Graham Reid | | 4 min read
Our EP reviewer Yasmin has bent her ears to dozens of releases this year, notes just how many good ones came from New Zealand artists . . . and then chooses thesze six for your consideration . . .
Julia Michaels: Inner Monologue Part 1
Julia Michaels has been one of the biggest names in pop music this year, despite only having released two EPs and a handful of collaboration singles. Inner Monologue Part 1, was the first of two (as it stands right now) EPs released this year, and its six tracks have struck the hearts of pop fans globally with their uninhibited honesty. If you ever needed to normalise your issues and feel understood in your pain, Michaels’ Inner Monologue Part 1 is just the thing you’re after. From anxiety and introversion, to ongoing depression and heartache, Michaels has tapped into the minds of millions with this EP, and as Part 2 has since proven, she’s got a lot more to say, too. 2020 is going to be a huge year for this woman.
New Zealand once again shows that despite a small population, there’s plenty of talent to be found within its borders. Reflecting the EP’s title perfectly, each track has something odd and interesting about it, an experimental venture that has more than paid off. With fascinating and haunting vocals, combined with all of the typical sounds you might expect to hear in the most terrifying scenes of a Stephen King horror movie, Missy has created something bizarre yet cohesive and strangely enjoyable. It’s easy to describe this EP as ‘incredible’ and with such innate talent, Missy deserves to see her repertoire and fanbase grow at an exponential rate as we move into the New Year.
Theia: Not Your Princess
Joining the scores of women killing it in pop this year, New Zealand’s very own Theia is one to watch. As we draw to the end of the year, she’s still woefully undersold in many countries, but having made waves in her home country, as well as internationally in places such as Japan, it’s hopefully only a matter of time before this Hello Kitty loving pop princess makes a name for herself in places such as the US and the UK as well. Not Your Princess is a perfect collection of bubblegum pop sounding tracks that are with more sincere undertones, as conveyed through the lyrics, and is a true testament to Theia’s ever-growing talent.
Simple Creatures: Strange Love
If you’re a fan of pop-punk then there’s no way this collaboration between Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus and All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth has passed you by. Sounding almost nothing like the pair’s respective main projects, Simple Creatures has allowed them to experiment sonically, letting their creativity run wild without being tied down to the expectations that come with ATL and Blink. While it’s unlikely anyone will be screaming along to the tracks on Strange Love in the same way they do to Nothing Personal or Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, years after their release, there’s no denying that this EP is filled with passion and fun, and demands to be screamed along to on long road trips to the beach or your New Year’s festival of choice as you make your way into the next decade.
Never has an artist managed to capture the essence of rural New Zealand while maintaining modernity and relevance in the way ZÖ has with her WAR EP. With vocals that soar to unimaginable heights, seemingly without effort, she combines emotional lyrics with gorgeous synths, all the while holding onto the traditionality that most singer/songwriters are borne out of. It’s no easy task to evoke emotion through music alone, but strip back the vocals in any one of these tracks and you’d feel almost as much as you do with the complete picture. It’s genuinely exciting to consider what ZÖ might come out with next.
grandson: a modern tragedy vol. 2
It’s easy, when faced with the polarising political climate that we currently live in, to want to bury your head in the sand and shy away from the hard yet necessary conversations that should surround the many issues that exist within our world. grandson, however, has done exactly the opposite of that with his modern tragedy series, releasing track after track addressing the social and political issues that are not just unpleasant, but actually resulting in the death of thousands of Americans every year. While the thematic content is integral to the impact, it’s important not to ignore grandson’s musical talent. The lyrics couldn’t possibly hit so hard without the musical accompaniment that builds as much rage and empathy as the words themselves. grandson knows exactly what he wants to do and how to do it, and this is never showcased more than in volume 2 of his incredible EP series.
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.