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)

Staff Pick Films – Kanopy & Beamafilm

A selection of Staff Picks movies and documentaries from our website’s DVD pages; these films are all now available on the library’s two online streaming platforms, Beamafilm & Kanopy.

Herb & Dorothy – Beamafilm
You cannot dislike this. Herb is a postal worker, Dorothy is a librarian in New York City and they are art collectors – very serious contemporary art collectors. Who would think that this ordinary (and not cool) looking couple owned more than 4000 pieces of art works mostly minimal or conceptual arts? Amazingly these variable works are somehow stored in their cramped one room apartment where they live with turtles, goldfish and a cat. They have no proper ‘Art’ education, but when this couple face art works, their eyes start glowing and get very serious as if they are hunting dogs. Their collection became so significant it was gifted to the national Gallery of Art (so they are not for money). It is an obsessive passion but utterly charming. Above all, this is the story of this extraordinary couple who complement each other. (Shinji)

The white ribbon – Beamafilm
‘The White Ribbon’ is another subversive jewel in the aloof crown of Michael Haneke, disturbed creator of other choice picks Hidden, The piano teacher and the nicely bleak The seventh Continent. It’s shot beautifully in black and white, the acting is unobtrusively spot-on and the narrative offers gradual hints that build real force and tension. To complete the compellingly grim picture I must list the themes that make one squirm – the destruction of innocence, the abuse of parental power, fascism in its many forms, violence and death. ‘The White Ribbon’ creeps its way into your subconscious and despite your best mental efforts, lingers. Scene by scene, I had the strong sense that I was involved in something significant. You may want to watch this film again. (Monty)

Scott Walker: 30 century man – Beamafilm
I enjoy music docos and have recently found a new stash of them at the end of the CD aisles under ‘Music Biographies’. There are some goodies there, one of which is this excellent film about Scott Walker. The penny finally dropped for me as to why he is considered by so many to be a living legend. His journey from 60’s pop icon, as one of the Walker Brothers, to reclusive avant-garde sound sculptor is explored and held together with excerpts from Walker’s first agreed to interview in thirty years. This is a peek inside the creative mind and it is fascinating to glimpse, amongst other things, the humour that accompanies the creation of such intense songwriting – that is if you happen to agree with Walker that his creations can actually be called songs. (John)

Continue reading “Staff Pick Films – Kanopy & Beamafilm”

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 & 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


Quilting with love! New craft books in your library

Love to create? Find inspiration, original ideas and designs in this collection of newly arrived books we have chosen for you! Happy quilting!

Quilted with love : patchwork projects inspired by a passion for quilting / Fielke, Sarah
“Share in Sarah Fielke’s addiction to quilting with these 16 breathtaking projects. For over 20 years, through her blog, her stunning quilt books, her fun classes, and her fabric, Sarah Fielke has been inspiring quilters worldwide to step outside their comfort zone with her vibrant and contemporary designs.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Organic appliqué : creative hand-stitching ideas and techniques / Doughty, Kathy
“With its organic lines, hand appliqué is the perfect medium for artistic expression. Come into the studio with Kathy Doughty as she shares her passion for quilt design, needle-turn appliqué, and fabric selection. Draw inspiration from eight projects with full-size patterns and build your skill set with simple, step-by-step instructions for Broderie Perse, Boro-style appliqué, paper piecing, and hand quilting.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Sarah Payne’s Quilt School : New Ways to Start Patchwork and Quilting / Payne, Sarah/ Ottosson, Mats
“Step into Sarah Payne’s world of sewing and learn from the expert the basics of quilting and patchwork. Filled with guidance and helpful tips and tricks, this book will equip you with all you need to know to get started on your quilting adventure. Put your skills into practice and at the same time create beautiful projects to keep or give as gifts.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Kaffe Fassett’s sew simple quilts & patchworks : 17 designs using Kaffe Fassett’s artisan fabrics / Fassett, Kaffe
“Heralded as the King of Color, fabric designer and quilter Kaffe Fassett showcases his glorious range of Artisan fabrics in Kaffe Fassett’s Sew Simple. A gallery of the stunning pieces is followed by step-by-step instructions and piecing diagrams, ensuring success for quilters and sewists of all skill levels.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Quilting on the move : with English paper piecing / Macdonald, Alistair
“18 beautiful, quick and easy portable hand-sewn patchwork gifts to make using English paper piecing. English paper piecing is a popular and easy method of creating handsewn patchwork designs. Following in the style of the highly successful Love to Sew series, author Alistair Macdonald provides 20 fabulous projects, including a baby’s playmat, a scarf, a scatter cushion, a hobby bag, a tea cosy, a tote bag and a make-up purse. All are hand-sewn using the English paper-piecing method.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Creating art quilts with panels / Hughes, Joyce
“Discover how to transform premade fabric panels and thread into one-of-a-kind art quilts. Award-winning quilter and fiber artist Joyce Hughes shows how to use a variety of decorating and customizing techniques to make seasonal panels, beautiful florals, holiday designs, and gorgeous landscapes. Sure to please both traditional and contemporary artists alike, Creating Art Quilts with Panels also features a photographic gallery of inspirational art quilt masterpieces.” (adapted from Catalogue)

A new batch of Staff Pick DVDs

The Good Place cover

Peruse the latest selections from library staff, from superheroes to sci-fi to coming of age drama, and crime told backwards.

The shape of water.
The Shape of Water takes its initial inspiration from the 1954 B movie Creature from the Black Lagoon, but this is definitely not a cash in sequel to an old monster movie. Instead it is a cleverly constructed complex film which straddles effortlessly multiple genres including romance, cold war thriller, body horror and a straight down the line cult Guillermo Del Toro movie. It is obviously a project the director had a great deal of affection for and it looks great in a shabby downbeat Americana way, and Sally Hawkins in the lead puts in a storming performance. Arguably Guillermo Del Toro’s best movie so far and since he directed Pan’s Labyrinth that is praise of the highest order. (Neil J)

Justice League.
Move over Avengers! There’s a new team of superheroes in town. The world of DC comics and superheroes collides when a great a great evil in the form of Stepphenwolf wants to unleash hell on earth and the heroes, (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg), must come together – and put aside their differences to save the day. Overall a different but satisfying take on all the DC superheroes, with a well balanced mix of action, adventure, comedy and serious moments. The Flash, in particular is hilarious with his one liners, ladies will drool and fall in love with Aquaman and Superman, especially when Aquaman shows his “sensitive side” and as always the heroes saving the day “superhero” style from start to finish. (Katie)

Rellik.
‘Rellik’ (‘killer’) is a story told backwards for the first 5 episodes, with the final episode reverting to normal forward progression starting from where the first episode left off. This, understandably, makes for a confusing watch initially as it needs a fair bit of concentration, and thus the show’s reviews were somewhat polarized. It’s hard to say in the end if the backwards narrative is just a stylistic gimmick or if it really adds anything to the story which is a shame, as it is a quite good slice of gritty UK crime. The 2 leads (Jodi Balfour and Richard Dormer) are both excellent, with Dormer as Met detective, Gabriel Markham at the centre of an obsessive hunt for a serial killer who left a mark on him both physically and mentally. Worth persevering with. (Mark)

Downsizing.
Could this be a solution to the problem of overpopulation and climate change? American auteur Alexander Payne’s (Nebraska, The Descendants) new film is a futuristic fable where people can choose to be shrunk to one-fourteenth of their size and live in a miniature ‘self-sustainable’ heavenly community called ‘Leisureland’. Featuring Matt Damon as an ordinary Omaha resident who takes this experimental opportunity, it offers a unique mixture of sci-fi comedy, political satire, and a cross-cultural love story. Apparently Payne had been thinking about this project for quite some time. Although not everything worked out perfectly, it’s certainly intriguing. (Shinji)

The disaster artist.
The Disaster Artist is much like Tim Burton’s Ed Wood insofar as it is a clever, well made, superbly acted and thoroughly entertaining film about one of the worst films ever made – Tommy Wiseau’s The Room has been dubbed the Citizen Kane of bad movies and since its release in 2003 has gained a fanatical cult following who like to dress up, shout out lines from the film and have a liking for throwing plastic cutlery. The original film was supposedly meant as a serious movie but the outright strange storytelling and truly bizarre acting have lead it to being regarded retrospectively by the director as a black comedy. The Disaster Artist is about the making of the film and the dreams, friendships and dramas surrounding its creation. The Disaster Artist is fine movie about a terrible movie. Just don’t shout SPOON. (Neil J)

Doctor Doctor. Series 2.
Hugh Knight, (Rodger Corser), the heart surgeon/heartthrob turned country doctor you love to either hate or… just plain love is back! And as usual breaking more hearts than fixing them. But things take a dramatic turn for Hugh when his teenage son/foster brother decides to marry his high school sweetheart; Hugh having to donate a kidney to save his dad; his American and troubled ex-wife turning up, having a near death experience to make him realise what/who is important in his life and the icing on the cake – he is in love with his boss, Penny and has various opportunities to finally make his move! The question is will they finally get together or will Hugh stuff it up with his playboy antics? Overall this series is in one word… FANTASTIC! An entertaining TV series and Aussie drama from start to finish! I especially loved the Mustang car race scene with ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl?’ by Jet playing in the background. Look forward to the third season. (Katie)

Hard sun. [Season 1].
Charlie Hicks (Jim Sturgess) and Elaine Renko (Agyness Deyn) are detectives who, while investigating a murder in the inner city, stumble upon proof that the world faces certain destruction – in five years. They find themselves pursued by MI5, trying to silence them in order to keep secret the truth, and they must use every bit of their ingenuity to protect themselves and those they love. The relationship of the two leads plays against type, as they both try to secure the upper hand with each other and with ruthless Security Services Officer Nikki Amuka-Bird, which is a positive as the latest offering from the pen of Neil Cross (Luther) seems to falter a bit in the telling, as if Cross wasn’t really sure how he wanted the story to play out. Intriguing and gripping in places, clichéd and muddled in others. Still worth a look, as Cross apparently has ideas for further seasons. (Mark)

Twin Peaks: a limited event series.
After 25 years, David Lynch and Mark Frost’s ground-breaking series is back. Most of the beloved characters are also back but this time, a lot of events unfold outside Twin Peaks while time is back and forth. With numerous additional characters, some of whom are played by prominent names including Naomi Watts, Laura Dern, Amanda Seyfried and Harry Dean Stanton, it’s a much larger scaled extraordinary journey which offers everything Lynch has made for cinema. At times, it’s almost impossible to comprehend and mysteries bring more mysteries but he never forgets humour. This marathon epic can be challenging and demanding to consume, but will be remembered as a landmark work by the one-and-only filmmaker. (Shinji)

The Good Place. The complete first season.
From producer/screenwriter Michael Schur (The Office, Parks & Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) The Good Place addresses the age old question of what actually happens when you die? For Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) she finds the afterlife is a shiny happy friendly neighbourhood of frozen yogurt shops, amazingly accomplished people and pre-determined soulmates, all run by the super nice immortal architect Michael (Ted Danson). However the only problem is that she is the wrong Eleanor Shellstrop, and is in fact a very bad person, who scammed old people for a living and generally lived a completely reprehensible life. As she struggles to hide her true self from all around her and cope with her ‘soulmate’, university ethics professor Chidi, her true nature starts to affect the cosmic balance at play… To say any more would give away some of the plotlines of this hugely enjoyable series. Great performances from Bell and Danson. A great antidote to the Winter blues. Recommended. (Mark)

The greatest showman.
This movie just filled me with a sense of the wonders of humanity, and the songs! Well a musical isn’t a musical without good songs. If you are looking for some new additions to your sing-a-long playlist then this is the movie for you! I recommend a double check out, both the soundtrack and the movie. You won’t be sorry! (Jess)

Electric dreams. Season one.
Anthology collection of 10 stand-alone episodes based on Philip K. Dick’s work, written by British and American writers and set in both the UK & the US. This bunch of Dick’s short stories were written in the early to mid 1950’s, so all have undergone some degree of tinkering – from large to small – to reimagine their themes within a modern day context. Executive produced by Ronald D. Moore and Bryan Cranston there is certainly a high degree or production values up on the screen, as well as some quality acting (including Cranston himself), the problem perhaps lies in the fact that so many of Dick’s short stories have already been adapted into films (Screamers, Paycheck, Imposter, Minority Report, Next, The Adjustment Bureau, Total Recall) that those that are left are more straightforward in nature, lacking the same level of layers or ideas. Having said that there are some nice adaptations here, even the one that are more heavily reworked like Safe & Sound or Real Life work in themes common to Dick’s oeuvre. Definitely worth a watch if you are a fan of the author, and also if you fancy something along the lines of Black Mirror but not as grim. (Mark)

Lady Bird.
Known as a comedic actress (Frances Ha, Maggie’s Plan etc.), Greta Gerwig also seems to be a natural director. Her debut feature Lady Bird is a likable little gem. Set in her hometown, Sacramento, California in 2002, it follows 17-year-old Christine ‘Lady Bird’ (brilliant performance by the Irish star Saoirse Ronan) who is eager for an escape to a big city on the East Coast after graduating from a Catholic school, against her mother’s wishes. It may sound like another often-told adolescent drama but this is something special thanks to Gerwig’s smart screenplay and unique aesthetic. With the mother-daughter relationship as its core, she crafts a beautifully layered story. It’s sweet, funny and affecting. (Shinji)

Recent favourites: Staff-picked CDs

Superorganism album cover

While we’re not busy with library duties, many of us here at Wellington City Libraries are avid music listeners. Here are a few recent highlights from our extensive CD collection.

Superorganism.
Wellington band The Eversons moved to London in 2015 and have grown into an eight piece collective consisting of members from Lancashire, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Aotearoa, that all now live together in a big house in London. They have created media waves with their fun, kooky and excellently produced debut album, which is loaded with crazy samples, playful beats, fat basslines, swirling synths and great guitar hooks, all underpinned by the oddly deadpan vocals of 17 year old Japanese vocalist Orono Noguchi who they auditioned on Skype. Sounding like the children of The Go Team! and MGMT, this is a technicolor rush of fun and densely layered quirky pop that sounds as though it was made by the band members emailing each other ideas from their rooms in the house – which it actually was! For an idea of where this extremely contemporary band are coming from check out the video for their hit ‘Everybody Wants To Be Famous‘. (John H.)

Mi mundo.
An exciting music by a shining new star – a young Cuban singer and percussionist Brenda Navarrete infuses the traditional Afro-Cuban music with the modern stylish sound, and her debut album Mi Mundo (My World) is full of thrilling moments. Opening with Navarrete’s expressive voice and her percussions, which lead the charge throughout the album, music here is intricate and touches a range of musical styles. However, she and her Cuban all-star band show amazing skills and masterfully treat them, often with jazz idioms, and present smooth yet rich, dynamic sound. The album lasts only 37 minutes but shows Navarrete’s enormous talent and character. Sensational. (Shinji)

Wide awaaaaake!
It’s fitting that Texan indie rockers Parquet Courts are on Rough Trade Records as that label was the prime mover of the original early 80’s UK post punk sound and Parquet Courts arguably continue that tradition better than any other current band. Their sixth album is produced by Danger Mouse, who helps shape their characteristically spiky shambolic sound into a semblance of fun, danceable grooves. The post punk influences are still plentiful but the new album has a gloss of production that manages to expand their musical palette without losing the bands’ angular garage rock stance. With song titles such as ‘Normalisation’ and ‘Before the Water Gets Too High’ it’s reassuring to know that urgent and quizzical music such as this is being made. (John H.)

Rewa / Tania Giannouli, Rob Thorne, Steve Garden.
Rewa fuses the musical cultures of Western Greece, courtesy of Greek classically trained musician Tania Giannouli, and that of traditional Taonga Pūoro instrumentation, courtesy of Rob Thorne. The whole album was improvised over a two day recording session. The resulting album transcends musical boundaries whilst having both a classical and experimental feel. The individual pieces are often dark, brooding and intense with Steve Garden’s treatments, and delicate, thoughtful mixing making this album a rich, complex and rewarding listen. (Neil J)

Top gear.
Wellington based muso Stef Animal took time out from bass playing duties with The Golden Awesome to record this beguiling collection of 15 ‘song-in-a-day writing exercises’, each using sounds from a different piece of cheap or unfashionable musical equipment. The pieces are short – ranging from 30 seconds to 4 minutes – but are equally engaging, gradually drawing the listener deeper in to Stef Animal’s unique and intriguing sound world. The result is an unusual release that stands up as a bold and wholly successful experiment. (John H.)

Vortex / Sonar with David Torn.
Swiss jazz-progressive rock quartet (twin guitars, bass and drums) Sonar has established an utterly unique sound – often playing in irregular time and creating a minimal stoic groove which at times is as if 80s king Crimson is playing Steve Reich-ish minimal composition – and with this new album featuring the one-of-a-kind guitarist David Torn, they seem to move to another level. Torn originally worked as a producer but ended up playing on all tunes as well, which is very welcome. Torn brings a sonically inventive soundscape with huge improvisations on some tracks. Their chemistry is fantastic and Sonar has sharpened their trademark polyrhythmic groove, and makes the whole sound even more dynamic. This is risk-taking music and marvellously executed. (Shinji)

Englabörn & variations / Jóhann Jóhannsson.
Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson passed away earlier this year at the early age of 48. His story was a very successful one, growing from the fringes of the electronic / neo-classical world with his early releases on Touch and 4AD to worldwide acclaim providing soundtracks for films such as Arrival and The Theory of Everything. His use of electronics and treated voices within ambient / chamber pieces was radical in 2002 and had become familiar by 2018, but he was a true pioneer. This remastered re-issue of his first record, 2002’s Englaborn remains impressive and features 16 relatively short works of beautiful and stately contemporary ambient music, predominantly featuring strings and delicate electronics, with an accompanying disc of remixes by a range of current ambient musicians. (John H.)

5.
The first release on Prins Thomas Musikk, the new label started by the popular Norwegian electronic producer and remixer, is his fifth album and finds him expanding his by now predictable space disco sound. Apparently inspired by Teenage Fanclub, American jazz guitarist Pat Metheny and UK duo Plaid, he here presents a set of pared down, predominantly downbeat compositions featuring sweet basslines, guitars, bubbling synths and ambient flourishes to create warm and intimate grooves that lovingly reference the IDM sound of the mid ‘90’s. (John H.)

In Paris: the definitive ORTF recording.
Another classic Jazz concert receives it’s first official release, after being previously available in bootleg form. Montgomery hated to fly, so it was a rare opportunity for European audiences to see him perform in 1965 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, featuring an all-star band with pianist Harold Mabern, bassist Arthur Harper and drummer Jimmy Lovelace, & special guest tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin. Montgomery delivers a searing set of tunes with one amazing solo after another, in what is considered one of his best live performances ever, melodic, inventive and endlessly swinging. Listening to this reissue, it’s easy to see why he is still regarded as one of the most influential Jazz guitarists in history. (Mark)

July’s staff picks from our CD collection

Ventriloquism cover

Check out these music picks by some of our staff members. A wide variety of music styles are listed here and you might find something new or intriguing.

7.
Seven albums in and US dream poppers Beach House show no sign of losing their edge as they continue to explore the parameters of their distinctive sound. On their seventh album they’ve replaced their long-time producer with MGMT producer and former Spacemen 3 member Peter Kember. The result is their most immersive, and possibly their most engaging, album to date. In a recent interview vocalist Victoria Legrand said that in creating this work, the band sought to use “bigger canvases, a stronger solid line”, and the sound is perceivably darker and more dramatic, with the usual gentle drum programming replaced by a thunderous live drummer that helps move this record into the deeper realms of dream pop inhabited by bands such as My Bloody Valentine. (John H.)

Singularity.
The London based electronic producer release his follow up to the very well received 2013 release Immunity. Once again the production is perfect – crystal clear tones and beautifully constructed beats throughout an album that, however, probably works best on vinyl, as there are two distinct ‘sides’. The first four tracks (side 1) offer a deeper journey into electronic rhythms with Hopkins’ ambient sensibilities and compositional flair ensuring that the crunchy grooves remain quite removed from most generic dance based electronica being produced. The next five tracks (side 2) are lovingly crafted ambient pieces featuring gentle piano and delicate synths that are about as far removed from the grooves of side 1 as possible. Overall some great sounds but maybe best appreciated in two sittings. (John H.)

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

Black magic.
Yemi Alade is the African Madonna of Pop. She has a strong sexy African female voice combined with beats to make you shake it. Her song ‘Johnny’ from her debut studio album King of Queens (2014) hit the charts in Africa and in the UK. She won MTV Africa’s Best Female Artist of the Year in 2015 and 2016. The music videos, mostly directed by Clarence Peters, are a fantastic high production show of contemporary African fashion and dance combined with humorous storylines and female perspectives. The videos also show a side of Africa that doesn’t always make it onto African Pop music videos or Nollywood movies; real backgrounds of village life, the grit of the city, and the African landscape feature here. No million dollar yachts and polished marble – Africa is beautiful, real and alive. We have two of her albums in the library: Mama Africa (2016) & Black Magic (2017). (Zoe)

The final tour : the bootleg series vol. 6 / Miles Davis & John Coltrane.
This entry in the ongoing Bootleg Series features five concerts from the Miles Davis Quintet’s Spring 1960 Jazz at the Philharmonic European tour, the first legitimate release of this material with remastered sound. Coltrane was anxious to leave the group at this point, and was a very reluctant part of the Tour, which results in a dichotomy of styles that provides some fascinating listening. Coltrane plays with an aggressive style that is almost a year ahead in terms of his musical development, while Miles and the remaining members of the group: Wynton Kelly (piano); Paul Chambers (bass) & Jimmy Cobb (drums), try to hold the centre down to a more familiar framework that European audiences & critics were comfortable with. The audience (particularly in the Paris concerts with the whistling and feet stamping – the French version of booing) were scandalized, as were local critics, and these new versions of this material prove the legendary status of these recordings was not overrated. (Mark)

A man I’d rather be (Part I).
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of folk guitarist/vocalist Bert Jansch in not only the early development of the British folk revival, but also in the ensuing development of UK rock, with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page a self-confessed fan (see if you can spot the opening bars of ‘The Waggoner’s Lad’ on Led Zeppelin 3) . Most famous for the jazz/folk band Pentangle, Bert Jansch started out as part of the UK folk scene of the early ‘60’s, which carried the genesis of the ‘60’s counter cultural movement. This box set contains his first four albums (disc 4 with John Renbourn) and is to be followed by Part 2 featuring his other four. The first two albums here were recorded when Jansch was only 21 and his distinctive finger-picking blues style, which incorporated percussive, African and Eastern-influenced tunings, was already well formed. Bert Jansch was an enormous talent who applied his guitar and banjo picking skills and distinctive vocal style to a merging of American blues with the swing of jazz within a very English esoteric folk sensibility and, hopefully, re-releases such as this will help him find a wider audience. (John H.)

Ventriloquism.
From the big names such as Prince, Tina Turner, Janet Jackson and Sade to the typical 80s hit by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, they are all songs from ‘85 to ‘90 (except TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’ in ‘94). A cover album of the 80s R&B classics is something rare and what Meschell Ndegeocello does with them is totally original. With the minimal arrangements, she and her regular band display superb performances and colour them with a murky textured otherworldly ambience. Ndegeocello debuted with the Grammy-nominated album Plantation Lullabies in 1993 and had a commercial success in her earlier career. The label had kept telling her to make the same sort of albums but she never did. She lost the support from the label, but this uncompromised spirit made her one of the most forward-thinking, singular artists. This is a covert album like no other and one of her best. (Shinji)

Music for installations.
With a gentle nod to the past (Eno’s ground-breaking late ‘70’s ambient releases included Music For Films and Music For Airports), Brian Eno re-affirms his standing as the Grand Master of ambience with a stunning six disc set. The compositions cover over 30 years, from 1985 to 2017 and all feature slightly different approaches to the airy, light world of generative music, designed to create sound that permeates the environment like clouds of incense. Filled with gorgeous washes of bells and drones and unidentifiable luminous shimmers moving across widescreen stereo fields, the pieces are beautiful and always different, yet always the same, and with an accompanying booklet of extensive liner notes, this box set offers an excursion into a deep and mysterious netherworld by a key contemporary artist. (John H.)

The lookout.
The wonderful collaborations with Neko Case and KD Lang (2016’s Case/Lang/Veirs) finally gave her the kind of fame she deserved, and the Portland-based singer-songwriter Laura Veirs continues to impress both new and old fans with this new album. Her thoughtful songs; wistful lyrics and sensitive drifting melodies are as fine as ever, and her husband and the master producer, Tucker Martine, who has worked with The Decemberists, My Morning Jacket and many more, gives another stellar job and envelopes them with warm arrangements. Best of all, they deftly keep everything simple and clear, and make it a neatly-crafted dreamy folk/pop album. Sufjan Stevens and Jim James make cameos. A gem. (Shinji)

Hormone lemonade.
Ex-Stereolab guitarist Tim Gane’s kraut rock inspired project release their third album and this time around their sound is aimed predominantly at the rhythmic end of things with propulsive motorik beats prevailing. Sequencers, drums and drum machines pump out the hypnotic grooves, while synths and guitar provide a measure of melodic injection over ten pieces, avant-garde yet accessible. Taking bits of inspiration from the past, with Neu! and Suicide obvious reference points, the trio build them into a highly futuristic sounding present. And, yes, for long time fans, occasional fleeting traces of Stereolab can be detected here! (John H.)

Recent staff pick CDs

We’ve put together a list of of our favourite CDs from this year’s new releases so far, check out our staff picks below! There’s bit of everything genre wise, so we hope you find something new or something you may have missed when it first came out.

Record.
Tracey Thorn’s ageless voice returns with another album of mature pop, her first solo album of entirely original material for seven years. Her female worldview informs the 9 songs on this short album. The beats are back for the dance jam ‘Sister’, with Warpaint’s rhythm section and BVs from Corinne Bailey Rae, and closing track ‘Dancefloor’, but have a more sombre feel on tracks like ‘Face’. Topics include the on-going struggle for female equality (Sister), her musical beginnings (Guitar), motherhood (Babies) & the impact on Social Media of failed relationships (Face). (Mark)

Wallflower.
Born in New Zealand, grew up in Australia and a London resident now, neo-soul singer Jordan Rakei first grabbed the spotlight by working with Disclosure in 2015. His sophomore album ‘Wallflower’ is surprisingly released from Nnija Tune, and is a delicately crafted, beautiful work, featuring his quality songs and silky voice. In comparison with other new-generation soul artists such as The Internet, Hiatus Kaiyote and Nick Hakim, he seems to be a more personal, introspective singer-songwriter, and it’s showcased here. (Shinji)

Singles 1978-2016 / The Fall.
Made especially relevant by Mark E Smith’s recent sad demise, this excellent box set compiles, over seven discs, every single – both A and B sides – from one of the greatest indie bands ever – The Fall. Mark E Smith was a true legend and, unlike artists like Keith Richards who similarly defied established health beliefs, Mark E Smith maintained a high artistic credibility, continuing to produce great, challenging music for close to 40 years – and there are not many artists who can lay such a claim. This set lays it all out, from 1978’s ‘Bingo Master’s Breakout’ to 2016’s ‘Wise Ole Man’. For those less in need of completism there is also a smaller box-set – ‘A-Sides 1978-2016’ which, over three discs, omits the B-Sides. (John)

Scorn of Creation.
An outstanding 8-track self-titled debut album from Wellington death metal outfit Scorn of Creation. The band pay tribute to traditional old-school death metal without compromising on a modern, fresh sound. Energetic and raw. I loved it start to finish! (Theresa)

Part 2 / Brix & The Extricated.
Fall fans who are especially fond of the slightly more rock oriented ‘Brix era’ albums will be pleased to learn that Brix Smith has got together with ex long term Fall members Steve Hanley (bass guitar), his brother Paul Hanley (drums) and Steve Trafford (guitar and vocals) to make a record that is anything but the cash-in one may dread. Featuring mostly originals plus new versions of three Fall songs, this is a great hard rocking indie record, surprisingly so from a bunch of musos in their fifties, that was described by Drowned In Sound as “One of the great indie-rock releases of 2017”. (John)

Woodland echoes.
It’s very good news that he is still making music. Out of the blue, Nick Heyward, the former 80s pop sensation Haircut 100’s front man, released an album for the first time in 18 years and it’s a charmer. His genius songwriting is still up there with the best, such as Paul McCartney, offering dazzling breezy pop music. It’s perfect music for a lazy afternoon. (Shinji)

World wide funk.
Since the ‘60’s, US bass player Bootsy Collins has defined funk bass. Starting out as James Brown’s bass player, playing bass on “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine”, he went on to form Parliament / Funkadelic with George Clinton, collaborated with Deee-Lite on “Groove Is in the Heart”, and in 2010 formed ‘Bootsy Collins’ Funk University’, on online music school. His first album in six years features the 67-year-old laying down grooves as cool and funky as anything he has ever done with guest appearances including Doug E. Fresh, Buckethead, Snoop Dogg, Stanley Clarke, Big Daddy Kane and Chuck D. (John)

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

Black sea.
This re-release of UK post punkers XTC’s 1980 follow up to their chart breaking ‘Drums & Wires’ album gains a lot from Steven Wilson’s remastering. In fact it sounds like a different record from the muddy original with lovely crisp drums and excellent deep bass which allow the songs to fully breathe. The album captures the band in full flight as they played over 150 live gigs in 1980, a couple of years before they stopped playing live altogether to become a strictly studio based band. Consequently the musos are very tight, playing with real precision and fire throughout what is an excellent example of ‘80’s post punk / new wave power pop. (John)

Shadow of the sword.
Wellington based speed metal maniacs Stalker deliver a debut full-length of pure, unadulterated speed metal in all its thrashing, shrieking, shredding glory! A great listen – guaranteed. (Theresa)

Continue reading “Recent staff pick CDs”

Staff Picks CDs: The Best of 2017 Part 2

From our very own Wellington bands to Kendrick Lamar and soundtracks, check out more of our best music picks of 2017!

Mark’s Picks

Patriotic grooves. [VINYL]
Awesome anarcho-punk feminist diatribe against everything from Trump to neo-liberal politics, capitalism, misogyny, patriarchal violence, oppression, misogyny, transmisogyny, sexism, and cissexism. If this sounds didactic it’s not. It’s just relevant and timely. Also has great tunes that channel all the best elements of the classic Riot grrrl aesthetic.

Miles Calder & the Rumours.
Following on from their 2013 EP ‘The Crossing Over’, which was nominated for the 2014 NZ Taite Music Prize, Miles Calder & The Rumours deliver their eponymous debut 5 years after forming as a band. The culmination of a couple of years work, the self-produced album was engineered by Lee Prebble but mixed by Grammy-award winning engineer Trina Shoemaker, and features a large array of local talent (Lisa Tomlins, Ed Zuccollo, Dayle Jellyman, Finn Johansson, Chris Winter, Matthew Benton and Lucien Johnson) who add musical shadings from piano to horns to organ on various tracks. From the first track it’s easy to see just how much the songs benefit from the richness of sound the studio environment provides, and there’s a consistent calibre of songwriting across the whole album.

Dark arts / The Nudge. [VINYL]
The 2nd album from The Nudge only has 3 tracks, one of which clocks in at 13 minutes, the other at 24. The four minute opening title track (and single) is just a hint of the genre mashing that is about happen, but provides a basic reference point for the bands diverse sound. If you’re not enamoured with anything vaguely ‘prog’ and hate tracks that are basically longer that 3 and half minutes, be prepared to have your opinion changed by this addictive record. With relatively few vocal interludes, it’s all about the structure of the sound here and they manage to weave in out of different styles and atmospheres within the same track with nothing feeling overly laboured or obvious. All the tonal shifts seem like smaller songs within the larger canvas of the track and by the end of 13 or 24 minutes they leave you wanting more not less.

The weight of melted snow.
Lovely new meditative album from French For Rabbits based around the dissolution of the romantic relationship of band members Brooke Singer and John Fitzgerald. Male vocals provide a counterpoint to Singer’s softly lilting voice, and the dreamy atmospheric ambient sounds that the fully fleshed out band provides. Previous albums have drawn inspiration from nature and the physical, but ‘The Weight of Melted Snow’ while not short of imagery of the natural world is all about the internal, the dynamics of the heart and how to keep it beating when you lose part of it.

If you’re born on an island the ocean heals you.
With the exception of bass and drums on a few tracks and backing vocals everything is played by Lake, along with all the writing and arrangements. The synthy pop structure of a lot of the tracks enfold the layered vocals (and lovely backing voices of Seamus Maguire, Penelope Esplin, Felicity Herbertson and Nadia Reid) with a sense of warmth rather than cold beats. He uses a distinctively ‘kiwi’ voice on the brilliant ‘Good Keen Man’ that cleverly updates a series of iconic NZ images with the realities of the now. A mini-album exits within the larger work, with ‘Renters’ & ‘The Cost of Living’ addressing what he sees as the social crises’ facing people in NZ today. A love of nature, the land and the beauty that surrounds us pervades against the avarice and capitalism of modern life.

Teeth.
When you heard that Luke Buda & Tom Callwood (Phoenix Foundation) were teaming up with David Long (The Mutton Birds), & Anthony Donaldson (The Labcoats) you could be forgiven for thinking that the result would be more along the experimental spectrum. But Teeth turn up the indie guitar dynamics to just rock out, in a straight ahead way that differs from its members previous bands. You get the feeling that the entirety of Teeth is a great palette cleanser for everyone involved. Trippy guitars, riffy bass lines, shimmery reverby vocals, songs that bounce from the cosmic to the angsty to tongue in cheek and back. Every song is so catch & melodic it’s hard to pick highlights but ‘Glass Ceiling’ & the wry ‘Looking Good, Feeling Great’ are both super fun.

Harmonies.
Super funky new album from Lord Echo. A melange of analogue dance floor grooves that take in everything from ‘Rebirth of the Cool’ Acid Jazz, Caribbean disco vibe, African funk, classic American R&B and back. The ever awesome Mara TK takes vocal duties on 4 tracks, with Lisa Tomlins on 2, and Toby Laing & Echo himself on one each. Lucien Johnson’s sax & flute float around the beats with Daniel Hayes synth’s. It all somehow meshes into a groove that becomes more than the sum of its parts and the funky retro-ness always seems genuine and never a deliberate pastiche.

Unearthing.
As with listening to Into Orbit’s debut album ‘Caverns’ it still seems amazing that the group just consists of two people, guitarist Paul Stewart and drummer Ian Moir, as their immersive soundscapes sound so epic. The hybrid post-rock/metal/experimental template of the first album is expanded on. Elements shift up against each other, heavy guitar riffs meld into moments of calm and delicate playing, only to explode into crushing drums. But it’s not just a series of loud/quiet/loud moments tied together as ‘tracks’. Into Orbit never seem to be welded into a particular set definition of what each track should be in terms of sound and atmospherics, and the subtle layering of complex patterns & textures make each track a unique experience.

Morningside.
Fantastic new album from Auckland based Amelia Murray (AKA Fazerdaze). Fuzzy guitars, programmed drum patterns and the odd sinewy keyboard line make up the sonic palette of most tracks, but her sweet airy vocals soar over all of it. The shimmery reverby guitars invoke a summery sense of well being, but the ‘poppy’ musical framework hides a lyrical disillusionment and uncertainty. A pervading sense of anxiety permeates nearly every track, inhabiting every relationship and interaction, and hovering cloudlike over the future itself.

Otherness.
Fantastic next level sophomore album from Grayson Gilmour, filled with superbly textured sounds and catchy melodies. His voice is moved up in the mix so it floats upon the layers of often dichotomous sound he builds into the tracks. There is an almost academic level of focus on the soundscapes & chord structures but it is more an organic exploration rather than fussy cleverness, and moulded around the album’s overarching themes of growth and acceptance.

Ennui.
The songs on ‘Ennui’ form themselves through shifting styles, overriding an easy definition or pigeon-holing, subsuming genres, metres, keys, & vocal styles into the original narratives of each of the songs rather than being in service of them. With 3 vocalists at play and elements of everything really from post-hardcore/sludge, psych Rock, post-Rock, stoner riffs, desert rock, doom layers it’s impossible to delineate the trajectory of each track adequately, suffice to say that each is challenging and complex and overall it’s an alum that reveals its musical and emotional layers after repeated immersion.

Perfect body.
Vibrant second album from the Mermaidens trio scored a flurry of great reviews upon its release, and rightly so. The tracks wind in and out of indie rock influences (newer bands like Warpaint, and older classic exponents like Sleater Kinney), elements of shoegaze , brighter Britpop, & echoy layers of early Cure’s goth. As a whole the album sounds fantastic, the breathy vocals merging perfectly with the dense drum patterns and creeping sinuous guitar lines, creating a cavernous sound that builds and releases. The precision of the music is aligned with the murky melodicism of the vocals which shift between an intense attack and detached emotion, as they dissect the juxtaposition of animalistic physicality and the sensory experience of the natural, with the pressure of the modern digital world of social media, fractured relationships and uncertain interactions. Bold and accomplished, enigmatic and intense at the same time. Continue reading “Staff Picks CDs: The Best of 2017 Part 2”

Staff Picks DVDs: The best of 2017

A round-up of our favourite library DVDs from last year (plus a couple from early this year that made the cut). We hope you find something new, or something you missed from last year.

Mark’s Picks:
Billions. Season two.
Billions sees Damian Lewis as Bobby Axelrod, a billionaire hedge fund manager and Paul Giamatti as U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhodes, determined to bring him down. Season 2 begins with Bobby attempting to rebuild Axe Capital after the events of Season 1. Meanwhile Rhodes is under scrutiny from the Attorney General for his previous investigation into Axelrod’s business dealings. Each manoeuvre’s to gain the upper hand and destroy the other amidst a background of inside deals, political gameplay, money, and influence. Season 2 is all about short stocks and long cons, but who is playing who? Machiavellian brinkmanship taken to it’s end point with millions of dollars, reputations and careers to be won or lost.

Homeland. The complete sixth season.
Homeland is back for another season taking place several months after Season 5. The season features the results of a presidential election of a female candidate, and takes place between Election Day and inauguration day, as CIA operatives Saul Berenson and Dar Adal begin to suspect that the new President Elect has an anti-intelligence bias and that Carrie may be helping shape her policy. A more personal season as the attacks on Carrie become more insidious, the show also follows an eerie parallel to the current US political climate, and a fascinating look at the topical political manipulation via Social Media platforms.

Trapped. The complete series one.
A ferry carrying 300 passengers from Denmark pulls into an Icelandic town’s small port, just as a heavy snow storm begins. Then a mutilated and dismembered body washes on the shore, an unidentifiable man murdered only hours ago. The local police chief, Andri, realizes a killer has descended into his town.The local police are told to wait until a crack police team can arrive from the capital city of Reykjavik to do the investigations, but then the corpse goes missing and dead bodies start to turn up – all linked to a mysterious fire that destroyed an abandoned factory & killed a local teenage girl 15 years previously… More great Scandi-Noir.

Salamander.
Sixty-six safes belonging to high-level members of industry, finance, the military, the magistracy, politics, & unions are robbed during a spectacular and heist on an influential private Bank in Brussels. Soon an unparalleled blackmail scheme is underway to destroy the country’s entire political system. Doggedly honest Euro-cop Inspector Paul Gerardi catches a rumour of the bank robbery from an informant, and when his informant later turns up dead from an apparent ‘suicide’ he knows he is onto something big. He has to stay one step ahead of people from his own Government out to silence him, and protect his family from a mysterious group called Salamander whose origins lie in a botched operation during WW11. Excellent self-contained Belgian series grips over 12 episodes.

Christine’s Pick:
Wonder Woman.
I don’t go to the cinema much any more, but as a 70s kids who spent a fair chunk of her time spinning on the spot and leaping off her bed wearing a cardboard headband and bracelets, Wonder Woman had an irresistible appeal. My memories of the Lynda Carter era were hazy enough to avoid any real comparison, however, so nostalgia remains untainted by the absolute freaking awesomeness of the newest incarnation.

Neil J’s Picks:
Maudie.
Sally Hawkins extraordinary portrayal of the arthritic Nova Scotian housekeeper Maud Lewis who becomes in the face of fierce adversity a much loved and celebrated artist is sublime, touching ,harrowing and heart-warming all at once . The films sense of brutal occasionally uplifting realism and its depiction of Maud Lewis’s inner spirit that somehow manages to rise above it all is vividly and startlingly realised. This film shows beyond any doubt that Sally Hawkins is one of the finest actresses in film today.

Blade runner 2049.
I suspect it will take several years before Blade Runner 2049 can be viewed in its true light. Until then I think it can still safely be said that it is a startling, visually masterful and striking vision of a future that deals with complex and profound ideas and that it also contains career best performances from some of its cast. An astonishing work that I am sure will be regarded as a future classic.

The red turtle.
A shipwrecked sailor has to survive on a desert island and comes across a red turtle that changes his life. This studio Ghibli co production is as you we have come to expect an exquisitely animated and very beautiful film in places it’s like watching a dream. The story is deceptively simple with the narrative instead driven by the visuals. In tone it’s like an adult version of the studio Ghibli classic Ponyo. If you are enjoying the new golden age of animated film we are in then this is a must. (Neil J)

Guardians of the galaxy. Vol. 2.
A technicolour explosion in a glitter factory. The cinematic equivalent of a long soak in a huge luxurious bubble bath, sound tracked by an ace, superb. guilty pleasure music mainly “from the 1970s” with wise cracking, funny well rounded characters you love or loathe. Basically just a jolly fun retro romp. In a sharp, well-paced, slick, action packed science fiction story. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2’ is everything you want it to be and totally lives up to its predecessor. So get out the popcorn, turn off the lights settle down on the sofa you are in for a real treat. (Neil J) Continue reading “Staff Picks DVDs: The best of 2017”

We’ve made a list and we’re checking it twice: Staff pick CDs

Check out more staff pick CDs featuring from Beach House to Alice Coltrane to New Zealand composer Ross Harris. We will be back with our ‘Best of 2017’ early next year so keep checking!

John’s Picks – continued

Wire – Silver / Lead
Highly influential UK post punk band, Wire’s first gig was on April 1 1977 and to mark the 40th anniversary their 16th album, ‘Silver / Lead’, was released on March 31 2017. Less fast and angular than usual, on this record the band explore a slower and darker, introspective realm which opens up a more emotional edge to their characteristic cerebral remove. The slower pace also enables the band to create some gentle and haunting moments within what is arguably their most accessible album to date.

Radiohead – OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997-2017
Radiohead’s ground breaking third album gets a remastered 20th anniversary re-release which includes b-sides and tracks rejected from the original. The album’s prescience in portraying the digital angst and alienation that was just around the corner, coupled with its bravely experimental approach to songcraft has ensured the album classic status and twenty years on that status is definitely justified.

Laurel Halo – Dust
Anyone following US born, Berlin based electronic musician Laurel Halo’s career will be pleasantly bewildered by her third release as it is as different from 2013’s ‘Chance of Rain’, which featured dance based electronics, as that release was from 2012’s vocal leaning ‘Quarantine’. On ‘Dust’ her music remains as unclassifiable as ever and, as much jazz as electronica, has attained a new found warmth and softness with her treated vocals woven through absorbing and often playful sound textures and beats to create a collection of tracks as original and beguiling as anything you will hear this year.

Beach House – B-Sides & Rarities
Spanning the ten years of their career, this compilation flows as well as any of the indie star duo’s releases and offers some lovely peeks into their creative process via demo versions and unreleased tracks alongside remixed and live versions of their woozy lo-fi dream pop. While this album is a treat for established Beach House fans, surprisingly, it would serve well as an introduction for the curious to one of the most consistent indie acts of the 2010s.

Can – The Singles
One doesn’t immediately think of German art rock innovators, Can, as a singles band, but they actually did write the occasional offbeat pop song, and these are all compiled here from the bands most creative period – 1969-1978. Surprisingly, the 1971 single “Spoon,” actually reached the German Top Ten after it was featured as the theme song to a popular television show and the cosmic disco single “I Want More” hit the U.K. Top 30, and even resulted in an appearance on the BBC’s ‘Top of the Pops’. The odd whimsical inclusions, such as an instrumental version of Silent Night, sit well alongside more serious tracks over what pretty much amounts to an alternate universe hit parade.

Beach Fossils – Somersault
NY based Beach Fossils’ third album is possibly their best yet as they take their sweet indie pop one step further with the addition of orchestral and easy listening sounds including strings, flute, sax, piano and harpsichord, a move that is sure to have Brooklyn hipsters drooling into their cupcakes. The melodies, as lovely as ever, are delivered via Dustin Payseur’s wry, weary vocals, accompanied by characteristic jangly guitars, lyrical bass and the aforementioned orchestral touches which help to create gorgeous shimmering soundscapes.

Mark’s Pick

Phil Seymour – Prince of Power Pop
Singer-songwriter, drummer-guitarist Phil Seymour was half of Tulsa rockers the Dwight Twilley Band who scored a big hit with the song ‘I’m on Fire’ in the mid 70s. Twilley and Phil Seymour met in Tulsa in 1967 at a theater where they had gone to see The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, and soon began writing songs and recording together under the name Oister. Eventually, they went to Los Angeles & signed with Shelter Records, a label co-owned by Denny Cordell and Leon Russell, in 1974.Cordell promptly changed the group’s name from Oister to the Dwight Twilley Band, which set the seeds for future problems arising from Seymour’s anonymity in the partnership. Their first single, “I’m on Fire”, reached #16 on the charts in 1975, but a follow-up single, failed due to distribution problems, as just after the single was released Shelter Records collapsed in the midst of a lawsuit between Russell and Cordell. The Dwight Twilley Band’s first completed album went unreleased for 10 months losing all the bands momentum to that point. A label shift and a second album also didn’t score commercially, leading Seymour to quit the band in 1978. In 1980 he signed to Boardwalk Records and he released his first solo album, titled Phil Seymour, which became a revered power-pop classic. A second album followed in 1982 but was weakened by his drug problems at the time, along with the death of Boardwalk Records founder Neil Bogart who died shortly after its release, collapsing the label. In the mid-80s he joined roots rock band the Textones, as a singer/drummer. While touring he noticed lumps appearing on his neck, and he was subsequently diagnosed with lymphoma. Seymour moved back to Tulsa to undergo treatment for the cancer and continued to record and play on the local scene until his death on 1993 at the age of 41. One of the most respected singers of the power-pop genre, and one who never quite had the career his talent deserved. This compilation collects up some of the best tracks from his first 2 albums with some outtakes and unreleased material, to present a solid picture of another great artist who left us too soon.

Shinji’s Picks

London Grammar Truth is a Beautiful Thing
Working Week, Young Disciples, Portishead – the trio bands consisting of a female singer and two male musicians have been notable in the UK music scene, and London Grammar is the newest and possibly the most important addition. Like the aforementioned bands, the female singer Hanna Reid, who is often compared with Florence Welch, is the centrepiece of their music, and her melancholic, mesmerising voice is truly remarkable. They keep their music simple and the atmospheric otherworldly soundscape they deftly create is the perfect pallet for Reid’s voice. For this sophomore album, they invited eminent producers, including Paul Epworth and Greg Kurstin -both have worked with Adele-, and sharpen up their intimate yet emotional world which impressed us immensely in their successful debut album If you Want. This is a beautiful thing.

Portico Quartet – Art in the Age of Automation
The previous album issued from Ninja Tune was performed by the trio under the name of Portico, but back to the quartet, Portico Quartet presents an excellent album. They also found their new home; Manchester’s label Gondwana Records. The up and coming talents, whose pursuit of new music based around jazz, such as Gogo Penguin and Matthew Halsall, have made a breakthrough from them, and for Portico Quartet it’s the ideal home for their fresh start. They use a unique instrument, hang – a custom made steel drum like percussion – and ingeniously blend its metallic yet lyrical sound into their music. A great variety of musical elements, namely jazz, ambient, post rock, downtempo and so on, can be heard in their music but their genre is none of them. This new effort shows their ability to weave beautifully textured, tonally inventive hybrid music, and it seems as though they make a new departure while summarising their musical journey to date. Brilliant.

Neil J’s Picks

Ibibio sound machine – Uyai
This is a truly global album fusing musical elements and cultures from all over the world from sleek 80s pop synth lines to African jazz and techno it’s all in there in. In this fantastic cultural mash up that never sounds lost or confused. Probably because wherever this eight piece band draws its diverse inspiration from they always infuse it with a heavy sprinkling of Nigerian highlife . An exuberant, joyful and rhythmic album.

Relative Abundance – Ylem
Ylem is a multilayer soundscape album comprising of numerous elements but at its core is one big concept, the band wanted to incorporate sound from the birth of time onwards and from the entire universe. To do this musical explorer Robert Baldock, erected a radio antenna and recorded the background radio transmissions from deep space, these by their very nature span across time and space , from the birth of the universe and the big bang and onwards and outwards and come from all areas of our universe. He then used these radio transmissions to trigger a series of hand built modular synthesisers. Using this as the core sound, fellow band members Emma Bowen and Neil Johnstone added a wide variety of content including auto harps, musical saws, found recorded sound, and a wide variety of synthesisers. The music is strangely in sympathy were with the strange ethereal haunting mood of the original “cosmic” sources . A really out there experimental piece and quite unlike anything else I’ve heard.

Alice Coltrane – The ecstatic music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda
After many years an album featuring a small amount of Alice Coltrane’s mythical Ashram music has finally been released. Alice Coltrane was already a musical prodigy before she married the legendary Jazz musician John Coltrane and after his sudden death she retreated to Sai Anantam Ashram and devoted the rest of her life to seeking spiritual enlightenment. These compositions were made to nourish this community and act as a meditational aids and were never intended to be heard beyond that community. The music is at once South Asian, African American, tranquil and uplifting . Constantly seeking like Alice herself musical and spiritual transcendence.

The Innocent Railway – Sweet pea
A truly beautiful and sad album it feels as if the musicians are exploring what it means to be truly lost . It shifts from delicate melancholic songs to strange haunting soundscapes whilst carefully retaining overall cohesion. It’s difficult to describe but if Nick Drake or Tim Buckley had created a half sung ambient album with Brian Eno it might just have sounded like this.

David Long, Richard Nunns and Natalia Mann – Utterance
This is a truly remarkable album, it is what great music sounds like, this is a major work in any sphere of artistic endeavour and it’s what many musicians strive their entire lives to achieve and is one of the finest albums in any genre from anywhere I have heard in a very long time . It is the culmination of a lifetime for Richard Nunns who knew from the start of the albums production it would be his last work and it sounds as if he has placed some deep aspect of his very being into the piece. It is a modern beautiful abstract work that is very aware of the deep spiritual and cultural traditions from which it springs and embraces these roots whilst being totally unique and new and timeless. Its powerful, emotional, challenging, spiritual and simultaneously personal and universal.

Ross Harris – Requiem for the fallen
Ross Harris is New Zealand’s greatest living classical composer and is arguably the greatest composer this country has ever produced. He is going through a creative golden age as witness by his remarkable output recently his as yet unreleased sixth symphony is a remarkable and beautiful work and will be heralded on its release ( it was premiered earlier in the year in Auckland). In Requiem for the Fallen he brings a lifetime of experience to bear on a deep, serious subject matter and produces a deeply moving, melodic, powerful and compassionate work. Highly recommended.

Staff picks from our extensive CD collection

Our music enthusiast John has selected his recent favourites from our extensive CD collection. More coming soon, so keep checking!

John’s picks

Thurston Moore – Rock ‘n’ Roll Consciousness
Sonic Youth fans are in for a treat here as that legendary NY band’s guitarist, Thurston Moore, explores five lengthy, textural, guitar centred songs that are reminiscent of his playing on the groundbreaking Sonic Youth album, ‘Daydream Nation”. Accompanied by long time fellow traveller, drummer Steve Shelley, this is like a lost Sonic Youth album with My Bloody Valentine’s Deb Goodge on bass instead of Kim Gordon and James Sedwards on guitar instead of Lee Renaldo. The only difference being that Moore indulges in lengthy solos – which, as it turns out, is a very good thing indeed.

Public Service Broadcasting – Every Valley
The London based duo have moved on from their potentially novelty roots, featuring archival plummy British spoken word samples, to become something akin to musical documentarians. Their debut focused on WWII, their follow up on the 1960’s space race, and now for their third album, they focus on the rise and fall of the Welsh coal-mining industry. They manage to turn that potentially dry subject into a vital and relevant commentary on progress and social awareness and have made an excellent socially conscious pop record that sounds like a good idea turning into a great one.

David Long, Richard Nunns & Natalia Mann – Utterance
Rattle Records describe this beautifully packaged release as a tribute to Richard Nunns, who’s ongoing health issues, very sadly, see this collection of 11 improvisations as his final recording. A key figure behind the revival of interest in ancient Maori instrumentation, here he uses his formidable kete of instruments to create mesmerizing atmospheres alongside David Long’s plucked and looped banjo and Natalia Mann’s haunting harp and zither.

Jane Weaver – Modern Kosmology
UK artist Jane Weaver wrote, produced , sings and played synths, keys, guitars, bass and drum machines on this impressive release that combines the hypnotic pulse of krautrock with an unearthly cosmic pop. The follow up to her 2014 release, ‘The Silver Globe’, which found her recognition after seven albums and 22 years as an idiosyncratic solo artist whose work included acoustic folk balladry, avant garde electronics and improvisation. Here she manages to meld all of her arcane source material into a rich, melodic and engaging contemporary psychedelic pop, her crisp vocals floating over gorgeous musical backdrops that include early 80s synth pop, eerie folk, library music and experimental vintage electronics.

Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder
Broken Social Scene are a Canadian musical collective with 15 members, two of whom have been pushing it all along since 2001. This is their fifth album, their first in seven years, and finds them refining their sprawling ramshackle sound into a great collection of distinctive and vibrant indie pop. Anthemic without being cheesy, the collective nature of this band comes across in the music which is relentlessly positive while maintaining a political awareness.

Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds From Another Planet
The second solo record from Michelle Zauner, the former singer for US EMO band Little Big League, is a nice blend of experimental pop, incorporating elements of shoegaze, electropop, soft rock, ambient and indie, all wrapped around her soft yearning vocals. It is a confident and engaging record that runs the risk, however, of being too pop for those who like experimental sounds and too experimental for those who like pop, but those with open ears will be well rewarded.

Dauwd – Theory of Colours
Electronic producers often find it difficult to maintain an entire album and it is nice to be able to report that UK artist Dauwd, bucks that trend. This album, on Ninja Tune offshoot Technicolour, presents a distinctive take on electronic music that manages to communicate emotional content, yet remain danceable. Most of the seven tracks maintain a lovely rolling chilled rhythm with deep bass lines and skittering hi-hats pushing it all along, while warm analog synth flourishes and electronic samples dance around over the top.

The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile started The War On Drugs in 2008, with Kurt Vile leaving after their debut album. Since then, each of them have been rewriting Americana for the new millennium with Kurt Vile’s Violaters picking up the jam band mantle from precursors like the Grateful Dead while Adam Granduciel’s War On Drugs reinvents the wide open, heart-felt grandeur of artists like Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and even Bob Dylan. Their last album, ‘Lost In the Dream’, topped numerous end-of-year best album lists and this follow up looks to repeat that success.

The National – Sleep Well Beast
It’s good to see that by their seventh album US band The National haven’t slipped into a formula. While ‘Sleep Well Beast’ maintains the band’s well recognised brooding sound fronted by Matt Berninger’s distinctive baritone vocals, this time around they move deeper into a beautiful chamber pop incorporating extensive use of piano, string arrangements and, surprisingly, electronics and samples provided courtesy of collaborators, Cologne electronic artists, Mouse On Mars.

LCD Sound System – American Dream
The story goes that David Bowie told James Murphy to restart LCD Sound System after he had ended the project in 2010, so he took Bowie’s advice and here, seven years on, we get the fourth LCD album and it’s as good as anything they have done. The album starts with a characteristic musical tribute, this time to recently deceased electronic pioneer Alan Vega, and from then on it’s the expected grab bag of influences with Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed and David Bowie name checked within a simmering survey of modern America. Anything but a cynical cash-in this album confirms James Murphy as a major artist. Continue reading “Staff picks from our extensive CD collection”

WCL staff recommend these DVDs

The latest instalment of Staff pick DVDs has a bit of everything from political drama, sci-fi adventure & monster movies, to Oscar winning coming of age, and foreign crime stories.

Guardians of the galaxy. Vol. 2.
A technicolour explosion in a glitter factory. The cinematic equivalent of a long soak in a huge luxurious bubble bath, sound tracked by an ace, superb. guilty pleasure music mainly “from the 1970s” with wise cracking, funny well rounded characters you love or loathe. In a sharp, well-paced, slick, action packed science fiction story. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2’ is everything you want it to be and totally lives up to its predecessor. So get out the popcorn, turn off the lights settle down on the sofa you are in for a real treat. (Neil J)

The missing. Season two.
Excellent stand-alone follow up to the first season. In 2014, a young British woman stumbles through the streets of her German hometown and collapses. Her name is Alice Webster, and she has been missing for 11 years. Alice’s return sends shock waves through the small community. Told in dual timelines, flitting between 2014 and the present day, we follow Alice’s family as they are thrown back into a turmoil on her return. French detective, Julien Baptiste (from Series 1) becomes embroiled in the mystery when it is revealed that she holds vital clues about another missing girl, a case in which he was the lead detective 12 years previously. Retired & suffering a health crisis he struggles to gain access to Alice and unlock the mystery of her reappearance. As good, if not better, than the first season. Full of great acting and creepy plot twists. (Mark)

High-rise.
This is 1970s dystopian science fiction at its best, all exaggerated and exuberant bleakness concrete and chrome, hessian and wood, except for one thing this film was made in 2015. Its retro futuristic Science Fiction at its best and a total blast. The kind of film Ken Russell or Nicholas Roeg might have made back in the day. (Neil J)

Paterson.
A small quiet movie with a big warm heart – Jim Jarmusch depicts a week in the life of a bus driver and a poet named Paterson who lives in Paterson, New Jersey. Not much happens plot-wise, just following his everyday orbit and routine with his wife and their English bulldog. However, Jarmusch is a ‘master of variation’. Along with Paterson’s poems, he offers subtle but intriguing twists throughout creating slightly odd people and offbeat humours. It’s about love and creativity, and through the minimal but wonderfully spontaneous performances by Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani (and the dog Marvin!), reminds us that love is not only giving but, more importantly, accepting others. It’s a beauty of less-is-more. (Shinji)

Sherlock. Series four.
This season is shocking, brutal, heart pounding, will have you glued to the screen and as always, has some clever twists that you never coming. Sherlock and Watson are back in the new season, where their friendship and partnership is put to the test. This season also sees the return of old characters, the departure of a much beloved character and the appearance of new characters, one character that constantly makes multiple appearances in all three episodes. A character that is so deeply connected to Sherlock in a way you don’t see coming and is hell bent on destroying him to the point of psychological and emotional torture where another side of Sherlock is unleashed. More of an emotional, caring, loving and vulnerable side. Overall a fantastic season that had me glued to the screen, not to mention had me on edge from start to finish. Bring on Season Five! (Katie)

Homeland. The complete sixth season.
Homeland is back for another season taking place several months after Season 5. Carrie (Claire Danes) is back in the United States, living in Brooklyn and working at a foundation whose efforts are to provide aid to Muslims living in the United States. Peter Quinn is alive but has suffered a major stroke and is incapacitated and his personality has changed significantly. The season features the results of a presidential election of a female candidate, and takes place between Election Day and inauguration day, as CIA operatives Saul Berenson and Dar Adal begin to suspect that the new President Elect has an anti-intelligence bias and that Carrie may be helping shape her policy. A more personal season as the attacks on Carrie become more insidious, the show also follows an eerie parallel to the current US political climate. Definitely worth reconnecting with if you have found the last few seasons patchy. (Mark)

Colossal.
Colossal is a very different type of monster movie from the usual Hollywood or Japanese blockbuster. Anne Hathaway plays a woman who has to leave her urban life and return home due in part to issues she has with alcohol abuse. There she falls into an abusive relationship with someone from her past. At this point a giant creature emerges in Seoul and she slowly comes to the realisation that this is connected in some way to her and events in her past. It’s a quirky odd American indie film and more about the female lead than the monsters. Think of a version of Cloverfield directed by Jim Jarmusch rather than Godzilla directed Ishiro Honda. (Neil J)

Schitt$ Creek. Series 1, 2 & 3.
Written, produced and starring two veterans of Christopher Guest movies like ‘A Mighty Wind’ and Best in Show, Schitts Creek is very funny and well worth watching. No one says what they mean, no one hears any responses they don’t like and the main characters take forever to hear the sarcasm directed their way. The series features a great cast, led by Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy, Schitts Creek and has a very well-written script. (Belinda)

Moonlight.
Chiron is too sensitive in a macho black community. His mother is a drug addict and his best and only friend Kevin is the one he loves. It’s just too hard for him to be true to himself. In this exquisite coming of age tale which is uniquely divided into three chapters, the newcomer Berry Jenkins portrays Chiron’s lonely heart brilliantly. Showing the shadows of modern auteurs such as Claire Denis, Hou Hsiao- Hsien and Wong Kar-Wai, Jenkins displays his enormous talent and fine aesthetic, particularly in immaculately crafted poetic images, and makes it a beautifully intimate, humanising drama. This may be the most unusual Oscar winner – non-white, small art-house movie dealing with a sexual minority – but will be long remembered for its quality. (Shinji)

American Gods. Season 1.
‘American Gods’ is one of the latest mega budget T.V. series to follow in the wake of the success of Game of Thrones it’s been showered by critical acclaim and attracted a huge loyal fan base and when you watch it it’s easy to see why. Eye popping visuals that swoop from macro stunning landscapes to microscopic detail in seconds, a wildly inventive plot based on the Neil Gaiman’s bestselling novel. It’s surreal, provocative, and in some circles controversial and has even been called blasphemous. It’s brilliantly acted. I esp. like Ian McShane as a God. I personally can’t wait to see what they do in series two. (Neil J)

A dog’s purpose.
A heart-warming movie about the eight life journey of Bailey/Ellie/Tino/Waffles/Buddy and Bailey… again as he tries to find himself and his purpose in life. This movie will make you laugh, make you cry, feel warm and fuzzy, and will make you develop an appreciation, as well as respect for the aptly named man’s, as well as woman’s best friend, which Bailey/Ellie/Tino/Waffles/Buddy and Bailey proves time and time again throughout the movie, finding his purpose in life and teaching a few lifelong lessons along the way. Be prepared to have tissues on hand. I haven’t seen a better movie dogs since Red Dog. A librarian’s choice all the way! (Katie)

The disappearance.
Francois-Xavier Demaison is Bertrand Molina the new Police Commandant in Lyon’s national police station. As soon as he arrives for his new job a young teenage girl disappears at a music festival. With the grieving family pressing for answers, it’s not long before Molina uncovers a number of shocking secrets in a case that pushes everyone to breaking point. A combination of police procedural and drama, with the central focus is on a grieving family it naturally evokes comparison to the first season of Danish series The Killing, and is apparently inspired by the award-winning Spanish series Desaparecida. While not quite at the same level as The Killing it is well constructed, believably acted and worth a look if you are a fan of shows like Witnesses & Broadchurch. (Mark)

The red turtle.
A shipwrecked sailor has to survive on a desert island and comes across a red turtle that changes his life. This studio Ghibli co production is as you we have come to expect an exquisitely animated and very beautiful film in places it’s like watching a dream. The story is deceptively simple with the narrative instead driven by the visuals. In tone it’s like an adult version of the studio Ghibli classic Ponyo. If you are enjoying the new golden age of animated film we are in then this is a must. (Neil J)

Manchester by the sea.
Manchester’s gloomy winter sky sets the mood. Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me, Margaret)’s new film is a deeply emotional, haunting drama. Following the taciturn, solitary man Lee (superb Casey Affleck), it’s a study of grief, and the story unfolds with elaborate flashbacks as if reading a compelling novel. Lonergan seems to learn a lesson from the previous work Margaret, which was potent but terribly messy, and weaves a beautifully balanced, coherent drama in which every detail has a meaning. Cassy Affleck received numerous awards and deservedly so but under masterful direction, all characters, including wonderful Michelle Williams, shine here. Marvellous. (Shinji)

John Wick. Chapter 2.
More bonkers action with the taciturn John Wick (Keanu Reeves in great form), who is forced out of retirement again to honour a blood ‘marker’ from a former associate wanting to seize control of a shadowy international assassins’ guild. As sequels go this is pretty good. It sets up the background for ‘one more comeback’ nicely and fleshes out the underground world & rules of the mysterious guild. But John Wick is all about the high octane action and once this hits the ground it never lets up. Is it completely daft? Yes. Is it also totally enjoyable? Definitely. (Mark)

T2 trainspotting.
Begbie and the boys are now having to deal with middle age and the ghosts of their past. This sequel is nowhere near as bleak and unrelenting as the original. It’s much funnier (in a very dark way) and fairly rattles along . As sequels go pretty much everything you could wish it to be. If you prefer the original try the other recent Welsh film adaptation Filth (the title in a way says it all). (Neil J)

Toni Erdmann.
Slightly bizarre, certainly unique and definitely wonderful- the German filmmaker Maren Ade’s father-daughter relationship drama Toni Erdmann offers a delightful cinematic experience like no other. It takes a while for the narrative to get going but evolves superbly with a plenty of surprises after the prankster father visits his all-business daughter in Romania. Although it appear an improvised, free-flowing affair, Ade, in fact, meticulously prepared for this project; researching many comedians particularly Andy Kaufman, writing the script for two years (even biographies for every characters), a year casting and countless rehearsals, and succeeded to bring out a deep melancholic emotion from the comedy. Enthralling. (Shinji)

Shin Godzilla.
Godzilla movies are for me one of my ultimate guilty pleasures. I know they are cheesy and corny but there is just something about watching a person in a rubber suit trashing a model city that deeply appeals. In ‘Shin Godzilla’ the effects are now CGI but in many other ways this is a back to basics Godzilla movie the terror, the fear, awe and wonder at this unstoppable raw force of nature are all there and to top it all the final destruction scene is ace. A proper top notch GUILTY PLEASURE. (Neil J)

Our favourite CDs this month

Our music enthusiasts John and Neil J. select their favourite music over the last few months. Check them out!

John’s picks

Real Estate – In Mind
In a world of constant change predictability can sometimes be a comforting thing and once again, indie hipster heroes, Real Estate, deliver another portion of their gorgeous laid back jangle pop. It is exactly what fans will expect –tremolo heavy guitars, lovely harmonies and bitter sweet songs, all delivered at a relaxed pace by musicians so tight as to appear telepathic – and the fact that there are no surprises is in this case a definite plus. They may be heading down exactly the same road – but it’s hard not to hope they keep doing so for a while yet.

The Handsome Family – Unseen
Another act that successfully tread a well-honed path are husband and wife alt country duo, The Handsome Family. It would be easy to assume that ten albums in they had exhausted ideas for their dark and entrancing gothic folk country sound, but this would be a mistake as, if anything, the contrary is true, with ‘Unseen’ the best record they have made for a while. The melodies are lovely, their darkly surreal stories as absorbing as ever and the playing as understated and gently off- kilter as to be expected. There was a time when The Handsome Family were a closely guarded secret amongst devout fans, until their title theme for ‘True Detective’ cast them into the spotlight, and the exposure appears to have given them a new confidence.

Grandaddy – Last Place
Well-crafted songs, unpretentious 2000’s indie-rock sensibilities, great hooks – guess what, California’s Grandaddy have made a new record after an 11 year silence! Granddaddy were always singer/songwriter Jason Lyttle’s band and it’s great to hear his esoteric, slightly melancholic slacker take on existentialist angst once again. The production is excellent – not trendy lo-fi and not over produced bombast –and gives the guitar, keyboards, occasional strings and electronics room to breathe under Lyttle’s hushed vocals to create a lovely listening experience. Grandaddy were always slightly out of place and now, probably even more so, but their workmanlike song craft and studied carelessness offer a welcome return.

The United States of America – The United States of America
Released in 1968, this was one of the most progressive records released at the time and among the first to feature electronics within a band setup. Grounded in psychedelia but influenced by the New York avant-garde experimental scene, band leader Joe Byrd recruited a group of UCLA students, well versed in John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, to record the group’s lone self-titled LP. The record flopped, but went on to attain cult status and, apart from some of the hippie inspired lyrics such as “Lemonous petals, dissident play/ Tasting of ergot/ Dancing by night, dying by day”, it sounds remarkably contemporary with musique concrete-style tape collages, white noise, tape delay, ring-modulated fade-outs and distorted synthesizers. This re-issue includes 10 extra alternate takes.

Illum Sphere – Glass
The second album on Ninja Tune from UK electronic producer Ryan Hunn finds him ditching the vocals of his debut to present an excellent album of studied electronica. Maintaining a nice balance between abstract and melodic, the tracks wend their way through a variety of styles including minimal four to the floor, sequencer driven grooves, atmospheric ambient and dubbed out chillscapes throughout a confident and beautifully produced immersive listening experience.

Slowdive – Slowdive
It’s always a risk when a band that has attained cult status makes a new album, and the 22 years since Slowdive’s last record is a good case in point. Key figures in the early ‘90’s Shoegaze movement, Neil Halstead’s vast glistening guitar textures and Rachel Goswell’s hushed vocals, last heard on 1995’s ‘Pygmalion’, have been a huge influence on many bands over the past two decades and it is a great pleasure to discover that their 2017 album is a grandiose and spectacular comeback. Everything a fan could hope for is here – deep layers of beautifully textured guitars and lovely plaintive vocals delivering songs, wistful and reflective, within a shimmering production……. and not a guitar solo in earshot.

Gas – Narkopop
In 2000 German electronic maestro Wolfgang Voigt released ‘Pop’, a deeply immersive record, featuring layered loops of orchestral samples to create engrossing electronic ambient music that exhibited all the majesty of classical. Since then he has pretty much created a genre of beatless electronica via his annual Pop Ambient compilations that feature a wide array of electronic artists applying techno production techniques to ambient textures. ‘Narkopop’, his first full release in 17 years, is a follow up to ‘Pop’ and dives deeper into the original template, focusing on texture and reverberation and introducing sub bass pulses to create stunning symphonic electronic chamber music that is as meditative as it is unsettling.

Fazerdaze – Morningside
The latest release from Flying Nun is ‘Morningside’ the debut album by Fazerdaze, an AK band fronted by Wellington born, bedroom pop artist Amelia Murray. Receiving rave reviews worldwide, the album has even been described as ‘generation defining’ on Canadian website ‘The Review’. Since their recent Laneway performance interest in the band has skyrocketed, with their infectious jangly guitar pop finding an audience in a young generation that has been described as the ‘anxious generation’, and if that is true then it is easy to understand how comfort could be found in these simple and stylish songs. Amelia Murray has a sweet voice and her songs hold emotional resonance, revealing a wide range of feelings – anxiety, trepidation, hope, and relief – delivered via confident song structures and diverse arrangements that reveal glimpses of darkness under the apparent innocence.

Fujiya & Miyagi – Fujiya & Miyagi
Six albums in and the Brighton, UK, based band are gradually becoming underground favorites worldwide. Their latest release compiles three eps released over the past year and finds the band fine tuning their sound. They appeared pretty much fully formed back in 2002 and their idiosyncratic sound hasn’t changed a lot since then, but they have grown into a tight band that successfully blends dance floor electro with band sensibilities and their krautrock inspired electro grooves and whispered vocals are presented here with a lot of confidence.

Tycho – Epoch
Another band that bridge electronica and indie rock are Tycho from San Francisco who have developed from the solo IDM project of electronic producer Scott Hansen into one of the best known instrumental electronic bands of this era. ‘Epoch’, their fourth release, received a 2017 Grammy nomination for Best Dance/Electronic Album, which is surprising considering the amount of guitar playing and drums that feature on a record that is, essentially, an instrumental post rock album. Generally it’s a four to the floor excursion with a few tracks rhythms verging on math rock and even drum’n’bass, yet overall the swirling guitars and cascading synths maintain a steady flow of highly enjoyable grooves.

Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble – Finding Me Finding You
The demise of UK post rockers Stereolab left a gap in contemporary music, but some solace can be found in the fact that there are now two bands in Stereolabs place, with Tim Gane’s Cavern of Anti-Matter exploring further into kraut rock while Laetitia Sadier continues to create her surreal sensual pop informed by the harmonies and lush instrumentation of exotica, easy listening and tropicalia. This is her fourth record since Stereolab split in 2010, and she has proven to be an artist with a clear singular vision which she explores consistently, with the addition of subtle twist here and there. Here she presents her warmest record yet, however the beauty is lodged within shifting abstract song structures that demand a listener’s perseverance – but the effort is well rewarded.

Karriem Riggins – Headnod Suite
Not quite a jazz album and not quite a beat tape, Detroit drummer and producer Karriem Riggins’ second album contains 29 tracks, most of them less than two minutes in duration, that run together to create an engrossing listen featuring vocal snippets and instrumental samples all pushed along by very cool beats. Anyone who has enjoyed the contemporary re-invention of Afro-American fusion explored on Robert Glasper’s remix projects, which re-imagine hip-hop, jazz, electronics and soul, should find this an interesting release. Like classic instrumental hip hop releases such as ‘Donuts’ (Karriem Riggins worked with J Dilla) the multitude of sounds dissipate as quickly as they appear entrancing the attentive listener

Jah Wobble & the Invaders of the Heart – Everything Is Nothing
35 years ago it would have been impossible to foresee the bass player from Johnny Rotten’s post punk band Public Image Ltd making an album of spiritual jazz-funk, but times change and Jah Wobbles latest PledgeMusic funded record is an excellent contemporary fusion of afro-beat, jazz and polyrhythmic funk. Producer Youth has described the record as Wobble’s “Miles Davis opus”, which may be an overstatement; however, this predominantly instrumental album features ten tracks delivered by a talented group of virtuosos who never grandstand but play to the funky polyrhythmic grooves, anchored by Wobble’s dub-infused bass and former Fela Kuti drummer, Tony Allen. Featuring muted trumpet, piano, guitar, Rhodes, vibes, synth, blistering sax (courtesy of Hawkwind’s Nik Turner), flute and strings, this is a big and very funky sound that both references and pays homage to the influential afro jazz that has gone before.

Neil J’s picks

Jesca Hoop – Memories are now
The supremely talented Jesca’s latest release is another subtle, melodic, sophisticated outing. Building on her previous releases it as the cliché says “ rewards repeated listening’s”. Bound to be in many peoples best of 2017 lists when that time comes. A rather beautiful wee album.

Perfume genius – No Shape
Perfume genius’s fourth album No shape is a lush, elaborate, decadent shape shifting album of contrasts. Moving effortlessly from haunting delicate fragile melodies that still somehow sound slightly damaged or decayed to uplifting euphoric rapturous elements often in the same piece of music

Bonobo – Migration
Bonobo aka Simon Green’s latest work is a sonically rich , dreamy and downbeat piece of electronica with the odd vocal sprinkled through. Its easily his most listenable work to date.

Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
I love the Fleet foxes first two albums and was intrigued to hear that Crack up their third outing starts exactly where the last track of their second album Helplessness blues ends. No band is attempting to do what they do with their sound. It’s really hard to describe their work but here goes experimental, orchestral, modern folk music with a close affection for music from late 1960s American West coast Scene. People like Crosby, Stills and Nash or Joni Mitchell. Its lush, its gorgeous, its seductive and it has serious intent too one of my favourites of the year.

Librarians’ favourite DVDs of the month

A wide range of movies & TV shows curated by our avid AV fans on staff for the first half of the year. We hope you find something new to enjoy.

Beauty and the beast.
Belle (Emma Watson), a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast (Dan Stevens) in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the beast’s hideous exterior, recognising the kind heart and soul of the true prince that hides on the inside. Overall it was an interesting revamp of the original animated 1992 classic. I found there was more depth to the characters: Belle and the beast, and perhaps more of a back story as to how their background, experiences and personalities shaped the people that they came to be. As always, the story encourages viewers to look beyond the superficial and to be compassionate, curious, humble, and generous. This movie is a must see and has been worth the long wait. A film that the entire family can enjoy on a night out on the town– especially on a Saturday night! 9/10 all the way! (Katie)

The girl on the train.
Rachel (Emily Blunt), devastated by her recent divorce, spends her daily commute fantasising about the seemingly perfect couple who live in a house that her train passes every day, until one morning she sees something shocking happen there and becomes entangled in the mystery that unfolds. Solid adaptation of Paula Hawkins novel which, given it largely consisted of the main characters internal monologue, must have proven difficult to adapt. The location is changed to the States like High Fidelity, and like a spate of recent adaptations would probably have benefitted from being a BBC or ITV mini-series rather than a feature film. Probably, as with Gone Girl, more enjoyable if you haven’t yet read the book, but if you have it’s still an entertaining watch. (Mark)

I, Daniel Blake.
Always defending the socially vulnerable, Ken Loach’s career has spanned five decades and at the age of 80, he delivers one of his finest works. Obviously he is furious about the British welfare state and the heartless bureaucracy but with as little drama as possible, masterfully depicts the struggles of widowed carpenter Daniel Blake who has suffered a heart attack and a young single mother of two Katie. With the help of the excellent screenplay by his long-time collaborator Paul Laverty, there are lovely moments of humour and warmth in this harsh social realism drama and makes it even more memorable. A small triumph. (Shinji)

Finding Dory.
This movie is in a word, FANTASTIC! Finding Dory reunites the friendly but forgetful blue tang fish, Dory, along with her friends, Marlin and Nemo on an epic quest to find Dory’s family. The questions that hangs on everyone’s lips are what does she remember? Who are her parents? And where did she learn to speak whale? Even the Pixar short film, Piper that was released alongside Finding Dory is beautiful and heart-warming. Two movies for the price of one, you can’t go wrong. Overall, I loved the film! It will make you laugh, it will make you cry and it will make you want to watch it over and over again. It is truly unforgettable. A well-deserved 9/10. (Katie)

Sully.
Clint Eastwood helms this adaptation of the events of January 15, 2009, the Miracle on the Hudson, when Captain “Sully” Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks) glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard. It would be easy to downplay this as ‘solid’ or ‘straight-forward’ but after a recent span of bloated and overly arty biographical adaptations this 96 minutes is a perfect example of solid Hollywood film-making. If it seems underplayed or lacks that ‘larger than life’ factor of most biopics it’s a deliberate move, the no-nonsense storytelling a perfect match for the cool, collected nature of its subject. (Mark)

Captain Fantastic.
Ben, a father of 6, is raising his kids “off grid” and teaching them how to survive in the wild as well as feeding their amazing minds with his own home schooling techniques. Each child is unique and the viewer sees how Ben has tailored their learning to incorporate each one as well as “the whole”. When tragedy strikes he is forced to take them away from their known environment into the frightening modern world. The children’s grandparents disagree with the way he is raising his children and arguments ensue and lead him to question his beliefs. This movie made me laugh and cry and gave insights into modern child rearing and how it can be scary no matter where you bring your children up. 5 out of 5 stars. (Raewyn)

The man from U.N.C.L.E..
Set in the 60’s and at the height of the Cold War, a mysterious criminal organization plans to use nuclear weapons and technology to upset the fragile balance of power between the United States and Soviet Union. So in typical Superhero style, CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) are forced to put aside their hostilities and work together to stop the bad guys in their tracks. The duo’s only lead is the daughter of a missing German scientist, Gabby (Alicia Vikander), whom they must find soon to prevent a global catastrophe. In typical Ritchie fashion, there is plenty of fast moving (and perhaps violent) action sequences, memorable one liners, cameos by very famous actors and sporting figures (infamous cameo from David Beckham! – Whoohoo!), plenty of twists and turns that you don’t see coming. Overall a great film filled with action, comedy, romance and suspense. (Katie)

Arrival.
When mysterious spacecraft’s touch down across the globe, an elite team, led by expert codebreaker Louise Banks (Amy Adams), is brought together to investigate. As various countries respond differently to the situation an ‘attack’ on the new invaders seems immanent, as Banks and the team (Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker) race against time to crack a way of communicating with the aliens to learn just what their purpose in coming to Earth is. Marketed as a sci-fi film, it’s more philosophical in nature, similar to Jodie Foster’s ‘Contact’, Solaris or the recent wave of films like Ex-Machina or Coherence that focus more on the cerebral rather than spectacle. Perhaps not for everyone, but definitely different than the usual Hollywood approach. (Mark)

Indignation.
This directorial debut of James Schamus, who is well known as a producer particularly for Ang Lee’s works, is a faithful adaptation of Philip Roth’s late novel of the same title. Set in the 50s, it’s a bitter coming of age tale about the intelligent but complex Jewish student Marcus (Logan Lerman). Schamus transformed it into a solid, sophisticated work which features some impressive acting, including a16-minute-long verbal spar scene between Dean and Marcus. Apparently Roth was pleased with the film. It’s a relief for the director and the audience alike. (Shinji) Continue reading “Librarians’ favourite DVDs of the month”

Staff Picks CDs: Feb-May

A wide range of music styles and artists curated by our avid music fans on staff over the last few months. We hope you find something new to enjoy.

Hammock – Everything and Nothing
After experimenting with post-classical sound, the ambient, post-rock duo from Nashville seems to enter a new phase. This 16-songs-76-minutes-suite is their most pop album, featuring several singers and some rhythmical tunes. However, their distinguished musical world; mesmerising, gradually sublimated emotional sound scape, remains beautifully and enthrals you. Somewhere in the mixture of Cocteau Twins, Sigur Ross and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, this album should appeal to a wider audience. (Shinji)

Ingrid and Christine Jensen – Infinitude
Canadian sister jazz musicians Ingrid and Christine Jensen (trumpeter and saxophonist respectively) have played together over the years, but making a collaboration album is something new for them. Born and raised on Vancouver Island where surrounded by an abundance of nature, their Nordic roots is strongly embedded in the music here, and blends wonderfully into modern sonic jazz which shows the shadows of the late 60s’ Miles Davis. The communication among the players is so fluid, and the guest guitarist Ben Monder adds rich textures. Infinitude is a beautiful, sublime album. (Shinji)

Craig Taborn – Daylight Ghosts
One of the most innovative and versatile jazz pianists of today Craig Taborn has found ECM label as his home and this third effort for the label is a sheer magic. Assembled from his long-time friends and master musicians, the quartet shows amazing interplays and integrates Taborn’s enigmatic compositions into the highly skilful group improvisations. It’s a hybrid chamber jazz infused with subtle electronica, post rock, complex rhythm etc. This group is probably more avant-garde on stage but this is an ECM production. Their radicalness is slightly reduced and beautified. However, it worked out fantastically. A masterpiece is born. (Shinji)

Ross Harris – The Kugels play Klezmer
Ross Harris is perhaps better known as the leading composer of the New Zealand classical world or perhaps his pioneering electronic pieces with the Free Radicals. However his latest works are a revelation, the album comprises traditional Jewish Klezmer pieces. Melancholic, lyrical, delicate and beautiful , the music is played with grace and finesse by the Kugels who are the Wellington based quartet to which he belongs . The album pulls off that rare feat of sounding both vibrant and fresh whilst being firmly rooted in the tradition to which the music belongs .
Highly recommended. (Neil J)

Relative Abundance – Golden Pavilion
Golden Pavilion is an ambitions, experimental, emotionally engaging album . A modern classical piece with deep roots in modern electronic ambient works. If you like Steve Reich or Brian Eno or indeed cutting edge modern electronica then this will be right up your street.
The band describes the piece as being like music from a long lost fictional civilisation that might have borne some similarity to Japan, Tibet, Nepal or Indonesia: a work of fictional anthropological field recording. relativeabundance.bandcamp.com/album/kinkaku-ji (Neil J)

Alt-J – An Awesome Wave
Their music creates a dreamy soundscape punctuated by clicks and snares, overlaid with intriguing lyrics suggesting themes such as the suffering of a Matador in the bull ring, to relationship breakup aftermath, even alluding to Maurice Sendaks “Where the wild things Are”. For me, it is the perfect music to distract from the dreary windy rainy Autumn weather. (Lisa)

Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos
The award winning British poet/rapper excels on her second album which is something quite spectacular. The grooves are fat, the tunes are great, and the lyrics, while cutting and acerbic, are drawn from a deeply humane perspective. This is an intensely political record that harks back to the early days of hip-hop as she directs her fine honed literary tirades at capitalism, gentrification, climate change, war, disconnectedness, isolation and more. Yet, surprisingly, the total does not come across as preachy or over wrought, and this is largely due to Kate Tempest’s impassioned delivery and the quality of the music. She obviously cares very much and really wants you to as well. (John)

Machinedrum– Human Energy
US electronic producer Travis Stewart, aka Machinedrum, has slowly built a worldwide profile with his workman like approach, consistently releasing excellent records and his latest is no exception. Last year’s “Vapor City”, his first for the esteemed Ninja Tune label, was a standout, merging genres including dubstep, r’n’b, jungle, footwork and ambient to create something original and very cool. “Human Energy”, inspired by the California new age movement, finds him coming as close as he has come to the popular arena, featuring very catchy tunes, a range of guest r’n’b vocalists, great beats and excellent production to create a summer record of euphoric glitch pop. (John)

Pink Floyd – The Early Years 1967-1972
This double cd features a relatively small selection of tracks from “The Early Years 1967-1972”- the mammoth 27 disc box set released earlier this year. Unless you are a dedicated fan, this selection should satisfy curiosity concerning Pink Floyd’s early time as an arty underground band before Dark Side of the Moon” launched them into the stratosphere. Nicely contextualized by a well-informed booklet included here are their first singles, some early BBC Sessions, previously unreleased soundtrack works, early live recordings and, intriguingly, 2016 remixes of three tracks from “Obscured By Clouds”. (John)

Nicolas Jaar – Sirens
The Chilean producer made a big splash with his 2011 release “Space Is Only Noise” and “Sirens”, experimental releases aside, is his follow up. Difficult to pin down, Nicolas Jaar is a fiercely creative producer who doesn’t simply merge genres; he throws them up in the air and creates something new and fresh with what falls down. His Discogs page tags him as “Electronic, Ambient, Downtempo, Modern Classical, Techno” which gives some indication. Using all manner of instruments, field recordings, lovely vocals, discreet electronics and a range of moods from ambient through downbeat to driving rock he has created not so much a record as a world to explore. (John)

The Radio Dept – Running Out of Love
This Swedish band have gradually built a loyal international following since the release of their 2003 debut “Lesser Matters”. Capturing everything that is appealing about the classic indie sound – gentle vocals, sweet melodies, driving grooves and meaningful lyrics – they deviate only slightly from their distinctive sound on this, their fourth release, by including more electronica in the mix and also incorporating a political awareness into some of their lyrics. Simultaneously nostalgic and forward looking, this is probably their most consistent album that comes as a friendly reminder of what a lovely thing it can be to have warm, intelligent music in your life. (John)

Shirley Collins – Lodestar
A real event within the folk world, 84 year old Shirley Collins, the “faerie queen” of UK psych folk who turned her back on singing and has lived in relative obscurity for almost 40 years, was finally coaxed back to a microphone by devoted fans. Recorded live to laptop in her rural cottage and accompanied by members of the next generation of folk musicians, this is a beautiful document, capturing her moving renditions of traditional British and American songs in a pure and humble fashion that enables times past to live again. (John)

Roman Flugel – All the Right Noises
In these beat saturated EDM times its refreshing to discover an electronic producer exploring more abstract regions yet still creating accessible sounds. Roman Flugel’s third album is “about the solitary time in hotel rooms between gigs, and that strange mixture of peace and isolation”, and he has created a collection of pieces that lie between ambient and dancefloor in the wonderful world of electronic listening music. It’s an imaginative and diverse ride, beautifully produced with sparkling highs and throbbing lows, that moves between a variety of styles and while the whole thing has a slightly unsettling feel, that is part of its charm. (John)

The Clean – Getaway(reissue)
Since their surprise 1981 hit “Tally-Ho” hit the charts, launching the ‘Dunedin sound’ into worldwide consciousness, The Clean have only released five albums and this re-issue of their fourth, 2001’s ‘Getaway’, with great artwork and an accompanying second disc featuring the rare tour-only live eps – “Syd’s Pink Wiring System” and “Slush Fund”, sits well in their scant but highly influential discography. The album sees the band in mature song writer mode and these well produced tracks cover a wide range of styles from the characteristic motorik chug of their early days to slower compositions featuring a range of instruments and a quieter mood. (John)

Kate Bush – Before the Dawn
In 2014 Kate Bush returned to the stage with a series of twenty-two shows and this three disc set is a recording of that show. Surprisingly, the set doesn’t focus on Kate’s hits, featuring only “Hounds of Love”, “Running Up That Hill” and “Cloudbusting”. Instead the focus is on two of her more ambitious works – “The Ninth Wave” (side two of Hounds of Love) and “A Sky of Honey” (side two of Aerial). With the album proudly stating “nothing on the record was re-recorded or overdubbed”, the performances are wonderful – her voice magnificent, with the accompanying musicians supplying sensitive and finely tuned performances. While it is a little frustrating to be missing the visuals of the stage show (with no DVD included) this is a treat for fans and not to be missed. (John)

VA – Jon Savage’s 1966: The Year the Decade Exploded
British writer Jon Savage’s new book explores how the year 1966 unfolded in music, taking one key song from each month and expanding on a theme. It’s a great book, well researched, and strongly recommended for those interested in the history of contemporary music and cultural development over the past 50 years. This two disc compilation is a companion to that book, featuring many of the key tracks discussed by Savage. The 48 tracks represent a wide snapshot of the times, from The Who’s ‘Substitute’ through Love’s ‘7 and 7 Is’ to Lee Dorsey’s ‘Working In a Coalmine”, and there is even a track from the very first David Bowie album! It’s a fascinating journey and a great listen if you have read the book or not. (John)

Romare – Love Songs Part Two
Romare’s debut album, last year’s ‘Projections’ was one of the years’ best electronic releases, featuring a great collection of sample laden smooth and funky grooves that always stayed engaging, edgy and interesting. His follow up, again on London’s Ninja Tune label, is essentially more of the same – and that is a very good thing. Nothing is too frantic and the grooves keep rolling, created from expertly selected samples from classic jazz, funk, house and soul that steer the tracks unfailingly into expertly layered excursions, some quiet and beguiling, some as seductive and funky as one could hope for. It’s a very cool ride from a talented producer that holds together nicely as an album rather than just a collection of tracks. (John)

Bonobo – Migration
Migration is Simon Green, aka Bonobo’s, sixth release since his 2000 debut, the gorgeous ‘Animal Magic’, and over that time he has become one of the most respected and successful electronic producers on the planet. His last album, 2013’s ‘The North Borders’ was his breakthrough and was toured, with an ensemble of live musos, across 30 countries on four continents to a total audience of around 2 million. His sound has evolved into a gorgeous form of electronic soul that features pianos, guitars, woodwind, strings and guest vocalists interlaced with found sounds and Green’s expertly crafted drum and keyboard programming. By turns melancholic, majestic and celebratory this is music that invites you into its own world. (John)

Brian Eno – Reflection
Brian Eno follows up ‘The Ship’, his 2017 vocals based release, with an hour long piece of generative music that continues on from his wispy 1991 work – ‘Neroli’. These generative pieces are delicate minimal electronic works that represent Eno’s strivings to create music that floats on the air like perfume, that doesn’t seem like music so much as pleasurable sounds that drift by your ears – always different, always the same – like a river. Generative music is created by putting together systems that generate the sounds in random patterns and with ‘Reflection’ comes the option to purchase an iOS app that presents a simple visual that gradually changes colors as the music itself slowly shifts, generating music indefinitely without ever repeating itself. So it seems that Eno has finally created a piece of infinite music. In these anxious times ambient works like this are a welcome respite, representing as they do, a peaceful and calming virtual river to sit beside. (John)

The XX – I See You
The London trio’s third release in seven years finds them continuing their moody brooding indie pop trajectory, however their sound palette has evolved, appearing to have incorporated production ideas from trio member, Jamie XX’s very successful solo electronic venture “In Colour”. This shift is evident from the get go with the first track, ‘Dangerous’, built on a bass groove and skittering hi hats. The lyrics are, as always, yearning, bittersweet love songs, and when Romy Madley Croft sings “I’ve been a romantic for so long” it’s easy to hope that never changes as The XX create their gorgeous and beautifully produced take on pop throughout, arguably, their best record yet. (John)

Sun Ra – Singles: The Definitive Collection 1952 – 1991
This impressive three disc set contains all of Sun Ra’s singles presented in chronological order. The first question one may ask is why did Sun Ra even bother releasing singles? The visionary outer space jazz maestro could hardly have been aiming for top 40 air play and, according to the liner notes, the mystery remains unexplained. Over his career Sun Ra simply decided that certain tunes needed to exist as 45s and he went ahead and pressed them, sometimes in runs as small as 50. Consequently, several are rare collectors’ items now, but thanks to the current media we are able to hear them all in remastered splendour. Beginning with his poem “I Am An Instrument” the listener is taken through the entire of Sun Ra’s career from big band jazz through be-bop to doo-wop to experimental and beyond. It’s a fascinating journey and these short compositions offer a great road into Sun Ra’s universe. (John)

William Basinski – A Shadow In Time
New York sound artist William Basinski made waves in the ambient world fifteen years ago with the first instalment of his astounding work, ‘The Disintegration Loops’. Since then he has regularly released his strange and hypnotically repetitive ambient sound projects and these two 20 minute pieces compare well with the best in his canon of work. The first piece, ‘For David Robert Jones’, a tribute to David Bowie, is oddly moving, and features, as a nod to Bowie’s own saxophone honking on ‘Subterraneans,’ a saxophone loop slowly mutating over the decaying extract from a heavenly choir, while the second piece ‘A Shadow In Time’ is a work of austere beauty, composed for an archaic Voyetra 8 synthesizer. (John)

The All Seeing Hand – Sand To Glass
Three years on from the excellent ‘Mechatronics’, Wellington trio, The All Seeing Hand return with their fourth album, which finds them refining their electronics driven sound into a subtly more reflective mode without sacrificing any of their characteristic intensity, having said that, there are still all out bangers like the excellent ’Silicon & Synapse’. Imaginative, exciting and powerful, this is a band brimming with confidence pouring their energy into well produced and well-constructed arrangements that make full use of Jonny Marks’ ecstatic throat singing, three guest vocalists and Alphabethead’s grungy electronics, all driven by B. Michael Knight’s excellent drumming. It’s a captivating sound, not quite electronica, not quite punk, not quite metal, not quite experimental and not quite rock and it would be fair to say that no-one else anywhere is making music quite like this at the moment. (John)

Johann Johannsson – Original Soundtrack – Arrival
Since his debut release in 2002, Icelandic ambient composer, Johann Johannsson, has been making consistently excellent music and it was inevitable that he would eventually make film soundtracks, as his composition style is especially evocative, conjuring up complex worlds of the imagination. His latest project was the soundtrack to the excellent sci-fi film “Arrival”, for which he provides a score that is suitably mysterious, spooky and tense, making full use of treated voices that perfectly complement the overall eeriness of the film, and to his credit, the music works equally well as a stand-alone work. (John)

Thievery Corporation – The Temple of I & I
Thievery Corporation have released a record every three or four years since their 1996 debut “Sounds From The Thievery Hi-Fi”, and their sound hasn’t changed a lot in that time, however, that may not be a bad thing. They perfectly nailed the sound of dubby downbeat early on, and even though this music is more likely to be played in cafes these days than anywhere else, that doesn’t detract from the quality of the music, which has remains consistently high. Their last record, 2014’s ‘Saudade’, explored Latino rhythms and this time around they turn their attention to dub and have made their most roots oriented album yet. Featuring a great horn section, and a different guest vocalist on each track, comprised of male and female toasters, songsters and rappers, the grooves roll on in a beautifully produced bass heavy treat. (John)

Traffic – Five Classic Albums
On his path from vocalist/keyboard player with the Spencer Davis Group as a 14 year old musical prodigy with a voice like Ray Charles, to FM blue-eyed soulboy, Stevie Winwood spent seven years from 1967-74 as core member of the loosely labelled prog rock group, Traffic. Contained here are five of the six Traffic albums that span a range of styles. Their first two releases, ‘Mr Fantasy’ and ‘Traffic 2’ strongly reflect the psychedelic influence of those times, featuring songs by turn enigmatic, playful and moody accompanied by saxophone, flute, keyboards and electric and acoustic guitar. The later records find the group evolving into a cross genre jam band with the fifth album, ‘Shootout At the Fantasy Factory’ featuring the Muscle Shoals rhythm section. It’s good to be able to hear these records back to back, but anyone who wants a shortcut is directed to the double disc set ‘Smiling Phases’ which features highlights across their six albums plus their early singles and includes a booklet that places this music within a historical context. (John)

Matthew Dear – DJ Kicks
US electronic producer Mathew Dear’s excellent contribution to the ongoing DJ Kicks series features his distinctive take on dance music, mixing excerpts from a wide range of tracks over an hour. The slinky minimal grooves roll out seamlessly, featuring vocal snippets, hypnotic bass lines and four to the floor house and techno rhythms which slowly build to the last four tracks, three of which are from Mathew Dear’s dance floor alter ego, Audion. (John)

Howe Gelb – Future Standards
Howe Gelb’s first band ‘Giant Sand’, who’s rhythm section would eventually become Calexico, helped kickstart the alt country movement back in 1985. He has created a vast back catalogue over three decades, breaking style now and again to indulge his love of low key cocktail jazz. Recorded at his home, ‘Future Standards’ is his most overt exploration of that style so far, complete with a classic cocktail jazz trio of tinkly piano, walking bass and soft brush drums. Gelb’s low key crooning is accompanied by guest vocalist Lonna Kelley and between them they offer a languid and dreamlike take on twelve original love songs that are so perfectly rendered that any potential irony is surpassed. (John)

The Bats – The Deep Set
2017 marks the 30th anniversary of the Bats debut “Daddy’s Highway” and their ninth album, “The Deep Set”, is remarkable in that neither their lineup nor their sound has significantly changed in that time. What is even more remarkable is how their jangly guitars, gentle vocals and songs of quiet hope have not dated in any way, still offering a welcome respite for the world weary. The Bats are telepathically tight after all this time and this new batch of songs, that keeps a true indie flag flying, are as good as anything they have done.

Staff Pick CDs – More ‘Best of 2016’ selections

2016 was a bumper year for new music (although we admit we might say that every year) so we have some more choice top picks for you to browse. Most genres are covered here, so there should be something for everyone!

Cover imageArrangingtime. Pete Yorn
Pete Yorn was one of those artists that never seemed to live up to the potential of his fantastic first album. His second was a solid follow-up, but the next couple were patchy, and his last effort, 2010′s ‘PY’ with Frank Black was a total misfire. After that he seemed to disappear, popping up briefly as part of ‘The Olms’ in 2013 whose very short Beatles-esque album had some Ok tracks. However Yorn was back in 2016 with his first solo album in 6 years on a new label. ‘Arrangingtime’ shifts the guitar sound to a wash of synths on some tracks but he still hews close to the sonic template of his first couple of albums. Sounding invigorated by the break, this collection of melodic synthy rockers is his most consistent and enjoyable for a long time.

Cover imageSwan song series. Tanya Donelly
One of the most influential female figures in the 90s music scene returned with a 3-Disc collection that rounded up the 5 EPs she released on Bandcamp between 2013-14. Co-founding Throwing Muses with stepsister Kristen Hersh, which she played in from 1983-1991, she then co-formed The Breeders with Kim Deal of The Pixies, before founding her own group Belly. After ‘Belly’ folded she released 2 indie pop albums followed by 2 more introspective acoustic albums before essentially stepping away from music; so it was a surprise when 7 years later she began to release a series of EPs on Bandcamp. Each release featured songs co-written with friends, musicians and previous collaborators, including noted authors. American Laundromat Records collected up all the EPs and some extra tracks for a richly diverse compilation that wandered through a number of genres all anchored by a sense of experience and wisdom, in addition to her lovely voice which sounds as good as it ever was.

Cover imageGive up on your health. Teeth & Tongue
Teeth & Tongue is the moniker of Melbourne based, Wellington raised songwriter and musician Jess Cornelius. Her family moved to Wellington when she was 11, and music was the one constant, her parent’s record collection played a huge role in fuelling her desire to make music. She entered a couple of local “battle of the bands” comps while at school, but it wasn’t until a move to Melbourne at 19 that she fully tapped into her musical potential. Latest album ‘Give up on your health’ is a swirl of Giorgio Moroder 80s synths, but underneath the fantastic production is a set of serious songs that focus on fracturing relationships, isolation, and past regrets. Electro-pop tends to veer towards cool beats, hip choruses and emotional detachment, but Cornelius and her backing band plunder the digital sounds to record the messy analogue organics of real human interaction.

Cover imageThe 11th sky. Electric Wire Hustle
Just when you think Electric Wire Hustle can’t get any better they (or rather Mara TK, the last man left of the original three piece band) up their game yet again. His fantastic voice sits comfortably in that late period Marvin Gaye/Leon Ware pocket, but the sound of ‘The 11th Sky’ is harder and fuller. Moving away from the patented psychedelic Neo-soul of the last 2 albums they move into a sonic realm of darker, heavier, beats that envelop Mara TK’s analogies to Maori mythology, and metaphysical concerns on the pressures of money, love and expectations that weigh down peoples journey towards a better place within themselves. A real sense of searching for meaning pervades the album.

Cover imageAce & Gab’s honeymoon. Maple Syrup
We really liked Vera Ellen’s solo album Monte Casino, and now she is part of Maple Syrup, a new 4 piece that melds a grungy garage 90s alt-rock aspect with the pop sensibilities that were on display on Monte Casino. Riffy guitar lines, catchy melodies, rocking tracks. Makes you remember why you like new bands. The vibrancy and sense of purpose. The adherence to old forms, yet that energy and discovery.

Cover imageI’ll forget 17. Lontalius
‘Lontalius’ is one of the stage names of 19 year old underground Wellington sensation Eddie Johnston, who also records under the moniker ‘Race Banyon’, and has been an active participant in the local live scene since his early teens. After a slew of independent releases on Bandcamp he came to prominence in 2013 via a collection of Casiotone rap covers, which soon found endorsement from Lorde and Ryan Hemsworth. He signed to New York label Partisan Records for full length debut ‘I’ll Forget 17′ and moved away from R&B covers and the Hip-Hop of alter ego ‘Race Banyon’, to deliver an album of intimate alt-pop tinged with melancholy & a lyrical maturity beyond his years.

Cover imageBrothers and sisters of the black lagoon. Orchestra of Spheres
More experimental rock madness from this cult Welly band who are breaking big overseas, signed to Fire Records out of the UK, featuring as The Guardian’s Band of the week, and getting glowing reviews for this latest album. A funky melange of shifting music styles.

Cover imageThe death of all things. Beastwars
More beautifully sludgy metal from Wellington’s premiere purveyors of ‘The Riff’. Internal band dynamics made this the most difficult (and for lyricist Hyde the most personal album yet). Anger and unease seethes beneath every song, but the tension results in what may be their best album yet. On hiatus after a brief tour, one can only hope they return at some point for another chapter in their music.

Cover imageHumid nights. Eva Prowse
Great new album from Eva Prowse, that forsakes the violin country/folk of her first album I can’t Keep Secrets and jumps right into the electro-pop world of bubbly midi’s, bouncy pop tunes, and fond musical memories of growing up in the 80s. Sits comfortably alongside any of the many international artist’s working within this retro synthy sound. Definitely one of the best ‘Wellington’ Releases of the year.

Cover imageBrown girl. Aaradhna
Aaradhna’s albums always have a retro feel which highlights her love of older musical styles, whether it’s 50s doowop, 60s Motown or 70s soul, however she always surrounds those styles with plenty of contemporary sounds & flourishes, and more importantly always brings her unique sense of integrity & emotion to everything she does, as well as the incredible power of her soulful voice. ‘Brown Girl’ is her most personal album yet, directly addressing the racism she experienced growing up and the breakdown of a long term relationship.

Shinji’s Picks:
Cover imageThe Thompson fields/Maria Schneider Orchestra.
Leading jazz orchestra is no easy task both artistically and financially, but that is what Maria Schneider has been doing marvellously for more than two decades. Drawing her influence from modern classical masters such as Ravel and Hindemith, and above all her mentor Gil Evans, she has invented a watercolor-like transparent sound. She seems to hit the top with this landmark album, offering a glorious lyricism as well as a superb dynamism featuring the fantastic soloists. Sublime.

BestOf2016CDs60Aziza/Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Lionel Loueke, Eric Harland.
Legendary jazz bassist Dave Holland formed another suppergroup with Lionel Loueke (guitar), Chris Potter (saxphone) and Eric Harland (drums) and they superbly unite and present a bouncing funk-jazz with an African twist. Every member contributes two compositions each and they are rather complex which often in irregular time, but these master musicians play effortlessly and groove hard. Holland has been active in the front line for five decades but shows no sign of slowing down. Brilliant.

Cover imageMonoswezi Yanga. Monoswezi
Monoswezi, whose name is taken from the names of the members’ birth countries (Mozambique, Norway, Sweden and Zimbabwe), offers subtle hybrid music of African, jazz and minimal music, centring around Zimbabwean singer Hope Masike’s voice and mbira (thumb piano). It’s a low-key affair but their less-is-more approach somehow gives you a rich musical journey, like some good ECM albums do.

Cover imageApe in pink marble. Devendra Banhart
He has been busy as a visual artist in recent years (had exhibitions at several places around the world) but the ‘freak-folk’ singer songwriter Devendra Banhart is back with another stellar album. It’s an airy effortless music which enigmatic experimental sprits within. There is nothing particularly new here and he probably doesn’t need any changes, but everything; songs, arrangements, performances, come nicely together more than ever.

Cover imageA moon shaped pool. Radiohead
Evolving into something much larger than just a rock band, Radiohead shows tremendous presence and the supergroup aura. They seem to be heading somewhere no one ever got before.

Neil’s Picks:
Cover imageNothing more to say/The Frightnrs.

Cover imageVoid beats/invocation trex. Cavern of Anti-Matter

Cover imageWildflower/The Avalanches.

Cover imageEarth into aether. Bill Baird

Cover imageBloodline. Xixa

Cover imageEyes on the lines. Steve Gunn

Cover imageWe got it from here… thank you 4 your service/A Tribe Called Quest.

Cover imageInner journey out. Psychic Ills

Cover imageThe heavy entertainment show. Robbie Williams

Cover imagePhase zero. Morgan Delt

Cover imageNonagon infinity. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

Monty’s Picks:
Cover imageLemonade. Beyonce

Cover imageFlotus. Lambchop

Cover imageBlood bitch. Jenny Hval

Bridget’s Pick:
Cover imageIsland songs/Ólafur Arnalds.

Staff Pick DVDs – Best of 2016

We’ve been watching a wide variety of films & TV shows so here are some of our favourites from last year. Plenty of different genres, so hopefully you will find something to enjoy that you may have missed the first time around.

Katie’s Picks:
Cover imageBlindspot. The complete first season.
A new crime/drama/thriller TV series that focuses on a mysterious tattooed woman dubbed Jane Doe who has lost her memory and possesses unique hand to hand combat skills. She then works with the FBI when they realize her tattoos hold the key to solving certain crimes that take place throughout the series. However the question on everyone’s lips throughout the series, is who is Jane Doe and whose side is she on. I think she is the most mysterious, unique and captivating character I have ever encountered. Just when she learns something new about herself and her identity, and you think you have her figured out, something new always arises and leaves you wondering. This is an amazing series that will have you glued to the screen, that will keep you on the edge from start to finish, with a gripping season finale that will encourage you to watch season two.

Cover imageEye in the sky.
A unique and heartbreaking thriller that provides insight into the moral implications and the cost of modern warfare. What should sound like a walk in the park for the military minds in the US and the UK when they together to capture terrorists in Nairobi goes pear shaped when a girl enters the kill zone. This then triggers an international dispute over the implications of modern warfare over whether the girl should be sacrificed to save the lives of many and prevent imminent disaster. This film will leave you crying tears of frustration and agony, as well as hanging in moral knots and pondering over questions such as “Does conscience still figure in modern warfare?”, and perhaps make you think twice about people working in military roles. I was particularly by the late Alan Rickman’s performance, especially during the last scene where he gives a touched by a passionate and moving declaration about what a military man really knows of war, that will also get you thinking. Overall, a fantastic film worth watching!

Mark’s Picks:
Cover imageBillions. Season one.
In this Showtime drama about power politics in the world of New York high finance Damian Lewis is hedge fund king Bobby “Axe” Axelrod, while Paul Giamatti is the shrewd & ruthless U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades who is out to bring him down – a task made more complicated by the fact that Rhodes’ wife (Maggie Siff) works for Axelrod’s company as an in-house therapist. Rhodes believes that Axelrod & his Wall Street associates are nothing but criminals who are destroying America and and soon the two alpha-males are on an explosive collision course, with each using all of his considerable smarts, power and influence to outmanoeuvre the other. Fast paced and full of complex shady financial & political dealings and fantastic performances from the three main leads.

Cover imageMr. Robot. Season 1.
‘Mr. Robot’ stars Rami Malek as Elliot a socially-awkward cyber-security engineer by day and vigilante hacker by night, who finds himself approached by the enigmatic ‘Mr. Robot’ (Christian Slater), the mysterious head of an underground hacker collective who want to bring down the major corporation that Elliot’s company provides security for. However Elliot is also a very troubled young man with a ‘history’ of breakdowns, is currently undergoing court-mandated therapy, & has recently stopped taking his medication. ‘Mr. Robot’ pushes zeitgeist buttons on everything from wealth inequality, the power & control of corporations, social media, data breaches & hackers in new & interesting ways. The cast is uniformly excellent, especially Malek & Slater.

Cover imageOccupied. Series 1.
Set in the near future, where a catastrophic hurricane fuelled by climate change, has led to the rise of the Norwegian Green Party into political power. Idealistic Prime Minister Jesper Berg, has plans for thorium-based nuclear energy, and cuts off all fossil fuel production. With the Middle East in turmoil, Europe is suffering an energy crisis, and in retaliation the EU asks Russia to initiate a ‘velvet glove’ invasion of Norway. Russian special forces kidnap Berg, insisting that he submit to EU demands or face a full-scale invasion. What follows is told from the perspective of several characters as the effects of a ‘non-violent’ occupation begin to insidiously colour the lives and undercut the political processes of the Norwegian people.

Cover imageThe night of.
Critically acclaimed HBO drama starring John Turturro and Riz Ahmed. New York student Naz (Ahmed) embarks on a wild night of drugs and sex with a mysterious woman after picking her up in his father’s cab. The next morning he wakes to find her stabbed to death in her bed. With no recollection of the previous night’s events, Naz flees the scene but is quickly brought in by the city’s police and identified as the main suspect for the murder. Scuffling precinct- crawling defence lawyer John Stone (Turturro) finds himself in the right place at the right time to take Naz’s case, and after initially thinking of it as a way to lift his own fortunes, he comes to believe in his clients innocence. Based on the UK series Criminal Justice.

Cover imageThe night manager. The complete series.
British-American television miniseries adaptation of the 1993 novel of the same name by John le Carré, adapted to the present day starring Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, and Olivia Colman. Hiddleston is the titular ‘Night-Manager’, a loner and former soldier who crosses paths with the beautiful mistress of a powerful man in the Cairo hotel where he works. After she passes some documents to him for safe keeping, he in turn passes them onto a contact in the British Embassy & thus on to British Intelligence. A leak ensues, and blaming himself after she is killed, he drifts through several courtiers, eventually ending up 4 years later in a small hotel in Zurich. One night he learns a guest is coming to stay, an English arms dealer (Laurie) whom he believes was one of the people responsible for the death of the woman years ago. Seeing a chance for revenge he re-instigates a contact at British Intelligence (Coleman) and thus begins a plan to infiltrate Laurie’s organisation.

Shinji’s Picks:
Cover imageTehran taxi.
Iranian master director and activist Jafar Panahi has been banned from making films since 2010. However, he is somehow still doing what he is genius at. In this film, the director himself drives a taxi through the city of Tehran and picks up various passengers, and cleverly turns the taxi into a mirror of Iranian society, social morals and politics. The message implied in the film is powerful and serious but he does it with a droll, playful manner. Ingenious.

Cover imageCarol.
In the painting of Edward Hopper’s like milieu, Douglas Sirk-esque gorgeous melodrama unfolds. Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt, Todd Haynes weaves an impeccable love story of two women in the 50s. The milieu of the era is exquisitely recreated and every element shapes the film, such as cinematography, art design, wardrobe and music, contribute marvellously to this forbidden but distained encounter. Divine. (Shinji)

Cover imageThe assassin.
This meticulously crafted film is better to be watched on a big screen, but Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s first wuxia (martial hero) film in his long career is a sublime, breathtakingly beautiful film in which every scene is a work of art. The story is told in ‘read between the lines’ style and it may be a good idea to go into the film with some prior knowledge of the plot. Nevertheless, it’s a bliss. (Shinji)

Cover imageOur little sister.
With the exquisite tempo and the graceful camera work, Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda crafts an intimate, slowly savoured family drama about four Japanese sisters, one of whom has been adopted by the other three. One of the most consistent filmmakers of today, Kore-eda offers beautiful tenderness and emotion though successive small moments of everyday life. Maybe everything is too nice and a little soppy, but this ‘sweet and loveliness’ is hard to resist. (Shinji)

Sandy’s Pick:
Cover imageSoundbreaking : stories from the cutting edge of recorded music.
This is an 8-part documentary series about the evolution of music production and recording, mainly in the form of interviews with people from the industry – artists, writers, and producers (the unsung heroes!). Fascinating and informative, it tells how various innovations led from one recording method to the next and covers genres from disco to hiphop to rock – a trip down memory lane for us older music lovers and for the younger ones, a real eye-opener, I would imagine. I particularly enjoyed listening to well-known musicians talking about the artists who influenced them.

Brigid’s Picks:
Cover imageOutlander. Season two.

CoverimageLondon has fallen.

Cover imageThe BFG.

cover imageStar wars. The Force awakens.

Axel’s Picks:
Cover imageThe witch: a New-England folktale.

cover imageGreen room.

Cover imageKubo and the two strings.

Cover imageThe jungle book.

Cover imageHail, Caesar!

Cover imageHunt for the Wilderpeople.

Cover imageSausage party.

Cover imageTickled.

Cover imageMr. Robot. Season 1.

Cover imageThe big short.

Cover imageThe revenant.

Cover imageVictoria.

Monty’s Picks:
Cover imageHail, Caesar!

Cover imageThe returned. Series two.

Staff Pick CDs – Best of 2016

John, Axel & Jonathan weigh in with their favourite library CDs from last year…Lots of different genres here so hopefully a bit of something for everyone, and the possibility of discovering something new from last year that you missed at the time.

John’s Picks
Cover imageThe catastrophist. Tortoise
Featuring characteristically complex, shifting arrangements, not quite jazz and not quite rock, it is a pleasure to hear these precise and playful musos creating such compelling music 20 years into their career.

Cover imageWhy choose. Shopping
This post punk inspired London trio present 12 songs, average length 2.5 mins which, while danceable, have an edgy urgency about them, and dealing with consumerism, confusion and post-modern relationships, as they do, offer a taut, smart and refreshingly familiar take on indie-pop.

Cover imageHuman performance. Parquet Courts
Despite the obvious influences of The Fall and Wire, it’s a relief to know that bands are making smart, spiky slacker rock like this in our troubled post-millennial times and this may well be the perfect soundtrack.

Cover imageBig black coat. Junior Boys
Junior Boys bring the romantic institution of the suave, lovelorn playboy firmly into the 21st Century with their fifth album, which extends their sleek, minimal electro pop onto the dancefloor.

Cover imageIs the is are. Diiv
New York based Diiv have an obvious love for indie rock and make music that has the ability to remind keen listeners of the power, beauty and pure pleasure that the simple line-up of bass, drums and guitars can summon.

Cover imageThe ship. Brian Eno
Brian Eno’s 25th solo release is a strange, captivating and enthralling journey that stands as a highlight of his later career.

Cover imageVoid beats/invocation trex. Cavern of Anti-Matter
Former Stereolab main man, guitarist and synth boffin Tim Gane, and his long term drummer, Joe Dilworth, have a new band, and offer an absorbing journey into a range of contemporary krautrock and experimental compositions.

Cover imageGood luck and do your best.Gold Panda 
Electronic producers such as Gold Panda from the UK do a great job of keeping the IDM flag flying and on his fourth album he excels with an off-beat but very catchy work, great for both the dancefloor and the armchair, and that’s no small achievement.

Cover imageLife of pause. Wild Nothing
While the sound of a talented outsider finally getting his turn in a state of the art studio can often take a few listens to get used to, here the effort is rewarded, as lurking within the highly polished arrangements featuring grand pianos, marimbas, backing vocals, and saxophones surrounding Tatum’s plaintive vocals, the songs are as good as ever, they just require a little more perseverance to reveal themselves.

Cover imageA moon shaped pool. Radiohead
Featuring outstanding production, dense and detailed arrangements, electronics, strings, grand pianos and acoustic and electric guitars swirling around Thom Yorke’s vocals that sound better than ever, this is an immersive listening experience capturing a band that has matured yet continues to explore and expand. Continue reading “Staff Pick CDs – Best of 2016”