REVIEW: Estère 'My Design, On Others' Lives'
Words: Emilee Johnson
For a country with a relatively small population base, New Zealand has certainly been punching above its weight in recent years when it comes to female singer-songwriters. We've had Georgia Notts of Broods, Gin Wigmore, Ladyhawke and not to mention a little singer by the name of Lorde. You can now add Estère to that list, who's album My Design, On Others' Lives is released today.
The release, billed as a double album, is made up of two albums - My Design and On Others' Lives. My Design, with six tracks, was first released in October 2017 and today’s release sees On Others' Lives, also featuring six tracks, complete the set. Estère says she wanted to tease the release out to "give the songs space to breathe" and the tactic has worked - there is certainly no lack of cohesiveness between the two albums despite the different release dates.
Estère calls her musical genre ‘electric blue witch-hop’ and there is certainly an otherworldly, undefinable aspect to her music. Pop music on the surface, there is always a twist that makes it intriguing, unique and eminently listenable. Take ‘Ambition’, which tells the story of a prostitute who wants to be the president of the USA, wouldn’t sound out of place in a 1940s jazz club but is underpinned by a synth bassline straight out of the 1980s. Or anti-gun violence track ‘Gun Kid’, punctuated with bullet fire and a screaming crowd, switches from hard rap to warm acoustic guitar. Recent single ‘Rent’ is a highlight, with its booming chimes, skittering breakdown and multiple-key-change chorus, as is the perky, swinging ‘On Another’s Life / Under Water Whale Knowledge’, which is possibly the first song in the history of pop music told from the perspective of a whale. And although they have been out in the world for some time now, the thumping ‘Control Freak’ and funky ‘Pro Bono Techno Zone’ from the My Design half of the album are still as jaw droppingly good as they were when first released.
On an album that purposefully steers clear of ‘personal dilemma’ lyrics, the ballad ‘Grandmother’ is the closest Estère gets to a love song. A touching ode to family, love and the grandmother she never met (also named Estère), it is in many ways the emotional heart of the album. It is proof that while Estère may be rooted in electronic based music, she has a talent that can pull off anything. While her 2015 self-titled debut album was disappointing, My Design, On Others’ Lives confirms Estère is one of the most exciting and unique talents on the music scene right now. Prepared to be impressed.