Staff Picks – The Best Of 2019: CDs Part 1

While we are looking forward to presenting a larger collection of AV material at our next Pop-up Library, here are some of our Library Staff’s favourite picks from lat year – all of which can be found at our Arapaki Branch on Manners Street.


Neil J’s Picks:
Songs from the bardo / Anderson, Laurie
A deeply Meditative and gorgeous album with Laurie Anderson reading excepts from The Tibetan Book of the Dead over minimalism musical backgrounds some of which are provided by Patti Smith’s daughter Jesse Paris Smith .

Ghosteen / Cave, Nick
On lots of peoples best of 2019 list and rightly so. This is their / his most personal album subtle , carefully crafted and in some aspects experimental without the joyous veneer of drama found in some of the bands previous albums.

Anima. / Yorke, Thom
His third solo album Anima is another interior electro acoustic work. It is one of his most fully realised works one in which he has totally escaped the long shadow of his Radiohead work. Ever since Radiohead’s giant leap into new musical territory with Kid A, Yorke has been exploring the world of what is loosely described as electro acoustic music Anima continues this trend. This album feels like he has fully found his solo voice free from any Radiohead influences.

Flamagra. / Flying Lotus
This album has a lot of everything guest musicians, styles, approaches to the sound. And in some cases this could sound confused and muddled. Where it really comes together is its creative free formed explosion of sounds it is so immersed in pushing the contributor’s creative boundaries that it is impossible to leave out of any best of 2010 list.

Rainford. / Perry, Lee
U Sound’s the legendary dub outfit are behind the latest release from maverick reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry. Rainford contains all of Lee Perry’s unique stylings his wonderful iconic unmistakable vocal drawl and his trade mark free form lyrical style superbly combined with U Sounds musical production. The later dub remixed version Heavy rain is also worth a mention it is weirder and warmer and arguably an even better version of the material in Rainford.

Shinji’s Picks:
Jaime. / Howard, Brittany
Dedicated to her sister Jaime, who taught her piano and poetry but died young, Alabama Shakes’ lead singer Brittany Howard’s solo effort is a triumph. She presents a very personal, deeply emotional world, touching complex subjects such as mixed-race, sexual minority and religion. However, her remarkable voice and the edgy arrangements make it standout pop music of today.

The gospel according to water. / Henry, Joe
Joe Henry found out that he had stage 4 Prostate cancer late 2018, but only a year down the line, he released this marvellous album. This intimate and compelling collection of songs show that he still has a lot of stories to tell, and will be remembered as his masterpiece. Sublime.

Love will find a way. / Bailey, Philip
What a pleasant surprise! One of the founders of Earth, Wind and Fire, Philip Baily’s first solo release in 17 years is a superb jazz soul album. Employing accomplished jazz musicians on the scene, including Robert Glasper and Kamasi Washington, seems to rejuvenate him and he is leading the charge with his signature falsetto voice. Younger than yesterday.

Kiwanuka. / Kiwanuka, Michael
In his music, there are a lot of retro feelings and the shadows of the likes of Marvin Gaye, Terry Callier, Curtis Mayfield, Bob Dylan and above all Bill Withers. The London soul singer excellently updates the musical essences of these legends and makes it organic yet emotional modern music.

Characters on a wall. / Sclavis, Louis
French clarinetist Louis Sclavis has a long association with ECM records, which celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2019. His 13th album for the label is inspired by the paintings of urban artist Ernest Pignon-Eenest. It’s one of the ESM’s most low-key albums in 2019 but exquisitely executed chamber jazz and gets better with every listen, which is very ECM.

Circuits. / Potter, Chris
One of the most prominent jazz musicians of today, the saxophonist Chris Potter’s new album is not from ECM, where he made his home for last few albums, but a brilliant one. Infusing funk, electronica etc., the album abounds in ample creative energy and features vibrant grooves and intense improvisations. Superb.

The undivided five / Winged Victory for the Sullen
Moving to Ninja Tune was surprising but this ambient duo deepened their well-established cinematic, dream-like music world. From the simple yet intricate compositions, they create the soundscape of shimmering beauty, somewhere between post-classical, drone and ambient.

All encores. / Frahm, Nils
German post-classical, electronica artist Nils Frahm nicely compiles his three EP releases; ‘Encores 1’ (featuring solo piano and harmonium),’Encores 2’ (ambient) and ‘Encores 3’ (dub, house-ish). It makes a great pair with the brilliant 2018 album ‘All Melody’, and showcases his exceptional talent as a sound creator.

Drift series 1 : sampler edition. / Underworld
In November 2018, Underworld set out on a project called ‘Drift’ and released music, videos, essays etc. every week for a year. Now this ambitious project has been completed and published in various mediums. This sampler shows that this veteran duo is still in a top form and offers a joyous listen.

Losst and founnd. / Nilsson, Harry
The wait is over. Harry Nilsson died in 1994 at the age of 52 just after finishing recording new materials, which was never released. This lost gem has finally come out thanks to producer Mark Hudson who did a great job to make it a complete album. The result is a wonderful pop album showcasing ‘classic’ Nilsson world; strong melodies and unique humour. Wish you were here, Harry!

Jonathan’s Picks:
Ghosteen / Cave, Nick
All mirrors. / Olsen, Angel
Designer. / Harding, Aldous
Magdalene. / FKA twigs
Anima. / Yorke, Thom

Exciting New Arrival CDs

New arrival CDs feature fantastic new albums by some of the biggest names of the industry such as Nick Cave and Coldplay as well as our very own super band Six60. Amazing box-sets also keep coming. They include Freddie Mercury’s Never Boring, which brings together his solo performances for the first time, and 1982 by Fall. Check them out!

New Albums

Six60 [2019]. / Six60
“As they continue making history, award-winning New Zealand sensation SIX60 releases their third self-titled album featuring the hit single ‘The Greatest’, and the two new tracks ‘Please Don’t Go’ & ‘Raining’.” (adapted from mightyape.co.nz)

Ghosteen / Cave, Nick
“Two CDs. ‘The songs on the first album are the children. The songs on the second album are their parents. ‘Ghosteen’ is a migrating spirit.’ – Nick Cave. The album was recorded in 2018 and early 2019 at Woodshed in Malibu, Nightbird in Los Angeles, Retreat in Brighton and Candybomber in Berlin.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Kiwanuka. / Kiwanuka, Michael
“‘KIWANUKA’ is the follow-up to Michael’s number 1 album, ‘Love & Hate’, released back in July 2016, that resonated broadly both critically and in the public’s affections, netting the British musician his second Mercury Prize nomination and his second and third BRIT nominations too. ‘KIWANUKA’ finds a new assuredness in Michael’s writing, and takes the basic sonic blueprint of that last record to a dizzying new realm.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Once upon a mind. / Blunt, James
“After flirting with electronica on his last album (2017’s ‘The Afterlove’), Blunt returns to what he does best on ‘Once Upon a Mind’, writing classic songs that touch both the heart and the head. ‘Once Upon A Mind’ sees Blunt collaborating with a variety of producers such as Steve Robson, Jimmy Hogarth and TMS.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Magdalene. / FKA twigs
“Created in a period where her confidence was knocked following heartbreak and laparoscopic surgery, ‘MAGDALENE’ is the sound of twigs reconfiguring, emotionally and physically. As she sings on ‘Mary Magdalene’, the MAGDALENE album track that opened her highly-praised, sold-out live shows earlier in the year, “A woman’s time / A woman’s work / A woman’s time to embrace / She must put herself first”.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Everyday life. / Coldplay
“‘Everyday Life’ is the eighth studio album by the British rock band, and is an album presented in two halves: ‘Sunrise’ and ‘Sunset’, featuring a stunning array of music, that is sure to surprise and delight their global fanbase.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Box sets/ Reissues

Never boring. / Mercury, Freddie
“The “Never Boring” box set brings together for the first time a specially-curated selection of Freddie Mercury’s music, visuals and written and spoken words. The set reminds us that Freddie was an exceptional singer, songwriter, performer and human being whose special kind of magic is captured in this exceptional collection of his solo work.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

The complete RCA albums collection. / Simone, Nina
“9CD BOX SET / The Clamshell box contains a 34 page booklet with the story about Nina Simone, beautiful pictures and all the information about the nine CD’s, all from the RCA collection.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Travelin’ thru : the bootleg series vol. 15, 1967-1969 / Dylan, Bob
“The latest chapter in Columbia/Legacy’s highly acclaimed Bob Dylan Bootleg Series revisits Dylan’s pivotal musical journeys to Nashville, from 1967 to 1969 focusing on previously unavailable recordings made with Johnny Cash and unreleased tracks from the John Wesley Harding Nashville Skyline and Self Portrait sessions Bob Dylan (featuring Johnny Cash) Travelin Thru.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Monster [deluxe]. / R. E. M
“‘Monster’ is indeed R.E.M.’s long-promised “rock” album; it just doesn’t rock in the way one might expect. Instead of R.E.M.’s trademark anthemic bashers, ‘Monster’ offers a set of murky sludge, powered by the heavily distorted and delayed guitar of Peter Buck. Michael Stipe’s vocals have been pushed to the back of the mix, along with Bill Berry’s drums, which accentuates the muscular pulse of Buck’s chords.” (Catalogue)

Every move you make : the studio recordings. / Police (Musical group)
“Following the 40th anniversary vinyl box, we present a limited edition 6-CD box set edition, featuring all five studio albums + a bonus disc. Includes an exclusive bonus 12-track disc – ‘Flexible Strategies’ comprised of non-album b-sides (including very rare remix of ‘Truth Hits Everybody’) and remastered at Abbey Road Studios. The collection features 14 top-20 singles, including five number ones! Four of the albums reached number one and went on to sell millions of copies around the world.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

[1982] / Fall (Musical group)
“1982 was a decisive year for The Fall. Their critically acclaimed album “Hex Enduction Hour” was released in March on Kamera Records, closely followed by “Room To Live” in September. This six-disc boxset brings together those two classic albums alongside a host of John Peel sessions, Kamera singles, live performances and the group’s live album “In A Hole”, recorded during their tour of New Zealand and originally released on Flying Nun Records.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Hunting high and low [4CD]. / a-ha
“Anyone who dismissed a-ha as a one-hit wonder must have missed out on the band’s fine debut, ‘Hunting High and Low’. Though the band spawned many further hits across the rest of the world, “Take on Me” exploded in the States and the group never cracked the top of the charts again. It’s a shame, because the album contains a handful of songs that nearly match the manic energy and emotional crack of its big hit. Further, it’s a cohesive album with smart pace changeups, and it rarely fails to delight or satisfy a listener’s need for a synth pop fix.” (Catalogue)

No other. / Clark, Gene
“Upon its 1974 release, Gene Clark’s ‘No Other’ was rejected by most critics as an exercise in bloated studio excess. It was also ignored by Asylum, that had invested $100,000 in recording it. A considerable sum at the time, it was intended as a double album, but the label refused to release it as such. Ultimately, it proved a commercial failure that literally devastated Clark; he never recovered. Though Clark didn’t live to see it, ‘No Other’ has attained cult status as a visionary recording that employs every available studio means to illustrate the power in Clark’s mercurial songwriting. Clark’s unlikely classic, ‘No Other’ is continually continued rediscovered by succeeding generations.” (Catalogue)

Exciting new arrival CDs

It’s very good news that more music is available at Arapaki Manners Library. New arrival CDs feature exciting Aotearoa talents, including fantastic new albums by our very own Mermaidens and the veteran David Kilgour. Also, check out Waiata: anthems in which leading NZ artists perform their hit songs in Te Reo. Come down to Arapaki and get them.

New albums

Look me in the eye. / Mermaidens
“Dancing in the lively afterglow of Perfect Body, Mermaiden’s internationally acclaimed Flying Nun debut, a new flame burns. The Wellington-based trio now approach 2019 with an eagerly awaited follow up. Enter the depths of their new album, Look Me In The Eye. Exploring power and control in a confronting new lens, the trio are focused on the gatekeepers and dominators of the world; dissecting their power, one song at a time.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Bobbie’s a girl / Kilgour, David
“It’s moody – as in low, subdued,’ says David Kilgour of his new album, Bobbie’s a girl. David Kilgour’s 11th solo album, Bobbie’s a girl is a quieter affair than fans may associate with the pioneer of New Zealand indie rock. ‘I tended to shy away from too much guitar playing for a point of difference and to mix things up for myself a little,’ Kilgour continues. Largely missing the jangly distortion of Kilgour’s other work, the album’s ten songs exude a hazy warmth, with a light psychedelia that recalls ’60s outfits like The Byrds and The Velvet Underground.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Waiata : anthems.
“WAIATA / ANTHEMS was released to celebrate Māori Language Week / Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori 2019 (Sep 9-13) and to coincide with the 20-year anniversary of Hinewehi Mohi first performing the New Zealand National Anthem in Te Reo Māori at an All Blacks game. 20 years on, she has decided to mark that anniversary not by remembering the controversy, but by celebrating how far we’ve come. The result – 11 of New Zealand’s best loved artists performing their hit songs in Te Reo Māori, as well as an acknowledgement of ‘Aotearoa’ with a vibrant rendition by the renowned Hātea Kapa Haka.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

I, I. / Bon Iver
“‘i,i’ is Bon Iver’s most expansive, joyful and generous album to date. If ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ was the crisp, heart-strung isolation of a northern Winter; ‘Bon Iver’ the rise and whirr of burgeoning Spring; and ‘22, A Million’, a blistering, “crazy energy” Summer record, ‘i,i’ completes the cycle: a fall record; Autumn colored, ruminative, steeped. The autumn of Bon Iver is a celebration of self acceptance and gratitude, bolstered by community and delivering the bounty of an infinite American music.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

The center won’t hold. / Sleater-Kinney
“‘The Center Won’t Hold’ is the tenth studio album by Sleater-Kinney. It addresses transformation as it relates to the corrosion and decomposition of forms. Fractured and frayed by age or by loss, by internecine politics, by trauma or depression, these eleven songs ask what remains of a body, a human spirit, a relationship, a city, a country.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Threads. / Crow, Sheryl
“Sheryl Crow’s album of collaborations. Threads includes ‘Still The Good Old Days’ featuring Joe Walsh. Other tracks include “Redemption Day” featuring Johnny Cash, “Live Wire” featuring Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples and “Prove You Wrong” featuring Stevie Nicks and Maren Morris. Elaborating on the project, Crow reflected, “I became inspired to record an album of musical experiences with the legacy artists who inspired me.” (adapted from realgroovy.co.nz)

Fear inoculum. / Tool
“Fear Inoculum is the long awaited new album from TOOL, and the band’s first new album in 13 years. The album will be available digitally, and in a special Limited Edition physical package that includes a CD in a tri-fold Soft Pack Video Brochure featuring a 4” HD rechargeable screen with exclusive video footage, a USB charging cable, a 2 watt speaker and a 30 page insert book and MP3 download card.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Beneath the eyrie. / Pixies (Musical group)
“Seventh full-length album from the iconic alternative band. Sessions for the album took place at Dreamland Recordings near Woodstock, New York and unusually the band documented every minute of the process, which makes up a 12-part podcast.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Days of the Bagnold summer
“Days of the Bagnold Summer began life as a 2012 award-winning graphic novel by Joff Winterhart, was turned into a feature film and the directorial debut of Simon Bird (The Inbetweeners, Friday Night Dinner), and is now a wonderful, rich, bittersweet, and warmly welcoming original soundtrack album by Belle and Sebastian. The album features eleven brand new Belle and Sebastian songs, as well as re-recorded versions of classics ‘Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying’, originally appearing on 1996’s If You’re Feeling Sinister, and ‘I Know Where The Summer Goes’, from 1998’s This Is Just a Modern Rock Song EP.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Rubberband. / Davis, Miles
“The legendary ‘Lost’ Miles Davis album recorded after signing with Warner Bros. has now been completed by the original producers Randy Hall and Zane Giles, and Davis’ nephew Vince Wilburn Jr.. Miles Davis shocked the music world in 1985 when he left Columbia Records after 30 years to join Warner Bros. Records. In October of that year, he began recording the album Rubberband in Los Angeles. The musical direction Davis was taking during the sessions marked a radical departure, with the inclusion of funk and soul grooves; with plans to feature guest vocalists Al Jarreau and Chaka Khan. Eventually, the album was shelved and Davis went on to record Tutu, leaving the Rubberband songs unheard and untouched for over 30 years.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Box sets

Ágaetis byrjun : a new beginning. / Sigur Rós
“In 1999 Sigur Rós released ‘Ágætis Byrjun’ (‘A Good Start’), which Q magazine deemed ‘the last great record of the 20th century’. By the end of the year, it had won the inaugural US Shortlist Prize for Artistic Achievement in Music. This 20th Anniversary edition of the album features demo and archive versions of the songs, plus never-before-heard newly-unearthed material from the time, rare b-sides and the full 95-minute concert played in Reykjavík on the day the record was released.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Kankyō ongaku : Japanese ambient, environmental & new age music 1980-1990.
“Double CD edition in custom 7″ x 7″ hardbound book. Light In The Attic’s Japan Archival Series continues with Kankyo Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990, an unprecedented overview of the country’s vital minimal, ambient, avant-garde, and New Age music – what can collectively be described as kankyo ongaku, or environmental music. The collection features internationally acclaimed artists such as Haruomi Hosono, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Joe Hisaishi, as well as other pioneers like Hiroshi Yoshimura, Yoshio Ojima and Satoshi Ashikawa, who deserve a place alongside the indisputable giants of these genres.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Afrofuturism in the world of music

Afrofuturism is an intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation. ‘I generally define Afrofuturism as a way of imagining possible futures through a black cultural lens,’ says Ingrid LaFleur, an art curator and Afrofuturist.”

― Ytasha L. Womack, Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture

One of the most exciting genres emerging in science fiction, film, art and music at the moment is Afrofuturism. But whilst this dynamic and rather fabulous genre is having a real explosion of creativity, it’s by no means new. Indeed especially in the world of music Afrofuturism has a long and distinguished past, commonly accepted as emerging in the music world in the 1950s. This blog is a very brief look at some of Afrofuturism’s key musical proponents both old and new.

One of the first musical explorers in this universe was the legendary jazz musician Sun Ra. In the late 1950s Sun Ra created his own new synthesis of jazz, designed to reflect and link both the leading edge of the space age and African culture–especially that of African Egypt.

His ideas were taken up in the 1970s in the funk world by George Clinton’s funk outfits Parliament and Funkadelic. Reggae and hip hop also embraced these ideas, with artists like Lee “Scratch” Perry, Scientist and Afrika Bambaataa. And in the world of rock, Jimi Hendrix was also regarded by some reviewers as an Afrofuturist.

In the 21st century artists as diverse as Solange, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Erykah Badu, Missy Elliott, Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus and the Wu-Tang Clan have been influenced by this movement, with perhaps  Janelle Monáe the best known for embracing the genre. Enjoy!


Flamagra. / Flying Lotus
“Fire’s positive and negative associations are referenced by many of Ellison’s other collaborators here. While the album begins with a crackle and ends with a poetic epilogue about its lasting effects, fire’s role in the album elsewhere is either nonexistent or negligible.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Dirty computer. / Monae, Janelle
“Monáe and her Wondaland partners twist and flip new wave-leaning pop with booming bass drums and rattling percussion. They transmit defiant jubilance in response to those ‘from the traphouse to the White House who make the lives of little brown girls so damn hard.’ Almost every track is densely packed with quotables delivered in approaches that shift from easygoing elegance to hard-fought, triumphant conviction.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Rainford. / Perry, Lee
“‘Inclues Cricket on the moon’, ‘Run evil spirit’, ‘Let it rain’, ‘House of angels’, ‘Makumba rock’, ‘African starship’, ‘Kill them dreams money worshippers’, ‘Children of the light’ and ‘Autobiography of the upsetter’.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Staff Pick CDs: July

Here are some Staff Picks CDs from our collection at our new Arapaki Branch on Manners Street.

Anoyo. / Hecker, Tim
If you read Carlo Rovelli’s incredible book, ‘The Order of Time’, you will learn that the force that drives the universe is not energy but entropy, and ‘Konoyo’, the ninth record from Canadian electronic artist Tim Hecker, is a sublimely beautiful work that could be heard as a soundtrack to that ever inexorable process of decay. Like lifting a veil to expose atomic and sub atomic processes at work, this grand, complex and absorbing music is quite unlike anything else, including previous Tim Hecker records. The source material is provided by a Japanese Gagaku ensemble playing some of the most ancient instruments known, and it’s highly appropriate that this was recorded in Japan, as, if one closes one’s eyes, it is almost possible to see the cherry blossoms drifting away on the spring breeze. A few months later he released the accompanying ‘Anoyo’. Konoyo translates as ‘this world’ and anoyo as ‘the other world’ and the second release reflects that meaning, featuring six spacious and ambient pieces titled “That World”, “Is But A Simulated Blur”, “Step Away From Konoyo”, “Into the Void”, “Not Alone”, “You Never Were” if you get the drift. (John)

>>>. / Beak>
This is the third record from the krautrock project of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow (the first was ‘>’ and the second ‘>>’) and features music quite unlike any other. Metronomic drumming, ominous synths, glitchy electronics, deep vocals, throbbing basslines, processed strings, sci-fi keyboards and much more all feature in various combinations across ten tracks to create something otherworldly and quite engrossing. (John)

Coltrane ’58 : the Prestige recordings. / Coltrane, John
This release features all 37 tracks (across 5-discs) that saxophonist John Coltrane recorded as a leader or co-leader for the independent Prestige Records label in the twelve months of the year 1958 – which when released would comprise 8 albums in his discography. After finally cleaning up his drug & alcohol addiction in 1957, the period that followed saw him working and recording with pianist Thelonious Monk, whose unique compositions were an influence on Coltrane. Spilling over with new musical ideas and possibilities, Coltrane choose a series of old ballads & standards to see how far his new style and improvisational techniques could push against the traditional structure of existing tunes. The Prestige years are one of the distinctive periods in his career in which he honed a beautifully full & rich style, fast and slashing, yet tender and poignant, which Jazz journalist Ira Gitler would famously dub “sheets of sound”. These tracks are all remastered from the original analog tapes and the box includes extensive liner notes by Grammy-winning American music historian Ashley Kahn. A great box containing some of Coltrane’s most iconic albums. (Mark)

Bitter sweet / Ferry, Bryan
Bryan Ferry is a clever chap and a genuine artist and here he recreates a selection of tunes from his extensive back catalogue in the big band style of the 1920’s. What could too easily be regarded as a gimmick turns out to be anything but as these tunes take on a strange and mysterious new lustre when interpreted via Duke Ellington style trumpets, Sidney Bechet style clarinet and the Kurt Weill homage of the title track that even includes a line in German. Bryan Ferry’s voice has matured into that of a classic crooner and carries this project off perfectly. As the cover notes state: “This art recognises that the past was once our present, even our future, and this moment too shall melt away into the past”. (John)

Double negative. / Low
This really should have made it to the library ‘2018 Best of’ as it featured on pretty much every other best of list, and rightly so. After maintaining cult status for 25 years, the US indie trio appear to have now become famous on the strength of this, their 12th album. Ironically, this is the record on which they have taken things a step beyond, slowing their famous minimalist ‘slowcore’ sound down a notch even further and incorporating glitched out dissonant electronics and loops to produce the distorted, frazzled edges of things dissipating into the ether – an approach that has been recognised by both critics and audiences as highly appropriate for our current times. There are still lovely songs here to be found though within a superb, audacious, and deeply atmospheric contemporary indie record. (John)

Why hasn’t everything already disappeared? / Deerhunter
Bradford Cox leads his band through their eighth album with a collection of thoughtful and confident songs, building on the radio-rock direction of their previous release ‘Fading Frontier’. Co-produced by Cate Le Bon, who contributes some guest vocals and instrumentation, this album finds an excellent balance between the experimental sounds of their early releases and the slightly more user friendly approach of the later albums. The result is an excellent take on, for want of a better word, pop, but a distinctive and mature version of that genre, incorporating all of the elements one may expect from this highly creative band. (John)

Some rap songs. / Sweatshirt, Earl
Among the Tswana people of South Africa, the composition of the “praise poem” in honour of chiefs and important figures has traditionally been a part of the ritual initiation of boys. On Some Rap Songs, Earl Sweatshirt reflects on his recently deceased father, the South African poet Keorapetse Kgositsile. In many ways, this album constitutes the 25 year old Earl’s praise poem to his father. The album is a sprawling journey through Earl’s psyche as he grapples with his recent grief and also his past experiences with anxiety and depression, seemingly finding cathartic closure. Earl’s voice is magnetic and mesmerising with its often simple cadence and bouncing syncopation. The album is built around tightly-looped soul and jazz samples by the likes of Curtis Mayfield. Far from its ironically self-effacing title, Some Rap Songs is an innovative masterwork. (Joseph)

DJ-kicks : Robert Hood.
The Detroit techno veteran, a founding member of Underground Resistance and who pretty much laid down the template for minimal techno with his 1994 release ‘Minimal Nation’, finally gets around to a DJ Kicks entry. Discretely acknowledging that interest in the minimal sub-genre is on the wane, here the sound is bigger and more banging than may be expected as he seamlessly mixes from one well curated driving floor filler to the next, including Berghain favorites such as Truncate and Marcel Fengler, in addition to U.K. techno mainstays like Slam and Mark Broom. Listeners either enjoy techno or they don’t, and for fans this is a solid, focused and satisfying mix, while for the curious this would be a good introduction. (John)

Future ruins. / Swervedriver
The UK band that sat on the rockier edge of the early ‘90’s shoegaze movement made a welcome return in 2015 after an 18 year hiatus, receiving favourable reviews for their fifth album, “I Wasn’t Born To Lose You”. “Future Ruins” is their sixth and the second of their ‘comeback’ albums and finds them in an assured mode, forging their warm, driving, melodic rock with great confidence. Its great hearing a band regaining their stride after such a long break and with this record they could very well find a fresh audience for their lovely harmonies, propulsive rhythms and vast guitar swathes. (John)

Echoes in blue. / City Calm Down
For some odd reason OZ bands rarely bridge the Tasman very well, which is unfortunate because, well, everyone misses out. City Calm Down are pretty big in OZ, headlining festivals and selling out tours, and this, their second album, is a great introduction. They are an obviously ‘80’s influenced band, which is not necessarily a bad thing, paying homage to Ian McCullough’s heartfelt vocals for Echo and the Bunnymen and New Order’s upper register bass lines and brooding synths. Their songs are suitably morose reflections on 21st Century life that potentially offer similar comfort that the early ‘80’s indie bands offered the first wave of indie rockers. (John)

You’re the man. / Gaye, Marvin
Marvin Gaye’s ‘lost album’ between two mega hit masterpieces ‘What’s Going On’ (1971) and ‘Let’s Get It On’ (1973) should excite a lot of music fans. Although some of the songs here have made it out in various forms before, the full album (plus some extra tracks) appears for the first time. He was at his peak after the success of ‘What’s Going On’ but very apprehensive at the same time, and a lack of the cohesion on this CD may show it. However, the quality of the songs and his distinguished vocal style are nothing short of brilliant and timeless. 47 years down the line, “You’re The Man’ can only emphasise how great Marvin Gaye is. (Shinji)

A tree with roots : Fairport Convention & friends and the songs of Bob Dylan. / Fairport Convention
An interesting compilation that gathers all of the cover versions UK folk rockers Fairport Convention performed of Bob Dylan songs. Including live recordings, John Peel Sessions and studio recordings, the songs are all from the ‘70’s and most feature Sandy Denny. The cover notes are comprehensive and clearly illustrate what a surprising influence Bob Dylan had on the UK folk revival. The performances are great and it is fascinating to hear these songs, firmly placed as they are in Americana, performed by a band that were central to the UK folk revival. This not only shows that cultural boundaries are far more fluid than often perceived but is also a keen reminder that the distant roots of Americana were actually folk songs taken to the USA by early settlers from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. What goes around truly does come around. Track 7, “Percy’s Song” is a great illustration of this. (John)
[/booklist]

New Streaming Picks from the Naxos Music Library

New music keeps coming to the Naxos Music Library; the most comprehensive collection of classical music available online. If you haven’t started streaming from them, please check our guide to streaming. Check out our recent picks below and enjoy streaming!

Cover from Naxos SHOSTAKOVICH, D.: Symphonies Nos. 6 and 7 / Korol’ Lir (King Lear) Suite (Hudgins, Boston Symphony, A. Nelsons)
Performed by: Boston Symphony Orchestra; Hudgins, William R.; Nelsons, Andris
Andris Nelsons is the Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and new Gewandhauskapellmeister of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. With both appointments, and in leading a pioneering alliance between these two esteemed institutions, he is firmly underlined as one of the most renowned, exciting and innovative conductors on the international scene today. Nelsons and the BSO continue the acclaimed cycle with the ‘Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7’.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Cover from Naxos BUXTEHUDE, D.: Membra Jesu nostri / Gott hilf mir (Ricercar Consort, Pierlot)
Performed by: Bayodi, Hanna; Keohane, Maria; Mena, Carlos; Pierlot, Philippe; Ricercar Consort; Thompson, Jeffrey; Vieweg, Matthias
“In 1680, Dietrich Buxtehude sent his friend Gustav Düben the score of ‘Membra Jesu Nostri’. In this perfectly balanced work, he addresses the senses directly, immersing us in the sufferings of Christ: we feel the hammer blows, the heart that stops beating. Through the genius of his music Buxtehude succeeds in moving us, enlightening us and instructing us in the profound meaning of the text.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Cover from Naxos RACHMANINOV, S.: Préludes, Op. 3, No. 2, Opp. 23 and 32 (Giltburg)
Performed by: Giltburg, Boris
“Written over a period of 18 years, Rachmaninov’s sets of Préludes are a mirror and a record of his compositional development. With so rich a variety of character, colour, texture and mood, no two préludes are fully alike, and differentiation of tempo and register ensures that each prélude’s character is clearly defined. The first eleven pieces were conceived by Rachmaninov as a single cycle, and their full-hearted Romanticism contrasts with the significantly more angular, modernistic Op. 32. Whether evoking ballad or bell toll, the exotic or folk influences, the Préludes stand in the great tradition of works by Bach and Chopin written in all 24 major and minor keys.” (Naxos Summary)

Cover from Naxos HANDEL, G.F.: Acis and Galatea (1718 original version) [Opera] (Crowe, A. Clayton, Hulett, N. Davies, Budd, Curnyn)
Performed by: Budd, Jeremy; Clayton, Allan; Crowe, Lucy; Curnyn, Christian; Davies, Neal; Early Opera Company Orchestra; Hulett, Benjamin; Pierce, Rowan
“The award-winning Early Opera Company under the direction of founder Christian Curnyn celebrates the 300th anniversary of the premiere of one of Handels most sublime creations: Acis and Galatea. This unique interpretation is performed as Handel himself specified in the manuscript: supported by fourteen period instruments, the outstanding cast of singers takes on the solo parts as well as the magnificent choruses. This is Handel writing at his highest levels of intimacy and intensity; the music superbly supports the libretto’s evocative portrayal of the story, simultaneously restrained, economical, and deeply moving.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Cover from Naxos DUBHLINN GARDENS (THE) (Besson, Van Mechelen, A Nocte Temporis)
Performed by: A Nocte Temporis; Besson, Anna; Van Mechelen, Werner
“The Dubhlinn Gardens: an evening in the high society of 18th century Dublin, where traditional music was civilizing itself for the salon This programme was inspired by the passion for traditional Irish music that flautist Anna Besson has felt since she was a child. Surprising as it may seem, it was playing the Irish flute that led her to study the baroque instrument For the past few years Reinoud Van Mechelen too has begun to train himself in the traditional Irish song. This twofold practice of early as well as traditional music has led the ensemble A Nocte Temporis to offer a programme that is both vivacious and extremely touching.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos TRISTANO, F.: Tokyo Stories (Tristano)
Performed by: Guti; Portal, Michel; Shibuya, Keiichiro; Tristano, Francesco; U-zhaan, ; Watanabe, Hiroshi
“Born and raised in Luxembourg, Francisco Tristano is one of the most innovative pianists of today, performing from baroque to avant-garde. He has issued unique recordings from Deutsche Grammophon including the acclaimed ‘Bach Cage’, which can be listened from Naxos Music Library. He is a musician more like Ryuichi Sakamoto or Nils Frahm than a traditional classical pianist, and his new album is inspired by the city of Tokyo that he loves and has visited so many times. It’s another intriguing music; somewhere between classical, techcho and ambient, by the unconventional artist.” (Shinji)

Riverside Records on the Naxos Jazz Library

One of the most important and beloved labels of all time in jazz history, Riverside Records was founded by Orrin Keepnews and Bill Grauer in 1953, and produced many masterpieces by jazz giants such as Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk and Wes Montgomery. Although no physical CDs are available from our libraries at the moment, you can stream some of their finest albums on the Naxos Jazz Library. Riverside Records was short-lived and all their masters were acquired by Fantasy Records, making them difficult to locate in the Naxos Jazz Library. Instead, click the link to go straight to their discography and search the artists or titles. Check our picks below and start streaming now!

Cover from Naxos WYNTON KELLY TRIO AND SEXTET: KELLY BLUE
Performed by: Kelly, Wynton; Wynton Kelly Sextet; Wynton Kelly Trio
“Kelly was an original stylist, who had a lyrical and economical approach and a way of insinuating the blues into everything he touched. You can feel it here in the moving “Willow Weep for Me” and the bright takes on “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise” and “On Green Dolphin Street,” just getting established as standards in the jazz repertoire and getting distinctive treatments here.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos THELONIOUS MONK: BRILLIANT CORNERS
Performed by: Henry, Ernie; Monk, Thelonious; Pettiford, Oscar; Roach, Max; Rollins, Sonny
Brilliant Corners is regarded as one of the finest albums in Thelonius Monks catalogue. The supporting musicians include Paul Chambers (better known for his work with Miles Davis), Max Roach, Clark Terry and Sonny Rollins, but it is Monks own work on piano that dominates the proceedings. An important and vital album, not just for Thelonius Monk, but for any serious jazz collector.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos BILL EVANS TRIO: WALTZ FOR DEBBY
Performed by: Bill Evans Trio
“The legendary last recording of Evans’ brilliant trio (with Paul Motian and Scott LaFaro, who died days after this was taped at the Village Vanguard). Invigorating freedom and deep emotion meet and cast a powerful spell.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos WES MONTGOMERY: FULL HOUSE
Performed by: Chambers, Paul; Cobb, Jimmy; Griffin, Johnny; Kelly, Wynton; Montgomery, Wes
“Recorded live at the the Tsubo in Berkeley, California, the back of the original album proudly proclaims ‘the top jazz guitarist, recorded in actual performance.’ It’s a rather undertstated introduction to an album that showcases to perfection Wes Montgomery’s abilities, a talent that no other jazz guitarist has come even close to matching.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Cover from Naxos KENNY DREW TRIO: KENNY DREW TRIO
Performed by: Kenny Drew Trio
“Kenny Drew brings a pure bop angularity to this 1956 session, with driving single-note lines that clamber over one another to get at a new rhythmic detail, along with splashing chords that find the joy in the blues. He’s joined by a rhythm section that virtually defined the mid-1950s ethos: bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos CANNONBALL ADDERLEY SEXTET: IN NEW YORK
Performed by: Cannonball Adderley Sextet
“This excellent live date from the Village Vanguard was the recording debut of the Adderley sextet, with Cannonball waxing eloquently and swingingly on alto, brother Nat charging ahead on cornet, and the versatile Yusef Lateef adding a bit of an edge on tenor, flute, and unusually for a jazz wind player, oboe on the odd. Also, this was the first recorded appearance of pianist Joe Zawinul in Cannonball’s band.” (adapted from fishpond.co.nz)

Cover from Naxos RANDY WESTON: SOLO, DUO AND TRIO
Performed by: Blakey, Art; Gill, Sam; Weston, Randy
“Randy Weston’s distinctive compositions and pianism have long mined the music’s African sources to enrich the idiom. This CD presents Weston at the very beginnings of his recording career, combining his first two LPs. The earliest is a selection of eight Cole Porter tunes from 1954, played in duet with his regular partner, Sam Gill, a little-known bassist who provides solid and sympathetic foundations. The second combines a 1955 trio session, with Gill and Art Blakey on drums, and a series of solos from 1956.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos BLUE MITCHELL SEXTET: BLUE SOUL
Performed by: Blue Mitchell Sextet
“A session from 1959, BLUE SOUL finds Mitchell cooking in front of a band including bop aces Curtis Fuller, Jimmy Heath, and Philly Joe Jones, and Wynton Kelly of Miles Davis fame. The program mostly consists of bright, earthy originals with plenty of hearty soloing. A delight for classic bop supporters.” (adapted from fishpond.co.nz)

Cover from Naxos NAT ADDERLEY: WORK SONG
Performed by: Adderley, Nat; Betts, Keter; Hayes, Louis; Heath, Percy; Jones, Sam; Montgomery, Wes; Timmons, Bobby
“Released in 1960, Work Song finds cornetist Nat Adderley at his artistic peak with this bluesy, hard-bop gem. Numerous critics throughout the years have praised Adderley’s lyrical work on this album, which includes his own writing (his biggest hit, ‘Work Song’ and ‘Fallout’).” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos ART BLAKEY AND THE JAZZ MESSENGERS: CARAVAN
Performed by: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
“One of the great Jazz Messengers recordings, Blakey’s 1962 debut for Riverside featured Wayne Shorter, Curtis Fuller, Reggie Workman, Freddie Hubbard and Cedar Walton.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Monochrome Masterpieces

In this post we take a look at some of the iconic albums and hidden gems in our CD and vinyl collection. All of these titles have black and white photographs as album art. Check out these excellent and eclectic albums.

Nite flights by the Walker Brothers (1978)
The Walker Brothers were the three non-biologically-related kings of baroque pop in the 1960s, best known for their moody hits The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore and Make it Easy on Yourself. In the late 60s, Scott Walker, the group’s most acclaimed member, went solo and released a series of heavily orchestrated albums filled with ennui and references to art-house movies. Scott is cited as one of David Bowie’s foremost influences, and it shows. On this 1978 album The Walker Brothers explored uncharted territory. This project was apparently inspired by Bowie’s Heroes, and that also shows.

The album’s opening track Shutout is a masterpiece: the hauntingly avant garde vocal harmonies pare well with the raw propulsion of the incandescent guitar solo. The song is distinguished by a driving baseline that sounds like it came from an alternate universe where disco was a dark and nihilistic genre. Then the Electrician turns the dread up to unprecedented heights before breaking into an overture of blissful strings. The first four songs are effectively a Scott Walker solo EP and stand together as a monumental statement. The production on the other tracks is certainly worth perusing, but those first four songs ShutoutFat Mama KickNite Flights and The Electrician are incomparable. This album can also be considered somewhat rare, and it isn’t available on Spotify, so make sure to pick it up next time you come into the library!

TA1300 by Denzel Curry (2018)
Denzel Curry’s most ambitious project to date is full of aggressive SoundCloud anthems, including Sumo and Clout Cobain. On this album Curry has clearly carved out his own corner of the hip-hop world. Curry generally raps forcefully on lo-fi trap influenced beats, but still leaves some space for r&b tinged instrumentation whether of the soulful or synth-pop variety on tracks Black Balloons and Cash Maniac respectively. Standout track, Vengeance, is a terrifying vision featuring an extremely malicious verse from avant-garde rapper JPEGMAFIA and a visceral shouted feature from trap-metal rapper Zillakami.

If you still need convincing of Denzel Curry’s merit and skill, check out his pumping cover of Rage Against the Machine’s Bulls on Parade.

Party by Aldous Harding (2017)
Gothic tones and the misty port hills linger over Harding’s spellbinding sophomore effort. Harding’s lyrical subject matter is every bit as entrancing as her folk guitar. Unique song titles like What if Birds Aren’t Singing, They’re Screaming punctuate a superb New Zealand album. Another underrated highlight is the album closer, Swell Does the Skull. Harding’s distinctive voice is memorable, cohesive and enchanting. With Harding’s upcoming Designer album due for release shortly, now’s the perfect time to catch up with her discography.

Songs for Drella by Lou Reed and John Cale (1990)
Upon the death of Andy Warhol, two illustrious alumni of the Velvet Underground reunited to produce this sublime record amidst a temporary detente in their relationship. The production is excellent, the biographical subject matter is engaging and the album stands up as a testament to two incandescent chemistry of two of the greatest musical minds of the 20th century. Recommended tracks include Open House and Style it Takes.

Rest by Charlotte Gainsbourg (2017)
Gainsbourg weaves together traditional French pop sounds with contemporary palettes to create a grand statement. The drums, pianos and synthesizers summon dark and foreboding dirges on tracks like Lying With You and Ring-A-Ring O’ Roses. Federico Garcia Lorca once wrote “I am the elephantine shadow of my own tears.” Similarly, Rest appears to be an immense product of Gainsbourg’s own grief, as Pitchfork writer Olivia Horn notes. The album highlight is Deadly Valentine, a dreamy pop song punctuated by a funky baseline and a richly arranged chorus.

Staff Picks CDs: Best of 2018 -Part 2

Some more of our favourite sounds from last year. Hopefully you will find a new artist to explore, or something you missed the first time around.

Neil J’s Picks:
Ponguru / Al Fraser, Phil Boniface.
Ponguru is a truly unique album fusing seamlessly the sonic worlds of acclaimed jazz bassist Phil Boniface and leading Nga Taonga Puoro player Al Fraser . The resulting album has many faces and facets its Jazz tinged rather than Jazz, ambient in places and like a complex sonic landscape in others, throughout all its pieces it’s always fiercely original , rewarding and hugely atmospheric. Phil’s bass work is of the highest calibre imbuing the whole piece with a core of beautiful rhythmic structure. And Al’s emotive, nuanced playing shows that he is rightfully regarded as one of the finest musicians working in NZ today.

Tranquility Base hotel + casino.
Sometimes bands find it difficult to stay fresh and new musically especially after initial massive success. This however has never been a problem for the Artic Monkeys. And Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino there sixth album is easily their densest, most experimental and carefully crafted release to date. In this work they’ve invented their own brand of psychedelia. It’s like the bands own musical reaction to 60’s and 70’s science fiction films like Silent Running or 2001 a space Odyssey in places it does sound like an Alex Turner solo album. All in all it’s a brave and interesting and in places an exhilarating new direction for a band who have never sat on their laurels and are constantly in search of somewhere else to go.

Future me hates me / The Beths.
The Beths are at the moment the hottest band in New Zealand. No less than The Rolling stone magazine listed them in their top 100 bands to watch out for and described their album The future me hates me as a “ power pop monument’ . So what’s all the fuss about? It’s true that the power pop format is a tried and tested formula that has been done many times before, but the Beths bring a joyous ear worm infectiousness and exuberance to the party making The future me hates me sound not only new and fresh but fun and bright and it’s this attitude and approach to the music that’s carrying all before them.

Singularity.
Singularity is defined in the Oxford English dictionary as: “A point at which a function takes an infinite value, especially in space–time when matter is infinitely dense, such as at the centre of a black hole.” Now that’s a big concept to get your head round but it does serve as a superb road into Singularity the fifth album by Jon Hopkins. Singularity the album is a vast self-visualised glacial electronic landscape or even cosmos of an album. There’s ambient elements in it, there’s acid house elements in it , there’s certainly beats in there but through it all is a singular unique vision and a real feeling that Hopkin’s is on a trace like sonic journey of discovery that reaches inwards and outwards at the same time.

I can feel you creep into my private life.
For this reviewer one of the most interesting and important releases of 2018 was I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life by tUnE-yArDs (aka Merrill Garbus).The album is an extension of her previous works which at its core fuses solid rhythmic structure, influenced in places by dance music with lyrics that are simultaneously personal and global and definitely contain a radical political overtone. In many ways for this reviewer it was the album that summarised the spirit of our age its Zeitgeist.

Here if you listen / David Crosby, Becca Stevens, Michelle Willis, Michael League.
In 1982 David Cosby had fallen far, his personal life and finances were in ruin. He was struggling with very serious drug and alcohol abuse problems and was to spent nine months of that year in a Texas prison on cocaine and heroin charges. Yet in the late 60s and early 70’s he had been one of the brightest and biggest creative forces in the hippie folk rock movement. Since then he has had a liver transplant that was paid for by Phil Collins and slowly and gradually rebuilt his life and career welding these dark moments of his life as all true artists do into his work. His 2014 solo album Croz was amongst his finest work. And just recently he released Here If You Listen. It’s a beautiful piece of work, melodic, contemplative, and melancholic at times, uplifting at times occasionally touching the darkness of his past sometimes the light it finds Crosby meditating on his own death . For me this is one of David Crosby’s essential works and ranks up there with his 1971 death of the hippy dream album If I Could Only Remember My Name.

My design, on others’ lives.
It must be one of the most difficult gigs a musician can do. Being the warm up act to a huge star who hasn’t toured for ages and has legions of passionate fans. Estere’s support slot for Grace Jones in Queenstown was a stunning success for this new artist. She handled her time with poise and aplomb gaining a fair few fans in the process. Her self-produced debut album is a lush hybrid beast, a unique combination of sonic elements from pop/jazz melodies to sensual electronica and serious rhythmic cores. She also has a beautiful soaring voice and a fine turn in lyrics, and whilst it is definitely a mainstream album it certainly has some experimental leanings too. This album marks the entrance of a vibrant new voice and sounds to this reviewer, like the kind of album a future superstar would release.

Aviary.
Julia Holter’s fifth studio Aviary is a dazzling nonlinear joyous sprawl of a work. She says she was inspired to create it from a line in a book by Lebanese-American writer Etel Adnan—“I found myself in an aviary full of shrieking birds”. It simultaneously exudes chaos and calm, structure and randomness there is occasionally the slightest hint of the more experimental Kate Bush about it. It’s a menagerie of sonically beautiful moments swarming and swirling around in some sort of abstract obtuse sonic prayer conceived and created by the artist.

The gristle of knuckles.
Eve de Castro-Robinson is one of New Zealand’s foremost composers and performers amongst her numerous prizes and awards she won The 2018 Best Classical Artist/ Te Kaipuoro Inamata Toa at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards. The award was in part a recognition of her most recent work The Gristle of Knuckles .However The Gristle of Knuckles is far from a solo creative work it features a whole raft of collaborators who took Eve’s original compositions as their starting point and reimagined the pieces in their own way. There’s a real diversity to the range of pieces, yet the finished album sounds totally unified and cohesive thanks in no small part to the fabulous production work of Steve Garden. It’s a work classified as classical but in reality it defies genre categories. The pieces range sonically from powerful and muscular to intimate and vulnerable yet thought out the whole piece there’s a real air of exuberant, free spirited experimentation.

Mark’s Picks:
Record.
Tracey Thorn returns with another album of mature pop, her female worldview taking on the on-going struggle for equality (Sister), musical beginnings (Guitar), motherhood (Babies) & the impact of Social Media (Face). Beats merge with the sombre, and her ageless voice never loses its warmth.

Honey.
The Queen of melancholy dance beats returns with her first proper album in 8 years. Repeated plays reveal the interlocking layers of the tracks with overlapping lyrics, melodies and themes. Motivated by the tragic death of friend and collaborator, producer Christian Falk, the breakup of a relationship and several years of intense therapy, this release sees her following her own path once again.

Best local CD & Vinyl releases:
A quiet divide.
Rhian Sheehan returns with a cinematic album that melds post-rock soundscapes with lush ambient warmth, creating an emotional journey in a cascading series of beautiful and reflective moods. Lovely.

 

Mirror.
A wonderful combination of strange Jazz sounds, funky guitar, Swirling vocals, weird noises.

 

 

My design, on others’ lives.

 

 

 

Raconteur / The Frank Burkitt Band.
A musical-meld of influences from both continents – UK folk meets American bluegrass/Western Swing, with touches of his early Jazz influences. From toe tapping workouts to sincere ballads, all the seemingly disparate elements combine into a thoroughly enjoyable set of melodic narratives. It all seems effortless and simple but that belies the skill of his tight backing band, the consistently high levels of song writing and the sophisticated arrangements. No surprise it picked up a Tui for Best Folk album.

Too many millionaires.
The first all-acoustic album for Darren Watson is an artistic triumph on every level. Watson has always been a champion of the underdog, whether in the context of love or social commentary, and his authentic, pointed and gritty songs traverse the songwriting spectrum from the personal to the political.

We light fire.
Six years is a long time in the ever shifting music world and the catchy guitar pop of her last album Modern Fables has shifted into a heavier synth based sound with more layers of production on the tracks. But all the flourishes don’t detract from another set of great songs and that amazingly powerful voice, with its crystal clear range. Beginning with a slow ballad ‘Clandestine’ the album builds up, as gentle guitar strings alternate with washes of synth and grungier beats. Most albums taper off but all the best tracks are stacked towards the end.

Nine centuries.
Third album from Wgtn’s top Metallers marks Bulletbelt’s final album with vocalist Jolene Tempest and guitarist Seth Jackson, who left after the album had been recorded. Guests include Midnight’s Vanik, (solo on Cloak the Night), and Massacre vocalist Kam Lee (vocals on ‘Show Me Your Throat). Lyrically the album focuses on the witch trials of the Dark Ages, the examination of such brutal & violent themes paying off with some intense and aggressive tracks. A punk energy in a Metal framework, raw and powerful.

Seeing things.
Most bands first albums are the result of many years hard work, often resulting in the pinnacle of their sound – which subsequent albums then try to recapture. It’s a rare band that grows better with each release, but Eb & Sparrow were in that category. ‘Seeing things’ shifts their sound from Country/Americana of the first few releases into a more sophisticated lush soundscape. The lap steels are replaced with a more shimmery guitar sound that evokes the languid lines of The Cowboy Junkies or Mazzy Star, all focused around Ebony Lamb’s burnished vocals. A beautiful collection of songs that finds you reaching for the repeat button as soon as the last track fades out.

The hill temple.VINYL
Awesome new album from the ‘witches’ of Hex, with new cohort Jason Erskine. Beautifully soaring harmonies, delicious melodies, crunching guitar lines. All the best elements of indie rock surrounded by a fierce female empowerment aesthetic. Bewitching.

 

Like splitting the head from the body.VINYL
The debut full length album from the fabulous Womb. Every track swirls in and out of beautiful dreamy vocals and layers of languid guitar and synth lines. Music with a sense of grandeur that uplifts the listener on swelling waves of lush sound. Completely sublime.

 

Axels’s Picks:
How to solve our human problems.
Melancholic. Intimate. Pop.

 

 

Jassbusters.
Groovy. Soulful. Eccentric.

 

 

Tell me how you really feel.
Genuine. Stoner. Raucous.

 

 

Sex & food.
Vintage. Mind-altered. Catchy.

 

 

Marble skies.
Melody. Harmony. Energy.

 

 

Nothing is still.
Emotional. Ambient. Deep.

 

 

All melody.
Experimental. Gentle. Sentimental.

 

 

Snow bound/ The Chills.
Uplifting. Bright. Easy peasy.

 

 

Isle of dogs : original soundtrack / music composed by Alexandre Desplat.
Instrumental. Rhythmic. Quirky.

 

 

Suspiria : music for the Luca Guadagnino film.
Ominous. Atmospheric. Hypnotic.

 

 

Make way for love.
Sensitive. Bittersweet. Mellow. Continue reading “Staff Picks CDs: Best of 2018 -Part 2”

Staff Picks CDs: Best of 2018 -Part 1

A round-up of our favourite sounds from last year. Hopefully you will find a new artist to explore, or something you missed the first time around.

John’s Picks:
Konoyo.
The ninth record from Canadian electronic artist Tim Hecker is a sublimely beautiful work that sounds like lifting a veil to expose atomic and sub atomic processes at work, and is quite unlike anything else, including the previous Tim Hecker records.

 

Brainfeeder X : a 36-track compilation showcasing the past, present and future of the label.
With influences ranging across jazz, hip-hop, r ’n’ b, house, and electronica, the Brainfeeder sound is genuinely ground-breaking and this tenth anniversary double disc set shows why the label has grown from a small L.A. based underdog into a global cult phenomenon.

Wide awaaaaake!
The post punk influences are still plentiful, but the new album has a gloss of production that manages to expand their musical palette without losing the bands’ angular garage rock stance.

 

7.
Their most immersive, and possibly their most engaging, album to date with the usual gentle drum programming replaced by a thunderous live drummer that helps move this record into the deeper realms of dream pop inhabited by bands such as My Bloody Valentine.

 

Music for installations.
Brian Eno re-affirms his standing as the Grand Master of ambience with a stunning six disc set filled with gorgeous washes of bells and drones and unidentifiable luminous shimmers moving across widescreen stereo fields, beautiful, always different, yet always the same.

 

No sounds are out of bounds / The Orb.
The driving dub bass lines that propel each track are the only constants over a record that touches many bases, all peppered with The Orb’s distinctive humorous vocal samples, to create, arguably, the most commercially accessible and one of the best releases of their long and befuddling career.

 

Listening to pictures : pentimento volume one.
The former jazz trumpet player, who initiated the idea of the “Fourth World” alongside Brian Eno on 1980’s ‘Possible Musics’, has released, at 81 years old, a remarkable record when most others so long into their career are merely re-treading old ground.

 

The loneliest girl.
Difficult to pin down, AK pop chanteuse Chelsea Nikkel confounds with her fourth album of thoughtfully produced bitter sweet songs within which lurks a deceptively subversive baroque take on the pop format that is entertaining from start to finish.

 

The animal spirits / James Holden & the Animal Spirits.
UK electronic producer James Holden has been pushing the boundaries of electronica for most of his career and his most recent album, recorded live in the studio, treads a path far more akin to the wild transcendence of free jazz greats such as Pharaoh Sanders than any current electronic artists.

 

Infinite moment / The Field.
Swedish electronic producer Axel Willner, aka The Field, continues his musical pilgrimage chasing endless repetitive loops to an infinite beyond, creating a masterful album by one of the most original electronic producers active today.

 

Bottle it in.
Kurt Vile’s highly characteristic slacker Americana has by now become expertly crafted and, via the unusual sense of intimacy he is able to create, he maintains interest throughout this long album, which validates his cultural niche as the new millennium’s equivalent of artists such as R.E.M and Neil Young.

Suspiria : music for the Luca Guadagnino film.
This is definitely not sunday bar-b-que music, but the fine orchestral and choral arrangements, the creepy electronica and the gentle, sad, guitar based songs make for some great late night uneasy listening.

 

Toitū te pūoro.
Al Fraser, the Wellington musician and instrument maker takes the listener on a deep, dreamlike and evocative journey into the mysterious, mystical and unique sound worlds created by the ancient taonga puoro.

 

Shearwater drift / Al Fraser, Steve Burridge, Neil Johnstone.
A fully immersive sonic collage that, over 18 tracks, features Taongo Puoro within soundscapes created by synthesisers, percussion, treated samples and other instruments that is not an easy listen, at times it can be quite eerie, but the dark and ethereal ambient atmosphere is the perfect vehicle by which the mystery of these ancient instruments can be experienced.

Collapse.
This five track ep is the latest in a series of EPs that have followed Aphex Twin’s triumphant 2014 return with the album ‘Syro’ and is his most familiar so far, bearing all of the hallmarks of classic Aphex Twin electronica – frantic stuttered beats, rubbery bass lines, beautiful submerged melodies, evocative vocal samples and complex shifting arrangements.

Switched on volumes 1-3.
The UK post-rock pioneers, who have been on indefinite hiatus since 2010, are well on the way to becoming a cult band, with a worldwide dedicated fan base who refuse to accept that they are no more and re-releases like this help keep their myth alive, collecting the band’s three ‘90’s compilations of singles and rarities in one nifty box set.

Singles 1978-2016 / The Fall.
Made especially relevant by Mark E Smith’s 2018 demise, this excellent box set compiles, over seven discs, every single – both A and B sides – from one of the greatest indie bands ever – The Fall.

 

 

 

 

Enclosures 2011-2016.
South Island electronic composer Clinton Williams, aka Omit, is considered by many to be the perfect reclusive genius and this beautifully presented five disc box set, with a written intro from Bruce Russell, contains Omit’s most recent output, previously released as limited run CDRs all hand made by the artist.

The dreaming [2018].
‘The Dreaming’ was her fourth record sitting right in the middle of her transition from ‘pop star’ to ‘serious artist’ and both audiences and critics were slightly baffled at the time (it is referred to as her ‘mad’ album); she suffered nervous exhaustion after the year it took to make, but she produced an unrecognised masterpiece.

Shinji’s Picks:
Snow bound/ The Chills.
Thankfully Martin Phillipps’s health seems better now. Only 3 years after the widely acclaimed ‘Silver Bullets’, the Chills provides another stellar album. A quirky mysteriousness is still there but Phillipps is more mature and optimistic. He keeps his pop-craftmanship in great form and offers the melancholic yet bouncy sound with glorious melodies. It’s The Chills as good as it gets. Brilliant.

Lean on me.
Hello like before : the songs of Bill Withers.
To celebrate Bill Withers’ 80th birthday, two fantastic tribute albums came out late 2018 and they both offer wonderful listens. A star artist of Blue Note Records, Jose James has been performing Withers’ songs on stage, and the album ‘Lean on Me’ features his stoic vocal with deep, slow grooves created by his band. A neo-soul singer, Anthony David, who is often compared with Withers, takes a more straight forward approach, showing full love and respect to Withers. It’s been more than 3 decades since Withers walked away from the music industry, but his honest, caring-for-others songs may be something we need in the state of the world today.

Ventriloquism.
From the big names such as Prince, Tina Turner and Sade to the typical 80s hit by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, they are all songs from ‘85 to ‘90 (except TLC’s Waterfalls in ‘94). A cover album of the 80s R&B classics is rare and what Meschell Ndegeocello does with them is totally original. With the minimal arrangements, she and her band display superb performances and colour them with a murky textured otherworldly ambience. This is an exceptional cover album by the extraordinary artist.

Vortex / Sonar with David Torn.
Swiss jazz-progressive rock quartet Sonar has established an utterly unique sound – often playing in irregular time and creating a minimal stoic groove – and with this album featuring the one-of-a-kind guitarist David Torn, they seem to move to another level. Torn originally worked as a producer but ended up playing on all tunes as well, and brings a sonically inventive soundscape with huge improvisations on some tracks. It’s stoic yet dynamic, a marvellous risk-taking music.

Contra la indecisión / Bobo Stenson Trio.
This album was released in January 2018 but remains one of the best jazz recordings of the year. Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson is now in his 70s but his graceful lyricism shines more than ever and provides one of his finest albums. The trio shows a great cohesion and versatility and weaves beautiful stories. It’s music that grows inside of you like a good wine. Exquisite.

Mi mundo.
Cuban shining new star Brenda Navarrete infuses the traditional Afro-Cuban music with the modern stylish sound, and her debut album ‘Mi Mundo’ (My World) is full of thrilling moments. Navarrete’s expressive voice and her percussions lead the charge throughout, and the Cuban all-star supporting band shows amazing skills, creating smooth yet rich, dynamic grooves. Sensational.

All melody.
Plus.
German composer/pianist Nils Frahm has been a prominent post-classical music artist, and ‘All Melody’, which started with building his new studio, shows his exceptional talent as a producer as well as a player, exquisitely assembling a great variety of musical elements. Somewhere between techno, ambient and classical, it’s a beautifully executed, kaleidoscopic music. Frahm also joined the Danish electronica trio System with graceful keyboard plays. This is a wonderful collaboration, and System masterfully blends Frahm’s organic tones with their minimal yet rich soundscape, and makes it a mesmerising, ambient album.

Johann Sebastian Bach / Vikingur Olafsson.
As if making an ultimate Bach playlist, a young Icelandic pianist Vikingur Olafsson excellently juxtaposes Bach’s compositions, and tackles them from a variety of angles with fresh ideas. His pianism is sophisticated and refreshing, and brings out astonishingly colourful faces of Bach. This incredible Bach should reach beyond the classical music lovers like Glenn Gould did.