As a nation, Australia has developed something of a knack for claiming esteemed New Zealand musical talent as its own. Call it the ‘Crowded House Effect’, if you will.
Therefore, as part of our second ever NZ Week, it seems wholly appropriate to do an overview of the best albums released by New Zealand artists in 2019 (to help determine who we should poach next).
Aldous Harding – Designer
The highest profile NZ music release of 2019 was undoubtedly the third full-length album by the inimitable Hannah Topp (aka Aldous Harding). Designer is a series of eccentric yet delicately fleshed out folk songs, both intimate and theatrical in equal measure, that received considerable critical acclaim (and the prestigious Silver Scroll for lead single The Barrel).
She recently announced a headline tour of Australia, and will be playing Sydney’s Enmore Theatre on March 4th, 2020 (more info available here).
Beastwars – IV
Mainstays of the New Zealand metal scene, sludge-metal band Beastwars returned with their fifth studio album in June. IV was recorded over a 10 day period in 2018, a week after lead singer Matthew Hyde completed a course of chemotherapy treatment. According to the band “they felt an urgent need to capture new songs as a thank you to all the fans that supported him and as a way of reconnecting with each other after our tumultuous breakup”.
The album is a sprawling, emotional return to form for the band, who have been nominated in two categories at the 2019 New Zealand Music Awards.
Church & AP – Cathedral/All Purpose
Auckland teens Church & AP had a huge 2019. Releasing their debut 10-track mixtape (self-titled) in April, the pair have continued a drip-feed of few singles teasing their debut album, which is set to drop before the end of the year.
Ranging from straight-forward bangers to more esoteric productions, Cathedral/All Purpose showcases a wealth of ideas and positions the duo as ones to watch in 2020.
Mermaidens – Look Me In The Eye
Signed to iconic NZ indie label Flying Nun, Wellington trio Mermaidens released their sophomore full-length album Look Me In The Eye in September. It’s an ambient, cerebral take on jangle pop, shifting effortlessly between time signatures and woozy chorus effects.
Purple Pilgrims – Perfumed Earth
Siblings Clementine and Valentine Nixon released their second album as Purple Pilgrims in June. Perfumed Earth is a heady musical cocktail, hazily mixing in elements of psychedelia, synth-pop and indie rock.
Raiza Biza – Bygones
R&B artist Raiza Biza dropped the feature-heavy Bygones in early October, a soulful, jazzy record featuring contributions from the likes of REMI and Oddisee. Tracks like City Girl have a bouncy Kaytranda-like vibe, while Palm Tree is as tropical as the title suggests, cruising on a gentle wave of balearic synths and tropical percussion.
Repulsive Woman – Relief
The solo project of Dunedin-based Millie Lovelock, Repulsive Woman has branched out from lo-fi One Direction covers with an 8-track mini album of raw, unflinching indie-folk songs. The tracks on Relief have a stark, unflinching quality that is as arresting as it is captivating, establishing her as a unique figure in New Zealand music.
Tiny Ruins – Olympic Girls
The third album by Auckland band Tiny Ruins (and first since 2014’s acclaimed Brightly Painted One), Olympic Girls marks a subtle evolution of singer-songwriter Hollie Fullbrook’s sound. A collection of warm, atmospheric folks songs, it was recently stripped back and re-released as Olympic Girls Solo (paring back to just Hollie’s vocal and acoustic guitar).
By Dennis De Caires