Many of our staff are keen music listeners, and we’ve rounded up their favourite music discoveries of April. There’s plenty of variety, reflecting the diversity of our CD collection here at Wellington City Libraries & a myriad of different tastes. We hope you find something you haven’t come across before!
The sudden overnight success, via a single Bandcamp upload, of the Unknown Mortal Orchestra must have surprised ex Mint-Chick, Ruban Nielson. However, the second album from this NZ/US three piece confidently shows that they are definitely not an overnight sensation. ‘II’ is a captivating and highly enjoyable listen that manages to take influences as disparate as 70’s stoner rock, 60’s psychedelia and 80’s lo-fi indie to create a fresh, innovative and strangely appealing future pop. (John)
The show must go on.
Considered one of the great lost soul albums of the 70’s, as it’s master tapes were long tied up in an ownership dispute, Sam Dees’ ‘The Show Must Go On’ finally gets a CD reissue. Dee’s heartfelt vocals tear into a set of raw ballads & funky social commentary that almost equals the heights of Marvin Gaye’s classic What’s Going On? Dees, who has previously cut sides for Chess, would release a few more singles in the 70s, but would find most of his fame as a songwriter – penning hits for the likes of Gladys Knight, Loleatta Holloway, George Benson, Aretha Franklin, Atlantic Starr, and many others – before reviving his own solo career briefly in the 90’s, where he became a cult favourite on the UK northern-soul circuit. A great listen for anyone who’s a fan of classic 70’s soul. (Mark)
A wrenched viril lore.
‘A Wrenched Virile Lore’ (the record’s title is anagrammatic) is a remix project that finds a range of producers re-interpreting tracks from Mogwai’s 2012 release Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. Those willing to sit back and let the sounds wash over them will be treated to an intriguing glimpse into an exercise in post-rock genre overlapping across a CD so stylistically varied that it shouldn’t hold together…..but somehow it does. Mogwai’s majestic tunes shine brightly across a range of electronic and analogue re-contextualisations that, at times, eclipse the original versions in beauty and complex splendour. (John)
After a barrelling rock ‘n’ roll moniker? Glasgow based Scots ‘Frightened Rabbit’ just used the one Scott Hutchison’s mum gave him as a kid. The singer’s pet name evokes a dimly lit picture of bluntly descriptive observations from a melancholic wall-flower. Characteristic of these indie folkster’s work. ‘Pedestrian Verse’ is number four in the bands full-length set, following on from last year’s ‘State Hospital’ EP and 2010’s playlist lingerer The Winter Of Mixed Drinks. Theatrically precise to the drum beat and string pluck they can warm you with soft spirit or Hutchison, for all his introversion, can roar at you with Scottish fervour amongst impassioned acoustic explosions. ‘Frightened Rabbit’ paint disturbingly vivid masterpieces with noise. Must listen’s: ambling key’s scene setter ‘Act’s Of Man’, the golden last EP’s title ‘State Hospital’ , “The Woodpile’, & ‘Late March, Death March’. Or the whole thing. It’ll be a folk classic. (Justin)
Falty DL, the electronic project of New York electronic producer Drew Lustman, has released a string of 12”s and one album over the past few years that encompass styles ranging across dubstep, house, garage, idm and downbeat. With ‘Hardcourage’, his first release for the London based Ninja Tunes label, he has delivered his most confident and focused release to date with an album of beautifully crafted, funky, relaxed and very cool downbeat electronica. (John)
The next day.
I’ve only listened to Bowie’s latest a few times and the first was underwhelming, sounding immediately similar to the Heathen/Reality albums of the early 2000’s, slightly plodding, whiney guitars, no real changes in tempo. BUT, being an old Bowie fan I didn’t want to dismiss it so easily and gave it another go, and I’m pleased I did because the songs are really growing on me. I’d heard the sombre single ‘Where are we now’ and seen the dour video, which didn’t instil me with excitement, but having listened a few times, it is quite lovely. The stand-out at the moment is The Stars (are out tonight) so uplifting and Valentine’s Day is sort of ‘John I’m only Dancing’ vibrant single material. But each song is quite different and individual so there is much to get your teeth into and I’d recommend giving it a good few goes if you don’t feel it’s got you first time because if not you will be missing out. After all this is not Gangnam Style, this is David Bowie. (Martin)
Silent hour/Golden mile.
Grizzly Bear fan alert! This five track EP from guitarist/ songwriter Daniel Rossen was released last year with little fanfare. Despite the fact that Rossen plays everything himself this could be a Grizzly Bear record – which illustrates just how much he contributes to the band’s sound. The distinctive guitar playing is here, the sweeping arrangements and the poignant vocals. “A lot of this music comes from exiling myself,” he said in a recent interview, and we should be thankful that artist’s such as Rossen can share their solitude with the rest of the world with such meticulous style. (John)
Bad as me.
His melodic growls and lyrical genius have been compressed into song lengths to rival the Kinks. Each song takes you by the hand, spins you around. until your mind is blown. Then, with alarming charm, you’re abandoned on a highway with a sensation in your gut that you’ve travelled well and far. For those who know his work it’s like the handsome baby of the Swordfishtrombone and Mule Variations albums – that kind of mixed pleasure. Highly recommended for a stomping dance and a nostalgic relaxation time. (Alisha)
Motor : nighttime world 3.
Robert Hood is one of the legendary techno pioneers from Detroit and here presents an aural homage to the post-industrial collapse of his home town. The promise of the original techno vision is fulfilled here within these soundscapes that depict both stark alien beauty and the unexpected sensuality of the technologically generated world. There are funky repetitive beats and there is sad sweeping ambience in this masterful, painfully human machine music. Great cover art too. (John)
Following rapturous reviews after re-uniting to play a charity gig at the Royal Albert Hall in London, as part of the 2010 Teenage Cancer Trust, it seemed inevitable that UK alt-rock band Suede would at some point release another studio album. It was less certain, though, if it would actually be any good as their last original album, 2002’s A New Morning was a patchy end to the band. However, the resulting new album ‘Bloodsports’ is far stronger than seemed possible. While it’s unlikely to convert any new fans at this stage, ‘Bloodsports’ plays to all of Suede’s strengths with a tight set of 10 tracks that balance mature guitar driven anthems with fresh approaches like the spooky ballad ‘What Are You Not Telling Me?’. Definitely worth a listen if you were a fan of the band in their 90’s heyday. (Mark)
Elizabeth Cotten was the author of the folk classic “Freight Train,” at age 12. Her finger picking guitar style (left handed, and upside down) has been imitated by thousands of folk guitar players and her songs have been performed and recorded by a variety of artists including: the Grateful Dead, Taj Mahal, and Maria Muldaur. Recorded in 1984 at the age of 85, she won a Grammy for Best Folk Album with this live recording of her singing, playing and telling stories of her life. Apart from hearing her astonishing finger picking guitar style, this recording is a valuable documentation of her stories, which give listeners an idea of what it had been like to grow up as a poor, black, female musician born at the dawn of the 20th century in America. (John)
Not a fan of Country Music, however since discovering this band in a friends CD collection ‘Little Big Town’ have become my new best friend. Released late last year this is their fifth studio album, track 2 ‘Pontoon’ is the albums lead single, and became their first number one hit on the Hot Country Songs chart, their highest placing to date, and first single to receive a Platinum certification. I think I’d describe this album as Country/Pop with a bit of rock, their four part vocal harmonies ‘classic’, and each member alternating as lead singers. (Ethel)
The ‘Warp’ in Sheffield’s Warp Records is an acronym for Weird And Radical Projects and no Warp releases satisfy that definition more so than Rob Brown and Sean Booth’s 20 year old Autechre project. Steven Spielberg’s movie ‘AI’ contains a scene that features escaped feral robots in the wilderness at night gathered around a campfire and I think that the music contained within Exai’s two discs would be the music these feral robots would be listening to. However, ‘fireside music for robots’ is not meant as a negative observation, ‘Exai’ contains some of the strangest and most challenging electronic music you will ever hear, but be brave enough to dive in and there are unexpected rewards to be uncovered. (John)
Don’t be a stranger.
Modest but iconic singer-song writer Mark Eitzel has enjoyed a stellar 30 year career. He has made more than 15 albums as a solo artist and with his legendary indie band American Music Club, and this new album should be top-shelf among them. Working with the masterful producer Sheldon Gomberg, who worked with the likes of Rickie Lee Jones, Ben Harper, Ron Sexsmith etc., he seems to be gentler and more lenient in this album. It may be due to the heart attack he suffered in 2011, but he sounds more accessible and his ‘sad clown’ songs are well crafted on the subtle sound palette Sheldon presents. Having a wonderful support by The Attractions’ Pete Thomas and the accomplished pianist Larry Goldings, it’s a small masterpiece. (Shinji)
Thom Yorke’s latest side project has received a lot of press – there are even posters up around town about it – but those coming to this expecting the indie rock thrill of Radiohead are bound for disappointment. ‘Amok’ is a far more subtle and surprisingly unassuming affair. Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich spent a year tweaking, looping, sampling and programming the original recordings which featured Red Hot Chili Peppers bass player, Flea, and Beck & REM drummer, Joey Waronker, to create a captivating album of atmospheric electronic/analogue driven songs. (John)
Mt. Zion : music from & inspired by the motion picture.
‘We all got our dreams to chase and we all got our mountains to climb, eke panuku, eke hiona!’ Featuring Stan Walker’s recently released chart topping hit single ‘Take it easy’, this album debuted at number one on the ‘Top 40 charts’. Featuring original tracks from Stan who plays Turei in the movie, and his band ‘Small Axe’ with a uniquely Maori flavour on Bob Marley’s reggae vibe. With a mix of songs from the late 70’s era, the likes of 10CC, Third world, Toots & the Maytals, Johnny Nash, Herbs and ‘Golden Harvest’ grace this album with ease, so if you enjoyed music from the late 70’s, and you enjoyed the ‘movie’ which also topped the NZ Box Office, then you reggae lovers out there will love this soundtrack as well. (Ethel)
The alt country world has only just recently opened up to electronic tinkering which makes ‘All Hell’ a difficult record to categorise. Like Dirty Beaches, the spirits of Elvis Presley and Lee Hazlewood hang over the sound but only as wispy ghosts. Daughn Gibson croons his wryly observational songs in a confident baritone over instrumentation, loops and samples from a dusty dreamworld somewhere down a long desert highway. This is an intriguing, varied and highly original record that, I suspect, may signal more to come from a new electronic/country sub-genre. (John)
Jazz guitarist Eivand Aaset is one of the most talented and innovative artists from Norway, which abounds with musical talents. His guitar play was essential for the hugely successful Nils Petter Molvaer band, and he has constantly issued fantastic electronica jazz and progressive rock-ish jazz albums as a leader. This, his ECM debut album, finds him in a dark, ruminative mood. Working with a countryman, sampling/programming master Jan Bang (both artists were invited by David Sylvian for his European tour which was unfortunately cancelled due to Sylvian’s health), he takes a unique sonic approach, and creates still yet astute, imaginative ethereal soundscape. It doesn’t sound like the music by the guitarist, but is an alluring, inventive ambient music. Although it’s produced by Jan Bang, not by the ECM label owner Manfred Eicher, it has an ECM-ish, subtle and profound beauty. A quiet triumph. (Shinji)
Sarah Hawker and Debra Clifford aka, The Lonesome Sisters, were voted Best Acoustic Duo of 2006 by Gibson Guitars. The sparse arrangements, using instruments including clawhammer banjo, tenor guitar and harmonium, which underpin their beautiful vocal harmonies, bring a traditional Appalachian feel into the 21st century. This is not hoedown music, however – this collection of traditional and original songs of loneliness, sorrow and the human spirit is slow and mournful and transcends both time and genre which means it can be enjoyed whether or not you are a fan of mountain music. (John)
After 22 years, rumours of a new My Bloody Valentine album had become akin to an urban myth, then with little fanfare a new album arrived a year after the remastering campaign of their classic 90’s albums Isn’t Anything & Loveless. Musically it’s a bit of a grab bag. Some tracks follow on naturally from the sound evoked on ‘Loveless’, some offer a more abstract experimental sound while others have a pop-ier feel, sounding at times like Saint Etienne remixes. Endless back & forth will no doubt occur as to whether it is as good as their previous 2 albums & EP’s and if it was worth such a long wait, but still any new music from such an iconic band is a good thing…(Mark)
The four seasons/ Vivaldi ; recomposed by Max Richter.
The most recent release in German classical label Deutsche Gramophone’s ‘Recomposed’ series is Max Richter’s take on Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’. Previous releases have seen Carl Craig & Moritz Von Oswald’s electronically re-composing Ravel & Mussorgsky and Matthew Herbert electronically re-sampling Mahler. According to the cover notes, Max Richter began by re-sampling but found that he could not get down to the notes level of the work, so he has edited, rewritten and recorded the work, featuring Daniel Hope on solo violin, and discarded about three quarters of the original in the process. Purists will be horrified but Richter’s re-composition, but with its subtle addition of electronic bass and atmospheres and deep engagement with the original, brings a beautiful work refreshed and sparkling into the new millennium. (John)