March’s New Music for Te Awe…


Statler: Well, it was good.
Waldorf: Ah, it was very bad.
Statler: Well, it was average.
Waldorf: Ah, it was in the middle there.
Statler: Ah, it wasn’t that great.
Waldorf: I kind of liked it.”
-‘The Muppet Show’.

I’m Mark, the Music & Film Specialist at Wellington City Libraries. I buy music for the CD & Vinyl collections, and also run the Libraries’ Wellington Music Facebook page). My Music Specialist colleague Sam, and Fiction Specialist (and avid music fan) Neil, join me every month to cast an eye over the new material we have been buying for the music collection at our CBD Te Awe library. We pick out some interesting titles across a range of music genres, and try to limit our reviews to a few lines only. Can we encapsulate an entire album in just a couple of lines? [Ed. This is probably unlikely at this point]. Do we actually know anything about new music? Or, are we just too old to understand what most of this is banging on about? [Ed. This is more than likely]. Read on to find out…

Purge / Godflesh
Sam Says: Godflesh established themselves as a major pioneer of the industrial and post metal genres back in the late ‘80s into the ‘90s and went on to become influential to many artists across a variety of metal genres, including such major names as Metallica, Fear Factory, Korn and Mike Patton. They disbanded in the early-2000s, before forging a successful comeback a few years later. Purge is their third album since then and finds them in a comfortable and familiar place, infusing musical features from various stages within their eclectic career. Particularly of note is the inclusion of trip-hop and breakbeat elements, which came to the forefront in their mid ‘90s output on albums such as Songs of Love and Hate and Us and Them. This is slathered with noisy and punishingly discordant heavy guitar riffs recalling their earlier work, albeit with much slicker production values, which in turn makes it firmly feel like a Godflesh album in the present day. Purge carries a real sense of catharsis, with the title being a reference to Godflesh’s music providing a temporary relief from frontman Justin Broadrick’s diagnosed autism and PTSD. Overall, this is an impressively potent collection of songs for a band now several decades into their career.

Madra / NewDad
Mark Says: A pandemic success story, this Irish rock band put out a series of singles & videos over the lockdown, building an online audience and millions of streams. Their debut full-length throws up a strong entry into the shoegaze revival, very much reminiscent of the 90s Trip-hop/shoegaze sound, channelling elements of Curve, Garbage, early Sneaker Pimps, and also Robin Guthrie’s post Cocteau’s band Violet Indiana (with vocalist Siobhan de Maré). There’s nothing really new here, but it’s done really well. A nice slice of spiky, angsty pop from a young band who are sure to rise above their influences with further releases.
Neil Says: The debut album from London Via Galway pop shoegaze band NewDad clearly shows their influences, but also shows their desire to move beyond them. It is clear that the dulcet tones of bands like Garbage, The Pixies, The Breeders and The Cure frequently grace their turntables. The lyrics are more personal, and are focused around themes of self-doubt and the emotional turmoil of being a young adult. It’s a fizzing dream pop outing with heavy fuzzy guitars and solid bass lines; the sound of a band who know where their roots lie, but who also want to stamp their own musical identity on them.

Dangerous day to be a cold one / Dartz
Sam Says: Over the past five years, Dartz have rapidly become one of the most exciting and prolific acts within the local Wellington punk scene, with several EPs and singles put out since 2019. Released on the famed Flying Nun records, the aptly (and humorously) titled Dangerous Day to be a Cold One is their sophomore full-length effort, and finds them sounding more confident and polished than ever before. Packed full of infectiously catchy and highly energetic pub-rock party anthems over the space of 30 minutes, it is a fiercely immediate and decisive album from a band firing on all cylinders, a notion made all the more apparent by the quick turnover since the release of their debut little over a year ago. With Dangerous Day to be a Cold One, Dartz have clearly established themselves as a major up-and-coming force within the local scene.
Neil Says: The second album from the New Zealand slash and burn punk rock outfit Dartz sees them capitalising on their reputation for high octane explosive live gigs. They’ve been playing to packed audiences of ecstatic heavily involved fans, and this resulting new album doubles down on their brand of raucous, anthemic, fast and furious punk sing along tracks, all with a unique local bite to their lyrics.

Filthy underneath / Shah, Nadine
Mark Says: The fifth album form this UK musician channels a series of personal tragedies, from her mother’s passing during Covid, to the collapse of her marriage, substance abuse, and mental health struggles. The dark tones of this album are no doubt a reflection of the last few harrowing years, processed into a series of intimate & visceral songs that trawl through the debris of therapy sessions, her mother’s death, suicidal ideation and more. Despite the heavy themes the music shifts through various styles, and somehow manages to pull it all together into unflinching observational narratives that addresses the bleakness that can sometimes overtake us all, while forging a path through it.
Neil Says: The fifth album from the Tyneside based musician Nadine Shah finds her exploring the themes of recovery, grief and rehab; all experiences she has had personal experience with recently. It’s a well-trodden path to use your own personal experience as a lyrical springboard. However, despite the emotional and serious nature of the lyrics, the album remains bright and upbeat and employs a wide range of musical influences, including non-western inspired harmonies and melodies, propulsive rhythmic cores, some delicate orchestration and a tinge of stadium Goth.

Ilion / Slift
Sam Says: Hailing from Toulouse, France, over the past few years Slift have forged a sound that incorporates classic psych/space-rock stylings with a heavy progressive approach. Their third album Ilion shows them developing their palette in an impressive manner, which feels even more expansive and overwhelming than on previous outings. From the get-go, there is a truly enveloping psychedelic atmosphere that is easy to get sucked into, which invites the listener on a maelstrom of a musical journey that barely lets up over the course of almost eighty minutes. The long runtime is entirely justified, with the frenetic and hypnotic energy providing a relentless sense of excitement and grandeur which never descends into plodding monotony. The technical proficiency of the musicians is worthy of note, with the three members able to fuse dizzyingly virtuosic performances into a singularly cohesive sound that feels much larger than the sum of its parts. For anyone with a keen interest in heavy psychedelia with a progressive edge, Ilion is truly essential listening.

Prelude to ecstasy / Last Dinner Party
Mark Says: Next big thing Indie UK band, who began in 2021 as “The Dinner Party” in London whilst studying at University. They quickly gained cult status playing London’s independent gig venues soon scoring management and PR deals, and a recording deal with Island Records. They opened for the Rolling Stones before they had even released any music, and went on to win the ‘Rising Star’ Brit Award in December 2023 and the BBC ‘Sound of 2024’ poll. Their debut single “Nothing Matters,” was released last April and has racked up over 30 million plays on Spotify, so there has been a lot of hype around their debut album, which came out last month. Prelude to ecstasy is a big expansive slab of indie rock meets musical theatre and orchestration, with elements of everything from Queen to Florence & the Machine, to goth & glam. There’s so much going on musically to encapsulate, it’s sort of like what would happen if you merged Wet Leg and Suede into the same band. Nevertheless, the album throws up a series of perfectly executed and undeniably catchy baroque bangers. Sure to be on the Best of the Year lists.

Blu wav / Grandaddy
Mark Says: Jason Lytle’s Granddaddy returns after 7 years, following on from 2017’s The Last Place. Embracing the pedal steel guitars of country music (the title is apparently supposed to be a mash up of ‘Bluegrass’ & ‘New Wave) the album’s reflective, string laden, sprawling Americana emerges a perfect musical palette for Jason Lytle’s soft focused sad narratives. Like Brian Wilson, Lytle manages to synthesize a weary personal yearning and loneliness into a greater universal meaning. Some critics hailed Lytle for creating a new genre with this album, others place it within the strand of country music called Cosmic Country, whose predecessors include Gram Parsons and Doug Sahm among others.
Sam Says: Having been in existence on-and-off for the past three decades, American indie-rock/alt-country legends Grandaddy return with their sixth full-length effort Blu Wav. Their first album in six years and the first since the tragic passing of long-term member Aaron Garcia, Blu Wav exudes a potent and immediate sense of introspective melancholia. As with many of their previous efforts, the songs were almost exclusively composed, performed, produced and mixed by frontman Jason Lyttle, making for a recognisably cohesive listening experience encompassing a singular artistic vision. Showcasing a lushly immersive and multifaceted instrumental and production style, Blu Wav comes across as possibly Grandaddy’s most subtle and mellow affair to date.

Wall of eyes / Smile
Sam Says: As a new group featuring Radiohead’s two most creatively potent members (namely Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood), it is no surprise that the music of The Smile bears many aesthetic similarities to its highly celebrated parent band. They made their entrance back in 2022 with the debut album A Light for Attracting Attention, which in itself was an impressively fresh outing for a group of musicians now several decades into their careers. Where the aforementioned debut was somewhat sprawling and wildly varied in its stylistic output, the follow-up Wall of Eyes feels more restrained and cohesive in its approach, making for a more focused listening experience. The inclusion of renowned jazz drummer Tom Skinner steers the music in a more progressive, fusion-inspired direction than one might expect to find in a Radiohead-adjacent project, with flavours of psychedelia and krautrock seeping through. The lush instrumentation is also worthy of note, with Jonny Greenwood’s enigmatic orchestral arrangements peppered across the record providing a dramatic and emotively engrossing atmosphere. Overall, Wall of Eyes is a more-than-worthy addition to the legendary body of work of its collective creators.
Neil Says: This album has hardly been off my playlist since its release. I loved A Light for Attracting Attention, The Smile’s first release, though for me it fell more into the category of a fabulous collection of individual songs than a unified work. Wall of Eyes is a more cohesive release, with superb orchestration, arrangements and lyrical content all brilliantly delivered. It is an album that knows when to be subtle and quiet and when to let it rip, and the transitions between these elements are beautifully handled, effortlessly touching on so many genres without ever replicating any. While it is always well worth listening to anything connected with the Radiohead members, Wall of Eyes is something special and up there with the very best of their work, and there isn’t a weak link in the whole project. An outstanding release.

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