(Image: Tina Tiller)
(Image: Tina Tiller)

Pop CultureDecember 18, 2021

Summer sounds good: New music from Aotearoa

(Image: Tina Tiller)
(Image: Tina Tiller)

Music journalist and DJ Jess Fu has some selections to freshen up your summer playlists.

Ah summer, a time for beaches, BBQs, and having your weird uncle tell you there hasn’t been a good New Zealand band since Split Enz. Well here is a list to prove him wrong. New Zealand is inundated with local talent, and fresh young faces turning the music scene on its head. Here is a list of a few of the sickest tunes to come out from under the long white cloud in 2021. Revamp your summer playlists, I promise these are some artists worth getting sand in your UE Boom for.

Erny Belle – Venus is Home

Based between Tāmaki Makaurau and Maungatūroto, Aimee Renata (Ngāpuhi) is the quiet genius behind the gothic-country Erny Belle. Only two tracks released but she has made an impressive debut with her first single, ‘Burning Heaven‘, a whisper of a folk song. This month, she followed it up with a sleek country single called ‘Hell Hole‘, her story of life as an urban Māori woman living in Auckland. She’s an artist with a gentle, other-worldly touch; before you know it, you might be buying some cowboy boots and a lasso for the summer.

Debut album Venus is Home will be out February 2022

For fans of: Marlon Williams, Aldous Harding, Angel Olsen


LEAOGhost Roads

Fusing the spirit of 1970s Sāmoan pop and DIY indie rock, LEAO (David Feauai-Afaese) navigates Aotearoa-Sāmoan dual cultural citizenship on Ghost Road. The Auckland-born musician released debut EP Ghost Roads in 2019 via Noa Records and I have revisited it each summer since. Throughout the five-track EP, LEAO sings in both gagana faʻa Sāmoa and English within a lo-fi production that sounds submerged somewhere in the Pacific ocean – it could be Sāmoa, Aotearoa or wherever you want it to be.

For fans of: The Five Stars, The Clean, King Krule

Julien Dyne – Modes

Released via London label Soundway Records, Julien Dyne’s new album, Modes, is one to chuck on in the languid summer heat. Dyne presents a collection of jazz-infused-house and electro-soul with contributions from a superstar lineup of local and international artists, including Ladi6, Che Fu, Troy Kingi, Mara TK, Lord Echo, Semisi Maiai (Marlin’s Dreaming), Joe Dukie (Fat Freddy’s Drop), Horatio Luna and many more. The record is slick with sophisticated jazz runs matched with grooves left, right and centre. This record is as suave as they come.

For fans of: BADBADNOTGOOD, Jordan Rakei, Kaidi Tatham

Find Julien Dyne on Bandcamp

Fable – I’ll See You In Hawaiki

Hailing from Papakura, Fable has recently released an impeccable sophomore EP, I’ll See You In Hawaiki. With help from producers phlu and Silas Futura, he mixes elements of rnb, hip hop and alt-pop for a concoction that’s distinctively Fable. A storyteller at heart, he details the realities for Māori from facing racism, poverty and language loss. Despite the heavy themes, the beauty of te ao Māori always remains at the forefront in his songwriting. Fable wants you to know he’s proud to be Māori and he’s making music for his people.

For fans of: Kevin Abstract, Frank Ocean, Childish Gambino


Sāmoan-Māori rapper deadforest makes a bold entrance to the ring with his debut album, Plastic. Working with longtime friend and producer Dera Meelan, the album welcomes features from Church (Church & AP), Adam Tukiri and Kerge. Taking influences from grime, drill and EDM, deadforest throws lyrical jabs above deep drum lines and sharp industrial sounds. Behind deadforest’s fearless delivery is a love letter to his hometown, Manurewa, and figuring out his own identity.

For fans of: Church & AP, SWIDT, Dizzee Rascal

MĀ – Breakfast with Hades

Neo-soul vocalist and producer dropped her debut album Breakfast with Hades back in August. Based in Pōneke, the emerging musician has a background in theatre sound design and that’s reflected in the album’s immersive soundscapes. Mā gives us 10 tracks to follow 10 different moods but the tranquil sound of water flows throughout each one. Inspired by Māori literature, the album opens with a euphoric rnb dive called ‘Dreamswimmer’, named after the book by Witi Ihimaera. Mā puts us amongst the awa and ngahere and it’s an honour to be welcomed into her world.

For fans of: Erykah Badu, Solange, Ladi6

Van Staden & Böhm (VSB) – Happy Hardcore

Taking a genre that emerged in the early ’90s from the European hardcore rave and techno scenes, Tāmaki Makaurau-based queerpop duo, Van Staden & Böhm (VSB), have crafted 170bpm tracks with cutesy pop hooks. They released their debut EP, Happy Hardcore, via Related Articles, earlier this year and it’s one I can’t get out of my head. True to its name, it’s a mood changer that will leave you feeling intoxicated with joy.

For Fans of: Alice Deejay, DJ Sammy, and whatever was playing at raves in the 2000s

Keep going!