As an English born beat lover, raised on the average avenues of Avondale, my mid 80s love affair with ghetto blasters, turntables and bedroom beat-masters is a far reaching testament to the raw sentiment, back shed construction and articulate recollections of a walk on the wild side, The fashion, the production and the fanfare came later, predated by a need for expression, escapism and scrapbooking pages and sounds from the time.
Along with classic NZ and Flying Nun associated acts such as The Phoenix Foundation and David Kilgour, there are appearances from hyped Aussie acts Twerps and Scott and Charlene's Wedding and many more. We've chosen our own stand-outs from the line-up below.
i.e. crazy is dark and powerful; she paints herself as the "deranged ex-lover who won’t leave you alone; the batty neighbour spying through the fence; the stranger at the bus stop who holds your gaze that fraction too long." Her live performances are immersive and intimate - drawing you in with quiet, nervous banter between crushing vocal and guitar deliveries. Currently she only has a couple of songs on bandcamp, stream-able below, but you can also watch this milky video for her single 'You're a stranger to me now'.
The Shocking Pinks are the ever-evolving project of Nick Harte. 2014/2015 saw the formation of a new lineup and completion of an approximately 60-date world tour. One of the best live acts in NZ at present, and who knows if you'll get another chance to see this particular (my favourite) lineup.
PS. The festival isn't all live music, Flying Nun founder Roger Shepherd will also be doing a reading from his recent memoir of the label In Love With These Times.
Tickets are available from undertheradar.co.nz and Flying Out
PPS. (i.e. crazy is also a regular performer around Auckland if you're not interested in the festival atmosphere, watch for shows on their facebook page)
Lawrence Arabia is the creative outlet for multi-instrumentalist musician, James Milne, one of New Zealand's most well-known indie musicians. His trajectory is somewhat similar to that of Don McGlashan - another musician who is known for the strength of his songwriting and willingness to try new things. In Lawrence Arabia's case, his drive to break new ground has meant playing in unusual venues such as art galleries and libraries or writing/performing music that was played live alongside a silent film (as he did at last year's film festival) or for live plays.
This month Lawrence Arabia has released a new album - Absolute Truth (out now through Flying Nun and available via bandcamp) and his first album fronting the band, The Reduction Agents, is being re-released on vinyl along with a tribute album with each track covered by other artists. Therefore it seems like a good time to take a look back through his career and have a listen to some of his finest tunes.
Before he became Lawrence Arabia, James Milne was the guitarist/keyboardist/bassist in indie pop group, The Brunettes. During this time, he wrote one track for the band, 'You Beautiful Militant', which was sung by their singer Heather Mansfield on The Brunettes' second album, Mars Loves Venus (2004). However, the original demo of this tune has recently appeared on Lawrence Arabia's soundcloud page and gives an early indication of his skill at writing a hooky chorus melody...
Next up, Milne decided to form his own band, The Reduction Agents, drawing in the Brunettes' drummer, Ryan McPhun (who has his own group, The Ruby Suns) along with Jol Mulholland (Gasoline Cowboy, Mulholland) and Ben Eldridge (from Heavy Jones). The band produced only one album, The Dance Reduction Agents (2006). However they also featured on the soundtrack of the Taika Waititi movie, Eagle Versus Shark - the film used both "80s Celebration" and the catchy rock number, "The Pool." The latter also happens to have a great video of Milne swimming at Pt Erin Pools at night...
Simultaneous with the release of the Reduction Agents album, Milne also released the first self-titled Lawrence Arabia (2006) album. This album lacked the raw energy and drive of the Reduction Agents, but made up for it with some quirky production and super sharp lyrics. His new approach is most apparent on the track, "Talk About Good Times", which features this witty run of lines: “You’d always condescend to take us back to your boxy-shaped apartment/ you showed us that we’re poorer than you are/ and you’re an undiscovered star/ but now you’re at the bottom of the ocean you’re forgiven and we talk about the good times..."
This week, for those sickening for a long awaited post-gothic pop performance from Robert Smith and his un-merry men, The Cure return to our shores to deliver a sentimental skip around the padded cells at Vector Arena on Thursday evening. Strangers on our beaches since their circus-like concert experience under the big top at Mt Smart way back in the nineties, I can’t wait to be fascinated and frolic amongst 37 years’ worth of heavenly pop hits.
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|Photo: Paul Taylor|
This year has seen the passing of quite a few rock greats - David Bowie, Prince, Lemmy - but why wait until a loved musician passes away before we celebrate their work? And who better for recognition than Paul McCartney who has written some of the most loved songs on the planet and is still releasing new material - including: the track, 'Cut Me Some Slack,' that he penned with the remaining members of Nirvana and which won a Grammy in 2014 (available on the Sound City soundtrack); and the hit song he wrote released with Rihanna and Kanye West (his second collab with the latter).
I find that there's always some fun to be had in unearthing some usually overlooked tracks by a well-loved artist, so let's take the opportunity to dig for some gold in Paul McCartney's solo career. Hopefully this will provide some further listening for all of you who've listened to all those Beatles tracks far too many times.
Fortunately, a new compilation - Pure McCartney - has just been released which re-examines McCartney's solo career with the intention of digging out a few different tracks that were missed on previous "Best Of" compilations (such as Wingspan). The standout track for me is 'Coming Up', which is one of Macca's solo efforts that John Lennon also admitted having some admiration for (some have even suggested that hearing it might've spurred him out of retirement).
The song originally featured on McCartney II (1980), which is a slightly patchy album, but does have a few other fun tracks like the weirdly synth-heavy, 'Temporary Secretary' (which shows how McCartney sounds when he's trying to embrace new wave!).
It also happens to have a wonderful video, in which McCartney and his wife/bandmate Linda dress up as other musicals stereotypes. Seeing Paul in 1980 portraying himself as a young Beatle is particularly entertaining.
The next album worth checking out, once you've got past the greatest hits is Band on the Run (1973). By this stage, McCartney had his own band - Wings - with Linda and Denny Laine. This album was a serious hit at the time and featured a number of his best solo tracks including 'Band On The Run,' 'Jet,' and 'Let Me Roll It.'
However, let's dig up one of the tracks that didn't make the hits compilation and yet which showcases some great piano and bluesy singing from Macca. Here's Paul playing it all on his lonesome back in 1974.
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It's May, which means its New Zealand music month! And what better way to celebrate New Zealand music month then going out and watching some of the awesome local live acts playing around Auckland this month.
CIVIL UNIONAuckland band Civil Union who describe their music as stadium/death rock/shore core/slob goth, are releasing their debut album 'SEASICK LOVEDRUNK' this month. Their shows are always awesomely loud with heavy bass, mad drums and a guitar that cuts through all of it like a chainsaw, so good! Civil Union are having their LP release at Whammy Bar on May 19th Thursday with Peach Milk and Guardian Singles.
CENTRE NEGATIVECentre Negative are one of my favourites! I've seen them play twice now and each time was a hoot with lots and lots and lots of dancing. Two synths, heavy bass and some awesome guitar playing and then Michael McClelland, who fronts the band, is a force to be reckoned with. Centre Negative play at Audio Foundation on May 14th Saturday, with a swarm of awesome local bands. Show starts at 4PM.
Claire Duncan aka Maggie Magee is the absolutely mesmerising i.e. crazy. Hauntingly beautiful lyrics and singing, backed by a drum machine, and her electric guitar, is an act not to be missed. i.e crazy plays May 13th Friday at The Crown Hotel in Dunedin with Seth Frightening and Terrified.
It's New Zealand Music Month, so it seems like a good time to run through some of the acts that seems likely to make a big splash in the local scene this year. There's everything from folk to garage rock to rap/EDM on this list, so hopefully there's something that'll strike your interest, though do feel free to add more recommendations in the comments if you wish.
Last year, it was the turn of Marlon Williams to be hyped as the latest, greatest artist out of the Lyttleton folk scene. Though this year it seems likely that the spotlight will return to his partner, Aldous Harding. She has a new album coming out later this year, which seems like it might add a gothic edge to the dark-folk sound of her debut self-titled album. It certainly sounds like there is a bit of PJ Harvey in the delivery of this live recording of new track, 'Horizon,' and the result is creepy and beautiful!
Lawrence Arabia has released very little new material since his last album, The Sparrow, came out in 2012. However he's been very busy on the live scene - playing at unusual venues such as art galleries and libraries, as well as scoring a silent film for the NZFF last year. Now there are stirrings that his new album is not too far away and a new single has emerged, which has all the playful lyricism we've come to expect from this sharp songwriter. I notice that the Youtube description mentions Flying Nun, which shows more signs of a slow return to prominence of the label over the past few years (they released Princess Chelsea's album, The great cybernetic depression, in the US and UK last year so they may again become synonymous overseas with great music from our shores).
Hollie Fulbrook (the singer/songwriter behind Tiny Ruins) has been very busy since the release of her last full-length album, Brightly Painted One. She's currently touring through the UK and Europe as I write this, but has also been busy on the home front, mainly through her collaborations with an impressive list of highly-respected local musicians. She has toured with Bic Runga, which saw them forming a super-group from their two backing bands and playing a spread of covers and originals. She also contributed vocals to a song by Robert Scott (from The Clean) and recorded a whole EP with former Clean-drummer, Hamish Kilgour - Hurtling through. If that wasn't enough, she started this year by releasing a song that was produced by cult filmmaker, David Lynch (after Lorde recommended her music to him). Who knows what is coming next, but it's sure to be impressive. Here's the Lynch-produced track for you to check out...
The Raw Nerves are part of a recent revival of Auckland garage rock that has been instigated by the arrival of a new, vinyl-only record label, 1:12 Records. Others on the roster include: The Conjurors, Roy Irwin, and The Cavemen. Another band on the label, The Situations, will be known to many for acting as the backing band for Wanda Jackson on a recent visit to our shores, as well as working with Shaft and Ray Columbus in previous years. Nick Bollinger spoke at length about 1:12 Records on one of his recent sessions on National Radio and Grant Smithies was equally enthusiastic in his recent review of Roy Irwin - he's about to go overseas to tour from July-December, so no doubt he'll be known as NZ's answer to Kurt Vile by the end of the year (we have Irwin's first album if you want to hear how he got started).
However, my favourite among the label's band is The Raw Nerves, who seem to be bubbly with catchy hooks and gritty guitar sounds. This video also shows you how to make gourmet sausages, so hopefully that adds a bit of value for some viewers too!
The local hip hop scene has been bursting with talent over the last year, with Loui the Zu re-emerging as Mzwetwo and Tom Scott (from Homebrew/@Peace) starting a new group, Average Rap Band, whose focus on tongue twisting verbal dexterity has put his skills into true focus. Arriving hot on their heels has been Raiza Biza, a rapper from Hamilton who burst into the scene in 2014 with the fast-paced release of his first two albums. However the artist we're focusing on today - Young tapz - is even newer to the scene and is already looking to push out front.
Young Tapz works regularly along Mzwetwo as part of the Gallantino crew and their early achievements (along with those of Raiza Biza) led to an article on the Australian Vice website about the sudden emergence of NZ rappers originally born in Africa (and/or the Middle East). Their work is definitely worth searching out if you're interested, though be ready for some serious coarse language! (don't say I didn't warn you...)
So let's rewind the clock back slightly and look at the biggest breakthrough that Young Tapz has managed so far - dropping rhymes for "Buzz" by Aussie group, Hermitude (off their album Dark night sweet light), and thereby ending up in the Top Twenty of the Australian charts! Here's Young Tapz performing alongside Hermititude at the Australian Music Awards last year. He's sure got a lot of swagga for a twenty-year old!
Taranaki once again plays host to WOMAD from 18 - 20 March this year. We know a lot of Aucklanders make the trip down for this unique music festival, so thought it would be worth recommending some acts that we're particularly excited to see.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Songhoy BluesThe landlocked areas of West Africa have become famous for gritty, spiraling style of guitar playing and each year WOMAD seems to uncover a new group with a fresh take on this style. This year the slot is taken by Songhoy Blues from Timbuktu (Mali). The core members of this group were forced to relocate to the Southern capital of Bambako when a jihadist group took over the north of the country and imposed strict sharia law (which included banning cigarettes, alcohol and music). Their newly formed group soon gained an international following and their debut album, Music In Exile, was recorded by Nick Zinner (from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). The video below might induce motion sickness in a few viewers, but just hide the visuals if necessary and have a listen because it's a great example of the great music that's been coming out of that area of the world over the last couple of decades.
Edmar CastañedaCastañeda's music might sound like a groove-based Colombian take on jazz, but if you actually see how he's creating the sound then you'll be amazed. What sounds like bass and acoustic guitar on first listen is actually just him playing a harp on his own. Even if this isn't your type of music then the musicianship on display needs to be seen to be believed.
CalexicoFor the last twenty years, Calexico have been creating their own, distinct Tex-Mex sound. Their latest album, Edge of the sun, was seen by many as a return to their best, with rave reviews from Pitchfork, Q Magazine and Uncut. Here's a track of the album that shows that the influence of Mexican horns and rhythms still provides the heart of their music:
The artists above are just some of the fine acts appearing this year and the overseas line-up also includes: Fela Kuti's son, Seun Kuti, bringing some Afro-funk; De La Soul sparking up the dancefloor with their catchy hip hop sound; and St Germain providing some great live jazz instrumentation over smoothly programmed beats.
I'd also recommend the combined set by Tiny Ruins and Bic Runga, during which they do versions of songs by Fleetwood Mac ("Dreams"), Simon and Garfunkel ("So Long Frank Lloyd Wright"), Yoko Ono ("Nobody Loves You Like I Do"), Love ("Andmoreagain"), and Donovan ("Wear Your Love Like Heaven"). Amazing to hear two of New Zealand's strongest female voices come together in beautiful harmony, especially when their taste in covers is so intriguing. And if that's not enough local talent, then you also have the chance to see soulful country singer, Tami Neilson, and an amazing new piece ("No Man's Land") by one of our finest contemporary composers, John Psathas.
Auckland Libraries also has the 2016 WOMAD compilation on order and you can check out the full list of artists over at the WOMAD website.
If you want to investigate the line-up further then check out the preview piecs by Trevor Reekie and Grant Smithies on Radio New Zealand or the great coverage by Graham Reid's website, Elsewhere.