Is your iso playlist in dire need of refreshment? Here are some of our favourite new local releases to keep you going, no matter what your bubble likes.
Although the lack of live music at the moment means supporting local acts is a bit harder than it was, there’s still a ton of great music being released by Aotearoa artists. If you’re struggling to keep on top of things, for the next wee while we’ll be dropping a regular wrap-up of some of our favourite new and recent albums, singles and interesting asides from these shores. Catch the first instalment below, with handy links to listen to all of these releases included – streaming is encouraged, but if you’ve got the means then we recommend showing your love by buying.
Yumi Zouma – Truth or Consequences
This one landed in the middle of March, so we’d forgive you for missing it in the Covid crunch, but it’s well worth checking out if you’re in need of a bubble soundtrack. The third full-length from this NZ-originating but internationally scattered quartet finds them building capably on the style established by their earlier efforts. While they’re still indebted most obviously to the nu-disco dancefloor balladry of Phoenix and the wispy atmospherics of the Sincerely Yours stable (Air France, jj, The Tough Alliance et al), there’s more than enough distinction in their palette to elevate Truth or Consequences above allegations of plain ol’ pastiche. In reviewing this record, Pitchfork called Yumi Zouma’s sound “lazy in the best way”, and if that’s not a huge mood in these times of restricted movement and physical distancing then I simply do not know what is. If week four of level four’s getting you down, open the windows and blast ‘Lonely After’ real quick, I promise the neighbours won’t mind. Matt McAuley
Jeremy Redmore – The Brightest Flame
Released in a series of monthly instalments from last November, and now packaged as a single album, The Brightest Flame should feel both familiar to fans of Jeremy Redmore’s work as frontman of Midnight Youth and still somewhat surprising to those expecting 11 updated versions of ‘On Our Own’. Redmore’s writing here is as lucid as ever, and he hasn’t lost his ear for melody, but this is much more introspective slow-burn than stadium stomp – the multi-tracked vocals and oscillating synths of early album standout ‘So Easy (II)’ recall the work of Canadian indie legends Wolf Parade, while the red-eyed balladry of songs like ‘Goodbye’ and ‘Southern Lights’ split the difference between early Bon Iver and late Walkmen to powerful effect. This record probably isn’t what you’re expecting, but trust us: it’s all the better for it. MM
Avantdale Bowling Club – “LIVE”
As Tom Scott put it himself in announcing the arrival of this release: “Remember concerts? The word even sounds weird now.” Memory may be an unreliable narrator, but the electricity and energy contained within this five-song document of a show at Auckland’s Powerstation is more than enough to corroborate: this night definitely happened, and it’s definitely worth revisiting. MM
Chelsea Jade – Superfan
She’s back, baby! This is Chelsea Jade’s first single since her 2018 LP Personal Best. She calls herself pop, but don’t let that make you comfortable; ‘Superfan’ is weird. The song, about the dual impulses to fanaticise and to bully that take hold when you first develop a crush on someone, is full of offbeat squeaks and sighs as well as your usual lush pop vocals. Keep an ear out for the coincidental “lockdown” lyric. The very excellent music video is directed by Alex Gandar, a frequent collaborator of CJ’s – watch out for his equally weird, equally tall cameo. Josie Adams
Melodownz – Fine
Melodownz has been busy through lockdown, hosting cyphers on Facebook Live and helping his fellow artists stay connected. And with ‘Fine’, he’s delivered exactly the kind of bop we all need right now. Very fresh, a little bit lit, and heavy on the horns, it sounds like he’s camping out in the Coromandel tropics with a massive case of cold ones. God I wish that were me. JA
Marlin’s Dreaming – Alike
Marlin’s Dreaming? More like Marlin’s Teeming… with range! The third single – and my favourite so far – from upcoming album Quotidian, ‘Alike’ sees the band showcasing deeper vocals and some more aggressive strumming; there’s still some jangle in the chorus, but its verses are a bit more solid rock than you might have been expecting. Quotidian is out in full next week on the 24th, just in time to get you out of your lockdown funk (fingers crossed) and ready to stomp streets in the world outside (while maintaining level three physical-distancing requirements, of course). JA
The Beths – Dying to Believe
The Beths’ live stream was a howling success last week, and their new music video continues the trend; directed by Hans Pucket’s Callum Devlin, it’s a straight-to-camera, 80s school instructional-style video. The lyrics are as smart as ever, the guitars as electric, and Liz Stokes’s vocals grip the middle of your brain just as tightly and delightfully. The Beths have always been a little bit surf, a little bit pop, and a lot good ol’ indie rock’n’roll, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise; but ‘Dying to Believe’ rocks. It absolutely goes. I’m dying to play it again. JA
Paige – Yellow
Her third release since signing with Sony Music last year, ‘Yellow’ is an ode to the power of positive thinking that finds Paige sticking to the loose formula that helped her build a buzz in the first place. Reflective and with an unassumingly powerful honesty – lines like “I’ve gotta stay to see my dreams” make the stakes here stark and clear – it’s that rare gem: a catchy pop song that is explicitly about mental health, but that manages to avoid oversimplifying for the sake of relatability. Paige is one to watch. MM
i.e. crazy – As It Stands
Written between the near-antipodean goth meccas of Leipzig and Ōtepoti, this new single from the artist also known as Maggie Magee marks a welcome follow-up to 2019’s crushing ‘Country Justice’. The two share a number of common elements – tape loops again warp and squeal here, while crisp electronic drums clatter heavily beneath a thick gauze of reverb – but where that earlier song worked at the darkest edges of the i.e. crazy project both sonically and in subject matter, there’s a plaintive and almost triumphant tone to this charting of lost love; everything is not OK, but there’s power in recognising that. The Bandcamp tags may call it uneasy listening, but ‘As It Stands’ rewards the effort. MM
Spycc – Lockdown freestyles
Leaning into the lockdown spirit is Spycc, who can be seen (from a safe distance) walking the abandoned streets of Auckland once a week filming his Covid-19 freestyles. Every Monday at 7pm the SWIDT legend will be posting his freestyles, and the two released so far have been legit. Man’s got the raw skills but also the technical ability to turn his state-sanctioned walks into a soundtrack to everyone else’s. Special shout out to whoever the cameraperson in Spycc’s bubble is. JA
RIIKI – High Heights
Bouncy and bass-driven, this from Wellington’s RIIKI is destined to draw comparisons with steeply rising star Benee, but the combo of an undeniably addictive vocal and a lush, subtly complex arrangement means that ‘High Heights’ has plenty to love on its own merits. Special mention has to go to the gorgeously high-saturation vid by the clearly multitalented Ezra Simons and Gussie Larkin, they of Earth Tongue/Mermaidens renown.
Hahko – Ko-Lahj
One-man Auckland electronica project Hahko has released a four-song EP that’s pretty perfectly designed for working at home. It’s ambient music with a high enough BPM to keep you on the grind. Hahko is a relatively young project, but this release already shows some change from last year’s Hopeful. If Hopeful were jungle ambience, Ko-Lahj is urban ambience. The next natural step is a Bladerunner soundtrack. This audio release will soon be followed by a video component made in collaboration with Break The Fourth – keep an eye out. JA
No Comply – Tic Tac Toe
Brothers Fynn and Ethan Blackwood have pooled their individual strengths in ‘Tic Tac Toe’ to create an afternoon deck sesh anthem – and if you want rap music that’s a little off-beat, who better than a rapper/producer duo that wears cheap wigs and smokes darts through their noses? Nobody, that’s who. JA
Tūtahi – Stay
The world’s first social-distancing supergroup? I’m going to say yes. Assembled by the good people at Loop Recordings and comprising an assemblage of local legends far too large to list here, Tūtahi have a simple message: for sure this time is tough, but we’re going to be all right. I know I needed that. MM
This article – and a lot of the music featured within – was created with the support of NZ on Air.