Staff Picks CDs

Staff Picks are back, with a completely random selection of new & old music that Library Staff have been listening to recently!

Invisible cities = Le città invisibili / Winged Victory for the Sullen
New music from this great ambient duo is a collaboration with the theatre production directed by London Olympics ceremony video designer Leo Warner. It’s based on the Italo Calvino’s classic novel ‘Invisible Cities’ which is a series of conversations between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo. For this project the duo, once again, creates the stunning, sophisticated score; the medieval feelings are blended masterly in their well-established ethereal, ambient musical world. Sublime. (Shinji)

The pearl / Budd, Harold
I’ve been loving Harold Budd and Brian Eno’s The Pearl- it’s a piece I always return to when I’m doing creative work. It’s a mysterious and beautiful piece of music, that creates an atmosphere of potential. I first discovered it after listening through all of Brian Eno’s Ambient series, and it was also a very wonderful introduction to Harold Budd’s work. (Alex)

Be for real: the P.I.R. recordings (1972-1975) / Melvin, Harold
Nice collection rounds up all the Philadelphia International Records albums from one of the legendary Philly Soul groups, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Melvin’s group had been around as far back as the 1950’s, scuffling through a variety of labels and members, but it wasn’t until Melvin recruited new drummer Teddy Pendergrass in 1970 that their fortunes took a turn. When Melvin heard Pendergrass singing along during a performance, he realised what a fantastic voice he had and promoted him to lead singer. They soon grew popular on the local club circuit and when Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff saw them performing, they convinced them to sign with their new Philadelphia International label in 1972. What followed was a period of hits that melded Pendergrass’ gruff voice with a string of scorching ballads and socially conscious songs, including the iconic tracks ‘If You Don’t Know Me by Now’ & ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’, which would become hits again when covered by Simply Red & The Communards in the late 80s. Nice liner notes cover the bands history with PIR and the legacy of their music. (Mark)

Californian soil. / London Grammar
With only two albums under their belt, the art-pop trio London Grammar became a hugely successful band. However, the lead singer Hannah Reid was frustrated with the male-dominant music industry and it led to the creation of this new music. The new album, which Reid calls ‘a feminist record’, finds them in a more edgy mood; melancholic but dynamic. Showing their mutuality and confidence, they seem to be heading toward a supergroup state. (Shinji)

Traveller. / Stapleton, Chris
This singer/songwriter is in Outlaw country with more of a soulful, bluesy sound. There seems to be an underlying theme of alcohol here – ‘Whiskey and You’, ‘Might as well get Stoned’ and ‘Tennessee Whiskey’. “As smooth as Tennessee Whisky, Sweet as Strawberry Wine, Warm as a glass of Brandy, Honey I stay stoned on you all the time”. Parachute is more up-tempo and passionate. I liked it a lot. (Greg)

Small moments. / Kye, Dan [VINYL ONLY]
‘Small Moments’ by Dan Kye [Ed. Dancefloor moniker of London-based NZ artist Jordan Rakei] is a really cool album! It’s funky, it’s fresh, and upbeat. Bound to get your head bopping. Great for a roadie, or when you need some tunes to blast while you do all your Sunday chores. (Emma)

 

Don’t shy away. / Loma
This project band by indie musicians such as Shearweter’s Jonathan Meiburg, Loma’s first album earned critical acclaim, partly thanks to Brian Eno who complimented their music. Intriguingly Eno Joins in on one track for this sophomore effort which is more expanded and experimental. In the vein of early Portishead or But For Lashes, it features a gloomy yet beautifully crafted ambient soundscape which perfectly goes with Emily Cross’ meditative voice. Marvellous. (Shinji)

Wildflowers & all the rest. / Petty, Tom
Finding Wildflowers (alternate versions). / Petty, Tom
In depth look at Tom Petty’s best solo outing from a prolific, creative & emotional period in his career, a ‘Pre-Divorce’ album, recorded amidst the collapse of his 20 year marriage. Petty always wanted ‘Wildflowers’ to be a double album, but the record company baulked. Some of the extra tracks surfaced in slightly different versions on the She’s The One Soundtrack, but the rest remained unreleased until now, and they’re every bit as good as the original tracks. The nicely constructed set lets you follow the evolution of the songs, from demos through to different takes, completed masters, and live versions. (Mark)

Collapsed in sunbeams. / Parks, Arlo
Growing up in West London and part Nigerian, Chadian and French; singer-songwriter and poet Arlo Parks shows a lot of potential and promise in this her debut album. It sounds like a soothing neo-soul infused bedroom-pop but the influences by Frank Ocean and her love of Sylvia Plath and Allen Ginsberg seem to give more radicalness and the depth to the sound creation and the lyrics. One to watch. (Shinji)

CD cataloguer Neil’s Recent Picks:
Flock. / Weaver, Jane
All bets are off. / Aphek, Tamar
Invisible cities = Le città invisibili / Winged Victory for the Sullen
Morricone segreto / Morricone, Ennio
As the love continues. / Mogwai
Glowing in the dark. / Django Django
On all fours. / Goat Girl
The future bites. / Wilson, Steven
Oh! Pardon tu dormais… / Birkin, Jane
Super blood wolf moon. / Brix & the Extricated
Introducing… Aaron Frazer. / Frazer, Aaron
Spare ribs. / Sleaford Mods
Lemon law. / Mousey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New CDs for Te Awe

I’m Mark, the Customer Specialist for Music & Film at Wellington City Libraries. Here is some of the new material we have been buying for the Music collection at our CBD Te Awe library. My colleague Neil & I decided to do some quick reviews of some new titles. Our limit was a few lines only. Do we actually carefully appraise & select the latest new music releases for your listening pleasure? Or do we just buy every third item on the list and hope it works out? Do we actually know anything about new music? Can you encapsulate an entire album in just a couple of lines? Read on to find out…

Californian soil. / London Grammar
Mark: Shades of Beth Orton, Dido, Dot Allison, Jessie Ware. A bit too tasteful maybe, but if you liked their previous albums you’ll enjoy this one.
Neil: Lush strings wash over Massive Attack inspired electro-pop. Sumptuously done and well worth a listen, but perhaps they wear their influences too close to the surface in places.

Scatterbrain / Chills
Mark: Another album of Martin Phillipps’ melodic charm. Reflections on mortality and staying true to yourself.
Neil: The Chills have now existed in one form or another for over 40 years. Their habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is well known and documented in the fabulous documentary The Chills : the triumph & tragedy of Martin Phillipps. And ‘Scatterbrain’ is definitely one of their triumphs. Whilst keeping their core root sound they have expanded it out, and ditto the lyrics which often revolve round the subjects of mysticism and Magic. If you are a long-time fan or a newbie to The Chills, I suspect you won’t be disappointed.

They’re calling me home / Giddens, Rhiannon
Mark: Lockdown album from Giddens and Turrisi, who found themselves stranded in Ireland. Authentic ruminations on homesickness and uncertainty.
Neil: Rhiannon Giddens latest album comprises of Folk songs old and new, with a good few covers thrown it. It glitters with passion and emotion, as her partner the Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi, is a perfect musical foil. Giddens puts her operatic training to excellent use (though it isn’t sung in an operatic style) and she is very careful to not let this training swamp, overpower or stylise the pieces. A powerful and beautiful album.

Strum & thrum : the American jangle underground 1983-1987.
Mark: Bands like R.E.M & the dB’s heralded a new strand of jangly guitar-pop in the early 80s, but lots of other followed this early template of chiming guitars with strong regional success. This compilation captures a hitherto undocumented scene in the evolution of popular music that paved the way for many future bands.
Neil: Unsurprisingly this compilation heavily bears the indelible marks of the founding fathers of the genre The Byrds. A few of the bands associated with the movement would go on to do bigger things, notably R.E.M. It’s a fascinating snapshot of the scene at the time and features a whole host of bands, most of whom didn’t stick around for very long and released only a few pieces of music.

Start walkin’ 1965-1976 / Sinatra, Nancy
Mark: Newly remastered collection from her most prolific years. Focuses more on her left field pop than the big hits. Housed in a deluxe 7″ x 7″ hardcover book, with a lavish 64-page booklet. Timeless pop music, with plenty of Lee Hazlewood duets.
Neil: Frank’s daughter was also one of the most recognisable voices and talents of the 60’s and 70’s. This compilation features all of her big hits such as ‘These boots were made for walking’, as well as some of her stranger and more offbeat tracks often done in conjunction with Lee Hazelwood such as ‘Some velvet morning’. A journey back to the late 60’s early 70’s.

Sweep it into space. / Dinosaur Jr
Mark: Another solid album from the original lineup’s reunion. Nothing really new, but their 90s College Rock sound never goes out of style…
Neil: Their distinctive distorted guitars roar to the fore in this classic Dinosaur Jnr album. Anyone with a familiarity of the band’s history will know this is basically a renaissance album from a band whose resurrection looked highly unlikely when the split up in 1995.

Till another time : 1988-1996. / Smith, Linda
Mark: Fascinating collection from an unsung Lo-fi pioneer. The influence of Marine Girls hovers over catchy melodic cassette recordings, paired with some later day tracks that incorporate a cleaner sound.
Neil: One of the most talented, leading lights of the lo fi bedroom pop movement Linda Smith gets a modern digital rerelease. These tracks were all originally recorded at her home on her trusty four track machine and largely, released and distributed by herself. But please don’t let the lo-fi bedroom production put you off, these are great, carefully crafted, jangle pop songs. The output of a highly talented and singular songwriter, and basically an essential listen if you are into lo fi music.

100 years of theremin : the dub chapter. / Gaudi
Mark: If you create a world where it’s totally legitimate to fuse any 2 musical genre’s together, this is what happens. Like the inside of Brian Wilson’s mind during a band acid trip…
Neil: An unlikely collision of the spaced out 50’s Sci-Fi sounds of the Theremin and dub Reggae. Boasting a roster of guest list of Dub producers that could easily rank amongst the finest in the world. Whether this strange mix works is largely down to the listeners musical sensibilities.

Rootz reggae dub. / Perry, Lee
Mark: More dub from Lee Scratch Perry. If you like his template of sunny good times mixed with social/political commentary you won’t be disappointed with his new album. I’m not sure I’m getting paid enough to listen to this much dub though….
Neil: Another impeccable album from one of the greatest and most eccentric artists of the modern music world. Recorded in Jamaica and the U.S.A.

Beware of the dogs. / Donnelly, Stella
Mark: Debut album from Australian songwriter that is getting a lot of critical attention. Sweet voiced, sunny, catchy, indie pop with lovely soaring harmonies, that hide some savagely biting lyrics. Critic Robert Christgau praised it as a “musical encyclopedia of [male] assholes” which pretty much sums up this set of songs, which takes on sexual harassment, rape culture and other toxic norms.
Neil: Stella Donnelly’s debut album sounds at first listen sugary sweet, but once you listen closely to the lyrical content you realise it has teeth. Stella’s precise lyrics focus their vitriol for abusive men, sexual violence, and personal abuses of power. Big topics and issues explored in a very intimate and personally musical way.


Infinite youth. / Merk
Mark: Woozy, hazy lo-fi bedroom pop. Tracks that drift through memories of slacker days and teen dreams. The musical diversity & minimal instrumentation makes the album feel like the soundtrack to a film in a lot of ways.
Neil: Merk aka New Zealander Mark Perkin’s new album ‘Infinite Youth’ almost defies definition. My best shot would be sparse pop with substance? His wistful, innocent, and intimate vocals are coupled with 80’s pop tinged minimalist synths, percussion, and other minimal orchestration.

Loleatta ; Cry to me. / Holloway, Loleatta
Mark: Her great southern soul albums for the Atlanta Aware label in the early 70’s. The 2nd album ‘Cry To Me’ features a slew of top compositions from the pen of revered soul man Sam Dees. Her fantastic voice would find fame greater fame with the Salsoul Records label in the Disco era, as well as being sampled prodigiously in various successful 80s & 90s club hits like ‘Ride on Time’ by Black Box & ‘Good Vibrations’ by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.
Neil: Before her transformation into a Disco diva Loleatta Holloway released two gospel inspired southern soul albums, resplendent with swirling strings and songs written by people such as the legendary Curtis Mayfield. This long unavailable album is a reissue worth hearing. Fabulous melodramatic stuff.

The moon and stars : prescriptions for dreamers. / Valerie June
Mark: Americana with tinges of modern Country, R&B & strings that still retains a timeless feel. Her beguiling twangy voice floats over everything, offering up meditations on longing and loss. Stax legend Carla Thomas features on a couple of tracks.
Neil: Multi-talented Memphis based guitarist, singer songwriter and owner of a mesmerising gospel soul voice with just a hint of gravel voice. An adventurous genre spanning album, interspersed with atmospheric tone setting ambient interludes.

The new blue : Pixie Williams reimagined.
Mark: NZ’s first number one pop song vocalist and wāhine Māori artist gets a musical tribute from contemporary NZ artists, most of them Wgtn based. Lovely faithful renditions from locals like Louis Baker, Lisa Tomlins, Kirsten Te Rito, Amba Holly etc.
Neil: Pixie William’s was one of the first ever superstars of the New Zealand music scene. She was a trailblazing pioneer, her song ‘Blue smoke’ a huge international hit in 1951 covered by many artists, including Dean Martin. A compilation of her work was recently rescued from oblivion called For the record : the Pixie Williams collection, 1949-1951 and rereleased in 2011. ‘The New Blue’ is a collection of modern NZ artists paying tribute to her and her art, and covering her best known pieces fabulously well with style and panache, faithfully recreating the feeling and mood of her music as well, as the time it was created. A perfectly executed modern nostalgic time machine of an album.

Ignorance / Weather Station
Mark: The Weather Station is the project of singer/songwriter Tamara Lindeman, who has been compared to Joni Mitchell among others. Her critically acclaimed latest album is a song cycle based around the impact of climate change. All of which sounds very po-faced, but the ‘Climate grief’ is framed alongside relationship heartbreak, and the tracks are all super catchy. Burbling synths and Jazzy Electronica surround her voice, which sounds a bit like 80s Fleetwood Mac, or 90s Sarah McLachlan in places. Destined to be on many Album of the Year lists.
Neil: This collection of heartbroken break up song’s steers well clear of the ever-present danger of falling into Cliché or self-indulgent pity. Instead Tamsara Lindeman skilfully overlays her own personal experiences, with the deep sadness at seeing our natural environment so wantonly destroyed in the name of corporate greed. Her approach makes me think of Talk Talk or some of the more melancholic Joni Mitchell albums.

The queen of Italian pop : classic Ri-Fi recordings 1963-1967. / Mina
Mark: Mina was the dominant chart figure in Italian pop for a run of nearly 15 years, and still continues to release albums with an enshrined place in the Italian music spectrum. A huge voice that can sing anything, and an enigmatic and fascinating personality. A great primer compilation that is only the tip of the iceberg that is her massive discography of music.
Neil: In Italy Mina is one of the biggest pop stars ever. Italy’s answer to Shirley Bassey or Dusty Springfield. She was a staple of Italian television variety shows and was that country’s dominant force in pop music from the 1960’s till the mid 70’s when she stopped giving public performances, though she has continued to record to this day. This a compilation of hits from the early part of her career and an excellent introduction to her work.

Chemtrails over the country club. / Del Rey, Lana
Mark: I’ve never understood why people rate her. Take 1 part Nancy Sinatra, 1 part Hooverphonic, 1 part Mazzy Star, add a dash of Julee Cruise & every James Bond theme. Shake and stir over some minimal piano, circa 2000’s Trip-hop & soaring strings. I’ll admit that her tracks are super catchy and melodic, but there is so much artifice in the lyrics and the ‘characters’ in the songs. Neil, please explain why I should listen to her…
Neil: Lana Del Rey is one of those artists who polarise opinion. ‘Chemtrails over the country club’ is her seventh studio album. It is less slick pop, and in many ways an extension of her last release Norman F******** Rockwell. In it she continues to create her own unique version of modern American of fame and fortune & torch song gothic with, of course, a veneer of 50’s Americana washed over it all. Any objective review of her output shows that, fan or not, she is clearly and undeniably one of Americas most important musical artists at the moment. The album has already been a huge critical and commercial success.

The Kugels at Breaker Bay. / Kugels
Mark: More Klezmer music from the lauded local quintet. Amazing musicianship as the Classical chamber players cut loose for these rollicking pieces.
Neil: This is the second release from the fabulous Wellington based Kugels the five-piece outfit which specialises in Klezmer and features some of New Zealand’ s finest classical musicians in their line-up. For a long time, they have been a bit of a hidden gem in the NZ music scene, but that changed recently when they did a sofa session with Bryan Crump. This latest release really shows how good they are, and includes emotive and atmospheric renditions of both traditional and original Klezmer pieces composed by arts laureate, and renown classical composer, Ross Harris. A highly recommended listen.

Something to feel. / Teeks
Mark: Debut album from the award-winning New Zealand-Māori singer-songwriter, following on from a 2017 EP. With an amazingly distinctive and arresting voice that jumps out and envelopes you immediately, this is a fantastic modern soul album. Funky and propulsive grooves, that flow into soulful meditations on how to forge a path as a man amongst a culture of toxic masculinity. Having just signed with Beyonce’s publicist this seems just the beginning of global success.
Neil: The warm, mellow, and soulful voice of New Zealander Teeks has rightfully gained him legions of fans in this country. He describes ‘Something to feel’ as the album where he opens up and shows his emotional vulnerability and self-awareness, and seeks to free and heal himself from colonised ideas of masculinity, replacing them with te ao Māori ideas, and surrendering to his emotions. As such it is obviously a very personal, introspective, album where he connects with his inner self. There is a lot of love and care put into the resulting album on all fronts, impeccably constructed and produced, and is likely to gain him a global audience.

Shore. / Fleet Foxes
Mark: Their amalgamation of previous SoCal/Folky 60’s/70’s bands was a taste I never really acquired at the time. The vocal harmonising was pleasant, it was all very beautiful sounding, and you couldn’t fault the musicianship. But it all seemed too much of a pastiche at a certain point, and Robin Pecknold’s voice never really grabbed me enough to make me get past that. The new album has a bit more sunny-pop elements to it, but the whole pastoral folk-men with beards-singing ballads about mountains was an entire genre I could never get into, so I’ll leave this one up to Neil to guide your listening.
Neil: ‘Shore’ bears all the hallmarks of the Fleet Foxes previous releases, but it also feels different. The sun kissed Californian folk dream is still there, both the light and dark side, but the music and lyrics feel more nuanced and focussed. The glorious interwoven harmonies are also still there, and just as infused with warm grace. The fact that this album was deliberately released to coincide with the autumnal equinox definitely says something about its creators’ intentions.

Kologo. / Alostmen
Mark: Ghanaian band Alostmen’s music is based around the Frafra traditions of the kologo, a stringed lute, and using traditional instrumentation in entirely new ways. Rhythmic beats weave in and out of plucked instruments, Stax styled horns, and rap interludes. Apparently more than half of Ghana’s population is under 25, and this generation is re-shaping traditional music, melding all sorts of outside influences to create something new and exciting.
Neil: An infectiously, trance rhythmic, get up and move-your-body-and-dance album from the Ghanaian outfit. Overlaid with rap and occasional strings, supplied by the bandleader Stevo Atambire’s. Kologo (his hand made two-stringed lute) is a raw, gritty, and irresistible release.

Optimisme. / Songhoy Blues
Mark: Amazingly propulsive guitar rock from this exiled Northern Mali band, who featured on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert earlier this year. Full of politically charged lyrics, incendiary solos, and anthemic tracks. Definitely worth a listen if you’re an old school rocker into Led Zeppelin or Jethro Tull.
Neil: An album that crosses musical and cultural boundaries at will. ‘Optimisme’ is a joyous explosion of an album. Driving percussion, scorching guitar riffs, political, social and personal lyrics, sung in several languages that fit in perfectly with the music, and never sound laboured or preachy. The music is exhilarating and unstoppable, and you cannot but help feel that many huge stadium acts would be jealous and in awe of the energy pouring out of this release.

New CDs at Te Awe

I’m Mark, the Customer Specialist for Music & Film at Wellington City Library. Here is some of the new and material we have been buying for the Music collection at our CBD Te Awe branch.
My colleague Neil & I decided to do some quick reviews of some new titles. Our limit was a couple of lines only. Do we actually carefully appraise & select the latest new music releases for your listening pleasure? Or do we just buy every third item on the list and hope it works out? Do we actually know anything about new music? Can you encapsulate an entire album in just one line? Read on to find out…

Real low vibe : the complete Reprise recordings 1992-1998. / Mudhoney
Neil: One of Grunge rock’s pioneers, this compilation is from their major label period & features lots of rarities. The transition didn’t bear the financial rewards the label hoped for, though the albums themselves were quite good, and after a few years they returned to Sub-Pop
Mark: Round up of the Grunge pioneers 6 year major label career. They paved the way for later bands but never commercialized their sound enough to claim a mainstream audience.

 

Super blood wolf moon /Brix & The Extricated
Neil: The Extricated’s 3rd album moves further away from the long shadow of The Fall. Bass driven psychedelic modern garage. Surprising & rather good.
Mark: Ex-Fall members 3rd album sands off their rough edges for a more 90s Boston college rock sound of shimmering guitar pop/rock. Think Throwing Muses or early Blondie…

 

Yellow Magic Orchestra USA ; &, Yellow Magic Orchestra / Yellow Magic Orchestra
Neil: The hugely influential album from pioneering Japanese Electronic outfit YMO features a huge mash-up of dance music, video game samples & progressive rock tropes.
Mark: Allmusic describes Ryuichi Sakamoto’s synth-pop group as second only to Kraftwerk in influence. Creating new worlds of sound with emerging technologies. Kitchy today in some parts maybe, but pioneering in the late 70s…

 

Introducing… Aaron Frazer. / Frazer, Aaron
Neil: Smooth debut release from this golden voiced crooner. 70s soulful R&B with a funky late night grove. Obviously a labour of love for a style of music he’s a big fan of.
Mark: The drummer for retro-soul revivalists Durand Jones & the Indications. Smooth falsetto crooning recreates a warm 70s soul vibe.

 

Pow-wow. / Mallinder, Stephen
Neil: Re-release of the 80s album from half of the Cabaret Voltaire duo. Chunky danceable groves & rhythms. Still sounding fresh & new. Industrial, post-punk, funk, & electronica
Mark: 1982 solo debut from Cabaret Voltaire’s Stephen Mallinder. His next solo record would be in 2019. Wonky vocals drift in & out of Lo-Fi beats. Intriguing. Not sure if you can really dance to this though…

 

Born into this : the music of Rattle. Volume 2, Improvisation.
Neil: Rattle Records have been at the forefront of classical, Jazz and Experimental art music in NZ for 30 years now. This compilation is their 150th release with over 40 tracks spanning their entire catalogue. A testament to the vast influence & cultural significance of the label.
Mark: 40 tracks from 3-decades worth of Rattle recordings. Artistic improvisation via Taonga puoro, acoustic instruments, Jazz, electroacoustic soundscapes and beyond. Contains some of the most important pure NZ musical statements of the last few decades.

 

Girls go power pop!
Neil: Catchy, infectiously sing-along classics from the likes of the Go-Go’s & the Runaways, with some lesser known bands making up the compilation. Great fun, uplifting and solid road trip music.
Mark: Some usual suspects as well as some obscure gems in this choice Ace records comp of female Power Pop from the 80s and 90s. Plenty of crunchy guitar riffs and catchy choruses.

 

Greenfields : the Gibb brothers’ songbook. Vol. 1 / Gibb, Barry
Neil: The last outstanding Bee-Gee looks to his legacy and records an album of Country versions of Bee-Gees classics with a bunch of Country guests. Mixed results. For me the standout track was ‘Words’ with Dolly Parton.
Mark: The Bee-Gees catalogue through the Country Music looking glass. Better than you might think for the most part.. Shows that the bones of great songs can retain their essence no matter the colourings applied.

 

Spare ribs. / Sleaford Mods
Neil: Their 6th album is another rambunctious, caustic, socially aware quintessentially ‘British rapper’ outing. Quality control remains high. As good as previous albums.
Mark: More working class Rap-punk from the Sleaford Mods filled with a sense of paranoia & trapped claustrophobia. Recorded during Covid-19. Digs deep into the social & political ills of modern Britain.

 

 

Think of spring. / Ward, M
Neil: Beautiful, sad, melancholic renditions of Billie Holliday classics. Exquisitely executed.
Mark: A pervading sense of wistfulness shades the tracks which drift gently along. Perfect Sunday afternoon music.

 

 

Black majik terror / Stälker
Neil: Wgtn based speed metal trio deliver a very 80’s styled sound. Very reminiscent of Ronnie James Dio’s Holy Diver. One for fans of this type of Speed Metal.
Mark: Stalker return with more great 80’s inspired Metal fun. Like the soundtrack to an old Horror classic about fighting Aliens or Demons or something….

 

The king of Sudanese jazz. / Ahmed, Sharhabil
Neil: What a find! These recordings from the early 60’s are a joyous mix of all sorts of styles such as Jazz, Samba & Tango but all with it’s own musical identity. It’s infectiously groovy and better than the early Beatles albums!
Mark: Fascinating recording from the 1960s Sudan before a military coup brought in a strict Islamist government that repressed the arts. Fuses western music like Rock N Roll & Surf Rock, early R&B with Ethiopian jazz, Congolese music, and the sounds of South Sudan for something truly uniquely funky and original.

 

The lost songs : 48 unreleased recordings / Welch, Gillian
Neil: After the roof of her recording studio was ripped off in a Tornado, Gillian Welch decided to rescue these archival tracks from the following flood. Her trademark Southern gothic bluegrass Country & Western style is well served by this compilation.
Mark: Boots No. 1 from 2016 was a collection of outtakes from her 1996 debut. This lavish Box Set follow up was originally recorded in 2002 to fulfil a publishing contract. The tapes were excavated for release during Covid-19, and reveal a vein of consistently evocative and enigmatic song-writing vignettes that are sure please fans of her type of Hillbilly country-folk.

 

Transmissions : the music of Beverly Glenn-Copeland : collected songs + unreleased music. / Glenn-Copeland, Beverly
Neil: This compilation of tranquil chilled music traces the artists entire career. Much of the music was recorded in relative solitude. An eclectic and unique album, but difficult to describe.
Mark: Rediscovered after decades of obscurity due to a Japanese collector’s request for copies of his 1986 album ‘Keyboard Fantasies’, the transgender Black artist has gone on to be an influence on Blood Orange, Moses Sumney, and Caribou among others. Following a documentary in 2019 which took his story wider, ‘Transmissions’ is an attempt to gather works from across his career. Beautifully relaxing, hopeful & uplifting music.

Hidari ude no yume. / Sakamoto, Ryūichi
Neil: This is a welcome re-release of the unedited Japanese version of this album that varies dramatically from the Western release. Also contains an instrumental version with the vocals stripped out. A thoroughly engaging album from one of the giants of Japanese music forging ahead and pointing towards future masterpieces.
Mark: Original Japanese edition of Sakamoto’s ‘Left Handed Dream’ released outside of Japan for the first time. Minimalist Electronica masterpiece. Still ahead of its time…

 

 

Deutsche elektronische musik. 4, Experimental German rock and electronic music 1971-83.
Neil: The 4th instalment of the series that documents the creative furnace that was the German music scene in the 70’s & 80’s.
Mark: More German experimental rock. An endless autobahn of electronic, progressive, & ambient torture…

 

 

Rollins in Holland : the 1967 studio & live recordings featuring Ruud Jacobs & Han Bennink. / Rollins, Sonny
Neil: A piece of Jazz history given a welcome 21st century official release.
Mark: Some unearthed Rollins featuring some studio & live tracks from European gigs with a pick-up band. The studio cuts showcase a surprisingly sympathetic degree of musical attunement. The live cuts show some great interaction but the sound is of lesser quality.

 

McCartney III. / McCartney, Paul
Neil: What can you say about a new Paul McCartney album? My best shot is: If you’ve enjoyed his previous solo outing then you’ll probably enjoy this too…
Mark: All McCartney all the time in yet another lockdown album. Aims to recreate the strengths of the similar Chaos and Creation in the Backyard but falls short on the songs. Worth checking out if you’re a fan of the lo-fi musings of McCartney & McCartney 11.

 

Plastic bouquet / Kacy & Clayton
Neil: In this Kiwi-Canadian collaboration Kacy & Clayton and Marlon Williams carefully craft a largely solemn collection of tracks that infuse country-folk, rockabilly & blues in unexpected ways and forms. Yet it all sounds & feels very natural & effortless like they have worked together for years.
Mark: Folky Canadian Saskatchewan cousins meet NZs Marlon Williams. A meeting of kindred spirits melds folky pop & Americana narratives. Pleasant but slight.

 

 

Pwr up. / AC/DC
Neil: Who would have though that after Brian Johnston had to pull out of the Rock Or Bust tour due to medial reasons that AC/DC would ever release a new album. Yet this is as good as their hey-day, firing on all cylinders. A full blooded rock out. Just goes to show you can never tell.
Mark: Surely one comeback that no one saw coming. Yet this is definitely not a ‘Money Shot’ as the album is chock full of punchy, catchy songs. AC/DC doing what they do best. A worthy addition to their legacy of rock…

 

 

 

.

Staff Picks – The Best of 2020: CDs

Even with the impact of COVID-19, and perhaps due to it in many ways, 2020 was a bumper year for music releases. Here is a round-up of some of our favourite new releases and reissues from last year.

Shinji’s Pick’s:
Untitled (Black is). / Sault
London based trio Sault released two impressive albums in 2020; ‘Untitled (Black is)’ and ‘Untitled (Rise), and both are in response to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. Inheriting great sprits of black music ‘Black is’ seems to be a modern day version of Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ (1971) or Sly and the Family Stone’s ‘There’s a Riot Goin’ On’ (1971), and akin to D’angelo’s ‘Black Messiah’ (2014). Although the world hasn’t changed much, this is an exceptional musical achievement drawing from soul, funk, afrobeat and gospel.

Some kind of peace. / Ólafur Arnalds
The new album by the Icelandic multi-instrumentalist and composer Olafur Arnalds takes us on a beautiful, sophisticated musical journey. Collaborating with the likes of Bonobo and Josin, it’s probably his most personal, introspective album to date. From minimal compositions, he creates immaculately crafted and rich music, somewhere between electronica and ambient, and brings us the cool air as well as the warmth. Exquisite.

Share the wealth / Cline, Nels
He is now often described as a Wilco’s Nels Cline, but it’s not quite right for the old fans, who have followed him since when he played freaky music in L.A. The Nels Cline Singers has been his staple project and this new album offers more brilliant, forward-thinking music. Collecting from a two-day recording of spontaneous sessions by the new sextet, this jam-feel music displays sonically intriguing, with ‘Bitches Brew’-like moments, intense yet sophisticated jazz and beyond world. Marvelous.

Best of box-sets
Raw like sushi. / Cherry, Neneh
Neneh Cherry’s debut in 1989 became a groundbreaking album blending hip-hop, R&B, pop and dance, but it was her fearless, avant-garde mojo that took the world by storm. Thirty years down the line, it surprisingly survived well and still sounds hip and funky. This 3 CD-set includes rare mixes of tracks offering a timeless coolness. Dance with her.

 

Throw down your heart : the complete Africa sessions / Fleck, Béla
Banjo maestro Bela Fleck, who plays from traditional bluegrass to jazz to Bach, took a journey to four African countries to explore the roots of banjo. Some of the collaborations with local musicians have been released on various mediums, and this box-set compiles all these materials with a new recording with kora master Toumani Diabate. Fleck’s musical curiosity and down-to-earth approach seem endless and it’s showcased in the DVD of the of the award-winning documentary of this trip, which completes this box-set. All in all, it offers a rich, delightful musical experience.

Summerteeth [deluxe]. / Wilco
Between the breakthrough album ‘Being There’ and the acclaimed ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’, the 1999 album ‘Summerteeth’ records an intriguing phase of becoming the successful cross-genre rock group from the alternative country band, and remains one of their best albums. This four-CD set contains a superbly remastered original album, unreleased outtakes and demos, and the live show on two CDs. It’s a great document of the dawn of this supergroup and sounds still very much fresh.

The landmark album in the 80s ‘Sign O the Times’ documents one of the highest points of Prince’s career. Following the earlier reissues of ‘1999’ and ‘Purple Rain’, this masterpiece comes back as an amazing box-set containing 8 CDs with a DVD. 63 of the 92 tracks in 8 CDs are previously unreleased including 45 studio recordings from 1979 to 1987. The quality of these recordings is simply fantastic and unmistakably Prince. The DVDs features the rare footage of Miles Davis on stage with Prince. This is as good as the deluxe reissue gets.

Archives. Volume 1, The early years (1963-1967). / Mitchell, Joni
Joni Mitchell has been slowly recovering from a brain aneurysm which she had in 2015 and is still not able to make new music. However, this is a great present for fans. Collecting her performances before the 1968 debut ‘Songs to a Seagull’, which most of us have never heard, it shows a fascinating insight into the early career of this legendary singer-songwriter. It’s very interesting to learn that some of her well-known songs such as ‘The Circle Game’ and ‘Both Sides Now’ were already written at this very early stage. It’s a great start for the long-awaited archive series.

Mark’s Picks:
The new abnormal / Strokes
The Strokes return after 7 years with one of those great albums that rewards after repeated listens; revealing a new level of emotional maturity and shifting musical contours, playing off their previous trademark style while adding in new elements. Diverging from the shorter pop ‘verse/chorus/verse’ construct of previous albums, the songs stretch out for longer and it takes a few listens before all the inherent melodies sink in. Julian Casablancas’ lyrics are more political and mature, befitting someone now in their 40s, the songs more brooding and reflective. The band sounds more together and focused than on the last couple of albums, and you once again marvel at the level of musicianship they provide to underpin Casablancas’ vocals, culminating in the epic closing track ‘Ode To The Mets’ which ranks as one of their best tracks ever.

The kingdom. / Bush
Supposedly inspired by being the only Rock band playing at a bunch of Metal Festivals, ‘The Kingdom’ is a surprisingly heavy return to form for the English post grunge-rockers. Frontman Gavin Rossdale brings ex-Helmet guitarist Chris Traynor up in the mix for a twin near-metal attack that showcases an album of hugely catchy riffs and soaring vocals, anchored by some of his best song-writing in years. If you enjoyed the pummelling track ‘Bullet Holes’, that played out over the credits of John Wick 3, then you’ll enjoy the sound of this follow-up album.

To drink the rainbow : an anthology 1988-2019. / Tikaram, Tanita
The German-born English singer of Fijian & Malaysian descent released her first album (produced by ex-Zombie Rod Argent) aged only 19 and had a ‘hit’ of sorts with the moody & enigmatic track ‘Twist in My Sobriety’. Her debut album sold four million copies worldwide but she never seemed interested in commercial success and her career since then has been a winding journey thorough various musical muses including baroque-pop, chamber-folk, Latin-jazz, duets with Nick Lowe & Grant Lee Phillips and more – with often periods of long retirement in between albums. At the centre of her musical journey is her wonderfully husky & unique voice. This ‘offbeat’ anthology focuses on the later part of her career, cleverly curated by music writer and broadcaster Peter Paphides for his Needle Mythology label, and places the focus on the high level of song-writing sustained across a 30 year career of musical evolution and discovery.

Let me be good to you : the Atlantic & Stax recordings (1960-1968). / Thomas, Carla
Great round-up of most of the albums of this under-rated singer, who was known as the Queen of Memphis Soul. This box covers the history of Stax records from down-home soul duets with with her father Rufus Thomas or label mate Otis Redding, to melancholy ‘Girl Group’ stringed ballads, to the later more elegant shimmering Pop and R&B cuts. Plenty of classic soul is served up over the course of these 4 discs on this set, which includes a nice booklet outlining her musical upbringing & career, as well as a nice natural sound to the remastering.

Joseph’s Picks:
To love is to live. / Beth, Jehnny
Warm and cold, inviting and austere, Jehnny Beth channels enormous energy in this incredible and experimental release.

 

 

 

Inner song. / Owens, Kelly Lee
Restful, meditative and sometimes danceable! Featuring a very beautiful guest appearance from John Cale.

 

 

 

Gus’s Picks:
Tenet : original motion picture soundtrack
TENET marks the first time since Batman Begins that Christopher Nolan has worked with a composer other than Hans Zimmer. With some big shoes to fill and facing the unique challenge of scoring a film during a global pandemic, Ludwig Goransson more than ably commits himself to the task. Clearly revelling in TENET’s premise of characters who can weaponise the reversal of time, Goransson has created a compellingly bizarre score to match it, where sections of the score play both backwards and forwards over each other, producing some compellingly spooky soundscapes. Buoyed by methodical guitar licks and pulsing electronic beats, the score feels both otherworldly methodical and achingly human; in the latter case sometimes literally, as certain tracks include samples of Christopher Nolan’s breathing and the Autotuned cooing of rapper Travis Scott.

Plus:
The slow rush. / Tame Impala
Song machine. Season one, Strange timez. / Gorillaz
It is what it is. / Thundercat
Jump rope gazers / Beths
The new abnormal / Strokes
Unfollow the rules. / Wainwright, Rufus
Friend ship / Phoenix Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Neil P.’s Picks:
Dreamboat. / Luluc
By the fire. / Moore, Thurston
Good songs for bad people. / Drab City
Nayda! / Bab L’ Bluz
Harry. / Dead Famous People
Free humans. / Hen Ogledd
Nightcap at wits’ end. / Garcia Peoples
The true story of Bananagun. / Bananagun
Chastity Belt. / Chastity Belt
Don’t let get you down. / Wajatta
Mettavolution live. / Rodrigo y Gabriela
Messianic. / Dark Divinity
Mordechai. / Khruangbin
Summerlong. / Rose City Band
High risk behaviour / Chats
5 years behind. / Thick
It is what it is. / Thundercat
The ghost of Freddie Cesar / Kingi, Troy
Protean threat / Oh Sees
There is no other… / Campbell, Isobel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dani’s Picks:
Sorry you couldn’t make it. / Swamp Dogg
Fetch the bolt cutters. / Apple, Fiona
Old flowers. / Andrews, Courtney Marie
The balladeer. / McKenna, Lori
Reb Fountain. / Fountain, Reb
The ghost of Freddie Cesar / Kingi, Troy
Cuttin’ grass : the Butcher Shoppe sessions. / Simpson, Sturgill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shane’s Picks:
Inner song. / Owens, Kelly Lee
Good songs for bad people. / Drab City
I disagree. / Poppy
Even in exile. / Bradfield, James Dean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monty’s Picks:
Live at the Powerstation. / Avantdale Bowling Club[VINYL]
Out of my province. / Reid, Nadia[VINYL]
Color theory. / Soccer Mommy
Gold record. / Callahan, Bill
Greatest hits : my sister thanks you and I thank you. / White Stripes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…….

New Music at Te Awe

I’m Mark, the Customer Specialist for Music & Film at Wellington City Library. Here is some of the new and material we have been buying for the Music collection at our CBD Te Awe branch.
My colleague Neil & I decided to do a quick one line review of these titles. Do we actually carefully appraise & select the latest new music releases for your listening pleasure? Or do we just buy every third item on the list and hope it works out? Do we actually know anything about new music? Does our Council have any Style? Read on to find out…

Foothills / Bats (Musical group)
Neil: Melodic chilled Kiwi-Americana. Perfect to relax to watching the sun go down with a cold beer on the deck.
Mark: More jangle-pop goodness. The line-up’s longevity & connection create a familial musical landscape where they can traverse any emotion with melodic and emotional authenticity.

Hey U X. / Benee
Neil: Gen z Tik tok star Benee follows up her “Supalonely” smash hit with a surprisingly honest and thoughtful teen angst album.
Mark: Her voice & style recall Lorde, Clairo or Billie Eilish, but it’s to her lyrical skills that turn this into a fun & engagingly cohesive reflection of Gen Z life & themes in 2020.

My echo. / Veirs, Laura
Neil: My Echo is Laura Veirs’ 11th album a deeply, personal outing about the disintegration of her marriage.
Mark: Quality songs emerging out of emotional discontent. Not as depressing or insular as it sounds. Honestly.

Shadow of fear. / Cabaret Voltaire
Neil: Fits in very well with Cabaret Voltaire’s (now just Richard H Kirk) back catalogue, both the very early old scratchy experimental material and the more smooth funky dance works of the 80’s. Old fans will be very happy.
Mark: First album in 26 years. Old school tricks meet new sounds with a cyberpunk vibe. Plays like the soundtrack to a William Gibson novel.

The symbol remains. / Blue Öyster Cult
Neil: Another (one of several) blasts from the past. Founder members Donald Roeser and Eric Bloom are now 72 and 75, but this doesn’t stop them delivering a classic rock epic that is sure to please previous followers. Go, go Godzilla.
Mark: First album in 19 years. A journey through solidly catchy hard rock, metal & pop anthems, with riffs and energy that much younger bands would kill for.

Empty body. / Spook The Horses
Neil: Loud, experimental post metal at its best and a marked departure from their previous outings. If you are into this particular style of music an exceptional piece of work.
Mark: One of Wgtn’s strongest bands return with a bold piece of re-invention. Powerful vocals dip in and out of heavy instrumental tracks full of controlled dissonance. Brooding & intense.

Swirling. / Sun Ra Arkestra
Neil: Another album many years in the making, with Ra himself gone to a different plane. His long time collaborator and friend 96 year old Marshall Belford Allen takes over the helm. Brilliant stuff that really captures the chaotic genius of the outfit when Ra was around. “The Future is now”.
Mark: First album in 20 years. This month’s theme obviously…Always too atonal & weird for straight ahead Jazz-ers, the music of Sun Ra found a second life with the rise of Afrofuturism. The influential space-age Jams now anchor the centre of so many music & cultural strands.

Whatever it is. / Hello Forever
Neil: Psychedelic sun-drenches California vibes for the 21st century. Self confessed influences of the Beach Boys and The Mamas & Papas.
Mark: A tribute to a bygone time of sunshine, harmonies, & positive vibes. Gorgeous multi-layered harmonies and positive messages.

No need to argue [deluxe] / Cranberries (Musical group)
Neil: Not my favourite band at all…
Mark: Ignore Neil. The Cranberries are awesome. Great second album brimming with the song-writing confidence of a successful debut. Only 17 million copies worldwide. Nice reissue that rounds up B-sides, demos & some live tracks.

Archives. Volume 1, The early years (1963-1967). / Mitchell, Joni
Neil: Bob Dylan, nah. Neil Young, maybe. Joni Mitchell, now your talking. The beginnings of the finest songwriter North America (Canada to be precise) has ever produced, rarities galore a genius gearing up to true greatness.
Mark: Not a fan. If all the ‘Jazz people’ on her albums had actually made Jazz albums instead…And surely Bryan Adams is really the finest songwriter to ever come out of Canada.

Idiot prayer : Nick Cave alone at Alexander Palace. / Cave, Nick
Neil: Nick Cave, a solo piano in an empty Alexander palace playing songs old and new and even one cover (T-Rex). Spellbinding stuff and a must for any Cave fan.
Mark: Raw and powerful. A soothing tonic for 2020.

Pieces of you. / Jewel
Neil: 25th anniversary release of the singer songwriter Jewel’s debut album . When it was initially released it sold less than 3000 copies and was largely ignored by critics and the buying public, though it did have a few A list musician supporters. But the album would eventually sell over 12 million copies in the US alone.
Mark: A singer whose unique beguiling voice and personal songs were almost completely out of step with the prevailing musical currents of the time. A fascinating essay & multi-disc look at how actual music label support, gruelling touring, & the support of Bob Dylan & Neil Young created one of the biggest selling debut albums of all time.

Layla and other assorted love songs. / Derek and the Dominos
Neil: Another re-issue. Surprisingly unpopular with critics and fans initially, but went on to platinum status quickly and is now regarded as one of Eric Claptons favourite moments. Personally I prefer Cream hammering it out!
Mark: I think Clapton’s best moments can be found on Edge of Darkness, but this classic album has plenty of iconic moments.

Let me be good to you : the Atlantic & Stax recordings (1960-1968). / Thomas, Carla
Neil: A welcome compilation of the much under-rated honey-voiced Carla Thomas, one of the Wiggin Casino favourites!
Mark: The Queen of Stax records, her career sadly ended with the demise of the label. This fantastic set rounds up all her albums bar one. Fantastic voice and the deep grooves of the best Stax musicians. What more could a Soul-fan ask for?

Summerteeth [deluxe]. / Wilco
Neil: Alt-country fave’s Wilco move away from their country roots in this lush textured highly successful album.
Mark: Psychedelic hued, Big Star tinged Power-Pop that still ranks as one of their best albums. The endless studio tinkering and musical layers hid a drug fuelled uncertainty that surfaced in some dark & unsettling lyrics lending the album a deeper resonance that still enthralls.

The lost Berlin tapes / Fitzgerald, Ella
Neil: It’s difficult to say anything about Ella Fitzgerald that hasn’t been said. This legend ‘s reputation will not be diminished by this new release.
Mark: Recorded a couple of years after her legendary 1960 concert album Mack the Knife, this set of tapes was lost in Verve label owner Norman Granz’s private tape archive for over 50 years! It’s Ella. We don’t need to say anymore really…

Hey clockface. / Costello, Elvis
Neil: One of the best albums of 2020.
Mark: Just when you’ve decided to finally give up on him forever, he shows he can still draw on the energy and signwriting mojo of his younger self to take you through a cleverly diverse musical journey of moods and styles that’s still distinctly EC.

The raging wrath of the Easter Bunny demo. / Mr. Bungle
Neil: Re-hash of their original cassette demo. Hear them at their nascent beginning.
Mark: 2020 re-recording which sees original members and friends re-create the lo-fi trash metal of their original debut. Bungle Grind on…

Crooked piece of time : the Atlantic & Asylum albums (1971-1980). / Prine, John
Neil: Bob Dylan said that “Prine’s stuff is pure Proustian existentialism, and who are we to disagree.
Mark: Remastered versions of the first seven studio albums of his career, recorded with Atlantic Records and Asylum Records. Considered an American Treasure who influenced evyone from Dylan to Wilco.

Long hot summers : the story of The Style Council. / Style Council
Neil: So what did Paul Weller do when he left the Jam? Well he formed the soulful more op orientated Style Council, an eighties take of the classic Motown/American soul RnB sound of the fifties.
Mark: Smooth Jams…

Staff Picks CDs & DVDs

Staff Picks are back, with a completely random selection of new & old material that Library Staff have been watching & viewing recently!


Punisher. / Bridgers, Phoebe
When I reminisce about the apocalyptic hellscape that has been 2020, this album makes a fitting soundtrack. Flitting between jubilant and despondent, edgy and soft, this is a sophisticated offering which will appeal to those who spent their adolescence in the grip of emo pop rock, but who now prefer a bit more nuance. (Cassie)

Ghosts of West Virginia / Earle, Steve
Singer/Songwriter/Activist Steve Earle is involved in a project concerning a coal mining explosion that killed 29 miners. He wrote the music for this public theatre project in conjunction with documentary playwrights, who interviewed the families of the dead and the few survivors. He has a distinctive voice and writes powerful lyrics. Also includes 3 songs not in the play, but of a similar theme. I particularly liked Black Lung. (Greg)

The shocking Miss Emerald. / Emerald, Caro
Dutch chanteuse Caro Emerald’s Retro, Big Band singing style will get your toes tapping and your mood uplifted! These jazzy pop songs may be the Perfect hot (Hopefully) summer) soundtrack. (David)

Baduizm. / Badu, Erykah
I’ve been doing a deep dive into the murky waters of the music of my adolescence lately. There are so many classic records in the 90s and any deep drive into this decade brings you to the glory that is Erykah Badu’s “Baduizm”. Released in 1997, this record was Badu’s debut album that crowned her the high priestess of neo-soul. This record is uniquely Badu, mixing the singing style of Billie Holiday with soul, R&B, jazz and hip-hop. It’s songs of heartbreak speak of higher issues than a first listen can provide so is worth a good listen. (Dani)

England is a garden. / Cornershop
I hadn’t listened to the band for many years, but Cornershop came back into my life right after my family and I moved to New Zealand in late 2019. Those days were joyous, yet at the same time some of the most tiring moments that I have ever lived through, immigrating to a new country and getting adjusted to a very different way of life. Cornershop squeezed its way back in during all of this, when they announced a new album coming out in March 2020 titled “England Is A Garden”. In the time of Covid-19, I can’t think of a better band and album to spend lots of my time with. From start to finish, “England Is A Garden” is a gem to listen to, but it also makes you feel good things. You think about your place in the world as you listen to the album, you realise just how wonderful and special it is to be alive, no matter what is going on all around you. Certain music connects you to things happening, while at the same time providing an escape, and “England Is A Garden” is a perfect example of this. (Justin)

The kingdom. / Bush
Supposedly inspired by being the only Rock band playing at a bunch of Metal Festivals, ‘The Kingdom’ is a surprisingly heavy return to form for the English post grunge-rockers. Frontman Gavin Rossdale brings ex-Helmet guitarist Chris Traynor up in the mix for a twin near-metal attack that showcases an album of hugely catchy riffs and soaring vocals, anchored by some of his best song-writing in years. If you enjoyed the pummelling track ‘Bullet Holes’, that played out over the credits of John Wick 3, then you’ll enjoy the sound of this follow-up album. (Mark)

American head / Flaming Lips
The Flaming Lips are a bit wacky, an acquired taste, sort of cosmic, ethereal, spacey and this latest is no different to previous albums like Yoshimi battles the pink robots. So that’s good because they offer a mix of light and heavy sounds filled with simple melodies and complex noises. The lyrics on this album can teeter on the simplistic, but there are a lot of lovely harmonies and rhythms with eclectic patterns. So, something both soothing and slightly offbeat at the same time, which is great! (Martin)

The new abnormal / Strokes
The Strokes return after 7 years with one of those great albums that rewards after repeated listens; revealing a new level of emotional maturity and shifting musical contours, that play off their previous trademark style while adding in new elements. Diverging from the shorter pop ‘verse/chorus/verse’ construct of previous albums, the songs stretch out for longer and it takes a few listens before all the inherent melodies sink in. Julian Casablancas’ lyrics are more political and mature, befitting someone now in their 40s, the songs more brooding and reflective. The band sounds more together and focused than on the last couple of albums, and you once again marvel at the level of musicianship they provide to underpin Casablancas’ vocals, culminating in the epic closing track ‘Ode To The Mets’ which ranks as one of their best tracks ever. (Mark)

Endeavour. Complete series seven.
This is a great series and has kept us captivated since season 1. This latest series is set in the ’70’s and takes me back to the fashions and foibles of my childhood. Another set of Oxford murders to solve as well as an intriguing new relationship for Endeavour Morse keeps you guessing. (Raewyn)

Mystery Men. 
Oh the 90’s, what a time for movies! Possibly one of the most 90’s movies ever made (it’s soundtrack even has Smash Mouth’s All Star), this ridiculous tale of ridiculous superheroes is lots of silly fun. All the usual names are there, Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria, Paul Reubens, Janeane Garofalo but you also get bonus Tom Waits (a mad scientist who builds non-lethal weapons, like the Blame Thrower) and Eddie Izzard (one of the villainous Disco Boys henchmen). Not to mention that the villain is named Cassanova Frankenstein. Yes, you read that correctly, Cassanova Frankenstein. It’s camp, it’s silly, Hank Azaria throws forks at people and there’s an invisible boy who can only be invisible when nobody is looking. It’s just lots of fun. (Kath)

This town
So this film was promoted as a comedy, which it sort of is… but it’s dark. Really dark. I did laugh, but more often I found myself drawing a sharp breath and thinking “Oh no!” Written, directed and starring David White, this recent New Zealand film is the story of Sean (White), a man with a troubled past searching for love. He meets Casey (Alice May Connolly), a sweet local girl and they fall for one another. But the spanner in the works of their romance is ex-cop Pam (Robyn Malcolm) who is determined to put Sean behind bars for a crime he has already been acquitted of. There is something sweet and gentle about Sean and Casey’s relationship that I found endearing, even if they are both a bit on the gormless side. It has a really good solid twist at the end that I never saw coming. (Kath)

Velvet goldmine
If you’re a fan of 70’s glam rock, like Bowie, Marc Bolan, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop etc, this film is a fictional story made up of a lot of glam rock legends… that might be true, or they might not. Christian Bale plays a young English journalist Arthur Stuart (the biggest flaw of the movie – I found him terrible and his English accent even worse) chasing the story of what happened to glam rock superstar Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) whose career failed after he faked is own assassination on stage. Interviewing the people closest to Slade, like his ex-wife Mandy (Toni Collette, brilliantly doing her best Angie Bowie impersonation) and reported ex-lover American glam rocker Curt Wild (Ewan MacGregor, who steals the movie in every scene he appears) finds himself disappearing down a rabbit-hole of sex, drugs and rock n roll which never quite brings him any closer to Slade’s whereabouts. Don’t let Christian Bale’s performance put you off, the rest of the cast more than make up for it. Fantastic costuming and make-up, the soundtrack is glam rock heaven and it’s one of the iconic alternative films from the late 90’s. (Kath)


The Lost Aviator A Beamafilm Documentary (Australia)
Against his families wishes Documentary maker Andrew Lancaster unveils his pioneer aviator’s uncle’s life of adventure, obsessive love and involvement in a sensational murder trial. An intriguing story with a curiously moving and haunting ending. (David)

Queens of mystery. [Series 1]
Newly promoted Detective Sergeant Matilda Stone investigates offbeat murders in a quaint English Village. Her 3 crime-writing aunts lend her their expertise, as well as unwanted dating advice. They may solve the murders, but the unexplained disappearance of Matilda’s mother 25 years ago will be harder to crack “a quality production- Very well written and acted. The whole family enjoyed it”. (Roseanne)

Neil P’s Picks:
As the WCL CD Cataloguer, these are some of my favourite new CDs…
Andy Bell – The view from halfway down
Thurston Moore – By the fire
Drab City – Good songs for bad people
Dead Famous People – Harry
Magik Markers – 2020
Heliocentrics – Telemetric sounds
Hen Ogledd – Free humans
Garcia Peoples – Nightcap at wits’ end
Fenne Lily – Breach

Shinji’s Picks:
DVD’s:
Queen and Slim
Sorry We Missed You
The End of the Golden Weather
For Sama
Homecoming (TV show)

CD’s:
Blue Nile – High[Bonus Disc]
Sault – Untitled (Black is)
Bela Fleck – Throw Down Your Heart
Julianna Barwick – Healing Is a Miracle
Aaron Parks – Little Big II: dreams of a mechanical man


Wellington electro acoustic trio live

Part one Feat Ross Harris, Steve Burridge and Neil Johnstone.

Arts laureate and New Zealand classical composer Ross Harris is regarded widely as one of the leading musical lights of his generation. In his time he has worn and still wears many musical hats : – from teaching at Victoria University, to Tuba playing, being the regular accordion player with the phenomenal Klezmer outfit The Kugels.  And in the past has dived deep into the World of electro acoustic music esp. with the iconic eighties outfit The Free Radicals with fellow sonic explorer Jonathan Besser.

Click here to hear an interview with Ross talking about his days in the Free Radicals and what it was like to be an electronic musical pioneer in the 1980’s.

These days Ross can be seen regularly playing Klezmer with The Kugels or in the audience at the Michael Fowler listening to one of his classical compositions being played but very rarely does he perform in the Electro acoustic World so when we were offered the chance to record an ultra-rare live performance of Ross playing experimental accordion at an electroacoustic gig at  the launch of poet Janis Freegard’s latest poetry collection Reading the Signs we jumped at it  .

So below our exclusive video of Ross Harris playing with Steve Burridge and Neil Johnstone from the Album Shearwater Drift featuring the above and also  ngā taonga pūoro player Al Fraser. Enjoy.

Part Two feat Steve Burridge and Neil Johnstone. 


Shearwater drift / Fraser, Alistair
“Shearwater Drift is a vast sonic collage that explores real and imagined landscapes.Over 18 tracks,it features Taongo Puoro within soundscapes created by synthesisers, percussion, treated samples and other instruments that is not an easy listen, at times it can be quite eerie, but the dark and ethereal ambient atmosphere is the perfect vehicle by which the mystery of these ancient instruments can be experienced.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Symphony no. 5 ; Violin concerto / Harris, Ross
“Ross Harris’s Symphony No.5 uses as its core poems by Panni Palasti.  The moving poems in the piece are based on the personal experiences of the poet during World War Two and the subsequent Hungarian Revolution. The work creates complex orchestral movements around these poems. This particular recording has conductor Eckehard Steir steering the orchestra and he judges well the balance between the moments of ferocity and the work’s sonic ebb and flow.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Free Radicals / Free Radicals (Musical group)
“Wellington based Free Radicals :-Ross Harris and Jonathan Besser were active in the early 80s, described by one reviewer as ‘Eno meets industrial punk meets Stockhausen’. This compilation of archival recordings show the full range, scope and ambition of the pioneering outfit.” ( adapted from Catalogue.)

Requiem for the fallen / Harris, Ross
“Requiem for the fallen honours the memory of soldiers who died in the First World War. Poetry by Vincent O’Sullivan is woven through the Latin of the Requiem Mass and carries many homespun New Zealand references. Horomona Horo’s taonga pūoro improvisations add a haunting beauty that could only be from Aotearoa (New Zealand)” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Cathedral / Besser, Jonathan
“Cathedral is a recording of a concert originally performed live in 1984 in front of an audience wearing eye masks, and this re issue includes one new track called “Ruins (2084)”. And features Jonathan Besser playing on Dunedin’s St Paul’s Cathedral pipe organ and Greg Fox on electric guitar and treatments. The work is an innovative, immersive, atmospheric and ambient piece.” ( Adapted from Catalogue)

Ponguru / Fraser, Alistair
“Ponguru is a truly unique album fusing seamlessly the sonic worlds of acclaimed jazz bassist Phil Boniface and leading Nga Taonga Puoro player Al Fraser . The resulting album has many faces and facets its Jazz tinged rather than Jazz, ambient in places and like a complex sonic landscape in others, throughout all its pieces it’s always fiercely original , rewarding and hugely atmospheric. Phil’s bass work is of the highest calibre imbuing the whole piece with a core of beautiful rhythmic structure. And Al’s emotive, nuanced playing shows that he is rightfully regarded as one of the finest musicians working in NZ today.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Toitū te pūoro. / Fraser, Alistair
Al Fraser, the Wellington musician and instrument maker takes the listener on a deep, dreamlike and evocative journey into the mysterious, mystical and unique sound worlds created by the ancient taonga puoro.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Reading the Signs / Freegard, Janis
Reading the Signs is Janis Freegard’s most recent poetry collection. The work is a prose poetry sequence which explores our inner and outer world’s through various means such as divination and the rich diversity of life as viewed through a poet as biological scientist lens. The core themes behind this often humorous but also serious collection are loss and recovery, climate change and gender fluidity not to mention spiders, piglets and Tasseography (tea leaf reading) . The publication includes accompanying art works by Neil Johnstone” ( Adapted from catalogue)

New Music at Te Awe

I’m Mark, the Customer Specialist for Music & Film at Wellington City Library. Here is some of the new and material we have been buying for the Music collection at our CBD Te Awe branch.
My colleague Neil & I decided to do a quick one line review of these titles. Do we actually carefully appraise & select the latest new music releases for your listening pleasure? Or do we just buy every third item on the list and hope it works out? Do we actually know anything about new music? Or are we just too old and think ‘Be-a-ba-dooby-do…’ is something Sinatra used to croon? Read on to find out….

Pleased to meet me / Replacements
Neil: Welcome re-release of The Replacements album. A band that could have been as big as REM, but internal tensions prevented them from achieving this.
Mark: Pioneers of the whole Alt-rock ‘left of the dial’ genre, PTME deftly weaves in a wider array of genres and musical touches into their signature sound to great effect.

 

The seeds of love. / Tears For Fears
Neil: The Beatles of the 1980s – or so they wished. Even the cover emulates Sgt. Pepper. That said their anthemic tunes are currently getting a re-appraisal.
Mark: More musicians than machines was their aim with the wider scope & personnel of this polished album. However the seeds of breakup were sown during its sessions and it would be 10 years before they would record together again.

 

Fall to pieces. / Tricky
Neil: Tricky’s darkest album in years revolves around the death of his daughter. Intense, bleak and perhaps the best thing he has ever released.
Mark: Personal loss has sadly been the inspiration for great art and music, and this is no exception. Emotionally cathartic, but not an easy listen.

 

In memory of my feelings / Davies, Catherine Anne
Neil: Electronica artist The Anchoress shifts names & styles and collaborates with ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler to deliver a glam-pop album that moves effortlessly between the delicate and the swaggering.
Mark: Welsh musician/songwriter Catherine Anne Davies & Bernard Butler collab. Inexplicitly shelved for 4 years. Sounds like: If Chrissie Hynde fronted Suede. 2020 thanks you for your gift.

 

Androgynous Mary. / Girl Friday
Neil: Girl Friday’s debut album is a hook laden 80s inspired jangly pop. Fans of The Beths would really love this.
Mark: Cool LA female quartet featuring Wgtn singer-songwriter Vera Ellen. Lo-Fi guitars & melodies produce a charming album full of catchy tunes.

 

 

Fake it flowers. / Beabadoobee
Neil: Slacker tinged post punk reinvented by the Pavement obsessed Beabadoobee. Catchy singalong tunes that could have been in Scott Pilgrim the movie.
Mark: Next big thing Tik-Tok/Instgram sensation. Clever, relatable lyrics for young women or another warmed over 90s homage? Check it out to find out. Maybe with your daughter. If you both like Snail Mail. Or Soccer Mommy. Or Jay Som.

 

Free love. / Sylvan Esso
Neil: Carefully crafted pop-electronica from Sylvan Esso.
Mark: Singer from folk trio Mountain Man. Diverse shades of four on the floor, and blips and bleeps.

 

 

Songs and instrumentals. / Lenker, Adrianne
Neil: Touching personal songs in a classic folk singer-songwriter style. Gentle & mellow.
Mark: Big Thief singer. Charming & gentle acoustic improvisations recorded during lockdown.

 

 

The Harry Smith B-sides.
Neil: Part of the legendary series of American folk recordings by Harry Smith. Done at a time when these folk songs were on the verge of being lost forever. American folk music’s DNA.
Mark: The literal flip sides to each of the recordings present on the original Anthology of American Folk Music.

 

Lovey. / Lemonheads
Neil: Another album from the vaults from the Boston ex-Punk band who went mainstream.
Mark: Reissue of their first album on Atlantic. The older punk style of The Lemonheads collides with the new directions of Evan Dando. Pre-cursor to the upcoming pop-fame of It’s a Shame about Ray.

 

 

Morrison Hotel. / Doors (Musical group)
Neil: After the overproduced Soft Parade the Doors returned to their core hard driving blues style. Contains an hour of unreleased sessions.
Mark: Yawn. Yet another Doors reissue. You can check out of the Morrison Hotel. But you can never leave…

 

 

Space funk : afro futurist electro funk in space 1976-84.
Neil: This compilation of rare Afro-futurist funk is infectious, joyous, groovy, cool and occasionally cheesy. Wonderful stuff!
Mark: Imagine The Car Wash by Rose Royce with lyrics about space & robots…

 

 

Wildflowers & all the rest. / Petty, Tom
Neil: Petty fans will welcome this reissue of the project he was working on before he died.
Mark: Critically acclaimed high water mark of his solo career finally gets a release after being derailed by lawsuits. The extra tracks (originally intended for a double album release) are as good as those on the original album.

 

Free humans. / Hen Ogledd
Neil: Sci-Fi sounds of another type, Quirky low-fi folk-indie-pop that embraces the end of the world.
Mark: Indie-Pop helmed by Richard Dawson. Social commentary as a sci-fi journey.

 

 

Palo Alto / Monk, Thelonious
Neil: This live recording of jazz legend Thelonious Monk done by the janitor at Palo Alto High school is an unearthed gem.
Mark: Legendary lost Monk concert with amazing sound. Thankfully now released after a dispute with his estate was settled.

 

 

Friend ship / Phoenix Foundation
Neil: Their distinctive vocal and guitar styles are at the front of their latest release. As good as anything else they’ve previously done.
Mark: 1-800 Are you allright? Yes, now that the Phoenix Foundation are back. Collabs with Nada Ried & Hollie Fullbrook add another layer to this intelligent & fun return.

 

 

Sign “O” the times [deluxe]. / Prince
Neil: An extensive box set of Prince at his creative and innovative peak. Much of the additional material is as good as the original album. A must listen for any prince fan
Mark: Is an 8CD box set for one album too much? Not when it’s Price at his peak. From the 63 previously unreleased tracks you could easily compile another album as good as anything he ever released.

New Music at Te Awe

I’m Mark, the Customer Specialist for Music & Film at Wellington City Library. If you spent some time in the Sound & Vision section of the old Central Library you may remember seeing myself and my colleague Shinji, shifting shelves of CDs or DVDs around. We are now in charge of buying the CDs & Vinyl for the Library collection, so we thought we’d start a blog on some of the new and upcoming material we have been buying for the Music collection at our CBD Te Awe branch.
My colleague Neil & I decided to do a quick one line review of these titles to see if we actually know anything about them…

New CDs at Te Awe:
Green. / Yoshimura, Hiroshi
Neil: Regarded as a seminal Japanese 80s ambient album. A great companion piece to Midori Takada’s Through The Looking Glass.
Mark: Pitchfork approved noodling.

 

 

Absolute zero. / Hornsby, Bruce
Neil: After a long wait Hornsby explores some new avenues.
Mark: Jazz meets electronica (if you like that sort of thing). See what AllMusic says.

 

 

Giant steps. / Coltrane, John
Neil: Giant steps is rightly regarded as a masterpiece.
Mark: Deluxe reissue of an iconic album. Strange to think he made Kind of Blue at the same time. Total opposites in style.

 

 

An evening of New York songs and stories. / Vega, Suzanne
Neil: Polished performances of some of her greatest tracks recorded live in an intimate café setting.
Mark: Perhaps too polished.

 

 

 

Sun racket. / Throwing Muses
Neil: First album in 7 years. A welcome return to form of Kristin Hersh’s Alt-Rock icons.
Mark: I always liked her sisters bands better.

 

 

To bring you my love : demos. / Harvey, P. J.
Neil: Unvarnished raw recordings show the grit & sinew behind the more polished final album.
Mark: I prefer the final versions that made it to the album.

 

 

Angelheaded hipster : the songs of Marc Bolan & T. Rex : a Hal Willner production.
Neil: By the nature these are a bit hit & miss, shows how the originals were defined by Tony Viscotti’s T-Rex trademark production. Best track Children Of The Revolution – Kesha.
Mark: She Was Born To Be My Unicorn / Ride A White Swan – Maria McKee.

 

 

Ultra mono. / Idles
Neil: I love this album. #1 in the UK but it could have been released by The Stranglers in 1978.
Mark: Retromania.

 

 

American head / Flaming Lips
Neil: A less experimental album. More like Soft Bulletin than recent outings. Will make lots of Best of the Year lists.
Mark: I always liked Soft Bulletin when it came out.

 

 

 

Blues with friends. / Dion
Neil: A cool coffee shop album.
Mark: New songs (not old covers) played with famous friends.
 

 

 

Wrong way up / Eno, Brian
Neil: This Eno & Cale welcome rerelease has a backstory that is the stuff of legend.
Mark: Filed under Experimental not Popular so it doesn’t confuse the shelvers…

 

 

 

1969 to 1974. / Fleetwood Mac
Neil: When they were a real band. Before the Americans turned them into a stadium filling phenomenon
Mark: I didn’t realize they had made any albums before Stevie & Lindsey…
 

 

The Dusty Springfield anthology. / Springfield, Dusty
Neil: Yet another Dusty Springfield anthology
Mark: But its the best one, with the best sound quality. Out of print also. Allmusic review here.

 

 

Goats head soup / Rolling Stones
Neil: Yet another Rolling Stones re-release for fans. The only great RS album is Exile on Main Street.
Mark: Underrated/unappreciated entry in their catalogue, or another cynical cash in? Listen to it to find out.

 

 

Hard luck stories 1972-1982 / Thompson, Richard
Neil: The underrated Richard & Linda Thompson are given the comprehensive box set treatment.
Mark: 8 discs of all their studio albums with a fantastic hardbound book full of rare photos.

 

 

 

NWOBHM : thunder : new wave of British heavy metal 1978-1986.
Neil: The new wave of British Heavy Metal really shook up the genre that was dominated by Americans. This compilation includes some of its lesser known, but just as worthy, participants.
Mark: Cherry Red has cornered the market on these kind of obscure compilations.

 

Voices. / Richter, Max
Neil: One of my favorite classical albums is the 8 hour version of Sleep. Voices continues his remarkable output.
Mark: Universal Declaration of Human Rights put to music. Sure to aid in your sleep patterns.

 

 

 

Folklore. / Swift, Taylor
Neil: Pop songstress & social media juggernaut returns with another studio album for her fanbase.
Mark: A return to songwriting form, or lockdown musings ruined by the guy from the National? Listen to find out.

 

 

Chalk dogs / Johnstone, Neil
Neil: Willfully arty and experimental. Obviously a work of genius.
Mark: I listened to the first song & it made be feel anxious. Even the cover is scary. Listen to an exclusive video on our Wgtn Music YT channel if you dare.

 

 

On Order material:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and more….

New Zealand music month a selection of recommended books

The first thing that people say is where do these sounds come from, where would they think of these sounds? Well of course the teacher [says], it’s ‘te reo o te whenua’, it’s the voice of the land. We’ve always said that it’s the voice of Tangaroa, it’s the voice of Tāne, it’s the voice of Hine-nui-te-pō. It’s a multitude of voices that are there. They’re the carriers of those voices. The manu, the insects … Tāne and so on. Your ears are attuned … they replicate those sounds.
– Richard Nunns

Continuing our celebration of New Zealand music month, we made a selection with some of the many books we have in our various libraries that cover the rich diversity of New Zealand’s music and musicians.

We start with with Nick Bollinger’s 100 essential New Zealand albums,  and continue with Ian Chapman’s The Dunedin sound: some disenchanted evening an overview of the now world-famous Dunedin sound.

Taonga Pūoro Singing treasures: the musical instruments of the Māori by Brian Flintoff is a superb introduction to the rebirth of the now vibrant world of Taonga Pūoro and includes a great sampler CD.

New Zealand also has many talented classical composers like Gillian Karawe Whitehead and Douglas Lilburn and we have selected a few titles to illustrate this.

100 essential New Zealand albums / Bollinger, Nick
“Compiled by one of New Zealand s most popular music columnists, this listing will delight pop music fans everywhere. The choices included cover a broad range and present an eclectic taste. Eachentry is accompanied by some of the most entertaining writing about music and musicians, ranging from personal accounts of youthful encounters with music legends as well as passionate responses to renowned albums. Guaranteed to surprise and intrigue, thisreference is a must-have for all music lovers.” (Catalogue)

The Dunedin sound : some disenchanted evening / Chapman, Ian
“There are very few geographical locations in the world that are privileged enough to have an internationally acknowledged ‘sound’ attributed to them. Remarkably, New Zealand has just such a location in Dunedin. For more than three and a half decades now, the cultural identity of this modestly-sized southern university city has been bound to music, and it surely will be ad infinitum. Within the ever-evolving history of popular music, the Dunedin Sound continues to sit proudly alongside the the likes of Liverpool’s Mersey Sound, the Nashville Sound, and the Seattle Sound.”  (Adapted from Catalogue)

Taonga pūoro = Singing treasures : the musical instruments of the Māori / Flintoff, Brian
“Comprehensively covers the world of Maori musical instruments, a fascinating and little-known area of traditional Maori culture. Illustrated throughout with colour photographs of exquisite contemporary instruments as well as ancient taonga held in museums around the world. It comes with a CD sampler, compiled from recent releases of contemporary Maori music and the natural sounds which inspires it. And to further breathe life into this book, the technical information about each instrument is interwoven with the stories and myths that belong to each instrument. In addition, instructions are given for making and playing these singing treasures, and there is an explanation of the art forms used in Maori carving.” (Catalogue)

Moon, tides & shoreline : Gillian Karawe Whitehead, a life in music / Sanders, Noel
“One of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most distinguished classical composers, Gillian Whitehead has produced a substantial and lasting body of work that includes operas, orchestral and choral pieces, vocal and instrumental chamber compositions and solo works. They are often in collaboration with poets and other artists, and many incorporate traditional Ma-ori musical instruments and themes.” (Catalogue)

I’m with the band : how to make a career in popular music in New Zealand / Chunn, Mike
“Whether you want to make a living from music or play for fun, this is the essential guide to the New Zealand music industry. I’M WITH THE BAND explains everything you need to know from recording demos to signing contracts, from hiring a manager to protecting your music. Key figures in the New Zealand industry share their inside knowledge and experiences to help everyone from the hobby band to the performer on the brink of discovery.” (Catalogue)

Backstage passes : the untold story of New Zealand’s live music venues, 1960-1990 / Mathers, Joanna
“New Zealand music was made on beer-stained stages, in grimy toilets and smoky back rooms. Venues like Dunedin’s Empire Tavern and the Gladstone Hotel in Christchuch were the cradle for scenes that won worldwide acclaim, where idiosyncratic styles were forged and local legends made. From the late 1950s until the early 1990s, live music ruled the night. Backstage Passes charts the stories of the country’s most celebrated live music venues. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Dead people I have known / Carter, Shayne
” In Dead People I Have Known, the legendary New Zealand musician Shayne Carter tells the story of a life in music, taking us deep behind the scenes and songs of his riotous teenage bands Bored Games and the Doublehappys and his best-known bands Straitjacket Fits and Dimmer. He traces an intimate history of the Dunedin Sound–that distinctive jangly indie sound that emerged in the seventies, heavily influenced by punk–and the record label Flying Nun.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Blue smoke : the lost dawn of New Zealand popular music, 1918-1964 / Bourke, Chris
“Bringing to life the musical worlds of New Zealanders both at home and out on the town, this history chronicles the evolution of popular music in New Zealand during the 20th century. From the kiwi concert parties during World War I and the arrival of jazz to the rise of swing, country, the Hawaiian sound, and then rock’n’roll, this musical investigation brings to life the people, places, and sounds of a world that has disappeared and uncovers how music from the rest of the world was shaped by Maori and Pakeha New Zealanders into a melody, rhythm, and voice that made sense on these islands. “(Adapted from Catalogue)

New Zealand Music Month: Quarantunes Part Two

During lockdown several of our hugely talented librarians have been creating and sharing music via the Johnsonville Library Facebook page to provide a pleasant distraction from the rigours of lockdown. The music is as diverse as you can imagine, covering numerous genres and worlds. So we thought New Zealand Music Month is a perfect time to revisit just a few of these musical creations and take the opportunity to ask their creators to pick a favourite New Zealand album and tell us why they love that particular piece of music.

(This is Part Two of our New Zealand Music Month Quarantunes blog–for Part One click here!)


Sue: performing Prelude In C Major by Johann Sebastian Bach

QUARANTUNES with Sue #2

This evening's beautiful and reflective QUARANTUNE comes to you from the talented fingers of Brooklyn Library's own one-woman orchestra, Sue, and from the pen of Gabriel Fauré. We hope you enjoy.#quarantunes

Posted by Johnsonville Library on Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Gosh, where do I start re: fav NZ album? That’s like asking what your fav book or movie is… different sounds and genres are snapshots and reminders of different experiences. BUT there are a few NZ artists that jump out – I love Listening to Bic Runga and Anika Moa. I know Beautiful Collision (Bic) and In Swings the Tide (Anika) got a fair hammering in my old car’s CD player! I think the combo of awesome melodies, poetic lyrics and crystal clear voices are the clincher for me. But then we’ve also got so many amazing classical artists – Ross Harris’ Requiem for the Fallen in memory of  soldiers who died in the First World War, is pretty humbling and awe-inspiring too.


Justin: performing his own music (Mow the Lawn)

QUARANTUNES 17 April 2020

Welcome back to Quarantunes, where tonight we are joined by Justin, Team Leader for Northern Libraries & Community Spaces. He’ll be singing an original song called “Mow The Lawn”. Have a nice weekend. Stay safe and stay home! #quarantunes

Posted by Johnsonville Library on Friday, 17 April 2020

I have to be very honest… as an American and having spent most of my life in America we are not very well versed in New Zealand music past Crowded House! But that band definitely made an impact on me because they have such great songs. It’s all about the great songs for me! I did some digging once I learned about Crowded House and I really just fell in love with this album. It brings me a sense of peace, calm, and hope. “Six Months in a Leaky Boat” is the song that does it for me. It has everything I want in a good song: amazing melodies, great rhythm, and a wonderful and soaring blippy synthesizer.


Reece: performing his own music

apologies to my new flatmates who have only known me for like two weeks but will shortly be very familiar with every single riff I have left to record on the Glassblower album

Posted by Reece Davies on Monday, 23 March 2020

Wellington’s post-rock/metal scene has been one of the more active areas in the city over the past decade, and People Used to Live Here by Spook the Horses is the pinnacle of what the genre attempts to achieve in its quieter moments. Haunting and lonely, the album takes you on a journey through abandoned places courtesy of restrained instrumentation, occasional vocals and rich textures. The accompanying videos, available on YouTube, showcase the group’s dedication to the atmosphere of the album and are all vital viewing, especially the final track “Following Trails”.


Discover More:

Wellington Music at WCL: Want to keep up with the latest gigs and releases throughout Wellington? Then look no further than the Wellington Music at WCL Facebook page, run by our very own music specialist Mark!

Wellington Music Past and Present: This site is a tribute to the decades of music that have contributed to Wellington’s sound, as well as a browsable portal to our physical CD collection.

Music eResources: With half a million tracks between them, Naxos Music Library and Naxos Jazz Library will have your lockdown listening covered. Discover them via our Digital Library.

Staff Picks – The Best Of 2019: CDs Part 1

While we are looking forward to presenting a larger collection of AV material at our next Pop-up Library, here are some of our Library Staff’s favourite picks from lat year – all of which can be found at our Arapaki Branch on Manners Street.


Neil J’s Picks:
Songs from the bardo / Anderson, Laurie
A deeply Meditative and gorgeous album with Laurie Anderson reading excepts from The Tibetan Book of the Dead over minimalism musical backgrounds some of which are provided by Patti Smith’s daughter Jesse Paris Smith .

Ghosteen / Cave, Nick
On lots of peoples best of 2019 list and rightly so. This is their / his most personal album subtle , carefully crafted and in some aspects experimental without the joyous veneer of drama found in some of the bands previous albums.

Anima. / Yorke, Thom
His third solo album Anima is another interior electro acoustic work. It is one of his most fully realised works one in which he has totally escaped the long shadow of his Radiohead work. Ever since Radiohead’s giant leap into new musical territory with Kid A, Yorke has been exploring the world of what is loosely described as electro acoustic music Anima continues this trend. This album feels like he has fully found his solo voice free from any Radiohead influences.

Flamagra. / Flying Lotus
This album has a lot of everything guest musicians, styles, approaches to the sound. And in some cases this could sound confused and muddled. Where it really comes together is its creative free formed explosion of sounds it is so immersed in pushing the contributor’s creative boundaries that it is impossible to leave out of any best of 2010 list.

Rainford. / Perry, Lee
U Sound’s the legendary dub outfit are behind the latest release from maverick reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry. Rainford contains all of Lee Perry’s unique stylings his wonderful iconic unmistakable vocal drawl and his trade mark free form lyrical style superbly combined with U Sounds musical production. The later dub remixed version Heavy rain is also worth a mention it is weirder and warmer and arguably an even better version of the material in Rainford.

Shinji’s Picks:
Jaime. / Howard, Brittany
Dedicated to her sister Jaime, who taught her piano and poetry but died young, Alabama Shakes’ lead singer Brittany Howard’s solo effort is a triumph. She presents a very personal, deeply emotional world, touching complex subjects such as mixed-race, sexual minority and religion. However, her remarkable voice and the edgy arrangements make it standout pop music of today.

The gospel according to water. / Henry, Joe
Joe Henry found out that he had stage 4 Prostate cancer late 2018, but only a year down the line, he released this marvellous album. This intimate and compelling collection of songs show that he still has a lot of stories to tell, and will be remembered as his masterpiece. Sublime.

Love will find a way. / Bailey, Philip
What a pleasant surprise! One of the founders of Earth, Wind and Fire, Philip Baily’s first solo release in 17 years is a superb jazz soul album. Employing accomplished jazz musicians on the scene, including Robert Glasper and Kamasi Washington, seems to rejuvenate him and he is leading the charge with his signature falsetto voice. Younger than yesterday.

Kiwanuka. / Kiwanuka, Michael
In his music, there are a lot of retro feelings and the shadows of the likes of Marvin Gaye, Terry Callier, Curtis Mayfield, Bob Dylan and above all Bill Withers. The London soul singer excellently updates the musical essences of these legends and makes it organic yet emotional modern music.

Characters on a wall. / Sclavis, Louis
French clarinetist Louis Sclavis has a long association with ECM records, which celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2019. His 13th album for the label is inspired by the paintings of urban artist Ernest Pignon-Eenest. It’s one of the ESM’s most low-key albums in 2019 but exquisitely executed chamber jazz and gets better with every listen, which is very ECM.

Circuits. / Potter, Chris
One of the most prominent jazz musicians of today, the saxophonist Chris Potter’s new album is not from ECM, where he made his home for last few albums, but a brilliant one. Infusing funk, electronica etc., the album abounds in ample creative energy and features vibrant grooves and intense improvisations. Superb.

The undivided five / Winged Victory for the Sullen
Moving to Ninja Tune was surprising but this ambient duo deepened their well-established cinematic, dream-like music world. From the simple yet intricate compositions, they create the soundscape of shimmering beauty, somewhere between post-classical, drone and ambient.

All encores. / Frahm, Nils
German post-classical, electronica artist Nils Frahm nicely compiles his three EP releases; ‘Encores 1’ (featuring solo piano and harmonium),’Encores 2’ (ambient) and ‘Encores 3’ (dub, house-ish). It makes a great pair with the brilliant 2018 album ‘All Melody’, and showcases his exceptional talent as a sound creator.

Drift series 1 : sampler edition. / Underworld
In November 2018, Underworld set out on a project called ‘Drift’ and released music, videos, essays etc. every week for a year. Now this ambitious project has been completed and published in various mediums. This sampler shows that this veteran duo is still in a top form and offers a joyous listen.

Losst and founnd. / Nilsson, Harry
The wait is over. Harry Nilsson died in 1994 at the age of 52 just after finishing recording new materials, which was never released. This lost gem has finally come out thanks to producer Mark Hudson who did a great job to make it a complete album. The result is a wonderful pop album showcasing ‘classic’ Nilsson world; strong melodies and unique humour. Wish you were here, Harry!

Jonathan’s Picks:
Ghosteen / Cave, Nick
All mirrors. / Olsen, Angel
Designer. / Harding, Aldous
Magdalene. / FKA twigs
Anima. / Yorke, Thom

Exciting New Arrival CDs

New arrival CDs feature fantastic new albums by some of the biggest names of the industry such as Nick Cave and Coldplay as well as our very own super band Six60. Amazing box-sets also keep coming. They include Freddie Mercury’s Never Boring, which brings together his solo performances for the first time, and 1982 by Fall. Check them out!

New Albums

Six60 [2019]. / Six60
“As they continue making history, award-winning New Zealand sensation SIX60 releases their third self-titled album featuring the hit single ‘The Greatest’, and the two new tracks ‘Please Don’t Go’ & ‘Raining’.” (adapted from mightyape.co.nz)

Ghosteen / Cave, Nick
“Two CDs. ‘The songs on the first album are the children. The songs on the second album are their parents. ‘Ghosteen’ is a migrating spirit.’ – Nick Cave. The album was recorded in 2018 and early 2019 at Woodshed in Malibu, Nightbird in Los Angeles, Retreat in Brighton and Candybomber in Berlin.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Kiwanuka. / Kiwanuka, Michael
“‘KIWANUKA’ is the follow-up to Michael’s number 1 album, ‘Love & Hate’, released back in July 2016, that resonated broadly both critically and in the public’s affections, netting the British musician his second Mercury Prize nomination and his second and third BRIT nominations too. ‘KIWANUKA’ finds a new assuredness in Michael’s writing, and takes the basic sonic blueprint of that last record to a dizzying new realm.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Once upon a mind. / Blunt, James
“After flirting with electronica on his last album (2017’s ‘The Afterlove’), Blunt returns to what he does best on ‘Once Upon a Mind’, writing classic songs that touch both the heart and the head. ‘Once Upon A Mind’ sees Blunt collaborating with a variety of producers such as Steve Robson, Jimmy Hogarth and TMS.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Magdalene. / FKA twigs
“Created in a period where her confidence was knocked following heartbreak and laparoscopic surgery, ‘MAGDALENE’ is the sound of twigs reconfiguring, emotionally and physically. As she sings on ‘Mary Magdalene’, the MAGDALENE album track that opened her highly-praised, sold-out live shows earlier in the year, “A woman’s time / A woman’s work / A woman’s time to embrace / She must put herself first”.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Everyday life. / Coldplay
“‘Everyday Life’ is the eighth studio album by the British rock band, and is an album presented in two halves: ‘Sunrise’ and ‘Sunset’, featuring a stunning array of music, that is sure to surprise and delight their global fanbase.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Box sets/ Reissues

Never boring. / Mercury, Freddie
“The “Never Boring” box set brings together for the first time a specially-curated selection of Freddie Mercury’s music, visuals and written and spoken words. The set reminds us that Freddie was an exceptional singer, songwriter, performer and human being whose special kind of magic is captured in this exceptional collection of his solo work.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

The complete RCA albums collection. / Simone, Nina
“9CD BOX SET / The Clamshell box contains a 34 page booklet with the story about Nina Simone, beautiful pictures and all the information about the nine CD’s, all from the RCA collection.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Travelin’ thru : the bootleg series vol. 15, 1967-1969 / Dylan, Bob
“The latest chapter in Columbia/Legacy’s highly acclaimed Bob Dylan Bootleg Series revisits Dylan’s pivotal musical journeys to Nashville, from 1967 to 1969 focusing on previously unavailable recordings made with Johnny Cash and unreleased tracks from the John Wesley Harding Nashville Skyline and Self Portrait sessions Bob Dylan (featuring Johnny Cash) Travelin Thru.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Monster [deluxe]. / R. E. M
“‘Monster’ is indeed R.E.M.’s long-promised “rock” album; it just doesn’t rock in the way one might expect. Instead of R.E.M.’s trademark anthemic bashers, ‘Monster’ offers a set of murky sludge, powered by the heavily distorted and delayed guitar of Peter Buck. Michael Stipe’s vocals have been pushed to the back of the mix, along with Bill Berry’s drums, which accentuates the muscular pulse of Buck’s chords.” (Catalogue)

Every move you make : the studio recordings. / Police (Musical group)
“Following the 40th anniversary vinyl box, we present a limited edition 6-CD box set edition, featuring all five studio albums + a bonus disc. Includes an exclusive bonus 12-track disc – ‘Flexible Strategies’ comprised of non-album b-sides (including very rare remix of ‘Truth Hits Everybody’) and remastered at Abbey Road Studios. The collection features 14 top-20 singles, including five number ones! Four of the albums reached number one and went on to sell millions of copies around the world.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

[1982] / Fall (Musical group)
“1982 was a decisive year for The Fall. Their critically acclaimed album “Hex Enduction Hour” was released in March on Kamera Records, closely followed by “Room To Live” in September. This six-disc boxset brings together those two classic albums alongside a host of John Peel sessions, Kamera singles, live performances and the group’s live album “In A Hole”, recorded during their tour of New Zealand and originally released on Flying Nun Records.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Hunting high and low [4CD]. / a-ha
“Anyone who dismissed a-ha as a one-hit wonder must have missed out on the band’s fine debut, ‘Hunting High and Low’. Though the band spawned many further hits across the rest of the world, “Take on Me” exploded in the States and the group never cracked the top of the charts again. It’s a shame, because the album contains a handful of songs that nearly match the manic energy and emotional crack of its big hit. Further, it’s a cohesive album with smart pace changeups, and it rarely fails to delight or satisfy a listener’s need for a synth pop fix.” (Catalogue)

No other. / Clark, Gene
“Upon its 1974 release, Gene Clark’s ‘No Other’ was rejected by most critics as an exercise in bloated studio excess. It was also ignored by Asylum, that had invested $100,000 in recording it. A considerable sum at the time, it was intended as a double album, but the label refused to release it as such. Ultimately, it proved a commercial failure that literally devastated Clark; he never recovered. Though Clark didn’t live to see it, ‘No Other’ has attained cult status as a visionary recording that employs every available studio means to illustrate the power in Clark’s mercurial songwriting. Clark’s unlikely classic, ‘No Other’ is continually continued rediscovered by succeeding generations.” (Catalogue)

Exciting new arrival CDs

It’s very good news that more music is available at Arapaki Manners Library. New arrival CDs feature exciting Aotearoa talents, including fantastic new albums by our very own Mermaidens and the veteran David Kilgour. Also, check out Waiata: anthems in which leading NZ artists perform their hit songs in Te Reo. Come down to Arapaki and get them.

New albums

Look me in the eye. / Mermaidens
“Dancing in the lively afterglow of Perfect Body, Mermaiden’s internationally acclaimed Flying Nun debut, a new flame burns. The Wellington-based trio now approach 2019 with an eagerly awaited follow up. Enter the depths of their new album, Look Me In The Eye. Exploring power and control in a confronting new lens, the trio are focused on the gatekeepers and dominators of the world; dissecting their power, one song at a time.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Bobbie’s a girl / Kilgour, David
“It’s moody – as in low, subdued,’ says David Kilgour of his new album, Bobbie’s a girl. David Kilgour’s 11th solo album, Bobbie’s a girl is a quieter affair than fans may associate with the pioneer of New Zealand indie rock. ‘I tended to shy away from too much guitar playing for a point of difference and to mix things up for myself a little,’ Kilgour continues. Largely missing the jangly distortion of Kilgour’s other work, the album’s ten songs exude a hazy warmth, with a light psychedelia that recalls ’60s outfits like The Byrds and The Velvet Underground.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Waiata : anthems.
“WAIATA / ANTHEMS was released to celebrate Māori Language Week / Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori 2019 (Sep 9-13) and to coincide with the 20-year anniversary of Hinewehi Mohi first performing the New Zealand National Anthem in Te Reo Māori at an All Blacks game. 20 years on, she has decided to mark that anniversary not by remembering the controversy, but by celebrating how far we’ve come. The result – 11 of New Zealand’s best loved artists performing their hit songs in Te Reo Māori, as well as an acknowledgement of ‘Aotearoa’ with a vibrant rendition by the renowned Hātea Kapa Haka.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

I, I. / Bon Iver
“‘i,i’ is Bon Iver’s most expansive, joyful and generous album to date. If ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ was the crisp, heart-strung isolation of a northern Winter; ‘Bon Iver’ the rise and whirr of burgeoning Spring; and ‘22, A Million’, a blistering, “crazy energy” Summer record, ‘i,i’ completes the cycle: a fall record; Autumn colored, ruminative, steeped. The autumn of Bon Iver is a celebration of self acceptance and gratitude, bolstered by community and delivering the bounty of an infinite American music.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

The center won’t hold. / Sleater-Kinney
“‘The Center Won’t Hold’ is the tenth studio album by Sleater-Kinney. It addresses transformation as it relates to the corrosion and decomposition of forms. Fractured and frayed by age or by loss, by internecine politics, by trauma or depression, these eleven songs ask what remains of a body, a human spirit, a relationship, a city, a country.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Threads. / Crow, Sheryl
“Sheryl Crow’s album of collaborations. Threads includes ‘Still The Good Old Days’ featuring Joe Walsh. Other tracks include “Redemption Day” featuring Johnny Cash, “Live Wire” featuring Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples and “Prove You Wrong” featuring Stevie Nicks and Maren Morris. Elaborating on the project, Crow reflected, “I became inspired to record an album of musical experiences with the legacy artists who inspired me.” (adapted from realgroovy.co.nz)

Fear inoculum. / Tool
“Fear Inoculum is the long awaited new album from TOOL, and the band’s first new album in 13 years. The album will be available digitally, and in a special Limited Edition physical package that includes a CD in a tri-fold Soft Pack Video Brochure featuring a 4” HD rechargeable screen with exclusive video footage, a USB charging cable, a 2 watt speaker and a 30 page insert book and MP3 download card.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Beneath the eyrie. / Pixies (Musical group)
“Seventh full-length album from the iconic alternative band. Sessions for the album took place at Dreamland Recordings near Woodstock, New York and unusually the band documented every minute of the process, which makes up a 12-part podcast.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Days of the Bagnold summer
“Days of the Bagnold Summer began life as a 2012 award-winning graphic novel by Joff Winterhart, was turned into a feature film and the directorial debut of Simon Bird (The Inbetweeners, Friday Night Dinner), and is now a wonderful, rich, bittersweet, and warmly welcoming original soundtrack album by Belle and Sebastian. The album features eleven brand new Belle and Sebastian songs, as well as re-recorded versions of classics ‘Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying’, originally appearing on 1996’s If You’re Feeling Sinister, and ‘I Know Where The Summer Goes’, from 1998’s This Is Just a Modern Rock Song EP.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Rubberband. / Davis, Miles
“The legendary ‘Lost’ Miles Davis album recorded after signing with Warner Bros. has now been completed by the original producers Randy Hall and Zane Giles, and Davis’ nephew Vince Wilburn Jr.. Miles Davis shocked the music world in 1985 when he left Columbia Records after 30 years to join Warner Bros. Records. In October of that year, he began recording the album Rubberband in Los Angeles. The musical direction Davis was taking during the sessions marked a radical departure, with the inclusion of funk and soul grooves; with plans to feature guest vocalists Al Jarreau and Chaka Khan. Eventually, the album was shelved and Davis went on to record Tutu, leaving the Rubberband songs unheard and untouched for over 30 years.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Box sets

Ágaetis byrjun : a new beginning. / Sigur Rós
“In 1999 Sigur Rós released ‘Ágætis Byrjun’ (‘A Good Start’), which Q magazine deemed ‘the last great record of the 20th century’. By the end of the year, it had won the inaugural US Shortlist Prize for Artistic Achievement in Music. This 20th Anniversary edition of the album features demo and archive versions of the songs, plus never-before-heard newly-unearthed material from the time, rare b-sides and the full 95-minute concert played in Reykjavík on the day the record was released.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Kankyō ongaku : Japanese ambient, environmental & new age music 1980-1990.
“Double CD edition in custom 7″ x 7″ hardbound book. Light In The Attic’s Japan Archival Series continues with Kankyo Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990, an unprecedented overview of the country’s vital minimal, ambient, avant-garde, and New Age music – what can collectively be described as kankyo ongaku, or environmental music. The collection features internationally acclaimed artists such as Haruomi Hosono, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Joe Hisaishi, as well as other pioneers like Hiroshi Yoshimura, Yoshio Ojima and Satoshi Ashikawa, who deserve a place alongside the indisputable giants of these genres.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Afrofuturism in the world of music

Afrofuturism is an intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation. ‘I generally define Afrofuturism as a way of imagining possible futures through a black cultural lens,’ says Ingrid LaFleur, an art curator and Afrofuturist.”

― Ytasha L. Womack, Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture

One of the most exciting genres emerging in science fiction, film, art and music at the moment is Afrofuturism. But whilst this dynamic and rather fabulous genre is having a real explosion of creativity, it’s by no means new. Indeed especially in the world of music Afrofuturism has a long and distinguished past, commonly accepted as emerging in the music world in the 1950s. This blog is a very brief look at some of Afrofuturism’s key musical proponents both old and new.

One of the first musical explorers in this universe was the legendary jazz musician Sun Ra. In the late 1950s Sun Ra created his own new synthesis of jazz, designed to reflect and link both the leading edge of the space age and African culture–especially that of African Egypt.

His ideas were taken up in the 1970s in the funk world by George Clinton’s funk outfits Parliament and Funkadelic. Reggae and hip hop also embraced these ideas, with artists like Lee “Scratch” Perry, Scientist and Afrika Bambaataa. And in the world of rock, Jimi Hendrix was also regarded by some reviewers as an Afrofuturist.

In the 21st century artists as diverse as Solange, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Erykah Badu, Missy Elliott, Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus and the Wu-Tang Clan have been influenced by this movement, with perhaps  Janelle Monáe the best known for embracing the genre. Enjoy!


Flamagra. / Flying Lotus
“Fire’s positive and negative associations are referenced by many of Ellison’s other collaborators here. While the album begins with a crackle and ends with a poetic epilogue about its lasting effects, fire’s role in the album elsewhere is either nonexistent or negligible.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Dirty computer. / Monae, Janelle
“Monáe and her Wondaland partners twist and flip new wave-leaning pop with booming bass drums and rattling percussion. They transmit defiant jubilance in response to those ‘from the traphouse to the White House who make the lives of little brown girls so damn hard.’ Almost every track is densely packed with quotables delivered in approaches that shift from easygoing elegance to hard-fought, triumphant conviction.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Rainford. / Perry, Lee
“‘Inclues Cricket on the moon’, ‘Run evil spirit’, ‘Let it rain’, ‘House of angels’, ‘Makumba rock’, ‘African starship’, ‘Kill them dreams money worshippers’, ‘Children of the light’ and ‘Autobiography of the upsetter’.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Staff Pick CDs: July

Here are some Staff Picks CDs from our collection at our new Arapaki Branch on Manners Street.

Anoyo. / Hecker, Tim
If you read Carlo Rovelli’s incredible book, ‘The Order of Time’, you will learn that the force that drives the universe is not energy but entropy, and ‘Konoyo’, the ninth record from Canadian electronic artist Tim Hecker, is a sublimely beautiful work that could be heard as a soundtrack to that ever inexorable process of decay. Like lifting a veil to expose atomic and sub atomic processes at work, this grand, complex and absorbing music is quite unlike anything else, including previous Tim Hecker records. The source material is provided by a Japanese Gagaku ensemble playing some of the most ancient instruments known, and it’s highly appropriate that this was recorded in Japan, as, if one closes one’s eyes, it is almost possible to see the cherry blossoms drifting away on the spring breeze. A few months later he released the accompanying ‘Anoyo’. Konoyo translates as ‘this world’ and anoyo as ‘the other world’ and the second release reflects that meaning, featuring six spacious and ambient pieces titled “That World”, “Is But A Simulated Blur”, “Step Away From Konoyo”, “Into the Void”, “Not Alone”, “You Never Were” if you get the drift. (John)

>>>. / Beak>
This is the third record from the krautrock project of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow (the first was ‘>’ and the second ‘>>’) and features music quite unlike any other. Metronomic drumming, ominous synths, glitchy electronics, deep vocals, throbbing basslines, processed strings, sci-fi keyboards and much more all feature in various combinations across ten tracks to create something otherworldly and quite engrossing. (John)

Coltrane ’58 : the Prestige recordings. / Coltrane, John
This release features all 37 tracks (across 5-discs) that saxophonist John Coltrane recorded as a leader or co-leader for the independent Prestige Records label in the twelve months of the year 1958 – which when released would comprise 8 albums in his discography. After finally cleaning up his drug & alcohol addiction in 1957, the period that followed saw him working and recording with pianist Thelonious Monk, whose unique compositions were an influence on Coltrane. Spilling over with new musical ideas and possibilities, Coltrane choose a series of old ballads & standards to see how far his new style and improvisational techniques could push against the traditional structure of existing tunes. The Prestige years are one of the distinctive periods in his career in which he honed a beautifully full & rich style, fast and slashing, yet tender and poignant, which Jazz journalist Ira Gitler would famously dub “sheets of sound”. These tracks are all remastered from the original analog tapes and the box includes extensive liner notes by Grammy-winning American music historian Ashley Kahn. A great box containing some of Coltrane’s most iconic albums. (Mark)

Bitter sweet / Ferry, Bryan
Bryan Ferry is a clever chap and a genuine artist and here he recreates a selection of tunes from his extensive back catalogue in the big band style of the 1920’s. What could too easily be regarded as a gimmick turns out to be anything but as these tunes take on a strange and mysterious new lustre when interpreted via Duke Ellington style trumpets, Sidney Bechet style clarinet and the Kurt Weill homage of the title track that even includes a line in German. Bryan Ferry’s voice has matured into that of a classic crooner and carries this project off perfectly. As the cover notes state: “This art recognises that the past was once our present, even our future, and this moment too shall melt away into the past”. (John)

Double negative. / Low
This really should have made it to the library ‘2018 Best of’ as it featured on pretty much every other best of list, and rightly so. After maintaining cult status for 25 years, the US indie trio appear to have now become famous on the strength of this, their 12th album. Ironically, this is the record on which they have taken things a step beyond, slowing their famous minimalist ‘slowcore’ sound down a notch even further and incorporating glitched out dissonant electronics and loops to produce the distorted, frazzled edges of things dissipating into the ether – an approach that has been recognised by both critics and audiences as highly appropriate for our current times. There are still lovely songs here to be found though within a superb, audacious, and deeply atmospheric contemporary indie record. (John)

Why hasn’t everything already disappeared? / Deerhunter
Bradford Cox leads his band through their eighth album with a collection of thoughtful and confident songs, building on the radio-rock direction of their previous release ‘Fading Frontier’. Co-produced by Cate Le Bon, who contributes some guest vocals and instrumentation, this album finds an excellent balance between the experimental sounds of their early releases and the slightly more user friendly approach of the later albums. The result is an excellent take on, for want of a better word, pop, but a distinctive and mature version of that genre, incorporating all of the elements one may expect from this highly creative band. (John)

Some rap songs. / Sweatshirt, Earl
Among the Tswana people of South Africa, the composition of the “praise poem” in honour of chiefs and important figures has traditionally been a part of the ritual initiation of boys. On Some Rap Songs, Earl Sweatshirt reflects on his recently deceased father, the South African poet Keorapetse Kgositsile. In many ways, this album constitutes the 25 year old Earl’s praise poem to his father. The album is a sprawling journey through Earl’s psyche as he grapples with his recent grief and also his past experiences with anxiety and depression, seemingly finding cathartic closure. Earl’s voice is magnetic and mesmerising with its often simple cadence and bouncing syncopation. The album is built around tightly-looped soul and jazz samples by the likes of Curtis Mayfield. Far from its ironically self-effacing title, Some Rap Songs is an innovative masterwork. (Joseph)

DJ-kicks : Robert Hood.
The Detroit techno veteran, a founding member of Underground Resistance and who pretty much laid down the template for minimal techno with his 1994 release ‘Minimal Nation’, finally gets around to a DJ Kicks entry. Discretely acknowledging that interest in the minimal sub-genre is on the wane, here the sound is bigger and more banging than may be expected as he seamlessly mixes from one well curated driving floor filler to the next, including Berghain favorites such as Truncate and Marcel Fengler, in addition to U.K. techno mainstays like Slam and Mark Broom. Listeners either enjoy techno or they don’t, and for fans this is a solid, focused and satisfying mix, while for the curious this would be a good introduction. (John)

Future ruins. / Swervedriver
The UK band that sat on the rockier edge of the early ‘90’s shoegaze movement made a welcome return in 2015 after an 18 year hiatus, receiving favourable reviews for their fifth album, “I Wasn’t Born To Lose You”. “Future Ruins” is their sixth and the second of their ‘comeback’ albums and finds them in an assured mode, forging their warm, driving, melodic rock with great confidence. Its great hearing a band regaining their stride after such a long break and with this record they could very well find a fresh audience for their lovely harmonies, propulsive rhythms and vast guitar swathes. (John)

Echoes in blue. / City Calm Down
For some odd reason OZ bands rarely bridge the Tasman very well, which is unfortunate because, well, everyone misses out. City Calm Down are pretty big in OZ, headlining festivals and selling out tours, and this, their second album, is a great introduction. They are an obviously ‘80’s influenced band, which is not necessarily a bad thing, paying homage to Ian McCullough’s heartfelt vocals for Echo and the Bunnymen and New Order’s upper register bass lines and brooding synths. Their songs are suitably morose reflections on 21st Century life that potentially offer similar comfort that the early ‘80’s indie bands offered the first wave of indie rockers. (John)

You’re the man. / Gaye, Marvin
Marvin Gaye’s ‘lost album’ between two mega hit masterpieces ‘What’s Going On’ (1971) and ‘Let’s Get It On’ (1973) should excite a lot of music fans. Although some of the songs here have made it out in various forms before, the full album (plus some extra tracks) appears for the first time. He was at his peak after the success of ‘What’s Going On’ but very apprehensive at the same time, and a lack of the cohesion on this CD may show it. However, the quality of the songs and his distinguished vocal style are nothing short of brilliant and timeless. 47 years down the line, “You’re The Man’ can only emphasise how great Marvin Gaye is. (Shinji)

A tree with roots : Fairport Convention & friends and the songs of Bob Dylan. / Fairport Convention
An interesting compilation that gathers all of the cover versions UK folk rockers Fairport Convention performed of Bob Dylan songs. Including live recordings, John Peel Sessions and studio recordings, the songs are all from the ‘70’s and most feature Sandy Denny. The cover notes are comprehensive and clearly illustrate what a surprising influence Bob Dylan had on the UK folk revival. The performances are great and it is fascinating to hear these songs, firmly placed as they are in Americana, performed by a band that were central to the UK folk revival. This not only shows that cultural boundaries are far more fluid than often perceived but is also a keen reminder that the distant roots of Americana were actually folk songs taken to the USA by early settlers from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. What goes around truly does come around. Track 7, “Percy’s Song” is a great illustration of this. (John)
[/booklist]

New Streaming Picks from the Naxos Music Library

New music keeps coming to the Naxos Music Library; the most comprehensive collection of classical music available online. If you haven’t started streaming from them, please check our guide to streaming. Check out our recent picks below and enjoy streaming!

Cover from Naxos SHOSTAKOVICH, D.: Symphonies Nos. 6 and 7 / Korol’ Lir (King Lear) Suite (Hudgins, Boston Symphony, A. Nelsons)
Performed by: Boston Symphony Orchestra; Hudgins, William R.; Nelsons, Andris
Andris Nelsons is the Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and new Gewandhauskapellmeister of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. With both appointments, and in leading a pioneering alliance between these two esteemed institutions, he is firmly underlined as one of the most renowned, exciting and innovative conductors on the international scene today. Nelsons and the BSO continue the acclaimed cycle with the ‘Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7’.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Cover from Naxos BUXTEHUDE, D.: Membra Jesu nostri / Gott hilf mir (Ricercar Consort, Pierlot)
Performed by: Bayodi, Hanna; Keohane, Maria; Mena, Carlos; Pierlot, Philippe; Ricercar Consort; Thompson, Jeffrey; Vieweg, Matthias
“In 1680, Dietrich Buxtehude sent his friend Gustav Düben the score of ‘Membra Jesu Nostri’. In this perfectly balanced work, he addresses the senses directly, immersing us in the sufferings of Christ: we feel the hammer blows, the heart that stops beating. Through the genius of his music Buxtehude succeeds in moving us, enlightening us and instructing us in the profound meaning of the text.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Cover from Naxos RACHMANINOV, S.: Préludes, Op. 3, No. 2, Opp. 23 and 32 (Giltburg)
Performed by: Giltburg, Boris
“Written over a period of 18 years, Rachmaninov’s sets of Préludes are a mirror and a record of his compositional development. With so rich a variety of character, colour, texture and mood, no two préludes are fully alike, and differentiation of tempo and register ensures that each prélude’s character is clearly defined. The first eleven pieces were conceived by Rachmaninov as a single cycle, and their full-hearted Romanticism contrasts with the significantly more angular, modernistic Op. 32. Whether evoking ballad or bell toll, the exotic or folk influences, the Préludes stand in the great tradition of works by Bach and Chopin written in all 24 major and minor keys.” (Naxos Summary)

Cover from Naxos HANDEL, G.F.: Acis and Galatea (1718 original version) [Opera] (Crowe, A. Clayton, Hulett, N. Davies, Budd, Curnyn)
Performed by: Budd, Jeremy; Clayton, Allan; Crowe, Lucy; Curnyn, Christian; Davies, Neal; Early Opera Company Orchestra; Hulett, Benjamin; Pierce, Rowan
“The award-winning Early Opera Company under the direction of founder Christian Curnyn celebrates the 300th anniversary of the premiere of one of Handels most sublime creations: Acis and Galatea. This unique interpretation is performed as Handel himself specified in the manuscript: supported by fourteen period instruments, the outstanding cast of singers takes on the solo parts as well as the magnificent choruses. This is Handel writing at his highest levels of intimacy and intensity; the music superbly supports the libretto’s evocative portrayal of the story, simultaneously restrained, economical, and deeply moving.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Cover from Naxos DUBHLINN GARDENS (THE) (Besson, Van Mechelen, A Nocte Temporis)
Performed by: A Nocte Temporis; Besson, Anna; Van Mechelen, Werner
“The Dubhlinn Gardens: an evening in the high society of 18th century Dublin, where traditional music was civilizing itself for the salon This programme was inspired by the passion for traditional Irish music that flautist Anna Besson has felt since she was a child. Surprising as it may seem, it was playing the Irish flute that led her to study the baroque instrument For the past few years Reinoud Van Mechelen too has begun to train himself in the traditional Irish song. This twofold practice of early as well as traditional music has led the ensemble A Nocte Temporis to offer a programme that is both vivacious and extremely touching.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos TRISTANO, F.: Tokyo Stories (Tristano)
Performed by: Guti; Portal, Michel; Shibuya, Keiichiro; Tristano, Francesco; U-zhaan, ; Watanabe, Hiroshi
“Born and raised in Luxembourg, Francisco Tristano is one of the most innovative pianists of today, performing from baroque to avant-garde. He has issued unique recordings from Deutsche Grammophon including the acclaimed ‘Bach Cage’, which can be listened from Naxos Music Library. He is a musician more like Ryuichi Sakamoto or Nils Frahm than a traditional classical pianist, and his new album is inspired by the city of Tokyo that he loves and has visited so many times. It’s another intriguing music; somewhere between classical, techcho and ambient, by the unconventional artist.” (Shinji)

Riverside Records on the Naxos Jazz Library

One of the most important and beloved labels of all time in jazz history, Riverside Records was founded by Orrin Keepnews and Bill Grauer in 1953, and produced many masterpieces by jazz giants such as Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk and Wes Montgomery. Although no physical CDs are available from our libraries at the moment, you can stream some of their finest albums on the Naxos Jazz Library. Riverside Records was short-lived and all their masters were acquired by Fantasy Records, making them difficult to locate in the Naxos Jazz Library. Instead, click the link to go straight to their discography and search the artists or titles. Check our picks below and start streaming now!

Cover from Naxos WYNTON KELLY TRIO AND SEXTET: KELLY BLUE
Performed by: Kelly, Wynton; Wynton Kelly Sextet; Wynton Kelly Trio
“Kelly was an original stylist, who had a lyrical and economical approach and a way of insinuating the blues into everything he touched. You can feel it here in the moving “Willow Weep for Me” and the bright takes on “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise” and “On Green Dolphin Street,” just getting established as standards in the jazz repertoire and getting distinctive treatments here.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos THELONIOUS MONK: BRILLIANT CORNERS
Performed by: Henry, Ernie; Monk, Thelonious; Pettiford, Oscar; Roach, Max; Rollins, Sonny
Brilliant Corners is regarded as one of the finest albums in Thelonius Monks catalogue. The supporting musicians include Paul Chambers (better known for his work with Miles Davis), Max Roach, Clark Terry and Sonny Rollins, but it is Monks own work on piano that dominates the proceedings. An important and vital album, not just for Thelonius Monk, but for any serious jazz collector.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos BILL EVANS TRIO: WALTZ FOR DEBBY
Performed by: Bill Evans Trio
“The legendary last recording of Evans’ brilliant trio (with Paul Motian and Scott LaFaro, who died days after this was taped at the Village Vanguard). Invigorating freedom and deep emotion meet and cast a powerful spell.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos WES MONTGOMERY: FULL HOUSE
Performed by: Chambers, Paul; Cobb, Jimmy; Griffin, Johnny; Kelly, Wynton; Montgomery, Wes
“Recorded live at the the Tsubo in Berkeley, California, the back of the original album proudly proclaims ‘the top jazz guitarist, recorded in actual performance.’ It’s a rather undertstated introduction to an album that showcases to perfection Wes Montgomery’s abilities, a talent that no other jazz guitarist has come even close to matching.” (adapted from amazon.co.uk)

Cover from Naxos KENNY DREW TRIO: KENNY DREW TRIO
Performed by: Kenny Drew Trio
“Kenny Drew brings a pure bop angularity to this 1956 session, with driving single-note lines that clamber over one another to get at a new rhythmic detail, along with splashing chords that find the joy in the blues. He’s joined by a rhythm section that virtually defined the mid-1950s ethos: bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos CANNONBALL ADDERLEY SEXTET: IN NEW YORK
Performed by: Cannonball Adderley Sextet
“This excellent live date from the Village Vanguard was the recording debut of the Adderley sextet, with Cannonball waxing eloquently and swingingly on alto, brother Nat charging ahead on cornet, and the versatile Yusef Lateef adding a bit of an edge on tenor, flute, and unusually for a jazz wind player, oboe on the odd. Also, this was the first recorded appearance of pianist Joe Zawinul in Cannonball’s band.” (adapted from fishpond.co.nz)

Cover from Naxos RANDY WESTON: SOLO, DUO AND TRIO
Performed by: Blakey, Art; Gill, Sam; Weston, Randy
“Randy Weston’s distinctive compositions and pianism have long mined the music’s African sources to enrich the idiom. This CD presents Weston at the very beginnings of his recording career, combining his first two LPs. The earliest is a selection of eight Cole Porter tunes from 1954, played in duet with his regular partner, Sam Gill, a little-known bassist who provides solid and sympathetic foundations. The second combines a 1955 trio session, with Gill and Art Blakey on drums, and a series of solos from 1956.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos BLUE MITCHELL SEXTET: BLUE SOUL
Performed by: Blue Mitchell Sextet
“A session from 1959, BLUE SOUL finds Mitchell cooking in front of a band including bop aces Curtis Fuller, Jimmy Heath, and Philly Joe Jones, and Wynton Kelly of Miles Davis fame. The program mostly consists of bright, earthy originals with plenty of hearty soloing. A delight for classic bop supporters.” (adapted from fishpond.co.nz)

Cover from Naxos NAT ADDERLEY: WORK SONG
Performed by: Adderley, Nat; Betts, Keter; Hayes, Louis; Heath, Percy; Jones, Sam; Montgomery, Wes; Timmons, Bobby
“Released in 1960, Work Song finds cornetist Nat Adderley at his artistic peak with this bluesy, hard-bop gem. Numerous critics throughout the years have praised Adderley’s lyrical work on this album, which includes his own writing (his biggest hit, ‘Work Song’ and ‘Fallout’).” (adapted from amazon.com)

Cover from Naxos ART BLAKEY AND THE JAZZ MESSENGERS: CARAVAN
Performed by: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
“One of the great Jazz Messengers recordings, Blakey’s 1962 debut for Riverside featured Wayne Shorter, Curtis Fuller, Reggie Workman, Freddie Hubbard and Cedar Walton.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Monochrome Masterpieces

In this post we take a look at some of the iconic albums and hidden gems in our CD and vinyl collection. All of these titles have black and white photographs as album art. Check out these excellent and eclectic albums.

Nite flights by the Walker Brothers (1978)
The Walker Brothers were the three non-biologically-related kings of baroque pop in the 1960s, best known for their moody hits The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore and Make it Easy on Yourself. In the late 60s, Scott Walker, the group’s most acclaimed member, went solo and released a series of heavily orchestrated albums filled with ennui and references to art-house movies. Scott is cited as one of David Bowie’s foremost influences, and it shows. On this 1978 album The Walker Brothers explored uncharted territory. This project was apparently inspired by Bowie’s Heroes, and that also shows.

The album’s opening track Shutout is a masterpiece: the hauntingly avant garde vocal harmonies pare well with the raw propulsion of the incandescent guitar solo. The song is distinguished by a driving baseline that sounds like it came from an alternate universe where disco was a dark and nihilistic genre. Then the Electrician turns the dread up to unprecedented heights before breaking into an overture of blissful strings. The first four songs are effectively a Scott Walker solo EP and stand together as a monumental statement. The production on the other tracks is certainly worth perusing, but those first four songs ShutoutFat Mama KickNite Flights and The Electrician are incomparable. This album can also be considered somewhat rare, and it isn’t available on Spotify, so make sure to pick it up next time you come into the library!

TA1300 by Denzel Curry (2018)
Denzel Curry’s most ambitious project to date is full of aggressive SoundCloud anthems, including Sumo and Clout Cobain. On this album Curry has clearly carved out his own corner of the hip-hop world. Curry generally raps forcefully on lo-fi trap influenced beats, but still leaves some space for r&b tinged instrumentation whether of the soulful or synth-pop variety on tracks Black Balloons and Cash Maniac respectively. Standout track, Vengeance, is a terrifying vision featuring an extremely malicious verse from avant-garde rapper JPEGMAFIA and a visceral shouted feature from trap-metal rapper Zillakami.

If you still need convincing of Denzel Curry’s merit and skill, check out his pumping cover of Rage Against the Machine’s Bulls on Parade.

Party by Aldous Harding (2017)
Gothic tones and the misty port hills linger over Harding’s spellbinding sophomore effort. Harding’s lyrical subject matter is every bit as entrancing as her folk guitar. Unique song titles like What if Birds Aren’t Singing, They’re Screaming punctuate a superb New Zealand album. Another underrated highlight is the album closer, Swell Does the Skull. Harding’s distinctive voice is memorable, cohesive and enchanting. With Harding’s upcoming Designer album due for release shortly, now’s the perfect time to catch up with her discography.

Songs for Drella by Lou Reed and John Cale (1990)
Upon the death of Andy Warhol, two illustrious alumni of the Velvet Underground reunited to produce this sublime record amidst a temporary detente in their relationship. The production is excellent, the biographical subject matter is engaging and the album stands up as a testament to two incandescent chemistry of two of the greatest musical minds of the 20th century. Recommended tracks include Open House and Style it Takes.

Rest by Charlotte Gainsbourg (2017)
Gainsbourg weaves together traditional French pop sounds with contemporary palettes to create a grand statement. The drums, pianos and synthesizers summon dark and foreboding dirges on tracks like Lying With You and Ring-A-Ring O’ Roses. Federico Garcia Lorca once wrote “I am the elephantine shadow of my own tears.” Similarly, Rest appears to be an immense product of Gainsbourg’s own grief, as Pitchfork writer Olivia Horn notes. The album highlight is Deadly Valentine, a dreamy pop song punctuated by a funky baseline and a richly arranged chorus.

Staff Picks CDs: Best of 2018 -Part 2

Some more of our favourite sounds from last year. Hopefully you will find a new artist to explore, or something you missed the first time around.

Neil J’s Picks:
Ponguru / Al Fraser, Phil Boniface.
Ponguru is a truly unique album fusing seamlessly the sonic worlds of acclaimed jazz bassist Phil Boniface and leading Nga Taonga Puoro player Al Fraser . The resulting album has many faces and facets its Jazz tinged rather than Jazz, ambient in places and like a complex sonic landscape in others, throughout all its pieces it’s always fiercely original , rewarding and hugely atmospheric. Phil’s bass work is of the highest calibre imbuing the whole piece with a core of beautiful rhythmic structure. And Al’s emotive, nuanced playing shows that he is rightfully regarded as one of the finest musicians working in NZ today.

Tranquility Base hotel + casino.
Sometimes bands find it difficult to stay fresh and new musically especially after initial massive success. This however has never been a problem for the Artic Monkeys. And Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino there sixth album is easily their densest, most experimental and carefully crafted release to date. In this work they’ve invented their own brand of psychedelia. It’s like the bands own musical reaction to 60’s and 70’s science fiction films like Silent Running or 2001 a space Odyssey in places it does sound like an Alex Turner solo album. All in all it’s a brave and interesting and in places an exhilarating new direction for a band who have never sat on their laurels and are constantly in search of somewhere else to go.

Future me hates me / The Beths.
The Beths are at the moment the hottest band in New Zealand. No less than The Rolling stone magazine listed them in their top 100 bands to watch out for and described their album The future me hates me as a “ power pop monument’ . So what’s all the fuss about? It’s true that the power pop format is a tried and tested formula that has been done many times before, but the Beths bring a joyous ear worm infectiousness and exuberance to the party making The future me hates me sound not only new and fresh but fun and bright and it’s this attitude and approach to the music that’s carrying all before them.

Singularity.
Singularity is defined in the Oxford English dictionary as: “A point at which a function takes an infinite value, especially in space–time when matter is infinitely dense, such as at the centre of a black hole.” Now that’s a big concept to get your head round but it does serve as a superb road into Singularity the fifth album by Jon Hopkins. Singularity the album is a vast self-visualised glacial electronic landscape or even cosmos of an album. There’s ambient elements in it, there’s acid house elements in it , there’s certainly beats in there but through it all is a singular unique vision and a real feeling that Hopkin’s is on a trace like sonic journey of discovery that reaches inwards and outwards at the same time.

I can feel you creep into my private life.
For this reviewer one of the most interesting and important releases of 2018 was I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life by tUnE-yArDs (aka Merrill Garbus).The album is an extension of her previous works which at its core fuses solid rhythmic structure, influenced in places by dance music with lyrics that are simultaneously personal and global and definitely contain a radical political overtone. In many ways for this reviewer it was the album that summarised the spirit of our age its Zeitgeist.

Here if you listen / David Crosby, Becca Stevens, Michelle Willis, Michael League.
In 1982 David Cosby had fallen far, his personal life and finances were in ruin. He was struggling with very serious drug and alcohol abuse problems and was to spent nine months of that year in a Texas prison on cocaine and heroin charges. Yet in the late 60s and early 70’s he had been one of the brightest and biggest creative forces in the hippie folk rock movement. Since then he has had a liver transplant that was paid for by Phil Collins and slowly and gradually rebuilt his life and career welding these dark moments of his life as all true artists do into his work. His 2014 solo album Croz was amongst his finest work. And just recently he released Here If You Listen. It’s a beautiful piece of work, melodic, contemplative, and melancholic at times, uplifting at times occasionally touching the darkness of his past sometimes the light it finds Crosby meditating on his own death . For me this is one of David Crosby’s essential works and ranks up there with his 1971 death of the hippy dream album If I Could Only Remember My Name.

My design, on others’ lives.
It must be one of the most difficult gigs a musician can do. Being the warm up act to a huge star who hasn’t toured for ages and has legions of passionate fans. Estere’s support slot for Grace Jones in Queenstown was a stunning success for this new artist. She handled her time with poise and aplomb gaining a fair few fans in the process. Her self-produced debut album is a lush hybrid beast, a unique combination of sonic elements from pop/jazz melodies to sensual electronica and serious rhythmic cores. She also has a beautiful soaring voice and a fine turn in lyrics, and whilst it is definitely a mainstream album it certainly has some experimental leanings too. This album marks the entrance of a vibrant new voice and sounds to this reviewer, like the kind of album a future superstar would release.

Aviary.
Julia Holter’s fifth studio Aviary is a dazzling nonlinear joyous sprawl of a work. She says she was inspired to create it from a line in a book by Lebanese-American writer Etel Adnan—“I found myself in an aviary full of shrieking birds”. It simultaneously exudes chaos and calm, structure and randomness there is occasionally the slightest hint of the more experimental Kate Bush about it. It’s a menagerie of sonically beautiful moments swarming and swirling around in some sort of abstract obtuse sonic prayer conceived and created by the artist.

The gristle of knuckles.
Eve de Castro-Robinson is one of New Zealand’s foremost composers and performers amongst her numerous prizes and awards she won The 2018 Best Classical Artist/ Te Kaipuoro Inamata Toa at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards. The award was in part a recognition of her most recent work The Gristle of Knuckles .However The Gristle of Knuckles is far from a solo creative work it features a whole raft of collaborators who took Eve’s original compositions as their starting point and reimagined the pieces in their own way. There’s a real diversity to the range of pieces, yet the finished album sounds totally unified and cohesive thanks in no small part to the fabulous production work of Steve Garden. It’s a work classified as classical but in reality it defies genre categories. The pieces range sonically from powerful and muscular to intimate and vulnerable yet thought out the whole piece there’s a real air of exuberant, free spirited experimentation.

Mark’s Picks:
Record.
Tracey Thorn returns with another album of mature pop, her female worldview taking on the on-going struggle for equality (Sister), musical beginnings (Guitar), motherhood (Babies) & the impact of Social Media (Face). Beats merge with the sombre, and her ageless voice never loses its warmth.

Honey.
The Queen of melancholy dance beats returns with her first proper album in 8 years. Repeated plays reveal the interlocking layers of the tracks with overlapping lyrics, melodies and themes. Motivated by the tragic death of friend and collaborator, producer Christian Falk, the breakup of a relationship and several years of intense therapy, this release sees her following her own path once again.

Best local CD & Vinyl releases:
A quiet divide.
Rhian Sheehan returns with a cinematic album that melds post-rock soundscapes with lush ambient warmth, creating an emotional journey in a cascading series of beautiful and reflective moods. Lovely.

 

Mirror.
A wonderful combination of strange Jazz sounds, funky guitar, Swirling vocals, weird noises.

 

 

My design, on others’ lives.

 

 

 

Raconteur / The Frank Burkitt Band.
A musical-meld of influences from both continents – UK folk meets American bluegrass/Western Swing, with touches of his early Jazz influences. From toe tapping workouts to sincere ballads, all the seemingly disparate elements combine into a thoroughly enjoyable set of melodic narratives. It all seems effortless and simple but that belies the skill of his tight backing band, the consistently high levels of song writing and the sophisticated arrangements. No surprise it picked up a Tui for Best Folk album.

Too many millionaires.
The first all-acoustic album for Darren Watson is an artistic triumph on every level. Watson has always been a champion of the underdog, whether in the context of love or social commentary, and his authentic, pointed and gritty songs traverse the songwriting spectrum from the personal to the political.

We light fire.
Six years is a long time in the ever shifting music world and the catchy guitar pop of her last album Modern Fables has shifted into a heavier synth based sound with more layers of production on the tracks. But all the flourishes don’t detract from another set of great songs and that amazingly powerful voice, with its crystal clear range. Beginning with a slow ballad ‘Clandestine’ the album builds up, as gentle guitar strings alternate with washes of synth and grungier beats. Most albums taper off but all the best tracks are stacked towards the end.

Nine centuries.
Third album from Wgtn’s top Metallers marks Bulletbelt’s final album with vocalist Jolene Tempest and guitarist Seth Jackson, who left after the album had been recorded. Guests include Midnight’s Vanik, (solo on Cloak the Night), and Massacre vocalist Kam Lee (vocals on ‘Show Me Your Throat). Lyrically the album focuses on the witch trials of the Dark Ages, the examination of such brutal & violent themes paying off with some intense and aggressive tracks. A punk energy in a Metal framework, raw and powerful.

Seeing things.
Most bands first albums are the result of many years hard work, often resulting in the pinnacle of their sound – which subsequent albums then try to recapture. It’s a rare band that grows better with each release, but Eb & Sparrow were in that category. ‘Seeing things’ shifts their sound from Country/Americana of the first few releases into a more sophisticated lush soundscape. The lap steels are replaced with a more shimmery guitar sound that evokes the languid lines of The Cowboy Junkies or Mazzy Star, all focused around Ebony Lamb’s burnished vocals. A beautiful collection of songs that finds you reaching for the repeat button as soon as the last track fades out.

The hill temple.VINYL
Awesome new album from the ‘witches’ of Hex, with new cohort Jason Erskine. Beautifully soaring harmonies, delicious melodies, crunching guitar lines. All the best elements of indie rock surrounded by a fierce female empowerment aesthetic. Bewitching.

 

Like splitting the head from the body.VINYL
The debut full length album from the fabulous Womb. Every track swirls in and out of beautiful dreamy vocals and layers of languid guitar and synth lines. Music with a sense of grandeur that uplifts the listener on swelling waves of lush sound. Completely sublime.

 

Axels’s Picks:
How to solve our human problems.
Melancholic. Intimate. Pop.

 

 

Jassbusters.
Groovy. Soulful. Eccentric.

 

 

Tell me how you really feel.
Genuine. Stoner. Raucous.

 

 

Sex & food.
Vintage. Mind-altered. Catchy.

 

 

Marble skies.
Melody. Harmony. Energy.

 

 

Nothing is still.
Emotional. Ambient. Deep.

 

 

All melody.
Experimental. Gentle. Sentimental.

 

 

Snow bound/ The Chills.
Uplifting. Bright. Easy peasy.

 

 

Isle of dogs : original soundtrack / music composed by Alexandre Desplat.
Instrumental. Rhythmic. Quirky.

 

 

Suspiria : music for the Luca Guadagnino film.
Ominous. Atmospheric. Hypnotic.

 

 

Make way for love.
Sensitive. Bittersweet. Mellow. Continue reading “Staff Picks CDs: Best of 2018 -Part 2”