It's a jumbo edition of Song Crush this week as seven of RNZ Music's regular song-crushers choose their best track of the summer.
Selectors are: Tony Stamp, Jana Whitta, Danielle Street, Brad 'Sticky' Warrington, Yadana Saw, Elliott Childs and host Kirsten Johnstone.
Sharon Van Etten - 'Seventeen'
Sharon Van Etten’s ‘Seventeen’ kicked down the door of 2019, with a Springsteen-esque anthemic melody and all the drama of a rock ballad from 1987. Backed by spasmodic synths, Van Etten sings to her seventeen year old self: “I wish I could show you how much you've grown.”
She builds the tension up through the first couple of minutes, until she lets loose a howl of anger that we haven’t heard from her before. It evokes that feeling for me, of being seventeen, blissfully unaware of what I didn’t know, over-confident and out of control.
Van Etten’s life between albums has been frenetic - becoming a mother, an actor, and studying towards a career in counselling, and she’s had to relinquish some control over her music - and it’s all the more interesting for that collaboration - specifically with producer John Congleton.
Melodownz - 'Infinite' Feat. Coops
Avondale rapper Bronson Price, aka Melodownz, dropped a nice digital double EP at the end of last year called Melo and Blues. The tune I had on repeat over summer was 'Infinite' featuring UK rap's new golden boy Coops.
The beat, produced by fellow Aucklander Dusty Melody, gives both Melo and Coops plenty of space to flex their impressive skillset.
Melodownz does not disappoint with his effortless double time flow giving the track pace. Coops has a buttery flow and really is a captivating listen, complementing Melodownz's laidback delivery. The best NZ international hiphop colab this summer!
Julia Jacklin - 'Body'
Body is the opening track off Julia Jacklin's second album Crushing, and it’s a stripped back, eerie, cinematic story of the last movements of a relationship as it unfolds. In the end refrain she repeats “Well I guess it’s just my life, and it’s just my body” which is nuanced, bold and ironic in the context of the full song.
With songs like ‘Body’ and ‘Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You’ which are even-favourites on the record for me, Jacklin has shown us the depth of her songwriting skills, and how she can paint a picture so well on this devastating break-up record. Crushing is definitely one of my favourite releases so far this year.
Pickle Darling - 'Greta'
The standout track from Bigness sees Lukas Mayo’s voice sliding between octaves as he sings, delivering another beguiling melody that settles on the very meta refrain “another sad boy song”. Kids show samples, vocal-mangling plugins, a disregard for song structure – on paper it shouldn’t work, but it does, beautifully.
Congress of Animals - 'Protector, Reflector' (feat. Ben Lemi)
Congress of Animals is a star-studded Wellington collective that brings together members of Fly My Pretties, Flight of the Conchords and Trinity Roots to name a few. Late last year, the group released their self-titled debut album, which included this goosebump-inducing gem of a song tucked away (almost) right at the end of the record.
Penned by multi-instrumentalist Ben Lemi (Trinity Roots, French For Rabbits, Dawn Diver) the song’s themes circle around the idea that artists have a lot to say, but are often plagued by troubles.
The heaviness of ‘Protector, Reflector’ is augmented by rich choral-style backing vocals that lay on top of simple, almost medieval instrumentation which wouldn’t sound out of place on Game Of Thrones. But the real revelation here is Lemi’s voice, which offers deep golden tones that could rival those of Marlon Williams.
Mick Jenkins - 'Understood'
Mick Jenkins’ 'Understood' is a beautiful slice of dreamy hip hop. There’s such a laid back tempo and a warm emotion from the slide guitar sample sourced from this 1971 song by Jack Arel.
The Kaytranada- produced beat makes me feel the weightlessness of slipping into a body of water and becoming one with the ocean. Pieces of Man is a rewarding album – inspired by the Gil Scott Heron record of the same name – it deals with masculinity and matters of religious faith, something that is not often heard in today’s flow obsessed, lean’ed out rap.
William Tyler - 'Fail Safe'
William Tyler's Fail Safe is a bright, shimmering piece of instrumental guitar with Tyler's finger picked acoustic and Meg Duffy's chiming electric weaving in and out of each other as if they're having a conversation. Like all of Tyler's music it's a great accompaniment for long car rides.