18 Dec 2018

Six NZ acts that made waves in 2018

From RNZ Music, 9:00 am on 18 December 2018

An eclectic bunch of New Zealand musicians made it big in 2018. RNZ Music takes a look at some of the Kiwi artists whose stars burned bright this year.

1. Marlon Williams

Marlon Williams arriving at the 2018 APRA Silver Scrolls Awards.

Marlon Williams arriving at the 2018 APRA Silver Scrolls Awards. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Our very own Māori Elvis, Marlon Williams won Best Video for Vampire Again, Best Solo Artist and Album of the Year for his second solo album, Make Way For Love at this year’s NZ Music Awards.

His ballad, Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore won the country's top songwriting award, the APRA Silver Scroll.

Marlon’s also been touring the world extensively throughout 2018.

Make Way For Love documents the fallout of his breakup with fellow Lyttelton musician, Aldous Harding.

He told RNZ Music in September that he’d felt hesitant about asking his ex to sing on Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore, but the results prove his courage wasn't wasted.

Marlon and Aldous have been singing together since they were teenagers, so singing on the same song about their breakup wasn't as bizarre as it might seem.

"I know how it looks, but it's such a natural and important part of our relationship anyway - it didn't feel strange to use music as a way of understanding," he said.

Marlon first attracted attention in Christchurch folk band The Unfaithful Ways, before partnering on collaborative records with Delaney Davidson, then Tami Neilson.

His first solo album was released to widespread acclaim in 2015.

Another of Marlon’s achievements this year was scoring a part in the film A Star Is Born, actor Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, starring Lady Gaga.

Marlon will embark on his Tūrangawaewae Tour of New Zealand from 8 February 8 to 3 May, and will be performing with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra at Auckland’s Villa Maria on Saturday, February 16.

  • Anatomy of a Scroll: Marlon Williams 'Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore'
  • New video: Marlon Williams 'Make Way For Love' with Māori choir
  • The Sampler: Make Way For Love by Marlon Williams
  • 2. Alien Weaponry

    Teenage thrash metallers Alien Weaponry discuss their past, present and future

    Teenage thrash metallers Alien Weaponry discuss their past, present and future Photo: RNZ / YouTube

    This teenage thrash-metal band from Northland this year played at the world’s biggest metal festival - Germany’s Wacken Festival, with the crowd of mainly European fans screaming along to the group’s predominantly Māori lyrics.

    Brothers Henry and Lewis de Jong and their friend Ethan Trenbath also won Best Rock Artist at this year's NZ Music Awards.

    The band started 2018 by touring Australia, an exciting move given two of them had never left the country before and one had only ever been to Cairns.

    Initially, they planned to visit Sydney and Melbourne, but overwhelming demand saw them add Brisbane and Perth to the tour schedule.

    The trio also performed at a huge Slovenian festival, Metal Days, in July.

    A month later, they were the first ever New Zealand band to play at the Wacken Open Air Festival, which attracts about 80,000 metal fans from around the world.

    The band, which uses haka and te reo to offer insights into New Zealand's history and culture, released its debut album, , early this year.

    Their hit song, Rū ana te Whenua, about the New Zealand land wars in the late 1800s, has surpassed a million views on Facebook and YouTube.

    The de Jong brothers are descendants of Te Ahoaho, a warrior who died in the battle at Pukehinahina, Gate Pā. The song was inspired by a story passed down by their father about their ancestors' plight defending their lands against British troops.

    Henry de Jong, the band's drummer, said metal was the perfect way to address indigenous issues.

    "Metal is always super-political with its lyrics and there are a lot of Māori that are into metal, and it's kind of weird for us to be the first ones to do it," he said.

    The thrash metallers are signed to Berlin label Das Machine.

    Alien Weaponry are playing Mt Maunganui on 21 March 21, in Hamilton on 22 March, in Auckland on 23 March, and in Dunedin on 28 March.

  • Te Reo thrash metal band Alien Weaponry Documentary
  • Alien Weaponry's new video features controversial comments made by Don Brash
  • 3. JessB

    Jess B

    Jess B Photo: supplied

    Upcoming Auckland rapper JessB was nominated for two NZ Music Awards this year and we reckon the twenty-something is one to watch.

    She released her debut EP, Bloom, in March - and has performed in front of huge crowds at festivals, such as Auckland City Limits, this year.

    JessB’s career took off when prolific NZ hip-hop producer P-Money discovered her music on music sharing platform Soundcloud.

    He became her mentor and produced her EP.

    JessB isn’t afraid to speak her mind in a field dominated by men. Once a star netballer with aspirations to become a Silver Fern, she’s competitive, tough and driven.

    Her raps are as real as her little 90s Mazda, which features in her music videos.

    Although her father is Kenyan, Jess was raised by her Pākeha family.

    Growing up in Auckland, she was drawn to rap and hip-hop, partly because it's often made by artists who look like her.

    JessB will play at Northern Bass festival at Mangawhai from 29 to 31 December 2018 and at Wondergarden in Auckland central on 31 December 2018.

    4. Drax Project

    Drax Project

    Drax Project Photo: Russel Kleyn

    This Wellington quartet, which started out busking on Wellington's Cuba St, found themselves touring the world with Cuban pop sensation Camila Cabello this year.

    The band - featuring guitarist Ben O’Leary, saxophonist Shaan Singh, drummer Matt Beachen and double bassist Sam Thomson - released its breakthrough track, Woke Up Late, in 2017.

    That track, off their latest EP, Noon, won Single of the Year at the NZ Music Awards and the band also took out the award for Breakthrough Artist of the Year.

    They kicked off the year playing support for Ed Sheeran’s New Zealand leg of his Divide World tour.

    The band then sold out two nights at Auckland’s Powerstation within minutes.

    Drax Project will play at Coroglen Tavern near Whitianga on 27 December 2018, in New Plymouth on 3 January 2019, and in Waihi on 5 January.

  • Drax Project: from Cuba Street to supporting a Cuban pop star
  • 5. The Beths

    Indie-pop four-piece The Beths released their debut album Future Me Hates Me in August this year and pretty much became the world's new favourite band.

    The album has been widely praised both here and abroad, appearing in numerous 'best of' lists including Rolling Stone Magazine, NPR and American music mag Paste, who put them at #1 in their list of 2018's best new artists.

    The title track was a finalist for the country's top songwriting award - the Silver Scroll.

    The band have been gigging tirelessly this year including opening for grunge legends The Breeders at their recent Auckland show. In 2019 they'll be touring Europe with Indie pop stalwarts Death Cab For Cutie who gushed about them on Twitter.

    Pitchfork praised the band's debut, saying "It’s an absolute thrill to think about where this young band will take their talent next." We couldn't agree more.

  • The Sampler: Future Me Hates Me by The Beths
  • Anatomy of a Scroll: The Beths, 'Future Me Hates Me'
  • Headquarters: The Beths
  • REVIEW: The Breeders live at The Powerstation
  • 6. Neil Finn

    No caption

    Photo: 2018 Getty Images

    National treasure Neil Finn made it big this year in a whole new, legendary way.*

    Arguably New Zealand's most successful musician, Neil joined British-American rock giants Fleetwood Mac in March.

    He replaced long-time Fleetwood Mac guitarist and singer Lindsey Buckingham for a tour of North America.

    Neil, who originally gained fame in Split Enz and Crowded House, said it was a "natural fit" from the start.

    "It felt fresh and exciting, so many great songs, a spectacular rhythm section and two of the greatest voices ever," Finn said.

    "Best of all, we sounded good together."

    Drummer Mick Fleetwood is a fan of Crowded House and became a friend of the Finn family in 2016.

    He played on three of the tracks on Lightsleeper, an album by Neil and his son Liam Finn that was released to positive reviews in August.

    The album includes the track Hold Her Close which is dedicated to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to mark the birth of her first baby.

    When asked if Fleetwood Mac would be a temporary gig, Mr Finn said "not at all."

    "I'm looking forward to joining my third band and making some good music and having an adventure," he said.

  • REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac with Neil Finn live in California
  • Neil and Liam Finn on their new album Lightsleeper
  • *We know our Neil has been making waves for years now, but we're still super excited about this new collaboration.