Staff pick DVDs for the year so far

Loving Vincent

Plenty of gritty police drama in this lot of Staff Pick DVDs for the first few months of the year. Also featured is the adaptation of James Corey’s Expanse novels, a unique film that uses thousands of original oil paintings based on Vincent Van Gogh’s works to create an animated feature about the artist, the Italian social critique Perfect Strangers, and historical drama from books by Peter Ackroyd & Thomas Cullinan.

The expanse. Season one.
It has vastly superior production standards, it looks fabulous and is way better acted, but for many reasons ‘The Expanse’ reminds me of Babylon 5 . They both take a little while to get going but they eventually lead somewhere and once they get there they both deal with really intriguing ideas, they both contain a big secret plot device not immediately apparent for the outset and perhaps most noticeable they both contain complex Chandleresque characters. If these elements appeal to you then ‘The Expanse’ is well worth checking out. [Based on the novels by James Corey]. (Neil J.)

The sinner. Season one.
‘The Sinner’ follows a young mother (Jessica Biel) who, while on a day trip with her husband and son to a public beach, stabs a man to death has no idea why. She confesses immediately and is charged with murder, but dogged investigator (Bill Pullman) finds himself obsessed with uncovering the woman’s buried motive, and together they travel a harrowing journey into the depths of her psyche and the violent secrets hidden in her past. The story is tense and intriguing, a different and surprising take on a crime story. Biel is excellent. Based on a novel by a little translated German female crime writer. (Mark)

Baywatch.
If you were a fan of Baywatch back in the 90s and you miss that level of action and cheese you will not be disappointed! Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Zac Efron are a ridiculously hilarious combination of abs and humour that will have you shaking your head with laughter. This movie is exactly what it claims to be utterly outrageous and funny. (Jess)

Loving Vincent.
Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s ‘Loving Vincent’ is clearly a labour of love a seven year labour of love at that. The film is unique in that it uses thousands of original oil paintings based on Vincent Van Gogh’s works to create an animated feature about the artist. The film skilfully avoids just being a swirling, visually stunning piece of Vincent Van Gogh eye candy (which it is). By examining different perspectives on Vincent’s life from his close friends, family and colleagues and the many questions surrounding his death. (Neil J.)

Bosch. Season three.
The 3rd season of this American police-procedural adapts Michael Connelly’s novels The Black Echo and elements of A Darkness More Than Night. The story involves multiple plot lines as Bosch is involved in the upcoming trial of a wealthy movie director accused of murdering a woman during sex, as well as investigating the death of a homeless Military Vet that takes on a greater complexity. In his personal life his daughter is now living with him and, having solved his mother’s murder in the preceding season, he now struggles to contain the anger that has always fuelled him. The added characterisation of the supporting cast has strengthened the show beyond the tropes of the first season, and while there may be nothing that is really innovative about the show, or the plots, it is all so expertly acted and written (helmed by Eric Overmyer — who worked on the final two seasons of The Wire and then co-created Tremé) that it sets a new benchmark in TV Cop shows. (Mark)

The Andromeda strain.
Just recently the very welcome rerelease on DVD of the 1971 alien virus Robert Wise, Michael Crichton science fiction classic The Andromeda strain occurred. Despite its age and slightly corny 70’s fashion sense this film remains a flawlessly acted, brilliantly scripted, chillingly realised and thoroughly engaging work. And what’s more there isn’t a CGI effect anywhere to be seen as they were at that point just a glint in George Lucas’s eyes. (Neil J.)

Line of duty. Series four.
If ‘Bosch’ is currently the best US Police-procedural on TV, then ‘Line of Duty’ is certainly the best English one. An anti-corruption drama it follows the exploits of AC-12, a unit that investigates suspicious activities within the Police itself. In a career-defining case, DCI Roz Huntley (Thandie Newton), is under intense pressure from her superiors to apprehend a serial murderer after months of fruitless investigation. When a young man is charged doubts around his guilt lead the chief forensic investigator to AC-12. Is Roz ignoring forensic evidence that might prove the young man’s innocence? As AC-12 pile on pressure from the outside, Roz is forced to act to stop her life from unravelling, but just how far will she go? Totally gripping crime drama, with Newton in top form. Highly recommended. [Note: Season 1 of this show was released in NZ, and we were able to have Season 4 cross-rated from Australia due to its lower classification Rating. However Seasons 2-3 have not been distributed for release in this country]. (Mark)

Murder on the Orient Express.
Kenneth Branagh’s recent remake of Murder on the Orient express had many admirers and made a ton of money (and is available to borrow here). However for me the 1974 Sidney Lumet version (recently rereleased ) is the definitive celluloid adaptation of this much loved classic. It features a truly Stella cast including amongst others Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman and Sean Connery it positively glitters with Hollywood glamour. It’s a warm, friendly, comforting, old fashioned kind of a film that reminds me of lazy Boxing day afternoons with my family. (Neil J.)

Perfect strangers.
Sharing cell phone messages and calls with others doesn’t sound like a good idea but at the eclipse night, seven friends (three couples and a man whose new partner is not able to attend) agree to do it over the course of dinner party, because they are long-time best friends and have nothing to hide. Italian director Paolo Genovese’s loquacious ensemble comedy is a study of morality in the iPhone era. Inevitably their ‘secrets and lies’ are revealed one after another and their relationships are severely tested. Genovese’s clever plot, together with fantastic performances by all actors, makes it a funny yet touching, wonderfully entertaining drama. Brilliant. (Shinji)

The tunnel. Series 2, Sabotage.
The Anglo-French adaption of the Danish/Swedish series ‘The Bridge’ was the first series in British and French television to be bilingual, a collaboration of British broadcaster Sky and French broadcaster Canal+. The first season (essentially a remake of the Swedish/Danish production) is still enjoyable, if you have watched the original, due to the quality of the production and the talent of the 2 leads, Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy as British and French police detectives Karl Roebuck and Elise Wassermann.
Season 2 of ‘The Tunnel’ however is where the series diverges with a completely different storyline. Following the events of the first series, Karl & Elise are reunited to investigate the kidnapping of a small child from the Channel Tunnel train, which soon evolves into a domestic terrorist investigation after a planes autopilot system is hacked, forcing it to crash into the English Channel, killing all on board. The 3rd and final series of the show has just been completed. An overlooked show, perhaps due to the ‘remake’ nature of the first season which can’t really compete with the Swedish/Danish tour-de-force, but this is quality TV and deserves to be judged on its own merits. Recommended. (Mark)

The Limehouse Golem.
There is no sign of restraint in Juan Carlos Medina’s adaptation of Peter Ackroyd’s fantastic book Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem. This is a lurid, melodramatic and gory retelling of this Victorian, gothic, murder, mystery tale. If however you are a fan of the theatrical bloody period piece epitomised by some of the best Hammer Horror films, or enjoyed the more recent Crimson Peak then there is much to be enjoyed here in this Grand Guignol over the top production. (Neil J.)

The beguiled.
During the American Civil War, a wounded Union Army corporal is brought to the seminary for young ladies in the enemy territory Virginia, leading to sexual tension and crushes. Sofia Coppola’s latest work is a Civil War setting period drama based on Thomas Cullinan’s novel, and it’s a subtle study of shifting the power balance in a closed environment. Although it’s bleak and rather atmospheric, Coppola still offers her characteristic aesthetic; gorgeous – if Vogue featured ‘Southern Gothic’ it would be like this – production design, costume and camerawork elegantly using both natural and artificial lights, with a starry cast (Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning and Colin Farrell). This is Coppola’s most low-key work but it proves that she is one of the best American auteurs today. (Shinji)

Cardinal. The complete first season.
Another strong police-procedural, this one differentiated by its setting of Algonquin Bay in rural Ontario, Canada. This six episode Canadian TV crime drama is an adaptation of Giles Blunt’s award winning novel Forty Words for Sorrow, the first entry in his series about Police Detectives John Cardinal and Lise Delorme. Demoted Detective John Cardinal (Billy Campbell) is brought back into Homicide when the hunch he wouldn’t let go is proven correct, and a young Native American girl is found encased in ice. Now, as he relentlessly tracks a serial killer who preys on missing young people he must keep a watchful eye on his new partner, Detective Lise Delorme (Karine Vanasse), who he believes may have a secret agenda that leads back to one of his past cases, while coping with his wife being institutionalised after a bi-polar episode. Atmospheric, intense and intriguing. Definitely something different. Recommended. (Mark)

Recent staff pick CDs

We’ve put together a list of of our favourite CDs from this year’s new releases so far, check out our staff picks below! There’s bit of everything genre wise, so we hope you find something new or something you may have missed when it first came out.

Record.
Tracey Thorn’s ageless voice returns with another album of mature pop, her first solo album of entirely original material for seven years. Her female worldview informs the 9 songs on this short album. The beats are back for the dance jam ‘Sister’, with Warpaint’s rhythm section and BVs from Corinne Bailey Rae, and closing track ‘Dancefloor’, but have a more sombre feel on tracks like ‘Face’. Topics include the on-going struggle for female equality (Sister), her musical beginnings (Guitar), motherhood (Babies) & the impact on Social Media of failed relationships (Face). (Mark)

Wallflower.
Born in New Zealand, grew up in Australia and a London resident now, neo-soul singer Jordan Rakei first grabbed the spotlight by working with Disclosure in 2015. His sophomore album ‘Wallflower’ is surprisingly released from Nnija Tune, and is a delicately crafted, beautiful work, featuring his quality songs and silky voice. In comparison with other new-generation soul artists such as The Internet, Hiatus Kaiyote and Nick Hakim, he seems to be a more personal, introspective singer-songwriter, and it’s showcased here. (Shinji)

Singles 1978-2016 / The Fall.
Made especially relevant by Mark E Smith’s recent sad 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. Mark E Smith was a true legend and, unlike artists like Keith Richards who similarly defied established health beliefs, Mark E Smith maintained a high artistic credibility, continuing to produce great, challenging music for close to 40 years – and there are not many artists who can lay such a claim. This set lays it all out, from 1978’s ‘Bingo Master’s Breakout’ to 2016’s ‘Wise Ole Man’. For those less in need of completism there is also a smaller box-set – ‘A-Sides 1978-2016’ which, over three discs, omits the B-Sides. (John)

Scorn of Creation.
An outstanding 8-track self-titled debut album from Wellington death metal outfit Scorn of Creation. The band pay tribute to traditional old-school death metal without compromising on a modern, fresh sound. Energetic and raw. I loved it start to finish! (Theresa)

Part 2 / Brix & The Extricated.
Fall fans who are especially fond of the slightly more rock oriented ‘Brix era’ albums will be pleased to learn that Brix Smith has got together with ex long term Fall members Steve Hanley (bass guitar), his brother Paul Hanley (drums) and Steve Trafford (guitar and vocals) to make a record that is anything but the cash-in one may dread. Featuring mostly originals plus new versions of three Fall songs, this is a great hard rocking indie record, surprisingly so from a bunch of musos in their fifties, that was described by Drowned In Sound as “One of the great indie-rock releases of 2017”. (John)

Woodland echoes.
It’s very good news that he is still making music. Out of the blue, Nick Heyward, the former 80s pop sensation Haircut 100’s front man, released an album for the first time in 18 years and it’s a charmer. His genius songwriting is still up there with the best, such as Paul McCartney, offering dazzling breezy pop music. It’s perfect music for a lazy afternoon. (Shinji)

World wide funk.
Since the ‘60’s, US bass player Bootsy Collins has defined funk bass. Starting out as James Brown’s bass player, playing bass on “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine”, he went on to form Parliament / Funkadelic with George Clinton, collaborated with Deee-Lite on “Groove Is in the Heart”, and in 2010 formed ‘Bootsy Collins’ Funk University’, on online music school. His first album in six years features the 67-year-old laying down grooves as cool and funky as anything he has ever done with guest appearances including Doug E. Fresh, Buckethead, Snoop Dogg, Stanley Clarke, Big Daddy Kane and Chuck D. (John)

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. (Neil J.)

Black sea.
This re-release of UK post punkers XTC’s 1980 follow up to their chart breaking ‘Drums & Wires’ album gains a lot from Steven Wilson’s remastering. In fact it sounds like a different record from the muddy original with lovely crisp drums and excellent deep bass which allow the songs to fully breathe. The album captures the band in full flight as they played over 150 live gigs in 1980, a couple of years before they stopped playing live altogether to become a strictly studio based band. Consequently the musos are very tight, playing with real precision and fire throughout what is an excellent example of ‘80’s post punk / new wave power pop. (John)

Shadow of the sword.
Wellington based speed metal maniacs Stalker deliver a debut full-length of pure, unadulterated speed metal in all its thrashing, shrieking, shredding glory! A great listen – guaranteed. (Theresa)

Continue reading “Recent staff pick CDs”

Staff Picks CDs: The Best of 2017 Part 2

From our very own Wellington bands to Kendrick Lamar and soundtracks, check out more of our best music picks of 2017!

Mark’s Picks

Patriotic grooves. [VINYL]
Awesome anarcho-punk feminist diatribe against everything from Trump to neo-liberal politics, capitalism, misogyny, patriarchal violence, oppression, misogyny, transmisogyny, sexism, and cissexism. If this sounds didactic it’s not. It’s just relevant and timely. Also has great tunes that channel all the best elements of the classic Riot grrrl aesthetic.

Miles Calder & the Rumours.
Following on from their 2013 EP ‘The Crossing Over’, which was nominated for the 2014 NZ Taite Music Prize, Miles Calder & The Rumours deliver their eponymous debut 5 years after forming as a band. The culmination of a couple of years work, the self-produced album was engineered by Lee Prebble but mixed by Grammy-award winning engineer Trina Shoemaker, and features a large array of local talent (Lisa Tomlins, Ed Zuccollo, Dayle Jellyman, Finn Johansson, Chris Winter, Matthew Benton and Lucien Johnson) who add musical shadings from piano to horns to organ on various tracks. From the first track it’s easy to see just how much the songs benefit from the richness of sound the studio environment provides, and there’s a consistent calibre of songwriting across the whole album.

Dark arts / The Nudge. [VINYL]
The 2nd album from The Nudge only has 3 tracks, one of which clocks in at 13 minutes, the other at 24. The four minute opening title track (and single) is just a hint of the genre mashing that is about happen, but provides a basic reference point for the bands diverse sound. If you’re not enamoured with anything vaguely ‘prog’ and hate tracks that are basically longer that 3 and half minutes, be prepared to have your opinion changed by this addictive record. With relatively few vocal interludes, it’s all about the structure of the sound here and they manage to weave in out of different styles and atmospheres within the same track with nothing feeling overly laboured or obvious. All the tonal shifts seem like smaller songs within the larger canvas of the track and by the end of 13 or 24 minutes they leave you wanting more not less.

The weight of melted snow.
Lovely new meditative album from French For Rabbits based around the dissolution of the romantic relationship of band members Brooke Singer and John Fitzgerald. Male vocals provide a counterpoint to Singer’s softly lilting voice, and the dreamy atmospheric ambient sounds that the fully fleshed out band provides. Previous albums have drawn inspiration from nature and the physical, but ‘The Weight of Melted Snow’ while not short of imagery of the natural world is all about the internal, the dynamics of the heart and how to keep it beating when you lose part of it.

If you’re born on an island the ocean heals you.
With the exception of bass and drums on a few tracks and backing vocals everything is played by Lake, along with all the writing and arrangements. The synthy pop structure of a lot of the tracks enfold the layered vocals (and lovely backing voices of Seamus Maguire, Penelope Esplin, Felicity Herbertson and Nadia Reid) with a sense of warmth rather than cold beats. He uses a distinctively ‘kiwi’ voice on the brilliant ‘Good Keen Man’ that cleverly updates a series of iconic NZ images with the realities of the now. A mini-album exits within the larger work, with ‘Renters’ & ‘The Cost of Living’ addressing what he sees as the social crises’ facing people in NZ today. A love of nature, the land and the beauty that surrounds us pervades against the avarice and capitalism of modern life.

Teeth.
When you heard that Luke Buda & Tom Callwood (Phoenix Foundation) were teaming up with David Long (The Mutton Birds), & Anthony Donaldson (The Labcoats) you could be forgiven for thinking that the result would be more along the experimental spectrum. But Teeth turn up the indie guitar dynamics to just rock out, in a straight ahead way that differs from its members previous bands. You get the feeling that the entirety of Teeth is a great palette cleanser for everyone involved. Trippy guitars, riffy bass lines, shimmery reverby vocals, songs that bounce from the cosmic to the angsty to tongue in cheek and back. Every song is so catch & melodic it’s hard to pick highlights but ‘Glass Ceiling’ & the wry ‘Looking Good, Feeling Great’ are both super fun.

Harmonies.
Super funky new album from Lord Echo. A melange of analogue dance floor grooves that take in everything from ‘Rebirth of the Cool’ Acid Jazz, Caribbean disco vibe, African funk, classic American R&B and back. The ever awesome Mara TK takes vocal duties on 4 tracks, with Lisa Tomlins on 2, and Toby Laing & Echo himself on one each. Lucien Johnson’s sax & flute float around the beats with Daniel Hayes synth’s. It all somehow meshes into a groove that becomes more than the sum of its parts and the funky retro-ness always seems genuine and never a deliberate pastiche.

Unearthing.
As with listening to Into Orbit’s debut album ‘Caverns’ it still seems amazing that the group just consists of two people, guitarist Paul Stewart and drummer Ian Moir, as their immersive soundscapes sound so epic. The hybrid post-rock/metal/experimental template of the first album is expanded on. Elements shift up against each other, heavy guitar riffs meld into moments of calm and delicate playing, only to explode into crushing drums. But it’s not just a series of loud/quiet/loud moments tied together as ‘tracks’. Into Orbit never seem to be welded into a particular set definition of what each track should be in terms of sound and atmospherics, and the subtle layering of complex patterns & textures make each track a unique experience.

Morningside.
Fantastic new album from Auckland based Amelia Murray (AKA Fazerdaze). Fuzzy guitars, programmed drum patterns and the odd sinewy keyboard line make up the sonic palette of most tracks, but her sweet airy vocals soar over all of it. The shimmery reverby guitars invoke a summery sense of well being, but the ‘poppy’ musical framework hides a lyrical disillusionment and uncertainty. A pervading sense of anxiety permeates nearly every track, inhabiting every relationship and interaction, and hovering cloudlike over the future itself.

Otherness.
Fantastic next level sophomore album from Grayson Gilmour, filled with superbly textured sounds and catchy melodies. His voice is moved up in the mix so it floats upon the layers of often dichotomous sound he builds into the tracks. There is an almost academic level of focus on the soundscapes & chord structures but it is more an organic exploration rather than fussy cleverness, and moulded around the album’s overarching themes of growth and acceptance.

Ennui.
The songs on ‘Ennui’ form themselves through shifting styles, overriding an easy definition or pigeon-holing, subsuming genres, metres, keys, & vocal styles into the original narratives of each of the songs rather than being in service of them. With 3 vocalists at play and elements of everything really from post-hardcore/sludge, psych Rock, post-Rock, stoner riffs, desert rock, doom layers it’s impossible to delineate the trajectory of each track adequately, suffice to say that each is challenging and complex and overall it’s an alum that reveals its musical and emotional layers after repeated immersion.

Perfect body.
Vibrant second album from the Mermaidens trio scored a flurry of great reviews upon its release, and rightly so. The tracks wind in and out of indie rock influences (newer bands like Warpaint, and older classic exponents like Sleater Kinney), elements of shoegaze , brighter Britpop, & echoy layers of early Cure’s goth. As a whole the album sounds fantastic, the breathy vocals merging perfectly with the dense drum patterns and creeping sinuous guitar lines, creating a cavernous sound that builds and releases. The precision of the music is aligned with the murky melodicism of the vocals which shift between an intense attack and detached emotion, as they dissect the juxtaposition of animalistic physicality and the sensory experience of the natural, with the pressure of the modern digital world of social media, fractured relationships and uncertain interactions. Bold and accomplished, enigmatic and intense at the same time. Continue reading “Staff Picks CDs: The Best of 2017 Part 2”

Staff Picks DVDs: The best of 2017

A round-up of our favourite library DVDs from last year (plus a couple from early this year that made the cut). We hope you find something new, or something you missed from last year.

Mark’s Picks:
Billions. Season two.
Billions sees Damian Lewis as Bobby Axelrod, a billionaire hedge fund manager and Paul Giamatti as U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhodes, determined to bring him down. Season 2 begins with Bobby attempting to rebuild Axe Capital after the events of Season 1. Meanwhile Rhodes is under scrutiny from the Attorney General for his previous investigation into Axelrod’s business dealings. Each manoeuvre’s to gain the upper hand and destroy the other amidst a background of inside deals, political gameplay, money, and influence. Season 2 is all about short stocks and long cons, but who is playing who? Machiavellian brinkmanship taken to it’s end point with millions of dollars, reputations and careers to be won or lost.

Homeland. The complete sixth season.
Homeland is back for another season taking place several months after Season 5. The season features the results of a presidential election of a female candidate, and takes place between Election Day and inauguration day, as CIA operatives Saul Berenson and Dar Adal begin to suspect that the new President Elect has an anti-intelligence bias and that Carrie may be helping shape her policy. A more personal season as the attacks on Carrie become more insidious, the show also follows an eerie parallel to the current US political climate, and a fascinating look at the topical political manipulation via Social Media platforms.

Trapped. The complete series one.
A ferry carrying 300 passengers from Denmark pulls into an Icelandic town’s small port, just as a heavy snow storm begins. Then a mutilated and dismembered body washes on the shore, an unidentifiable man murdered only hours ago. The local police chief, Andri, realizes a killer has descended into his town.The local police are told to wait until a crack police team can arrive from the capital city of Reykjavik to do the investigations, but then the corpse goes missing and dead bodies start to turn up – all linked to a mysterious fire that destroyed an abandoned factory & killed a local teenage girl 15 years previously… More great Scandi-Noir.

Salamander.
Sixty-six safes belonging to high-level members of industry, finance, the military, the magistracy, politics, & unions are robbed during a spectacular and heist on an influential private Bank in Brussels. Soon an unparalleled blackmail scheme is underway to destroy the country’s entire political system. Doggedly honest Euro-cop Inspector Paul Gerardi catches a rumour of the bank robbery from an informant, and when his informant later turns up dead from an apparent ‘suicide’ he knows he is onto something big. He has to stay one step ahead of people from his own Government out to silence him, and protect his family from a mysterious group called Salamander whose origins lie in a botched operation during WW11. Excellent self-contained Belgian series grips over 12 episodes.

Christine’s Pick:
Wonder Woman.
I don’t go to the cinema much any more, but as a 70s kids who spent a fair chunk of her time spinning on the spot and leaping off her bed wearing a cardboard headband and bracelets, Wonder Woman had an irresistible appeal. My memories of the Lynda Carter era were hazy enough to avoid any real comparison, however, so nostalgia remains untainted by the absolute freaking awesomeness of the newest incarnation.

Neil J’s Picks:
Maudie.
Sally Hawkins extraordinary portrayal of the arthritic Nova Scotian housekeeper Maud Lewis who becomes in the face of fierce adversity a much loved and celebrated artist is sublime, touching ,harrowing and heart-warming all at once . The films sense of brutal occasionally uplifting realism and its depiction of Maud Lewis’s inner spirit that somehow manages to rise above it all is vividly and startlingly realised. This film shows beyond any doubt that Sally Hawkins is one of the finest actresses in film today.

Blade runner 2049.
I suspect it will take several years before Blade Runner 2049 can be viewed in its true light. Until then I think it can still safely be said that it is a startling, visually masterful and striking vision of a future that deals with complex and profound ideas and that it also contains career best performances from some of its cast. An astonishing work that I am sure will be regarded as a future classic.

The red turtle.
A shipwrecked sailor has to survive on a desert island and comes across a red turtle that changes his life. This studio Ghibli co production is as you we have come to expect an exquisitely animated and very beautiful film in places it’s like watching a dream. The story is deceptively simple with the narrative instead driven by the visuals. In tone it’s like an adult version of the studio Ghibli classic Ponyo. If you are enjoying the new golden age of animated film we are in then this is a must. (Neil J)

Guardians of the galaxy. Vol. 2.
A technicolour explosion in a glitter factory. The cinematic equivalent of a long soak in a huge luxurious bubble bath, sound tracked by an ace, superb. guilty pleasure music mainly “from the 1970s” with wise cracking, funny well rounded characters you love or loathe. Basically just a jolly fun retro romp. In a sharp, well-paced, slick, action packed science fiction story. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2’ is everything you want it to be and totally lives up to its predecessor. So get out the popcorn, turn off the lights settle down on the sofa you are in for a real treat. (Neil J) Continue reading “Staff Picks DVDs: The best of 2017”

Staff Picks CDs: The Best of 2017, Part 1

John, Neil J., Jackson and Alex select their favourite CDs of 2017 from our collection. There is a wide variety of music here and you might find something interesting or missed. Part 2 is coming soon so keep checking.

John’s Picks:

Real Estate – In Mind
Indie hipster heroes, Real Estate, deliver another portion of their gorgeous laid back jangle pop and it’s exactly what fans will expect –tremolo heavy guitars, lovely harmonies and bitter sweet songs, all delivered at a relaxed pace by musicians so tight as to appear telepathic.

Grandaddy – Last Place
Granddaddy were always singer/songwriter Jason Lyttle’s band and it’s great to hear his esoteric, slightly melancholic slacker take on existentialist angst once again.

 

Gas – Narkopop
Wolfgang Voigt follows up his 2000 ambient masterpiece ‘Pop’ and dives deeper into the original template, focusing on texture and reverberation and introducing sub bass pulses to create stunning symphonic electronic chamber music that is as meditative as it is unsettling.

Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble – Find Me Finding You
The demise of UK post rockers Stereolab left a gap in contemporary music, but vocalist Laetitia Sadier continues to create her surreal sensual pop informed by the harmonies and lush instrumentation of exotica, easy listening and tropicalia.

 

Laurel Halo – Dust
On ‘Dust’ her music remains as unclassifiable as ever and, as much jazz as electronica, has attained a new found warmth and softness with her treated vocals woven through absorbing and often playful sound textures and beats to create a collection of tracks as original and beguiling as anything you will hear this year.

Thurston Moore – Rock ‘n’ Roll Consciousness
Sonic Youth fans are in for a treat here as that legendary NY band’s guitarist, Thurston Moore, explores five lengthy, textural, guitar centred songs that are reminiscent of his playing on the groundbreaking Sonic Youth album, Daydream Nation.

 

Shirley Collins – Lodestar
84 year old Shirley Collins, the “faerie queen” of UK psych folk, was finally coaxed back to a microphone by devoted fans and recorded live to laptop in her rural cottage accompanied by members of the next generation of folk musicians.

 

Dauwd – Theory of Colours
Electronic producers often find it difficult to maintain an entire album and it is nice to be able to report that UK artist Dauwd, bucks that trend with most of the seven tracks here maintaining a lovely rolling chilled rhythm with deep bass lines and skittering hi-hats pushing it all along.

LCD Sound System – American Dream
Seven years after they disbanded, we get the fourth LCD album and it’s as good as anything they have done. Anything but a cynical cash-in this album confirms James Murphy as a major artist.

 

Kraftwerk – 3D: The Catalogue – Box Set
German electronica pioneers, Kraftwerk, release their entire catalogue of eight discs once again, but the difference is that these are all recently recorded live versions, capturing the band using modern state of the art equipment with pristine clarity.

 

Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins
The highly anticipated follow up to 2012’s ‘Shields’ from the darlings of the NY hipster scene doesn’t disappoint featuring all of the band’s distinctive touches – excellent musicianship, great arrangements, gorgeous melodies and inscrutable lyrics. They are here in Wellington for the NZ Festival in March.

Grayson Gilmour – Otherness
Wellington based multi-instrumentalist Grayson Gilmour plays everything but the drums and strings on this sophisticated, beautifully composed album that brims with heart while avoiding sentimentality.

 

Peaking Lights – The Fifth State of Consciousness
US husband and wife duo, Peaking Lights, gain more confidence with each release and with this, their fifth album, they effortlessly explore their relatively unique world of ‘80’s influenced cosmic dub/synth pop.

 

Washed Out – Mister Mellow
Released on the US Stone’s Throw label, Ernest Greene’s third record is an intoxicating blend of downbeat, free jazz, hip hop and lounge with spoken word samples thrown in to keep things interesting.

 

Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos
This is an intensely political record that harks back to the early days of hip-hop as the fiery UK poet directs her fine honed literary tirades at capitalism, gentrification, climate change, war, disconnectedness, isolation and more.

 

Machinedrum – Human Energy
Inspired by the California new age movement, Human Energy finds US electronic producer Travis Stewart, coming as close as he has come to the popular arena, featuring very catchy tunes, a range of guest r’n’b vocalists, great beats and excellent production to create a summer record of euphoric glitch pop.

Roman Flugel – All the Right Noises
Roman Flugel’s third album is “about the solitary time in hotel rooms between gigs, and that strange mixture of peace and isolation”, and he has created a collection of pieces that lie between ambient and dancefloor in the wonderful world of electronic listening music.

Brian Eno – Reflection
Brian Eno has finally created a piece of infinite music, via an iOS app, that generates music indefinitely without ever repeating itself. In these anxious times, this hour long excerpt is a welcome respite, presenting a peaceful and calming virtual river to sit beside.

 

The XX – I See You
The London trio’s third release in seven years finds The XX creating their gorgeous and beautifully produced take on pop throughout, arguably, their best record yet.

 

Lana Del Rey – Lust For Life
LA songstress Lana Del Rey matures into a true artist with her excellent fifth album that expands her sound palette and makes real her fascination with modern pop culture via guest appearances from Sean Lennon, Stevie Nicks, the Weeknd and A$AP Rocky.

 

Neil J’s Picks:

David Long, Richard Nunns and Natalia Mann – Utterance
This is a truly remarkable album, it is what great music sounds like, this is a major work in any sphere of artistic endeavour and it’s what many musicians strive their entire lives to achieve and is one of the finest albums in any genre from anywhere I have heard in a very long time . It is the culmination of a lifetime for Richard Nunns who knew from the start of the albums production it would be his last work and it sounds as if he has placed some deep aspect of his very being into the piece. It is a modern beautiful abstract work that is very aware of the deep spiritual and cultural traditions from which it springs and embraces these roots whilst being totally unique and new and timeless. Its powerful, emotional, challenging, spiritual and simultaneously personal and universal.

Blade runner 2049 : original motion picture soundtrack
Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack to Blade Runner 2049 is a startling, original and stunning work that ranges from faint melodic echoes of the original to dark, bleak, unsettling, industrial howls and cries, it’s a fantastic piece. Whilst many soundtracks are just designed as audio cues for events in the film, only the very best create atmosphere and add to a film rather than just compliment it. Wallfisch and Zimmer’s soundtrack joins the esteemed ranks of people like Ennio Morricone or Bernard Herrmann in creating a classic soundtrack that stands up on its own right even when its stripped away from the films visuals.

Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
I love the Fleet foxes first two albums and was intrigued to hear that Crack up their third outing starts exactly where the last track of their second album Helplessness blues ends. No band is attempting to do what they do with their sound. It’s really hard to describe their work but here goes experimental, orchestral, modern folk music with a close affection for music from late 1960s American West coast Scene. People like Crosby, Stills and Nash or Joni Mitchell. Its lush, its gorgeous, its seductive and it has serious intent too one of my favourites of the year.

Perfume genius – No Shape
Perfume genius’s fourth album No shape is a lush, elaborate, decadent shape shifting album of contrasts. Moving effortlessly from haunting delicate fragile melodies that still somehow sound slightly damaged or decayed to uplifting euphoric rapturous elements often in the same piece of music.

Ross Harris – Requiem for the fallen
Ross Harris has had a very busy 2017 and for me this was his finest release and also the best new classical work I heard all year. A deeply emotional melancholic work, that drains the listener with its intensity (as a piece on this subject matter should) Its melodically subtle and is powerfully moving a piece that touches the heart in the saddest of ways. Its beautifully recorded and performed a stunning work in every way and my favourite classical work of 2017. Words by Vincent O’Sullivan.

Jackson’s Picks:

Kendrick Lamar – Damn

 

 

 

Aldous Harding – Party

 

 

 

Jay Z – 4:44

 

 

 

Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!

 

 

 

Alex’s Picks:

Kendrick Lamar – Damn

 

 

 

Kelela – Take Me Apart

 

 

 

Our favourite DVDs in the final leg of 2017

Our last lot of Staff Picks DVDs for the year has plenty to keep you entertained over the Christmas period. Our picks feature blockbuster visuals with ‘Atomic Blonde’, ‘Baby Driver’ & ‘Valerian and the city of a thousand planets’; foreign drama with ‘Land Of Mine’ & ‘Things to Come’; noir-ish crime with ‘Wind River’ & ‘A Conspiracy of Faith’; and quality foreign television shows with ‘Trapped’, ‘The Frozen Dead’ & ‘Salamander’.

A conspiracy of faith.
Another solid entry in the Department Q series from the novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen, that is setting Danish Box Office records. An old note is found in a bottle in Jutland which has been in the sea a long time, but its suspicious nature leads it to land on the desk of Department Q. The note is hard to decipher, but analysis seems to suggest it is a note from a kidnapped child who went missing 14 years before. Carl & Assad track the missing child to a remote Religious community, and with the disappearance of another pair of siblings realise they are tracking a killer who targets the faith of others. Intense, gripping and dark. Recommended for fans of the Sandi-noir genre. (Mark)

Valerian and the city of a thousand planets.
I loved the Fifth Element Luc Besson’s previous Science Fiction mega blockbuster science fiction movie I loved its quirky, idiosyncratic, humorous distinctly non Hollywood style. And like that movie Valerian and the city of a thousand planets is chock full of bonkers, wildly inventive, weird candy coloured neon eye popping visual effects. Besson has stated it’s his labour of love movie and it shows. On its release it got very mixed reviews and fared poorly at the box office largely due to its weak script and the lack of chemistry between the lead actors. For me though it has a very 30s/40s Flash Gordon serial style and feel and at its core is basically an innocent, good natured, action packed romp with a truly unique French comic book sensibility and stunning stylish visuals. (Neil J)

The wrong girl. Season one.
Probably one of the funniest Aussie comedies to date! The Wrong Girl is Bridget Jones’ Diary for Aussie TV! Poor Lily Woodward is approaching 30 and can’t seem to catch a break whether it is climbing up the career ladder, finding Mr. Right and is the epitome of a walking disaster. My favourite moment is her mad dash across Melbourne to intercept a hate email slamming the new hot chef on her TV segment that she sent to her boss in the heat of ‘burn out’ moment – Hilarious! Further complications arise when she has to ‘make nice’ and work with the chef, Jack and ends up falling in love with him! Another moment is when she talking to her best friend about how she feels about Jack… while the microphone is on, hence all her work colleagues know! Haha! Lily is adorable, lovable and relatable to women. She is the type of character that women feel better about themselves. So if you are interested in drama-based show with spice of a comedy, but which highly focuses on emotions and emotional conflict, this show is for you! (Katie)

Atomic Blonde.
From director David Leitch (John Wick) based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City this action spy-thriller is set in Berlin in 1989 against the backdrop of the rising chaos that preceded the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Charlize Theron is a lethal MI6 agent sent on a covert mission to recover a microfilmed list with the identities of all Western agents operating in Berlin. Theron is nothing short of fantastic and the gritty action sequences rival anything from the Jason Bourne series. Super stylish fun. (Mark)

Baby driver.
Edgar Wrights slick, smart and incredibly cool film Baby driver watches in a way like one of car chases that are central to its plot. One moment it’s the still before the storm the next full pedal to the metal adrenalin .It also sports an ace soundtrack that is central to the storyline. In many ways it’s also a homage to films like ‘Vanishing point’ or Walter Hill’s 1978 film The Driver both well worth checking out but that for me and a lot of other people is in itself no bad thing. (Neil J)

Things to come.
A leading young French auteur Mia Hansen-Love has dealt with ‘devastating loss’ in a variety of stages of life – loss of a father (Father of my Children), first love (Goodbye first Love), creative young days (Eden) – in her works. It continues in her latest effort and a 50-something female philosophy teacher is the subject this time. Nathalie (played by delightful Isabelle Huppert) has what appears to be a good life which suddenly becomes turmoil; her long-time husband leaves her for a younger woman, she is confronted with professional setbacks and her mother’s death. Showing her fine aesthetic and intelligence, Hansen-Love tackles this potentially melodramatic material in a modest manner, just subtly constructing small moments of everyday life, and thanks to its light tempo and Huppert’s effortless performance, it appears that almost nothing happens while everything happens. In fact, in her film’s ‘loss’ is the starting point of ‘new hope’, and this film ends with the lovely scene; Nathalie cradles her new born grandchildren, accompanied by The Fleetwoods’ ‘Unchained Melody’. Life goes on. (Shinji)

The frozen dead.
Adaptation of French crime writer Bernard Minier’s debut novel, which became a bestseller, the first in his Commandant Servaz series. A thoroughbred horse is found hanging from a cable car station in a Pyrenees town, St Martin de Comminges. The horse belongs to Eric Lombard, one of the richest men in France and so Commandant Martin Servaz is sent from Toulouse to investigate. He is not happy to be there, and things gets progressively worse as the dead horse is just the beginning in a complex set of crimes that lead back to a mysterious mass suicide in the towns past and one of his former colleagues, a murderer now housed in a local asylum for the criminally insane near the town. Servaz is perhaps a bit too much of a typical hard drinking, ruffled middle aged cop with a messy personal life, but the story is a tense and the location atmospheric. Shades of Hannibal Lector echo in the shows manipulative villain. Worth a watch. (Mark)

Broadchurch. Series 3.
UK crime/drama, Broadchurch ends with a bang with the third and final season! Three years has passed since the last season of Broadchurch. The peace and tranquillity of the town is disrupted once again when a gruesome crime, (Sexual assault) has been committed. Once again Hardy and Miller, (David Tennant and Olivia Coleman), are on the case, where they will both be tested, professionally, personally and emotionally. This season was heart-breaking. It will leave you emotionally wrecked and paint a vivid picture of modern masculinity gone wrong. However there were humorous moments in the form of playful banter between Hardy and Miller. As always their partnership, banter and bickering, mainly on Hardy’s part, is funny, entertaining and the embodiment of mutual trust and respect. It was nice to see a different of Hardy in this series. Normally portrayed as an emotionally unavailable, rigid, by-the-book police detective, you get see a loving, empathetic and emotional side. I loved the moments where he takes the “initiative” of “instructing” teenage boys on how to treat young women after they ‘disrespected’ his teenage daughter and comforting Miller when they finally catch the culprit, gently telling her that the rapist is an aberration and does not represent all men. Overall this season was a great to finish an entertaining and gripping crime series. (Katie)

Continue reading “Our favourite DVDs in the final leg of 2017”

WCL staff recommend these DVDs

The latest instalment of Staff pick DVDs has a bit of everything from political drama, sci-fi adventure & monster movies, to Oscar winning coming of age, and foreign crime stories.

Guardians of the galaxy. Vol. 2.
A technicolour explosion in a glitter factory. The cinematic equivalent of a long soak in a huge luxurious bubble bath, sound tracked by an ace, superb. guilty pleasure music mainly “from the 1970s” with wise cracking, funny well rounded characters you love or loathe. In a sharp, well-paced, slick, action packed science fiction story. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2’ is everything you want it to be and totally lives up to its predecessor. So get out the popcorn, turn off the lights settle down on the sofa you are in for a real treat. (Neil J)

The missing. Season two.
Excellent stand-alone follow up to the first season. In 2014, a young British woman stumbles through the streets of her German hometown and collapses. Her name is Alice Webster, and she has been missing for 11 years. Alice’s return sends shock waves through the small community. Told in dual timelines, flitting between 2014 and the present day, we follow Alice’s family as they are thrown back into a turmoil on her return. French detective, Julien Baptiste (from Series 1) becomes embroiled in the mystery when it is revealed that she holds vital clues about another missing girl, a case in which he was the lead detective 12 years previously. Retired & suffering a health crisis he struggles to gain access to Alice and unlock the mystery of her reappearance. As good, if not better, than the first season. Full of great acting and creepy plot twists. (Mark)

High-rise.
This is 1970s dystopian science fiction at its best, all exaggerated and exuberant bleakness concrete and chrome, hessian and wood, except for one thing this film was made in 2015. Its retro futuristic Science Fiction at its best and a total blast. The kind of film Ken Russell or Nicholas Roeg might have made back in the day. (Neil J)

Paterson.
A small quiet movie with a big warm heart – Jim Jarmusch depicts a week in the life of a bus driver and a poet named Paterson who lives in Paterson, New Jersey. Not much happens plot-wise, just following his everyday orbit and routine with his wife and their English bulldog. However, Jarmusch is a ‘master of variation’. Along with Paterson’s poems, he offers subtle but intriguing twists throughout creating slightly odd people and offbeat humours. It’s about love and creativity, and through the minimal but wonderfully spontaneous performances by Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani (and the dog Marvin!), reminds us that love is not only giving but, more importantly, accepting others. It’s a beauty of less-is-more. (Shinji)

Sherlock. Series four.
This season is shocking, brutal, heart pounding, will have you glued to the screen and as always, has some clever twists that you never coming. Sherlock and Watson are back in the new season, where their friendship and partnership is put to the test. This season also sees the return of old characters, the departure of a much beloved character and the appearance of new characters, one character that constantly makes multiple appearances in all three episodes. A character that is so deeply connected to Sherlock in a way you don’t see coming and is hell bent on destroying him to the point of psychological and emotional torture where another side of Sherlock is unleashed. More of an emotional, caring, loving and vulnerable side. Overall a fantastic season that had me glued to the screen, not to mention had me on edge from start to finish. Bring on Season Five! (Katie)

Homeland. The complete sixth season.
Homeland is back for another season taking place several months after Season 5. Carrie (Claire Danes) is back in the United States, living in Brooklyn and working at a foundation whose efforts are to provide aid to Muslims living in the United States. Peter Quinn is alive but has suffered a major stroke and is incapacitated and his personality has changed significantly. The season features the results of a presidential election of a female candidate, and takes place between Election Day and inauguration day, as CIA operatives Saul Berenson and Dar Adal begin to suspect that the new President Elect has an anti-intelligence bias and that Carrie may be helping shape her policy. A more personal season as the attacks on Carrie become more insidious, the show also follows an eerie parallel to the current US political climate. Definitely worth reconnecting with if you have found the last few seasons patchy. (Mark)

Colossal.
Colossal is a very different type of monster movie from the usual Hollywood or Japanese blockbuster. Anne Hathaway plays a woman who has to leave her urban life and return home due in part to issues she has with alcohol abuse. There she falls into an abusive relationship with someone from her past. At this point a giant creature emerges in Seoul and she slowly comes to the realisation that this is connected in some way to her and events in her past. It’s a quirky odd American indie film and more about the female lead than the monsters. Think of a version of Cloverfield directed by Jim Jarmusch rather than Godzilla directed Ishiro Honda. (Neil J)

Schitt$ Creek. Series 1, 2 & 3.
Written, produced and starring two veterans of Christopher Guest movies like ‘A Mighty Wind’ and Best in Show, Schitts Creek is very funny and well worth watching. No one says what they mean, no one hears any responses they don’t like and the main characters take forever to hear the sarcasm directed their way. The series features a great cast, led by Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy, Schitts Creek and has a very well-written script. (Belinda)

Moonlight.
Chiron is too sensitive in a macho black community. His mother is a drug addict and his best and only friend Kevin is the one he loves. It’s just too hard for him to be true to himself. In this exquisite coming of age tale which is uniquely divided into three chapters, the newcomer Berry Jenkins portrays Chiron’s lonely heart brilliantly. Showing the shadows of modern auteurs such as Claire Denis, Hou Hsiao- Hsien and Wong Kar-Wai, Jenkins displays his enormous talent and fine aesthetic, particularly in immaculately crafted poetic images, and makes it a beautifully intimate, humanising drama. This may be the most unusual Oscar winner – non-white, small art-house movie dealing with a sexual minority – but will be long remembered for its quality. (Shinji)

American Gods. Season 1.
‘American Gods’ is one of the latest mega budget T.V. series to follow in the wake of the success of Game of Thrones it’s been showered by critical acclaim and attracted a huge loyal fan base and when you watch it it’s easy to see why. Eye popping visuals that swoop from macro stunning landscapes to microscopic detail in seconds, a wildly inventive plot based on the Neil Gaiman’s bestselling novel. It’s surreal, provocative, and in some circles controversial and has even been called blasphemous. It’s brilliantly acted. I esp. like Ian McShane as a God. I personally can’t wait to see what they do in series two. (Neil J)

A dog’s purpose.
A heart-warming movie about the eight life journey of Bailey/Ellie/Tino/Waffles/Buddy and Bailey… again as he tries to find himself and his purpose in life. This movie will make you laugh, make you cry, feel warm and fuzzy, and will make you develop an appreciation, as well as respect for the aptly named man’s, as well as woman’s best friend, which Bailey/Ellie/Tino/Waffles/Buddy and Bailey proves time and time again throughout the movie, finding his purpose in life and teaching a few lifelong lessons along the way. Be prepared to have tissues on hand. I haven’t seen a better movie dogs since Red Dog. A librarian’s choice all the way! (Katie)

The disappearance.
Francois-Xavier Demaison is Bertrand Molina the new Police Commandant in Lyon’s national police station. As soon as he arrives for his new job a young teenage girl disappears at a music festival. With the grieving family pressing for answers, it’s not long before Molina uncovers a number of shocking secrets in a case that pushes everyone to breaking point. A combination of police procedural and drama, with the central focus is on a grieving family it naturally evokes comparison to the first season of Danish series The Killing, and is apparently inspired by the award-winning Spanish series Desaparecida. While not quite at the same level as The Killing it is well constructed, believably acted and worth a look if you are a fan of shows like Witnesses & Broadchurch. (Mark)

The red turtle.
A shipwrecked sailor has to survive on a desert island and comes across a red turtle that changes his life. This studio Ghibli co production is as you we have come to expect an exquisitely animated and very beautiful film in places it’s like watching a dream. The story is deceptively simple with the narrative instead driven by the visuals. In tone it’s like an adult version of the studio Ghibli classic Ponyo. If you are enjoying the new golden age of animated film we are in then this is a must. (Neil J)

Manchester by the sea.
Manchester’s gloomy winter sky sets the mood. Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me, Margaret)’s new film is a deeply emotional, haunting drama. Following the taciturn, solitary man Lee (superb Casey Affleck), it’s a study of grief, and the story unfolds with elaborate flashbacks as if reading a compelling novel. Lonergan seems to learn a lesson from the previous work Margaret, which was potent but terribly messy, and weaves a beautifully balanced, coherent drama in which every detail has a meaning. Cassy Affleck received numerous awards and deservedly so but under masterful direction, all characters, including wonderful Michelle Williams, shine here. Marvellous. (Shinji)

John Wick. Chapter 2.
More bonkers action with the taciturn John Wick (Keanu Reeves in great form), who is forced out of retirement again to honour a blood ‘marker’ from a former associate wanting to seize control of a shadowy international assassins’ guild. As sequels go this is pretty good. It sets up the background for ‘one more comeback’ nicely and fleshes out the underground world & rules of the mysterious guild. But John Wick is all about the high octane action and once this hits the ground it never lets up. Is it completely daft? Yes. Is it also totally enjoyable? Definitely. (Mark)

T2 trainspotting.
Begbie and the boys are now having to deal with middle age and the ghosts of their past. This sequel is nowhere near as bleak and unrelenting as the original. It’s much funnier (in a very dark way) and fairly rattles along . As sequels go pretty much everything you could wish it to be. If you prefer the original try the other recent Welsh film adaptation Filth (the title in a way says it all). (Neil J)

Toni Erdmann.
Slightly bizarre, certainly unique and definitely wonderful- the German filmmaker Maren Ade’s father-daughter relationship drama Toni Erdmann offers a delightful cinematic experience like no other. It takes a while for the narrative to get going but evolves superbly with a plenty of surprises after the prankster father visits his all-business daughter in Romania. Although it appear an improvised, free-flowing affair, Ade, in fact, meticulously prepared for this project; researching many comedians particularly Andy Kaufman, writing the script for two years (even biographies for every characters), a year casting and countless rehearsals, and succeeded to bring out a deep melancholic emotion from the comedy. Enthralling. (Shinji)

Shin Godzilla.
Godzilla movies are for me one of my ultimate guilty pleasures. I know they are cheesy and corny but there is just something about watching a person in a rubber suit trashing a model city that deeply appeals. In ‘Shin Godzilla’ the effects are now CGI but in many other ways this is a back to basics Godzilla movie the terror, the fear, awe and wonder at this unstoppable raw force of nature are all there and to top it all the final destruction scene is ace. A proper top notch GUILTY PLEASURE. (Neil J)

Librarians’ favourite DVDs of the month

A wide range of movies & TV shows curated by our avid AV fans on staff for the first half of the year. We hope you find something new to enjoy.

Beauty and the beast.
Belle (Emma Watson), a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast (Dan Stevens) in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the beast’s hideous exterior, recognising the kind heart and soul of the true prince that hides on the inside. Overall it was an interesting revamp of the original animated 1992 classic. I found there was more depth to the characters: Belle and the beast, and perhaps more of a back story as to how their background, experiences and personalities shaped the people that they came to be. As always, the story encourages viewers to look beyond the superficial and to be compassionate, curious, humble, and generous. This movie is a must see and has been worth the long wait. A film that the entire family can enjoy on a night out on the town– especially on a Saturday night! 9/10 all the way! (Katie)

The girl on the train.
Rachel (Emily Blunt), devastated by her recent divorce, spends her daily commute fantasising about the seemingly perfect couple who live in a house that her train passes every day, until one morning she sees something shocking happen there and becomes entangled in the mystery that unfolds. Solid adaptation of Paula Hawkins novel which, given it largely consisted of the main characters internal monologue, must have proven difficult to adapt. The location is changed to the States like High Fidelity, and like a spate of recent adaptations would probably have benefitted from being a BBC or ITV mini-series rather than a feature film. Probably, as with Gone Girl, more enjoyable if you haven’t yet read the book, but if you have it’s still an entertaining watch. (Mark)

I, Daniel Blake.
Always defending the socially vulnerable, Ken Loach’s career has spanned five decades and at the age of 80, he delivers one of his finest works. Obviously he is furious about the British welfare state and the heartless bureaucracy but with as little drama as possible, masterfully depicts the struggles of widowed carpenter Daniel Blake who has suffered a heart attack and a young single mother of two Katie. With the help of the excellent screenplay by his long-time collaborator Paul Laverty, there are lovely moments of humour and warmth in this harsh social realism drama and makes it even more memorable. A small triumph. (Shinji)

Finding Dory.
This movie is in a word, FANTASTIC! Finding Dory reunites the friendly but forgetful blue tang fish, Dory, along with her friends, Marlin and Nemo on an epic quest to find Dory’s family. The questions that hangs on everyone’s lips are what does she remember? Who are her parents? And where did she learn to speak whale? Even the Pixar short film, Piper that was released alongside Finding Dory is beautiful and heart-warming. Two movies for the price of one, you can’t go wrong. Overall, I loved the film! It will make you laugh, it will make you cry and it will make you want to watch it over and over again. It is truly unforgettable. A well-deserved 9/10. (Katie)

Sully.
Clint Eastwood helms this adaptation of the events of January 15, 2009, the Miracle on the Hudson, when Captain “Sully” Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks) glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard. It would be easy to downplay this as ‘solid’ or ‘straight-forward’ but after a recent span of bloated and overly arty biographical adaptations this 96 minutes is a perfect example of solid Hollywood film-making. If it seems underplayed or lacks that ‘larger than life’ factor of most biopics it’s a deliberate move, the no-nonsense storytelling a perfect match for the cool, collected nature of its subject. (Mark)

Captain Fantastic.
Ben, a father of 6, is raising his kids “off grid” and teaching them how to survive in the wild as well as feeding their amazing minds with his own home schooling techniques. Each child is unique and the viewer sees how Ben has tailored their learning to incorporate each one as well as “the whole”. When tragedy strikes he is forced to take them away from their known environment into the frightening modern world. The children’s grandparents disagree with the way he is raising his children and arguments ensue and lead him to question his beliefs. This movie made me laugh and cry and gave insights into modern child rearing and how it can be scary no matter where you bring your children up. 5 out of 5 stars. (Raewyn)

The man from U.N.C.L.E..
Set in the 60’s and at the height of the Cold War, a mysterious criminal organization plans to use nuclear weapons and technology to upset the fragile balance of power between the United States and Soviet Union. So in typical Superhero style, CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) are forced to put aside their hostilities and work together to stop the bad guys in their tracks. The duo’s only lead is the daughter of a missing German scientist, Gabby (Alicia Vikander), whom they must find soon to prevent a global catastrophe. In typical Ritchie fashion, there is plenty of fast moving (and perhaps violent) action sequences, memorable one liners, cameos by very famous actors and sporting figures (infamous cameo from David Beckham! – Whoohoo!), plenty of twists and turns that you don’t see coming. Overall a great film filled with action, comedy, romance and suspense. (Katie)

Arrival.
When mysterious spacecraft’s touch down across the globe, an elite team, led by expert codebreaker Louise Banks (Amy Adams), is brought together to investigate. As various countries respond differently to the situation an ‘attack’ on the new invaders seems immanent, as Banks and the team (Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker) race against time to crack a way of communicating with the aliens to learn just what their purpose in coming to Earth is. Marketed as a sci-fi film, it’s more philosophical in nature, similar to Jodie Foster’s ‘Contact’, Solaris or the recent wave of films like Ex-Machina or Coherence that focus more on the cerebral rather than spectacle. Perhaps not for everyone, but definitely different than the usual Hollywood approach. (Mark)

Indignation.
This directorial debut of James Schamus, who is well known as a producer particularly for Ang Lee’s works, is a faithful adaptation of Philip Roth’s late novel of the same title. Set in the 50s, it’s a bitter coming of age tale about the intelligent but complex Jewish student Marcus (Logan Lerman). Schamus transformed it into a solid, sophisticated work which features some impressive acting, including a16-minute-long verbal spar scene between Dean and Marcus. Apparently Roth was pleased with the film. It’s a relief for the director and the audience alike. (Shinji) Continue reading “Librarians’ favourite DVDs of the month”

Staff Picks CDs: Feb-May

A wide range of music styles and artists curated by our avid music fans on staff over the last few months. We hope you find something new to enjoy.

Hammock – Everything and Nothing
After experimenting with post-classical sound, the ambient, post-rock duo from Nashville seems to enter a new phase. This 16-songs-76-minutes-suite is their most pop album, featuring several singers and some rhythmical tunes. However, their distinguished musical world; mesmerising, gradually sublimated emotional sound scape, remains beautifully and enthrals you. Somewhere in the mixture of Cocteau Twins, Sigur Ross and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, this album should appeal to a wider audience. (Shinji)

Ingrid and Christine Jensen – Infinitude
Canadian sister jazz musicians Ingrid and Christine Jensen (trumpeter and saxophonist respectively) have played together over the years, but making a collaboration album is something new for them. Born and raised on Vancouver Island where surrounded by an abundance of nature, their Nordic roots is strongly embedded in the music here, and blends wonderfully into modern sonic jazz which shows the shadows of the late 60s’ Miles Davis. The communication among the players is so fluid, and the guest guitarist Ben Monder adds rich textures. Infinitude is a beautiful, sublime album. (Shinji)

Craig Taborn – Daylight Ghosts
One of the most innovative and versatile jazz pianists of today Craig Taborn has found ECM label as his home and this third effort for the label is a sheer magic. Assembled from his long-time friends and master musicians, the quartet shows amazing interplays and integrates Taborn’s enigmatic compositions into the highly skilful group improvisations. It’s a hybrid chamber jazz infused with subtle electronica, post rock, complex rhythm etc. This group is probably more avant-garde on stage but this is an ECM production. Their radicalness is slightly reduced and beautified. However, it worked out fantastically. A masterpiece is born. (Shinji)

Ross Harris – The Kugels play Klezmer
Ross Harris is perhaps better known as the leading composer of the New Zealand classical world or perhaps his pioneering electronic pieces with the Free Radicals. However his latest works are a revelation, the album comprises traditional Jewish Klezmer pieces. Melancholic, lyrical, delicate and beautiful , the music is played with grace and finesse by the Kugels who are the Wellington based quartet to which he belongs . The album pulls off that rare feat of sounding both vibrant and fresh whilst being firmly rooted in the tradition to which the music belongs .
Highly recommended. (Neil J)

Relative Abundance – Golden Pavilion
Golden Pavilion is an ambitions, experimental, emotionally engaging album . A modern classical piece with deep roots in modern electronic ambient works. If you like Steve Reich or Brian Eno or indeed cutting edge modern electronica then this will be right up your street.
The band describes the piece as being like music from a long lost fictional civilisation that might have borne some similarity to Japan, Tibet, Nepal or Indonesia: a work of fictional anthropological field recording. relativeabundance.bandcamp.com/album/kinkaku-ji (Neil J)

Alt-J – An Awesome Wave
Their music creates a dreamy soundscape punctuated by clicks and snares, overlaid with intriguing lyrics suggesting themes such as the suffering of a Matador in the bull ring, to relationship breakup aftermath, even alluding to Maurice Sendaks “Where the wild things Are”. For me, it is the perfect music to distract from the dreary windy rainy Autumn weather. (Lisa)

Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos
The award winning British poet/rapper excels on her second album which is something quite spectacular. The grooves are fat, the tunes are great, and the lyrics, while cutting and acerbic, are drawn from a deeply humane perspective. This is an intensely political record that harks back to the early days of hip-hop as she directs her fine honed literary tirades at capitalism, gentrification, climate change, war, disconnectedness, isolation and more. Yet, surprisingly, the total does not come across as preachy or over wrought, and this is largely due to Kate Tempest’s impassioned delivery and the quality of the music. She obviously cares very much and really wants you to as well. (John)

Machinedrum– Human Energy
US electronic producer Travis Stewart, aka Machinedrum, has slowly built a worldwide profile with his workman like approach, consistently releasing excellent records and his latest is no exception. Last year’s “Vapor City”, his first for the esteemed Ninja Tune label, was a standout, merging genres including dubstep, r’n’b, jungle, footwork and ambient to create something original and very cool. “Human Energy”, inspired by the California new age movement, finds him coming as close as he has come to the popular arena, featuring very catchy tunes, a range of guest r’n’b vocalists, great beats and excellent production to create a summer record of euphoric glitch pop. (John)

Pink Floyd – The Early Years 1967-1972
This double cd features a relatively small selection of tracks from “The Early Years 1967-1972”- the mammoth 27 disc box set released earlier this year. Unless you are a dedicated fan, this selection should satisfy curiosity concerning Pink Floyd’s early time as an arty underground band before Dark Side of the Moon” launched them into the stratosphere. Nicely contextualized by a well-informed booklet included here are their first singles, some early BBC Sessions, previously unreleased soundtrack works, early live recordings and, intriguingly, 2016 remixes of three tracks from “Obscured By Clouds”. (John)

Nicolas Jaar – Sirens
The Chilean producer made a big splash with his 2011 release “Space Is Only Noise” and “Sirens”, experimental releases aside, is his follow up. Difficult to pin down, Nicolas Jaar is a fiercely creative producer who doesn’t simply merge genres; he throws them up in the air and creates something new and fresh with what falls down. His Discogs page tags him as “Electronic, Ambient, Downtempo, Modern Classical, Techno” which gives some indication. Using all manner of instruments, field recordings, lovely vocals, discreet electronics and a range of moods from ambient through downbeat to driving rock he has created not so much a record as a world to explore. (John)

The Radio Dept – Running Out of Love
This Swedish band have gradually built a loyal international following since the release of their 2003 debut “Lesser Matters”. Capturing everything that is appealing about the classic indie sound – gentle vocals, sweet melodies, driving grooves and meaningful lyrics – they deviate only slightly from their distinctive sound on this, their fourth release, by including more electronica in the mix and also incorporating a political awareness into some of their lyrics. Simultaneously nostalgic and forward looking, this is probably their most consistent album that comes as a friendly reminder of what a lovely thing it can be to have warm, intelligent music in your life. (John)

Shirley Collins – Lodestar
A real event within the folk world, 84 year old Shirley Collins, the “faerie queen” of UK psych folk who turned her back on singing and has lived in relative obscurity for almost 40 years, was finally coaxed back to a microphone by devoted fans. Recorded live to laptop in her rural cottage and accompanied by members of the next generation of folk musicians, this is a beautiful document, capturing her moving renditions of traditional British and American songs in a pure and humble fashion that enables times past to live again. (John)

Roman Flugel – All the Right Noises
In these beat saturated EDM times its refreshing to discover an electronic producer exploring more abstract regions yet still creating accessible sounds. Roman Flugel’s third album is “about the solitary time in hotel rooms between gigs, and that strange mixture of peace and isolation”, and he has created a collection of pieces that lie between ambient and dancefloor in the wonderful world of electronic listening music. It’s an imaginative and diverse ride, beautifully produced with sparkling highs and throbbing lows, that moves between a variety of styles and while the whole thing has a slightly unsettling feel, that is part of its charm. (John)

The Clean – Getaway(reissue)
Since their surprise 1981 hit “Tally-Ho” hit the charts, launching the ‘Dunedin sound’ into worldwide consciousness, The Clean have only released five albums and this re-issue of their fourth, 2001’s ‘Getaway’, with great artwork and an accompanying second disc featuring the rare tour-only live eps – “Syd’s Pink Wiring System” and “Slush Fund”, sits well in their scant but highly influential discography. The album sees the band in mature song writer mode and these well produced tracks cover a wide range of styles from the characteristic motorik chug of their early days to slower compositions featuring a range of instruments and a quieter mood. (John)

Kate Bush – Before the Dawn
In 2014 Kate Bush returned to the stage with a series of twenty-two shows and this three disc set is a recording of that show. Surprisingly, the set doesn’t focus on Kate’s hits, featuring only “Hounds of Love”, “Running Up That Hill” and “Cloudbusting”. Instead the focus is on two of her more ambitious works – “The Ninth Wave” (side two of Hounds of Love) and “A Sky of Honey” (side two of Aerial). With the album proudly stating “nothing on the record was re-recorded or overdubbed”, the performances are wonderful – her voice magnificent, with the accompanying musicians supplying sensitive and finely tuned performances. While it is a little frustrating to be missing the visuals of the stage show (with no DVD included) this is a treat for fans and not to be missed. (John)

VA – Jon Savage’s 1966: The Year the Decade Exploded
British writer Jon Savage’s new book explores how the year 1966 unfolded in music, taking one key song from each month and expanding on a theme. It’s a great book, well researched, and strongly recommended for those interested in the history of contemporary music and cultural development over the past 50 years. This two disc compilation is a companion to that book, featuring many of the key tracks discussed by Savage. The 48 tracks represent a wide snapshot of the times, from The Who’s ‘Substitute’ through Love’s ‘7 and 7 Is’ to Lee Dorsey’s ‘Working In a Coalmine”, and there is even a track from the very first David Bowie album! It’s a fascinating journey and a great listen if you have read the book or not. (John)

Romare – Love Songs Part Two
Romare’s debut album, last year’s ‘Projections’ was one of the years’ best electronic releases, featuring a great collection of sample laden smooth and funky grooves that always stayed engaging, edgy and interesting. His follow up, again on London’s Ninja Tune label, is essentially more of the same – and that is a very good thing. Nothing is too frantic and the grooves keep rolling, created from expertly selected samples from classic jazz, funk, house and soul that steer the tracks unfailingly into expertly layered excursions, some quiet and beguiling, some as seductive and funky as one could hope for. It’s a very cool ride from a talented producer that holds together nicely as an album rather than just a collection of tracks. (John)

Bonobo – Migration
Migration is Simon Green, aka Bonobo’s, sixth release since his 2000 debut, the gorgeous ‘Animal Magic’, and over that time he has become one of the most respected and successful electronic producers on the planet. His last album, 2013’s ‘The North Borders’ was his breakthrough and was toured, with an ensemble of live musos, across 30 countries on four continents to a total audience of around 2 million. His sound has evolved into a gorgeous form of electronic soul that features pianos, guitars, woodwind, strings and guest vocalists interlaced with found sounds and Green’s expertly crafted drum and keyboard programming. By turns melancholic, majestic and celebratory this is music that invites you into its own world. (John)

Brian Eno – Reflection
Brian Eno follows up ‘The Ship’, his 2017 vocals based release, with an hour long piece of generative music that continues on from his wispy 1991 work – ‘Neroli’. These generative pieces are delicate minimal electronic works that represent Eno’s strivings to create music that floats on the air like perfume, that doesn’t seem like music so much as pleasurable sounds that drift by your ears – always different, always the same – like a river. Generative music is created by putting together systems that generate the sounds in random patterns and with ‘Reflection’ comes the option to purchase an iOS app that presents a simple visual that gradually changes colors as the music itself slowly shifts, generating music indefinitely without ever repeating itself. So it seems that Eno has finally created a piece of infinite music. In these anxious times ambient works like this are a welcome respite, representing as they do, a peaceful and calming virtual river to sit beside. (John)

The XX – I See You
The London trio’s third release in seven years finds them continuing their moody brooding indie pop trajectory, however their sound palette has evolved, appearing to have incorporated production ideas from trio member, Jamie XX’s very successful solo electronic venture “In Colour”. This shift is evident from the get go with the first track, ‘Dangerous’, built on a bass groove and skittering hi hats. The lyrics are, as always, yearning, bittersweet love songs, and when Romy Madley Croft sings “I’ve been a romantic for so long” it’s easy to hope that never changes as The XX create their gorgeous and beautifully produced take on pop throughout, arguably, their best record yet. (John)

Sun Ra – Singles: The Definitive Collection 1952 – 1991
This impressive three disc set contains all of Sun Ra’s singles presented in chronological order. The first question one may ask is why did Sun Ra even bother releasing singles? The visionary outer space jazz maestro could hardly have been aiming for top 40 air play and, according to the liner notes, the mystery remains unexplained. Over his career Sun Ra simply decided that certain tunes needed to exist as 45s and he went ahead and pressed them, sometimes in runs as small as 50. Consequently, several are rare collectors’ items now, but thanks to the current media we are able to hear them all in remastered splendour. Beginning with his poem “I Am An Instrument” the listener is taken through the entire of Sun Ra’s career from big band jazz through be-bop to doo-wop to experimental and beyond. It’s a fascinating journey and these short compositions offer a great road into Sun Ra’s universe. (John)

William Basinski – A Shadow In Time
New York sound artist William Basinski made waves in the ambient world fifteen years ago with the first instalment of his astounding work, ‘The Disintegration Loops’. Since then he has regularly released his strange and hypnotically repetitive ambient sound projects and these two 20 minute pieces compare well with the best in his canon of work. The first piece, ‘For David Robert Jones’, a tribute to David Bowie, is oddly moving, and features, as a nod to Bowie’s own saxophone honking on ‘Subterraneans,’ a saxophone loop slowly mutating over the decaying extract from a heavenly choir, while the second piece ‘A Shadow In Time’ is a work of austere beauty, composed for an archaic Voyetra 8 synthesizer. (John)

The All Seeing Hand – Sand To Glass
Three years on from the excellent ‘Mechatronics’, Wellington trio, The All Seeing Hand return with their fourth album, which finds them refining their electronics driven sound into a subtly more reflective mode without sacrificing any of their characteristic intensity, having said that, there are still all out bangers like the excellent ’Silicon & Synapse’. Imaginative, exciting and powerful, this is a band brimming with confidence pouring their energy into well produced and well-constructed arrangements that make full use of Jonny Marks’ ecstatic throat singing, three guest vocalists and Alphabethead’s grungy electronics, all driven by B. Michael Knight’s excellent drumming. It’s a captivating sound, not quite electronica, not quite punk, not quite metal, not quite experimental and not quite rock and it would be fair to say that no-one else anywhere is making music quite like this at the moment. (John)

Johann Johannsson – Original Soundtrack – Arrival
Since his debut release in 2002, Icelandic ambient composer, Johann Johannsson, has been making consistently excellent music and it was inevitable that he would eventually make film soundtracks, as his composition style is especially evocative, conjuring up complex worlds of the imagination. His latest project was the soundtrack to the excellent sci-fi film “Arrival”, for which he provides a score that is suitably mysterious, spooky and tense, making full use of treated voices that perfectly complement the overall eeriness of the film, and to his credit, the music works equally well as a stand-alone work. (John)

Thievery Corporation – The Temple of I & I
Thievery Corporation have released a record every three or four years since their 1996 debut “Sounds From The Thievery Hi-Fi”, and their sound hasn’t changed a lot in that time, however, that may not be a bad thing. They perfectly nailed the sound of dubby downbeat early on, and even though this music is more likely to be played in cafes these days than anywhere else, that doesn’t detract from the quality of the music, which has remains consistently high. Their last record, 2014’s ‘Saudade’, explored Latino rhythms and this time around they turn their attention to dub and have made their most roots oriented album yet. Featuring a great horn section, and a different guest vocalist on each track, comprised of male and female toasters, songsters and rappers, the grooves roll on in a beautifully produced bass heavy treat. (John)

Traffic – Five Classic Albums
On his path from vocalist/keyboard player with the Spencer Davis Group as a 14 year old musical prodigy with a voice like Ray Charles, to FM blue-eyed soulboy, Stevie Winwood spent seven years from 1967-74 as core member of the loosely labelled prog rock group, Traffic. Contained here are five of the six Traffic albums that span a range of styles. Their first two releases, ‘Mr Fantasy’ and ‘Traffic 2’ strongly reflect the psychedelic influence of those times, featuring songs by turn enigmatic, playful and moody accompanied by saxophone, flute, keyboards and electric and acoustic guitar. The later records find the group evolving into a cross genre jam band with the fifth album, ‘Shootout At the Fantasy Factory’ featuring the Muscle Shoals rhythm section. It’s good to be able to hear these records back to back, but anyone who wants a shortcut is directed to the double disc set ‘Smiling Phases’ which features highlights across their six albums plus their early singles and includes a booklet that places this music within a historical context. (John)

Matthew Dear – DJ Kicks
US electronic producer Mathew Dear’s excellent contribution to the ongoing DJ Kicks series features his distinctive take on dance music, mixing excerpts from a wide range of tracks over an hour. The slinky minimal grooves roll out seamlessly, featuring vocal snippets, hypnotic bass lines and four to the floor house and techno rhythms which slowly build to the last four tracks, three of which are from Mathew Dear’s dance floor alter ego, Audion. (John)

Howe Gelb – Future Standards
Howe Gelb’s first band ‘Giant Sand’, who’s rhythm section would eventually become Calexico, helped kickstart the alt country movement back in 1985. He has created a vast back catalogue over three decades, breaking style now and again to indulge his love of low key cocktail jazz. Recorded at his home, ‘Future Standards’ is his most overt exploration of that style so far, complete with a classic cocktail jazz trio of tinkly piano, walking bass and soft brush drums. Gelb’s low key crooning is accompanied by guest vocalist Lonna Kelley and between them they offer a languid and dreamlike take on twelve original love songs that are so perfectly rendered that any potential irony is surpassed. (John)

The Bats – The Deep Set
2017 marks the 30th anniversary of the Bats debut “Daddy’s Highway” and their ninth album, “The Deep Set”, is remarkable in that neither their lineup nor their sound has significantly changed in that time. What is even more remarkable is how their jangly guitars, gentle vocals and songs of quiet hope have not dated in any way, still offering a welcome respite for the world weary. The Bats are telepathically tight after all this time and this new batch of songs, that keeps a true indie flag flying, are as good as anything they have done.

Staff Pick CDs – More ‘Best of 2016’ selections

2016 was a bumper year for new music (although we admit we might say that every year) so we have some more choice top picks for you to browse. Most genres are covered here, so there should be something for everyone!

Cover imageArrangingtime. Pete Yorn
Pete Yorn was one of those artists that never seemed to live up to the potential of his fantastic first album. His second was a solid follow-up, but the next couple were patchy, and his last effort, 2010′s ‘PY’ with Frank Black was a total misfire. After that he seemed to disappear, popping up briefly as part of ‘The Olms’ in 2013 whose very short Beatles-esque album had some Ok tracks. However Yorn was back in 2016 with his first solo album in 6 years on a new label. ‘Arrangingtime’ shifts the guitar sound to a wash of synths on some tracks but he still hews close to the sonic template of his first couple of albums. Sounding invigorated by the break, this collection of melodic synthy rockers is his most consistent and enjoyable for a long time.

Cover imageSwan song series. Tanya Donelly
One of the most influential female figures in the 90s music scene returned with a 3-Disc collection that rounded up the 5 EPs she released on Bandcamp between 2013-14. Co-founding Throwing Muses with stepsister Kristen Hersh, which she played in from 1983-1991, she then co-formed The Breeders with Kim Deal of The Pixies, before founding her own group Belly. After ‘Belly’ folded she released 2 indie pop albums followed by 2 more introspective acoustic albums before essentially stepping away from music; so it was a surprise when 7 years later she began to release a series of EPs on Bandcamp. Each release featured songs co-written with friends, musicians and previous collaborators, including noted authors. American Laundromat Records collected up all the EPs and some extra tracks for a richly diverse compilation that wandered through a number of genres all anchored by a sense of experience and wisdom, in addition to her lovely voice which sounds as good as it ever was.

Cover imageGive up on your health. Teeth & Tongue
Teeth & Tongue is the moniker of Melbourne based, Wellington raised songwriter and musician Jess Cornelius. Her family moved to Wellington when she was 11, and music was the one constant, her parent’s record collection played a huge role in fuelling her desire to make music. She entered a couple of local “battle of the bands” comps while at school, but it wasn’t until a move to Melbourne at 19 that she fully tapped into her musical potential. Latest album ‘Give up on your health’ is a swirl of Giorgio Moroder 80s synths, but underneath the fantastic production is a set of serious songs that focus on fracturing relationships, isolation, and past regrets. Electro-pop tends to veer towards cool beats, hip choruses and emotional detachment, but Cornelius and her backing band plunder the digital sounds to record the messy analogue organics of real human interaction.

Cover imageThe 11th sky. Electric Wire Hustle
Just when you think Electric Wire Hustle can’t get any better they (or rather Mara TK, the last man left of the original three piece band) up their game yet again. His fantastic voice sits comfortably in that late period Marvin Gaye/Leon Ware pocket, but the sound of ‘The 11th Sky’ is harder and fuller. Moving away from the patented psychedelic Neo-soul of the last 2 albums they move into a sonic realm of darker, heavier, beats that envelop Mara TK’s analogies to Maori mythology, and metaphysical concerns on the pressures of money, love and expectations that weigh down peoples journey towards a better place within themselves. A real sense of searching for meaning pervades the album.

Cover imageAce & Gab’s honeymoon. Maple Syrup
We really liked Vera Ellen’s solo album Monte Casino, and now she is part of Maple Syrup, a new 4 piece that melds a grungy garage 90s alt-rock aspect with the pop sensibilities that were on display on Monte Casino. Riffy guitar lines, catchy melodies, rocking tracks. Makes you remember why you like new bands. The vibrancy and sense of purpose. The adherence to old forms, yet that energy and discovery.

Cover imageI’ll forget 17. Lontalius
‘Lontalius’ is one of the stage names of 19 year old underground Wellington sensation Eddie Johnston, who also records under the moniker ‘Race Banyon’, and has been an active participant in the local live scene since his early teens. After a slew of independent releases on Bandcamp he came to prominence in 2013 via a collection of Casiotone rap covers, which soon found endorsement from Lorde and Ryan Hemsworth. He signed to New York label Partisan Records for full length debut ‘I’ll Forget 17′ and moved away from R&B covers and the Hip-Hop of alter ego ‘Race Banyon’, to deliver an album of intimate alt-pop tinged with melancholy & a lyrical maturity beyond his years.

Cover imageBrothers and sisters of the black lagoon. Orchestra of Spheres
More experimental rock madness from this cult Welly band who are breaking big overseas, signed to Fire Records out of the UK, featuring as The Guardian’s Band of the week, and getting glowing reviews for this latest album. A funky melange of shifting music styles.

Cover imageThe death of all things. Beastwars
More beautifully sludgy metal from Wellington’s premiere purveyors of ‘The Riff’. Internal band dynamics made this the most difficult (and for lyricist Hyde the most personal album yet). Anger and unease seethes beneath every song, but the tension results in what may be their best album yet. On hiatus after a brief tour, one can only hope they return at some point for another chapter in their music.

Cover imageHumid nights. Eva Prowse
Great new album from Eva Prowse, that forsakes the violin country/folk of her first album I can’t Keep Secrets and jumps right into the electro-pop world of bubbly midi’s, bouncy pop tunes, and fond musical memories of growing up in the 80s. Sits comfortably alongside any of the many international artist’s working within this retro synthy sound. Definitely one of the best ‘Wellington’ Releases of the year.

Cover imageBrown girl. Aaradhna
Aaradhna’s albums always have a retro feel which highlights her love of older musical styles, whether it’s 50s doowop, 60s Motown or 70s soul, however she always surrounds those styles with plenty of contemporary sounds & flourishes, and more importantly always brings her unique sense of integrity & emotion to everything she does, as well as the incredible power of her soulful voice. ‘Brown Girl’ is her most personal album yet, directly addressing the racism she experienced growing up and the breakdown of a long term relationship.

Shinji’s Picks:
Cover imageThe Thompson fields/Maria Schneider Orchestra.
Leading jazz orchestra is no easy task both artistically and financially, but that is what Maria Schneider has been doing marvellously for more than two decades. Drawing her influence from modern classical masters such as Ravel and Hindemith, and above all her mentor Gil Evans, she has invented a watercolor-like transparent sound. She seems to hit the top with this landmark album, offering a glorious lyricism as well as a superb dynamism featuring the fantastic soloists. Sublime.

BestOf2016CDs60Aziza/Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Lionel Loueke, Eric Harland.
Legendary jazz bassist Dave Holland formed another suppergroup with Lionel Loueke (guitar), Chris Potter (saxphone) and Eric Harland (drums) and they superbly unite and present a bouncing funk-jazz with an African twist. Every member contributes two compositions each and they are rather complex which often in irregular time, but these master musicians play effortlessly and groove hard. Holland has been active in the front line for five decades but shows no sign of slowing down. Brilliant.

Cover imageMonoswezi Yanga. Monoswezi
Monoswezi, whose name is taken from the names of the members’ birth countries (Mozambique, Norway, Sweden and Zimbabwe), offers subtle hybrid music of African, jazz and minimal music, centring around Zimbabwean singer Hope Masike’s voice and mbira (thumb piano). It’s a low-key affair but their less-is-more approach somehow gives you a rich musical journey, like some good ECM albums do.

Cover imageApe in pink marble. Devendra Banhart
He has been busy as a visual artist in recent years (had exhibitions at several places around the world) but the ‘freak-folk’ singer songwriter Devendra Banhart is back with another stellar album. It’s an airy effortless music which enigmatic experimental sprits within. There is nothing particularly new here and he probably doesn’t need any changes, but everything; songs, arrangements, performances, come nicely together more than ever.

Cover imageA moon shaped pool. Radiohead
Evolving into something much larger than just a rock band, Radiohead shows tremendous presence and the supergroup aura. They seem to be heading somewhere no one ever got before.

Neil’s Picks:
Cover imageNothing more to say/The Frightnrs.

Cover imageVoid beats/invocation trex. Cavern of Anti-Matter

Cover imageWildflower/The Avalanches.

Cover imageEarth into aether. Bill Baird

Cover imageBloodline. Xixa

Cover imageEyes on the lines. Steve Gunn

Cover imageWe got it from here… thank you 4 your service/A Tribe Called Quest.

Cover imageInner journey out. Psychic Ills

Cover imageThe heavy entertainment show. Robbie Williams

Cover imagePhase zero. Morgan Delt

Cover imageNonagon infinity. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

Monty’s Picks:
Cover imageLemonade. Beyonce

Cover imageFlotus. Lambchop

Cover imageBlood bitch. Jenny Hval

Bridget’s Pick:
Cover imageIsland songs/Ólafur Arnalds.