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Song You Need to Know: Erny Belle, ‘Unchained’

Like her alt-folk contemporary Faye Webster, Belle moves effortlessly through her songs

Erny Belle

Erny Belle

Babiche Martens

Earlier this year, Erny Belle featured in Rolling Stone AU/NZ‘s list of Eight Kiwi Artists Tipped to Take Over. “Listening to Belle is to wish you were sitting on the family porch, surrounded by your nearest and dearest, playing music against the dying sunlight,” we wrote at the time.

In the mesmerising music video for her first single of the year, “Unchained”, we are still in Belle’s company against the fading sunlight, but the family porch has been replaced by a sauntering bus, weaving its way along country roads.

The video – co-directed by the Ngāpuhi singer-songwriter and Matt Hunter – entirely fits the unhurried pace of “Unchained” and Belle’s distinctive style at large. In the musical world of Belle, everything is relaxed but purposeful.

Like her alt-folk contemporary Faye Webster, Belle moves so impressively effortlessly through her songs; both produce swaying melodies that threaten to sink into background noise but swim back into one’s consciousness in a sudden moment.

Belle’s gracefulness shines on the gorgeously composed “Unchained”, which she explains is about being open to an unforeseeable future. “It’s about releasing myself from feeling unworthy and incapable of getting what I deserve. The wisdom of knowing that certain things will make sense eventually, so there’s no need to worry,” she says.

Aimee Renata seemed to unveil her Erny Belle project out of nowhere with her 2022 debut album, Venus Is Home, sounding already like an artist fully aware of their vision and form, and 2023 been a deserved breakout year for the singer-songwriter.

Venus Is Home earned Belle a nomination for the prestigious Taite Music Prize, while she was also up for the Best Independent Debut Award. She and her band followed that with a headline Hōtoke tour, which culminated in two spellbinding shows at Auckland’s Point Chevalier RSA.

Now, her – and our – attention turns to the second album, which, if “Unchained” is any indication, should be a record of note when it’s released.

Erny Belle’s “Unchained” is out now via Flying Nun Records.