11 Aug 2018

The Mixtape: Some of the best tracks of 2018 (so far, in our opinion)

From RNZ Music, 5:00 pm on 11 August 2018

RNZ Music's Alex Behan, Kirsten Johnstone, Tony Stamp, Danielle Street and Yadana Saw bring dancefloor bangers and warm fluffies to their winter playlist.

Chaka Kahn - 'Like Sugar'

65 years old. 70 million records sold. 10 Grammys. Chaka Kahn’s first song in ten years and she kills it. Guaranteed to create a dancefloor in any room, anywhere, anytime. – Alex Behan

Christine and the Queens – 'Girlfriend'

Christine and the Queens - or ‘Chris’ as she’s going by now is 30-year-old French woman Héloïse Letissier. She comes from a theatre background and brings a dramatic and magnetic approach to songwriting and performance. Her 2016 album made her a star in France and Belgium, but her forthcoming album, which is being released in both French and English in September, is set to be a worldwide blockbuster.   

This first single ‘Girlfriend’  was so immediately irresistible to me. I’m a child of the 80s and this is an obvious nod to that era of pop and funk: think Michael Jackson, George Michael, or Prince, heading into some early 90s G-funk, with retro synths and a smooth vocal cameo by Californian producer Dâm-Funk.

The song is full of erotic energy and plays with ideas about gender. It’s macho, but with a female form. “I felt I had to address female desire and it’s diversity” she’s said of the song. Chris described the songs on the new album as sweaty and tough, and that’s a pretty accurate description of how this one makes me feel. – Kirsten Johnstone

Loma - 'Black Willow'

Like a soundtrack to the end of the world, Black Willow is pure, gorgeous gloom, with whispered lines like “I will not serve you” and “I carry a diamond blade” sounding equally delicate and dangerous. It’s a smokey slow-burn, stuffed with goosebump-inducing moments as it slides toward a downright apocalyptic conclusion. – Tony Stamp

Tami Neilson - 'Stay Out My Business'

I do love seeing an artist going from strength to strength and Tami has certainly done that with her latest release. Sassafrass encapsulates her range and talent: the sound goes from full big-band swinging jazzy sixties, kitchy tropicalia and finally slide guitar tremolo heavy country ballads.

I think I might be equal parts envious and in awe that a Mum of two can sound amazing, look stunning and be such a talented performer. What’s her secret to nailing it? Does she burn the chicken nuggets? Does she feed her kids nutritionally dubious chicken nuggets? Why am I even asking this when I have chosen the song 'Stay Out Of My Business?'

Tami Neilson thank you for making a song that tells all the nosey busy-bodies as well as the guilt-ridden voice in your head where to stick it. – Yadana Saw

Related: Tami Neilson speaks to Megan Whelan about Sassafrass!


She’s been around for a little while, but I first discovered Dutch-Iranian artist Sevdaliza thanks to a friend’s recommendation that comparied her music to Massive Attack. My interest piqued, I headed over to Spotify and ‘Humana’ was the first song that popped up as a recent release. A broody trip-hop tune recorded in Portuguese, it became a fast favourite and I listened to it over and over. After digging deeper, I found the song was originally released in English as ‘Human’ by Sevdaliza on her debut album ISON which came out in 2017 .

An aesthetically meticulous musician, Sevadaliza had made a mesmerising video for ‘Human’, a commentary on society’s obsession over beauty. When the video reached 10 million views a few months ago, she re-released the song in Portuguese to celebrate the occasion. Now, having heard the song in both English and Portuguese, I find the latter darker and more sensual, really speaking to her themes of womanhood, identity, and power. If you haven’t heard Sevdaliza before, it’s a great gateway to her world. – Danielle Street

High Hoops - 'People'

Jordan Arts aka High Hoops has been trickling songs out this year at quite a pace but ‘People’ grabbed me immediately. Perhaps I just needed a pick me up that day but I’ve held it close since and drop it for a quick fix when i need some pep.

“Fakers gonna fake / Hater’s gonna hate / That’s why I stick to my people people people people …”  – Alex Behan

The Beths - 'Happy Unhappy'

The Beths are an Auckland quartet who’ve all been around the traps for the last decade – you’ve seen guitarist Jonathan Pearce on stage with so many different NZ bands as a reliable ring-in, and lead singer-guitarist and songwriter Elizabeth (Liz) Stokes started out alongside Chelsea Jade in folkie trio Teacups. All four of them studied at Jazz school, but there’s no jazz noodling here, it’s straight up power-pop.

'Happy Unhappy' steams along briskly and breezily and they make the pace sound so easy. Lyrically Liz mines the same kind of first-person self-deprecating honesty that Courtney Barnett does, and she can write a vocal hook, never letting the syllables of big words get in the way of the melody. – Kirsten Johnstone

Related: Nick Bollinger reviews The Beths - Future Me Hates Me 

SWIDT - 'No Emotions in the Wild'

‘No Emotions In The Wild’ got its first public airing when SWIDT premiered The Most Electrifying EP online while playing Fortnite a couple of weeks ago. I was immediately grabbed by the second half of the song, when it suddenly changes from smooth downbeat production to a heavy old-school rap that leans on (what I’m pretty sure is) the classic breakbeat plucked from The Honey Drippers’ 1973 tune ‘Impeach The President. But what really excites me about this song, which I didn't pick up on until I listened to it again later, is the subject matter.

SPYCC and INF wear their hearts on their sleeves in this track, and discuss depression and mental health issues in a poetic, yet completely open way. SWIDT have made a lot of diverse hip hop tunes over the last few years, often bringing a lot of humour to their music, and while I love that side of the SWIDT crew  - hearing their calls for a culture change around mental health and toxic masculinity feels truly powerful. – Danielle Street

Ravyn Lenae - 'Sticky'

Ravyn Lenae is a 19-year-old RnB Soul singer who hails from Chicago. Her EP Crush is produced by The Internet’s wunderkind Steve Lacy whose made tracks for Mac Miller, J Cole and most notably Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer prize-winning DAMN.

Crush is a delightfully compact and easy to enjoy record. The main themes are the ins and outs of relationships. ‘Computer Luv’, a wonderfully twee duet between Lenae and Lacy, wistfully bemoans modern, tech-mediated romance. ‘Sticky’ is a sassy number delivered with a lyrical and vocal sophistication that belies Lenae’s youth. This is a seriously groovy and sultry slice of modern RnB that will satisfy fans of The Internet’s break out single ‘Special Affair’ – Yadana Saw

Iglooghost - 'Clear Tamei'

Seamus Malliagh is a relentlessly inventive Irish producer who, at 21 years old, keeps making tunes that burst with a multitude of ideas at once. For this one he went one step further, inventing his own language to rap over sampled chimes, strings and live percussion, led by beats that smoosh together hip hop and old-school jungle. – Tony Stamp

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