With one of the strongest commercial prospects from the awesomely good "Christopher" album (although it seems there are not many of us who think so), The Ruby Suns storm in with "In Real Life", a track that seems to combine early-mid 1980s Tears for Fears, Scritti Politti, Climie Fisher and Aha, finishing that off with a sprinkling of Nile Rodgers strings. Having grown up in that era, it is easy for me to detect that initial DNA. But this song is original and is its own. And I love it. I strongly recommend this album, and as with KidsOf88's "Modern Love", I hope it is getting the push that it needs to succeed. I can imagine "In Real Life" on high rotate on radio stations, but we all know it needs more than a good song performed and recorded well. The video is very good, appropriately ironic for this band, but I am not sure it is the right one for such a great song. That being said, it is fun. You can buy The Ruby Suns "Christopher" and older material at the links below.
KidsOf88 were on my preliminary list for #summershot2013, but on the decision to support "up and comers", as opposed to "those artists who are established with some sort of momentum", they fell out of the candidate list. Clearly KidsOf88 have momentum, although I am not sure if it is enough, considering the quality of 2012's album "Modern Love". I hope they are getting the push they need. I suppose the album is not quite as obvious as the first, but it is chock-full of sly little hooks and riffs that make a habit of working their way into one's subconscious. This is the third single off the album, and probably the most obvious...and least interesting. But "Modern Love" is a very good album and recommended, my favourite track being "Tucan", previously posted on NZMusic4U. Today's video was directed by Sam Kristofski. You can buy "Modern Love" at the links below.
I recently posted a video from Wellington-based Signer (Bevan Smith). Bevan was one of the two members of "Over the Atlantic", a band that was making waves locally roughly 6 years ago. The other member was Nik Brinkman who we now know as Junica (the name of Over the Atlantic's first album of two), having just released an album under that moniker. You can definitely hear Junica in this track "Jen" from 2009. I love this song, and the video is pretty special as well, self-directed by Nik. I can't help thinking that Nik's music is crying out to be part of a John Hughes movie soundtrack, and it seems others have had the same idea well before me (see the review posted below from 2006). I suppose they just came along a couple of decades too late ;) . Of course both Over the Atlantic and Junica owe a huge debt to their 1980s forebears, but have also improved on much of that decade's "production-line" music. These are definitely songs I would have liked to hear back in that musical sweet spot, 1981-1986. You can buy Over the Atlantic's music at the link below.
Hailing from Christchurch, The Make Believe have surged through the industry, ending up with a US-sourced funding deal (Three Piece Productions) which has enabled them to record a bunch of songs in order to (hopefully) be picked up by one of the US majors. It's an impressive trajectory, and there is no doubting how they have been able to do this. Tyler Vivian, Mike Lake and Matt Andrews are talented individuals writing songs that a large proportion of the young adult and "tween" population like to hear. They started off playing a mix of covers and originals, but "Give It A Million" is theirs, and it is clearly commercial gold (at time of writing, 147,000 Youtube views). Power pop is definitely not my genre, but I cannot deny this is not just good for its genre, it is world class. I also have a few problems resisting that (song) break! Nice work. I know I have heard this on the radio and just assumed it was an offshore act. Easy to imagine these guys getting signed, and going on to stateside success. The band was brought to my attention by Logan Swinkels, who did a very good job on this video, a video that is appropriate for the act, the audience and its genre, and was probably very cost efficient. You can contact Logan at www.loganlightscreative.com.
The Make Believe 'Give It A Million' OFFICIAL VIDEO
One of my favourite beats releases of 2012 was Third3ye's "Earth Raps" EP. And "Moments" is a suitable track in which to invest in a video release, showing off Angelo King, MelowDownz and producer SwervinMervin at their best. But the EP is a superb release overall. I also like "P3ace" off the same EP, which features Edward Waaka on vocals, and what an amazing, soulful voice he has. Edward makes a further contribution to the EP by producing "Heart Decide", another superb track. (OK all the tracks are very good!). I downloaded the album last year, and have been listening to it on a regular basis since. If you have a proclivity for the beats genre, this is highly recommended. Despite the injustice of getting such great music for free, you can indeed download "Earth Raps" for free at the link below.
After all that training...fell apart on the day! [see video]. It seems The Ruby Suns have much talent in their orbit. My introduction to Signer was through a Facebook post by Ryan McPhun today introducing this track, and it was with some anticipation that I leaped onto Youtube...not to be disappointed. After a little research a further piece of the jigsaw that is the New Zealand music scene clicked into place for me. Bevan Smith, who is Signer, was a member of Over the Atlantic, a precursor to one of my favourite recent acts, Junica. He is a noted collaborator with Ryan McpPhun, a virtual member of The Ruby Suns, and also releases on the Aspen moniker. He is/was also one of the Skallander crew, noted for their output through Loop. He is currently signed to Carpark Records it seems, and today's track was on their recent free Christmas album. There are some rather old links below, that despite their age, provide some good background to the 2013 Bevan Smith, and his history with Skallander and The Ruby Suns.
Ok, I wanted to post "Hook Up Girl", but just couldn't quite get there. Why? At >300,000 Youtube views, the band are probably putting together a young and vigorous following. There are probably many who would disagree with me, some vehemently! "Hook Up Girl" is a pleasant song...but to me, it was just, well, a little flat. I think a good proportion of that might be attributed to the vocals sitting slightly too low in the mix. But there is also a lack of dynamics to the song. I think "Celebration" works much better with a good hook, strong production values, and what looks to be an excellent, cost efficient video, shot by Bradley Scott and edited by Adam King and Craig Gainsborough. This video better puts this very camera-ready duo where they should be - taking on international acts in that pop niche that they do very well. A great summer pop song. For more on Jupiter Project, and to buy their music, please go to the link below.
From the 2012 album "The Great Heart Robbery", Sarah Brown has released this new video for "That's The Thing". Historically she has done well with her videos, most being of reasonable to high quality. But I have had a dilemma in posting her music on NZMusic4U (as I have with a range of other NZ artists). The material and delivery is too middle-of-the-road, an irony where the reason they have been chosen by A&R people is because they are supposed to commercialize the New Zealand "average", and for that very reason they don't really enjoy success beyond NZ's shores. Sarah Brown is a little different. She writes good, sometimes very good songs. She has won quite a few accolades from "the industry", and others. Her material does tend to be positioned around one of the series of demographic sweet spots that exist in the NZ marketplace, but I can't help liking much of what she has done. And "The Great Heart Robbery" is actually pretty good. I only post music/videos I like, and I like "That's The Thing". You can buy Sarah Brown's music at the link below.
One of my favourite NZ bands of the last fifteen years - Nelson's Minuit. With a happy, lively and relaxed vibe relative to historical material, and a wonderful, slightly anarchical Wellington-focused video (NZMusic4U's oft-missed hometown), Minuit have once again redefined their sound with "Last Night You Saw This Band", the name of this song, and the new album. I have just bought the album, which should tell you something. The review linked below, from the NZ Herald's Lydia Jenkins, will help you understand why.
You can buy Minuit's material at the following link:
Wellington-based Urbantramper, simultaneously wearing the "electro-utopian" and "future folk" labels (!), have been around for circa 10 years. "Stephen Dedalus is My Homeboy" is off their 2012 album "Internet Freedom is Love". Quoting www.undertheradar.co.nz, the video "like the song, is inspired by the the protagonist of James Joyce's novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and 'is a portrait of the artist as a small-time indie pop music maker'...". For those who haven't done university English literature 101, Stephen Dedalus is the principal character in the aforementioned novel. The track has grown on me, although it has taken some time. Now I am wondering why on earth it did take so long. I am slow sometimes! The album is worth a listen. I have just bought it.
You can buy"Internet Freedom is Love" and other Urbantramper material at the link below.
Louie Knuxx said recently (paraphrased) that a rapper coming from a household earning more than $50,000 a year, shouldn't be allowed to write. Maybe that's a little extreme, maybe not. But rappers need stories, and war, famine, poverty and stress is a great incubation environment for such stories. And of course, rappers with stories are compelling. Great production and a strong incidental artistic delivery framework (video for short!) also help immensely. Raiza Biza was born in Rwanda, presumably escaped the early 1990s disaster, ended up in Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo), Zambia and Johannesburg, then somehow lucked into New Zealand citizenship. I don't know the full facts, but it's not rocket science to presume we have the raw material for an interesting artist here. I have enjoyed his recent album "Dream Something" which I bought as the extended CD version. Today's video is notable for the excellent direction/editing work by the talented beats producer Jay Knight (Young, Gifted and Broke, Louie Knuxx). I hadn't realized he was as talented visually as he is as a producer. The production work by Crime Heat Beats is superb. This is a high quality offering from Raiza Biza. The album is worth a look, if not a cheeky $15.
To purchase Raiza Biza's material, please go to the link below.
I will not do this often, but I have been prompted to take a position by a blog post on The Trichordist that I had been forwarded this evening (see the link below). Sometimes it is difficult to pay for music as a result of life circumstances, but music provides real life-benefits and is so much part of our lives, such that when we take without paying, we are striking at the heart of the creative engine. Sometimes this manifests as very sad events, which this blog post alludes to. Please read this article and think about how you value music, and to what extent you reward artists for the sacrifices they make to improve the world you live in. I always pay for music. If you are able to, you should do so too. Please read the link below.
From 2011's "The Vietnam War" album, " High Window" was my first introduction to The Vietnam War. To me they are an obviously Americana-inspired indie-country/folk outfit, and to regular readers of this blog, it is clear this genre has never been a first "port of call" for me. But the forced inclusivity of writing a blog on New Zealand music has forced me to re-address my bias, especially when presented with obvious talent within a genre (e.g. Streets of Laredo). The video for "High Window" is appropriate, but not particularly inspired, however the song itself, and the performance, are pretty special, especially after repeated listenings. From a 2011 interview with New Zealand music website "Under The Radar" the band's Lubin Raines says of the album, "it paints a picture of a place and time, and you probably can’t avoid that. It’s probably got a political element or a social commentary but it’s not a conscious one that we set out to do." He denies there is an explicitly targeted "American" or genre-specific sound, but as a blog-writer deliberately covering a wide range of genres, it is hard not to pigeonhole this. But that is not a bad thing when a genre is well-executed, which is the case with "The Vietnam War" album. You can buy the album at the link below.
I posted the "Skin & Bones" video from Luckless back in early November 2012. Today I am posting the song I was originally going to post, but never got round to. Luckless is Ivy Rossiter, loop-pedal specialist, and Will Wood, drums and percussion. With Luckless one gets no unnecessary instrumentation, just the song and it's raw, lyrically-driven performance. Without strong production values, music such as this can often fall flat, but the excellent production by Jordan Stone (Roundhead), with mastering by Angus McNaughton, keeps us focused on the strengths of the song's delivery. Combined with another well put-together video with some lovely photography, this is again a strong offering from Luckless. The video is by Little White Pictures. (Please note there is distortion in the audio on this video brought on by the YouTube conversion process.). It is not a feature of the material available at the link below.
A slightly older track today from Auckland indie-folk artist, Simon Comber. The reason I have posted this is Auckland band (and NZMusic4U favourite), She's So Rad were asked to recommend a list of NZ acts by the Australian blog "Something You Said" (see link below) and the first on the list was Simon. It is difficult to find videos but "High Plains Drifter", despite being an "oldie", is a "goodie". The song is from his 2006 album"Pre-Pill Love". He has since released a further two albums, 2009's "Endearance", and the 2011 EP "The Right To Talk to Strangers". She's So Rad's Jeremy Toy says of Simon, "On every one of Simon’s records there is a song that knocks you sideways. He has lyrics that can stir and pull out emotions you may not even have thought you had. If you want to hear a songwriter steeped in tradition and writing for the sheer art of the song then Simon is a great artist to discover. Great songs to start with are ‘Early Spring Rain’ of his album ‘Pre-Love Pill’ or ‘Please Elvis’ off ‘Endearance’." I have embedded a rather raw, but still effective live video of Simon at www.nzmusic4ulive.com. You can buy Simon's music at the link below.
From 2011's "Unknown Mortal Orchestra" album (their first), and to mark my first time attendance at a live performance of Unknown Mortal Orchestra (UMO), here is the first track released by UMO back in 2010, "Ffunny FFrends". UMO are Ruban Nielson (vocals/guitar), Jake Portrait (bass) and Greg Rogrove (drums). Described as an "American and New Zealand band" due to their Portland, Oregon base, and American band members, nonetheless, to me this is a quintessentially New Zealand offering, with Ruban Nielson (ex-Auckland's "Mint Chicks") dominating the creative process. Pitchfork magazine said the following about the first album - "an expert use of space rare for such a lo-fi record, UMO manages a unique immersive and psychedelic quality without relying on the usual array of bong-ripping effects". That very lo-fi "space" meant it took me awhile to warm to UMO, but I am now pretty much fully onboard, although I find my affection quite polarized between tracks, with some of the tracks still not dragging me in. That might just be my problem though. I do love "FFunny Ffrends", "Thought Ballune", "How Can U Love Me", "Nerve Damage", "Little Blu House", and "Strangers are Strange"- yup, pretty much the entire album! UMO have a new album "II", to be released on the Jagjaguwardue label sometime in February 2013. The band are touring as part of the release process. I am very much looking forward to seeing them live. You can buy the first UMO album at the link below:
The Adults is a NZ version of a "super-group"...although I am sure the members would be loathe to call themselves that. Three very talented songwriters and musicians, with many years in the industry behind them, they managed to put together a great combination in 2011, with each of three elements taking turns at dominating the creative mix on their first album, "The Adults". They have since released a live album in conjunction with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra (released November 2012). The Adults are: Jon Toogood (Shihad), Shayne Carter (Straitjacket Fits, Dimmer) and Julia Deans (Fur Patrol and solo). As part of the project they have also collaborated with other well-known NZ musicians such as Anika Moa, Ladi 6, and the Nielson brothers (Opossom, Unknown Mortal Orchestra). Today's song, "One Million Ways" flirts with monotony but thanks to a driving rhythm section, an expansive guitar and keyboard texture in the verse, and that wonderful melodic surge into the chorus, it works brilliantly as a great rock groove, that one can imagine being used as a soundtrack to a wide range of visuals, for many years to come. Superb production by Jon Toogood and Tiki Taane. For more information on The Adults, there is a very useful Wiki at the following link.
Beat Rhythm Fashion were one of the standout acts from Wellington's "Terrace Scene" in the early 1980s. For me, a young Aucklander at that time, this band, along with Nigel Russell's Dance Macabre showed we could do the post-punk thing as well as the UK (the standard-setter of course). The reason I am posting this video is firstly because I love "Turn of the Century" so much, and secondly, as a sort of "turn of the year" memorial to Dan Birch, the lead singer and creative force, who passed away a little over a year ago, and whose ashes are going to be scattered in Oriental Bay on January 5th. As someone noted on his Facebook memorial, Dan did get "to see the turn of the century" but very sad this enormously creative fellow could not have stayed with us a bit longer. Ironically, "Turn of the Century" is seen by many as their masterpiece, but they were a little unhappy with the end-result. It often works that way. Others have written about Beat Rhythm Fashion, much better than I ever will, so I have included some links that you can use to learn about one of the great, mostly unknown, NZ bands of the 1980s. You can read more about the band, as well as buy their material again on the compilation album "Bring Real Freedom", through the Failsafe Records link below: