Erny Bell: Not Your Cupid (digital outlets)

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Erny Bell: Not Your Cupid (digital outlets)

It would be fair to say that, unless you were listening carefully or following the fine print, Erny Belle Aimee Renata (Ngāpuhi from Maungatūroto) would be a new name.

Or just someone who snuck up on you.

But her debut album Venus is Home saw her nominated for Taite Prizes in the best independent album and best independent debut album categories.

That's not a bad way to start a career and it was an impressive, if often downbeat, collection of refined folk-pop songs recorded in 2019. 

Belle brought together wistful Pacific-kissed songs (Island Time), a homely specificity (the local Four Square and warm cask wine at Nana Venus' place on the title track) and a serious purpose (Hell Hole, Chuck It In the Trash).

But there was always the downside in her lyrics, notably on the otherwise dreamy Nuclear Bomb where she used a delightful country melody to deliver some 21st century nihilism: “I'm gonna go and smoke some P and put my baby in a washing machine and pray to God that a nuclear bomb's gonna kill me”.

Despite the bleak message about humankind -- “bad habits run deep so it's all bound to fall down again” – the reckoning never sounded so inviting. And Covid hadn't even hit.

Her economic follow-up Not Your Cupid – nine songs in half an hour, recorded at Auckland's Roundhead – confirms a major talent now embellishing her captivating, cryptic alt.pop with gentle steel guitars, strings, piano and Indian instruments.

There's more emotional brightness now: Unchained speaks of being comfortable with uncertainty knowing things will work out; Pitt Stop is a sharply observed moment wrapped in deft electro-pop; Stay Golden is an injunction to remember but move forward.

Earlier this year Rolling Stone AU/NZ picked Belle as one of “Eight Kiwi Artists Tipped to Take Over”. Good call.

On the sophisticated title track she signals, “I want to see the world someday, that's where I'm going, it's so easy to get tied to this town . . . I'm living in the future.”
With Not Your Cupid – which entered the chart for New Zealand albums at number two – Erny Belle is moving up and out.

.

You can hear and buy this album at bandcamp here

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