Guest post: favourite discoveries of NZ Music Month

At the beginning of the month, I wrote about plans to raid our awesome music collection and listen to a New Zealand CD every day throughout Music Month. Much, much music later, here are four favourites from the month's exploration, and some clips to brighten the leaden-skied Queen's Birthday gloom out there. Check them out after the jump.

Dudley Benson -- The Awakening (Golden Retriever, 2008)
Singer/songwriter from Christchurch. Amplifier, who are my go-to site for getting instant background info on NZ music, have trouble categorising Benson -- 'Indie-chorister? Folk-popist?'  I loved his soaring vocals and the eclectic mix of instruments, including harpsichord. The songs veer from playful whimsy to mournfulness.
Standout for me was the haunting and catchy 'It's Akaroa's fault'; check out this snippet as performed live by Dudley Benson & the Dawn Chorus, featuring Hopey One:

The Awakening also comes with a 'supplementary workbook', which has some fascinating pieces on everything from the history of Sunnyside Hospital (photos of which comprise album art), a biographical comic, and photoshoots with a truly exceptional Akaroa lighthouse hat.

Iva Lamkum -- Black Eagle (Ice, 2012)
Singer/songwriter from Wellington. She was a finalist in this year's Pacific Music Awards for Best Female Artist, Best Urban Artist, Best Song and Best Music Video (though she lost to Aaradhna in all four). Her voice is stunning - soulful, confident and rich. She just makes it sound effortless. My favourite track is the opener, 'Bankrupt Visa', because it rocks along so jauntily, but also because I know I'm in for a great album when it starts. Also, loving the fact that Lamkum herself dropped a copy of the lyrics into the clip intro on YouTube in response to a request from a fan. Black Eagle was my favourite find of this year's Music Month.

Tha Feelstyle -- Break It To Pieces (Festival Mushroom Records, 2004)
Hip-hop artist born in Samoa. Tha Feelstyle was a recommendation from colleague Kelly, who gave me a wealth of background about Kas Futialo (aka Tha Feelstyle) and his impressive musical history - you can find some of it here. As Kelly suggested, this is an album that repays repeat listening, and what an awesome way to take in the sounds of Samoan during Samoan Language Week. The clip below, 'Suamalie/Ain't Mad At You', breaks mid-way to discuss the difference between the sweet 'songs of the old days', traditional Samoan music, and modern music, and has a ridiculously catchy chorus you'll find yourself singing for days afterwards. Total gold.


Tiny Ruins - Some Were Meant For Sea (Spunk Records, 2011)
Singer-songwriter born in Bristol. Folksy goodness that is a bit like listening to autumn, distilled into CD form. I love the simplicity of the songs, and Hollie Fullbrook's sweet, husky voice, which reminds me of some of my favourite folk artists from NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series on YouTube. She's just released a new CD, 'Haunts', songs written in younger years but recorded in 2012. 'Some Were Meant For Sea' is perfect music for dark and rainy evenings - take a listen to the recording she made for bFM's 'In Session'.


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