10 Essential New Zealand Artists to Watch
The past seven days have marked Happy Mag’s inaugural NZ Week, an initiative spotlighting New Zealand as one of the world’s most exciting cultural hubs. It’s been a wonderful voyage into everything the land of the long white cloud has to offer – at this point it’s safe to say NZ Week will return.
To be perfectly honest, there are about a hundred bands from New Zealand we could share with you, and you would love every minute of it. The talent contained within those two isles is immense, but these ten are the best of the best.
Ha The Unclear
Based out of Auckland but originally from Dunedin, Ha The Unclear are carving themselves a path as one of the New Zealand’s most promising indie acts. With two albums and a collaborative EP alongside Soaked Oates and Being. to their names, their output has never dipped in quality since the band’s genesis.
Their sophomore album Invisible Lines was released in August this year, stacked back-to-back with near-flawless indie pop hits.
You can catch Ha The Unclear live in Sydney on Saturday September 29th headlining Happy Mag’s NZ Week Party.
Future Me Hates Me, the debut album from The Beths released in August 2018, has blown up. It’s hook-driven indie rock at its finest, a goldmine of catchy moments you’ll walk away from with a big, fat grin on your face.
The album attracted attention from the biggest tastemakers the world over, and catapulted The Beths straight into a mammoth tour throughout Australia, Europe, the UK, America and of course, their home country of New Zealand.
Expect very big things from The Beths, that’s a promise.
A project conceived by Hollie Fullbrook, Tiny Ruins tour as both a solo act and a band comprised of Cass Basil, Alex Freer, and Tom Healy. Amongst Fullbrook’s accolades are two well-received LPs and a single named Dream Weave produced alongside filmmaker David Lynch.
In 2018 Tiny Ruins have released How Much, their first single since that Lynchian collab. Their upcoming album will released by the esteemed Milk! Records in Australia, and self-released in their home country of New Zealand.
Listen to How Much below.
Roy Irwin is a solo musician, visual artist, and occasional journalist based in Auckland. The man has a staggering amount of work to his name, from cover EPs to collaborative projects, to a recent album holding Michael Jackson in reverence.
A steady fanbase have come to love Irwin for his spontaneity and candid songwriting. His latest album, King of Pop released in November 2017, is a perfect showcase; relatable and thoroughly enjoyable – if a little downtrodden at times.
We recommend starting your Roy Irwin journey with that record, or his 2016 album S.O.D.A.
You may know the very talented Kody Nielson from a variety of projects, be it indie-pop ensemble Opossum, garage punk noisemakers The Mint Chicks, or as a touring member of his brother Ruban’s band Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
Nielson’s projects are as varied as they are wonderful, but in May this year he released Birthday Suite, a wacky instrumental album which devotes one song each to 12 members of his family.
Midway between the soundtrack to an experimental arthouse film of the 1960’s and a modern psychedelic pop record, Birthday Suite is one of the most engaging, if a little odd, listens out of New Zealand in 2018.
Seeing Wax Chattels live is an all-enveloping experience, a sweet sensory assault that will leave you gasping for air. Combining precise math-rock breakdowns with booming twin vocals from bassist Amanda Cheng and Tom Leggett on the keys, their energy is fierce and their power is supreme.
Just yesterday they were nominated for Best Alternative Artist at the New Zealand Music awards alongside Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Marlon Williams. Currently on tour through the US, there’s no stopping this dynamic three piece.
Wax Chattels’ debut, self-titled album was released in May 2018.
Avantdale Bowling Club
The latest project from NZ rapper Tom Scott, Avantdale Bowling Club is a jazzy, hip hop fusion project cooked up at Auckland’s Red Bull Music Studios with some of the country’s most talented instrumentalists.
The group’s debut single Years Gone By is a song every artist wishes they could write, waist-deep into their career. It’s an autobiography written to a score, an effortless fusion of life and art from a truly formidable MC.
Avantdale Bowling Club’s self-titled debut album is out now.
The brooding rock ‘n’ roll of Marlin’s Dreaming is an enthralling take on the forever-cool Dunedin sound, and they’re not even close to letting it slip.
The band’s 2017 album Lizard Tears is utterly fantastic, a somewhat dark brand of guitar music that’s as suitable for a bout of self-loathing as it is a sunny afternoon.
The latest from Marlin’s Dreaming is Talk On/Comicc, an EP they released just last month.
Whispers of Björk, Jonny Greenwood and Grimes all feed into indi, the solo project of Indira Force. Her bizzare alt-pop wonder is felt plainly on debut album Precipice, which dropped back in 2017.
As magnificently weird as her music is, visually indi kicks things up a notch. Her incredible debut clip Precipice was a tripped-out nightmare which took home a prize at Australia’s own CLIPPED Music Video Festival.
Her newest clip Demeter is equally brilliant. Watch it below.
Kane Strang comes from a family of musicians, so understandably his sound calls back to a score of scenes and eras. Take a pinch of British guitar pop, drop in that laid-back LA indie feel, and finally whisk it all together with some straight-up, Flying Nun Dunedin goodness.
2017 record Two Hearts and No Brain was clever, mature and nuanced, despite what the title might imply. It recently turned a year old and while there aren’t any current whispers of new work, we’ll be ready when Strang steps back into the spotlight.
By Tom Cameron
Happy Mag’s NZ Week is a new initiative spotlighting New Zealand as one of the world’s most exciting cultural hubs.