CDs From The Vault – 2007: Part 1

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, archived 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’.

Back to black / Winehouse, Amy
Winehouse’s debut album ‘Frank’ was a somewhat patchy Jazz/R&B affair, but her latest album hit big with critics, especially in the U.K, and won the Brit award for Best Female, beating out strong competition from Lily Allen & Corinne Bailey Rae. Her Macy Gray-esque voice may not appeal to everyone and the album, while touted as influenced by 50’s and 60’s Girl Groups and Motown sounds somewhat forced in places, trying to deliberately emulate a classic sound rather than achieving it naturally (like Corrine Bailey Rae with her original material, or Joss Stone on ‘The Soul Sessions’ with cover songs). Still it has some good songs with some complex takes on life and relationships like the title track and ‘You know I’m no good’. (Mark)

No, you c’mon / Lambchop
The flip-side to accompanying CD ‘Aw C’mon’ finds Lambchop’s typically allusive, cryptic lyrics immersed in Glen Campbell, strings, chomping piano and bright, poundy instrumentals. ‘The Problem’ is an ironic title for one of Wagner’s least pessimistic takes on the chance of love yet, whilst ‘Shang a Dang Dang’ reiterating chug-title infectiously rants. ‘The Gusher’, another instrumental slows to a crawl and playfully uses the ‘Mary Tyler Moore’ theme song, ‘we’re gonna make it after all’. This is Lambchop at it’s lightest, in fact a million light years from previous downer-but-still-excellent release ‘Is a Woman’. Wagner, on the inner sleeve opines optimistic. ‘YOU ARE IMPORTANT BE GOOD TO EACH OTHER.’ L (Monty)

The life pursuit / Belle and Sebastian
A great indie pop album from these Scots. Song highlights the upbeat ‘Sukie in the Graveyard’ and ‘The Blues Are Still Blue’. (Richard)




Brick : the songs of Ben Folds 1994-2012 / Folds, Ben
‘Sunnysuperspeedgraphic, the LP’ by Ben Folds.
In between his 1st solo album & his second, Folds toured briefly with Ben Kweller & Ben Lee releasing an internet only EP ‘The Bens’ to commemorate it. He decided he liked the idea so recorded 3 more EPs, initially only available through his website or iTunes. The original EPs, each recorded in only a couple of days, sound a lot looser and more diverse than his previous work and so he decided to compile some of the tracks together, tinkering with some to iron out any rough edges. Folds is either someone you find just a little too ironic and clever or you tend to like most of what he does, so this CD won’t really change anyone’s opinion of him, but it does contain some really good songs – many of which are arguably better than those on his second album ‘Songs for Silverman’. Highlights include covers of the Cure’s ‘In Between Days’ & The Darkness’ ‘Get your hands off my woman’, ‘Bruised’, and ‘Learn to live with what you are’. The best moment though, is reserved for his cover version of Dr. Dre’s hardcore rap song ‘Bitches ain’t s**t’ which he ‘reinterprets’ as a sensitive piano ballad, making for a truly surreal listen that you will either find incredibly offensive, or truly hilarious. (Mark)

High heeled / Livids
High heeled is a great, short (only 7 tracks), rock album from a group that actually retired in 1997, after producing 1 EP and 2 full length albums. Luckily they met up again in London and after several gigs ended up back in NZ in 2005 and were based in Wellington. Although they originated from Knowledge City, Palmerston North, the original lyrics from each song are not mind-bendingly complicated, or deep and meaningful. From the simple yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah ah, ah, ah chorus on the first song, Wakahitu to Doo Doo, (another chorus in the song of the same title) to Champagne (“stars in your eyes, it’s no surprise”), nothing too taxing, simple, easy, but great rock that stays on the brain. The bands they say that have influenced them are too many to list, but they seem to me to be more like the early Stones, but with more rhythmic depth and better vocals. High Heeled is a favourite at the moment, makes you want to party. (Linda)

Monotheist / Celtic Frost
Generally I’m not the sort of chap who is easily frightened, that said, Monotheist, the latest album from Celtic Frost gives me the creeps. Celtic Frost were pioneers of ‘avant guarde’ heavy metal, with their unique blend of doom, thrash and black metal they released a number of completely unorthodox yet utterly brilliant metal albums. It must also be noted that they have released some absolute garbage. It was no surprise then that 13 years after their last release their 2006 ‘comeback’ album was nervously awaited by fans. But never fear (not yet anyway) Monotheist is a right royal trip through every grunting, churning and shrieking cliché that makes heavy metal the glorious institution it is. Heavy on the doom and with one of the darkest and grittiest guitar tones in recent memory Monotheist’s overwhelmingly nerve shredding production is combined with some intensely gothic lyrical themes making for the listening equivalent of a Sunday night triple horror feature. Highly recommended for the squeamish. (Craig)

Oh no / OK Go
If you ever wondered what happed to the ‘New Wave’ sound of the 80s you can find it on an OK Go CD. Mixing the pop punk aesthetic of the Pixies and the euro rhythms of The Cars this is another album full of catchy hooky tracks produced by Tore Johansson (Franz Ferdinand). A little too samey in places but the good tunes make it worth while. (Mark)


The blackening / Machine Head
It takes an extremely brave band to kick off their new album with a epic opener rather than a catchy three minute single. Machine Head however push aside thoughts of a ‘hit’ and launch into their latest album with a ten minute tirade of politics and action. What follows is arguably the strongest release from a band well over 15 years into their career. The Blackening showcases the ease with which Machine Head manage to mix aggressive 80’s thrash with blasts of death and industrial metal to create an entirely relevant yet classily inspired slab of metal. 2006-2007 has seen many excellent releases from stalwarts of the metal scene; essential listening experiences available though the Wellington Libraries’ catalogue include Celtic Frosts’ Monotheist, Iron Maidens’ A Matter of Life and Death and Slayers’ Christ Illusion. We can now confidently add Machine Head’s The Blackening to the list, a dense, aggressive and excellent release from a band at the top of their game. (Craig)

Portrait of a legend 1951-1964 / Cooke, Sam
Considered by many to be the greatest Soul singer ever, and some say the greatest singer full stop this is (over 30 years after his death) only the second compilation to chronicle his entire career, and the only one in digitally re-mastered sound. The collection traces his career from the early gospel work of the Soul Stirrers’ to the anthem ‘A change is gonna come’, cut just prior to his tragic (and mysterious) death in a violent altercation at a motel one night. While some of it may sound tame today, no one was doing anything like it at the time, and it’s easy to hear how his voice influenced scores of singers who came after him. The CD also has some great packaging, including a comprehensive track by track annotation describing how the songs came to be written & recorded. (Mark)

Beyond / Dinosaur Jr
A big return to form for the surprisingly reformed Boston band. Strong melodies, solid rhythms and the trademark searing guitar from frontman J Mascis. Against all the odds, Dinosaur Jr. have delivered an album to rate alongside the best of their 1980s work. (Neil P.)


Till the sun turns black / LaMontagne, Ray
LaMontagne’s 2nd album after 1994s ‘Trouble’ is a more sombre affair, a blend of alt country, R&B/blues, and a Leonard Cohen-esque singer-songwriter vibe. Sparse instrumentation backs most of the songs; while horns and a small string section of cellos & violins make other songs stand out. Worth checking out if you liked Ryan Adams’ last few albums. (Mark)

The reminder [1CD] / Feist
This is an excellent fourth album from Feist, sometime member of Broken Social Scene. Feist achieved international solo success with her peppy dance around the room hit ‘Mushaboom’ [think it was on a car ad in the UK incidentally] from her otherwise cry-into-your-coffee Let it Die. The Reminder is soulful, quirky, full of interesting melodies sung with her fine, yet at times, husky voice. Listen out for her bright arrangement of Nina Simone’s Sealion Woman. (Carmel)

Sky blue sky / Wilco
I realise ’10 reasons’ reviews are a complete cop out, however we don’t have time to dither about on this one so here is 10 simple reasons why you should be reserving the new Wilco album right now! (1) it is really sweet without being the last bit saccharine, (2) Nels Cline’s guitar solo on Impossible Germany, (3) the post rehab ditty Shake it off, (4) as Jeff Tweedy notes, “we live in dark times, it’s just really nice to just have someone sing you a song”, (5) say goodbye to Wilco deconstructing the pop song and say hello to flashback 70’s soft rock, (6) this album is packed full of warmth and fuzziness, perfect for winter, (7) the hybrid blues/country/pop jam of Walken, (8) it comes with another insightful Wilco documentary, only this time no infighting, record label hassles or Jeff vomiting, (9) Jeff really loves his wife – it gives us all hope, (10) it’s upset plenty of Wilco purists, bless them. (Craig)

Out of the woods / Thorn, Tracey
Only her 2nd solo album, after 1982’s ‘A Distant Shore’, and her first in 25 years and her first move back into the recording studio since 1999 finds Tracey Thorn (the lead singer from ‘Everything but the Girl’) not veering too much from the signature sound of her band. Some songs are more acoustic and downbeat and others have string backing, exploring subjects like motherhood and love; but a lot employ the club beats, drum n bass elements, and programming that characterise the last few EBTG albums. A great return. (Mark)

Songs for Silverman / Folds, Ben
I love the enthusiasm of Ben Folds music, the range and bounce with his piano playing, his voice like a lost Beach Boy. The music on ‘Songs for Silverman’ is punchy and Lynday Jamieson on drums flies through fills and solos whilst Folds improvises. You To Thank chonks along at a hyperactive pace, and Folds angst-ridden lyrics never quite get as pathetic as they might thanks to prankster-Folds’ love for a well placed swear word. Included is a lovely Booklet of Folds’ photographs: the first is an introspective self portrait, the last three of son, daughter and wife. (Monty)

Big / Gray, Macy
Back when Macy Gray’s first album ‘On how life is’ came out in 1999 she was hailed as the next great soul saviour, with an amazingly unusual voice, and a best selling single that went on to win a Grammy. But the following album, 2001’s ‘The Id’ played up the more ‘crazy’ style of her musical persona and didn’t fare as well, and her 3rd release ‘The trouble with being myself’ was prophetic, given the album failed to register commercially. The trouble with her uniquely raspy vocals was that they needed the right context to operate in, and her 2 previous albums were patchy affairs full of contrived songwriting and heavy handed production. ‘Big’ reels in a slew of producers and writers like (Black Eyed Peas), Ron Fair & Justin Timberlake yet for all the outside input comes off as her most cohesive album yet, and a surprisingly good return to form. Most of the songs hit a mid-tempo groove, and her rough voice is counterbalanced with smooth backup singing on several tracks to good effect as her general ‘sound’ moves away from the hip-hop/70’s funk stylings of her last couple of CDs to a more ‘old school’ feel. Recommended if you thought she’d lost the plot a while back. (Mark)

Icky thump / White Stripes
It starts off impressively with Icky Thump as the first track, and progresses along, with some great highs and a few not too memorable lows, although it is all fairly listenable, and better than their last album. You Don’t Know What Love Is, is a real power pop ballad, reminiscent of the 70s, a few good hard blues tunes, particularly the longest track 300 mph Torrential Downpour Blues, just loved it. Also Rag and Bone was a real blast, (my favourite) and the quiet A martyr For My Love For You. Maybe I’m too old or have heard too much, maybe it’s just too hard now to be very original, but Little Cream Soda has the heavy overtones of Rammstein mixed with the electronics of Hot Chip. Scary. Can not help feeling that maybe Led Zeppelin has done it all before and Jack White although developing a great guitar style is no Jimmy Page, but at times does sound very like Robert Plant. Strange. All in all not too bad and some of it will live on. (Linda)

Hibernaculum / Earth (Musical group)
Earth is the work of Dylan Carson, who for many years was more famous for being the chap who brought Kurt Cobain the shotgun which ended his life. Earth was the consummate doom/drone band, releasing bewilderingly heavy albums in the early 90’s, before burning out in a drug and crime fuelled haze. However, after a decade or so of heroin addiction newly clean Dylan Carson resurrected Earth and returned in 2005 with the spectacular Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method an album, which though holding onto definite drone elements, rode out in a new direction, namely country. Earth’s new style, exhibited perfectly on Hibernaculum, retains the repetitive style of drone but draws heavily from instrumental country, movie soundtracks and features some of the most spectacularly hypnotic riffs heard in a long time. Backed by his band fresh and firing from a long tour for Hex this CD also comes with a 60 minute documentary of the tour which provides a fascinating insight into the life and mind of a genuine underground legend, welcome back! (Craig)

Memory almost full / McCartney, Paul
The titles digital allusion aside, this isn’t the bitter ‘divorce’ album that everyone expected. Rather it’s an album by a guy who wrote a song called ‘When I’m 64’, who is now 64 himself, taking a look back on his life and coming to the conclusion that, given the various ups & downs, it wasn’t half bad. Playing nearly every instrument the album marks a return to the ‘art’ rock of his first 2 solo albums, ‘McCartney’ & ‘McCartney II’. A look at mortality, it’s not the ponderous concept album that has befallen other ‘elder statesmen’ of rock when they tackle the same material, rather jaunty melodic & whimsical. (Mark)

Commercial album / Residents (Musical group)
The 25th anniversary edition of this landmark album is beautifully packaged with a full set of lyrics. The 40 one-minute songs reveal a wealth of ideas and a strong sense of menace, and being so short, never outstay their welcome. As fresh-sounding now as in 1980. (Neil)