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Words Kate Lockyer {Kate Lockyer Music}

New Zealand musician Harper Finn has just shared a spacey, atmospheric EP ‘Newcomer’, a vibrant pop release that is full of Finn’s emerging talent. In 2021, he won Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the Aotearoa Music Awards, and listening to his latest project I can understand why.

The first track on ‘Newcomer’ is the cool yet boppy Dark Side of Summer, where Finn recounts seeing someone he knew, returning as a different person. It follows a familiar formula – lamenting the way someone you loved has changed – but this old story is told through intoxicating lyrical metaphors. Finn sings “There’s a black star attached to you”, sucking the person he knew into it, and that will “burn everything that comes close”. I love the murky synth that frames the song, channelling the brassiness of an organ.

Conversations (With the Moon) possesses some serious supernatural vibes, between the echoey timbre of the instrumental, eerie tones of Finn as he cries “youuuu” and the lyrics, “You know who’s howling out for you / You know it’s conversations with the moon”. The melody in the verses has a haunting lilt to it, but it’s the chorus that is my favourite, as the piano duets with Finn’s smooth falsetto, expanding and carrying the riff into the end of the song as you sit back and wonder what the moon has to say.

The next track, Different Skies, hit #1 on the Hot 20 New Zealand singles chart when it was released, and brings a currency in its effortless, youthful pop vivacity. It combines a relentless beat with bouncy electric guitar riffs and hopeful lyrics: “I want to believe it / We won’t stay apart / I want to believe / We’ll make it back to the start”. The song makes me think of coloured lights swirling over a dancefloor, and a young couple spinning around, holding each other through the dark and the light.

Dance Away These Days starts as a slow, somewhat cynical song, as Finn sings “Does it feel the same? / When you play the game alone?”. His voice holds a few tremors as he sings, but a touch of his attitude comes out with a slight growl in the low notes, revealing his determination to put aside his conflicting feelings and just feel good. “I wanna float in space / Put the music up / I wanna dance away these days”. He speaks to that universal longing for escapism, to forget your worries and, well, dance.

Finn’s EP was shaped by his study at the University of Auckland, where he began to develop and interest in thinking critically about memory. He says his songwriting is in debt to collective consciousness and fleeting snapshots of his youth. I can hear the link in lyrics such as “The past isn’t behind us / We’re looking back to haunt us too / I feel that I’m making a mistake / Because it’s too good to be true”. These lyrics come from She Said, which features high-pitched synth that feels very 80s-inspired, and over a catchy beat, talks about the aspirations and doubts of youth. Finn sings, “I’m going to places in my head / She said / Don’t get ahead of yourself”.

The next track, Euphoria, was coproduced with Alex Burnett and mixed by Eric J Dubowski. It begins strong, with the hook from the chorus, “This is euphoria / When I’m standing right in front of ya” circling around, and then scales back to a breathless, slick first verse. He has the same effortless appeal as Charlie Puth, with those same silky tones, flirty lyrics (“So what about you? / Do you know what I mean?”) and catchy hooks. Speaking on the track, Harper says: “Euphoria was one of the quickest songs I’ve ever written; the title mirrors the high of the creative flow I felt when writing it. It’s about the way you feel when you start a new relationship, the anticipation of a recurrence only adding to the excitement.”

The next song, Good For Me, goes back to basics with a backing of subdued keyboard chords as he asks “Who’s on my side with me? / Oh don’t you know, it was only me”. He pours out his heart in this one, as he realises how one-sided his relationship was, and decides he needs to look out for himself.

The final song on the EP, Runaway, is another slice of the escapist in its imagery and story. I adore the picture Finn paints in the line “I could see forever between the skylight and the moon”. He vows he’ll be far away, jetting off from the runway.

Returning from a writing trip to New York to celebrate the EP’s release, Finn will give fans a chance to dance with him once again by delivering two concerts to celebrate the EP release; a long overdue opportunity to share both already established and new material with his fans. With all the buzz around the images just produced by the James Webb Space Telescope, this subtly space-themed EP feels like the exploratory, escapist pop release we need right now.


Connect with HARPER FINN

With thanks to Warner Music Australia

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