Throughout her self-titled album, Wellington singer and bedroom music producer Estère sings about the history of reptiles, social inequality, an imaginary cruel boyfriend, patchwork soldiers, growing up in between cultures and so much more. Supporting her soul/R & B‑informed melodies and idiosyncratic lyrical content with vibrant, highly colourful instrumentals originally drafted on an MPC drum machine sampler named Lola, she steps beyond the neo-soul expectations often placed on her by virtue of look, in the process offering us a sound-world as surreal and psychedelic as it is rhythm-driven and warm-hearted.
Seven songs long, Estère’s self-titled debut includes spruced-up reworks of her first rough demos ‘Cruel Charlie’ and ‘Culture Clash’, as well as five equally compelling newer songs, most of which will be familiar to those who have watched her perform live over the last year.
For Estère, having toured New Zealand, Australia, Europe and Asia, recorded with Sudanese American hip hop star Oddisee at Red Bull Studio in Auckland, and shared stages with Erykah Badu and Morcheeba, this album represents the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. Clocking in at half an hour, it’s a confident and considered offering from a star on the rise.
There is a genuine old world magic and, beyond that, perhaps even a sense of ancient mythology, to the songs that make up Lyttelton singer-songwriter and guitarist Aldous Harding’s self-titled debut album. Aesthetically rooted in the folk music traditions of the UK, her songs integrate delicate outdoorsy guitar playing and rousing rhythms with rich narrative storytelling, presented through an ornamental vocal style close to sean-nós singing.
Whether relating the story of a good-hearted hunter returning home empty-handed, or regaling the listener with tales of wine and bravery, her music has the same emotional impact — heart-stopping.
The Phoenix Foundation
(Universal Music New Zealand)
A year after the release of their critically loved fifth album, Fandango, always astute Wellington indie rockers The Phoenix Foundation return with a new EP titled Tom’s Lunch.
Driven by co-lead vocalist Luke Buda’s desire to see the band quickly get to work exploring fresh directions with their new drummer, Chris O’Connor, the five-song set sees them building on the opulent textures and assured songwriting of Fandango. In the process they move somewhat towards concise guitar-led pop songs.
An easy sun-kissed listen, Tom’s Lunch is a reminder of a beautiful long autumn, and many longer summers to come.
While Auckland producer Suren Unka’s electronica might ostensibly seem primarily concerned with moving the bodies of nightclub punters, when you listen closer a brave interest in atypical use of melody and harmony soon emerges, marking his songs out as substantially deeper than the average crowd-pleaser.
Two years in the making, Suren Unka’s El Chupacabra album draws from a sonic wellspring that’s equal parts house, UK garage, synth-pop and beyond. Inspired by his interest in a mythical creature from South America, El Chupacabra is essentially Where the Wild Things Are for the dance floor, and as that might suggest, is a wonderful time.