It has been quite a while since we last featured music from beyond the North American continent. As for the timing, this really is a perfect opportunity to share two very recent single releases from New Zealand that found their way onto our radar. Be sure to spend a little time with both of these tunes, because just like here at home, there is an incredible and diverse music scene down under just itching to be discovered in the northern hemisphere.
Mel Parsons, “Carry On”
We have to credit the popular New Zealand television show, “The Brokenwood Mysteries,” for introducing us to the indie-folk music of Westport, NZ singer-songwriter Mel Parsons. Our discovery of this murder-mystery series came to life thanks to being asked to stay home during the onset of Covid-19 – making this one of the few positive spins attributed to the global pandemic. The inclusion of her single, “Bones,” was played at a pivotal moment during an early episode, and had me scrambling to locate the source of such an outstanding song. “Bones” actually became my most-streamed single in 2020, at least according to the year-end wrap-up provided by Spotify – and I truly believe that to be pretty accurate.
Mel returned to the spotlight just last week with the release of her new single, “Carry On,” a moody and hypnotic track that not only showcases her smoky vocals, but lays down the groundwork for an upcoming new record. Co-written with producer and multi-instrumentalist Josh Logan, and recorded at LOHO Studios in Christchurch, this is her first formal release since her acclaimed 2018 “Glass Heart” album. “How are you I’m doing fine / Another day another line / Daily rollercoaster of sugar and tar / Here I am and there you are.”
Joining Mel (guitars/vocals) are Josh Logan (bass/piano/guitars) and Jed Parsons (drums/backing vocals), with Josh also handling production and mixing duties. Additional mastering comes courtesy of Oliver Harmer at The Lab. Offering a slow and melodic pace, with those honey-tinged vocals and atmospheric instrumentation, I am once again encountering my own OCD that propelled “Bones” to that most-streamed status. “I wish I was a ship steady and strong / There’s nothing I can do but carry on / I wish I could wind back where I went wrong / There’s nothing I can do but carry on.”
Greg Johnson, “Cousins”
Commonwealth Connections by name, Commonwealth Connections by nature – if it wasn’t for the previous Mel Parsons track landing on my listening radar, I may not have found myself perusing her social media pages, and therefore not stumbling across this wonderful track that she just so happened to be sharing news about too. NZ Silver Scroll winning artist Greg Johnson may call Southern California home, but his NZ roots shine strongly through his brand of melodic, lyric-based pop, as we find with “Cousins,” the latest single release from his current “Tilt Your Interior” album.
“Turn the lights down low / I think I’m falling in love with the girls on the Roxy Music album / Turn them down low / We were smoking out the window listening to ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ / Every time I hear a clock strike it takes me back into that room / So turn the lights down low.” During an online interview with Grant Smithies back in May, “Cousins” finds Greg nostalgic for his early years in the South Pacific. “Cousins is a very personal song, but also captures something universal about the allure of music when you’re a kid,” he shares. “A time when many songs feel like a gateway into some sort of adult world you don’t yet really understand.”
Accompanying the single is a fun and heartwarming music video directed by Hollywood stunt performer Mandy Kowalski, filmed on location in both the California desert and the Palmdale suburbs. “The video is very true to the song which is about hanging out with my cousins as kids in Mt Albert in the 1970s,” he shares. “The California house and general theme is pretty close to the truth, although we resisted showing the kids smoking, because, y’know, it’s not really kosher these days, haha!” “In my cousins’ bedroom listening to the Rolling Stones / In my cousins’ bedroom listening to the Rolling Stones.”