When New Zealand singer-songwriter Anthonie Tonnon announced last December he was releasing a new album, we immediately included it in our most anticipated records of 2015. Successor, Tonnon’s sophomore album, was originally to be dropped in North America in March, but instead it saw a limited release in New Zealand in the spring. Now, at long last, Successor will be hitting digital and physical record stores next week – June 30th to be specific – with Misra Records and Wild Kindness having picked up the distribution rights.
Despite the wait, Tonnon meets all the expectations and delivers a worthy Successor. The first thing noticeable is the music, a combination of pop, rock, and orchestral pop that resounds across New Zealand. The second thing is Tonnon’s songwriting. More accurately, he’s a storyteller, often telling stories through the eyes of the protagonist of each song, and all this against the backdrop of various places of his homeland.
Some of the songs grapple with the transformation of the natural beauty of New Zealand as the country grows, urbanization sets in, and the consequences of economic growth become more apparent. The brilliant “Water Underground” describes the dilemma a single individual faces about protecting nature over supporting the expansion of a town. The excellent opener “Railway Lines” is told through the eyes of an older person who seeks the simplicity of years gone by yet the world around him changes.
The remaining songs have the undertones of life in surburbia. The midtempo strummer, “Bird Brains”, is a single about growing up while “Sugar in the Petrol Tank” has the feeling of a person suffering a midlife crisis. The stories could be autobiographical and/or someone that Anthonie Tonnnon knows (although Tonnon is hardly old enough to have a midlife crisis). The piano-driven pop tune “The Stories of Your Youth” is a reflection of an intoxicating past love. That former flame who still takes our breath away despite years apart. The shimmering “Mt. Cargill”, which is an actual peak north of Dunedin, recalls the crumbling mind of a person who showed much promise.
“The Capital” is a lo-fi number that combines the two themes. It tells of the quickening pace of growth around Wellington and how it has affected its inhabitants. For one, she struggles to keep up with the city’s progress and everything around her. The clever word play in the song depicts Tonnon’s allegorical style. As he sings at the beginning:
I love to see you swimming against the motorways
And they’ll try to say the city is in transition
But you can’t wait on that line
So just come out tonight
We can drown out all the memories between the traffic and the sea
While he made us wait an extra three months to hear the album, Anthonie Tonnon’s Successor is a triumph. It’s not just another pop-rock album, but one with the heart and soul of a generation as well as a country. It is a record that captivates with each note and lyric. A record that grabs hold and never lets go. It is, to date, one of the best of the 2015.
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