New Music for Te Awe: Part 2


via GIPHY

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 also run the Libraries’ Wellington Music Facebook page). Every month my colleague Neil and I cast our 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? Read on to find out…

Timbuktu. / Sangaré, Oumou
Mark: The Malian star’s 8th album focuses on social critiques & the turmoils of her home, blending the traditional, sinuous, Malian Blues sound, with western rock & folk influences more organically than her previous album. The music, as ever, revolves around her powerful voice that celebrates Mali – while also standing up for women’s rights and the downtrodden and marginalised. Female choruses soar over a wall of sound of traditional African instrumentation, creating a relentlessly hypnotic grove to carry her messages of hope and solidarity.
Neil: The ninth album from the Malian superstar regarded as musical royalty both at home and abroad. Oumou Sangaré recorded the album during lockdown in her new home in Baltimore, a more personal outing than previous works. Tender and intimate and more subtle in approach, though it still delivers its political statements throughout. Known for combining hard hitting political messages, often about women’s low standing in society, with infectious upbeat music, the music here is meticulously constructed from numerous West African folk- fingerpicking treated guitar styles, as well as kamele ngoni and Koras.

Terror twilight : farewell horizontal. / Pavement
Mark: The iconic indie band’s somewhat-maligned final album gets the long awaited deluxe treatment that the rest of the albums have received. Helmed by Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich (the altered tracklist of Disc 1 represents his original album sequence) the tighter production and focus on Stephen Malkmus’ songs gives it the feel of a solo album more than a collaborative band effort. The depth of bonus material is less than previous deluxe releases, mostly consisting of Malkmus’ demos, B-sides and some alternate takes. However it serves to showcase some of the underlying tensions with the band, as they struggle to get to grips with Malkmus’ more complex writing, and his evolving musical aesthetic. A fine reconsideration of this outlier in their creative catalogue.
Neil: Pavement were one of the most influential indie rock bands ever. ‘Terror twilight’ was their last album, and this is the definitive release, with outtakes and demos included. The album was recorded as the band were being pulled apart from the inside, with various members wanting totally different things from the recordings and being in the band, and the recording process itself became an expensive stop start process in several recording studios. And you can hear all that tension and unease in the finished pieces. Some are wildly experimental, whilst others are clearly aiming at a more “ mainstream indie” sound. That said, in many people’s opinion it contains some of Pavement’s best and most original work and is definitely a fabulous insight into an obviously fraught creative process. A truly enigmatic work from the band that might have been the ‘American Radiohead’ if things had played out differently.

We’ve been going about this all wrong. / Van Etten, Sharon
Mark: The 6th album from Van Etten moves further away from her acoustic/Americana sound into soaring synths and beats. The gossamer vocals are melded to an epic production, that seems big on even the acoustic tracks. Her writing deals with the detritus of failed relationships and emotional upheaval and this album, written over the Covid period, uses that skill to drill down into the specifics of our collective uncertainties during this time: raising children in isolation, keeping love & life together, moving forward, letting optimism override sadness. The sweeping grandeur reminded me of Mercury Rev at points.
Neil: : Like many of us Sharon Van Etten struggled throughout the pandemic and, like many artists, she used her art to explore and express her emotions and feelings in new music. The songs in ‘We’ve been going about this all wrong’, her sixth outing, are subsequently about the demon’s that haunted her over that period, as well as reflections on and acceptance of past mistakes. The music is like a lot of her work: noirish indie pop with slight nods to the gothic genre.

This is a photograph. / Morby, Kevin
Mark: The seventh solo from American singer-songwriter Kevin Morby (formerly of psych/folk band Woods) was inspired in part by old family photographs he was going through after his father had a serious health scare. There’s a Dylan-esque element to Morby’s work, and this album has been acclaimed as perhaps the best expression yet of his musical vision. Recorded in Memphis the album absorbs that cities mix of grit & style, and these contemplative narratives of middle America are shot through with horns and strings. An album that’s almost impossible to describe, with a grandiose, almost epic, vision to it. Its sprawling themes, and warm tales of family and memory, explore the lives of his parents, the end of childhood innocence, and the bittersweet complications and detours of lives well lived.
Neil: The seventh album from the Kansas city troubadour Kevin Morby is big. Big on sound and vision. An album that veers, as required and needed, from maximalist to minimalist American. It is a vast sprawling work dealing with the big stuff: love, life, family, and death. It is a highly nuanced piece, loud when required soft and quiet, when necessary, all aimed at serving the emotional content at any moment, and in the end a celebration of the richness of life.

Humble quest. / Morris, Maren
Mark: Third major label album from this Texas country singer. Part of the wave of younger artists whose core is a traditional singer-songwriter style, but who reflect the digital age of musical fluidity that happily incorporates glossy pop, indie rock, adult AOR, & R&B into the mix. Thoughtful mature commentaries on love, life & family surrounded by Greg Kurstin’s slick production. The pop quirky-ness of Jewel meets the slick country songwriting of early Taylor Swift.
Neil: Clear eyed country pop from Maren Morris the Nashville songstress, coloured by both her recent motherhood and grief from losing her creative foil and band-mate Michael Busbee. It is a short album, 37 mins long, but there is a cohesive clarity expressed in the deliberate simple beauty of many of the tracks.

Crooked tree / Tuttle, Molly
Mark: Tuttle’s third full length album & debut on Nonesuch, shifts from her previous roots-pop sound to more traditional bluegrass, with plenty of violin, banjo & guitar picking. The lyrics focus on the heartland life and its people, millers, farmers and moonshiners, the land & the instilled values that are always with you wherever you are. If Maren Morris’ album was about escaping small town life, this album is about leaning into its traditions and culture. Reminded me of Alison Krauss & Union Station in places. Dan Tyminski from that band actually guests on one track, as do Old Crow Medicine Show & Margo Price, so that should give you an idea of the sound.
Neil: Crooked Tree is an upbeat modern, and very stylish, take on traditional American bluegrass music, replete with duelling banjos picked by fingers at a blurred speed and country violins. The music is modern in approach, but has its roots strongly in the bluegrass genre. However, this modern approach is much more prominent in the lyrics: songs about modern America, growing grass, the gentrification of long-standing communities in cities, and especially strong women, are at its core.

Still life. / McHone, Carson
Mark: 3rd album from this Texas-born singer/songwriter moves away from her first recordings, which were apparently more straight ahead honky tonk barroom ballads. Stylistically this almost splits the difference with the previous two country-esque album reviewed above. Not traditional, but not slick country-pop also. This is more akin to the 90s singer-songwriter/Americana sound of Sheryl Crow, Gretchen Peters, Kim Richey, Gillian Welch and the like. An equal mix of outward roots-rock and inward introspection, that tackles the shifting emotions of relationships. A singer on the rise.
Neil: Whilst definitely fitting firmly into the Americana genre ‘Still Life’ deftly demonstrates what a broad church this genre can be. Carson introduces musical and lyrical experimentation in a complementary fashion to the core country sound. There’s southern soul inflected tracks’ a nod to R&B. as well as gnarly rock heavy guitars in places. Carson’s vocal delivery has a gentle beauty to it. which is the icing on top of the cake.

Motomami. / Rosalía
Mark: 3rd album from this Spanish superstar, following 2018’s flamenco-pop smash El mal querer. A fascinating listen, that mixes traditional Latin styles with contemporary pop. Traditional ballads meet rap, bachata, reggaeton, electronica, trap and more, often in the same track. A perfect mix of musical experimentation that succeeds in merging the past and the present, with an originality and singular vision that reminded me of Robyn’s self-titled breakthrough album.
Neil: ‘Motomami’ is the third album from the Spanish singer Rosalia. It is a musical self-portrait, a confessional work, which explores her feelings over the past three years. With sexuality, spirituality, heartbreak, and self-discovery all explored. The album is a genre bending collage of influences: experimental pop in the complex genre style of alternative Reggaeton – which evolved from hip hop, dancehall Caribbean and Latin American music, usually sung in Spanish in a rap singing cross-style. The resulting listen is an exhilarating roller coaster of sounds and tunes.

New Music for Te Awe: Part 1


via GIPHY

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 also run the Libraries’ Wellington Music Facebook page). Every month my colleague Neil and I cast our 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? Read on to find out…

The pavilion of dreams. / Budd, Harold
Mark: New CD addition of the second album from minimalist composer Harold Budd. Lovely, peaceful, tranquil musical twinklings. Easy to see why he is now hailed as one of the forerunners of the ambient movement. There is a yearning melancholy to these hushed, reverb-laden, synthesiser lines and choral like vocals, and you can perhaps infer an influence on Vangelis when he was scoring Blade Runner.

Neil: A very welcome release of this exquisite, beautiful, very relaxing album, that never falls into the many traps of new age music. It has complexity and depth, as well as sinuous melodic drift. In many circles Harold Budd is a legend, producing an outstanding body of solo work and collaborating with the likes of The Cocteau Twins, Brian Eno, and John Foxx. Brian Eno described him as “a great abstract painter trapped in the body of a musician”. Which you can clearly hear why on this album.

Keep on with falling. / Boo Radleys
Mark: The Boo Radleys are a UK indie-pop band that mixed shoegaze, dream pop, & psychedelia who were big in the early 90s, but faded away towards the end of the decade with a couple of uninspiring releases. Deciding to reform in the 2020’s without their chief songwriter, this is their first studio album since 1998, and is actually really good. Sunny feel-good pop, with soaring choruses and dreamy atmospherics. The strong vocal harmonies have a real Hollies/Teenage Fanclub feel. Classicist pop at its best.

Neil: This is the first Boo Radleys album in 24 years and the first without founding member and lead guitarist Martin Carr. The result is a bouncy , punchy Brit pop outing full of catch pop songs. The album is different from the ones that Carr was on, his influence on the band brought a more unusual and unique sonic pallet to the mix, in short, their own brand of psychedelic, creating an absence that some listeners may miss.

Wet Leg. / Wet Leg
Mark: Critics who liked Wet Leg’s viral 2021 debut single Chaise Longue, with it’s amusing spoken word non sequiturs, have been somewhat disappointed at the more conventional album that has followed; whereas those who found the single an over-hyped novelty, have found the album deeper and more varied. Essentially a duo of Isle of Wight, musicians Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, they are certainly the most hyped band of the moment. Full of infectious melodies, their debut manages to balance the silliness of some of their songs, with others that capture the specific rolling anxieties of late 20s millennials. Biting lyrics rip through boring parties, relationships with ex-boyfriends, dating apps, and the malaise of being young women in a small town. Verdict: Lives up to the hype.

Neil: The indie rock duo’s debut album has already attracted a lot of attention. The album itself has clever lyrics stuffed full of modern observational, tongue in cheek, cynicism and self-deprecation, all wrapped in infectiously catchy indie rock tunes. It is all very on point and comments in a very wry and funny way on what it is like to be a young woman in our current times. It is easy to see why they are one of the most talked about debut bands of 2022. Not bad for a band formed at the top of a Ferris wheel as a dare.

Recordings from the Åland Islands / Chiu, Jeremiah
Mark: A similar album to ‘The pavilion of dreams’ is this collaboration from LA based musicians Jeremiah Chiu (modular synths) and Marta Sofia (viola), which is music sampled from the natural environment of the Åland Islands, an archipelago in the Baltic Sea between Sweden & Finland. Piano, synths, and violas merge with field recordings to create a languid, textured, dreamscape. An atmospheric and soothing audio journey, that seems to be leading you deeper into nature’s hidden realms, with the destination perhaps the perfect idyll, an pure isolated space completely untouched by man.

Neil: Another lovely album designed to soothe the soul. The tracks were all created in response to time spent on the Åland Islands, an archipelago in the Baltic Sea. The sounds ebb and flow, but beneath the sonic waves glittering under a tender sun there is a lot going on in these recordings. A work that transports the listener to an almost, too beautiful, golden paradise. Works well in conjunction with the Harold Budd album reviewed earlier.

On the grove. / Soul Revivers
Mark: When reggae producer and label boss David Hill acted as music consultant to Idris Elba’s film adaptation of Victor Headley’s book Yardie, he and fellow label head Nick Manasseh ended up recording a bunch of new music. This led them to assemble this album which features Jamaican legends alongside contemporary artists. Musicians spanning seven decades of Jamaican music combine to create a moody, evocative portrait of the deep musical links between London & Kingston. The combined experience of those involved lends a subtle flow to it all, with solid dub/jazz/soul grooves all the way. Laid back in the best possible way.

Neil: An album of new music that is firmly rooted in the rock steady sound of 1970’s reggae music. The resultant album uses many of the musicians who were around at the time and helped define and create this genre. So, it is no surprise that the music and production are both spot on, evoking both the music of that time and the culture it was created in with ease, delivering a very laidback reggae/jazz-tinged listening experience

Forever on my mind. / House, Son
Mark: An album of lost recordings of this Blues legend, assembled and produced by Dan Auerbach. Rediscovered in the 60’s, like a lot of the original Delta Bluesmen from the 1930s, these tracks come from a casual 1964 session performed before about 50 people at Wabash College, that was recorded by his manager. The bare bones music only enhances these spine tingling tales of loss & pathos. The crystal clear vocals and guitar make this perhaps one of the best sounding authentic blues albums ever released.

Neil: ‘Forever on my mind’ is an album of long-lost recordings from the legendary Delta Blues musician Son House. Listening to the album you can hear raw emotion seeping through every track, both in the Son’s crystal clearly recorded classic blues vocals and his trademark bottleneck guitar playing, which shines throughout the release. These are not mere studio cast offs; instead what we get is a meticulously constructed and curated album from an artist at the height of his powers and on top form, in what was his second rediscovery period as a musician.

Emotional eternal. / Melody’s Echo Chamber
Mark: Third album from the project of French musician Melody Prochet. Since 2018’s Bon Voyage, she has recovered from a serious accident that left her with a brain aneurysm and broken vertebrae, relocated to the Alps and given birth to a daughter. All these changes are reflected in the music, with her airy falsetto offset by warm soaring melodies that sound joyous and uplifting. Comforting, ethereal, psych-pop that glides over you like a warm blanket.

Neil: A blissful slow burn, dream pop release from Melody’s Echo Chamber, Their definite neo-psychedelia tendencies are perhaps more focussed, and slightly more angled to the pop-sensibilities that they have always displayed, but it’s a very fine album and a welcome new addition to their catalogue.

Box Set Pick:
Come away with me [deluxe]. / Jones, Norah
Mark: At the time of it’s 2002 release Jazz purists may have seen Norah Jones’ ‘Come Away with me’ as the end of Blue Note’s credibility, but the album would go on to commercial & critical success. Not only did it become one of the best selling albums of all time, it was hugely influential on music itself, creating the audience for subsequent acts like Katie Melua, Melody Gardot, Madeleine Peyroux, Corinne Bailey Rae, Kandace Springs and many others. This 3-Disc Deluxe reissue for the albums 20th Anniversary includes demos, early sessions, and an entire version of the album recorded with producer Craig Street (who was well known at the time for his work on Blue Note with Cassandra Wilson on Blue light ’til dawn & New Moon Daughter). All of these alternate takes, and session tracks paint a deeper Jazz-Country-tinged portrait of Jones and her music at this time, as opposed to the sophisticated, ‘Coffee-House’ MOR stylings, of the album that was eventually released. A fascinating examination of an album and an artist that would go on to become a global phenomenon.

Neil: The deluxe 20th anniversary release of Norah Jones’ debut album comes with a whole host of interesting and intriguing extra tracks. When ‘Come away with me’ was initially released in 2002 it was done without much of a fanfare. It was, however, to launch a career that has so far sold 50 million records, and gained nine Grammy awards. Norah was only 22 when she released her Jazz-fusion debut (it has elements of Blues, Folk, pop, and country woven in), but it eventually went to the top the US charts, and remains her biggest selling album. What makes this release so fascinating, is the plethora of demos and unreleased tracks which give a brilliant oversight into how the album evolved over time, and also an intriguing glimpse of the various albums it might have become. Indeed, the creative and artistic decisions displayed in these extras show exactly what it takes to create such a hugely successful work.

New CDs for Te Awe: Part 2


via GIPHY

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 also run the Libraries’ Wellington Music Facebook page). Every month my colleague Neil and I cast our 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? Read on to find out…

Nijimusi. / OOIOO
Mark: OOIOO are a long running Japanese Experimental noise-pop band. While previous album Gamel incorporated two metallophone players, this is (supposedly) a return to a more basic quartet of drums/bass/guitar & vocals. It sounds like a bunch of frenetic musical snippets, spoken-chanted Japanese singing, angular guitars, and muted trumpets all thrown together on top of serious drum grooves. If a musical stew of experimental, layered, polyrhythmic-avant-garde progressive jazz-rock sounds like something you would enjoy, then this is right in your musical wheelhouse. I have to admit that I find this entire genre just too much hard work. Maybe I am too old for this…

Neil: OOIOO is YoshimiO, the drummer from the avant-rock group Boredoms. Nijimusi is the eighth album under their guise of OOIOO. It is not for the unadventurous or faint hearted. The balance throughout the album is between chaos and structure, articulated through insistent, propulsive experimental rock. The repetitive, in the groove, drum patterns become meditative as they progress, and at points are punctuated by ritualistic chanting. As you listen from track to track, the album takes on a kind off shape shifting aura.

Aboogi. / Imarhan
Mark: The best world music manages to embraces traditions, while also being able to sound fresh and modern. Algerian band Imarhan deliver this once again with their second album, following 2018’s Temet. Bluesy guitar lines meld with Tuareg folksong and fantastic harmonies, evoking the primal feel of the desert; the swirling dust around campfires, the tensions and needs of people vs the natural elements of such a harsh environment. It’s a difficult line to walk; singing of the poverty and struggle of your people while also celebrating the richness of its cultural heritage. This album fuses the sound of modern rock to organic folk-lore traditions of lore and spoken word. Imarhan manage to create an album that feels like the soundtrack of a journey from disenfranchisement to hope, while also being just a great rock album.

Neil: ‘Aboogi is a complex, multi layered, Tuareg, desert blues album. The second from the Algerian based quintet, the tracks within it are uplifting, subtle and masterfully crafted with superb melodies and big catchy cords. This highly accomplished album has hope, wisdom and sadness all woven into the often-chilled songs. An album that will win fans old and new.

Sgt Culpepper. / Culpepper, Joel
Mark: Joel Culpepper is one of the artists helming the UK soul renaissance that has been bubbling over the last few years. Older than some of the other emerging artists, his full-length debut album ‘Sgt Culpepper’ was 10 years in the making. The time he spent developing his skills and reputation as a performer and songwriter clearly shows in this work. Full of top notch musicians, song writing and production; the instrumentation has plenty of horns & strings, lots of other layers, but also feels crisp. An amalgam of classic soul and modern attitude. While his voice has the elastic facility of classic soul artists like Marvin, Eddie Kendricks or Curtis Mayfield; the songs are grounded the realities of black life in the UK. Recommended.

Neil: ‘Sgt Culpepper’ is a modern soul funk release which aims high, so high in fact that its title plays off the legendary Beatles album. That said, the music stylistically has very little in common with the fab four; the work is more closely aligned to artists like Isaac Haynes or Prince. The overall sound of the album is a rich retro-future soul; simultaneously very 21st century, whilst referencing 70’s and 80’s artists. It is a very accomplished debut that succeeds in its aims.

The tipping point. / Tears For Fears
Mark: The popular 80s band return after 17 years with a new album. Their shiny 80s synth-pop always hid a spiritual and intellectual side (their name is inspired by psychologist Arthur Janov’s primal therapy), and the 10 year long gestation period of this album imbues the songs with the weighty melancholy of life events (the passing of Orzabal’s wife, health issues). Lush, elegant and perfectly crafted songs soar to anthemic heights, creating a cathartic and uplifting album. A great return.

Neil: In the eighties, Tears for Fears were one of the biggest bands out, however their music was always more than sparking synths and crafted melodies. Think of their first UK hit Mad World. This intimate emotional sensitivity has been evident throughout their career, and carries on through to this release. It is an emotionally balanced album, mixing moments of sadness and grief with acceptance and an uplifting spirit. This mature album that sounds very much like a culmination of their career, both emotionally and musically.

Wild loneliness. / Superchunk
Mark: Alternative rock stalwarts return for their twelfth album, which takes their music is a different direction. This one eschews the alternative rock and punk stylings of previous releases for a more openly acoustic and melodic sensibility. The power-pop guitars create a relaxed musical palette for them to provide a message of hope, as the songs push back against the pandemic, climate change fears and a world in crisis.

Neil: Fear and ambivalence are explored in indie band Superchunk’s twelfth outing. The album sounds like a band building on the lessons of their past, the D.I. Y. punk ethos of earlier albums is largely gone. In its place is a much more polished, fuzzy pop song sound with songs about environmental and societal collapse. It has been described as “bunker bedroom pop”, a term new to me but basically can be described as music to soothe you even if you know the World has gone to hell in a handbag. There are still hooks a plenty in there too; as well as strings, horns and acoustic guitars.

Wires turned sideways in time. / Marquiss, Duncan
Mark: This got a 9 out of 10 in Uncut. I had never heard of Marquiss before, but he is the guitarist in Scottish outfit The Phantom Band (we have their 2014 album Strange Friend). This, his debut solo album, is an electro-acoustic collage of acoustic sounds, treated pickings, drone-ish electronica and acoustic stringed pieces. The album has a reflective and cinematic feel, but it’s not background easy listening. It’s an album of intricate instrumentals with varying shades of tone and expression that pull you into the nuances of each track.

Neil: ‘Wires turned sideways in time’ is an ambient solo album by the Scottish indie outfit The Phantom Band’s guitarist Duncan Marquiss. Layers of textural guitar woven into minimalist drone, synth-electronic, elements form into a filmic, expansive landscape work that could easily be used as a film soundtrack. The result is still sharply focussed and engaging. Imagining Popol Vuh, the band doing a soundtrack for a film like Paris Texas, will give you some idea of the sonic delights in the album.

Love boredom bicycles. / Bakers Eddy
Mark: The debut album from Karori band Bakers Eddy, who are now based in Melbourne. Their debut has had a long gestation period, so a lot of these songs have been road tested live and through demos recorded over the Covid lockdown. The result is 35 minutes of pure fizzy pop-punk exuberance. Most of the songs barely clock in at 3 minutes and capture the raucous energy of youth, specifically the coming of age journey of moving to a new country to pursue their musical careers. While the music is relentlessly upbeat, full of hooks and catchy melodies, the lyrics are often in direct juxtaposition, revealing the struggles and uncertainty of the last couple of years, depression and heavy drinking.

Neil: Australian-based Wgtn. band Bakers Eddy release their debut album ‘Love boredom bicycles’. The resultant music is an exuberant, high-energy, soul of the party, indie-punk outing, resplendent with loads of infectiously catch hooks. Whilst there is nothing particularly ground breaking here, the album is still a joyous burst of punk energy fun, bouncy and full of sparking energy.

The overload. / Yard Act
Mark: New UK post-punks live up to the hype with a cracking debut album. Sinuous guitar lines and catchy grooves underpin a sardonic, playful and wry take on the lives of ordinary people in a post-Brexit UK. Full of acerbic barbs that skewer the establishment, and the kind of dry narration that made Dry Cleaning’s New long leg from last year so enjoyable.

Neil: ‘The overload’ is a wacky post punk debut album from British band Yard Act. It is full of tongue-in-cheek political anger, sometimes delivered straight up and sometimes inter-spliced with cut up surrealist inserts. There are touches of The Fall and Pulp in their approach. The albums lyrics are very of the moment, railing against the current political and social injustices in Britain.

Warm Chris. / Harding, Aldous
Mark: More sweetly charming psych-folk from Harding. This, her fourth album, is full of more imaginistic stories and oblique lyrics but the instrumentation is more minimal; a piano line here, a saxophone there, some occasional banjo. If you are vaguely familiar with who she is and have perhaps heard a few songs here and there, the extent of her overseas reputation may come as a surprise. One of the few NZ artists whose new albums generate reviews from the likes of Pitchfork (an 8.2 for this), The New York Times, The Guardian and NME among others. Her strange, playful, shifting voice, abstract lyrics and weird songs may all seem a bit insular, but she is one of those artists who require some patience until the complexity, pleasure & richness of her music unfolds for the listener.

Neil: ‘Warm Chris’ by New Zealand singer songwriter Aldous Harding has a beautiful and strange childlike curiosity behind many of the songs contained within it. The album is a soft and gentle; psychedelic folk outing, dense in places, charming in its use of free association in the lyrics. The songs build up in waves to form sparse and oblique arrangements. However, behind this seemingly laid-back approach is an incredibly carefully crafted album, both musically and lyrically. Overall, the album takes on the atmosphere of a finely honed piece of sonic abstract art.

To enjoy is the only thing. / Maple Glider
Mark: ‘To Enjoy Is The Only Thing’ is the debut album from Melbourne born-Uk based singer Tori Zeitsch. A wistful and hushed album of reflective indie-piano/folk, the songs weave through the debris of a failed relationship and an upbringing in a religious sect. Themes of isolation, loneliness and melancholy are explored through the lens of finding your own new identity and belief system. The dreamy, ethereal, intimate, chamber arrangements hide the strength of hard won resolutions. An impressive debut. Definitely check it out if you’re a fan of Weyes Blood or Phoebe Bridges.

Neil: Maple Glider’s ‘To enjoy is the only thing’ is a gentle, sparse, hypnotic and introspective release about the ending of a relationship and the singer leaving her religious upbringing behind. At its core, the work is fundamentally about loneliness. The album has been described as threadbare folk, which only partially covers its substance. There is a confessional singer-songwriter aspect to the songs, like some of Joni Mitchell’s early works.

Metal bird. / Adams, Eve
Mark: Third album from this Oklahoma-LA based singer. Moody Americana-torch-songs very much in the nexus of Mazzy Star and a David Lynch movie. Full of woozy meditations on heartbreak and loss, surrounded by spare Noir-folk stylings. There’s an eerie, timeless melancholy to the album and her smoky voice. Haunting.

Neil: ‘Metal bird’ the third album from Eve Adams has best been described as Astral Americana: Americana with slide guitars and evocative vocals, but one that has wide screen cosmic intentions and nuances. Though spacey and unmoored from time and space, Eve Adams’ softly sung lyrics are often precisely and razor sharply honed, whilst the accompanying music is lo-fi, oblique and sparse. The work hovers simultaneously between what Oscar Wilde would describe as the gutter and the stars.

Box Set Pick:
Old friend : the deluxe collection (1976-1998). / Hyman, Phyllis
Mark: If you were to look up ‘Sophisticated elegance’ in a dictionary, there would probably be a picture of Phyllis Hyman as an illustration. The statuesque (6-foot-1) singer spent years singing in bands and clubs before Jazz drummer Norman Connors decided to include her vocals on one of his R&B collective albums, which went Gold, catapulting her career to new heights. She signed to Buddah records and recorded a couple of albums of smooth 70s ‘Quiet Storm’ soul that showcased her mesmerizing voice, but found the more commercial sound of Clive Davis’ Arista Records (who took over distribution of Buddah) more difficult to navigate. Post Arista she found critical & commercial success again in the late 80s, after she signed to the classic Philadelphia International Records. A talented actress also, she earned a Tony nomination for the Broadway musical ‘Sophisticated Ladies’, a tribute to Duke Ellington. She possessed a musical versatility & subtlety – the ability to bridge jazz, Soul, cabaret and black-pop as singer – but unfortunately struggled with mental health issues her whole life, when there were not a lot of support structures in place, suffering from bipolar disorder and depression for years and often self-medicating with alcohol and drugs. Sadly she took her own life in 1995, six days before her 46th birthday. This Cherry Red/SoulMusic comprehensive 9-CD box set collects her entire recorded output, and is a fitting testament to an exceptionally talented singer who always deserved more acclaim during her lifetime.

Neil: So, every month myself and my co conspirator Mark like to pick at least one retrospective box set release to round things off, not really to critically review it, more as an excuse to wax lyrical about how much we love the artist’s work. And so it is with Phyllis Hyman’s ‘Old Friend’. Phyllis Hyman is best known for her releases in the late 1970’s and her renaissance in the early 1990’s. If you are unfamiliar with her work, it can best be described as ultra smooth R & B with, “depending on the album”, elements of jazz, or on occasion disco-funk. Nearly all her work is marked by its sophistication and effortless glamour. Cool chic. She was the artist who paved the way for artists like Anita Baker and Whitney Houston. This extensive box set contains all her releases from the years 1976 to 1998.

New DVDs for Te Awe: Part 2

via GIPHY


Here are some new DVDs added to the catalogue over April-May, that are available at our CBD Te Awe branch and selected other locations.

New Material:
Signed, sealed, delivered : the movie collection. One.
The green planet
A discovery of witches. Series 3.
Cry macho
Breaking bread
Spider-Man. No way home
The worst person in the world
Wildland.
Delicious
Belfast
The legion
McDonald & Dodds. Season 1
Love and monsters
King Richard
A journal for Jordan
C’mon c’mon
Book of love.
The Larkins. Series one.
Uncharted
Chronicle mysteries : 5 film collection.
State of happiness. Season one.
Queens of mystery. Series 2.
Next door
I’m your man
Before we die. Season 1.
The handmaid’s tale. Season four.
Vikings. Season 6, Volume 2.
Spencer
Off the rails
Moonfall
The flight attendant. The complete first season.
Blacklight
American insurrection.
The 355
Saint Maud
Wellington paranormal. Season 4.

Mighty Ape Affiliate link for St MaudMighty Ape Affliate link for Paranormal Season 4

New DVDs for Te Awe: Part 1

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Here are some new DVDs added to the catalogue over April-May, available at our CBD Te Awe branch and selected other locations.

New Material:
Crime story
The wedding speech
Never gonna snow again
Hitler versus Picasso and the others.
House of Gucci
Doctor Who [2005] : Flux. The complete thirteenth series.
Clifford the big red dog
Save yourselves
Bye bye morons
Small axe : a collection of 5 films from Steve McQueen.
The show.
Rose plays Julie
Hollington Drive.
Hearts and bones
First love
The big hit
Scream
Queen bees
The Matrix Resurrections
Ghostbusters Afterlife
Dune
The courier
Tigers
My life is murder. Series one.
Dalgliesh. Series 1.
Universe
Supergirl. The sixth and final season.
























New CDs for Te Awe: Part 1


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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 also run the Libraries’ Wellington Music Facebook page). Every month my colleague Neil and I cast our 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? Read on to find out…

You belong there. / Rossen, Daniel
Mark: Solo full-length debut from the Grizzly Bear co-frontman/multi instrumentalist. Hewes closely to that GB/Radiohead nexus, but imbued with a greater degree of freedom of experimentation that the solitude of lockdown afforded. A deeply meditative song cycle full of intricately arranged tracks full of creeping anxiety.
Neil: Sweeping intricate guitars leads the free form jazz harmonies that are at the root this solo effort from the Grizzly Bear co-founder. There is so much music referenced in this work; from Nick Drake to Brazilian Folk, not to mention blues and classical. The result is dense and complicated in sound and emotion, an album that is both vulnerable and open to a huge extent, it’s willingness to embrace so much makes the sonic journey worth taking.

In my own time. / Dalton, Karen
Mark: 50th Anniversary edition of the 2nd album from this influential folk artist, and subject of a 2021 documentary. Dalton’s music focused on authentic honesty of a song’s interpretation above technical perfection, and her intense voice & interpretations found fans in contemporaries like Bob Dylan. Kind of a folk ‘Billie Holliday’, her small body of work attracted a much deserved cult following, much like Nick Drake or Eva Cassidy, that only increases with time.
Neil: Karen Dalton’s much overdue rediscovery continues with the re-release of the folk rock legend’s 1971 sophomore album. The singer is idolized by the likes of Bob Dylan and Nick Cave. The tracks are covers, but Dalton totally inhabits each song and makes each one off them her own, thanks in part to the plaintive emotional nuances put on the lyrics by her amazing and unique voice. This was very sadly to be her last release, she famously recorded almost nothing and fell into a spiralling pit of drink, drugs, and depression from which she never escaped. Her tragic life was the subject of a highly recommended documentary recently called KAREN DALTON: IN MY OWN TIME. The album makes you wish there was more of her work out there.

Fear of the dawn. / White, Jack
Mark: The 2nd album that Jack White wrote and recorded during lockdown (the first ‘Entering Heaven Alive’ is due for release in July). Classic rock tropes, guitar freak-outs, Far-Eastern influences, weird samples and soulful jams all form a sonic barrage tied together by a loose overarching concept of eosophobia – a Greek term for a morbid fear of daylight. The cut-up production style (à la William S. Burroughs – who is sampled on one track) has divided opinion, with critics hailing it as either his strongest solo album, or a mystifying ‘mad-scientist’ melange of sounds.
Neil: ‘Fear of the Dawn’ is Jack White’s weirdest most adventurous and imaginative outing yet. That said, experimentation and melodic elements are finely balanced and his trademark blues-rock style is definitely present. There are samples of William Burroughs dialogue and copious usage of overdubs that ensure that any comparisons with the White Stripes are fleeting. There are even prog-rock elements incorporated into the work. A new and strange direction for the White Stripes guitarist.

Chloë and the next 20th century. / Misty, Father John
Mark: More eccentric musing from the former Fleet Foxes drummer and internet provocateur Father John Misty (real name Josh Tillman). Witty and acerbic character sketches form the backbone of his Lou Reed/Harry Nilsson/Jackson Browne nexus of uneasy listening. His music exists in a strange amalgam of sincerity and irony, and this album is more of the same, just more grandiose in its scope and arrangements as he delves deep into a spooky layered nostalgia with these seedy, showtun-ish, vignettes.
Neil: The romance of the American dream as in a faded mirror has often been a staple of Hollywood, and a strong influence on the work of Father John Misty. The silver screen haunts some of his previous albums, but in a very modern way. Father John Misty’s latest outing takes a very different look at this influence. Imagine, if you will, a fabulous richly created evocation of the Hollywood environs, specifically the 1940’s and 50’s, both in terms of the music and lifestyles of the times. That would be very close to what this album sounds like.

Life on Earth. / Hurray for the Riff Raff
Mark: ‘Hurray for the Riff Raff’ is the project of singer/songwriter Alynda Segarra who is of Puerto Rican descent. This, their 8th album, got of lot of great reviews and it’s not hard to see why. A mix of Americana Roots and modern rock sounds surround a set of catchy, melodic songs. Lyrically, this work focuses on our ongoing war on the planet and the shifting turmoil of 2020s politics on marginalised groups. They call the sound of this album ‘nature punk’ and despite the weighty subjects, the focus is on hope and survival.
Neil: The eight album from Alynda Segarras is an intimate work; part nature punk, part indie rock with anthemic choruses in places and even a little bit of hip-hop thrown in. The songs on the album display a raw, honest and self-possessed openness. If you need a reference point, it reminded me in places of a folk punk P.J Harvey. Which is, of course, no bad thing.

Another side. / Nocentelli, Leo
Mark: ‘Another Side’ is the previously unissued 1971 debut solo album from Meters’ guitarist Leo Nocentelli. Recorded in a New Orleans Jazz City Studio studio (with Allen Toussaint on Piano) while the Meters were on a hiatus, the tapes of fully produced demos were shelved and forgotten at Toussaint’s Sea-Saint studio when the Meters signed with Warner Bros. Thought drowned during Hurricane Katrina when Toussaint’s studio was destroyed, incredibly the album was amongst 16 boxes of tapes from from Jazz City and Sea-Saint studios that surfaced at at a swap meet in Torrance, California, saved from the storm and left in an L.A. storage unit. Distinctly different from the Meters, this is a singer-songwriter album in the the mould of 70’s Laurel Canyon/Bill Withers, full of great bluesy acoustic laments.
Neil: These previously unknown 1971 recordings by Leo Nocentelli “ The Meters legendary guitarist” are a revelation . His trademark nylon string unique guitar sound is unmistakable, though this solo outing is distinctly different from his Meters work. The tapes the album was created from were found at a tape swap and meet event in 2018, and it turns out they were rescued from the vault of the studio they were recorded at after it was hit by Hurricane Katrina. The resultant music is a gorgeous roots-rock outing in places, slightly reminiscent of Dr John or Beck during his Sea Change album phase, and are a very welcome if unlikely sonic rescue.

Tales of common folk, salt & sweet kisses. / Parry, Nigel
Mark: Originally from the UK, Nigel Parry is now a well established voice in the Wellington folk music scene. His new album is mostly original NZ focused material, with a couple of traditional European covers, forming a reflective journey through our history; from whaling in the Marlborough Sounds, to tales of love, the unspoken trauma of war returnees and the changes the modern world has wrought on small rural towns. His delicate picking and mellow voice helm the strong set of traditional folk.
Neil: New Zealander Nigel Parry’s album is firmly rooted in the heart of traditional English Folk music. It’s a perfectly executed genre piece with subtle, delicate and poised songs, many of which were written by Parry himself. His voice is pitch-perfect for the tracks too. As is fitting for an album referencing English Folk music, the songs are stories in themselves. If you are a fan of English Folk music at all, it comes with our top recommendation and well worth a listen if you’re not.

Ghost song. / Salvant, Cécile McLorin
Mark: Cécile McLorin Salvant is an American Jazz vocalist who has won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album three times. Her 6th album (and first for the Nonesuch label) is inspired by Kate Bush & ghosts and is full of her angular take on Jazz; a blend of traditional smokey Jazz ballads, experimental moments and musical theatre/cabaret type numbers. It’s easy to see why she is so acclaimed, but her idiosyncratic approach to singing may not be to everyone’s taste.
Neil: ‘Ghost Song’ is an idiosyncratic and musically playful album that displays an incredibly wide range of sonic pallets in its creation. It is mainly a Jazz singer songwriter piece, though many other influences come into play. The album is a mixture of covers and original compositions, and it includes a radical and beautiful reinterpretation of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights.

How is it that I should look at the stars / Weather Station
Mark: Written at the same time as 2021’s critically acclaimed Ignorance, this is a somewhat different album. Mostly piano based songs that are hushed and intimate, there are no big hooks in these somber melancholic soundscapes but the songs are melodic and full of interesting layers that reveal themselves on repeated listens. Very much in the mould of 90s Sarah McLachlan.
Neil: ‘How is it that I should look at the stars’ is a deeply vulnerable, sparse and beautiful album. An object lesson in delicate song writing. The songs are sensitive, cool, fluid, melancholic, but within the darkness is the occasional flicker of light. The album is breathtakingly beautiful in its own way, a quiet contemplative late night album.

Painless. / Yanya, Nilüfer
Mark: 2nd album from this London singer-songwriter, following 2019’s Miss Universe. Her debut album was chock full of all the eclectic musical styles that artists from her generation have been able to absorb and reflect as they figure out their own musical identity. Thus, her sophomore album is the logical progression to a more solidified sound; a smooth, melodic, refined indie-pop. Her voice glides over the tracks, all of which have a tense insular feel. The skittering beats tackling inner turmoil, identity, emotional & physical self-harming, this is the sound of someone about to become a big star.
Neil: Painless by Nilüfer Yanya is a smooth, poised and elegant pop album. A subtle listen in a hooky pop-world type of way. It’s catchy in a sneaky way, with melty and flirtations lyrics and in places reminded me of New Order.

Black acid soul. / Lady Blackbird
Mark: CD release of this album, which was released digitally & on limited Vinyl editions in 2021. Lady Blackbird is the moniker of L.A singer Marley Munroe. The title might suggest this is a funk/Afro-futurist outing, but this is seriously deep Jazz with touches of soul. Minimal guitar, piano & bass frame her amazing voice (somewhere between Nina Simone, Billie Holliday & Cassandra Wilson) as she re-interprets a series of modern songs from Allen Toussaint, Tim Hardin, Nina Simone, The James Gang & the like. She also adds lyrics of her own to “Fix It”, which is based on the Bill Evans classic instrumental “Peace Piece”. Moody, spiritual, intense and haunting. She is definitely on her way to next big thing status.
Neil: The hugely anticipated ‘Black acid soul’ lives up to all the pre-release hype. Sad jazz/soul songs that give you goose bumps, rip your heart apart and then start to sooth it. Think smoky late-night Nina Simone or Mahalia Jackson. The music is stripped back to the essentials, minimalist in approach, but is done with such skill and quality that the work shines. Marley Munroe’s singing is flawless, searching and finding the emotional heart of each track. One of those releases that is bound to be on many people’s best of 2022 lists.

Visitor. / Empath
Mark: 2nd album for this Philly-based quartet, centred around singer/guitarist Catherine Elicson. Following on from 2019’s Active listening: night on Earth, this is a more polished take on their ramshackle pop-punk aesthetic. Brief catchy tunes with manic vocals move from overtly noisy to poppy. Very reminiscent of strains of 90s alt-pop. A lot of the tunes reminded me of a more aggressive version of cult band The Sundays.
Neil: Philadelphia pop-noise merchants Empath release their second album. In many ways ‘Visitor’ sticks in part to their punk roots. That said, they’ve also introduced a more languid dreamy and sedate aspect to this work, making their sound in many of the songs slower, clearer, and more chilled. These new elements give their latest outing a new sound and direction, and perhaps points the way to how future albums might sound. All in all, it sounds like a band who is both in transition and pushing forward.

Gifted. / Koffee
Mark: Koffee is the moniker of Mikayla Simpson, a young female Jamaican singer & rapper who has taken the Reggae world by storm. She became the first female artist ever to win the Grammy for best reggae album, for 2019’s EP ‘Rapture’, and has now delivered her full length debut album, ‘Gifted’. Mellow dancehall vibes meet modern pop stylings and propulsive Hip-Hop wordplay. While not particularly edgy or political, there is a charming earnestness to the album that floats along on a tide of easy going summery vibes. A great album for future beach parties.
Neil: In 2019, Koffee was the youngest ever winner ever of the Grammy for the Best Reggae Album for her EP ‘Rapture’. This, her debut full length album, is a breezy and bouncy good vibe outing which moves seamlessly between R&B, dancehall and especially Reggae. It is an uplifting, positivity laden, shot of summer good times wrapped in Jamaican glow. It will give even more fuel to the many people who have already heralded her as the new superstar of Reggae.

New CDs for Te Awe

New CDs March 2022


via GIPHY

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 also run the Libraries’ Wellington Music Facebook page). Every month my colleague Neil and I cast our eye over the new material we have been buying for the Music collection at our CBD Te Awe library, and pick out some interesting titles across a range of music genres to review. Our limit is a few lines only. Do we actually know anything about new music? Can you encapsulate an entire album in just a couple of lines? Or are we just too old to understand what most of this music is banging on about?
Read on to find out…

Fall in love not in line. / Kids on a Crime Spree
Mark: This is the second album from this cult Swedish band, after 2011’s We Love You So Bad. Catchy, cool, jangly guitar-pop that merges Girl-group 60s sounds with reverb laden VU touches and 70s power-pop. Very 80s sounding overall; the whole album could have basically been the Soundtrack to Pretty in Pink.
Neil: One can’t help but feel that 80’s rom com classic movies are popular with Kids on a Crime Spree. So much so that the album is full of upbeat, jingly jangly, tunes that would fit perfectly into that time and those movies. It is all done with lovingly recreated sounds from the time, if this is your type of music it’s spot on.

Magma. / Black Flower
Mark: Black Flower are a Belgian Jazz ensemble, who merge Ethiopian jazz, Afro-centric funk & dub, East Asian and Middle Eastern influences into a post-bop jazz framework. This is their fifth album, and it has been hailed as artistic breakthrough. Sinuous Middle Eastern lines collide with Afrobeat, jazz, psych and prog elements. If you enjoy jazz that has moved outside of the Western styles to incorporate different tunings and improvisational techniques, then this is one to check out.
Neil: The album can be described in one word: Unique. It is a hypnotic, psych prog outing; it has a sound that’s heavily rooted in Afrobeat and Ethiopian jazz. There’s lots of non-western tunings, time signatures and instruments being used. If you are happy to try something approachable, but a little off the beaten track, there’s a lot to enjoy here. Continue reading “New CDs for Te Awe”

New DVDs for Te Awe

Featured covers of our new dvds

via GIPHY

Here are some new DVDs added to the catalogue over February, that are available at our CBD Te Awe branch and selected other locations.

New Material:
Raphael : the young prodigy.
Venom. Let there be Carnage
Brooklyn nine-nine. Season eight.
How to deter a robber
The hating game.
Ride the eagle.
Young Sheldon. The complete fourth season.
Agatha and the midnight murders
The many saints of Newark
Beginning
Eiffel
Lamb
Only the animals.
Silent night
Charmed. Season two.
The luminaries. Season 1.
Poppy
After we fell
I am mortal
Angela Black.
Last night in Soho
Nitram
Dear Evan Hansen

















 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


New CDs for Te Awe

New CDs at Te Awe March


via GIPHY

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 also run the Libraries’ Wellington Music Facebook page). Every month my colleague Neil and I cast our eye over the new material we have been buying for the Music collection at our CBD Te Awe library, and pick out some interesting titles across a range of music genres to review. Our limit is a few lines only. Do we actually know anything about new music? Can you encapsulate an entire album in just a couple of lines? Are we just too old to understand what most of this music is banging on about?
Read on to find out…

Ash and bone. / Long, David
Mark: Atmospheric instrumental avant-classical pieces from the multi-talented Long (The Labcoats, Teeth, numerous film works). The album merges elements of his various musical identities, from experimental textures, to muted chamber elements, to touches of synths and electronica. A bit on a Tuba may be followed by a banjo or an electric guitar, then some ethereal flute, discordant trumpet and some soothing synth washes. Full of tension & release, the album never settles on a genre, reflective of its composers musical spirit.
Neil: David Long is a New Zealand music legend. A founding member of the Mutton Birds, long time soundtrack creator for Peter Jackson’s films with a plethora of awards for production, composition and playing as well, and that’s just scratching the surface. ‘Ash and Bone’, his latest release on Rattle Records, sees him in full blown experimental mode. The album defies easy classification. Acoustic-electronics, Alt chamber-experimental and instrumental have all been mentioned. This is very much its own creature: a rich, deep, and rewarding listen.

The boy named If / Costello, Elvis
Mark: Have to admit that the last Elvis album I recall listening to was Momofuku, but he seems to be having a bit of a late career renaissance with 2018’s Look Now, 2020’s Hey Clockface and now this new album. ‘The boy named If’ harks back to a late 80s Attractions sound, alongside his trademark lyrical barbs and the tight backing of his long-time musical cohorts. A sort of linking concept ,of a boy becoming a man, frames these swinging melodic rockers and subtle ballads. There’s a real cohesiveness and energy here, someone mining their back catalogue for modern inspiration as opposed to nostalgic re-tread.
Neil: ‘The boy named If” is a spikey and punchy album with a raw edge. Elvis Costello’s latest album sounds like an older version of himself has travelled back in time to the beginning of his career to create a new work. The album is infused with the urgent trademark sound of his first releases,whilst also incorporating his life experience since those days into the work.

Laurel hell. / Mitski
Mark: 6th album from Mitski Miyawaki, following 2018’s Be the Cowboy, where she adopted the persona of a frustrated married woman. ‘Laurel Hell’ shifts back to a more personal perspective, with a super-slick 80’s indie pop sheen. Two tracks (‘The Only Heartbreaker’ and ‘Love Me More ) date from 2021. The former made President Barack Obama’s list of top songs of 2021, which he tweets out every year, and the Guardian recently claimed she is the currently the best young songwriter coming out of the U.S. This is a super catchy, big synthy-pop album that seems destined to be her mainstream breakthrough. Another highlight is the album’s complex layered lyrics that deal with relationships and issues relevant to both millennials & Gen Z. Really good.
Neil: Mitski’s sixth album wears it’s 80’s influences very much to the fore. But this isn’t the cheesy 80’s, this is the sharp and ultra-cool 80’s. ‘Laurel Hell’ comes resplendent with sharp lyrics and infectious synth hooks, all combining to create a strong emotional impact.

Ants from up there / Black Country, New Road
Mark: This might definitely be a case of being too old to fathom this band’s music. Singer Isaac Wood’s has a distinctive voice (a bit reminiscent of Jarvis Cocker), and on the band’s (acclaimed) 2nd album he meanders through a series of moody vignettes with a backing that sounds like free-jazz meets baroque pop. There are no ‘singles’ or anything like that, just lot of impressionistic lyrics that are ultra serious and then dryly witty. Alternately a baffling & fascinating listen.
Neil: American minimalism joins forces with post punk guitars, and Jarvis Cocker vocal and lyrical stylings, in this much heralded and lauded second release from Black Country, New Road.

This quiet room. / Vietnam (Musical group)
Mark: Vietnam formed at high school in Wainuiomata forty years ago, and were active in the Wellington music scene from 1981-85. They reformed in 2017 to celebrate the reissue of their self-titled 1985 debut, leading to a desire to record a final album. The members are now based between Sydney and Wellington. ‘This quiet room’ is a really solid and catchy album, made up of new studio recordings of unreleased material from their live gigs, along with a bunch of new tracks. They wear their influences on their sleeves (The Cure, Joy Division), but it merges with that distinctively NZ 80’s jangle pop sound to give it a different take.
Neil: Wellington band Vietnam has now claimed the world record for the longest period between releases. It’s been 37 years since the release of their self-titled EP! However, listening to the album, it sounds like time has stopped in its tracks for the post punk outfit. This album, with the exception of superior production values, could have been release way back then. If, like me, you’re a fan of music from this point in time, especially in New Zealand, then this may well work for you. It’s an atmospheric, finely crafted, sonic time machine.

No medium. / Rosali
Mark: The 3rd album from Philadelphia Americana artist. This made a Guardian list of Hidden Music gems from 2021. This is a really nice album; A merging of country-rock elements with classicist singer-songwriter pop, focusing on the travails of love & relationships. It sounds a lot like early Aimee Mann in places, so definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of Aimee Man. And who isn’t?….
Neil: : There is some dark territory explored in ‘No Medium’. Death, loss, and addiction, to name but a few. The album gets its title from a quote from Jane Eyre, and Rosali has the perfect plaintive voice to convey the emotions to be found in these dark places. Her gifted backing musicians sound like they are channelling the country incarnation of Neil Young’s Crazy horse, and the two fit seamlessly together. It is a taut, mutedly intense album full of raw emotion.

De pelicula / Limiñanas
Mark: This is another album that made the Guardian list of Hidden Music Gems from last year. Psych-rock duo the Limiñanas join forces with DJ Laurent Garnier to create the ‘soundtrack’ to an imaginary movie about a couple of teenage runaways (Juliette and Saul) on a heady booze-fuelled road trip through the South of France. Swirling techno beats, dreamlike loops, and psychedelic motorik grooves pulsate in a hedonistic peon to escapism.
Neil: Designed as a modern French psychedelic rock album that is the accompanying soundtrack for an imaginary cult road movie, De pelicula is very 60’s hip. Lots of fuzzy guitars and mega cool (in a French road movie way). It moves effortlessly from trance, dreamlike elements, to night club cool swing in its psychedelic-ness.

Heisei no oto : Japanese left​-​field pop from the CD age, 1989​-​1996.
Mark: This compilation captures Japanese music from a pivotal time, when technology was drastically changing what ‘sounds’ it was possible to create. The project of 2 owners of Osaka record stores, their version of crate digging was to highlight a bunch of tracks that were only available on CD during this fertile period – when the medium became the dominant force in music listening. Opposed to other collections that focus on music from city environs, or the Japanese idea of ‘Environmental Music’, this compilation takes a broader approach, to encompasses dance, electronica, funk, new age & pop. Full of lost gems.
Neil: Like all compilations of this type, this is a mixed bag. Japanese pop from this period was particularly interesting because it was at this juncture in time that the explosion of New Technology (especially in the availability and cost of mass market Synths and drum machines) really hit. This in turn fuelled new ideas and approaches to music. It’s been lovingly curated through some deep and dedicated music crate diving over the years, and spreads its musical net very widely. Fascinating stuff, linked largely by the effect that this New Technology was having on Japanese pop.

Space 1.8. / Sinephro, Nala
Mark: Space is the place on this debut album from Caribbean-Belgian, London-based, Jazz composer/harpist Nala Sinephro. Gathering some of the new stars of the UK Jazz scene (including Nubya Garcia), she has created an ambient Jazz classic. Pedal harp, modular synths, and saxophones combine in a swirl of liquid soundscapes to form warm meditative pieces. Like the soundtrack to a journey through the cosmos, or through’s one’s own mind. Deeply relaxing.
Neil: Nala Sinephro uses and blurs the use of acoustic and electronic elements in this ambient cosmic Jazz piece. It is an intimate, mellow, and very relaxing work; yet never dull, more a transfixing lure of sound. It feels like a new movement has begun with albums like this and Promises, the album by Floating Points and Pharoah Sanders in its fold.

Forfolks. / Parker, Jeff
Mark: Second solo guitar album from the Tortoise guitarist. For this album he created a hook, made a groove on his guitar, sampled this short snippet, then looped it so he can play over and around it – in a similar way to the overdubbing of pianists Lennie Tristano or Bill Evans. Unique rhythms and chromatic changes hold your interest throughout this introspective album.
Neil: Forfolks comprises of eight tracks that could loosely be described as techno dream; Trance, ambient, modern solo classical guitar combined with jazz underpinnings. If all that sounds a bit much, have no fear. This is a soft and gentle work from the Tortoise guitarist. A meditative and inspiring musical work that demonstrates virtuosic experimental guitar playing going with a tranquil flow that never feels difficult.

Seventeen going under. / Fender, Sam
Mark: This made the Guardian’s Top 20 for the Best Albums of 2021. An album of bitter lamentations on the state of life for young people in the UK; it speaks to being trapped in living situations that foster bad habits and poor mental health, and abandoned by politicians and collapsing social infrastructure. Lyrically it’s a bit depressing, but the music is almost a polar opposite – a series of pounding, Springsteen-esque anthems that rouse the blood to fight for your place and overcome whatever sets you back.
Neil: The second album from the English musician Sam Fender is a punchy, bruisingly honest account of his recent years and is written in that orbit where the personal and wider social concerns mix and intertwine. His song writing skills have really expanded and bloomed, bringing the lyrical content sharply to the fore. In some ways it reminded me of the early Jam, with its energy and focus on socio personal themes.

If words were flowers. / Harding, Curtis
Mark: 3rd album from the Michigan R&B singer who fuses vintage soul sounds with touches of contemporary Hip-Hop, indie rock & psychedelica. Harding mines the Southern Soul style for his retro influences, fusing it with various other musical forms to frame contemporary issues of political & social unrest, which he then filters through universal songs about love & understanding.
Neil: Curtis Harding’s ‘If words were flowers’ has all the hallmarks of a vintage R&B/soul album from the 1970’s, but is also aware of our modern music environment, incorporating rap elements in places. As is fitting of music evoking this time, it is a bass heavy, echo laden outing. The optimistic viewpoint of soul and funk music of the 1970’s is also strongly recalled in the lyrics. To give you a flavour of what to expect, if Curtis Mayfield was around today he might well be producing work in this vein.

Lonely Guest. / Lonely Guest
Mark: Musical project conceived by Tricky, featuring guests such as Idles’ Joe Talbot, Maxïmo Park’s Paul Smith, Polish singer Marta Złakowska, Oh Land, Breanna Barbara & the late Lee Scratch Perry. Minimalist electronica, Hip-Hop and downtempo ballads all merge in a place where desperation and romance hold equal sway.
Neil: Tricky’s latest musically alter ego ‘Lonely Guest’, finds him collaborating with a whole host of musical guests. The result is a trip-rock, stripped back, dark organic work. While sparse in many ways – the whole ten track album is only 25 mins long – it’s an artistically accomplished and thrillingly varied work that still contains a unified feel. I particularly enjoyed the Lee Scratch Perry collaborative piece ‘Atmosphere’.

One year. / Blunstone, Colin
Mark: The 1971 debut solo album from the frontman of ground-breaking 60’s band The Zombies, reissued for its 50th anniversary. A classic baroque-chamber-pop album, helmed by his immaculate & mesmerising vocal delivery. Gentle chamber-styled acoustic numbers sit next to blue-eyes soul laments and baroque string interludes – all tinged with the melancholy resulting from a crushing breakup. Delicate and wistful music that ponders the universal themes of lost love and regret. If you enjoyed this check out: Tea & symphony : the English baroque sound 1968-1974.
Neil: ‘One year’ is a re-release of the classic 1971 debut solo album from The Zombies lead vocalist Colin Blunstone. It is a gorgeous, sad, and romantic singer-songwriter composition; a breakup album. It is listed in The Guardian’s 1,000 albums to hear before you die and rightly so. If you are unfamiliar with it, it has some similarities to the work of Nick Drake or the solo guitar outings of Neil Young in the early 1970’s, though it is very much its own unique and personal work. If you like this kind of music, then this is a must listen.

Tell me what you miss the most. / Tasha
Mark: Second album from a Chicago songwriter who combines R&B, pop & folk. The songs are focused on the differing stages of relationships in all their shades, specific moments of those relationships with a backing of gentle lilting acoustic guitars and flutes. A lovely breezy ‘guitar-soul’ vibe, similar to Corinne Bailey-Rae or Nilüfer Yanya, while some tracks have a fuller band sound, complete with sweeping strings. It may be a bit too easy listening in places, however dismissing this as quintessential ‘coffee-table music’ negates the level of sincerity and musicianship at play here.
Neil: ‘Tell me what you miss the most’ is a subtle and intimate album that explores various states of relationship. The second album from this Chicago artist, it is a very carefully hewn creation. Everything in the album is stripped away to a bare minimum to reveal the emotional core of the work: vocals, guitar and sparingly, delicately applied atmospheric, instrumentation. It’s another gorgeous solo work that again reminds me of this month’s touch stone artist Nick Drake.

Bloodmoon. I. / Converge
Mark: Metalcore pioneers team up with doom-folk songstress Chelsea Wolfe, her writing partner Ben Chisolm and Cave In‘s Stephen Brodsky. Agitation and unease abound, as pounding and visceral meets symphonic and melodic. The ‘grandiose’ button is firmly pushed into the red… Worth checking out if you’re a fan of either artist.
Neil: Converge have been on a thirty-year musical journey before arriving at ‘Bloodmoon. I.’, their tenth album. The hardcore band have enlisted the collaborative creative energies of Chelsea Wolfe, Ben Chisolm, and Stephen Brodsky to bring something new to the mix. This is a much more expansive outing than their usual oeuvre; it employs a much wider sound palette and is grander in scale and ambition than much of their previous work.

Private space / Jones, Durand
Mark: More meticulously re-created retro-soul from Durand Jones & the Indications. Synths & velvety strings add a more late night 70s Disco vibe to this one. The opening track addresses the similar kind of social agitation & unrest that The Isley Brothers, The Temptations or Earth, Wind & Fire might have sung about when they made similar music in the 70’s – however most of the tracks focus on a positive groove of togetherness, love, connection, and friendship.
Neil: The full force of a 70’s disco funk soul vibe informs every aspect of ‘Private space’. From the lyrical content to the funky groove rhythms, it is a superbly crafted recreation of the kind of album that wouldn’t have been out of place in 1974, and would have probably featured high in the charts of the time.

Vital / Big Brave
Mark: This 5th album from Montreal Experimental rock trio Big Brave also ended up on the Guardian list of overlooked albums from 2021. Though beginning their career playing stripped down folk, Big Brave developed a more heavier drone metal sound, and this album is regarded as the artistic culmination of that shift. Massive riffs meet slabs of sculptured noise and rumbling drones. A truly immersive album, best listened to on a loud stereo system or on headphones. The female vocals of Robin Wattie also give it a distinct identity within this male dominated genre.
Neil: The experimental Montreal metal trio Big Brave’s latest album has at its core gigantic, thunderous, oceanic raw waves of drone guitar. A Sonic cliff of power that eventually dissipates, crumbles and fades. The anguished emotionally charged vocals interspersed are reminiscent of P J Harvey or Patti Smith. An intense and relentless listen. A powerhouse of an album, best played very very loud.

Projector. / Geese (Musical group)
Mark: Post-punk outfit from Brooklyn, who began playing together at High school. Their 2020 home demos attracted the attention of multiple labels, leading to the release of their acclaimed debut album ‘Projector’ on Partisan Records [IDLES, Fontaines D.C]. They bring an amalgam of post-rock, post-punk, prog and indie-rock elements together. There are hints of influences like The Strokes, Parquet Courts, Television, Coldplay, Radiohead, Alt-J, and Krautrock; all taken, thrown together, and morphed into their own angular sound. An energetic new take on the traditional ‘guitar-rock’, Geese are from a generation that follows no prescribed musical rule book. Ones to watch.
Neil: There has been a lot of hype and buzz surrounding the Brooklyn band Geese, and their debut album ‘Projector’. The album is resplendent with post-punk styled, cut-time rhythms, and angular guitars. It is also alive with edgy energy and inventiveness, reminding me in places of Talking Heads, especially in their early pre-Eno guitar heavy years

Planet Her. / Doja Cat
Mark: Doja Cat is the quintessential 21st century artist, melding everything from Rap to Pop, Trap, R&B, or Reggaeton to create edgy tunes (and social media content) full of her distinctive rapping, pop-culture references and hyper-sexual attitude. All the musical eclecticism wouldn’t work if the hooks weren’t so good, and the production is so crisp and detailed that she manages to glide effortlessly from one style to another. But is it all just premeditated versatility designed to create TikTok dance crazes, rather than a genuine musical identity? Maybe she’s just a reflection of the growing power of Tik-Tok to create stars outside of the traditional music industry.
Neil: Pop-rap queen and social media sensation Doja Cat release ‘Planet Her’ is a loosely themed concept album. Doja Cat is a very 21st century artist, so she wears the ‘concept’ elements of the album with a studied breezy indifference. Musically, the album is an eclectic mix of pop and rap with a strong melodic sensibility.

Staff Picks: The Best DVDs of 2021

Here we have the very best DVDs of 2021, as selected by our own WCL librarians. All of these titles are available to loan!

Mark’s Picks:
Mare of Easttown
What more can you say about this great show that hasn’t already been said? A fantastically nuanced TV role from Kate Winslet, that embedded itself into the cultural zeitgeist of 2021. In a suburb of Philadelphia, Winslet plays Mare Sheehan, a former local basketball hero whose last minute shot won a State Championship, and who is now – 25 years later – a beleaguered police detective investigating the recent murder of a teenage mother, while also trying to balance the demands of her multi-generational family, the failure to solve an ongoing cold case of a missing girl, and a personal life that is fraying at the edges. The mechanics of the mystery itself are fairly conventional, with its ‘Dead girl-small town suspicions’ plot, but by focusing the story around the complicated family life & personal struggles of Winslet’s main character, it add layers not often found in other shows of the same ilk. Or sometimes found, but only in the lives of the male lead characters.

Synchronic
Every year throws up some interesting low-budget indie sci-fi, and from 2021 we had ‘Synchronic’ from Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson (Spring, The Endless). Anthony Mackie & Jamie Dornan are Steve & Dennis, paramedics in New Orleans, who begin to get call outs to a series of strange incidents where people are either dead in bizarre circumstances, or have wild, incoherent, stories to explain their injuries. All the cases are linked to a new designer drug called Synchronic, and the incidents become personal when Dennis’ daughter is identified as missing from one of the scenes where someone died from taking the drug. Steve attempts to track down the source of the drug, leading to an encounter with the drugs creator – who tells him Synchronic has some unique side effects…To say any more would spoil the plot of this intriguing, low-key sci-fi. Another example in a line of films with minimal characters, effects, or locations (Time Lapse, Coherence, Primer etc). that chooses to focus on ideas rather than explosions.

Nobody
Every year also throws up some ridiculous, yet hugely entertaining, action flick, and last year’s was ‘Nobody’. Directed by Russian director Ilya Naishuller (Hardcore Henry) and written by Derek Kolstad (creator of the John Wick franchise) sees Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul) play Hutch Mansell, a seemingly average middle aged office worker. However, much like John Wick, Hutch is not the mild-mannered guy he is pretending to be, and when his frustrations with his hum-drum life and a recent home-robbery boil over, he ‘helps out’ a young woman on a bus being harassed by a gang of thugs. This, however, only causes him to become the target of a vengeful Russian drug lord, and what follows is a hugely entertaining action-fest full of bonkers violence, absurdly entertaining scenes, and a good deal of tongue in cheek self-awareness. This works in the same way the first Taken worked, as Odenkirk seems the last actor to be believable as a ruthless killing machine, just as Liam Neeson initially was. Tons of fun. (Mark)

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