Graham Reid | | 5 min read
She will scoop up some of those many EP releases, in much the same way as our SHORT CUTS column picks up albums by New Zealand artists, and IN BRIEF does for international artists.
You can read her previous columns here and Yasmin's profile appears at the end of these brief but pointed reviews . . .
All of these EPs are available on Spotify.
Julia Michaels: Inner Monologue Part 1
She’s been around for a while, but California singer-songwriter, Julia Michaels, has never shone as brightly as she does with her latest EP. Featuring popular artists Selena Gomez and Niall Horan, she’s bound to bring in more listeners than ever before, and while their reasoning for taking the time to enjoy these five tracks might be skewed, they will surely come out the other end loving Michaels just as much as her feature artists.
The EP is painfully relatable, as you find yourself nodding along to lyrics that explicitly address our secret desires to cancel plans with friends, and run into toxic exes. Thematically, it’s heavy, but that’s exactly what makes it so great. Michaels doesn’t shy away from what is most people’s reality, and somehow as you make your way through the dark yet catchy pop hooks, you feel understood and validated in your more unhealthy thoughts and behaviours.
It’s a rare skill to find someone that taps into their emotions in such a way that extends directly to the listeners, but Michaels has managed exactly that with Inner Monologue Part 1. The catchy music will draw people in, but it’s her honest and raw lyrics that will encourage them to stay.
Erica Drive: The Hate, The Hurt, The Healing
British band Erica Drive depict almost everything you think of when you hear the words ‘pop-punk’.
While they consistently draw from classic pop-punk beats and riffs, and a combination of typical angst-ridden and motivational, uplifting lyrics, they also refuse to fall into the trap that so many British pop-punk bands do, in that they have - thankfully - avoided faking heavily americanised vocals.
Their sound is nothing groundbreaking, but there are moments throughout the EP that are filled with promise, hinting at a not-too-distant future which sees them finding their individual sound and voice. There’s a sense of determination that shines through in each track, as though desperate to make a point that they deserve to be in this industry, and the strength that comes through in the dirtier vocals emphasises this even further.
For a band with three guitarists, they’ve missed an opportunity to make something dynamic and novel, and there are moments where what should be a technical advantage ends up being a hindrance to their sound. In Better Man, for example, two contradicting riffs are played over one another, making the track feel messy and confusing. That said though, being fresh to the scene and clearly still taking heavy influence from their favourite bands, there’s ample opportunity to grow into themselves, tighten up, and find a sound that is inherently theirs.
It’s always a shame to discover an artist that has so much promise, yet somehow completely misses the mark. Israel’s Liya has been compared to the likes of The Birthday Massacre, and in some respects, this is an accurate comparison. The dreamy synth pop that fuels Liya’s music feels very familiar, but it’s lacking something vital. Opening track Holding On would have benefited greatly from the addition of electric guitars, and the beat in No Meaning could be more powerful so as to reverberate in your chest. Listen lays the foundations for what could be a great EP, but every moment feels lacklustre and falls flat as a result of its repetitive nature and lack of adventure. Liya’s voice might be stunning, but other than a short moment in Always About You, when we’re treated to her lower range, it fades into the repetitive synth beats, and so we’re left feeling ambivalent about her vocal abilities.
This is music that could (and should) be built upon, and if Liya takes the time to do that - to experiment - she could certainly be as exciting as the bands she has been compared to.
Bored Housewives Club: Iti
This Wellington duo are clearly making music for the sheer love of it. In the first moments, you’re introduced to the soft punk and, frankly, horrific vocals of Bored Housewives Club, and yet you’re also instantly drawn in. Personfriend is fun, and highlights the mundane reality of undefined relationships that make love even more special. The rough, demo-like nature of the track only adds to how endearing it is, and will leave you craving your very own ‘personfriend’. Sadly, it’s followed by Cafe Art, which is both musically and lyrically very basic, lacking adventure and the ironic dullness that shines through in its predecessor. Luckily, though, this three track EP is a sandwich wherein the bread is the most exciting part, as it closes with Zooey Deschanel - a nod to the romantic comedy, (500) Days of Summer. It highlights a relationship, much like in the film, which is fuelled by someone projecting their idealistic notions of love onto the other person, a concept that is most prominent during the line, “I don’t care about you, I just want to be well”.
Ultimately, this EP is exactly what it was likely intended to be; three songs written by two people just tinkering around with music because they love it. That this affection radiates in every second of the EP is exactly why it’s so loveable, because despite its lack of intricacy or even effort, it still very much leaves you feeling warm and happy.
Yasmin Brown is a dedicated music lover and avid critic, who completed her PGDip in Communication Studies at Auckland University of Technology. She’s at her peak when buried in the middle of a mosh pit, and now continues to pursue her love of live music journalism in Cambridge, UK, often finding herself popping to London to check out her favourite bands, as well as discovering a mass of new talent.