The small country of New Zealand has produced some great musicians recently. Everyone knows Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor – or Lorde. The Naked and Famous are among the top indie synth-pop bands today. Liam Finn is adored in indie circles for his rock, pop, and folk approaches. Tiny Ruins is an emerging, young indie band from Auckland. Another young band set to make waves is the duo Black City Lights.
Composed of Calum Robb and Julia Catherine Parr, Black City Lights is a psychedelic, synth-pop band from Wellington, New Zealand. The band they most remind me of is Baltimore’s Celebration, as Parr, like the amazing Katrina Ford, has a remarkable, soaring voice that lifts a song to new heights and Robb’s ability to create hypnotic and haunting beats and sounds. There is a also a bit of The Naked and Famous in their use of synths to be the bridges in songs, the UK’s Daughter for their honest and personal lyrics, and Vancouver’s Belle Game, as the music at times has orchestral pop overtures.
The duo is relatively new. Robb and Parr met in 2010 through mutual friends, and at the time Robb was dabbling in synth textures and sounds while Parr was concentrating on a music degree at Victoria University. They released a single track as an experiment, “Collapsing Horizon”, before formalizing their partnership with their debut EP, the terrific Parallels, which was released in 2012. The atmospheric “Rivers” and the enthralling “Parallels” are the standouts on the six-track EP.
A year later, they released their debut, full-length album, Another Life – 10 new tracks of stirring orchestral, dark, synth-pop. While the album takes a similar format to The XX (an intro to open the album and an interlude in the middle as sort of an intermission), Black City Lights‘ sound is much more stirring than the renowned UK trio. The slow building, house-infused rhythms of “Children”; the floating groove of “Offering”; the tripping “Another Life”; and the breathless, haunting “Take Me Home” are the must listens.
Their breathtaking approach to synth-pop has resulted in Black City Lights receiving notice from some of the biggest indie synth and electronic bands in the business. In addition to The Naked and Famous, they’ve opened for Grimes and Baths. A year ago, they were reward a grant from the New Zealand government to help them promote their music abroad.
The duo have toured a bit in the last year-plus, which included a performance at the excellent and intimate Glasslands Gallery in Brooklyn. With the soundscapes they are producing and as more and more people get to know this young band, it won’t be long before they be headlining major venues across the globe.
Parallels and Another Life can be purchased on their Bandcamp page, iTunes, Amazon, and eMusic. Both albums were released by Brooklyn boutique label Stars & Letters. Both albums are also provided below.
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