CDs From The Vault: 2003-2004

Our music review archives go back 20 years now. In that time various Library Staff members have reviewed a huge range of material, across every genre in our collection and, since we used to have multiple copies of titles, we still hold a lot of these items in out off-site storage facility.

Due to a catalogue upgrade the links from our old HTML Music & Film web-pages no longer worked, so they became unavailable to browse some time ago. However, since from February 1st of this year we are running a one year trial where all CDs will be free to borrow, we thought it was a good time to go back and revisit some of these old reviews for a new series called ‘CDs From The Vault’.

Chain gang of love / Raveonettes
This long-awaited full length album from the Danish duo stretches the promise of their debut EP with a brilliant array of new material (this time in the happier key of B flat major, while never straying too far from their Jesus and Mary Chain roots. (Neil P.)


Under the influence : Ian Brown
The second in the series of stars-make-their-own-compilation-CDs, this is a timeless selection by the onetime Stone Rose. Hip hop, reggae, soul, gospel (and a token white number!) make up a mouth-watering melange of classics, some of which you’ll never hear anywhere else. (Neil P.)


La revancha del tango / Gotan Project
The Gotan guys blend the sexy syncopations of tango with the dark, echoing textures of dub and the beats of house and nu jazz to create a sound that is at once timeless and extremely modern, familiar and completely original, and basically just so darn all-around hip that it’ll infuse your squalid little urban apartment with all the allure of a smoke-filled Parisian jazz club. (Robert)

Paradigm shift / Sheehan, Rhian
Wellington musician Rhian Sheehan presents his first downbeat album, an easy-listening, attractive blend of acoustic instruments & electronic computer wizardry. These are very individual soundscapes, with sound effects, samples and melodies all beautifully melded together. Lotus Hartley (Nomad) sings – and somehow you will not be surprised to read on the leaflet that Jeremy Geor ( 50Hz) was involved in this whole slick local production. Rhian Sheehan trained as a guitarist – there are also a couple of his own pure & lovely acoustic guitar tracks on this album. If you like this you might also like two other local albums: Haunted out-takes by Aucklander Sola Rosa (and his previous album Solarized). (Pauline)

Tallahassee / Mountain Goats (Musical group)
Another in the “lo-fi” genre, a friend put me on to this. If you’re a fan of Bonnie “Prince” Billy, or Smog, then check this out. (Fiona)



Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros | Streetcore (2003)
Joe Strummer 002 : the Mescaleros years / Strummer, Joe
A postmortem release from Strummer, this is an excellent cd with ska-infused rock. His version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” is a standout. (Fiona)



Horse power / Phoenix Foundation
This local band’s cd has made the NZ Listener’s “Top CDs for 2003” list this week. It’s a great release, very mellow. Heard them at Labour Weekend’s Wellington Folk Festival, and they were great. The opening track “Sister Risk” is a standout. (Fiona)


Product placement / DJ Shadow
Designed to come across something like listening to a live set, Product Placement sees DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist with half a CD each to show their mixing skills. With no demarcations between tracks, it’s hard to pick out highlights, but the whole thing is filled with “aha” moments of vintage funk, soul and even an obscure rendition of LedZep’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ – all this interspersed with choice cuts of cheesy advertising soundbites of yesteryear. (Jason)

Haha sound / Broadcast
Warp records’ best kept secret return with their second album. The 60s psychedelic pop aesthetic is still evident, with enough reverb to trigger an altered state. Although present on their debut, the synths and sonic experimentation are more prominent here, evoking a mood that might be described as futuristic-nostalgia. If this sounds like something you’d like also check out Stereolab’s Emperor Tomato Ketchup & Cloudboy’s Down at the End of the Garden. (Jason)

The college dropout / West, Kanye
The most talked about hip hop album of this year must be Kayne West, but does it deserve the hype? Yes. Yes. Dear God Yes. It’s got the phattest bass lines, the catchiest hooks, the funniest skits and the nicest rhymes. His sound is the most diverse I’ve heard in ages, he goes through hardcore to gospel and visits a little jazz. But best of all, he’s not shouting about packing heat and ho’s, he’s talking about being a college dropout and how he made it in the hip hop world. And finally as a producer he has developed a uniquely Kanye West sound which while versatile, is instantly recognisable as a Kanye West production. The album itself is outstanding, with some of the most original material heard in years, and some hilarious skits. The Source gave it 4 and a half mics, I say 5. (Anna)

Unknown pleasures [1 CD] / Joy Division
Icy, bleak and not a bad soundtrack to the apocalypse, ‘Unknown Pleasures’ fails to deliver the feelgood hit of the summer; given the energy, brooding intensity and inventive musicianship on display though, this is nothing to get depressed about. Alternating between sparse, moody pieces and driving riff based songs, JD display all the rough edges of punk, although the overwhelming feeling is one of anxiety rather than anger. Most of the album sounds like it was recorded in a chilly airport hangar, which ably reflect the themes of isolation and angst in Ian Curtis’ lyrics. (Jason)

No thanks! : the ’70s punk rebellion
4 CDs and a 114 page booklet, this box set documents the punk scene in the States and (particularly) Britain in the late ’70s. Includes many of the highlights of this explosive period, from The Buzzcocks to The Cramps, and from The Dead Kennedys to The Cure. No Sex Pistols though (too expensive…). Rollicking good fun and a great introduction for those too young to remember. (Neil)


The Dresden Dolls / Dresden Dolls
My fav debut of years – wonderful cabaret-piano-punk with hilarious and heartbreaking lyrics that range between insanity, Edward Gorey, coin-operated boyfriends, jeeps, a bogeyman, being born in the wrong century and self-mutilation. I assure you – often funny, burbling over with ideas and personality. Amanda sings “and sappy songs about sex and cheating, bland accounts of two lovers meeting, make me want to give mankind a beating.” Exactly. The white doll-face makeup and penchant for Jacques Brel and Black Sabbath covers might suggest artifice, but beneath the face-paint there is a shocking intimacy. (Karen)

Drill a hole in that substrate and tell me what you see / White, Jim
I liked his earlier CD (No Such Place), but this is even better. It’s quite polished, also includes contributors like Aimee Mann. Great lyrics too – and album title. Definitely one of the best I’ve heard this year so far. Standout songs are “If Jesus Drove a Motorhome”, “Static on the Radio”, “Combing My Hair in a Brand New Style” (which reminds me of the Sopranos’ theme). (Fiona)

Dengue Fever / Dengue Fever
White male Californians in a 2003 tribute to 1960s Cambodian psychedelic music, fronted by a female Cambodian pop star singing in Khmer – this is a strange mix of cultures, eras and musical styles, but it works beautifully. Catchy if unintelligible songs about being lost in Laos, shaving your beard and playing Connect Four. And all inspired by a bout of mosquito-transmitted tropical disease. (Neil)

Frozen orange / Kilgour, David
If you are not already familiar with Kilgour’s laconic, deeply casual songwriting then you could do worse than start with this, easily his most ‘poppy’ album. His beautifully droopy lyrics and guitar lines hang delightfully over hooky pop orchestrations,played seamlessly by members of the American band Lambchop. A good one for the impending summer and backyard barbecues. (Thomas)

Real gone / Waits, Tom
Almost 35 years since his first release, Tom Waits keeps on truckin’ with his newest album. A twistedly dark & epically beautiful piece of work; highly original & instantly grooving. Many of the songs originated with Waits recording voice-noises onto a 4-track in his bathroom, while his wife & kids were asleep. Parallels may be heard with the dark, organic feel of Mule Variations & the fantastically sporadic guitar rock n’ roll of Rain Dogs. (Brett)

Count backwards from 10 / Strawpeople
This CD is really mellow in places and ideal for chilling out on a hot day with a cool ‘soda’ in your hand… But it is also upbeat enough to catch yourself grooving and humming along to it. The perfect CD for a summer car journey. (Kini)



Abattoir blues ; The lyre of Orpheus / Cave, Nick
The 13th album from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is anything but unlucky – that tragedy belonged to their previous work: Nocturama. Spreading material over 2 CDs, we are splattered with a diverse range of songs that explode like atom bombs, groove like ghost trains & float like butterflies. There is also uncharted territory, perhaps due to the absence of Blixa Bargard, but also because these are very much “band songs”, obviously not written in the solo piano style of his most recent albums. (Brett)