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Taite Music Prize 2024: Nominees Recommend the Next Big Thing

Erny Belle, Tiny Ruins, Tom Lark, and others give props to the Best Independent Debut Award nominees

Taite Music Prize Best Independent Debut nominees

L-R: D.C. Maxwell, Soft Plastics, Jujulipps

In our local music scene, established artists can really boost up-and-comers. That’s why this year’s Taite Music Prize finalists, all in the running for one of Aotearoa music’s top awards, are giving props to their fellow nominees for the Best Independent Debut Award.

Keep an eye out for these three standout acts – they’re ready to make a big impact and could be competing for the top prize themselves very soon.

The 2024 Auckland Live Best Independent Debut Award award celebrates emerging talent, with the winner receiving a $2000 cash prize plus a performance or technical upskilling opportunity. 

This year’s three nominees span atmospheric indie rock, thrilling hip hop, and theatrical alt-pop, all with remarkably assured debut albums:

D.C. Maxwell – Lone Rider (Danger Collective Records)
Jujulipps – Get That Shot (Bigpop Records)
Soft Plastics – Saturn Return (Independent)

Vera Ellen, Tiny Ruins, and Erny Belle are among the Taite Music Prize main award nominees, with the winner announced on Tuesday, April 23rd. Find out more information about the prize here.

Rolling Stone AU/NZ has brought you comprehensive coverage of the Taite Music Prize 2024 nominees over the past 12 months. Check out our features on the following nominated artists:

Dick Move
Erny Belle
Home Brew
Tiny Ruins
Vera Ellen
Soft Plastics
D.C. Maxwell

Ebony Lamb

“I think Jujulipps is one of the most standout artists I’ve come across in the last year, she is absolutely a world-class performer that has made a phenomenal EP, Get That Shot. ‘Airplane Mode’ is a gripping single, but all the tracks have incredible production, lyrics, and a vocal execution that melts my brain, it’s so good.

“Mostly I think that Jujulipps speaks in such a direct way musically, totally on point with no holds barred. The live shows totally floored me, you cannot help but be moved and became a devotee. I think mostly the belief of self is so evident and it’s refreshing and a bit of a firecracker under the roof of Aotearoa pop culture.” 

Mermaidens (Gussie Larkin)

Soft Plastics is my pick for Best Independent Debut. Saturn Return is such a perfectly wistful record – it could be the soundtrack for a forgotten David Lynch film. Jonathan [Shirley]’s guitars seem to cry and whine, whether blasting you with full fuzz or wavering with tremolo. And Sophie [Scott-Maunder]’s voice! The way she writes her melodies is so complementary to her voice, and you can tell she’s relishing the performance.

“We’ve known each of the band members for a long time, and we’re proud of them for putting out such a brilliant record.”

Tom Lark

“Very hard to pick a favourite as all three are so good. But I think my favourite Independent Debut nominee this year  is Soft Plastics – Saturn Return. It’s such a cool sounding album. It’s bold and summery with really timeless pop moments. I think it’s really well produced too.”

Erny Belle

All three Debut nominations are wonderful, but if I had to pick I’d go D.C. Maxwell’s Lone Rider as I’m naturally more drawn to a dusty highway on horseback…. or a shitty motel drinking whiskey. I think the album is intense in an unapologetic rock ‘n’ roll sense. The production is slick, the songs are very clever. Everything I personally love about songwriting. A theatre act. Don’t fuck with D.C. Maxwell, but really his hearts worn on sleeve. Bleeding.” 

Dick Move (Hariet Ellis) 

“Our pick is Soft Plastics – Saturn Return. Inner strength through emotion — hell yeah! It’s always nice to hear feelings expressed delicately and defiantly in the same breath, especially wrapped in wonderful, gritty pop sounds. This band has been a mutual favourite of the members of Dick Move — and Sophie, Laura [Robinson], and Jonathan are some of the funniest, loveliest, hard-working people in the music scene, so this nomination is so well deserved.”

Shepherds Reign (Oliver Leupolu) 

“It was [a] hard choice between us, but we’ve chosen D.C. Maxwell as our favourite EP/LP. We loved the lush and organic production that helps to bring the storytelling to life. The LP as a whole has a cohesive sense of style and atmosphere. Almost like a soundtrack to a good movie.

“Special shoutout to “Special” by Jujulipps. That track is a banger.” 

Vera Ellen

Soft Plastics – Saturn Return felt like an instant classic from the first spin. Each song possesses a comforting familiarity which is a sign of really smart songwriting. Aptly named – it really is one of those albums you can keep returning to and get something different from each listen. There’s a real maturity and cohesiveness to their sound as a band so it being their debut is extremely impressive.”

Tiny Ruins

“Soft Plastics – this is such a woozy, great concept album. Love the production, the honest songwriting and the beautiful vocals.”