11 Nov 2015

Weekly Listening: Hannah Diamond, ILJ, Bespin and more

9:25 am on 11 November 2015

A revolving cast of contributors showcase some of the best new music releases from the past week.


Hannah Diamond – ‘Hi’

Fresh from the uncanny valley of the mysterious PC Music conglomerate is ‘Hi’, a song which comes courtesy of the label’s rising popstar and poster girl Hannah Diamond. Complete with her first ever music video, the track is a significant release for the label that everyone loves to hate.

With ‘Hi’, Diamond laments the state of romantic affairs in the digital age, and in particular the simultaneous closeness and alienation that comes from forming relationships in online spaces. Deceptively simple, the track is full of hidden nuance. When she sings  “I don’t wanna be alone in my bedroom writing messages you don’t read” in her plinkyplonky, synthy British accent, the feeling is familiar enough to be oddly affecting.

Of course this will probably depend on how you feel about PC Music who, sitting somewhere between parody and profundity, seem to prove irksome just by existing. Characterised by a knack for escaping definition, the UK label are as infamous for the mix of admiration and contempt they inspire as they are for their deliberately over-contrived creepy futuristic aesthetic and hyper-stylised, idiosyncratic sound.

Yet you do not need to read a thinkpiece to listen to and enjoy the song. On the contrary, as a sleek and catchy electro-pop track, it is quite capable of standing alone on its merits. Yet for naysayers it is also worth considering in context, and as Diamond deftly cuts through the cynicism and affectation so associated with her ilk, with ‘Hi’ she makes a valid case for the pretentions of PC’s controversial ethos. – Katie Parker

ILJ – ‘Drugs Are Bad / Stay In School’

This is the real deal - drum machine-inflicted pop where the beat seems as much a part of the song as the alternately lethargic and wry vocals. You couldn't imagine the song any other way. The canned feeling acts as a canvas for a surprisingly beautiful descent into doom, or if not doom that grim feeling you get when you know you haven't done the dishes and have people coming over but you end up eating cereal instead and not doing the dishes anyway.

Looming over the whole affair is this sense of play. It’s not the Nintendo kind of play, like Wii Sports or whatever. More like Sarah Mary-Chadwick smirking at us all (there's more than a hint of Mary-Chadwick here). "You're so cool" first begins as a benign catch-all chorus, yet it soon turns - the closest feeling I can conjure up is being backstabbed in high school. But more melodic. And funnier. - Eden Bradfield

Bespin – Osiris EP

Auckland band Bespin have just dropped their first EP, and it’s the kind of release worth getting excited about.

Osiris shows the three-piece paying homage to their influences while remaining unique and compelling. Brooding and immersive, the mournful tone of ‘Up On The Ceiling’ appears reminiscent of 70s prog-rockers King Crimson, with a dash of Pink Floyd’s lazy-yet-precise pacing. Then, bursting through the music comes an exclamation of trebly, warped guitar, which fuses perfectly with the vocals.

Elsewhere, ‘Blue and Blind’ opens with a slow-burning build-up. It’s a pop song, but it’s more nourishing, and it brims with variety and flair. The track has a wonderfully dizzy, lilting quality to it, with a hint of Gish-era Smashing Pumpkins. It’s a nice note to end the EP on.

It’s a diverse range of songs that make up Osiris. Each track has been carefully produced, yet the music is still fresh with dashes of improvisation, taking the listener to interesting and unexpected places. Bespin draw on a variety of musical influences both old and new and the result leaves us with an EP that is full of character, creativity, and inherently catchy songs. – Elizabeth Beattie

cleophus – ‘melting pot’

cleophus is an Auckland based hip-hop artist/producer affiliated with the collective the Grow Room. He’s been making music for a while now, as seen on his very active Soundcloud page and has a pretty incredible selection of tracks, including a dope collaboration EP with another local musician Ashes Holland.

cleophus’ most recent track, ‘melting pot’ is a glitched out song with a heavy emphasis on the monotonous rhythm of the layered drum tracks. Both the reverb-soaked vocals and the calming synth chords help to further support it.

Around halfway through, the track enters the main vocal section. Although quite low in the songs mix, it creates a perfect change by giving a new texture to the song. In a sense, the track plays more with texture than it does with anything else, finding beauty in monotonousness and calmness in chaos. – Fraser Hunter

Party Nails – ‘No Pressure’

‘No Pressure’ is the second single from Party Nails, aka Elana Belle Carroll. It’s 100% dance pop: sunny, but with some teeth, much like Caroll’s LA via NYC origins. If Katy Perry took several steps toward the margins of pop culture, I imagine Party Nails is what she might sound like.

Carroll’s geographic journey has taken her from one side of the continental US to the other, and her musical journey is no less disparate - her previous releases as a solo singer-songwriter over the last five years have ranged from quirky minimal folk to fuzzy blues-country slide guitar. Her debut with Party Nails (‘Break’, released earlier this year on WonderSound Records) saw Carroll ditch the grit and distortion, opting instead for 80s-tinged euphoria. ‘No Pressure’ ups the ante even further with its snappy guitars and slap bass.

Coming from the 25-year-old Carroll, the title itself seems appropriate for the Tinder age. “No pressure holding me back / don’t go, I can’t give you up / I thought you came for me but now you tryna leave / you’re lookin’ for somethin more” speaks to the perceived abundance of choice, but also the ironically ambiguous nature, of negotiating Tinder-style relationships. Stay tuned for an EP due out in early 2016. – Sarin Moddle

Basement – ‘Promise Everything’

Following their break-up in 2012, the chances of a return to former glory didn’t look very promising for Ipswich alt-rock outfit Basement. It appears their decision to parts ways to focus on University was short lived and they broke back into the scene in 2014 with their third EP Further Sky. The reception for the EP was mixed as it deviated from their standard formula.

‘Promise Everything’ is the title track off the Basement’s upcoming third studio album. Taking a step back to a sound that fans of Basement are used to, vocalist Andrew Fisher explores the idea of being hopelessly complacent (“I won’t ask for love, I know it’s there just covered up,” he sings). As described by fans and critics alike, the band’s 90s-style alternative rock is reminiscent of Sunny Day Real Estate, and in ‘Promise Everything’, catchy fuzzy riffs and clever vocal harmonies are strewn throughout.

Every studio album has seen them improve immensely and while Colourmeinkindness is a tough act to follow - especially after a two-year hiatus - ‘Promise Everything’ shows that Basement haven’t lost their touch while they were away. – Joshua Thomas

What's your song of the week? Tell us about it in the comments section.