February’s New Music for Te Awe Part 2

You can check out our first round up of new music for February here.

Silver / Say She She
Mark Says: This sophomore album from New York trio Say She She ended up on some of the Best of 2023 roundups. Three classically trained vocalists create dreamy disco-soul, channelling early 80s NY, with a core band behind them providing an ever grooving funky backbeat. Smooth silky vocals float in and out of the fun, frothy beats, each track taking it’s time to peak, and revel in all the elements at play. At 16 tracks (all close to the 4 minute mark) it’s perhaps overlong, but still takes you on a relaxing journey.
Neil Says: The sophomore album from Say She She is a soulful, disco focused outing that has echoes of the disco gods Chic. However, this album is much more than a homage, it pushes the boundaries of both these popular forms, without losing sight of what makes the genres so successful in the first place. There are even a few moments of very dreamy lite-psychedelia thrown into the mix. The feather smooth tight interlocking vocals are fantastic, and this modern twist on the soulful funky disco vibe is sure to win lots of fans.

Rainbow revisited / Ntuli, Thandi
Mark Says: A collaborative studio album by South African pianist-singer Thandi Ntuli and American ‘Ambient Jazz’ composer/producer Carlos Niño (producer of André 3000’s debut solo album New Blue Sun) deconstructs more Jazz orthadoxy via the inherent improvisation a the heart of African music. Essentially a solo piano-and-voice session, recorded in 2019 in one Venice Beach afternoon at the studio of LA multi-instrumentalist Niño. A minimalist affair, with some minor overdubbing & post-production, it’s fluid delicate runs explore the nature of freedom and the beauty of the natural world with feelings of hope, loss and serenity. A very intimate, vibey type album; you have to be in the right mood and place for. Made the Guardian’s Top 10 Global Albums of The Year, and ended up on Mojo’s top 10 Jazz albums of 2023.

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February’s New Music for Te Awe Part 1


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

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

Outta sync / Letts, Don
Neil Says: Legendary filmmaker, D.J, producer and musician Don Letts has released his first musical project since his work with Big Audio Dynamite in the 1990’s. He has worked in various creative guises with the likes of the Clash, The Psychedelic Furs, Elvis Costello, The Pretenders and Bob Marley, to name but a few, was a key instrumental figure in the British punk and reggae scenes, and has for many years presented his BBC radio six’s culture Clash radio show. ‘Outta sync’ is a personal album in many ways, and reflects his unique eclectic tastes and worldview. It is a mix of heavy-duty dub bass tracks with spoken word interwoven through, featuring a plethora of musical guests including Terry Hall, Wayne Coyne, Hollie Cook and his daughter Honor. He described the album as “a soundtrack to my mind with some cool bass lines”, which pretty much sums it up.

Continue reading “February’s New Music for Te Awe Part 1”

The Music Box Sets Of 2023

Music box sets!!! 3 CDs. 4CDs. 5CDs. 6CDs. 7CDs. 8CDs… 8CDs!!

But they’re all so expensive! The dollar is terrible. And now you get taxed for everything you want to buy on Amazon that your local record store doesn’t have. Assuming you even have a local record store! It doesn’t seem fair. But don’t worry! We buy these, so you don’t have to…

Following on from the roundup of box sets we purchased in 2022 [Part 1, Part 2] here are the box set titles from 2023 that we added to our collection.

March of the flower children : the American sounds of 1967
“By 1967, rock’s eternally restless spirit had moved on from Liverpool, the British Invasion and Swinging London and found a new place to dwell. The scene’s new creative epicentre was San Francisco, from whence the underground’s tentacles spread throughout the nation… Over three CDs and four hours of music, ‘March Of The Flower Children’ anthologises the sounds of American rock and pop during a year that would become enshrined in the history books as the Summer of Love.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk).

We can work it out : covers of The Beatles 1962-1966
“Three CD compilation that focuses on the massive influence The Beatles had on a multitude of artists in disparate genres throughout numerous countries, right from the very start. Featuring Mary Wells, Count Basie, Cilla Black, Joe Cocker, PJ Proby, Mae West, Jose Feliciano, Jimmy James, Liza Minelli and many more. Sunshine pop sits next to raw soul while bluegrass nudges up against jazz. Serious British folkies mix with campy Hollywood legends as Hungarian gypsy guitar makes way for proto psychedelia – nothing was safe from the all-encompassing influence of The Fab Four!” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk).

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So…Peter Gabriel has returned

After a fairly quiet last few years, Peter Gabriel has released i/o, his first album of original material in 22 years. Originally the frontman for progressive rock legends Genesis, Gabriel departed the band following their 1974 masterwork The lamb lies down on Broadway / Genesis (Musical group) to embark on a solo career that would bring him both critical acclaim and commercial success over the ensuing five decades. He would also branch out into film soundtracks, scoring such films as The Last Temptation of Christ (see below) and Rabbit-proof fence.

In 1982, driven by an interest in world music, he founded the WOMAD (World of Music, Art and Dance) festival, followed in 1989 by the Real World record label. Both are still going to this day and have been instrumental in bringing world music to a wider audience in the West. Many of the titles in Wellington Libraries World CD collection will have been issued on Real World.

The following list, while by no means exhaustive, provides an overview of Gabriel’s work held at Wellington City Libraries.

Peter Gabriel [1] / Gabriel, Peter
After taking some time out after leaving Genesis, Gabriel announced himself as a creative force in his own right with the first of four self-titled albums (we have them all!). Co-produced by Todd Rundgren it’s a varied collection containing one of his greatest and most recognisable songs, “Solsbury Hill”.


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Staff Picks: The Best CDs & Vinyl of 2023 – Part 2

I’m Mark, the Music & Film Specialist at Wellington City Libraries. Every month this year my colleague’s Sam, Neil and I reviewed some new material for the music collection at Te Awe Brandon Street Library. You can check out each of our our Top 10 picks here. Following on from our picks is a selection of titles that other staff members rated as their favourite listens of 2023.

Shinji’s Picks:

Heaven / Sol, Cleo
The U.K. has a long history of producing fantastic female soul singers and now, more than ever, it’s filled with a multitude of talents – Lianne La Havas, Jorja Smith, Yazmin Lacey and Olivia Dean (see below) to name but a few. Among them, the key voice of the mysterious soul collective SAULT, Cleo Sol shines with a unique light due to her mesmerising singing and aura. Both SAULT and Sol have been very active – putting out a lot of impressive albums in a short period of time, and her third album ‘Heaven’ is another glorious work. Listening to this album, which features mostly medium/slow numbers, is an intimate experience. She sensibly keeps everything simple and shares tears, joy, and love with us. Led by her mellifluous yet powerful voice, it’s filled with a warmth and uplifting feeling as if a graceful modern gospel. Incredibly, she dropped another album, ‘Gold’, which is equally wonderful and slightly more defined, two weeks later. There is no doubt that she is an exceptional artist and with her charisma, she could become an influential figure like Erykah Badu. What a talent.

The omnichord real book / Ndegeocello, Meshell
The pandemic lockdown gave Meshell Ndegeocello, one of the most innovative, forward-thinking artists in the last 30 years, an opportunity to reacquaint herself with music. She was tired of looking at the computer screen and started to compose music on an Omnichord, a simple electronic instrument. They bore fruit in this terrific album released from Blue Note Records, collaborating brilliantly with numerous distinctive musicians including Josh Johnson (as the producer as well), Jeff Parker, Jason Moran, and Joan As Police Woman. Drawing from her extensive musical languages, she creates colourful music based on simple motifs which shift around jazz, soul, funk, afrobeat and so on. Her unique bass play as well as the polyrhythmic drums are the core of this impressive music. The album contains 18 tracks with a variety of musical styles and it’s 73 minutes long. Although it’s not easy to absorb at once, this hyper hybrid black American music is a stellar and rewarding listen.

Messy / Dean, Olivia
An alumna from the renowned BRIT school that produced Adele and Amy Winehouse, Olivia Dean gained attention from the very beginning of her career and won the breakthrough artist of the year in 2021 on Amazon Music. Her much-anticipated debut album Messy is indeed a bit of a mess, but a charming one which shows a lot of promise. There’s a touch of Amy Winehouse in her prowess and rich voice that effortlessly drifts between soul, jazz and pop. These songs tell us her personal story – about her Caribbean heritage, family, and love. The album is slightly overproduced, probably to appeal to a mass-audience, but Dean’s presence stays natural and true to herself. The UK has found another fantastic female singer, that’s for sure.

Continue reading “Staff Picks: The Best CDs & Vinyl of 2023 – Part 2”

Staff Picks: The Best CDs & Vinyl of 2023 – Part 1

I’m Mark, the Music & Film Specialist at Wellington City Libraries. Every month this year my colleagues Sam, Neil and I reviewed some new material for the music collection at Te Awe Brandon Street Library. The list below is the Top 10 picks from each us for 2023, the albums we enjoyed listening to most over the course of the year. Some of these titles featured on various critics’ Best of 2023 lists, but others are just albums that struck us as being unique and interesting.

Mark’s Picks:

Sleepwalker / Post, Louise
One of the most successful female fronted ‘Alt-Rock’ bands of the 1990s, whose influence still features prominently in a lot of contemporary bands, Veruca Salt‘s original line-up split acrimoniously after 2 full length albums and an EP, as founding members Louise Post & Nina Gordon went their own ways. Post continued with a couple more heavier albums & EPs under the ‘Veruca Salt’ moniker, while Gordon delivered a couple of much more commercial sounding solo albums. Hatches were apparently buried in 2013 when the bands original line-up, like a lot of other bands of that era, reunited to tour and eventually released a 2015 reunion album. Post & Gordon collaborated with Skating Polly on a 2017 EP, but following some touring in 2018 the band had been dormant. However Louise Post’s return to music was one of the surprising releases of last year, with her first solo album Sleepwalker. Apparently arising, like a lot of material, out of the Covid lockdowns she whittled down 50 or so tracks to the 11 that make up the album. As perhaps to be expected of someone her age, it’s a darker-tinged adult oriented ‘album’, rather than a set of singles. She really digs into mature stories of the domestic comfort/discomfort of long term relationships, alongside more upbeat tracks that work as homages to her own pop past. What’s perhaps the most surprising is how great it all sounds, as she works in a lot of genres and different instrumentation, but never loses focus on investing each track with a hooky, melodic line, disproving the long-held theory that it was Gordon who brought the ‘pop’ voice to Veruca Salt’s original albums. Her immediately distinctive voice is in great shape, and the sympathetic production puts it above the mix, so there is a real clarity to the album & it’s sound.

Rat saw God / Wednesday (Musical group)
Wednesday are a US alt-rock band from North Carolina and ‘Rat Saw God’ (a nice Veronica Mars homage), is their 5th album and first on the prominent indie label Dead Oceans, was hailed as a career breakthrough and ended up on a lot of the Best of 2023 lists last year. Helmed by singer-guitarist-songwriter Karly Hartzman the band takes it’s name from cult UK 90s band ‘The Sundays’. They fuse the vocal stylings of that band’s indie pop with the shoegazy rock of Swirlies, 90s grunge, the noise-pop of Sub Pop bands like Velocity Girl or Spinanes, as well as some alt-Country influences akin to Mojave 3. The twangy distortion creates a dirty/clean sonic aesthetic, and the combined – seemingly disparate – musical elements deliver something that, while obviously trading on past styles, still feels new & fresh. It’s an album of character studies, biting lyrics, and narratives of pain and suffering that reflect both the messy and euphoric moments of the protagonists. While they have been around for a while, there is a real sense of ‘next big new band buzz’ with this album.

Mermaidens / Mermaidens
Mermaidens returned with their fourth full length in 2023. Gone are the, sometimes, obtuse post-punk/psyche-rock overtones of their previous work for a slicker more pop sound, that harks back to the fizzy ‘Alt-Pop’ that ran through bands like Pixies, The Breeders & Belly, with dashes of 80s shoegaze & punk. With Samuel Scott Flynn (Phoenix Foundation) at the helm as producer, there is a real sense of arrival with this album. Every musical element is cleanly locked in place, the song-writing is more immediate & catchy, with plenty of pop hooks, along with more harmonies and shimmery, hypnotic, grooves. Perhaps their best album yet, and clearly one headed for the top in the next local music awards. (VINYL here for Mermaidens).

Continue reading “Staff Picks: The Best CDs & Vinyl of 2023 – Part 1”