rabbits must be feeling pretty hot right now. And for good reason: these ethereal folk-pop masters create sonically dense tunes that seem to transport you to the strange loveliness of a grey New Zealand beach on a blustery autumn day.
‘It Will Be Okay’, from their March album The Weight of Melted Snow, is simultaneously a gentle, comforting caress and, at closer listen, a deceptively dark and searching cry of desperation. The repeated refrain ‘It will be okay/ when the lights go out’, seemingly more an anxious attempt at self-reassurance than a song of consolation to another. ‘Gone Gone Gone’, on the other hand, hints at French For Rabbits’ poppier side. It’s a shimmering delight of a song which showcases Brooke Singer’s delicately folk-infused, airy vocals, similar to those of fellow local folk artists Aldous Harding and Nadia Reid.
Mermaidens – ‘Wander’ and ‘Satsuma’ (Dunedin, 7/11)
Finishing of this playlist with a bang is Wellington witch-rockers – and one of my favourite local acts – Mermaidens. They have been hard at work recently, releasing two albums, Undergrowth and Perfect Body, in just over a year. ‘Wander’, from Undergrowth, has the two singers’ voices weaving wonderfully in and out of each other, with softly meandering bass and guitar lines and a marching drumbeat that gives way to a blistering instrumental, cymbals bashing wildly, and a minimalist but highly effective guitar lick.
Perfect Body represents an impressively quick tightening up for Mermaidens, with second single ‘Satsuma’ showcasing their effortless entwining of their respective instruments, and ability to construct a song that twists and turns in very unexpected ways. Their lyrics are very much grounded in the physical as a manifestation of thought and emotion, as embodied in the chorus of ‘Satsuma’: ‘You were sweet like Satsuma/ when I peeled you off and split you in two’. The frenetic bursts from guitarist Gussie Larkin on this track are one of its best elements and are something that must be witnessed live in their full, feverish glory. The video for this song is a charmingly odd tour of voyeurism, filtered through Gussie’s highly stylised ’60s aesthetic. You should watch it.
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