New Zealand music month has turned our attention to yet another one of the country’s most promising acts, this time in the form of Dunedin band IVY and their new single Heartless.
IVY have released their latest single Heartless. A rumination on troublesome relationships soundtracked by progressive rock, the track opens with fuzzy guitar strums and the melodic pluck of finger-picked strings. Showcasing a vocal performance not commonly seen in rock, lead singer Jesse Hanan sings tenderly of Mary Magdalene, later tying the biblical figure to modern reflections on abuse and power imbalances.
What begins as a seemingly romantic soundscape later expands to heavier instrumentation, as guitarist James Axton amps up the energy for a powerful chorus. With its changing cadence and dynamic rhythm, Heartless becomes a sonic odyssey through both genre and theme, evoking a kind of operatic rock similar to the likes of The Protomen and Dream Theater.
In its grungier sequences, Heartless pairs Ocean Wilson’s thunderous drums with soaring vocal melodies, as punctuated by an anthemic bassline courtesy of Connor Cooper. For his part, violinist Louis Stevenson affords Heartless a regal and idyllic feel, bridging the division between heavy and soft-rock. Perhaps the standout element of the single is its ability to transition between sounds without feeling convoluted.
Another major drawcard of the single is its operatic quality, which largely boils down to Hanan’s brooding vocals and the adornment of strings. In between those elements, remaining IVY bandmates pepper in some truly captivating moments, from Axton and Cooper’s syllabic guitarwork to Wilson’s subtle cymbals towards the end of the track.
Boasting the sonic journey travelled throughout Heartless more than justifies its impressive runtime of five minutes, as IVY tell a story of biblical proportions. Spanning centuries with their lyricism, the band pinpoints the elements of Magdalene’s story as a mistreated sex still prevalent today, evoking the cross-generational storytelling of Frank Ocean’s Pyramids.
Speaking of the song’s themes in a press statement, IVY said Heartless “encourages the listener to come to an uncomfortable and confronting decision as to who the abusers are, and if it could be someone you know or even yourself.” They continued: “The overall message of the song is to challenge the listener to reflect on themselves as people, for the purpose of protecting and caring for their loved ones.”
To pull off such a lyrically and instrumentally expansive track is no small feat, but Heartless is especially impressive given IVY’s relative greenness in the music scene. Aged between 17 and 19, the bandmates possess a vision of their trajectory seemingly more suited to a band ten years’ their senior, which is not to say their discography is sparse.
Since forming in 2020, the band released their debut single Stranger in 2022, and followed it up earlier this year with their first-ever EP FOR THE SAKE OF IT. Heartless is IVY’s first new material since then, and given its sheer transcendence, we hope it’s not the last we hear from them.
Listen to IVY’s new single Heartless below.