December’s New Music for Te Awe


via GIPHY

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

I’m Mark, the Music & Film Specialist at Wellington City Libraries. I 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…

My 21st century blues / RAYE
Mark Says: Debut full-length studio album from English artist Raye, who gained recognition as a songwriter-producer for other artists after she was signed to Polydor at age 17. A mini-album & series of EPs saw her nominated for a BRIT award 4 times, and and become one of the most streamed (2.3 billion) artists in the world. In 2019 she was awarded the BMI Impact Award in recognition of her ‘ground-breaking artistry, creative vision and impact on the future of music’. However after revealing that Polydor has been sitting on her debut for several years she split acrimoniously with the label and became an independent artist, releasing ‘My 21st century blues’ at the beginning of 2023 to universal acclaim. A darkly tinged musical journey through funky soul, hip hop vibes and many other genres, full of emotionally charged writing and unfiltered emotions it digs into various themes with candour, including experiences around alcohol & drug addiction, body dysmorphia, and sexual assault.
Sam Says: Rachel Agatha Keen (known professionally as Raye) is a singer/songwriter from the UK. Having released several EPs over the space of a near decade, in 2023 she has come forth with a debut full-length album entitled My 21st Century Blues. Fusing pop, dance, and R&B, with (true to the title) a notable blues flavour, the music bubbles with vigour and immediacy, the various musical styles fusing together in a way that enables the album to continue to feel fresh and exciting over its full forty-five-minute course. Raye’s vocals are equally energetic and emotive, providing a kaleidoscope of moods to the already colourful music. Overall, ‘My 21st Century Blues’ is a modern pop gem.

Continue reading “December’s New Music for Te Awe”

Staff Picks: DVDs and Blu-rays

Here are some DVDS and Blu-Rays that our library staff have enjoyed watching recently, featuring a host of DVD releases of 2023 films and some deep-cuts from the collection.

Kath’s Pick

Joy Ride Joy ride

Think Bridesmaids but in China. Joy Luck Club but a raucous adult comedy. It’s a delight to watch four mega talented Asian actors stretch their comedy muscles while also running a storyline with a heart. Some of the scenes in this are outrageously funny, some wistful and sad. If you love a good wild road trip comedy, you’ll love this one. Bonus hot guys as side characters.


Shinji’s Picks 

Close – Lukes Dhont 

One fine morning - Mia Hansen-Løve

The blue caftan –  Maryam Touzani 

Other people’s children - Rebecca Zlotowski 

One Fine MorningThe Blue CaftanOther People's Children


Continue reading “Staff Picks: DVDs and Blu-rays”

Staff Picks CDs for December…

CDs on a grainy sand beach background

To round off the year, here are some Staff Picks of new & old CDs from the Library collection that out Staff have been enjoying.

Martin’s Picks:

Guts / Rodrigo, Olivia
Not a CD that needs much boosting from WCL, of course, but it surprised me by just how good a mainstream album created by a 20 year old can be. Wise and sharply witty, Rodrigo takes a wry look at her teen years, with droll lyrics and a musical nod to the pop/rock sounds of the 90s. Try ‘Bad Idea Right?‘ ‘Get Him Back!’ or the opener, ‘All American Bitch’.

The Leo Kottke anthology / Kottke, Leo
Born the same year that WW2 ended, Kottke released his first album in 1969 and his most recent in 2020. A master of the 12-string guitar as well as a self-effacing vocalist (who described his own voice as sounding like “geese farts on a muggy day”), this selection of instrumental and vocal tracks covers the first 15 years of his career. It has some of the best of his instrumental offerings, including ‘Mona Ray’ ‘Vaseline Machine Gun’ and ‘Airproofing’, all of which amply justify his place in the 12-string pantheon.

Begin to hope / Spektor, Regina
This 2006 album is a great introduction to the work of the idiosyncratic Russian/American songsmith. Her sideways view of the world and flawless ear for a hook are on display throughout. Check out ‘Fidelity’, ‘Better’ or ‘On the Radio’.

Bring it on / Gomez
My vote for ‘Greatest Band That Everyone’s Forgotten About’ goes to this lot from Southport in England. Blessed with four songwriters and three distinctive vocalists, there was almost too much talent for one band. This is their debut, and it won the Mercury Prize in 1998, beating out Massive Attack, Pulp and The Verve. Sadly – and despite a couple of equally excellent follow-ups – the band slowly slid from view over the following couple of decades. Check out the video for album single Whippin’ Piccadily to see legendary screen and TV actor Toby Jones fooling around on an escalator.

Continue reading “Staff Picks CDs for December…”

CDs From The Vault: Progressive Rock Special

Join us on this latest CDs from the Vault podcast episode as Wellington City Librarians Patrick, Sam & Neil dive into the illustrious history of progressive rock. From its rise to popularity in the early 1970’s through various evolutions and iterations in subsequent decades, progressive rock is an enigmatic and varied musical genre that continues to capture the hearts and minds of many music lovers globally. In this episode, we focus on three classic albums from different time periods to showcase how it has developed over time.

Listen to the podcast here:

These albums (along with tens of thousands of others) are currently available to be borrowed for free by reserving them from our catalogue to be sent from our Te Pātaka storage space to a Wellington City Libraries branch of your choice.

Close to the edge / Yes

Released on the 13th of September 1972, Close to the Edge, Yes’s fifth studio album, is widely regarded as one of the seminal albums of the progressive rock genre. The band at that time were experiencing a significant tailwind in the form of the success of 1971’s Fragile which featured their biggest hit to date, ‘Roundabout’. Lead singer Jon Anderson had for some time been envisioning a ‘long-form’ approach to composition which was previously hinted at. His song writing partnership with guitarist Steve Howe was now beginning to blossom and together they were sowing the seeds of a fully realised ‘concept album’ – which would take the listener on a journey from start to finish. It has all the hallmarks of the golden age of progressive rock – characteristics which have been lauded and lambasted by critics ever since.

Continue reading “CDs From The Vault: Progressive Rock Special”

It’s ‘Noirvember’ on Kanopy

Ready for cynical heroes, intricate plots, and underlying existentialism? Sounds like you’re ready to get moody with Kanopy’s Noirvember collection.

Following the end of World War Two, French publishing house Gallimard started publishing translations of American crime novels through its Série noire imprint: including authors such as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain and David Goodis. The following year, French critic Nino Frank wrote the earliest essays identifying a new departure in American film making, the ‘film noir’- though the term itself did not come into ‘official’ use until the publication of Raymond Borde & Etienne Chaumeton’s study ‘Panarama du film noir americain’ in 1955, and wasn’t widely adopted in America until the 1970’s. According to Borde and Chaumeton, the ‘noir’ cycle officially begins with John Houston’s The Maltese Falcon (1941) and ends with Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly (1955) – though the style can be traced back as far as Fritz Lang’s M (1931), and forward to films like Memento (2000).

Characterised by fear, mistrust, bleakness, paranoia, fatalism, disillusionment, existential plots and confessional voiceovers, they provided a distinctly pessimistic view of post-war America. However, while the view was American, the ‘feel’ was distinctly European with shadowy expressionistic lighting, stark and skewered camera angles, jarring editing and deep shadows. Due to this style, the best noirs are in black and white – with key European directors such as Fritz Lang, Robert Siodmak, and Jacques Tourneur. Noir protagonists were typically anti-heroes: crooked cops, down and out private eyes, war veterans, petty criminals, gamblers and killers; while the women were often unloving, mysterious, duplicitous and manipulative – but always gorgeous.

While the style dropped out of favour after the late 1950’s, its elements were present in several standout films of the 1960’s, from The Manchurian Candidate (1962) to Point Blank (1967). It made a resurgence in the 1970’s, and an even stronger one in the 1990’s. Films from this period on are referred to as ‘neo-noir’ and, while some are merely an affected stylism, enough original ‘noir’ runs through them to satisfy purists. Since then, these influential cinematic works have grown in popularity as modern filmmakers use similar aesthetics.

Whether you’re looking to dive into the dark world of the classic genre, or want to see what updates have been made to keep the concept fresh, you can explore Kanopy’s well-rounded collection here.

Continue reading “It’s ‘Noirvember’ on Kanopy”

October’s New Music for Te Awe


via GIPHY

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

I’m Mark, the Music & Film Specialist at Wellington City Libraries. I 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…

Messy / Dean, Olivia
Mark Says: ‘Messy’ is the debut album from East London’s Olivia Dean, another graduate of the famed Brit School. The hazy bedroom pop of vocoder opener ‘UFO’, perhaps gives the album a bit of a lo-fi expectation, but the rest of the album is very polished production wise, perhaps a little too much in places. Shades of Motown, the retro soul of Joss Stone, and the production & vocal techniques that reference a lot of 2010’s Neo-Soul, with some smokey Jazz touches. She has a great voice, and it’s mature-confessional-pop of the highest order. Some dead spots may mean it works better as a long EP than a full album.
Sam Says: ‘Messy’ may be Olivia Dean’s first full-length offering, however it displays a sense of musical versatility and vision that could easily be attributed to a more experienced artist. Released earlier this year, the album has already made waves in the UK scene and has even been shortlisted for the 2023 Mercury Prize. Musically, it is firmly rooted in the stylings of neo-soul, with a highly tangible sense of mainstream appeal. In saying that, Dean’s boldly creative approach comfortably sets her apart from many of her contemporaries. Containing twelve tracks over a mere thirty-five minutes, despite its title, ‘Messy’ is a neat and concise affair, with little room for filler. It will be interesting to see where Dean leads as her career develops.

Continue reading “October’s New Music for Te Awe”