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Despite their relatively small size, New Zealand has always boasted a world-class music scene. Whether it’s the country’s monumental support for the arts or it’s straight-up something in the water, there’s a crazy amount of quality hiding amongst the ferns in Aotearoa.

Right now though, a few particular scenes stand out; there’s a folk explosion led by Aldous Harding and Marlon Williams, and then there’s a beautifully weird, NZ-specific breed of pop music. Post-ascension of Lorde, Broods, and a few other key players, this off-kilter pop has enjoyed a moment of profound quality and consistency. Here are five acts leading the charge.

pop benee supalonely imogen wilson happy mag 5 artists defining New Zealand's left-of-centre pop scene

Photo: Imogen Wilson

New Zealand’s music scene has always been able to capture a sound and put their own wildly original spin on it. Meet the next wave of contemporary Kiwi pop.

Jonathan Bree

The masked man himself, Jonathan Bree became somewhat of a viral star after releasing his single You’re So Cool in 2017. Crooning vocals and bent violin sounds define his stirring sound, a musical ghost from the 1950s haunting modern streaming services.

Latest single Kiss My Lips sees Bree reunite with Lil’ Chief Records label-mate Princess Chelsea. Funnily enough, the clip was filmed on the same day as that breakout hit You’re So Cool – it’s a single that’s been on ice for over two years. We’re glad it’s finally out.

Benee

Perhaps the biggest success story on this list currently, Benee has gone from strength to strength. Her debut single Soaked had massive pickup in Australia and New Zealand, but it’s Supalonely that’s catapulted her to the top of the digital food chain.

Now a viral TikTok sensation, there’s nowhere left to go but up. Benee’s personality shines through everything she makes.

ives.

After knuckling down for a jaunt at Red Bull Music Studios in Auckland, ives. emerged just this month with her ROMANTIC EP. Boasting a vocal range and cadence similar to superstar Billie Eilish, her songwriting is dark and love-torn.

The EP’s lead single All Night Long is catchy and hypnotic, laden with hooks that aren’t afraid to bend wherever their singer takes them.

Mermaidens

Signed to eminent local label Flying Nun Records, Mermaidens make guitar-driven indie pop rich in melody and texture. Since 2013 they’ve been refining their sound into something air-tight and extraordinarily polished – their tunes are something to completely submerge yourself within.

They finished up a prolific 2019 with their incredible third album Look Me in the Eye. Dive in below.

Marlin’s Dreaming

Leaning a little more into rock territory are Marlin’s Dreaming, a four-piece out of Dunedin whose spectacularly unique sound will catch you like a fish hook. Their vocal lines show a brevity for pop composition, and a sense of darkness underlies everything they make.

Their latest video, Outwards Crying, dropped just last week. Check it out below.

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March 28, 2020