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2018 Favourite Music Moments

2018 Favourite Music Moments

Thursday 20th December, 2018 2:37PM

What happened in your music world this year? We asked our amazing crew of contributors and staff for their personal takes on what went down - featured below is their favourite musical moments from 2018 for you to explore, ponder over and enjoy. Huge thanks to everyone who contributed to Undertheradar in any way this year! Dive into the expertly selected highlights of the year below, and check out our mighty 2018 End Of Year Playlist, 2018 New Zealand Album Highlights, and 2018 New Zealand Video Highlights...


Fanau Spa - ‘Leather and Wood’
From Fanau Spa’s debut mixtape, this is easily one of my favourite singles of the year and the album is great too - I can’t get enough.

Michael James Keane - The Cascade

A favourite local artist of mine, Michael James Keane of So Laid Back Country China finally let loose his eagerly awaited solo album just last week and it is stunning - dark, intense and heart-achingingly beautiful.

Womb - 'Here We Bend (to Smell the Dirt)'

I love this single and from Womb’s debut album Like Splitting the Head From the Body which is a excellent all round release available on beautiful pink vinyl to complement the artwork.

Bad Sav - 'Hen’s Teeth'

I feel like Bad Sav have been around forever and I’m super glad they stuck at it because I love 'Hen’s Teeth’ from their long awaited self-titled debut album.

The Melancholies - ‘Cute Aggression’

New duo on the scene this year, The Melancholies introduced themselves with this excellent tune which I still can’t get enough of - looking forward to more next year. (Side note - David Byrne live was amazing!!)


APRA Songhub Sphere
In 2018, APRA held Songhub Sphere – the first all-female identifying and non-binary song writing camp from the engineers, producers, photographers to the songwriters. I’ve never been in a room with so many incredible people I identified with, including Prince’s sound engineer Susan Rogers (!). There will be some very special collaborations stemming from this.

The Beths - 'Happy Unhappy'
The Beths seem to be in every end of year best of list but they make me very happy, so I’m including them anyway. I love the excellent lyrics in Happy Unhappy. Also – their great Christmas video for ‘Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ is a real emotional roller coaster and this Beths themed 2048 game on their website is very addictive.

David Byrne - TSB Arena, Wellington, Tuesday 13th November
David Byrne’s concert in Wellington blew my socks on – I really enjoyed learning about how he created the magic here.

Boygenius is my latest band crush.

Laura Jean - 'Girls On The TV
Laura Jean is my favourite slightly awkward musician of 2018 and I think 'Girls on the TV' is a masterpiece, and so is her album Devotion.


The return of Edan
In 2005, New York beatmaker Edan dropped his sophomore record Beauty and The Beat, a sample-heavy lo-fi masterpiece which easily remains one of my all time favourite records. But since that release, the eclectic producer has largely been missing from the musical map. That is until this year, when he returned to form and collaborated with Homeboy Sandman to unleash an excellent eight-song album entitled Humble Pi. The two pair like peanut butter and jelly to serve up a seriously delicious offering. There’s also some fantastic visual treatments like this video, as well as this one.

David Byrne being completely and utterly David Byrne
Earlier this year I wrote a post on Facebook that said: “If there's one concert in history I wish I could have been at, it might just be Stop Making Sense. It's genius and i'm obsessed”. A few months later, I was #blessed and the closest thing possible came true. I got to witness David Byrne bring his American Utopia show to our shores and it was magical. I wrote about it over here.

SWIDT wearing their emotions on their sleeves
When SWIDT dropped ‘No Emotions in the Wild’ earlier this year it was a one-two punch. First of all it had killer production with the hallmarks of my favourite 90s rap records, but the real kicker was the lyrical themes. The kings of Onehunga rapping about mental health, youth suicide and toxic masculinity makes it one of the most important songs of the year. While I’m here, shout out to the current state of Aotearoa hip hop atm in general, Church & AP, Melodownz, Diggy Dupe, JessB. There’s so many people doing good things.

Marlon Williams slaying absolutely everything
Marlon Williams’ debut record was a thing of beauty, but his second record Make Way For Love sees Marlon go from strength to strength as a songwriter. I was thrilled to see him not only scoop the Silver Scroll award for ‘Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore’, but then win Best Solo Artist and Album of The Year at the VNZMAs (and let’s not forget, he also scooped best video for ‘Vampire Again’). HEART EYES EMOJI.

Childish Gambino and 'This Is America'
To be honest, Donald Glover kinda freaks me out. He’s so hyper talented and productive, he seems to operating on a completely different level from the rest of humanity. I imagine that people like him don’t really sleep at night and instead spend time finding patterns in the universe like Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind. So of course, when ‘This Is America’ dropped out of the blue it was A MOMENT. A moment to stop, look, listen and pay attention. Between the song and the amazingly choreographed video there was so much to unpack, and in typical Glover fashion he left it to the audience to do it without hand-holding.


Orchestra of Spheres - 'Koudede'

First Move - 'Reporting from Hell'

The Headless Chickens live at The Others Way Festival - Friday 31st October 2018

Straitjacket Fits / Dimmer, live at The Powerstation, Auckland - Saturday 8th December 2018

Womb - Like Splitting The Head From The Body album


Two Farben live at New Lynn Bowling Club (95bFM's Out On The Freak #3) 
The combination of a show being thrown at an unconventional, non-CBD venue as well as the shredding prowess of Julien Dyne previewing awesome material from his then-forthcoming amazing opus Teal, which was, in itself a highlight for the year.

The Avalanches at Auckland City Limits at Western Springs, Auckland - Saturday 3rd March 

One of my all time favourite bands reformed with a super sweet live drummer, live MCs and a brain melting theremin solo. Yes please! [Check out photos and our review of the show here]

UMO double header at Auckland Town Hall & Whammy Bar, Auckland - Saturday 8th September 

Being able to see my song of the year, 'Hunnybee', twice in one night at the two gloriously juxtaposed but equally awesome venues of Auckland Town Hall and Whammy Bar was a treat among treats. Seeing this alongside thought-provoking doom duo Divide & Dissolve was the icing on the cake. [See our snaps and read our review of the Whammy Bar show here]

All of the amazing releases from Aotearoa

It's been a glorious year for boundary-pushing genres such as hip hop and punk. To say our musical landscape is gobsmackingly fertile at present is a grave understatement. A short, short list of faves includes (but is not limited to) Fanau Spa, Avantdale Bowling Club, Yoko Zuna, Melodownz, High Beams, Raiza Biza x Remi, Bodyache, Stress Ghetto / Sick Old Man, Mother's Dearest, Church of Goya et al.

Coyote vs The Chills 
Everyone loves a good, public domain band beef. This was one of the most cringey/crack up. NZ's answer to the Azelia Banks vs Grimes & Elon Musk debacle.


The following appear in no particular order because who can choose between such wonderful events?

Girls Rock! Camp Aotearoa 
Badass wahine, GNC, NB and trans adults and youth making incredible music and CHANGING THE DANG WORLD! It's happening every year and YOU SHOULD DONATE TO THEM SO IT KEEPS HAPPENING. This is how we deserve nice things and here is one of my fav tracks from the compilation of songs that got written and recorded at this year's camp.


So BEING. is making the BEST MUSIC IN AOTEAROA AND WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT IT ENOUGH. New year's resolution everyone please appreciate the talent of Jasmine Balmer more and start by playing this on repeat forever. You're welcome.

The Beths - Future Me Hates Me 
Hello it's my favourite band, it's your favourite band, it's THE BETHS! But seriously what even needs to be said other than Future Me Hates Me is the best album of the year and Elizabeth Stokes deserves every songwriting award in history so go stream it till your eyes bleed and then buy it for your fam for Christmas to improve their lives and all our lives by making it that much more possible for another Beth's record.

Nakita's set at Going Global

Seriously I have no idea why the fuck this incredible artist isn't ALREADY HUGE WHAT ARE YOU ALL DOING????? Her EP Vision is amazing, the production is tight af, her stage presence, aesthetic, vocals everything WHY ISN'T NAKITA FAMOUS YET? Someone do me a favour and book her some more live shows so I can dance my ass off again to some of the best pop music being made atm please and thank you.

The band SoyMilk from Ōtepoti!!! I've only seen them play once and it was the best show I've been to this year no lie. There was flute, a Journey cover, the saxophonist was dressed as a banana and the most palpable joy I've ever felt in a room. They just played their last gig RIP, but they just finished high school so basically every cool NZ from now on will most likely contain one of these people. The below viddy isn't from the gig I went to but just check it out ok?


Parquet Courts - Wide Awake! 
My favourite international album [stream it here]

The Beths - Future Me Hates Me 
My favourite local album.

The Others Way 2018 - Friday 31st August, Auckland 
My favourite night / gig of the year [check out photos of the festival here].

Snail Mail - Lush 
My most listened to album of the year.

King Krule - 'Forever Dolphin Love' 
Favourite cover of the year.


David Byrne live at Spark Arena, 17th November 2018 
What a treat this concert was. From the refreshingly democratic relationship between Byrne and the band (this was no DB ego project), to the the bold lighting, and the joyful and free choreography (cables nor shoes weighed the performers down) - it’s clear Byrne hasn’t lost his touch.

Princess Chelsea - The Loneliest Girl 
I never really got PC’s schtick before this album, but now I think I do. Once you indulge in the fairy-tale pop aesthetic, you’ll find discussions of nihilist 'time-wasters', critiques of social media, an ode to blue collar workers and PC telling you there’s no shame in missing your woman/man, even if you’re a die-hard feminist.

Eliot Witters live at The Wine Cellar with Earth to Zena, Echo Children, 13th July 2018 
This city-dwelling cowboy delivers hauntingly raw accounts of life and love, out on the range of human existence, but saves you from quietly crying into your drink with a hilarious anecdote or silly joke in between songs.

Connan Mockasin - Jassbusters
The ex-pat’s latest offering is so silky, so slinky, and so smooth. It’s intimate and a little bit naughty. Probably not the thing to play with your mum in the car.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - 'Hunnybee' (song and video) 

This track dropped in the depths of winter, casting a ray of sunshine into the often dreary streets of Auckland. Listening to this track literally feels like liquid honey is being poured into your ear, and the video is so gorgeously lackadaisical - Hunnybee was a lifesaver this winter.


PHF - I Hate Myself
This was my most listened album of 2018. PHF never fails to make my heart burst and melt. With this album PHF’s vocals are more clear and distinct compared to his previous albums, which puts his bare emotions and heartache on show. I appreciate that he’s shared lyrics on his Bandcamp for each song because I’ve learned he doesn’t sing, ‘I’m a pig in a collar” but instead “They’re not picking a colour” in Huff ft. Emily Edrosa.

Coco Solid - COKES mixtape

Coco Solid was my first taste of independent New Zealand music when my sibling introduced her to me before I left high school. Five years later, Coco Solid released COKES while I was hosting 95bFM’s Totally Wired so I immediately organised an interview with her (a highlight of my own broadcasting career so far). I admire Coco Solid’s fearlessness as she raises issues of race, colonisation and identity, meanwhile she also isn’t afraid to be lighthearted and cheeky too with COKES.

°Flarunheize - 'Nimㅇm​~​itㄷallsmㅌ​'

'Nimㅇm​~​itㄷallsmㅌ​' is one of the coolest songs I’ve heard this year yet I don’t know anything about this group (or how to pronounce their name) but I want to hear more from them!

Molly Burch - 'To The Boys'

French Concession covering ‘Future Me Hates Me’ by The Beths
Christchurch dreamy songstress, French Concession, performed a whimsical electronic version of 'Future Me Hates Me' by The Beths at the APRA Silver Scrolls this year. Thanks to Bic Runga, the Musical Director, for making it happen!


Girls Rock! Camp Aotearoa 
The inaugural Girls Rock! Camp Aotearoa was held in Tāmaki this year. It’s billed as a camp “where music is the medium to build confidence, empowerment and foster social change” and it truly is! The week was exhilarating and exhausting and the final concert at Ellen Melville Hall was a confetti fight of talent and happy tears. You can find out more and donate here.

Polyester - Self-titled 
I didn’t know Polyester were gonna be one of my fave bands but it would’ve taken a heart of stone to not be a fan after watching Sylvia paint her vocals across an audience with Amelia dancing joyfully behind the keys. Their Pōneke show at Meow on 7 July was a party of kindness, and the self-titled album they were touring is a timeless classic in my completely objective opinion.

The All Seeing Hand - Syntax Error 

The All Seeing Hand have historically made records that sound like swarming bees and jet engines, with sharp arrangements, confronting lyrics and insanely skilled production. This years brilliant Syntax Error is the lullaby version of this, - it’s the babysitter that you aren’t sure about but you leave your kids with them anyway and when you come home they’ve formed a omnipotent future cult and you’re actually relieved. Fave song ‘Every Leader’.

Tiny Ruins - ‘Olympic Girls’ 

Tiny Ruins has pretty much soundtracked this year and we were lucky enough to see her play a bunch of times, including with Jim White on drums at Parish in Austin for SXSW. Her songs have a type of architecture where all the pain and emotion is noticed, named, and allowed to stay just as it is, all whole and raw and rugged. At this show Hollie played her guitar like a chainsaw, shoving it’s headstock into the air in a series of concise jabs, conducting the band and the audience all at once. This song 'Olympic Girls' is so beautiful too with such a calmly confrontational bassline.

Grimes - ‘We Appreciate Power’ 

Being a Grimes fan has really been a bit of a rollercoaster this year eh, from label fallout with 4AD to anti-imperialist to the Met Gala with Elon Musk to the various think pieces to Azealia Banks. It’s been a constant reminder not to believe everything you read and to keep praying JUST WHEN WILL THERE BE NEW MUSIC PLEASSSSEEEEEEEEEE and then this. fucking. track. which is my new forever obsession forever.


The Naenae Express - Self-titled
Well overdue and yet just in time for summer. The self titled fuzzy offering from The Naenae Express is easily my album of 2K18. It's wonderfully lazy but at the same time complex and earth shatteringly heavy. I'm holding on tight for a release show. Maybe one day.

Coyote vs. The Chills controversy

I'm not sure if this necessarily classifies as a musical moment but the Coyote vs. The Chills incident definitely made my news feed more entertaining for a few weeks. A little on the petty side but it's quite fun watching the internet melt down over something quite trivial. I couldn't find a direct link to the video that sparked the outrage so instead here's their live to air from Radio One 91FM. To be honest Radio One's live to air videos this year deserve a favourite moment spot too. It's refreshing seeing so many quality sounding studio sessions from amazing local artists.

Freak The Sheep's live to air videos
In fact yes a FFMM of mine for this year will be all the amazing live to air videos on offer. Freak The Sheep's live to air videos in particular have been breathtaking. They're such a great way of discovering new local music and encouraging people to actually experience bands with their own eyes. Which in the year of Uber Eats is particularly difficult. I heard Imugi 이무기 for the first time on Freak The Sheep and they've been my favourite band since [watch their live to air here].

Jacina Ardern: NZ Music Month Playlist
This may seem insignificant but one of my favourite musical moments of this year was 'Staple Guard' by Rackets sitting neatly between Lorde and Dave Dobbyn on Jacinda Ardern's Favourite NZ Music Month Playlist. I don't think there's much more to say on the matter really. What a musical trip.

Farewell shows - Golden Dawn + COOL TAN
My last is a tie between farewell shows; Golden Dawn's and COOL TAN's. Both venue and band have been a safe haven for me in Auckland and the farewell's were beyond perfect. Between them there was a lot of sweat, tears, ridiculous bar top dancing and nudity. They were perfect. If I had to pick one moment in particular from them it'd have to be Matthew Crawley and Nicholas Harrison's never-ending joint DJ Set as Golden Dawn's final act. I stumbled away at around 4am as they were playing 'O mio babbino caro'. Or at least that's what my fragmented recollection seems to depict. Either way it's a very poetic memory. For me at least.

This wasn't the version in my head but I just love Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.


Marlon Williams - Make Way For Love 
Every time I listen to Make Way For Love I discover all over again what an extraordinary album it is. I find something new in the lyrics every time. And seeing him triumphantly perform to a packed, sweating, giddy Auckland Town Hall in May was my favourite gig of the year. Watching him receive the Silver Scroll Award was another memorable moment, along with winning Album of the Year at the music awards. He speaks eloquently, sings Christmas carols in te reo Māori, made that wonderful video with the Pou Tiriao Singers, and somehow at the ripe old age of 27, teaches us so much.

The Beths - Future Me Hates Me
Future Me Hates Me is another utterly brilliant album full of insightful, clever lyrics, and amazing melodic vocal lines, and stonking riffs that just make me want to dance. Even the title is impressively poignant. Their sort-of-homecoming-gig at Neck of the Woods (over two nights) was also a triumph of good sweaty fun and youthful exuberance from the stage and the crowd. Seeing Liz Stokes smile as people sang along with every word was awesome. And their session on KEXP is a high water mark in live radio sessions – how do they sound THAT good?

Ladies kicking ass
It was an epic year for remarkable albums by some of my favourite local ladies: Chelsea JadeJulia DeansTami Neilson, and Mel Parsons among them. They’re all independent, all incredibly different, and all showing us how it’s done.

The Others Way 2018 and Splore Festival 2018 

I want to take a moment to reflect on how lucky we are to have festivals like The Others Way and Splore in our fair city of Tāmaki Makaurau. One plucks us from the depths of wintery hibernation and brings us to K Rd for an evening of musical bonding and revelation, and the other is a summery celebration of freedom and colour, and they both always fill me with gratitude for all the people who make music in our city, but also all the people who run venues and promote shows and festivals, and make it possible for fans to have such an incredible time seeing this music live. Arohanui.

** Honourable mention to the David Byrne concert, which (though obviously not local) changed my whole perspective on live concert experiences and was the most creatively inspiring performance I’ve seen in a very long time. Magical.

Teeks' performance of Ria Hall’s Maioha Award winning song at the 2018 APRA Silver Scroll Awards

Not only can Teeks make doves cry with his deeply powerful, rich voice, but he made pretty much everyone in the audience cry with his spine-tingling rendition of Te Ahi Kai Pō, a song Ria wrote with Tiki Taane and Te Ori Paki about the battles of her ancestors, which was made even more overwhelming by the addition of the Ngā Tūmanako choir.


Solange, live at the Sydney Opera House, 1st June 2018
You know when you attend a concert, and there isn't one wasted moment or gesture? This was one of those nights. Perfectly poised, Solange and her immaculately dressed band presented an all-singing, all-playing, all-dancing performance of material from A Seat At The Table. The music was exquisite, the set design was top shelf, and the between song banter; the real deal.

Tirzah - Devotion

This album fucked me up in August, and it's still fucking me up now. Sleep-dusted British RnB with a 90s jaunt and a 2018 lean. It doesn't hurt that Mica Levi provided production, but let's not understate the amount of heavy lifting Tirzah's melodies and lyrics are doing. I hope you like earworms!

Fanau Spa - Self-titled

This one of the most futuristic rap projects I've heard all year. You can literally hear the crew carving out new modes in real time as the songs play out. At the same time, there is a very tangible sense of history and understanding at work as well. Perhaps ancient futurism is a better call.

Willis Earl Beal, live at Dark Mofo - Friday 22nd June 2018

Humour, unvarnished truths, and cosmic soul, all sung and delivered with gusto by a masked man and his iPod Nano. One of the most spare but affecting performances I've seen in years.

Channel Tres - 'Jet Black' 
Aside from how much I love Channel Tres' accessible blend of electro, g-funk and classic house, I really love the video for 'Jet Black' as well, as it gives you such a clear visual indication of where Channel's from and how he's living.


Two albums, three venues.

Julia Holter - Aviary
Echoes of Laurie Anderson and Carla Bley; a maze to wander in. 

Andrew WK - You're Not Alone
Hitting that sweet spot between Jim Steinman, the Ramones, and self-help manuals. [Listen to 'Total Freedom' from You're Not Alone here]

The Fiction Room
Reuben Jelleyman's series of concerts tucked away in Pegasus Books', well, fiction room during the Friday Night Markets were a treat; intimate and in flux with random punters wafting through. Put chamber music in chambers again.

Pyramid Club 
A mainstay of the Wellington experimental scene, Pyramid Club has been a broad church, managing everything from a packed and sweaty Coco Solid show to Wellington contemporary classical ensemble STROMA relocating from the City Gallery, a coup considering how often those from an improv tradition are often suspicious of composer-centric work.

Upoko Alpine Resort
A low-key house venue for all ages shows, this misty Hataitai destination gave me flashbacks to Newtown's late-aughts Spacething. Highlights included Carb on Carb dreamy quiet show with a cellist, fruit juice parade's EP release, and the sense of something coalescing along a hitherto unconsidered twee / emo interzone with bands like namesake and Bad Friend.


Shiraz & LSJ - AkL Maverickz launch party at Raynham Park, Auckland
One of my favourite local releases of 2018, Auckland rap duo Shiraz & LSJ's killer mixtape AkL Maverickz is crammed full of imaginative wordplay and on-point production. A live highlight of the year was seeing them bust out their single 'Clubsmoking' at the mixtape launch party, where they had to instruct the crowd to put out their ciggies after everybody there lit up on the dancefloor.

Suzanne Vega - live at Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna, Tuesday 7th August
Suzanne Vega live in Takapuna on a Tuesday night was also one of my top shows of the year. The stripped back, intimate show featured simply the iconic NYC songwriter with guitar, mic, and one of the best bass players I've ever seen on stage, performing to an enraptured audience of devoted fans hanging off her every word - the event also featured some of the best merch of 2018.

Bib Kids - live at Nowhere! Festival and Audio Foundation, Auckland
I only caught two shows by Auckland electronic duo Bib Kids, but they were right up there with the best of them for 2018. Bib Kids draw stylistic inspiration from 90s gabber techno, but twist that energy in a whole new, super intense, ear-destroying direction - really looking forward to hearing what they've got cooking for 2019.

Records I listened to while doing the dishes
LPs are just the thing to get you working around the house. My fave NZ records for getting the dishes done in 2018 included Kody Nielson's Birthday Suite (on beautiful clear vinyl), Satin Sheets' St Francis (also on dreamy crystal clear vinyl), and Eyeliner's opulent deep-blue vinyl reissue of his vaporwave essential Buy Now.

Michele Mercure - Beside Herself
I got hooked on the music of Pennsylvania-based synthesiser composer Michelle Mercure via her earlier reissue Eye Chant, but RVNG Intl / Freedom To Spend's retrospective compilation Beside Herself (collecting material from 1983 to 1990) really delivers the goods. Like abstract animations for the inside of your ears, Mercure's ever-morphing collection sounds simultaneously like a lot of things and absolutely nothing else.

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