R E V I E W
‘Total Eclipse of my Brain’ EP by Belladonna
By Ian Duggan
“The time has come to open thy heart/wallet” Bandcamp tells me, as I listen freely to Belladonna’s ‘Total Eclipse of my Brain’ EP one too many times. We have been a bit quiet at HUP recently, with seemingly little happening in the music scene to keep us excited, but here is an EP that has pulled me out of my unintentional slumber.
Belladonna is Bella Cook, an ex-Hamiltonian, who despite moving to Wellington at the age of 16 still reflects on the misunderstood city with a genuine fondness. No Kirikiriroa-associated cultural cringe to be seen here, thank goodness. ‘Total Eclipse of my Brain’ is a wonderfully coherent EP - Bella knows her sound – and it features four songs from the top shelf. This isn’t surprising, when looking at her past releases; ‘Hands’, from her 2020 ‘Salty Dog’ EP, was one of the twenty finalists in the APRA Silver Scroll Awards that year, while I hate to think how many times I’ve personally listened to wonderful ‘Kiss Me’ off that same release. Bella knows how to write a great pop song. On the new EP, Bella comes across as a sensitive and nostalgic type, with emotive lyrics and mentions of Hamilton (and suburb Hillcrest) never too far away.
The first track on ‘Total Eclipse…’, ‘Slow Motion’ is representative of songs on the rest of the EP as a whole, with lyrics indicative of Bella’s overtly reflective nature - “I’ve been thinking about my old house…” she sings, and it is at this point she gives us the first mention of her former hometown also. Here she taps into universal feelings that will resonate with anyone with a heart, but it also hits hard at my own personal emotions; the mere mention of my long-term home of Hamilton, a city about which there aren’t nearly enough songs, and a location that isn’t celebrated enough (in song, or otherwise). I think this may be my new favourite Belladonna song…
Second song, ‘Love Like This’, comes with a brand-new video, which she states “reflects how awesome female friendships are”. Scenes in the video of her cycling with a friend remind me of one by some other individuals schooled in Hamilton – that of ‘Raglan City’ by Duchess, which included Anna Coddington and bandmates cruising the streets of Raglan. And then there is ‘Hillcrest’. Hopefully many will already be familiar with this wonderful song, another built on both memories and complicated emotions – an ode, she told us, to both an early crush as well as to the Hamilton suburb itself. Besides the fantastic tune and lyrics, there are some lovely sounds going on in here that the BBC Radiophonic Workshop would have been proud of. Okay, so maybe I can’t pick a favourite Belladonna song, because I am certainly still in love with this one also, many months after first discovering it. The second of the four songs on the EP to have a video, nostalgia runs thick here, with lots of footage of Bella and friends from their younger days, and featuring scenes from the titular suburb, Silverdale and beyond.
Overall, ‘Total Eclipse of my Brain’ is a fantastic EP, which has certainly helped get me excited about music again. And if you run out of listens on Bandcamp, you can find it on plenty of other platforms also!