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58: Debut EP from LIBBY JOHNSTON becomes a staple in our indie-pop playlists...

There are core moments when being a music journalist that stick with you forever: writing your first review, hitting that reader milestone, and finding those special gems in the song submissions that you can't stop listening to. The latter happened to us this week, with New Zealand's Libby Johnston and her debut EP 'Libby'. Unleashing her full potential at a critical point where the likes of Maggie Rogers, Lizzie McAlpine and MUNA are taking over the world's radar, Libby's EP is completely in this moment, and will soon be a staple in your indie-pop diet. We couldn't NOT talk about this collection of chart-ready bangers, so let's get straight into it...

 

Track One: 'Handle with Care'

'a mirage of lovestruck thoughts'

The perfect introduction of what's to come in the rest of the record, opening track 'Handle with Care' eases you into the world of Libby with angelic melodies and reflective lyrics: a mirage of lovestruck thoughts against the conflicting uncertainty of past flits in romance. An array of dreamy synths and an endless sub-bass void whisk you through this heart-filled tragedy, opening up the more vulnerable side of Libby's writing straight away in this EP, eagerly leaving you suspended amongst the soaring melodies and craving more. Co-written with fellow artist Joey Miceli, this track in particular sets the standard high in terms of professionalism and expectation for the rest of the EP, a subtle excitement bubbling effortlessly from a monologue of disputing perspectives into a huge final refrain of harmony and infatuation to close the first offering.



Track Two: 'Aftermath'

'arguably the catchiest song you'll listen to for the rest of this year'

With lo-fi guitars and a nostalgic retro synth, we're quickly transported from a moment of longing in 'Handle with Care' to a burst of energy in the sophomore track, 'Aftermath'. Arguably the catchiest song you'll listen to for the rest of this year, Libby takes the task of creating an indie-pop anthem and exceeds all requirements; everything from her breathtaking vocals to the sterling production elements oozing ready-made indie darling. A direct response to her debut single 'Right Person, Wrong Time' from 2023, 'Aftermath' is a reflection upon past wounds, and a realisation that you're doing much better in the present. Made for singing into your hairbrush at the top of your voice, Libby's upbringing on 00s Taylor Swift and feel-good pop is woven into the foundations of this track - the perfect remedy for any time you're feeling used or disrespected.



Track Three: 'Daydream'

'the lyrics place the listener right between the pages of a modern day romance novel'

Contemplative and all-exposed, 'Daydream' is an uplifting, all-torches-in-the-air take on an all-encompassing love: both inspiring and hopeful. MUNA-esque in production and style, everything focuses on the clean-cut vocals and ever-flowing melodic rhythm, whilst the lyrics place the listener right between the pages of a modern day romance novel. All elements of this ballad point to the poignant bridge - nothing but mesmerising vocoder harmony and a feathery bed of synths taking you through to the final elevated chorus. After the aftermath of the dynamic track two (no pun intended), 'Daydream' is a breathe of emotion mid-way through the EP; a chance to reflect on the journey so far.



Track Four: 'Ruins' ft. Joey Miceli

'a nod to their understanding of musicality and arrangement'

The dream-team duo of co-writers for this EP, both Libby Johnston and Joey Miceli feature on this exploration of unrequited love in track four, entitled 'Ruins'. Led by a provoking piano line to start, a strong drum and synth-bass backline join in to ground us against the rubble and rough edges of loving someone that doesn't love you back - a snap back into harsh reality after the rose-tainted 'Daydream' before it. Pushing to each extreme of their vocal ranges, the verses hold an earthy quality of emotion whilst the choruses are a scream out of frustration and confusion amidst the turbulent relationship - the subtle swapping of harmony parts a nod to their understanding of musicality and arrangement.



Track Five: 'Eldest Child'

'a moment of sentiment'

The final refrain in the five track work of art, 'Eldest Child' is both delicate and self-assured - a perfect conclusion after the unrest in the rest of the record. A letter to their younger self, Libby reflects upon life's happenings to leave us feeling comforted and understood: a personal yet widely recognised message of encouragement in a world of conflict. The intimate vocals backed by raw acoustic guitar and finely crafted synth-scape offer up a moment of sentiment, gradually building into an outburst of soul at the end: lyrics modelled as final words to the eager listener in the concluding seconds of the EP draw to a close.


 

Listen to the debut EP, in full, down below - and be sure to follow Libby on @libjohnston on socials to keep up to date with all her happenings!



Review No. 58

by Meg Shaw, Local & Live Media



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