SJD is the musical project of Sean Donnelly (he/him), a musician and songwriter from Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland), and currently based in Ōtepoti (Dunedin), under the Mozart Fellowship at Otago University.
SJD takes a piecemeal approach to genre, thoughtfully employing electronics, strings and sounds to subvert the traditional 3 minute pop song structure. A quiet overachiever, SJD is one of Aotearoa’s most lauded songwriters, winning two Aotearoa Music Awards, the Taite Music Prize (in 2013 for Elastic Wasteland), and was shortlisted for the APRA Silver Scroll in 2007 for his song Beautiful Haze.
Today SJD proudly releases his ninth album Sweetheart, released digitally and on vinyl LP. Sweetheart features an impressive cast of contributors, including Tami Neilson, Don McGlashan, James Milne, Anika Moa, Julia Deans, Deryk, EJ Barnes, Sandy Mill, Peau Halapua and Chris O’Connor.
“I felt the strong impetus to complete an album after the first lockdown in 2020”, says Donnelly. “There was a surge of inspiration and energy and I wanted to capitalise on it-I didn’t expect to get quite as obsessive as I did!”
Sweetheart is a bold statement, tackling thoughts of isolation, loneliness, and depression. “It's about trying to break out of isolation and make contact with the very real people that surround you. About trying to be a good human and what that means in the weird fucked-up pseudo sci-fi world that we live in.”
“I see Sweetheart as a bit of a chocolate box of an album. Lots of bittersweet and crunchy exteriors with sweet fondant centers. It’s also to some extent ironic, because the making of it caused me quite a lot of grief and anxiety in trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to say and how to say it. I think it also obliquely refers to the muse, and the sometimes fraught, sometimes sweet but always very necessary relationship that you have with the muse when you’re in the midst of making an album.”
Side A bubbles with arpeggiators, wiring electronics and driving drum machines, “I wanted to get the bright electronic textures of hyper pop into the songs and set the narratives against an almost sci-fi backdrop.” Tracks are reminiscent of SJD’s early 00’s albums, Southern Lights (2000), Songs From A Dictaphone (2007) and Dayglo Spectres (2008).
Side B draws on SJD’s later works, and evokes a considered and more organic approach to songwriting. Echoing his Taite Prize nominated album Saint John Divine (2015), tracks like Waterhole, Pocket Full Of Change and Did Somebody Call My Name are more mellow in their composition, offering soulful chamber pop. The acoustic arrangements give space for Donnelly’s voice to tug at the listeners heart strings.
When asked to reflect on the album, Donnelly responds “I definitely felt a great deal of relief when the album was finished-I feel like it’s a pretty strong piece of work.”
- My Exploding Head
- I Just Can't Wait
- A Walk In The Park With A Beautiful Friend
- You Are The Movement
- Let Me Go Home
- A Pocket Full Of Change
- I Want You
- Good Time
- The Midas Glove
- I Want You (Reprise)
- Did Somebody Call My Name