Big Library Read: Questlove’s Music is history

Music is History Big Library Read

 

This month’s Big Library Read, Libby’s “global ebook club” , showcases his fourth book called Music is history. In Music is history, Questlove uses his encyclopaedic knowledge of music and history as a lens to examine American history. Specifically, he examines how specific tracks and albums encapsulate certain moments in time in American history over the past fifty years. Questlove is in a truly unique position to tell this history; he’s part of the story and a student of both music and the wider reaches of cultural history. Big Library Read is an opportunity for library users around the world to read the same digital title at the same time. So, from April 4th to April 18th, you can participate in this global ebook club, without any wait lists or holds.

Questlove is one of the most high profile and well-known musician/ producers around. as well as being an author, music journalist, and award-winning  film director. A self-confessed obsessive music crate digger and music historian, over the course of the last thirty years or so he has played a key role in the hip hop and sampling scene. He’s also gone on to produce countless artists, such Amy Winehouse and Al Green to name but two.

In Music is history, Questlove selects tracks from his birth in 1971 to the present day to illustrate how music and American history reflect each other. It is a hugely informative and entertaining work, and the tracks Questlove selects are wide ranging, eclectic and fascinating. They really demonstrate his formidable knowledge. It’s all done in a highly readable and personable style, certainly a must read for music buffs and cultural historians.

To learn more about the Big Library Read, follow this link. You can borrow Music is history via ebook here or audiobook here

To give you a flavour of the book, below is just a tiny selection of the albums containing some of the tracks Questlove uses to illustrate his points.

The head on the door [deluxe] / Cure
“Contents CD1: Inbetween days — Kyoto song — The blood — Six different ways — Push — The baby screams — Close to me — A night like this — Screw — Sinking.CD2 (Rarities 1984-1985): Notes Originally released in 1985 – includes bonus disc.” ( Adapted from Catalogue )

 

It takes a nation of millions to hold us back [3 CD]. / Public Enemy
“It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, a record that rewrote the rules of what hip-hop could do. That’s not to say the album is without precedent, since what’s particularly ingenious about the album is how it reconfigures things that came before into a startling, fresh, modern sound. Public Enemy used the template Run-D.M.C. created of a rap crew as a rock band, then brought in elements of free jazz, hard funk, even musique concrète, via their producing team, the Bomb Squad, creating a dense, ferocious sound unlike anything that came before.  ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Maggot brain. / Funkadelic
“It starts with a crackle of feedback shooting from speaker to speaker and a voice intoning, “Mother Earth is pregnant for the third time, for y’all have knocked her up” and talking about rising “above it all or drown in my own sh*t.” This could only have been utterly bizarre back in 1971 and it’s no less so decades later; though the Mothership was well on its way already, Maggot Brain really helped it take off. ~ Ned Raggett” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Parade : music from the motion picture Under the cherry moon / Prince
“Undaunted by the criticism Around the World in a Day received, Prince continued to pursue his psychedelic inclinations on Parade, which also functioned as the soundtrack to his second film, Under the Cherry Moon. Originally conceived as a double album, Parade has the sprawling feel of a double record, even if it clocks in around 45 minutes. — If it had been expanded to a double album, Parade would have equaled the subsequent Sign ‘o’ the Times, but as it stands, it’s an astonishingly rewarding near-miss. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Police. / Police (Musical group)
“To coincide with their 30th anniversary reunion tour in 2007 the Police released the anthology The Police, the first two-CD retrospective ever assembled on the group. They may not have had a double compilation to their credit, but they had single discs and box sets, which may raise the question of whether they need a set like this — and the answer is yes, but this set falls just a bit short of being the definitive Police double disc. At only 28 tracks, this feels a little too slim.  ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Creative quest / Questlove
“Questlove – musician, bandleader, designer, producers, culinary entrepreneur, professor, and all-round cultural omnivore – draws on a life-time experience to offer insights into how to build the best creative life, and how to let the best creative life build you. Questlove has worked with or around hundreds of other artists, and engaged in dialogue with them regarding the creative process, whether in person or from an appreciation of their work: musicians like D’Angelo and Björk, filmmakers like Ava DuVernay and Mike Birbiglia, comedians, chefs, designers, writers, and more.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Mo’ meta blues : the world according to Questlove / Questlove
“Mo’ Meta Blues is a punch-drunk memoir in which Everyone’s Favorite Questlove tells his own story while tackling some of the lates, the greats, the fakes, the philosophers, the heavyweights, and the true originals of the music world. He digs deep into the album cuts of his life and unearths some pivotal moments in black art, hip hop, and pop culture.”–Book jacket.” (Catalogue)

 

Soul train : the music, dance, and style of a generation / Questlove
“From Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of the award-winning hip-hop group the Roots, comes this vibrant book commemorating the legacy of Soul Train—the cultural phenomenon that launched the careers of artists such as Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5, Whitney Houston, Lenny Kravitz, LL Cool J, and Aretha Franklin. Questlove reveals the remarkable story of the captivating program, and his text is paired with more than 350 photographs of the show’s most memorable episodes and the larger-than-life characters who defined it: the great host Don Cornelius, the extraordinary musicians, and the people who lived the phenomenon from dance floor. Gladys Knight contributed a foreword to this incredible volume. Nick Cannon contributed the preface.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

New CDs for Te Awe

New CDs March 2022


via GIPHY

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


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

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

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

Interview: Legendary musician David Long

Photo of David Long against a light yellow circle and his latest album art.


David Long is a legend in the New Zealand music scene. He started his musical career performing in the Braille Collective, in bands such as Six Volts and Jungle, and was a founding member of The Mutton Birds with Don McGlashan. These days, Long can be found working in a very wide spectrum of musical activities.

Long did compositional music for contemporary dance pieces working extensively with choreographer Douglas Wright. He works on the musical, soundscape side for a whole host of television and film projects; he has worked with Peter Jackson and has played some part in every one of his film for the last twenty years, including Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Long even worked with Brian Eno on the soundtrack to The Lovely Bones.

He also does a lot of production work, having produced many of New Zealand’s finest musicians and ,recently, doing production work for the recently formed Oro record label.

Long has worked on a wide range of collaborative projects, such as with Richard Nunn and Natalia Mann on the album Utterance. He has also just released a new work of his own, titled Ash and Bone. He has also won several silver scroll APRA awards, amongst many other musical accolades. Basically, in musical terms , Long has excelled at everything and so when we got the chance to interview him, we jumped at it.

Coming soon, we have an exclusive filmed interview with Long where we talk all things musical. For now, to whet your appetite, we recently had the pleasure of interviewing Long in conjunction with the Caffeine and Aspirin on Radioactive FM about his new album, Ash and Bone, and various other aspects of his career. Below is the podcast of that interview for your enjoyment:

We are thrilled that Long has taken time out from his very busy schedule to talk to us about his new release, his career, and all things musical. We extend our heartfelt thanks. Keep an eye out for our filmed interview coming soon!

For more information on David, visit https://www.davidlongnz.com/

And for more information on Rattle records, visit https://rattle.co.nz/


Envy of angels [1 CD] / Mutton Birds
“Envy of Angels could have been recorded ten years earlier considering its invocation of the new south — in particular the moodiness of Dumptruck — not to mention similarities to more commercial guitar rock of the same period […] Perhaps it isn’t a coincidence that Hugh Jones, who also worked with Dumptruck, produced Envy of Angels. He renders the Mutton Birds’ guitar strum and jangle in more solemn than bright tones, which suits the sometimes poetic lyrics and unusual chord progressions. ~ Greg Adams” ( Adapted from Catalogue)

Ash and bone. / Long, David
“Musicians David Long, synthesisers, banjo, electronics, electric guitar ; Carolyn Mills, harp ; Andrew Jarvis, tuba ; Mark Carter, trumpet ; Rachel Vernon, bass clarinet ; Pat Barry, clarinet ; Bridget Douglas, flute ; Riki Gooch, percussion, electronics. Contents Underground — Ash and bone — I follow it — You want to fight everything — The long long walk — A second glance — Wash your mouth out — Water the earth.” ( Adapted from Catalogue.) 

Utterance / Long, David
“Musicians …David Long, banjo, theremin, bowed guitar ; Richard Nunns, taonga pūoro ; Natalia Mann, harp, prepared harp, zither, gongs, voice. Tracks Perilous knowledge — Old shadows — Spider shell — Upper circle, lower case — Celestial dog — Mercury — The nearest clear liquid — We died once — City of green — Hidden cameras — Begin again.” ( Adapted from Catalogue) 

Flock : the best of The Mutton Birds / Mutton Birds

” Other Title Best of The Mutton Birds. Contents …Dominion Road — Nature — The heater — A thing well made — White Valiant — In my room — Anchor me — Wellington — Queen’s English — Don’t fear the reaper — While you sleep — She’s been talking — Come around — Envy of angels — As close as this — Last year’s shoes — Pulled along by love — Not to take sides.” ( Adapted from Catalogue)

The Mutton Birds. / Mutton Birds
Dominion Road (3:55) — Your window (4:39) — A thing well made (4:39) — She’s like a city (3:56) — Before the breakthrough (4:52) — White Valiant (5:12) — Giant friend (3:15) — Big fish (4:33) — No plans for later (2:31) — Nature (3:39).” ( Adapted from Catalogue) 

 

Salty / Mutton Birds
The heater — Ngaire — You will return — Wellington — In my room — When the wind comes round — Queen’s English — Salty my dear — There’s a limit — Esther — No telling when — Anchor me — Too close to the sun — Don’t fight it, Marsha, it’s bigger than both of us. ” ( Adapted from Catalogue) 

 

 

New CDs for Te Awe

New CDs at Te Awe March


via GIPHY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Staff Picks: The Best CDs of 2021

Image featuring some of our top picks


Mark’s Pick:
Vulture prince. / Aftab, Arooj [VINYL ONLY]
“Vulture Prince” is the third album from Brooklyn-based Pakistani composer Arooj Aftab. It made ‘Best of the Year’ picks even halfway through last year, and has been pressed on Vinyl 3 times since it came out last April – all of which sold out almost instantly. It’s critical & commercial success led to her being nominated for two Grammys, Best New Artist and Best Global Music Performance, as well as being signed to major label, Verve Records. An amazing sounding album, a mixture of chamber jazz, Hindustani classical minimalism & neo-Sufi, centered around her crystal clear voice. A truly beautiful and haunting work.

Mother. / Sol, Cleo
There was a lot of Neo-soul this year. A lot. I listened to a good percentage of it, and Cleo Sol’s ‘Mother’ was the best of the bunch. A mellow, tender, beautifully sung homage to motherhood. These lovely delicate songs have a real sense of intimacy, and at times the minimalist production from partner Inflo (who was recently announced as Producer of the Year in 2022’s Brit awards) makes you feel you are hearing a bunch of personal demos that were never meant to be shared.

Lindsey Buckingham. / Buckingham, Lindsey
The ex-Fleetwood Mac-er returns with a delayed album – originally cut in 2018. It is perhaps his most ‘pop’ outing and most FM sounding solo album yet. Mirage-era stylings, double tracked vocals, and catchy choruses surround a set of songs that focus on band & domestic disharmonies. Few artists of his generation can claim to be still making music this strong.

 

Shinji’s Pick’s:
Mother. / Sol, Cleo
A member of the London’s avant-soul unit ‘Sault’, Cleo Sol’s sophomore album is a reflection of herself having become a mother during the pandemic. It’s an intimate affair featuring medium/slow soul ballads. Surrounded by the warm, tender arrangements, her voice is charming and graceful.

 

Nine. / Sault 
Sault’ also released another edgy album ‘NINE’ – more personal than previous albums but black proud and social justice are still its core. The both are a must-listen.

 

 

What we call life. / Rakei, Jordan
The Tokoroa-born, sweet-sounding soul singer Jordan Rakei steadily developes his style with every outing. This latest album from Ninja Tune takes us on an intimate, emotional journey, showing his mutuality both as an artist and a person. His dance/house project Dan Kye’s ‘Small Moments’ (Vinyl only) is also quite good.

 

Harbour. / Herskedal, Daniel
Tuba is usually not considered a lead instrument, but the Norwegian tubaist Daniel Herkedal has made his mark as an outstanding player and band leader. Nature often inspires his works, in this album his trio brilliantly transforms images of Norwegian seaside into their music. You can feel a combination of warmth and cool air in the rich, open soundscapes that they create. Akin to ECM, it’s a sublime jazz album.

Phantasmagoria, or, A different kind of journey / Aarset, Eivind
Norwegian jazz guitarist Eivind Aarset is a master of creating inventive sonic layers and tonal richness. Aarset’s new album finds him in superb form. Showing impressive range, from the gentle ambient tracks to the eccentric guitar improvised prog-rock, it offers a sophisticated, expansive musical journey.

Becca Stevens & the Secret Trio. / Stevens, Becca
The ‘jazzy but not quite jazz’ singer Becca Stevens has worked with numerous artists, including David Crosby for his brilliant ‘Here If You Listen’. Her new project with the Secret Trio, who’s roots range from  Turkish to Armenian and Macedonian, offers a unique hybrid music of folk, jazz and world music. This work gets better with every listen.

 

The eternal rocks beneath. / Priddy, Katherine
Praised by the likes of Richard Thompson and Vashti Bunyan, young English folk singer Katherine Priddy debuted with an exceptional album. Showing her love of Nick Drake, her songs are alluring. The band supports marvellously, but it is her captivating voice that takes your breath away. Everything is so natural here, a promising a star is about to be born.

 

Invisible cities = Le città invisibili / Winged Victory for the Sullen
The 2021 album from this ambient duo is a collaboration with a theatre production, directed by London Olympics ceremony video designer Leo Warner. The show, in turn, was is based on Italo Calvino’s classic novel ‘Invisible Cities’. This duo, once again, has created a stunning score which masterfully weaves the medieval feeling into the ethereal, ambient soundscape. Sublime.

 

Déjà vu [deluxe] / Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
[Box set/re-issue]
The 1970 original album climbed up to No.1 and stayed 88 weeks in the USA top 100 charts. In 2021, this iconic masterpiece finally got a deluxe edition (4CDs + 1LP). Including 38 tracks of demos and outtakes, a lot of tracks here have never been released before and, as well as this, they prove how genius these musicians are. The Laurel Canyon community also must have stimulated their creativity, which is evident in the intriguing documentary ‘Laurel Canyon’.

Kid A mnesia / Radiohead
[Box set/re-issue]
The 21st century opened with this revolutionary music. ‘Kid A’ (2000) and ‘Amnesiac’ (2001) were recorded together but issued a year apart. This re-issue offers previously unreleased tracks on the third disc, which is fascinating. Their bold creative mojo and exceptional talent made Radiohead a one-and-only supergroup. 20 years on, they are still standing tall.

Aretha. / Franklin, Aretha
Aretha Franklin, the ‘Queen of Soul’, had a career which spanned 6 decades, and this smartly compiled box set should be welcomed by both dedicated fans and novices to her music. It’s almost an ideal ‘best album’ of her music, and would be a wonderful accompaniment to the nice biographical film ‘Respect’.

 

Neil J’s Pick’s:
Promises / Floating Points
This is my person pick for best of 2021. Many albums strive to be as beautifully mellow and profoundly intense. They nearly always fail to some degree or another. This album is as close to perfection as I have heard in many a year, an outstanding masterpiece that will rightly regarded as such long after 2021 is a distant memory. Recorded over the course of five years, this album is a hybrid of ambient, free-form jazz and classical. The result is an album that is elegant, refined, and full of quiet moments of sonic beauty. Although it is an experimental album, it’s an exceptionally balanced, considered, and timeless work. To really appreciate it, a relaxed deep listen is highly recommended. A perfect way to unwind from the rigors of the day.

Nine. / Sault
The enigmatic and mysterious music collective Sault release another vital album. Unsurprisingly as an ever-changing music collective, there is a rich tapestry of sounds and approaches in ‘Nine’. The overall effect though feels totally unified and coherent. The tracks are urban, dark, and edgy with real grit. In the mix there are elements of rap, grime Afro Beat and even some Tom Tom’s club’s style funk. The content of the album is largely about growing up in modern London. This is a fresh and surprising album, stunning in its contemporary urgency.

Geist. / Lay, Shannon
Shannon Lay’s Geist is a deliberately wistful, transcendent, and spiritual album. Lay uses multi tracked choral vocals with a constantly flowing, and evolving acoustic guitar as its core. The effect is distinctive, expressive, quiet, and lovely. An evocative pastoral psychedelic folk work reminiscent of artists like Vashti Bunyan, I particularly enjoyed her cover of Syd Barrett’s ‘Late night’.

 

Buda / Buda, Luke
One of the core creative forces behind the mighty The Phoenix Foundation releases (with a lot of help from his friends) his third solo effort, this time simply called Buda. It is an impressive work, interspersed with a lot of the hallmark touches he brings to his other work in The Phoenix foundation. This album is wryly funny, poetic, serious when it needs to be and shows us why he is one of our finest musicians.

Black sea golden ladder. / Kingi, Troy
The supremely gifted musical chameleon that is Troy Kingi has shown his musical versatility over several wonderful albums on several occasions in recent years, but who would have thought that his latest musical incarnation would be as a mellow folk maestro? The resulting album is a beautiful, and chilled outing, like watching the sun go down on the fragile dream of a late autumn day. Delaney Davidson’s voice adds just a little grit and darkness to the proceedings.

M’berra / Khalab
This is one of those album’s that really transports the listener to new worlds. It is a collaborative work between electronic Italian D.J. Khalab and the M’berra Ensemble, a community of musicians living in the M’berra refugee camp. The resulting album, both ancient and futuristic, is a breath-taking work of fantastically sculptured tracks and diverse sounds, featuring a dazzling array of instruments from traditional Mali instruments to synth bass’s and guitar.

Bright green field. / Squid (Musical group)
An album of angular music, coupled with angry off kilter lyrics that illuminate the song writers’ discomfort with the modern World. In places, it sounds slightly reminiscent of an early English, pre-Eno, Talking Heads. Seemingly unconcerned about creating a single musical identity, they use whatever style suits that particular track from throwing in punk, krautrock, dub, jazz, and funk into this potent mix of an album.

New long leg. / Dry Cleaning (Musical group)
I really loved this album, it sounded new and fresh and vitally edgy. Managing to sound quirky, surreal, approachable and experimental all at the same time, is it a release I strongly suspect will be on lots of best of 2021 lists.

 

 

The new blue : Pixie Williams reimagined.
Pixie Williams was one of the first ever superstars of the New Zealand music scene. She was a trailblazing pioneer; her song ‘Blue smoke’ was 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 was rereleased in 2011. ‘The New Blue’ is a collection of modern NZ artists paying tribute to her and her art, covering her best known pieces fabulously well with style and panache. This is a perfectly executed, modern nostalgic time machine of an album.

Optimisme. / Songhoy Blues
Crossing musical and cultural boundaries at will, ‘Optimisme’ is a joyous explosion of an album. Driving percussion and scorching guitar riffs come together with political, social and personal lyrics that are sung in several languages and never sound laboured or preachy. The music is exhilarating and unstoppable, you cannot but help feel that many huge stadium acts would be jealous and in awe of the energy pouring out of this release.

 

Gus’ Picks:
The blue elephant. / Berry, Matt
Something I can only describe as “what if Tame Impala travelled back in time and did an album with the Kinks”. Hands down the best summer album of 2021.
Favourite track: Summer Sun

 

 

Skin. / Crookes, Joy
A polished, bold debut neo-soul album for anyone with an Amy Winehouse-sized hole in their heart.
Favourite track: Feet Don’t Fail Me Now

 

 

Prioritise pleasure. / Self Esteem
A pop solo act that goes big and goes hard one minute and becomes a tender pick-me-up the next. Everyone could use a little Self Esteem boost.
Favourite track: Prioritise Pleasure

 

 

Jubilee. / Japanese Breakfast
An eclectic album of 80s city pop, soft ballads, and dreamy croons. A balanced breakfast indeed.
Favourite track: Paprika

 

 

Call me if you get lost. / Tyler, the Creator
No-one quite nails the feeling unique to creatives of alternating triumph and melancholy quite like Tyler Baudelaire, aka Bunny Hop, aka Wolf Haley etc. etc. Call Me If You Get Lost is more of a fun mixtape jam session than the more emotionally introspective albums of his recent output, and while it took me a while to appreciate, by the end of 2021 it became a staple of my playlists.
Favourite track: CORSO

Dune : original motion picture soundtrack
The space bagpipes must flow! I, for one, am always up for a eardrum rattling from the Zimmer Man, and Dune does not disappoint. Combining electrified strings, throat singing, epic brass, Middle Eastern choirs and the aforementioned space bagpipes, this score truly worthy of a space epic.
Favourite track: Armada

 

Yasuke : music from the Netflix original anime series
With the anime Yasuke, Flying Lotus finally gets to lend his unique blend of hip hop and electronica to scoring an animated series, and he succeeds immensely. As Samurai Champloo creator (and one-time FlyLo collaborator) Shinichiro Watanabe proved, there’s something about blending hip hop and samurai that just works.
Favourite track: Your Day Off

 

Han’s Picks:
L.A.B. V. / L. A. B
Another awesome album from L.A.B, with songs that are funky, chilled out and make you automatically feel free and summery. Favourite tracks on this album are: ‘Under The Sun’, with it’s country twang and catchy chorus, ‘All Night’, which brings the groove and makes you want to dance and their latest smooth sounding single ‘Mr Reggae’.

 

Little oblivions. / Baker, Julien
An emotional outpouring of deep and self-loathing lyrics ,with a voice that is raw, vulnerable and magical, makes for a brilliant third solo album from Julien Baker.

 

 

Sour. / Rodrigo, Olivia
If you have ever had your heart broken and not been sure of yourself, then you will easily relate to the lyrics on this album. Songs like ‘Traitor’ and ‘Happier’ convey familiar feelings of being hurt by relationships breaking down. ‘Brutal’, the first track, is probably the best with all of her thoughts and annoyances with life on display in a snarly pop punk style. Very impressive debut album from this new pop superstar.

 

OK human. / Weezer
This is Weezer in a completely different form, with none of the guitar sound that is associated with the band. Instead, they have opted for an orchestral sound, which is new for them and definitely works as a change. The opening track ‘All My Favourite Songs’ is brilliant and the chorus is incredibly catchy and anthemic. ‘Grapes of Wrath’ is a big advert for Audible, but I don’t mind it as I like all the book references in that track. These songs were written during the pandemic and as a result are extremely relatable.

Van Weezer. / Weezer
In contrast to Ok Human, Van Weezer brings all the guitars back for a more familiar Weezer sound. On the track ‘The End of the Game’, the lyrics are “I know that you would crank this song, air guitaring with your headphones on”’ and it definitely makes me want to do that. So, turn it up and have some fun jumping up and down to this homage to Van Halen!

 

Greg’s Pick:
Leave love out of this. / Tonnon, Anthonie
If you don’t have children, you rely on friends and colleagues to recommend new music to you. This was recommended to me by Martin. This is pop music with social, political and economic messages woven easily and naturally through the lyrics. The title track was nominated for the 2021 Silver Scroll Award.

 

Joseph’s Pick’s:
Godzone. / Sulfate
[VINYL ONLY]
Godzone by Sulfate was a local standout for me.

 

 

 

Martin’s Pick:
Leave love out of this. / Tonnon, Anthonie
A strange mixture. This album sounds like a cross between Ultravox and Gary Numan with some distinctly New Zealand social commentary thrown in. In some ways the music is reminiscent of simple 80’s synth, which I like, but it is also the use of his voice that grabs the attention. It is at both very unmelodic almost banal, but with great range and control. It doesn’t sound, from what I have said, to be so good does it? But it is! It’s interesting, mostly uplifting and overall a joy to listen to. It’s different and fresh and I think positive, which is a rare thing in these times.

Mikaela’s Pick’s:
Jubilee. / Japanese Breakfast

 

 

 

 


Charlotte’s Picks:
Collapsed in sunbeams. / Parks, Arlo
Chemtrails over the country club. / Del Rey, Lana
In these silent days. / Carlile, Brandi
Valentine. / Snail Mail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Neil P’s Picks:
De pelicula / Limiñanas
Earth trip. / Rose City Band
Comfort to me. / Amyl and the Sniffers
Afrique victime. / Moctar, Mdou
Yol. / Altın Gün
Henki / Dawson, Richard
La Luz. / La Luz
Sometimes I might be introvert. / Little Simz
Introducing… Aaron Frazer. / Frazer, Aaron
Invisible cities = Le città invisibili / Winged Victory for the Sullen
Genesis. / Xixa
Forest of your problems. / Snapped Ankles
Black sea golden ladder. / Kingi, Troy
Pale horse rider. / Hanson, Cory
Geist. / Lay, Shannon


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New CDs for Te Awe

Image featuring album art from this blog's list.


via GIPHY

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


I’m Mark, the Music & Film Specialist at Wellington City Libraries (I also run the Libraries’ Wellington Music Facebook page). Every month, my colleague Neil and I cast our eye over the new material we have been buying for the Music collection at Te Awe library. We also like to pick out some interesting titles, across a range of music genres, to review. Our limit is a few lines only. Do we actually know anything about new music? Can you encapsulate an entire album in just a couple of lines? Are we just too old to understand what most of this music is banging on about?
Read on to find out…
Iowa dream. / Russell, Arthur
Mark: A truly unique figure in music, whose work encompassed everything from electronica, to the avant-garde, Disco and quirky lo-fi singer-songwriter pop. Russell passed away in 1992 and ‘Iowa Dream’ is the latest (2019) collection of unreleased material & home demos. This collection is a sprawl of diverse genres, including commercial 70’s meditative singer-songwriter efforts, lo-fi country twang, 80s Jazz-infected rock and quirky observational pop. A fitting document of a singular talent who followed his musical muses’ wherever they led.
Neil: Arthur Russell’s posthumous 2019 release Iowa Dreams contains 19 unfinished demo tracks, all displaying a markedly consistently high level of quality. Each track showcases the notoriously shy singer-songwriter’s sophisticated, intelligent and thoughtful approach to lyrics and his often genre defining approach to the accompanying musical settings. It’s all a mellow and chilled affair, and provides an excellent introduction to his work if you are unfamiliar with his music.

Observatory. / Aeon Station
Mark: Aeon Station is Kevin Whelan, of the critically lauded cult-indie New Jersey band The Wrens. The long delayed follow up to the acclaimed Wrens 2003 album The Meadowlands was eventually finished in 2013, only to have the bands other songwriter say he needed more time to work on his songs. The relationship between the two men further deteriorated over time, leading Whelan to take his songs for that album and strike out on his own. Adding, as well, a decade’s worth of new material, the result is a great album steeped in classic indie-rock that has the passion of someone rediscovering their love of making music, but also a poignancy of time lost. The power-pop moments are surround by reflective & therapeutic introspections dealing with the frustrations that have plagued his musical career.
Neil: Kevin Whelan, the driving force behind Aeon Station, was a key part of the influential band The Wrens. It was this bands long failure (over many years) to deliver a follow up to their acclaimed album The Meadowlands that is the creative catalyst for this work. Indeed, it features five tracks intended for that abandoned album and two members of the now defunct outfit. The result is a beautiful, melancholic bittersweet debut solo that revolves around the examination of lost dreams.

Ritual divination. / Here Lies Man
Mark: This was on AllMusic’s Best Rock Albums of 2021 list. Here Lies Man are an LA band who merge stoner metal with afrobeat rhythms. This long album, full of epic riffs that shift and morph into different strands, pulls in old school Sabbath elements, Fela Kuti like jams and shades of the Motown hard-rockers Rare Earth. The rhythmic complexity of what’s happening in each track keeps you engaged over the course of the album.
Neil: What can you say about this album? Well, imagine afrobeat mixing with vintage Black Sabbath, sprinkled with art rock overtones and a lot of fuzz. The whole project perhaps wears their 70’s Black Sabbath influence a bit too heavily to be its own thing. That said, it is surprisingly coherent and enjoyable with solid Tony Iommish riff’s aplenty and a gloriously fun listen.

662. / Ingram, Christone “Kingfish”
Mark: Mojo’s best Blues Album of 2021. The 2nd album from the hot young Blues star builds solidly from his dazzling debut. It’s straight ahead blues, but incorporates more R&B grooves and rock riffs this time around, building upon his classic sound and muscular soloing. He isn’t reinventing the wheel with what he’s doing, but the juxtaposition of his young years with his veteran skills gives a weight to everything, and his vocals provide an earnest and honest take on hard times and struggles.
Neil: 22-year-old Christone “Kingfish” Ingram delivers a collection of hard driving blue’s tracks on his album 662. The full gambit of blues styles is on show; some tracks lean towards blues funk, some towards blues pop and even some that are reminiscent of early Zeppelin Blues rock. The energy, technical skill and enthusiasm Kingfisher shows throughout the album never falters. In short, if you are a blues fan it comes highly recommended.

The missing star. / Lunatraktors
Mark: This made 2nd place on Mojo’s best Folk albums of 2021 (after Peggy Seeger’s First farewell). Lunatraktors are an ‘Alt-folk’ band who pioneered the philosophy of ‘broken folk’, taking traditional (& modern) songs and music and re-interpreting them. The first track, for example, is the traditional ‘Rigs of the Time’ with updated the lyrics to include mentions of Brexit, Facebook, Covid-19 and the corruption of politics by UK elites. Other songs feature melodica, harmonium, odd percussion and drones, A mix up of the traditional with takes on Fake news and Leonard Cohen covers, this album is worth checking out if you are looking for folk that mixes the old with some new experimentation.
Neil: The British Folk genre has a long history of politically motivated songs. The Lunatraktors album ‘The missing star’ walks firmly and proudly in those footsteps, with songs about nurses pay, modern British institutional corruption and even Brexit. The setting is less traditional; edgy overlapping Folk harmonies and stripped back percussion all goes into a potent album of what the band themselves, very accurately and provocatively, describe as “Broken Folk”.

Let the night in. / Elise, Kendall
Mark: Auckland country singer-songwriter Kendall Elise made Graham Reid’s Best of Elsewhere 2021 picks with this album. More ‘country-ish’, as it features some rockabilly, traditional country ballads, rockers, moody torch-noir and dark folk. There’s some top song-writing on display, alongside her natural empathetic voice, that convinces within all the emotional shades of the songs. Definitely worth a listen.
Neil: Kendal Elise’s new album tilts its head at several musical styles from acoustic introspective rock, to folk and blues. There’s even a little bit of rockabilly, whilst largely staying in the country music genre. There is even a rocking country cover, a version of Suzi Quatro’s ‘Your mamma won’t like me’. Her vocals are strong and soulful, with a 60’s feel, and she reads the emotional content within each track with precision.

Foolish loving spaces. / Blossoms
Mark: Super catchy third album from the young UK group of schoolfriends, who rose in the 2010’s from small gigs in their native Stockport with word of mouth EPs, to stadium headliners. This is a really great blend of peppy, synthy, power-pop, that takes elements from Brit-pop, early Strokes and Rooney to create propulsive driving pop songs with wry takes on modern relationships. Really enjoyed this.
Neil: ‘Foolish loving spaces’ is a swirling 70’s disco ball of an album that oozes disco glam from every musical pore. The often-ultra-catchy pop tunes hark back to the golden age of the 70’s, when disco was king. Think of a band that channels Abba or The Osmond’s and you know what you are in for.

Fir wave. / Peel, Hannah
Mark: Shortlisted for the 2021 Mercury Prize, ‘Fir Wave’ sees the Northern Irish composer and producer reinterpreting Delia Derbyshire and the Radiophonic Workshop’s 1972 album ‘Electrosonic’. It is a testament to Peel’s talent that she make this reinterpretation, with 21st century music technology, seem like a collaboration effort between the two women. Deeply hypnotic, this is a fitting homage to one of the great female pioneers of Electronic music as well as a significant piece of music from Peel itself.
Neil: Delia Derbyshire, along with Daphne Oram, is regarded as one of the legendary and founding musicians of modern electronic music. This is especially, though not exclusively, through their work with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. ‘Fir wave’ uses fragments and elements of Delia’s work, but instead of trying to create something in the same tone as the originals, Peel takes a much more daring approach. Whilst paying homage, Peel only uses these elements as starting points, crafting them instead into a phantasmagorical, unique, and tightly bound atmospheric sound world with each track possessing and having its own character.

Fleuves de l’âme. / Hedfi, Houeida
Mark: This debut album by Tunisian percussionist Houeid Hedfi was more than 10 years in the making. Hedfi began playing music in a band who played a form of percussive trance music associated with Tunisia’s black sub-Saharan minority. Hedfi wanted to create something that was more melodic, not just rhythmic, and so she began working with a Tunisian violinist, a Palestinian bouzouk player and, as producer, The Knife’s Olof Dreijer. The resulting album was created over a 9 year period in France, Tunisia, and Germany. A sensual and atmospheric journey, as traditional instrumentation meets subtly embedded electronics and drones, evoking memory, yearning, peace and loss.
Neil: This dreamy Tunisian music inspired ambient work is themed around rivers and water. The work is sensual in feel, punctuated with lush melodies and cascading eastern rhythmic components. It shows the limitations of some Western music, being an expansive work that explores other non-western musical legacies. It contains mystical and trance like elements, yet you know from listening to it that the creation of the various pieces shows a very focussed musical mind at work. It rightly featured heavily on many of the best of 2021 lists.

The nearer the fountain, more pure the stream flows. / Albarn, Damon
Mark: The second solo album for the Blur/Gorillaz frontman after Everyday Robots (2014). It was initially planned as an orchestral homage to his adopted homeland of Iceland, until Covid-19 forced a change of direction. The result has the underpinnings of the original instrumental context, with the focus on sonic washes and moody atmospheres, but the added vocals give shape to a meditative concept-ish album built around isolation. Some tracks were better than other, and I’m not sure if it all works as a whole. Worth checking out if you’ve followed his other musical diversions.
Neil: The Gorillaz’s and Blur frontman Damon Albarn is well known as a musical polymath, from film soundtracks to Brit Pop. ‘The nearer the fountain, more pure the stream flows’ is his latest musical departure, and one of his most personal works. It is inspired by, and a meditation on, the Icelandic landscape a country he now holds dual citizenship for. The final work takes this central theme, and effortlessly morphs it into a much wider viewed piece about climate crisis, grief, and loss. It is a classically structured melancholic piece, and a sad musical love letter to his adopted country and, in a more general sense, to our current situation.

Hopelessly in love. / Thompson, Carroll
Mark: This is the 40th Anniversary of this Lovers Rock 1981 classic album from English singer Carroll Thompson. Her beautifully sweet soulful voice , the lilting rhythms, the lovelorn lyrics, the endlessly melodic tracks all make this an enduring classic of British Reggae. You can see the influence this had on future generations of UK female singers. The Guardian included it in their list of “1000 Albums to Hear Before You Die”, describing the album as “a sort of dub-wise version of Joni Mitchell’s Blue”. Can’t say I’m much of a Reggae fan but I really enjoyed this.
Neil: This long out of date album was originally released in 1981. In revisiting this work 40 years later, you can see how this album helped define British reggae and widened the parameters of how Reggae was perceived, especially in the UK. It does so by being much more intimate, with the lyrical contents focussing much more on personal relationships and everyday life. The musical content is simultaneously lighter in tone, and carries a carefully crafted pop sensibility through these elements that was rarely explored at the time, if at all. ‘Hopelessly in love’ it would go on to be rightfully regarded as a ground-breaking work.

Next is now. / Goldman, Vivien
Mark: Goldman is an iconic figure in the Punk movement, through her work as both a musician in the 80s, her music writing & journalism, and her work in education. This is her first solo material in 40 years. Produced by Youth, the album is more dubby New-Wave than punk, full of catchy reverb laden vocals and synthy electronics, underpinning the politically focused songs that address such issues as immigration. Certainly more polished than her previous punk/experimental work, this album chooses to focus on an optimistic take on the future.
Neil: Vivien Goldman is a bit of a musical legend both as a journalist and as a musician, working with the likes of John Lydon and Bob Marley as well as being a member of the New Wave band The Flying Lizards. In ‘Next is now’, political lyrics combine with dubby, funky Tom Tom Club musical settings while being covered with a veneer of punk sensibility. The album resolutely sets out to comment on the tumultuous times we find ourselves in. It reminded me of an updated version of Chumbawamba in feel and political sentiment.

Buffalo Nichols. / Nichols, Buffalo
Mark: This debut album from this 30 year old Texan got lots of good press last year, and deservedly so. The husky voiced singer delivers some searing political commentary alongside some smokey acoustic guitar fingering. Raw and old-school sounding, he paints a bleak picture of modern society in these hard hitting vignettes. Powerful.
Neil: Buffalo Nichols’ album builds on the legacies of many blues luminaries such as Robert Cray or even Robert Johnson, musicians he clearly loves. But the lyrics deal with contemporary issues in America of race and social injustice. And Buffalo’s husky voice and accomplished finger picking blues style ensures that this is a lonesome, compelling blues outing.

An evening with Silk Sonic / Silk Sonic
Mark: Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak team up for this ridiculously entertaining 70’s soul extravaganza. A shameless homage to the sweet 70’s soul-soul stylings of The Delfonics or Blue Magic. The line ‘I’m sippin wine in a robe/I look too good to be alone…’ sums up the tone of what’s happening here. Every musical artifact of this period is precisely re-created (the video’s are hilarious also). Very very tongue-in-cheek…Or is it? They sound so committed to the execution it’s hard to tell…
Neil: ‘An evening with Silk Sonic’ is that rarest of things, an album that walks a razor edge between parody and authenticity whilst never quite falling off onto either side. It does often flip a knowing musical wink at its listeners. It isn’t too surprising, as the original 70’s source material often walked that line too. It is a fabulously well executed project in every aspect, great songs spot on production and lots of infectious disco groove stylings. This album perfectly recreates the 70’s rhythm and blues scene. Think Kool and the Gang, Disco era Marvin Gaye and even the 70s output of James Brown.

Glow on. / Turnstile
Mark: The third album from this young hardcore punk band from Baltimore asks the question: What would happen if you fused hardcore punk sensibilities with glossy alt-rok productions values? The result is ‘Glow On’, where grunge, metal, and indie rock collide in 35 minutes of catchy riffs and anthemic chorus’. The tracks shift in interesting ways, with all the genre elements melding together in a cohesive whole. You’ll want to hit play again as soon as the album ends…
Neil: Hardcore Baltimore rockers Turnstile release their most accomplished and experimental album to date. Part post-punk, part stadium rock; this album is solidly heavy, with synths, drum machines and constant shifting tones and atmospheres. It’s all wrapped up in big riffs and powerhouse grooves.

It’s your birthday. / Ellen, Vera
Mark: Vera Ellen is a Wellington singer, formerly the frontwomen of band Maple Syrup, and also a member of LA based girl band Girl Friday. Recently signed to Flying Nun, this is her first album for the label. It melds an early 80’s indie pop sound, 60’s girl-group and 90’s garage rock stylings, all with a strong contemporary female perspective. The seemingly simplistic chord changes and drum patterns hide a sophisticated piece of work, whose disarming harmonies surround an often raw and visceral take on relationships and modern life for someone her age.
Neil: New Zealander Ellen Vera was on holiday in her home country, about to fly back to her new home in L.A., when the first wave of the pandemic struck and she found herself stuck in New Zealand. So, she spent that time productively by going through a stack of rough demos and thrashing them out into a finished album. The resulting album has a deliberately rough and ready Flying Nun production sound to it, and features songs about unease, being an outsider and a separation from the people and things you love.

Henki / Dawson, Richard
Mark: English folkie Richard Dawson and Finnish experimental rockers Circle combine for this self-described “flora-themed hypno-folk-metal” album, that made a lot of best of 2021 lists. Songs written from the perspective of a seed meet proggy vignettes about searching for ancient trees. It’s all as bonkers as it sounds. Like the soundtrack to a horror film in which The Green Man summons trees to go nuts and start killing everyone.
Neil: Eccentric English folk music combined with heavy indie rock is quite a combination, and this is what we have in the latest outing from Richard Dawson. It is intense, deeply felt, very unique and I guess all these factors lead it to be a very marmite experience. People will either love this or hate it. For reference, think of a powerful English folk version of Captain Beefheart at his most uncompromising.

You gotta have it. / Carroll, Tia
Mark: This was Mojo’s pick for the 2nd best Blues album of last year. I liked this more than the ‘Kingfish’ album. She has a great voice, with more of a late night soul vibe on some tracks, and a lyrical focus on female empowerment.
Neil: : It is always great to come across a new powerhouse blues-belter of a singer with real style and grace. That said, Tia Carroll has been around for a long time, a true hidden treasure tirelessly working the San Francisco bay areas live circuit for decades. The combination of classic solid, soul, RnB in her voice, with an excellent backing band, combine with lyrics that often highlight social issues at their heart. If all this sounds like your kind of thing, I would check this album out.

The war on peace of mind. / Swann, Dianne
Mark: The first solo album for an iconic figure of NZ music,  who is a member of When The Cat’s Away & the front woman for The Julie Dolphin, The Bads and Boom Boom Mancini. Decades of writing coalesce in a perfect showcase of her classicist singer-songwriter pop. Optimism and uncertainty mix in these narratives, surrounded by a smooth timeless production with some great background harmonies.
Neil: Dianne Swann has been fronting indie rock outfits from the mid 1980’s. ‘The war on peace of mind’ is surprisingly her first solo album. It’s a work that encompasses a wide variety of moods and emotions, from a rocking call to arms tracks to more directly personal intimate songs.

Desire. / Marea, Desire
Mark: Debut album from Marea, who is one half of the South African performance art duo FAKA. This one isn’t ‘World’ music at all, but a very modern Electronica album. There is the influence of African rhythms on some tracks, along with some Zulu vocals, but this is mostly trancey house beats with swirling atmospheric choral-like vocals. The introspection, sensitivity and vulnerability of the lyrical content push it in a deeper direction than all the beats suggest. Marea achieves the rare feet of seeming like a fully formed artist his first time out. Impressive stuff.
Neil: ‘Desire’ is a wide screen kaleidoscopic work, featuring modern propulsive rhythmic elements that have their roots in African music. This ever-expanding mix of sound adds in synths, acoustic instruments and a whole universe of other instrumentation. The result is an ambitious art pop work that reaches back into the artist’s rich cultural heritage while at the same time it manages, most of the time, to be very approachable. A brilliant work of expansive exploration that is an enjoyable innovative musical journey.

Let yourself be loved. / Denalane, Joy
Mark: German Soul singer of German/South African descent, who can sing in English, German & Xhosa. MTV called her the queen of German Soul, she is the only German to be signed to Motown records for ‘Let yourself be Loved’ (her 5th album). It originally came out in 2020 but was re-released internationally in 2021 as a Deluxe version. A great slice of retro 70’s soul styled originals (sung in English). Maybe it’s because she isn’t American, but this seems less forced and derivative than a lot of contemporary neo-soul. Or maybe her long experience in music gives her the skills and confidence to subvert the vintage stylings to suit her personality and her own vision of this classic sound. Classy.
Neil: Hailing from Berlin, singer Joy Denalane’s fifth album is also her debut album on the legendary Motown label. To summarise the music on the release, it is an album that fits perfectly into the label’s illustrious back catalogue. Denalane’s talent and personality are stamped throughout the work, which is a modern take on the 60’s and 70’s soul music the label was largely responsible for creating.

Prioritise pleasure. / Self Esteem
Mark: Self Esteem is the moniker of Rebecca Taylor, who spent a decade as part of the duo Slow Club. ‘Prioritise pleasure’ is her second album as Self Esteem, and was the Guardian’s pick for Best album of 2021. Forthright and confrontational, the album pulls no punches lyrically as it addresses the raw anger and fears of women in society today; the guilt and self doubt that contemporary culture promotes, the normalisation of misogyny and other hefty topics. All this is wrapped around a glossy pop sheen, pounding beats, pulsing strings and epic, soaring, choral vocals. Powerful & honest.
Neil: Self-worth and self-exploration are at the front of the newly crowned queen of pop’s sharp and often wittily observed lyrics in ‘Prioritise Pleasure’. Artist Self Esteem AKA Rebecca Taylor’s second album is a huge sprawling and grand pop edifice. It contains infectiously catchy pop tunes, sexually explicit lyrics about the artists intimate life and a huge dollop of humour to round it off. The Guardian made it their album of the year. An interesting side fact, her logo is based on Freddie Mercury’s signature.

Wary + strange. / Kiah, Amythyst
Mark: The 3rd album from this Grammy nominated Tennessee country-blues singer-songwriter/guitarist, who is also a member of Our Native Daughters. Alternately fierce and tender ruminations run through these authentically gritty and real songs, focussing on her life as a Southern LGBTQ+ woman.
Neil: ‘Wary + strange’ is an intimate work about being an LGBTQ+ Southern Black woman. Kiah has a great understanding of how to build up the emotional tension throughout a track, whilst also allowing her independent spirit to soar. The accompanying music flows with the emotional tone of each track, moving from delicate finger picking to country-blues and even a bit of alt rock. That said, Amythyst Kiah is far too independent to make this anyone’s album but her own, It all makes for a powerful emotional listen.

Juno. / Wolf, Remi
Mark: LA singer whose music is a chaotic hybrid of funk, disco, bubblegum pop, R&B, skater-pop and a mélange of other influences. Her musical world is all about chanted choruses and wry wordplay, but the relentlessly fizzy tracks also deal with real world issues like getting sober and finding your place in the adult world. Fun & hyper.
Neil: Hyper stylised, self-referenced, Cartoon Californian, day-glow bubble gum hip-hop pop. Remi Wolf’s album is an upbeat hallucinogenic playful sugar rush of an album. Danceable and fun.

Remember her name. / Guyton, Mickey
Mark: Mickey Guyton became the first Black woman to be nominated for a solo country music Grammy in 2021. It was, however, a long road to recognition. After being named “New Female Vocalist of the Year” in 2015, it took her a full six years of being stuck in industry purgatory to release this debut album. This points to the ongoing struggle for Black female singers within the Country genre, which she addresses within some of the songs on this album. While from a musical perspective there is nothing particularly revelatory happening here, a lot of it sounds like Faith Hill or other 90s country-pop, it’s all about the perspective. Songs like ‘Love My Hair’ or ‘Black Like Me’ form part of an emerging conversation, and Guyton is part of a new wave of Black female singers reclaiming Country music as a genre for all Americans.
Neil: Billed as the rising star of the Nashville country music scene, Mickey Guyton has in fact spent the last ten years building up to this point in her career. The album is part of the movement moving mainstream country music away from its long history of racial exclusion. The album addresses and talks about the continued bias and tokenism the singer experiences. It’s a slick country outing, with important things to say, that points the way towards a much needed, more inclusive, and diverse country music scene.

New CDs for Te Awe

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


via GIPHY

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

How long do you think it’s gonna last? / Big Red Machine
Mark: Big Red Machine are the National’s Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. This is their 2nd album under that moniker, after 2018’s S/T effort. More mellow acoustic alt-folk/pop with looping arrangements and touches of keys and electronics, a bit more straight ahead than their more experimental debut. Guest performers include Fleet Foxes, Sharon Van Etten & Folk-mode Taylor Swift. There’s a shared musical aesthetic at play in the collaborative network of all these musicians, and if you like the works of their individual bands, you’ll find comfort in the dreamy, immersive electro-acoustics on display here.
Neil: Aaron Dessner of The National and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver have joined forces before, this new project sees them playing to their strengths. So big open piano chords and chilled vocal harmonies to the fore. The result is a deliberately messy, hazy freewheeling album. It is all very pleasant without presenting many challenges to the listener a languid listening experience.

Silver ladders. / Lattimore, Mary
Mark: 2020 album from experimental LA harpist Mary Lattimore. Dreamy and relaxing. Droney synths colour the harp sound on some tracks, giving a moody soundtrack feel to certain pieces. An understated album that sneaks up on you with its relaxing vibe of solitude and contemplation. An album for afternoon ruminations on rainy days.
Neil: Recorded in a remote rural town with few distractions ‘Silver Ladders’ is an album infused with a beautiful sense of stillness, loneliness, melancholy, and a gentle pastoral eeriness. A very calming album that reminded me in places of the work of Laraaji.

Skin. / Crookes, Joy
Mark: South London singer (of Bangladeshi-Irish descent) with a distinctive voice, reminiscent of Macy Gray, or early Amy Winehouse. ‘Skin’ may seem like yet another Neo-soul album, but the songs move in unexpectedly Jazzy directions with swinging horn breaks, Jazz rhythms and cinematic strings. Soulful late night club vibes percolate across a album of strong tracks, as lovely ballads mix with cinematic trip-hop focusing on the socio-political and the personal.
Neil: British Neo soul crooner Joy Crookes’s debut album is a polished masterclass in everything a debut album for an artist looking at global stardom should be. There’s been comparisons to Amy Winehouse’s first album and there are surface similarities. ‘Skin’ is however very much Joy’s own voice, politics, and personality. Retro string stylings, sophisticated melodies, and assured song writing all shine through. This is what the debut work of a star on the rise sounds like.

Anika. / Anika
Mark: Anika has just released her sophomore album Change after 11 years, so we thought we’d check out her debut from 2010. While working as a political journalist, she met producer Geoff Barrow of Portishead who was looking for a female vocalist to work with his band Beak. Their resulting collaboration led to this album, released by Barrow’s Invada label. A bit of a Nico homage, combining post-punk & Girl group tributes, with her detached blank vocal style and distorted arrangements. Though there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, this is definitely a bit of an acquired taste.
Neil: Right from the moody black and white photo cover down to the treatments on vocals and instruments, you can tell that a heavy influence on Anika work on this album is the Velvet Underground, and especially their German songstress Nico. The album is largely comprised of covers and features the sonic talents of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow. These influences are worn heavily on their collective musical sleeves: that said if you are going to base your sound on a band and singer, then Nico are the Velvet Underground are pretty good choices. My favourite tracks on the album are the dub influenced ones that slightly step out of this template.

Juniper. / Fredriksson, Linda
Mark: Debut solo album from Finnish Saxophone player Linda Fredriksson, a member of a couple of well regarded Finnish musical outfits. Described as a ‘Singer-Songwriter’ album, within a Jazz construct. A meditative album, created over numerous years, that incorporates field recordings, personal recordings of friends, rainfalls, humming, lo-fi acoustic guitar parts and much more. Definitely a different take on what is a Jazz album. Really nice.
Neil: Juniper is a delicate softly, evolving jazz album with emotional content in the playing that ropes listeners into its gently shifting moods. At points sounding traditional in tone and feel, at others more experimental in a chilled ambient fashion. The various elements effortlessly flow in and out of each other.

Rest in blue. / Rafferty, Gerry
Mark: This posthumous release from Gerry Rafferty was begun in 2006, and at his death in 2011, remained uncompleted. His daughter finished the project this year, filling out the album with unreleased tracks from various points in his career, removing a lot of the production to give the album a more uniform feel. A surprisingly cohesive listen, full of catchy, finely crafted, mellow AOR.
Neil: The original incantation of Rest in Blue was started by Gerry in 2006, and was still unfinished at the time of his death in 2011. This release isn’t quite that album; instead this album put together by his daughter uses elements from that projected release and unreleased songs that span his entire career indeed, some of these tracks dated back to the 1970’s. The result is remarkable coherent considering the time span involved, and provides a fitting tribute to his career, and incidentally an excellent starting point to his work if you are unfamiliar. The cover is once again provided by his long-time friend the Scottish Artist John Byrne.

Rose in the dark. / Sol, Cleo
Mark: London Soul singer, who is part of the mysterious R&B collective Sault with partner Inflo. She has just released a new solo album, ‘Mother’ (on order) so we tracked down her debut to check out. Old school R&B, with sweet lilting vibe. The intimate songs focus on individual relationships (rather the broader societal focus of Sault) and have that distinctively 70s soul groove, where it was all about love and personal connections.
Neil: There’s a sense of purpose and sensitivity both in the lyrics and playing in Cleo Sols 2020 album ‘Rose in the Dark’. Cleo Sol is a very busy individual having just released a second solo album called Mother (to be reviewed another time) and known for being a member of the R&B outfit Sault (whose album Nine is reviewed later in this Blog). ‘Rose in the dark’ is perfect example of the quality of all her work, an uplifting Neo Soul R&B outing that made it onto may peoples best of 2020 lists. Her newly released album ‘Mother’ is already being touted as a masterpiece of the genre.

La Luz. / La Luz
Mark: All female Seattle band who blend surf-rock and Garage-psych rock. This album, their third, has been tipped as a breakout for the band, with deeper personal songs and slicker production values. Lots of dreamy chamber pop, and moody psych numbers with lovely ‘Girl-group’ type harmonising.
Neil: Alt folk rock outfit La Luz return with a modern Western themed fourth album. It builds on their impressive previous albums and shows a new level of maturity and sophistication, especially with regard to the structure of their songs and their Simon & Garfunkel styled backing vocals. It’s all topped of nicely with lead vocalist Shana Cleveland’s understated indie inflected vocals.

The horses and the hounds. / McMurtry, James
Mark: The first album in 6 years from McMurtry, the son of famed novelist Larry McMurtry. As to be expected his father’s storytelling skills are deeply embedded into his DNA, so what you get here is a fine set of uptempo country rockers that continues a creative winning streak following 2008’s Just Us Kids & 2015’s Complicated Game. Like the great Country acts before him McMurtry has honed the ability to write realistically about a spectrum of characters across social and economic classes with realism, honesty and empathy. You believe in the disillusion, the struggles and the optimism of the people who inhabit his songs.
Neil: The Texan storyteller James McMurtry delivers a humane and highly accomplished collection of songs on his tenth album. His story songs are about the collapse of small-town America, good people in bad places, and down on their luck characters. The result is a modern, relevant meaningful, heartfelt Country and Western album that shows a rawness and vitality that is sadly all too often missing in the modern Country and Western genre.

Fever dreams. / Villagers
Mark: Fifth album from Villagers, the project of Irish singer/songwriter Conor J. O’Brien. Lovely mix of swirling psyche tinged pop. A musical kaleidoscope taking you on a euphoric escapist journey from the travails of modern life through a hallucinatory world of sound. It reminded me of the late 90s classic’s The Flaming Lips’ The Soft Bulletin (1999) & Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs (1998) in terms of its musical scope and impact.
Neil: You can tell even from initial listening that Fever dreams was constructed over a long period of time (two years to be exact). It is an album that demands and rewards an immersive listen, rather than just a background skim. The tracks move from woozy modern psychedelic tones, to eerie surreal pop in an elegant, organic, ambitious fashion with an expansive sound pallet in constant use. Sure, to be on several best of the year lists. If you like this try In the Aeroplane Over the Sea the by Neutral Milk Hotel.

Bees. / Belly
Mark: Listening to this without knowing anything about Belly you would assume this is another in the (seemingly unending) line of bands mining that 90s Alternative-pop sound. However Belly were actually one of the bands from that scene, fronted by singer Tanya Donnelly, who had previously been a member of other cult 90’s bands Throwing Muses & The Breeders. ‘Bees’ is a belated compilation of the bands B-Sides that was initially compiled for a Record Store Day release, to celebrate 30 years of the band. A nice collection of B-sides, covers and oddities that makes you realise, despite their scant discography, their lasting influence on the sound of future bands.
Neil: Released on record store day to celebrate 30 years since the formation of the alternative rock band Belly. Bees is a collection of career spanning B sides, covers and rarities. Featuring prominently (of course) the distinctive and unmistakable vocals of Tanya Donnelly. (Who incidentally helped found two other iconic bands of the time Throwing Muses and the Breeders). This release will delight their fans. I particularly liked their cover of The Jungle Books ‘Trust in me’, originally from their 1993 EP “Feed the Tree”.

I don’t live here anymore / War on Drugs
Mark: Philadelphian band who introduced big sounding ‘FM guitar-rock’ to a new generation return with their 5th album. More blue collar rock epics in the vein of Dylan, Springsteen & Petty, with some synth bits woven in and out, to give the music a more contemporary sound. I never really got the hype around this band to be honest. Didn’t The Wallflowers & Pete Yorn already do this kind of thing in the 90s & 2000’s?
Neil: ‘I don’t live here anymore’ is the fifth studio album from stadium filling War on drugs. It utilises and refines on their previous work esp. their Grammy winning album A Deeper Understanding, the songs usually building up from deep and often deceptively simple melodies, slowly and methodically increasing up the intensity. The lyrics depict a romantic American soul-searching journey, and the album has an anthemic qualities without being too bombastic.

Coming in from the dark. / Smith, Hollie
Mark: Hollie Smith mined the solitude of lockdown to create an album blending her Neo soul stylings with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Rwandan-Kiwi rapper Raiza Biza, Sol3 Mio and Teeks. Personal reflections on a relationship breakdown form the core of this introspective album, that looks at loss and healing, both within personally and outwards towards the larger issues facing New Zealanders today.
Neil: The much-loved Kiwi soul artist Hollie Smith (and close friend of our PM) releases her fourth album. It is an immaculately produced work and Hollies vocals soar. It belongs very much to that new sub section of music the Covid lockdown album (Hollie was scheduled to be Touring but like many artists has had to put those plans on hold). Hollie airs her anger and frustration with the current global and political events that threaten to overwhelm us, whilst interweaving these concerns with more intimate themes. The result is a tender, thoughtful and powerful work that is ultimately uplifting and hopeful in its vision of our future.

Nine. / Sault
Mark: This prolific R&B-rooted pseudonymous collective (helmed by producer Inflo) have released some of the most talked about & critically acclaimed music of recent years; 2 albums in both 2019 & 2002, the last of which Untitled (Rise) was nomination for the Mercury Prize in 2021. Latest album ‘Nine’ is more of the same quality, though its shorter length makes it feel a tad more fragmented than previous albums. A melange of musical styles from Rap, mellow R&B, grimy beats and spoken word segments, form a raw, gritty montage of the pressures on a young generation from the dehumanizing systems that surround them, and the weight of prejudice and limited life choices. Powerful music.
Neil: The enigmatic and mysterious music collective Sault release another vital album. Unsurprisingly as an ever-changing music collective there is a rich tapestry of sounds and approaches in ‘Nine’, the overall effect though feels totally unified and coherent. The tracks including some spoken word elements are urban, dark, and edgy with real grit. In the mix there are elements of rap, grime Afro Beat and even some Tom Tom’s club’s style funk in there. The tracks are largely about growing up in modern London. A constantly fresh and surprising album stunning in its contemporary urgency.

Geist. / Lay, Shannon
Mark: Guitarist/songwriter Shannon Lay began her music career as part of the California garage punk scene, but her solo releases moved towards a folky-psychedelic aesthetic. ‘Geist’ is her 2nd album on the Sub Pop label. She has a lovely pure voice, and while the songs may deal with inner turmoil and change, they do so in a series of relaxing, elegant meditations of quiet strength & resolve.
Neil: Shannon Lay’s Geist is deliberately wistful, transcendent, and spiritual album. Shannon uses multi tracked choral vocal and a constantly moving, flowing, and evolving acoustic guitar as its core. The effect is distinctive and expressive, quiet, and lovely. An evocative pastoral psychedelic folk work reminiscent of artists like Vashti Bunyan. I particularly enjoyed her cover of Syd Barrett’s ‘Late night’.

Segundo. / Molina, Juana
Mark: A remastered reissue of the Argentinian singers 2nd album from 1993 for it’s 21st anniversary. Quirky Spanish vocals weave over the mix of electronic and acoustic elements. Apparently she had imagined the sound of this type of new (in 2003) musical style before acquiring the synths & loops to bring it to life, and the resulting album became a cornerstone of the folktronica movement. Hazy and folkish traditional sounds merge pleasantly with bossa-nova rhythms, and robotic blips and bleeps. Deeper and more intricate than say the work of Beth Orton at the time, this is one of those albums that throws up new things with each listen.
Neil: The unique Juana Molina’s second album ‘Segundo’ was named the Best World music album in 2003. This welcome anniversary rerelease very amply demonstrates why. ‘Segundo’ see’s the Argentine artist explore and refine her approach to music, especially her use of acoustic and electronic textures. A master of the intimate and delicate moment, and of teasing out subtle joyous emotions from the music. Since its release it has become one of the defining must-listen-to albums of its kind.

Modern love.
Mark: Tribute albums like these are always understandable tricky for the artists involved. Do you play it safe with a note-for-note version, or do you try something different, shift the song into another genre or make a fast track slow and vice-versa, knowing that any changes risk altering the emotional impact of the original song. So as you may expect, a bit of a mixed bag here. I quite liked the Hics version of ‘The Man Who sold the world’ & Jonah Mutono’s take on ‘Modern Love’.
Neil: There has been a few Bowie cover albums released since David Bowie’s death and ‘Modern Love’ is one of the most smooth and polished of them. The album features cover tracks from across his entire career. However, it is Bowie’s mid 70’s plastic soul era that fares most favourably. With tracks like Khruangbin’s cover of the Young American’s track Right and Léa Sen Golden Years being standouts. That said there’s lots of other interesting covers in there too. It is noticeable though that for a covers album of an artist famed for his experimental approach to music, these tacks often sound very safe and lacking in any real experimental intention.

What we call life. / Rakei, Jordan
Mark: 4th album form the NZ Born, Australian raised, Grammy nomination, London-based Soul artist (who also records under the alias Dan Kye). More heartfelt introspective beat driven soul. A rich texture of sounds form complex tracks that his soaring falsetto weaves in and out of, with personal songs based on his recent experiences through therapy, and outward looking tracks focusing on Social injustice.
Neil: London-based New Zealand born Jordan Rakei displays a new level of musical and lyrical sophistication on this, his most intimate and emotionally vulnerable album to date. Many of the lyrics found their origin in what he discovered about himself in therapy. That said, the album isn’t downbeat Jordan takes the source emotional material and transforms it into contemplative, but often uplifting music, using equal parts soul, Jazz and R & B, underpinned by upbeat grooves. This emotional ebb and flow high and low balances the album. A song cycle album, from an ever evolving and expanding musician.

Boat. / Pip Blom
Mark: 2019 album from Dutch indie rockers with a love for 90s alt-rock & Britpop stylings [they also have a new 2021 album which is on order]. Dynamic rhythm shifts meet off beat melodies, and jangly guitars. A catchy and fun listen.
Neil: Dutch quartet Pip Blom’s debut album is a fuzz box driven, perky, upbeat, pop punk, post grunge melange. The album is a stream of catchy bouncy songs about ironically, isolation, distraction, and their daily struggle against apathy. It is unconcerned about making big complicated musical statements, instead focussing on a straight-ahead approach to make the album an enjoyable, bop along listen.

Vengeance. / Twelve Foot Ninja
Mark: Australian band that melds alternative-metal with prog and experimental rock elements. Their 3rd album ‘Vengeance’ made Allmusic’s list of the top 50 Metal albums of 2021, and it’s easy to see why. A wild mix of styles slam together everything from smooth lounge pop, to 80’s funk, horror soundtrack aesthetics and video game music, and that’s just the tip of this crazy musical iceberg. Accompanied by (if you can believe it) by a video game, a graphic novel, and a thousand-page fantasy novel, that flesh out the mythology of the album. At this point I think I can confidently say that this is the strangest album we’ve reviewed this year. I’m not much of a metal fan, but this was really enjoyable.
Neil: The church of metal is a very wide congregation with room for many voices and approaches. And Australian band Twelve Foot Ninja are an excellent case in point, known for their experimental approach. ‘Vengeance’ their latest work is their most genre mashing outing yet. The core of the album is still firmly trash metal, but amongst the other musical genres in this fusion work are cyberpunk, trip hop, industrial metal there’s even traces of bossa nova and hard disco funk!

Box Set Pick
The sun shines here : the roots of indie-pop 1980-1984.
Mark: A follow up to Cherry Red’s 2013 Scared to Get Happy: A Story of Indie Pop, ‘The sun shines here’ digs further into different musical scenes to pull out tracks by bands who went on to be well known, as well as those who disappeared into obscurity. There’s not much quality difference between the two, a testament to the sheer amount of talented artists finding consistently melodic new directions in music during this period.
Neil: The clue to the contents of this album come in the subtitle the roots of indie pop. The years 1980-1984 form the crucial point time when indie music in the UK emerged from the long shadow and scorched musical earth of punk and post punk, and became its own unique identifiable movement. It is also notable for the fact that the regional musical scenes in Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow also become serious players, rather than all the focus being on London. The Box set is a fabulously curated, comprehensive, and well researched piece of sonic archaeology, featuring a wide selection of artists. By its very nature it is very diverse, and forms an essential listen for anyone interested in the evolution in pop music in the UK at the time, and by default beyond. The effects of this movement are still very clearly to be heard in many of the bands around today.

Coming soon: interview with percussionist Justin DeHart

Coming soon, on Friday 10th of December, is our interview with Grammy-nominated and Aotearoa music awards shortlisted percussionist Justin DeHart.

Justin DeHart originally hails from Sacramento and moved to Christchurch in 2017 as a Senior Lecturer in Music to teach at the University of Canterbury, in this country’s first ever percussion program. He is a performer of a wide range of contemporary musical styles from classical to pop, and from world to electronic. As an artist his musical resume is every bit as extensive, including performances with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, LA Phil New Music Group, I.C.E., pipa master Wu Man, and various pop legends, including Stewart Copeland and Cheap Trick, having appeared on over 100 solo, chamber and contemporary releases on many of the world’s most recognised labels.

Justin’s musical practice is steeped in his interest in percussion from across the globe and in all its musical incarnations. To illustrate the point, when he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, he went to India to study that country’s percussion legacy, heritage, and current culture.

Since his arrival in Aotearoa he has been inspired by the musical culture he has encountered.  These musical discoveries have subsequently led to the creation of Justin’s debut New Zealand release on Rattle Records.

Landfall New Zealand Percussion Vol 1

Featuring compositions for percussion by Glenda Keam, David Downes, Alex van den Broek, Mark Menzies, Chris Gendall, Rosa Elliott, Simon Eastwood, Robert Bryce and Reuben de Lautour.

We are thrilled that Justin has taken time out from his very busy schedule to talk to us about his new release, his career, and all things musical.

 

For more information on Justin, visit www.justindehart.com

And for more information on Rattle records, visit  https://rattle.co.nz/

Landfall
“Tautology / Glenda Keam — Bells/Mirrors / David Downes — Order 81 / Alex van den Broek — Scales & taonga / Mark Menzies — Landfall / Rosa Elliott — The new music dance / Robert Bryce — Silver wind ; Golden earth ; White water / Simon Eastwood — Braided plain soundwalk / Reuben de Lautour. ” ( Adapted from Catalogue.)

 

 

Complete early percussion works / Stockhausen, Karlheinz
“Contents disc 1. Refrain (Pavlos Antoniadis, celesta, antique cymbals ; James Avery, piano, woodblocks ; Steven Schick, vibraphone, Alpine bells) (10:15) ; Schlagtrio : for piano and 2 timpanists (Katalin Lukács, piano ; Justin DeHart, Fabio Oliveira, timpani) (16:08) ; Kontakte : for piano, percussion and 4-channel tape (Steven Schick, percussion ; James Avery, piano percussion) (35:00) — disc 2. Zyklus : for a percussionist (Steven Schick, percussion) (10:30) ; Mikrophonie : for tamtam, 2 microphones, 2 filters, and controllers (Red Fish Blue Fish) (31:44).” (Adapted from catalogue) 

New CDs for Te Awe

I’m Mark, the Music & Film Specialist at Wellington City Libraries (I also run the Libraries’ Wellington Music Facebook page). Every month my colleague Neil and I cast our eye over the new material we have been buying for the Music collection at our CBD Te Awe library and put our highlights here with some quick reviews of new titles — our limit is a few lines only.
Do we actually know anything about new music? Can you encapsulate an entire album in just a couple of lines? Are we just too old to understand what most of this music is banging on about. Read on to find out…

via GIPHY

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

Buda / Buda, Luke
Mark: Luke Buda returns with his first solo album since 2008’s Vesuvius. Organs and synths fade in and out in a set of woozy pop that focuses on the travails of aging bodies, domesticity and happiness amid global chaos. Three tracks features lyrics by author and poet Damian Wilkins & other collaborators include Don McGlashan, Joe Lindsey and Toby Laing from Fat Freddy’s Drop, Riki Gooch, and Anita Clarke from Motte, who sings on every track. A great fun, catchy, self deprecating album, whose reflective moments pull the threads of everyday life with revealing lines that stick with you. Well deserving of all the good reviews its been getting.
Neil: One of the core creative forces behind the mighty The Phoenix Foundation releases (with a lot of help from his friends) his third solo effort, this time simply called Buda. It is an impressive work, interspersed with a lot of the hallmark touches he brings to his other work in The Phoenix foundation. Wryly funny, poetic, serious when it needs to be, and it shows us why he is one of our finest musicians.

Come play the trees. / Snapped Ankles (Musical group)
Mark: Mysterious and unknown London-based post-punk band who wear ghillie suits when performing. DIY electronica meets Krautrock/Art-rock, with vintage synths underpinning the cacophony. I’m not sure what it was all about though…
Neil: Snapped Ankles 2017 debut release ‘Come Play the Trees’ sees a different side of the band from their live performances. Their well reported incendiary live performances are replaced with an experimental electronic Shamanistic vibe ,with propulsive post punk stylings that have nods to Afro-futurism. It’s a heady mix with deliberately obscure and mysterious. Lyrics rubbing shoulder by shoulder with socio political statements. All very strange and intriguing. Imagine a pagan shaman musician in an ancient forest, creating music from synthesisers he has created from the surrounding trees.

Lindsey Buckingham. / Buckingham, Lindsey
Mark: The ex-Fleetwood Mac-er returns with a delayed album – originally cut in 2018. Perhaps his most ‘pop’ outing and most FM sounding solo album yet. Mirage-era stylings, double tracked vocals, and catchy choruses surround a set of songs that focus on band & domestic disharmonies. Few artists of his generation can claim to be still making music this strong.
Neil: The first solo album in ten years for the ex-Fleetwood Mac stalwart. And he is not happy. His troubled private life has been well documented (often in music). And emergency life saving Heart surgery in 2019, not to mention Covid, have only sharpened his unease and the associated disquiet. It is all couched, as you would expect, in a very polished outing; very melodic in Buckingham’s unique fashion, with occasionally oblique & sometimes razor-sharp lyrics. An album that I suspect will be well received by fans and indeed well beyond.

Year of the spider / Shannon and the Clams (Musical group)
Mark: Melding old 50s Rock N Roll, 60s Girl group & 70s punk vibes, Oakland California’s Shannon & the Clams are one of those under the radar bands that have broken through with their latest album ‘Year of the spider’, a more polished effort produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. More lyrically personal songs, along with crafted backing, elevate their retro-stylings into something original, rather than just an exercise in nostalgia or homage.
Neil: Fuzz box welding Oakland retro rock band Shannon and the Clams really mix it up in this rip-roaring mash up of genres and styles. There are elements of 60’s doo wop, psychedelic moments gritty garage rock and a few other genres thrown in. Nearly all originating in the 60’s or early 70’s. The lyrical content is rooted in the band’s personal troubles, and there definitely individual darkness in there. And it is that dark and personal lyrical content that makes the band sound like themselves, rather than a lot of influences, and that really glues the whole album into a cohesive work.

The ballad of Dood & Juanita / Simpson, Sturgill
Mark: Bluegrass country ‘concept’ album about Civil War Military Veteran (Dood) and his trusty steed Shamrock (a donkey), who pursue an outlaw that has abducted his wife (Juanita) to seek vengeance. Another left turn for Sturgill Simpson, supposedly inspired by his Grandfather & Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger. A cinematic Mini-Epic that plays out like an old Black & White Western, as a good man is forced to take up guns for a righteous cause one more time.
Neil: The title of this album, and artwork, very accurately lets you know what you are going to be listening too once you put this album on. A modern Bluegrass concept album, based on tales of Kentucky legends from America’s past. Brought to life by some of the Bluegrass scene’s finest modern exponents. Cowboy tales of feuds and gunfights, horses, and hound dogs. It is all very well-done; a modern recreation of frontier myth-making music, and lots of fun besides.

Iris / Fountain, Reb
Mark: Have to admit I haven’t listened to any of her previous albums, so can’t say if this album is indicative of her overall catalogue. To me, ‘Iris’ sounds musically a lot like Taylor Swift’s folky storytelling from Evermore, or a more moody Suzanne Vega. If Noir-ish folk is your thing, you’ll like this.
Neil: ‘Iris’ is one of those albums written and curated during lockdown. We are very fortunate to have it, as in other versions of reality Reb would have been touring the World gaining legions of fans, instead of finding herself stuck in a pandemic lockdown. ‘Iris’ is a piano driven, often dark and unsettling work, moody, romantic, dreamlike, and poetic. From the opening track ‘Psyche’, the listener is drawn into her sonic world, and Reb (one of the key players in New Zealand’s alt-folk scene) has created a complete and highly accomplished work. Highly recommended.

Old gods. / Shihad
Mark: Strong political & social commentary wrapped up in hard rocking riffs. Jon Toogood’s vocals always sounds ageless. Stradling countries and cultures has given Toogood a deeper perspective, that infuses the bands patented hard rock with added depth.
Neil: A new release from one of New Zealand’s most beloved bands. It’s an album fuelled by righteous angry frustration, and the music shows it. A riff heavy assault of huge guitars in full sonic assault mode, coupled with deep, deep, bass and carefully placed vocals that miraculously don’t get lost in the mix. This album will surely serve as the basis for a massive ear-splitting, adrenalin pumping,?; live tour sometime in the future.

Local valley. / González, José
Mark: The Swedish singer/songwriter returns after a 6 year break. Mellow pastoral folky pop that looks forward with optimism and hope, while relaxing you in the present.
Neil: The ultra-cool, mega mellow smooth as silk voiced Jose González releases his fourth studio album. There’s no radical reinvention or wild sonic exploration going on here, and why should there be? His distinctive intimate fingerpicking, spare arrangements, and honeyed voice serves his muse very well. Music that sounds like a sweet dream, like murmurs of someone trying to lull you to sleep in the nicest possible way.

If I can’t have love, I want power. / Halsey
Mark: New York singer-songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Ashley Frangipane (AKA Halsey) returns with 4th album teaming with Nine Inch Nails duo Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Big names like Lindsey Buckingham guest on “Darling”, and Dave Grohl on “Honey”. This got a lot of critical attention & good reviews, but it all seems a bit over the top and dated somehow. Auto-tuned pop-punk with gothic sensibilities. A pop singer trying to make an ‘edgy’ album, rather than someone with genuine musical edge.
Neil: Pop sensibilities meet deliberately constructed Gothic, fairy-tale, music in Halsey’s fourth album, produced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The result is in places cool, clear light on water, pop production; and in others brooding, lurking, spectral, tightly controlled, under the surface intensity. The lyrics explore Halseys rise to stardom, various aspects of her recent motherhood, and destructive and chaotic aspects of life. My reservation is that it does all sound a bit contrived and over wrought, but that could just be the theatrical nature of the album. Why not give it a listen, and make up your own mind as to which side of the fence you think it falls on.

Dunedin spleen. / Verlaines
Mark: Another solid album from the Dunedin outfit. Classic jangly guitar rock combines with more arty angular tracks, that dig deep into plenty of issues current to life in NZ. Final track ‘Way To Old To Grow Up Now’ provides a musical metaphor for a band who keep finding new things to say musically & lyrically, while never resting on their laurels.
Neil: The legendary Dunedin band The Verlaine’s have just released their 10th album. And Graeme Downes, the bands long time songwriter, guitarist and lead vocalist, has built up a lot to say since their last release, this album weighing in with a hefty 19 tracks. Their distinctive trademark sound fuses elements of indie rock, Punk, and Alt Art rock into their own unique Verlaine sound. The result is as sharp and clear eyed as any of their previously works proving, as if there was any doubt, that they are still far from a nostalgia act from the past.

Sometimes I might be introvert. / Little Simz
Mark: UK rapper’s follow up to her Mercury Prize-nominated third album is a masterclass in modern Rap-Soul. Deep songs with great flow address being a black woman in the UK, the cost of success against your privacy, and issues surrounding her personal life. Plenty of interesting collaborations, with ‘Woman’ featuring Cleo Sol (Sault), ‘Two Worlds Apart’ featuring a great Smokey Robinson interpolation, and Nigerian singer Obongjayar guesting on the Afrobeat-inspired ‘Point and Kill’.
Neil: The fourth album from the British rapper Little Simz, is a dynamic balancing act between the public and the private. In places it is heavily orchestrated, featuring lush and luxurious strings, horn sections, choral flourishes, and a whole plethora of musicians; in other parts, it is a much more stripped back and intimate affair. This is rap music on the grandest of scales, yet it retains the personal aspect thanks to the confessional nature of tracks such as ‘I love you, I hate you’.

Tangaroa. / Alien Weaponry
Mark: Alien Weaponry return with their 2nd album. If you haven’t heard their debut album, imagine the Haka set to metal riffs, and that kind of sets the tone for their sophomore effort. ‘Tangaroa’ explores their Maori heritage, via native Maori stories reflecting contemporary issues, all set to a soundtrack of pummelling Metal drums and swaths of furious guitars.
Neil: The mighty Kiwi metal maniacs Alien Weaponry build on the form, shape and success of their intense debut LP outing ‘Tū’. ‘Tangaroa’, their sophomore album, is a relentless and hard-hitting call to arms and action, on a range of issues, from climate change to illegal fishing and some of the more troubled moments in Aotearoa / New Zealand’s history. Fans of their previous work will not be disappointed.

Habibi Funk : an eclectic selection of music from the Arab world. Part 2.
Mark: A follow up to the original 2017 compilation from the crate-digging Habibi label. A selection of funky, sinuous tracks that resonate with an otherworldly sense of time and soul. The bands and singers embrace, distort and offer up their own take on a surprising array of western music influences, from Reggae, Stax type soul, to 70s funk & Disco. Never a dull moment across the whole CD.
Neil: Seemingly compiled by raking through vinyl crates in record stores in the Arab world, this eclectic mixture of music features tracks from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. The tracks sound like music that has originated in a slightly altered parallel universe, close to our own but not quite the same. Imagine music to accompany an Arab world James Bond movie; or a Sudanese disco track that sounds vaguely like Madonna; or long-lost Arab World version of Ennio Morricone soundtracks. It all makes for a rather wonderful mixed bag of Sounds. Like a distorted mirror held up to various musical genres: at one level vaguely familiar, at another strangely Different.

Bills & Aches & Blues.
Mark: Compilation celebrating 40 years of the 4AD label, where contemporary artists put a new spin on older & newer 4AD classics. A bit hit & miss, like all compilations of this type. Perhaps functions better as a primer for a younger generation to seek out and explore the labels back catalogue.
Neil: A charity compilation album built around and celebrating 40 years of the venerable London based arty 4AD label that defined much of the best alternative music of the 80’s and 90’s. The rich diversity of the artists on the legendary label’s rota are well represented in this compilation, named after a Cocteau Twins track. And the range of tracks chosen, and the artists who cover them, is eclectic to say the least. And that basically is both the strength and weakness of this mixed bag of covers. Something for everyone, but not necessarily everything for everyone.

Back to the light. / May, Brian
Mark: Brian May Rocks You! with this Deluxe reissue of his first solo outing from 1992. He goes for a bit more of a hard rock sound than Queen at that point in time, but also tries to throw in a bit of everything else, from ballads to Country – no doubt to make a claim to his musical versatility. However this tends to pull the album down at certain points, with some weak lyrics and lightweight production on some tracks. As a singer he’s no Freddie, but he handles all the albums musical styles well enough. Definitely worth checking out if you’re a Queen fan.
Neil: A newly polished re-release of guitar god, and all-round good bloke, Brian Mays’s 1992 solo album. Perhaps not unexpectedly the result is a huge bombastic beast of an album with, surprise surprise, monstrous Queen like guitar riffs at every cut and turn. It’s a good hard rock album, but that said you can’t help having the suspicion that the whole endeavour would have had the makings of a classic rock album had the creative energies and inputs of his fellow Queen band mates been involved.

Good good feeling! : more Motown girls.
Mark: Part of the ongoing Motown Guys/Motown Girls reissue series from UK label Ace Records. These reissues round up some previously unreleased material from the vaults, along with tracks that were only available digitally as part of the ‘Motown Unreleased’ 1963-69 Copyright Extension Collections. Motown would just cut the same song on multiple artists until they felt they had a ‘hit, so there is an argument that this is just a lot of Motown filler that was never released for a reason. However, the average Motown track is still better than most of what passes for neo-soul today. Plenty of catchy & soulful grooves from familiar & lesser known Motown artists.
Neil: During its golden era from approx. 1965 to 1969 the Motown label could do no wrong, creating music that was to come to represent and become the soundtrack for a point, place, and time in American history. And this compilation from the likes of Glady’s Knight & the pips and Martha and the Vandellas, and a whole host of lesser-known female artists on the label, amply shows why, with well-known tracks alonside a few unreleased gems.

K bay. / White, Matthew E.
Mark: Third solo album for Matthew E. White and his blend of retro 60s/70s styles (reggae, vintage pop & R&B). More genres collide on his latest offering, not just within the album itself but also within tracks. A bit like someone crate-digging through their record collection, playing you something different with each track, or swapping genres halfway through a song, like the great track ‘Take Your Time (And Find That Orange to Squeeze)’, There’s a lot of musical textures at play, but it’s a testament to White’s talent that he makes it all work together in a seemingly effortless sprawl.
Neil:: Mathew E White steeps himself in the audio sensibilities of popular American music of the 1960’s and 70’s, without ever slavishly following it. Reputedly his Space Bomb studio is awash with vintage analogue equipment, and you can tell the warm analogue sound of this gear as it seeps into every pore of this release, which is also clearly infused with Mathew Whites own unique personality.

Refuge / Banhart, Devendra
Mark: Mellow instrumental album from the folky Devendra Banhart & producer/engineer Noah Georgeson. Inspired by their parents involvement in New Age culture when they were children, both artists had an interest in meditative ambient music, which they finally realized with this project during some time spent in quarantine. Soothing synthy reverbs, plucked harps and washes of strings. Atmospheric & quietly moving.
Neil: There is a but discernible thin line between the ambient artistically focussed works of people like Brian Eno or Jon Hassell, and the more meditative, mindful of the moment, relaxation music often described as New age music. And Refuge sits in the more meditative camp; long sustained chamber drones, with very slowly and sparsely placed ambient piano interwoven and intertwined amongst it. That’s not to deride this work; it is perfect background music to relax and unwind to, and I suspect that was the intent of the musicians who created it.

Directions in music, 1969 to 1973.
Mark: Every direction Jazz took after Miles Davis’ 2nd Quintet broke up in 1968 was the wrong one…
Neil: In the very late 60’s and early 70’s the ever-evolving musical medium of Jazz was at a crossroads. It had already moved through a plethora of forms since its creation: Swing and Dixieland to Trad and mainstream, on through Bebop and cool Jazz, and was now looking for a new direction a new place to expand into. Directions in music, 1969 to 1973 is a delicious snapshot of this creative cauldron of sound. And features all the key players such as Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and of course Miles Davis. It doesn’t quite reach out into the intense experimentation of the outer reaches of Jazz at the time, such as Bitches Brew, but is a slightly more gentle introduction to what was in the air at that time. And it could be said that in many senses after this creative explosion Jazz never found its way forward again, instead working around the filaments of creative energy from this moment and its past.

Box Set Pick:
Feel flows : the Sunflower & Surf’s up sessions 1969-1971 / Beach Boys
Mark: I always thought ‘Sunflower’ was a solid album, with ‘Surf’s Up’ less so. This massive 5-disc Boxset excavates the Beach Boys vaults for dozens of previously unreleased outtakes, alternate mixes, and a bunch of related tracks recorded at the same time. With Brian Wilson taking a less active role in the writing, other members of the group stepped up, resulting in a sometimes awkward melding of both forward and backward looking tracks & styles. There’s a lot of good music here that sits outside of the proper albums, but to hear it you do have to wade through quite a lot of less than good music. Perhaps one of those sets where it’s best to create your own preferred version of from the wealth of tracks on hand.
Neil: After the (well documented) fallout surrounding the events of the legendary Smile album, it is safe to say The Beach Boys were never the same again. Indeed, there are fragments from the Smile project dotted amongst these two albums. Their creative leader Brian literally went to bed and only occasionally put in appearances. That meant that the other Beach Boys had to step up to the creative plate. And this box set shows very well what that meant. There are some superb tracks (indeed some of the songs in this box set are amongst the Beach Boys best). Which is saying a lot, as they created some of the finest songs and albums of all time. However, there are also some much weaker works. The poorest pieces are sugar saccharine, middle of the road, songs that sounded dated and corny even when they were originally released. But the good stuff Wow! So, all in all a mixed bag, but if you are happy to sift through it all there are some total gems in amongst the corn.

New CDs for Te Awe

I’m Mark, the Music & Film Specialist at Wellington City Libraries (I also run the Libraries’ Wellington Music Facebook page). Every month my colleague Neil and I cast our eye over the new material we have been buying for the Music collection at our CBD Te Awe library and put our highlights here with some quick reviews of some new titles — our limit is a few lines only to distil down why you might want to listen. Do we actually know anything about new music? Can you encapsulate an entire album in just a couple of lines? Are we just too old to understand what most of this music is on about (see self-image below)? Read on to find out…

via GIPHY

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

Doomin’ sun. / Bachelor (Musical group)
Mark: More 90’s inspired pop/rock from collaborative project Bachelor (Ellen Kempner of Palehound, and Melina Duterte AKA Jay Som). There’s nothing original happening musically but it’s sincere and well crafted, with catchy tunes and fuzzy guitars. Enjoyable.
Neil: Bachelor, named ironically after the American reality show Bachelor nation, is indie rock at its most personal and confessional. The lyrics are a vulnerable concoction of tension and joy, love and insecurity intermingled in tales of real-life queer experience. The albums sound is mostly lo-fi minimalism, with occasional bursts of guitar coming through. It reminded me in parts of early Throwing Muses releases such as the Fat Skier.

Downhill from everywhere. / Browne, Jackson
Mark: Alongside Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, Browne is one of the quintessential singer/songwriters of the ’70s, with his folky, mature take on the lives of the Baby Boomer generation. ‘Downhill from everywhere’, his first album since 2014’s Standing in the Breach, offers up more of the same sensitive, introspective, folk-rock with charismatic easy listening tracks, that tackle the nexus of personal & social struggles that the world still offers up no matter how old you are.
Neil: Jackson Browne is one of those singer signwriting legends; a hugely accomplished and acclaimed artist. This is his first release in six years, and he has dropped hints that it may be his last release, indeed one of the tracks on the album is about his life after and beyond his music career. ‘Downhill from everywhere’ finds him in exceptional vintage form. The lyrics deal in a wide and rich detailed array of subject personal and beyond. They are warm, lyrical, and articulate. His voice is undiminished by range and, unsurprisingly, the musicians backing him are of the finest calibre. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the release date on this album, you could easily mistake this for one of his albums from his golden period of the 70’s and early 80’s. It this is to be his swansong, then it is a very fitting one.

Hotel Surrender. / Faker, Chet
Mark: Australian singer/songwriter Nick Murphy resurrects his Chet Faker moniker for another album of electronica, that segues between smooth grooves and relaxed vibes. Laid back cool that drifts along with no particular destination other than chilling you out.
Neil: Chet Faker is an invented musical space in singer Nicholas Murphy’s aka Chet Fakers head. It might sound a bit pretentious, but the music has a laid back 70’s feel to it. The songs live in the moment and ask the listener to appreciate the moment for what it is. There’s a mellow breezy, sunny warmth to the end results. As if you were floating in Chet’s private pool on a warm summer’s day staring up at a perfect blue sky.

Leave love out of this. / Tonnon, Anthonie
Mark: The Whanganui musician (and also new operator of the famous Durie Hill Elevator) is back with his third album of chamber pop meets synthesized sound. Guitars sit next to synth washes and drum machines, and styles shift from ambient house to intimate ballads and swirling vocals. An ambitious piece of work that aims for epic in scale and often succeeds.
Neil: Aotearoan musician Anthonie Tonnon has been perfecting his musical art over many years. ‘And Leave love out of this’ feels like a culmination and synthesis of all this labour. Crystalline slabs of 80’s synth punctuate stylishly crafted balladeer songs, full of empathy and melodic subtly.

Mammoth WVH. / Mammoth WVH
Mark: WVH is Wolfgang William Van Halen, son of guitarist Eddie Van Halen, and the bassist for Van Halen from 2006 to 2020. His debut album ‘Mammoth’, on which he played every instrument, is very much a classic stadium rock album in the vein of classic Foo Fighters or Stone Temple Pilots. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as this album of big fun riff driven songs proves. On the basis of this album Guns N’ Roses picked him as the support act for their recent US Tour.
Neil: Being the son of rock legend Eddie Van Halen and playing bass for your fathers’ band Van Halen for the past 14 years perhaps leads to expectations about what your first solo outing might sound like. However, Wolfgang Van Halen’s Mammoth, in which he incidentally performs all instruments and vocals, is not the cookie cutter album you might have expected. Sure, its mainstream stadium hard rock at its core but there are also elements of grunge, metal, and alternative rock in there too.

Man made. / Greentea Peng
Mark: Greentea Peng is the moniker of Aria Wells, a ‘psychedelic’ R’n’B singer and songwriter from London. On the strength of her 2018 EP she made The Observer newspaper’s 20 for 2020 list of rising stars in music, media and culture. Debut album ‘Man Made’ is Hip-Hop meets dub reggae, with a political stance focusing on the voices of youth, with themes of unity & spirituality. Hazy beats surround positive matra’s and messages.
Neil: Hazy rap with slight nods to the likes of De La Soul or A Tribe Called Quest with distinctive elements of cool Jazz, psychedelia and chilled Reggae thrown in. ‘Man Made’ is still very much Greentea Peng’s unique approach to music and life, with its idiosyncratic and distinctive sound. It makes for a very hip and happening summer soundtrack without being too intense.

Peace or love. / Kings of Convenience
Mark: The indie folk-pop duo from Norway return after 12 years with a new album. A distillation of their previous albums sounds, this is a lovely tranquil acoustic set with touches of bossa-nova. Reflective easy listening of the very best kind. Great to relax to at the end of the day.
Neil: Kings of convenience are regarded as part of the “new acoustic” movement, but the Norwegian duo’s elegant, melodic, carefully constructed songs lift them well above this clumsy and lazy description. Dreamy easy listening that is delicate, relaxed, and beautiful.

Prosthetic boombox. / Cola Boyy
Mark: Cola Boyy is Matthew Urango, who was born with spina bifida, kyphosis and scoliosis, as well as a club foot. His debut album, Prosthetic Boombox, was released by the French label Record Makers & features appearances from Nicolas Godin of Air and Andrew VanWyngarden. Deliriously giddy funky disco anthems reign supreme on this debut album, that’s all about fighting for who you are. The (deliberate I’m sure) cheesiness of some of the music only adds to the fun. Sort of like the soundtrack that your cab driver in ‘Grand Theft Auto: New York in the 70’s’ would be playing as you drive to Studio 54…
Neil: Cola Boyy’s debut album sounds like his own very personal and unique take on 80’s disco funk with a slightly psychedelic twist. A playful, upbeat sugar rush of sound that also embraces elements of house. So far so good but there’s much more to Prosthetic Boombox as the title, album cover and lyrics allude to. His powerful struggle with the discrimination and prejudice associated with his disabilities feature in the lyrics often in an upbeat and factual fashion.

Sharecropper’s son. / Finley, Robert
Mark: Robert Finley is an American blues and soul singer-songwriter who released his debut album at age 63. That led to meeting Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, who produced and co-wrote his 2nd album. This follow-up, also produced by Auerbach, is a series of autobiographical tracks based on his upbringing on a crop share in Louisiana. More southern soul than blues, Finley has a fantastically authentic voice, and the tales he tells are of real struggles and hard won successes, the triumph of spirit over circumstances.
Neil: Robert Finley possesses one of those unforgettable husky soul blues voices, that sounds straight out of the classic recordings in that genre from the 50’s or 60’s. But Robert Finlay is not an artist recreating the sound of the past; he is the real deal. He only came to a career in music in his sixties, after a lifetime of experience that included attending a segregated school, having to spend his childhood picking cotton, house fires, car crashes and going blind. He said that going blind lead him to pursue his singing late in life. His previous two albums shot him to almost immediate acclaim. You can hear this lifetime of experience seeping through every aspect of this autobiographical work. The production by Dan Auerbach from The black Keys perfectly complements. A powerful and pitch-perfect, timeless, and instant classic soul blues album.

Thirstier. / Torres
Mark: Fifth full-length album from Mackenzie Scott (Aka Torres) is a slick slice of hooky pop-grunge. She was aiming for a big sound and a larger than life scope, different from the more restrained aesthetic of her previous albums. ‘Thirstier’ delivers that in spades, with a set of uplifting indie rock throwbacks.
Neil: ‘Thirstier’ by Torres is a big sounding, riff heavy, hook laden, euphoric sounding indie rock album, with heavy guitars thrown in. It’s an exuberant upbeat outing, with a grunge rock set free rolling vibe about it. A great happy alternative sing along album for uncertain times.

I be trying. / Burnside, Cedric
Mark: Old school Mississippi country blues, with some modern touches, from the grandson of R.L. Burnside. Perseverance through life’s struggle and your own mistakes, and the power of love are the focus of this update of a storied musical style.
Neil: Cedric Burnside is on a revival and resurrection mission. His album breathes new life and makes fresh the Mississippi blues tradition of giants like John Lee Hooker. The album manages to be reverential to that tradition, whilst not sounding like a museum piece. Indeed the music sounds fresh and vibrant. The lyrics are often of self-discovery, admissions of an imperfect past and the hard lessons learned. A valuable revitalisation of a rich musical tradition that has deep roots into America’s social history.

Gas lit / Divide and Dissolve
Mark: Female Melbourne-based two-piece with Cherokee & Māori ancestry, whose 3rd album is produced Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson. Eight tracks of sludgy doom shift between quiet beauty and cacophonic noise. Dread and unease abound on these heavy tracks, that the band say are an instrumental critique of colonialism and oppression.
Neil: ‘Divide and dissolve’ has a strong dynamic going on, moving as it does from ethereal and haunting melodic moments to intense loud and full-on heavy drone doom metal. It’s quite an achievement mixing political sludge metal with avant-garde classical structured jazz. A ride full of passion and intensity both challenging and rewarding.

Jump for joy. / Louris, Gary
Mark: The 2nd solo album from the ex-Jayhawk arrives 13 years afters 2008’s Vagabonds. Louris plays every instrument on this set of songs, that range through melodic pop tracks, to darker more personal ruminations. Similar in tone to the albums made as Golden Smog, the loose collective featuring Louris and members of Soul Asylum, Wilco, the Replacements, and Big Star. Breezy jangle pop meets Americana reflections. While the Jayhawks continue on as one of the iconic Americana groups, it’s nice to hear him stepping out on his own again.
Neil: Gary Louris from The Jayhawks is very much following the radio friendly singer songwriter path in this album. ‘Jump for Joy’ is his second solo album, and it is a thoughtful and well-crafted outing. The tracks remind me of George Harrison penned Beatles tracks, or songs that would sit well on the first Travelling Wilburys album.

Oil of every pearl’s un-insides. / Sophie [VINYL ONLY]
Mark: There’s no denying the production talent and vision at play here, as Sophie creates her multi-layered tracks without using any samples. Her body of work, though small, erased genre, geographic and emotional boundaries to create a maximalist pop that’s an ongoing influence on young hyperpop Tik-Tokers and Electronic music in general. Her ‘radical futurism’ blended the experimental & the mainstream, and was the direct anthesis of the cultivated nostalgia of so much ‘modern’ music and bands. However if you are unfamiliar with her work, how much you like this album will probably depend on how much helium voices and vocal processing you can stand at one time.
Neil: The death of Sophie Xeon in January this year was a tragedy in so many ways. The personal tragedy of losing someone so young is incalculable, and the loss to music of such a unique hugely gifted pioneering artist is equally immense. We will never know or hear those albums she would have gone on to create. What we do have is Sophie’s only album ‘Oil on every pearl’s un-insides’. This is one of a very few genuine 21st century masterpieces. One of the few albums in recent decades that point to a new musical future, direction, form, and language.

Urban driftwood. / Williams, Yasmin
Mark: Lovely mellow instrumental guitar album. Made a Guardian list of the Best Albums of 2021 so far. Immersive and relaxing.
Neil: Very smooth and immersive instrumental guitar album. Described by Yasmin herself as an abstract diary of 2020. At the albums heart is Yasmin’s virtuosic, serene, and eminently relaxing guitar playing – which is both intimate and immediate. A very soothing listen.

 

Revelation. / Carn, Doug
Mark: Doug Carn was a Jazz multi-instrumentalist whose 4 albums on the short lived but influential Black Jazz label pioneered the ‘Spiritual’ Jazz sound, with its Afro-centric musical aesthetic. ‘Revelation’ was the final collaboration between Carn and his wife Jean on the label. Organ, keys & horns form the basis of modal post bop tunes, including a lovely reading of John Coltrane’s “Naima”, all surrounded and interwoven with Carn’s beautifully soulful five-octave voice. Hugely influential. Carn would later add an extra ‘e’ to her surname and go on to much success as a solo R&B artist on Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International label & beyond.
Neil: Rerelease of the 1973 album out originally on the short lived, but hugely influential, Black Jazz label from Doug and Jean Carn. Doug’s name may have been on the cover, but this is very much a joint effort with his then wife Jean. It is quintessentially a very 70’s Jazz album with elements of spiritual and soul jazz. In many ways the album is a fascinating and perfect time capsule of a piece from that time period. Right from the arrangements, to the selection of instruments used, not to mention the subjects explored. That said, it is rather wonderful in its own unique way, and due to the current music worlds obsession with the music and sound of that time, it is bound to win lots of new fans

Memory lake. / Rivers, Colette
Mark: Classy singer/songwriter-country album similar to the work of Kim Richey or Gretchen Peters. Alt-rock elements take some tracks in a different direction and vary things up. An impressive debut from this Wgtn based artist.
Neil: American born New Zealander Colette River’s debut album has many faces, facets and sides, with Colette using a diverse and multi layered sound palette in a tailored fashion to accompany individual tracks. The whole album is underpinned by an American Indie Folk core. Her willingness to use different instrumentation and sounds gives each track its own individual feel. A very accomplished debut outing.

Run deep. / Mahal, Deva
Mark: Born in Hawaii but raised in NZ, Deva Mahal was part of the Wgtn scene in the 2000’s guesting on albums from Sola Rosa & Rhombus, and cutting a live EP. After living in the US for a while, where she released this 2018 album, she returned to NZ in 2020. Her rich voice is framed within a classicist neo-soul outing that travels a musical path of uplifting R&B, piano ballads, 70s funk & 80s pop elements, based around themes of love, heartbreak & empowerment. ‘Wicked’ & ‘Optimist’ liven things up a bit, and ‘It’s down to you’ has a lovely old-school vibe. But as a whole, the album is perhaps limited by the over familiarity of the ‘Neo-Soul’ template at this point.
Neil: Classical Soul music, enriched and revitalised, in a contemporary and modern setting by Deva Mahal in this heartfelt debut album. Echoes of greats like Aretha Franklin’s work lingers on in this strong and substantial R&B offering that feels both relevant and new, whilst also having deep connections to the rich tradition of this musical form. Deva has placed her own unique interpretation of this musical genre into every aspect of this album, much in the same way as Amy Winehouse managed to do so, integrating both her own vision and at the same time paying her dues to this rich musical heritage.

Obviously. / Lake Street Dive
Mark: 7th album from this Boston indie Music-school band who play bubbly slick pop-soul. The band is built around singer Rachael Price’s voice, which has a distinctly classic tone. I really enjoyed this. All the songs are super catchy and, while this album emulates the same genres as a lot of other albums on this list, the songs are just so much better. The arrangements all have a live uncluttered feel, you can hear each instrument in the mix, and how they work cleverly around Price’s voice. Definitely a winner.
Neil: Obviously, there’s something about the early 70’s music scene that attracts a lot of modern bands to that particular period and music. And there’s more sweet 70’s influenced musical vibes going on here, with Lake Street Dive’s seventh studio album ‘Obviously’. This time it’s the funky, soulful pop of the time that the band are taking their musical queues from. ‘Obviously’ is a good time, slightly chilled, summer concert party of an album. A retro sounding, beautifully produced and well executed album, played by highly talented musicians at the peak of their powers.

Box Set Pick:
Aretha. / Franklin, Aretha
Mark: The first career spanning Box Set for the Queen of Soul. Covers most of her well known tracks, though some are in alternate or demo form, as well as some interesting rarities from TV show appearances and the like. What more can you really say about one of the greatest voices of the 20th Century that hasn’t already been said. It’s Aretha…
Neil: Reviewing this career spanning four-disc box set is just an excuse for me to wax lyrical about how amazingly, phenomenally, wonderful Aretha Franklin was and is. The box set is packed with all the well-known tracks (though usually in alternative versions) and career highlights, as well as lost gems from the vaults. Aretha Franklin is one of the greatest singers of all time with a voice that melts, hearts, souls and reaches out and across time. It goes without saying that the music contained in this box set is unmissable and peerless, and the compilers have taken a lot of care to feature alternative takes mixes and rarities.

A little lightspeed music and reading for Space Week

Benson, Arizona, blew warm wind through your hair
My body flies the galaxy, my heart longs to be there
Benson, Arizona, the same stars in the sky
But they seemed so much kinder when we watched them, you and I.

Chorus to “Benson, Arizona” by John Carpenter, Bill Taylor and Dominik Hauser (from Dark Star)

The 4th to the 10th of October 2021 is World Space Week, where we celebrate the accomplishments humankind has made in exploring and studying the cosmos.

While scientists, engineers, and astronauts work to broaden our understanding of planets and galaxies beyond our own, writers, musicians and artists are already light-years ahead of the curve with imagining life in space; not just from the idealistic view that we’ll find better worlds when we leave our old one behind, but critiquing that idea as well. John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon’s Dark Star, for instance, deflates the idea that life in space will allow us to achieve a new state of cosmic enlightenment and technological efficiency; instead they present it as just another work-a-day job, like trucking or an office job today.

Here’s a list of new and lesser-known music, books and films to explore for Space Week 2021:


Planetarium / Stevens, Sufjan
“Inspired by the Solar System, Planetarium‘s 17 tracks are named after celestial objects and related phenomena. Each piece is a musical mini-drama, with the glistening wash of “Halley’s Comet” lasting about 30 seconds, and “Earth” getting the most attention at around 15 minutes. Keyboard instruments ranging from piano, organ, and celeste to Mellotron, Moog, and other synths blend with Stevens’ airy vocal timbre.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Trilogy; past present and future. / Sinatra, Frank
“One of Frank Sinatra’s final albums, Trilogy is a three-part celebration of his career, covering his classics (Past), some then-new songs (Present), and a finale ‘Future’ that is both baffling and strangely compelling. In Future, Frank imagines a distant age where one can travel the Solar System in an afternoon, and how mankind achieved an era of peace by burning all of Earth’s weapons (‘World War None’). It’s worth listening to just for the sheer dissonance of hearing ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’ sing about spaceships.”

Dark star
“Dark Star was a student film expanded to theatrical length, directed by John Carpenter (Halloween, Escape From New York) and written by Carpenter’s UCLA classmate Dan O’Bannon (who later retooled one sequence of the film into the script for a little production you may have heard of called Alien). The film is a pastiche of 2001: A Space Odyssey, following a crew of spaceship workers who have the thankless task of dropping bombs on unstable planets for an interstellar mega-corporation. A deeply underrated and underseen cult-classic that inspired the likes of Red Dwarf and Red vs Blue, Dark Star is essential viewing for any fan of sci-fi comedy.”

Persephone Station / Leicht, Stina
“On the backwater planet of Brynner, a community of android refugees, all female, are hiding since they were able to awaken their AI and escape servitude. But the Serrao-Orlov Corporation is nothing if not tenacious, and it wants their property back. However, Persephone is run by Rosie, and they are in charge of an organized group of beneficent criminals and assassins, along with a bunch of worn mercenaries who have a thing for doing the honorable thing, despite the odds.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Will save the galaxy for food / Croshaw, Yahtzee
“Space travel just isn’t what it used to be. With the invention of Quantum Teleportation, space heroes aren’t needed anymore. When one particularly unlucky ex-adventurer masquerades as famous pilot and hate figure Jacques McKeown, he’s sucked into an ever-deepening corporate and political intrigue. Between space pirates, adorable deadly creatures, and a missing fortune in royalties, saving the universe was never this difficult!” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The farthest : the story of Voyager : 12 billion miles, and counting
“In 1977, NASA launched the Voyager missions as a way of exploring the solar system’s outermost planets, capturing images of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and their moons. “The farthest” documents Voyager’s journey, including first-hand accounts of the men and women who built the ships and guided their missions. Bonus film Second Genesis explores the scientific quest to find life, or evidence of it, beyond Earth.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Mooncop / Gauld, Tom
“The lunar colony is slowly winding down, like a small town circumvented by a new super highway. As our hero, the Mooncop, makes his daily rounds, his beat grows ever smaller, the population dwindles. A young girl runs away, a dog breaks off his leash, an automaton wanders off from the Museum. Mooncop is equal parts funny and melancholy, capturing essential truths about humanity and making this a story of the past, present, and future, all in one.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

We only find them when they’re dead. Book one, The seeker / Ewing, Al
“Captain Malik and the crew of his spaceship are in search of the only resources that matter – and can only be found by harvesting the giant corpses of alien gods that are found on the edge of human space. And now they see an opportunity to finally break free from this system: by being the first to find a living god.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

New Music for your Lockdown listening!

I’m Mark, the Customer Specialist for Music & Film at Wellington City Libraries. Luckily for you (or perhaps not) thanks to the wonders of modern technology, the musical bromance my colleague Neil & I share can continue unabated during lockdown. We sifted through some of the new material we have been buying for the Music collection at our CBD Te Awe library to do some reviews for you, so you can now check out some new music during lockdown with the confidence that it won’t all be total rubbish and a complete waste of time…
[Note: With the exception of Disc 2 of the Jimmy London album, all of these titles are on Spotify. However, if you enjoy some of them please take the time to reserve them online, and show our collection some love when the Library reopens.]

via GIPHY

For free. / Crosby, David
Mark: Another strong entry in Crosby’s late career resurgence, with a mellow AOR sheen. Guests Michael MacDonald & Donald Fagan lend further gloss to this smooth album of relaxed harmonies, and 70s vibes. A solid set of songs reflect on growing old, regret, loss and perseverance.
Neil: For an artist totally written off as a drug casualty in the 80’s, David Crosby has in the last twenty years or so staged a truly miraculous revival releasing a series of solo works that rank amongst some of his best work. And considering his output in the late 60s and 70s that is saying a lot. And ‘For Free’ stands as one of these renaissance classics it is a poignant meditation on his own mortality, AND a beautifully constructed and sung album. Songs about life, love, the past and the present, and death. The inner and outer worlds of life as he has experienced them and as he sees them now.

Bridge over troubled waters. / London, Jimmy
Mark: Cheery Red resurrects overlooked Jamaican Reggae crooner Jimmy London with his rare 1972 album reissued with 4 bonus tracks, along with a 2nd compilation disc of tracks from Trojan’s Randy’s subsidiary label. His sweet pure voice lends a wistful romantic tone to these soulful tracks of love & longing.
Neil: Very welcome release of Jimmy London’s classic 1972 album ‘Bridge over troubled waters’. A reggae rock steady masterpiece, the track “A little love” was used by the then major of London Ken Livingston to promote the city.

Quietly blowing it. / Hiss Golden Messenger
Mark: Vocalist/songwriter M.C. Taylor returns with another album under the Hiss Golden Messenger moniker. A melange of Alt-Country, Folk/Pop, and slow 70s grooves provide the backdrop for a melancholic and sometimes angry look at the world of 2021. Rootsy back porch meditations set to upbeat melodies, that aim to provide a sense of optimism going forward.
Neil: A soothing rustic chilled Americana album with country folk stylings recorded, like a lot of recent work, in isolation during the early months of the pandemic in North Carolina. A calming album for troubled times.

Stand for myself. / Yola
Mark: Yolanda Quartey is a UK singer (now based in Nashville) with a love for late 60s/70’s artists who amalgamated R&B, Pop & Country. Producer Dan Auerbach creates a lush layered vintage sound that steeps Yola’s amazing voice in classic style & grooves, built around her strong original songs addressing contemporary themes. Shades of Tina Turner, Minnie Ripperton or Bettye Swann. An impressive follow up to 2019’s acclaimed Walk Through Fire.
Neil: Yola”s sophomore album is another Covid creation in which Yola took the opportunity step away from the star making machine and instead to look deep into who she is and wants to identify herself as, and places this firmly at the core of this album. It is an accomplished and genre jumping work that reminded me in places of some of the great Disco, soul R n B albums of the 70s and 80s, mainly thanks to Yola’s voice, which is set amongst unvarnished, unprocessed musical backings.

Yacht soul : the cover versions.
Mark: This cool compilation turns the tables on white musicians appropriating black music, by gathering together a bunch of Soul artists who interpreted various white MOR 70s FM and 80’s ‘Yacht Rock’ tracks. Unsurprisingly Aretha, Chaka Khan, Billy Paul, Millie Jackson et all add a layer of funky grooves to these white bread staples. Sadly the version of Seals & Crofts ‘Summer Breeze’ is from The Main Ingredient instead of the Isley Brothers version. Still good though…
Neil: Funky, smooth, soulful cover versions of classic AOR, Laurel Canyon Hippie classics with most of the tracks originating in the 70’s and 80’s. It shouldn’t work but it does. Two very different genres looking at each other and bringing out something new and rather wonderful. Imaging sailing on a beautiful summer’s day in 1974 with friends.

Animal. / Lump
Mark: The 2018 album from this side project of Laura Marling and Tunng’s Mike Lindsay seemed a a one-off, but they are back with more weird dynamics. The aim seems to be just to see where their disparate styles take them – through dark lyrics underpinned by meandering folktronica melodies, odd shifts & time signatures. I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t seem to go anywhere. Tracy Thorn does this sort of thing far better.
Neil: Mike Lindsay (of Tunng) creates the musical settings whilst Laura Marling supplies the vocals and lyrics, The resulting album is a glittering genre mashing, boundary pushing collection of tracks, the duo are obviously well up some musical explorations, it very occasionally reminded me of Radiohead esp. some of the oblique and odd imagery employed in some of the lyrics, and also some of the angular minimalist musical settings.

Mirror II / Goon Sax
Mark: Goon Sax were still at school when their 2016 debut album Up to Anything came out. Their cute indie-pop garnered natural comparisons to the Go-Betweens, given that frontman Louis Forster is the son of Go-Betweens Robert Forster. ‘Mirror II’ is their 3rd album, following 2018’s We’re not talking, and they eschew the Beat Happening 80s sound of their previous work for a full on dive into the 90s sound with Lemonhead-esque pop, shoegazzy guitars, male/female vocals and new wavey synths. Each member now shares vocal duties and have developed their own particular style as they have grown musically over the course of 3 albums. And ‘growing up’ is really what their song are about – the awkwardness & messy discontent of being young people at this current point in time. Their best album so far.
Neil: The Brisbane dolewave trio’s latest release revels in the complexities, difficulties and embossments associated with being a twenty-something in modern day Australia. Post punk young adult angst for the 21st Century.

Outside child. / Russell, Allison
Mark: Critically lauded solo debut from Montreal native and veteran of the Roots scene with bands Po’ Girl, Birds of Chicago & roots supergroup Our Native Daughters, which also features Rhiannon Giddens. The gentle, enveloping, music with its beautiful layered arrangements frames a haunting ‘musical memoir’, re-telling an upbringing of childhood sexual abuse and street living. It all sounds a pretty heavy listen, but there is a lightness to the melodic, organic, music that enlivens the weighty backstory. Full of powerful odes to her past self and experiences, as well as the city and music that gave her new hope. Sure to be a Grammy nominee and wind up on the Best of 2021 lists at the end of the year.
Neil: French Canadian singer Allison Russell’s impressive debut album is a deep soulful work, hotly tipped by many as one of the albums of the year. It is styled a beautiful classic soul pop album that showcases her gorgeous voice in a series of melodic tracks. Behind the surface production and beauty is an album that is, on occasion, starkly dark and heart rendering. Lyrics about her own childhood abuse and recovery are set in an often-uplifting survivor context.

Exit wounds / Wallflowers
Mark: Jakob Dylan’s band The Wallflowers were essentially a revolving door of different studio & live musicians based around his writing, which led to certain conflicts along the way in terms of the ability to execute his songs. With his return after a 9 year break, Dylan sounds much more comfortable with the bands classic roots-rock sound than on previous album, 2012’s Glad All Over, which never really gelled. A nice set of solid melodic songs about life’s struggles are a reminder of why they were such a consistently good band. Shelby Lynne provides nice harmony vocals on 4 tracks.
Neil: Considering the fact that his father is Bob Dylan and his upbringing was steeped in music it is no surprise that Jakob Dylan, the self-styled cowboy troubadour, is such a gifted and highly literate musician. However, Jacob brings more than his background to the Wallflowers outfit, he also brings passion and personal reflection to his work, perhaps even most pointedly in this his latest outing ‘Exit Wounds’. If you’re a fan of classic 70’s American folk rock or highway ballads, then this album should be right up your street.

Pale horse rider. / Hanson, Cory
Mark: Melancholic folky meditations from the frontman of LA art-rockers Wand. His second solo album, after 2016’s The Unborn Capitalist from Limbo, is pure Americana. Waves of lush lilting arrangements wrap around his mellow gentle vocals. The musical equivalent of a calming walk through a meditative landscape whilst staring up at the stars.
Neil: Another isolation album this time recorded in the Mojave Desert whilst surrounded by cacti and majestic desolate nature. The resulting work is a kind of psychedelic cowboy fantasy, all plaintive steel guitars, drifting sands and sun lazy weirdness, but infused with a gentle vibe throughout.

Love drips and gathers. / Piroshka
Mark: Piroshka is an English Indie-pop supergroup with Lush’s Miki Berenyi, Elastica’s Justin Welch, Moose’s K.J. McKillop, and Modern English’s Mick Conroy, that emerged from the Lush 2015-6 reunion line-up. Following on from their 2019 debut Brickbat, their new album focuses more on their dreamy shoegaze style, rather than some of the New Wave elements introduced on their debut, with strings swirling around layered instruments and vocals. Well worth checking out of you were a Lush fan. And who wasn’t, really?
Neil: A subtle rather surreal and ethereal album, all wrapped up in warm idyllic soundscapes that evoke both beauty, and a kind off early 70’s Roxy music nostalgia.

Mood valiant. / Hiatus Kouyate
Mark: 3rd album from Australian ‘Future-soul’ Grammy-nominated alternative R&B band. Skittery beats that have a Dubstep/D&B feel, underpin neo-soul vocalising reminiscent of Eryakh Badu & Corinne Bailey Rae. The frenetic key & tempo changes, rapid fire vocals, and jittery rhythms occasionally give it too much of a ‘Music School graduates’ feel, but their third album sees them establishing a uniquely individual sound.
Neil: The Australian future soul super group’s latest release is another slick and ultra-smooth release, mixing in their own inimitable way cool jazz, neo soul and R&B. Hugely popular in hip and trendy bars and clubs globally, but perhaps just a little slightly too slick and controlled in all areas for my tastes.

Mother Nature. / Kidjo, Angélique
Mark: Beninese singer, songwriter, and activist Angélique Kidjo returns with her first album of original material since 2014’s Eve, collaborating with a younger generation of musicians like Burna Boy, and Sampa the Great, crossing continents & generations. She uses this fusion of percussive pan-African traditional styles with modern dance, Hip-Hop & trap grooves with her Fon, Yoruba, French, and English vocals, to comment on various current issues around political resistance & female empowerment. Strong messages surround by catchy funky danceable beats.
Neil:Kidjo, Angélique has been described by some reviewers as Africa’s premiere diva and now recognised across the World, thanks in part to singing at the recent Tokyo Olympics. This multi guest album expounds her vision of pan African unity. Infectious rhythms and her love of Zimbabwean township music all play a role in this potent mix. Her fabulous reimagining of the Talking Heads Remain In Light album is well worth checking out too!

Welcome 2 America. / Prince
Mark: Unreleased album from the Prince vaults recorded & mixed in 2010, but then set aside for unknown reasons. None of the songs were ever played live, so its existence & unearthing was big news for Prince fans this year. Prince created so much music in the later phase of his career, so how much you enjoy this will probably depend on how devoted you are to the independent phase of his career, with its shifting styles, and touches of genius buried within lots of filler. ‘Welcome 2 America’ has some great, catchy, tracks on social empowerment (that seem even more relevant today) and some soulful ballads, but also some of the jazz-funk filler that typified his albums from that era. Overall though it’s probably more consistently enjoyable than a lot of his albums from the 2010’s, so its good that it has finally seen the light of day at last.
Neil: Whilst there is no argument that Prince created some of the greatest albums of the 80’s it is also true that the release of material since his death has been patchy in quality. Sadly, this album of totally unreleased tracks falls into this category. It’s is a ‘state of the nation’ album originally scheduled for a 2010 release, intended as a kind of updated version of the brilliant Sign ‘O’ The Times, but it lacks that albums originality, bite and passion. Prince is always worth listening to and there are one or two good tracks on the album, but it is also clear from listening to the final overall work why he choose to leave it unrealised.

The blue elephant. / Berry, Matt
Mark: Actor-Musician Matt Berry (The Mighty Boosh, The IT Crowd) likes to deliver albums re-creating particular styles of music he is a fan of. Pastoral folk-rock for 2013’s ‘Kill the Wolf’, new age synthesizer music for 2014’s Music for Insomniacs, and country-rock (2020’s Phantom Birds). He is back with a new album square the the psychedelic realm with new album ‘The blue elephant’. All the faders are set to reverb, splashy snares hit every few seconds, chorale voices back meandering tunes as his actor-ish tones and song arrangements hit all the psych buttons you could push. One for fans of the genre. Anyone else might feel like they’ve dialled in a lost pirate radio station from the 60s…
Neil: You might be more familiar with Matt Berry’s as the award-winning actor, comedian in outings such as ‘The Mighty Boosh’ or the 2015 SpongeBob movie. However, he has always run his music career in parallel with his acting one. A prolific musician with nine studio albums to his name. In ‘The Blue Elephant’ he has made a work that is a huge homage to the music of the late 60’s. Let’s be clear this isn’t a comedy album in any sense of the word, instead it’s a serious recreation of the music of flower-power age. And if you enjoy music from this time, then I think you are onto a real winner.

Drama. / Amarante, Rodrigo
Mark: A Rio de Janeiro native who now calls Los Angeles home. Known for the rock quartet Los Hermanos (who were huge in Brazil) and his track Tuyo which is the theme song on the popular Netflix series Narcos. ‘Drama’ is his second solo outing, following 2014’s Cavalo. Lovely atmospheric laid back Brazilian samba/tango rhythms, with 4 tracks in English, shifting from the upbeat to the romantic. A perfectly relaxed, soothing album for the times we find ourselves in. Amarante apparently recorded most of the album himself, and plays no less than 10 of its instruments.
Neil: Born in Rio De Janeiro, Rodrigo Amarante uses his rich cultural heritage to fullest advantage, whilst bringing a large dollop of his own creativity to the party. It is a laid-back party, but no worse for that. It is the kind of music you can imagine taking it easy to on a long hot summer’s day. Another blissful, gentle album, this time Samba inspired with acoustic singer-songwriter elements woven in.

KG0516. / Karol G
Mark: Colombian pop singer who mixes reggaeton, hip-hop, & modern R&B. She spent a decade as a guest and backing vocalist before Ahora Me Llama with Bad Bunny in 2017 launched her solo career. KG0516 is her 3rd album and is a catchy mix of pop-reggaetón, urbano & Latin trap. The US is supposedly in the midst of a second wave of Latin crossover success after the 2000’s and this album, which has already made a Guardian list of the Best albums of 2021 so far, will no doubt place her as one of the key female artists currently in Latin music.
Neil: Colombian singer Karol G’s latest album takes its title from the format of a flight number representing her name. It’s a clever idea and well named, as each track in this album in the artists own words “is a connecting flight that takes you to a new place”. It’s Karol’s own version of a musical journey, the tango tinged modern urban sound and production overlays a versatile range of tracks, each with a slightly different emotional emphasis.

Reason to live. / Barlow, Lou
Mark: 6th solo album from this iconic indie music figure, who has been a member of Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, and the Folk Implosion. A homage to his early lo-fi aesthetic (but with better modern gear) he recorded this album at his home, and played everything himself except for drums on one track. Folky, introspective, searching songs that confront anxieties both personal and political. Mature and thoughtful, proof that domestic happiness hasn’t dulled his song-writing skills.
Neil: A million miles away from his Dinosaur Jnr output, Lou Barlow’s downbeat vocals and acoustic guitar driven lo fi production are in places reminiscent of Nick Drake. The lyrics mine a rich vein of heartbreak and critical self-introspection. That all said, there is undoubtedly a warmth and optimism woven through the tracks too. The result is delicate, beautiful, and slightly melancholic and well worth a listen.

After robots. / BLK JKS
Mark: We just purchased the new sophomore 2021 album ‘Abantu/Before Humans’ from BLK JKS, so we thought we would also track down their critically lauded debut from 2009. This will end up in the world section, but it is just as much an alternative rock album, as turning the tables, the South African musicians take on Western music traditions, instead of the other way round. A dense hybrid of 60’s hard rock, proggy rhythms, jazz, afrobeat, reggae and much more. Repeated listens are needed to make headway into this album, which still sounds ahead of its time 12 years on. Challenging but rewarding.
Neil: After Robots is a hugely ambitious project, with the band trying to fuse elements of prog rock, ska, jazz kwaito and reggae (and those were just the genres I spotted) into a cohesive whole. In places it is great, and their ambition pays off. In other places the weight of this ambition pulls it down, and the album loses focus and clarity, but the big sound they strive for is powerful throughout.

Get out of your own way. / Sands, Evie
Mark: Much like Jackie DeShannon, Evie Sands is a pioneering 1960’s singer, who had the bad luck of being the first artist to record a number of well know songs that went onto become big hits for others. She was the first singer to record “Angel of the Morning” for example, weeks before her label went bankrupt & the song became an massive hit for another singer. She spent most of the 70s focusing on songwriting, only releasing 2 albums before retiring completely. After a comeback album in 1999, ‘Get out of your own way’ is her first solo recording in 22 years, and it’s just great. A super catchy set of melodic country-tinged pop songs that sound timeless.
Neil: American singer songwriter Evie Sands began her career in the 60’s when she was just a teenager. Possessing a distinctive powerful and unique blue-eyed soul voice no less than Dusty Springfield described her as her favourite singer. She’s weathered the highs and lows of the music industry for the best part of 60 years. This new collection sounds like it could have been recorded at any point in career, from the mid seventies onwards. Accompanied by a strong band and her undiminished vocals, basically it is a collection of American classic pop-rock ballad songs that have soulful elements.

I know I’m funny haha. / Webster, Faye
Mark: The music photographer/indie-singer returns with a new album after the breakout success of 2019’s Atlanta Millionaires Club. She has a lovely voice, and the album is full of lovelorn ballads and sad moods, delivered in laid back washes of country-ish pedal steel and strings. Her tart lyrics often uncut the sweetness of her drowsy meditations on love & loneliness. Lead off song, the 2020 single ‘Better Distractions’ landed on Barack Obama’s annual year-end playlist. Really enjoyed this one.
Neil: The sad, plaintive and beautiful voice of Faye Webster is put to excellent use in ‘I know I’m funny ha-ha’. A lonesome, indie country, haunting, steel guitar heavy album of songs about the emotional emptiness of life’s sadder moments. It is a testament to the albums musical balance that it never sounds like a dirge, or lacking in emotional conviction.

Home video. / Dacus, Lucy
Mark: The solo artist (and member of ‘Boygenius’, a trio with fellow breakout 20-something singer/songwriters Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers) returns with her 3rd solo album, which looks back on coming of age in her hometown. Her warm emotive voice looks back on her childhood & adolescence with vignettes on relationships, the influence of the Church on young women, and sexuality. These poignant reflections would seem to lend themselves to a folky acoustic mileau, but Dacus rocks out with a power-pop feel to the most traks, leavened with some guitar & keys based ballads. The perspective of her 20s provides a more mature & defined worldview, that pierces the mists of nostalgic memories with sharply pointed observations. Really good.
Neil: As a young person Lucy Dacus was heavily immersed in American Christian youth culture, but as her sexuality emerged this started to raise problems in her life and faith. ‘Home Video’ is her autobiographical exploration of her younger self’s world and her subsequent growth. The songs are catchy, finely crafted and, in a deliberately post adolescent way, address young love, nostalgia, spirituality and emerging sexuality. The lyrics are direct and sharply focussed.

Blue weekend. / Wolf Alice
Mark: 3rd album from this North London band that merge vintage ’90s rock and 4AD styled dream-pop. Previous albums were all a commercially & critical success, garnering a Grammy nomination in 2015 and a Mercury prize for Visions Of a Life, and each release seems to get huger in sound & ambition, navigating multiple genres with ease. This album is even more ambitious, with the music polished to a sheen, and singer Ellie Rowsell’s voice in front, every track seems to be aiming for ‘Soaring anthem’. Already the 4th highest scored album of 2021 on Metacritic. It all sounds amazing, but I’m still not convinced they are anything more than the sum of their influences.
Neil: Back in the day some bands deliberately wrote albums designed to be played in big stadium tours or festivals. Wolf Alice’s latest outing sounds like that was their intention on ‘Blue Weekend’. This isn’t a criticism, as it’s a pristine, extravagant alt-rock/shoegaze work of big performances and sound. I think when they can get back on the road, the music encapsulated in this album will make for a showstopper stadium tour.

Tezeta /
Mark: This long-lost recording captures Ethiopian organist Hailu Mergia and the Walias Band at the Hilton Addis Ababa in 1975. The American owned Hilton was an upscale cosmopolitan refuge from the political turmoil of Ethiopia, following the mid-70s take over of the erg military regime. The Walias band held a residency at the Hilton for almost a decade and, as this rediscovered performance shows, merged traditional Ethiopian popular songs and standards with American funk, soul & Jazz grooves to great effect. Simple chord vamps form the backbone of these endlessly funky tunes that are perfect for background listening, but when you pay closer attention the complexities of his playing reveals itself.
Neil: Ethiopian keyboardist Hailu is best known for his work in the Walia’s Band that regularly played the Hilton hotel in Addis Ababa in the 1970’s, during what is often referred to as Ethiopia’s “Golden age of music”. These long-lost recordings are finally seeing the light of day. Imagine, if you can, Ethiopian cocktail lounge music that also encompasses traditional and modern aspects. Music that is simultaneously fabulous background music, and also innovative in its own way. It’s a really mesmerising mix.

Utopian ashes / Gillespie, Bobby
Mark: The Primal Scream frontman teams up with former Savages frontwoman Jehnny Beth for some duets in the vein of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. Apparently the album tells the tale of a doomed marriage. Grievances are aired and regret & blame intermingle, as the fictional couple sift through the ashes of their failed relationship. These narratives are set to a moody, lush stringed, country-southern soul sound, and they give the indie-rocker & the post punk icon a chance to showcase a hither-to unknown vulnerability within their respective musical personas. An unlikely pairing that results in a surprisingly effective album.
Neil: Primal Scream and Jesus and the Mary Chain legend Bobby Gillespie teams up with Jehnny Beth, and they go all dark country on us. On paper it sounds like a startling change of direction for both artists, and in less experienced & talented hands it could have gone badly astray. However, both Bobby’s and Jehnny’s instantly recognisable and distinctive voices anchor the piece, and the album does contain some low-key stylistic elements of their previous work. Dramatic and understated, in places tragedy and pain, melodrama and dark tales, are all imbedded in these songs. A highly successful collaboration & an unexpected change for all parties concerned that really delivers the goods.

Box Set Reissue Picks:
The Reprise albums (1968-1971). / Mitchell, Joni
Neil: A collection of Joni’s reprise albums. The pinnacle of her career, flawless, creatively unbounded by convention or commercial considerations, unmatched in their brilliance. The finest songwriter of our time on creative fire.

Everybody still digs Bill Evans. / Evans, Bill
Mark: Lavish & stylish box set from Concord Records speciality Craft imprint. The first detailed career retrospective from 1956—1980, through multiple labels, for the iconic Jazz pianist divides its 5 discs into themes that follow his career: 2 disc of Piano Trio performances, one of Solo performances, another of co-headlining and side-person work, and for the final disc a previously unreleased, live recording form the mid 70’s. Encased in a lovely hardbound book, with photos and a lengthy essay & session notes, the tracks have all been newly remastered. A fitting tribute to perhaps one of the most influential & pivotal figures of modern Jazz.

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? Are we just too old to understand what most of this music is on about? Read on to find out…

Dreamers are waiting. / Crowded House
Mark: The iconic band regroup with help from Finn’s 2 sons & former producer Mitchell Froom. The immediate accessibility and edge of the early Paul Hester albums is gone, bit it’s been replaced by new blood and songwriters that help craft an album that feels warm and comforting. Tones and melodies that slowly creep up on you after repeated listens. Never really a fan of their later work, but I didn’t hate this.
Neil: Crowded House are one of the biggest and most popular in N.Z., having to date sold over 10 million albums. Their popularity with fans remains as was more than amply demonstrated by their recent series of sell-out gigs touring pretty much of all the major New Zealand stadiums. However, for me I just never got them. They just sound bland and this release didn’t change my mind. They undoubtedly have loyal passionate fans and I strongly suspect they will love this new release, as it has been widely acclaimed as a triumphant return to form, but not for me.

Live in Stuttgart 1975. / Can[VINYL]
Mark: This archival release of a 1975 90-minutes concert in Stuttgart comes from a fan’s live tape recordings that have been newly mixed and mastered. This was rated 100 by both Record Collector & Uncut, and I can confirm that it is indeed 100% noodling that takes 90 minutes to go from zero to nowhere…
Neil: Regarded as one of the Classic German Bands from the 70’s, this live recording captures them at the height of their formidable creative powers. The original, now heavily cleaned up and enhanced, recordings came from a fan recording in the audience. The resultant album finds them at their most unrestrained in a 90 minute free flow improvisational work out, powered by the hypnotic drums of Jaki Liebezeit and propulsive bass of bassist Holger Czukay. The tracks flow in and out of each other, an element popping up here, a motif there; it is one of those releases you just need to let go on, and let it wash over you.

Yol. / Altın Gün
Mark: I really enjoyed this. Turkish singers & Dutch musos meet. The female & male leads alternate the vocals, and the tracks are full of cool, catchy, sinuous Middle-East vibes set to synthy grooves. Like the soundtrack to a cool 60’s Spy Film…
Neil: Turkish psy maestros Altin Gun go all 80’s disco on us, in this audacious fabulous and highly unlikely mash up of time jumping styles. Imagine, if you can, music from the Ottoman empire made during the psychedelic 1960’s but using 80’s synths and beats!

Cavalcade / Black Midi
Mark: Chaotic post-punk jams together dissonant noise with squalling saxophones, buzzing baselines & industrial guitar – then follows it with mellow tracks of lounge era styled crooning. A melange of sound that aims to challenge. Scott Walker would probably have liked them…
Neil: An explosion of sound that effortlessly blends beautiful and melodic elements, with often heavy and frantically twisted rhythms. An anarchic, complex, and very ambitious album.

Wink. / Chai
Mark: The genre hopping Japanese female quartet shave off the guitars, pop-punk edges and mash-ups of previous albums ‘Pink’ & ‘Punk’, and go straight for the pop jugular with this album of so smooth tunes. Woozy 70s organs back tracks with whispery 90s R&B vibes, which alternate with catchy electro-pop workouts. Infectious & charming.
Neil: Chai remind me of the musical equivalent of eating a chocolate coated, frosted sugar bomb; the contagious endlessly upbeat energy of the album shines through the whole work like a sugar rush. It is less punk and more pop than the bands previous releases, but that optimistic energy is still very much present.

Be right back. / Smith, Jorja
Mark: 8 track EP supposed to be a stop gap follow up to her 2018 critically-acclaimed, Mercury Prize nominated debut album ‘Lost & Found’ – for which she won her second BRIT Award for ‘Best Female’ and earned herself a nomination for ‘New Artist’ at the Grammy Awards. Melds Jazz, R&B & Trip-Hop influences around her emotive vocals, with songs focusing of self-awareness and empowerment. Worth checking out if you enjoyed the new albums from Arlo Parks or Celeste.
Neil: Super smooth, ultra-stripped back R & B combined with emotionally vibrant lyrics. All delivered using Jorja’s rich, distinctive, mellow, and delicately phrased voice. Chilled.

Jubilee. / Japanese Breakfast
Mark: ‘Japanese Breakfast’ is the solo moniker of Philadelphian Korean-American musician, director, and author Michelle Zauner (her debut memoir debuted at number two on The New York Times nonfiction best-seller list). Her super-catchy third album delivers some sweet 80s indie-pop hooks, and shoegazzy vibes. The self-directed music video for Be Sweet is a very funny X-files homage, with Marisa “Missy” Dabice (from fellow Philly band Mannequin Pussy) and Zauner acting as FBI Agents tracking aliens.
Neil: This indie referenced album is replete with lush horn and string orchestration. A veritable smorgasbord of styles and sub genres, all harnessed to an album that ostensibly about happiness and the pursuit of happiness. It’s an album that in many ways feels like it belongs in this very moment in time. In places it reminded me of ‘War on Drugs’ or ”Wilco’.

Carnage / Cave, Nick
Mark: Deeply reflective pieces. Melancholic music underpins his cavernous voice, as it rumbles through mood pieces that reflect the fear & uncertainty of the last year.
Neil: Nick Caves recent typrich of releases has cemented (as if there was any doubt) his reputation as one of the finest songwriters and performers around. Carnage is a collaboration with long-time friend and fellow ‘Bad seed’ Warren Ellis. The album sits very comfortable within this recent golden period of intense, melancholic and on occasion terrifying works. It is a surreal, stark, and brutal meditation on grief, dark, profound, pained, and melodramatic.

Black sea golden ladder. / Kingi, Troy
Mark: Kingi is now halfway through his 10-albums-in-10-different-genres-in-10-years project. This albums genre is ‘Folk’, a collaboration with co-writer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Delaney Davidson, and sees string drenched autumnal reflections sit next to twangy, gentle guitar porch ruminations on the cycle of life, love and the human spirit.
Neil: The supremely, gifted musical chameleon that is Troy Kingi has shown his musical versatility over several wonderful albums on several occasions in recent years, but who would have thought that his latest musical incarnation would be as a mellow folk maestro? The resulting album is a calm, beautiful, and chilled outing. A fabulous mellow outing, like watching the sun go down on the fragile dream of a late autumn day. Delaney Davidson’s voice adds just a little grit and darkness to the proceedings.

Soberish. / Phair, Liz
Mark: No other singer from her era fell as far as Liz Phair did in the eye of critics, as she shifted from the alt-darling of the Girly-sound tapes & confrontational debut Exile in Guyville, to working with ultra commercial songwriters The Matrix and rapping on Funstyle, the last album she released in 2010. ‘Soberish’ reunites her with Brad Wood, who produced her early albums, and while it still has a pop sheen to it she’s no longer forcing the point as hard as she was towards the end of her initial run. There’s a casualness to the whole thing that makes some tracks & musical ideas seem half formed, but also means the more poppy melodies sit next to the lesser formed sketches with more ease. The musical landscape has shifted so much since her last album, and genres have so little meaning to modern artists, that overt pop music and indie-meandering can now co-exist side by side on albums in a credible way that differentiates todays music from the albums of the 2000’s.
Neil: Liz’s first album in 11 years is a sharply focussed slab of Alt rock. In it she delivers an honest, heart felt work about the various faces and sides of love, and the pressures and damages that can be done by early fame – such as her battle with alcohol. The album reveals a clear-eyed depth of emotional clarity. An artist perhaps for the first time really connecting with inner self on record, or perhaps rediscovering who she is.

No gods no masters. / Garbage (Musical group)
Mark: Garbage in the 2010’s only released 2 albums, which were generally seen as riding the wave of 90s nostalgia. The new album ‘No gods no masters’ has been hailed as a bit of a return to form, with it’s pounding industrial beats and anthemic tracks. Shirley Manson’s lyrics have a more political & socio-politico focus on this album, lockdown and the current social tumult taking the album in a different direction than the initial sessions from 2018. She tackles subjects like Religion, patriarchal structure, injustice, late stage capitalism, misogyny, and white supremacy, while still focusing on the personal with a couple of tracks. However, how much you enjoy this new album may just depend on how much politics you like in your musical mix.
Neil: After a long break Garbage return to their swaggering incendiary best with ‘No gods no easily masters’, their strongest album since Version 2.0. They have reconnected with their dark muses in this powerful, hook laden, anthemic, genre blending rock out of an album.

Back to the future. / Sons of Kemet
Mark: Caribbean and Afro-influenced South London jazz supergroup. Opening track “Field Negus” was recorded during the BLM protests, and the song titles that follow form a cumulative historical narrative of the Afro-centric experience. Free jazz squalls mix with Middle Eastern grooves and Afrobeat, with guest players offering up instrumental talents and raps. Melodicism and anger meet within each track. Not the kind of Jazz you mellow out to….
Neil: Black to the future is Shabaka Hutchings politically charged propulsive Jazz album. It features multiple guests, including rappers and singers from both the U.S. & the UK, and is fundamentally a collaborative piece which aims to unite the different strands of the African diaspora. A passionate, angry, and incredibly powerful album that speaks directly about collective oppression.

Laugh to keep from crying. / Nat Turner Rebellion
Mark: Early ’70s Philly soul band whose music was mostly unreleased, now unearthed almost 50 years after the band’s breakup. Sort of like Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff making an entire album of tracks like Billy Paul’s ‘Am I Black Enough for You?’. Politically charged, anti war themed, full of statements of Black pride and power. Similar to a lot of the counterculture era soul songs that Motown released in the late 60’s, that still seem as relevant now as they were then. A bittersweet release, as songwriter/leader Joe Jefferson is the only band member still alive to see time finally catching up with this great music.
Neil: This album works as a nice historical complementary listen to the previously reviewed ‘Sons of Kemet’ album. ‘Laugh to keep from crying’ was originally recorded in 1969 and with the exception of a few tracks was shelved by the record company after tensions with the label, and is only finally seeing the light of day now. It’s a funk heavy masterpiece of the Philly soul and protest music movement sound. This album isn’t a re-release like so many other albums from this time, it is actually a rediscovery of a long-lost solid gold recording.

Sour. / Rodrigo, Olivia
Mark: Who better to assess the zeitgeist of sad girl pop than two middle-aged men? But seriously.. the massive streaming juggernaut that was Rodrigo’s Drivers License is just the beginning for this Disney+ actress, as it’s easy to see from her debut album that she is a genuine musician with a great soaring voice, a clever knack for storytelling & a biting lyricist reminiscent of Taylor Swift – her biggest influence alongside 90s artists like Alanis Morrissette & Fiona Apple. Being the next generation along from artists like Swift & Lorde, there is a much edgier lyrical focus on anxiety, social media, mental health, negative emotions, toxic relationships and far more F- bombs. She is representative of a whole wave of young female artists where the emotional angst is turned up to 11, but it’s the minute specificity of character details and pop culture drops in her lyrics that give her tracks their universal appeal.
Neil: Already thrust into the public limelight as one of the stars of Disney+ channel. Olivia Rodrigo has very quickly been given the mantel of pop’s newest young star. It can be a very heavy mantel to bear as many previous newest pop stars will testify. The main focus for Rodrigo’s debut album is the subject of failed romance. Rodrigo explores the subject adopting a wide range of styles and genres as if she is trying out various musical identities to see which one suits her own best. Which for a major media superstar under the age of 20 thrust into the limelight sounds like an ideal approach to take.

Earth trip. / Rose City Band
Mark: Initially the solo project of Ripley Johnson of Wooden Shjips, the bands third album (after last year’s Summerlong) features more lilting, rambling, indie country melancholy. The cleaner production brings more of a crisper detailed sound, which drifts pleasantly along, like a gentle walk down a country road, verging into dreamy Mazzy Star/J&M Chain territory on some tracks.
Neil: Neo Psychedelic rockers the Rose City Band deliver a J.J Cale-esque, country rock, Psychedelic journey focusing on inertia and isolation.

M’berra / Khalab
Mark: Collaborative fusion of Italian DJ Khalab and the musician residents of the M’berra refugee camp in south-eastern Mauritania. Khalab fuses the acoustic side of Tuareg music with electronic beats, the voices of the musicians and the everyday sounds of daily life of M’berra. A fascinating mash up of traditional sounds and contemporary productions.
Neil: This is one of those album’s that really transports the listener to new worlds created by the musicians involved. It is a collaborative work between electronic Italian D.J. Khalab and the M’berra Ensemble a community of musicians living in the M’berra refugee camp. The resulting album, both ancient and futuristic, is a breath-taking album of fantastically sculptured tracks and diverse sounds, featuring a dazzling array of instruments from traditional Mali instruments to synth bass’s and guitar.

Afrique victime. / Moctar, Mdou
Mark: Mdou Moctar is a Tuareg singer/songwriter and guitarist from Niger, who found fame via the cell phone music-trading networks of Africa’s Sahel region, before achieving international success through a series of albums that include a Tuareg-language homage to Purple Rain, and a psychedelic album recorded in Detroit. ‘Afrique victime’ is his debut album on indie heavyweight label Matador Records. Gentle acoustic reflections sit next to explosive and driving desert rockers full of fantasticly slinky guitar lines.
Neil: Superb explosive desert rock served up with fiery Psychedelic energy. The album was recorded piecemeal while touring, and the band very deliberately avoided professional studios and engineers seeking a more organic less controlled sound. Listening to the album furthers the ever-increasing evidence that the real beating heart of rock is in African, not some vacuum wrapped L.A. studio. A vibrant, electrifying and brilliantly uplifting album.

If I could make it go quiet / Girl In Red
Mark: Debut album from the Norwegian indie pop musician, following her hit single I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend. Full of noisy punky pop with Swiftian melodies, and later in the album slower synthy R&B sounds. What differentiates her music is the assertive anthems all have a queer focus, with raw lyrics about sex, desire. confusion and self loathing. An artist to watch for future releases.
Neil: Norwegian musician Marie Ulven’s pop punk debut album release was delayed like a lot of things due to Covid 19. It is finally here (she was already an icon in her home country due to herself confessional single releases). In ‘If I could make it go quiet’, we get an album full of candour and self-examination with a maximalist production. The lyrics are often raw and honest explorations of her anxiety, queerness, and moments of depression.

Promises / Floating Points
Mark: Keyboardist and electronic music producer Floating Points melds the tenor sax of Pharoah Sanders with the violins, violas, cellos, and double basses of the London Symphony Orchestra in a series of mellow Movements. Sanders sticks to soft gauzy tones that drift in & out of Orchestral washes that often sound like the quiter scenes in Blade Runner, or shades of old Bernard Herrmann scores. Dramatic strings evokes a melancholy yearning, and a nostalgic, dreamy, cinematic vibe to relax to.
Neil: Recorded over the course of five years this hybrid very tranquil, ambient, free-form jazz and classical inflected album is elegant, refined, and full of quiet moments of sonic beauty. Although it is an experimental album, it’s an exceptionally balanced, considered, and timeless work. To really appreciate it a relaxed deep listen is highly recommended. A perfect way to unwind from the rigors of the day.

Fine anyway. / Fakhr, Rogér
Mark: Part of Berlin label Habibi Funk’s series of reissues from Arabic-speaking parts of the world, ‘Fine anyway’ is another story of great music being relegated to obscurity due to the circumstances in which it was created. While Habibi Funk boss Jannis Stürtz was working on sourcing material for other projects, the name of Lebanese guitarist, singer/songwriter Rogér Fakhr kept coming up – followed by huge praise of his music and songwriting talents. Stürtz managed to contact Fakhr who sent him some tapes of music recorded in the late 1970s in Beirut, which included tracks from ‘Fine anyway’, which had been copied onto around 200 cassettes at the time. Initially reluctant to have his music re-released, Fakhr agreed a couple of years later to have 2 songs included in a compilation Solidarity With Beirut — to raise money for the Lebanese Red Cross in the wake of the tragic explosion in a Beirut port in 2020. After his tracks were included in that album, Fakhr came around to the idea of the full album being re-released, and it really is an amazing listen. A fantastic set of acoustic ballads and jangly chamber pop-rock that sounds like it was recorded in sunny California in the 60’s or 70’s. Shades of So-Cal pop & The Left Banke. A real gem.
Neil: Another album that for all intents and purposes isn’t a release, more a recovery of long-lost music. Back in the 1970’s when Lebanon was still a major cosmopolitan city Rogér Fakhr’s music and tapes circulated round the city’s chic cafes and bars. His smooth, mellow hippy inflected singer songwriter voice and songs could have made him a major artist somewhere else in the world. But it wasn’t to be, as very sadly history and events changed the course of that city and the trajectory of Rogér Fakhr’s career. These recordings show the exceptional song writing skills Roger had, and this release has definitely got a distinct Searching for Sugar Man vibe about it in many ways.

Archive series. Volume no. 5. / Iron & Wine
Mark: Recorded while Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam was a student at Florida State University in the late ’90s, this album is a prelude to his Sub-Pop label debut, The Creek Drank the Cradle. Sparse acoustic lo-fi musings, that offer a nascent portrait of the forthcoming success that Iron & Wine would have in reviving the folk genre for an indie audience. Iron & Wine’s musical palette would broaden with each album, but the simplicity of these early songs shines through.
Neil: The mellow alt country of Iron & Wine has very understandably a huge dedicated cult following. This very early collection of archival recordings sounds more like a lost early album than a collection of discarded outtakes. Even the earliest songs sound confident and fully formed, and reveal that Iron and Wines distinctive sound was there right from the onset.

Bright green field. / Squid (Musical group)
Mark: Squid are the next big UK Art-rock band. Post-punk indie with grooves from just about every other genre mixed in. Agitated lyrics about the dystopian nature of modern life set to jagged tunes that branch off in all sorts of musical directions. Pretty crazy. Worth checking out if you want something different to challenge you.
Neil: Angular music coupled with angry off kilter lyrics that illuminate the song writers’ discomfort with the modern World. In places it sounds slightly reminiscent of an early English pre-Eno Talking Heads. Seemingly unconcerned about creating a single musical identity, they use whatever style suits that particular track throwing in punk, krautrock, dub, jazz, and funk into this potent mix of an album.

Metaphysics. / Ibn Ali, Hasaan
Mark: Enigmatic Philadelphian Jazz musician said to have been the influence behind John Coltrane’s so-called sheets of sound style. One of only two albums to feature the pianist’s unique harmonically advanced polytonal compositions and playing style. Resurrected from a recently found tape copy, after the original master was destroyed in Atlantic Records infamous 1978 Warehouse fire. Truly amazing playing by any decades standards.
Neil: An album presumed missing for 56 years, after being lost in a fire, finally sees the light of day. Hasaan Ibn Ali played piano on a few ground-breaking albums by Jazz drummer Max Roach but has subsequently been viewed as a side note in jazz history. All that may be about to change as his sole recorded work as a band leader is about to see the light of say. It’s a slab of classic jazz from what some (misguided) regard as its golden age. It’s a major and important find, and is likely to force a major reassessment of his talent and role in the evolution of jazz.

…Keyboard fantasies… / Glenn-Copeland, Beverly
Mark: Slightly ‘New-Agey’ album recorded with just a Yamaha DX7 keyboard and a Roland TR-707 drum machine. Self-released as a cassette in 1986, it remained in obscurity for decades until it was rediscovered by Japanese music collectors during the 2010s. This led to multiple reissues of the album, and made the, now septuagenarian, artist an international touring star and subject of an award winning documentary, with younger artists such as Blood Orange, Moses Sumney, and Caribou claiming him as an influence. Lovely lilting, mellow music that can float in the background, or reveal hidden layers upon close listening.
Neil: A long deleted album given a rerelease. ‘Keyboard fantasies’ is regarded as a New Age masterpiece. And that pretty much defines whether you will like it or not.

New long leg. / Dry Cleaning (Musical group)
Mark: More London Art-rock fronted by Florence Shaw, whose rambling, mundane, spoken-word non sequitur’s are supported by the band’s melodic post punk of pulsing bass and catchy guitar lines. On paper the lyrics sound laughably pretentious, but it’s weirdly compelling to listen to; her deadpan sardonic tone reeling off bizarre lines about Antiques Roadshow, platform shoes & food that make no sense. Really good. Already making lists of the best albums of 2021 so far.
Neil: I really loved this album it sounded new and fresh and vital edgy. Managing to sound quirky and surreal both approachable and also experimental all at the same time. Another release I strongly suspect will be on lots of best of 2021 releases.

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…

 

 

 

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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