Not Your Cupid
by Erny Belle
Last year’s Venus is Home album by singer-songwriter Erny Belle (Aimee Renata, Ngāpuhi) was an impressively crafted work which led to her being nominated for Taite prizes in the best independent album and best independent debut album categories. Recorded in the summer of 2019, it was folk-pop with wistful Pacific-kissed songs (Island Time), a homely specificity (the local Four Square and warm cask wine at Nana Venus’s place on the title track) and a serious purpose (Hell Hole, Chuck It In the Trash).
On the dreamy Nuclear Bomb, she married a delightful country melody with 21st-century nihilism: “I’m gonna go and smoke some P and put my baby in a washing machine and pray to God that a nuclear bomb’s gonna kill me.”
Despite the bleak message about humankind – “bad habits run deep so it’s all bound to fall down again” – the reckoning never sounded so inviting. And Covid hadn’t even hit.
Her economic follow-up, Not Your Cupid – nine songs in half an hour, recorded at Auckland’s Roundhead Studios – confirms a major talent now embellishing her captivating, cryptic alt-pop with gentle steel guitars, strings, piano and Indian instruments.
There’s more emotional brightness now: Unchained speaks of being comfortable with uncertainty knowing things will work out; Pitt Stop is a sharply observed moment wrapped in deft electro-pop; Stay Golden is an injunction to remember but move forward.
Earlier this year, Rolling Stone Australia/NZ picked Belle as one of “Eight Kiwi Artists Tipped to Take Over”. Good call.
On the sophisticated title track, she signals, “I want to see the world someday, that’s where I’m going, it’s so easy to get tied to this town … I’m living in the future.”
With Not Your Cupid, which entered the New Zealand albums chart at No 2, Erny Belle is moving up and out.
Sings Dylan: The 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert
by Cat Power
Have we reached peak Dylan? At 82, he’s touring to great acclaim, mixing deep cuts with recent songs. There’s the expanded reissue of his 1978 Budokan live album (the tour that brought him to Auckland’s Western Springs), exhibitions of his paintings, new biographies and Chrissie Hynde’s 2022 tribute, Standing in the Doorway.
Last November at London’s Royal Albert Hall, Cat Power – no stranger to recording tribute albums – replicated Dylan’s 1966 Manchester Free Trade Hall show where someone notoriously shouted “Judas”, a concert long misattributed as having occurred in London. Dylan – playing an acoustic first half and an electric second with the makings of The Band – was booed by folkies who believed he’d betrayed them. He played on.
Some might argue that because Dylan’s contentious, combative Manchester concert has been officially released, Power’s tribute is redundant. But she brings empathy, distinctive intonation and different emphasis to the acoustic songs, locating their elegant melodic beauty (among them the 12-minute Desolation Row). If, in the electric half, she doesn’t tap Dylan’s sometimes venomous delivery (Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, Ballad of a Thin Man, his furious Like a Rolling Stone after the “Judas” jeer) that’s understandable. Different times.
But the same extraordinary, if elliptical, songs.
These albums are available digitally, on CD and vinyl.