Rhian Sheehan - Little Sines

The "Stories from Elsewhere" album is a little beauty. This wonderful animated video channels a little of the toy-shop like atmosphere of the album. The video was animated by Matt Pitt with illustration by the very talented visual artist, Kieran Rynhart. In Rhian Sheehan's words, "'Little Sines' was conceived on my baritone ukulele and an old 80's toy sampler I use to record and playback sine waves on. I then physically created the main melody on a handmade DIY music-box I own, but didn't really think it was a particularly interesting melody until my young son began singing it relentlessly. I then knew I had an idea worth pursuing. This melody pops up throughout the album in various forms". "Ambient" is not for everyone, but I think where it often succeeds is through active texture dynamics, not droning on as the genre is apt to do. There has never been a danger of that with Rhian Sheehan, who is a masterful composer, arranger and producer, and knows how to keep motifs/textures from overstaying their welcome. I have all his releases and most are played on a regular basis...although my favourites are selected tracks from "Tiny Blue Biosphere" (2005), "Seven Tales of the North Wind"(2011) and Standing in Silence" (2009). You can buy Rhian Sheehan's music at the link below.


Raiza Biza - They Told Me

There is something going on with the intersection of the three talents behind this video. Raiza Biza, ex-Rwanda, Zaire (DRC), South Africa and Wellington - now of "the Tron", is a gifted storyteller and lyrical stylist, and it seems he is building confidence with every release. My 2012/13 summer was filled with his first album, "Dream Something", which remains a favourite. Crime Heat is a beats producer who seems to have a very good ear for riff, texture, dynamics and song construction - although the last is the least proven so far. The first three he consistently delivers on - at a very high level. And Jay Knight, an 18/19 years old graphic arts student from Wellington, already a proven beats producer (see Louie Knuxx "Stan Howse"), has an audio-visual eye that belies his years. Watch all these careers. There is more to come and I can't help thinking if they do it right, something could happen offshore. They should consider working together for an extended period as this combination is working. "They Told Me" is from Raiza Biza's upcoming album "Summer". I love that chorus. You can buy his music at the link below.


Module - The Pieces Fit

Jeremiah Ross is one of those Wellington artists that puts out reliably good content, most of which I own, and also has managed to create a career out of his music, recently as a composer for video games. Module was developed in 2003 as an outlet for his solo material which tends to be electronic, although he is a talented instrumentalist as well. I first came upon him when he played live with Rhian Sheehan and Jess Chambers at the San Francisco Bath House in 2005. What a great performance that was. "The Pieces Fit" is from his latest album "Imagineering", released through Escape Artists Recordings. Jeremiah is published by Mushroom Music. The nicely-put-together hybrid animated video was shot by Marty Williams, with the animation by Matt Pitt. You can buy "Imagineering" at the link below.


The Shifting Sands - Worth our While

With a driving, well-balanced production (great low end), "Worth our While" is the second single from The Shifting Sands's 2012 debut album "Feel", released through Fishrider Records (www.fishriderrecords.com). Dunedin-based, as is the record label, they readily concede their illustrious geographical lineage but point to differentiators such as the use of electronics and sitar.  For me the genes remain obvious, and that is not a negative. Michael Mcleod is the driving force and songwriter behind the band. He had a band called The Alpha State whose 2008 album "Lines" was well-reviewed in New Zealand. The "Feel" album, which had originally started out as a Michael McLeod solo album, has some depth in terms of musical contributors including a range of South Island luminaries (some of them participants in world rock history through the Flying Nun phenomenon), including David Kilgour, Robert Scott, Robbie Yeats and Lesley Paris, Jay Clarkson, Rob Falconer, Tony de Raad and Tom Bell. This is a good song. The album works for me. You can buy it at the link below.


Thank you to www.undertheradar.co.nz

Six60 - Lost ft. Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Let's be honest. Six60 gets a hard time from the music intelligentsia in New Zealand. And they are right to criticize. Six60's lyrics are sometimes banal, the "light brown" genre blends often predictable (from a NZ perspective), and of course, as they sell records, they suck out a substantial chunk of that very small financial pie (of music spend) in New Zealand. There are some incredibly talented people who miss out on revenue, and by implication, financing, as a result of this diversion. But there is a reason. Six60 appeal to a wide range of local "demographics". New Zealand has a small population which is enormously difficult to make money out of. And Six60 provide a financial return for investors, themselves included, a return that creates careers. Ask yourself, would a Maori/Pakeha/Polynesian band get the same access to creative resources in Australia? Would they get access to an orchestra of the quality of the Auckland Philharmonia? No. The local creative support infrastructure is still substantial, much of which exists only in the rarified air of enthusiasm for 'the New Zealand artistic project' . With the incremental infection of the New Zealand cultural fabric by global capital, imagine if this led to Guy Sebastian satisfying the "light brown", "racial diversity" requirement within a record companies product mix? As a regular, episodic emigrant from New Zealand's gorgeous shores, I know that when I hear a bit of "light brown" music it stirs many conflicting emotions. I love New Zealand's independent acts -  from all racial/cultural backgrounds, but Six60 are a "Nyu Zilland" (sic) band, and sometimes they do it very well. This single "Lost" actually seems lost up front, but listen to it a few times, spend six months away from home, watch some pale-skinned Australian TV commercials, then imagine this soundtrack to movies of Taranaki, the Southern Alps and "Whale Rider" a couple of times (cliche, cliche) ...and one realizes what it is. It is part of our vernacular. It is maybe a little banal, but New Zealanders are often a little banal (I include myself)...a result of the ease of our lifestyle I suspect...although there are many in South Auckland and Porirua who would dispute that assertation. But thank goodness we still produce the "light brown" and maintain a locally-driven A&R infrastructure, as sadly, I think this may not be long for this world. So Six60, well-done with "Lost". I actually love the song. I think it is well-written and well-arranged overall. I also appreciate the fact you are popular band in New Zealand. My opinion has changed in recent months by the way, and from what I hear, there is an emerging taste for Six60 in the USA. The band have also just signed to a Europe-wide deal to release their debut album - with Sony out of Germany (Columbia Four Music). You can get involved with Six60 at the link below.


The Bats - Simpletons

Filmed around the devastated "Red Zone" in Christchurch, The Bats and director, Marc Swadel, record the poignant disconnect between what was a grand old little city, and the partially or fully destroyed remnants of much of what defined the city centre before the February 2011 earthquake. The Bats are almost as much part of the historical fabric of the city as some of the city's better-known buildings, being one of Flying Nun's key acts in the 1980s and 1990s. Age has been kind to them, with the tightness of the rhythm section in "Simpletons" standing out. The simple melodies, driving rhythms, augmented by the usual basic harmonies, have not disappeared, and with some competent production, we have a track that is a progression of their repertoire without losing the original essence of the band. In fact the original line-up is intact, with Robert Scott, Paul Kean and Kaye Woodward all present, with Malcolm Grant in addition. You can buy their latest album (2011) "Free All The Monsters" at the links below.

Flying Nun Records: http://bit.ly/qqrck2
iTunes: http://bit.ly/101niYS
The band website is here:

The video director's contact details are below.

Artisan Guns - Baby Blue

Artisan Guns' "Coral" album sneaked up on me in 2012 and ended up on high rotate over the summer. "Baby Blue" is the third single off the album, and not my favourite. But the album as a composite is a accomplished release, with sympathetic production by Djeisan Suskov, and brilliant vocal performances by Matthew Hope. I just cannot think of anyone else who could sing these songs about a younger life better than Matthew. It is also testament to Djeisan's production skill that he managed to catch the warmth of the delivery. The album was recorded live, and my initial reaction to that was sceptical, but the "soul" of the album which is directly a result of that live approach, has completely won me over. This is a mature album, giving lie to the youth of these very talented artists. The bass player Reuben Stephens also has an astute visual aesthetic which can be seen in Watercolours "Under" video (link below). The "Baby Blue" video was directed by Ralph Matthews and is a little beauty as well. You can buy "Coral" at the link below. Strongly recommended.


Watch Reuben Stephens video for Watercolours' "Under" at the link below.


The Phoenix Foundation - The Captain

Wearing all the hallmarks of a Luke Buda song...whimsical lyrics ("hey dude"), retro synth textures/motifs and sometimes delicate ironies that are easy to blissfully enjoy at face value, "The Captain" is our first introduction to The Phoenix Foundations new album "Fandango". The sound is almost tinny and I'm not quite sure about the production which seems to miss a little low-end, but maybe that's the intention...with a rhythm section that sounds like its been transplanted from a 1975 Hammond organ, and sprinklings of "Muzak". That's not to say I don't like the song, I love it. But in terms of "Fandango" I hope we see a little of the lushness that we encountered in 2010's "Buffalo", still one of my favourite albums ever. The new album is being released on Memphis Industries in April. As is typical, the band have come up with a superb video, this time directed by Luke Savage. You can pre-order "Fandango" at the link below:


Mark Vanilau - Giant of the Sea

Sometimes songs come along and bowl one over with an alchemy that is a little challenging to define in terms of its constituent parts. Mark Vanilau's "Giant of the Sea" is one of those, and for me, this is the best single of the year so far. I know it was around on The Audience (www.theaudience.co.nz) last year, and managed to win NZonAir (website below) "Wildcard" video funding, but I have to admit I have limited time with which to run this blog, and had not spotted the gem. Shame! I picked the video up off Twitter several days ago after seeing a tweet that indicated the song was starting to rate highly on the "Hypnofeed" section of Coldplay's website. The song was produced and mixed by mega-talent Warren Maxwell (Trinity Roots, Little Bushman), with members of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra providing the strings, beautifully arranged by Ryan Youens. Mark is best-known as a session musician, having played with local notables such as Trinity Roots, Dave Dobbyn, Hollie Smith and Ladi6. I have just found out he plays in a trio with Warren Maxwell and Louis Baker...what I would call a low-profile New Zealand "supergroup" (that is not hyperbole). I believe this single has the potential to be a international hit, although realistically, without some push, it might well get lost. But maybe it might just catch? The video was directed by Karl Lear of Red Yeti Films with cinematography by Donny Duncan ("Mr Pip", "Emperor" w/ Tommy Lee Jones, and "Xena"). Art direction was by Tane Jarrett who has worked on movies "King Kong", "The Narnia Chronicles" and "The World's Fastest Indian". Nice work. You can buy the song at the iTunes link below.


The NZorAir link is below:

Ladi6 - Ikarus

From the June 2013 album release (name unknown) Ladi6 comes through with a laid-back but heart-felt groove driven by a heavily reverbed/delayed arpeggiated synth line, a simple backbeat, and the usual gorgeous/husky vocal layering...enhanced by an excellent video from local video luminary, Askew One (www.askew1.com). I have been a sucker for Ladi6 for a couple of years, so maybe I am coming into this with a hefty dose of bias. Discarding that second-guess though, this is a high quality offering. "Ikarus" was recorded in Detroit, Michigan at Studio A, which according to promotional material (sorry much of what is driving this blog post and others today), was the recording home of hiphop producer JDilla. The song, and upcoming album, were produced by Parks (Ladi6's creative and life partner) and Detroit local Wajeed. This single was mastered by Tom Coyne, who has previously worked with Beyonce, Adele and D'Angelo. To buy Ladi6's music, please go to the Bandcamp link below. I have included some other social media and website links below that.



French for Rabbits- Claimed by the Sea

From Wellington, but originally from the Waimakariri area in the South Island (I intuit), alt-folk duo French for Rabbits (Brooke Singer and John Fitzgerald) released their latest EP "Claimed by the Sea" in early 2012. This is the title track and as I far as I can see, it is the only single release off the EP. The song hit me on first listening, and was enough for the anthology to be purchased. Building from a simple lazy guitar riff, breathy vocals speak poetry at the listener, leading into deeply-reverbed electronic textures building behind that initial framework. This is an elegant little ditty. The clearly resource-challenged video is similarly elegant. US-based producer PLAN has done a nice laid-back remix of the track which is supplied below. You can buy the EP at the link below. Highly recommended.


The PLAN remix is at the link below.

Tom Lark - Hipsteranity

Tom Lark. "Give You All My Lovin'" was one of my favourite tracks of 2012. Posted on www.nzmusic4u.com  with all manner of foisted praise, I still believe it to be an analysis that stands. There is now some industry "noise" around Tom, and it is well-justified. "Hipsterinsanity" is not the best track off the "Tom Lark EP", but is a still a goodie - and there is much to choose from on that anthology. I know other commentators have pointed out the lack of the key hook missing from the title, but maybe that would be just a bit obvious. It is a biting satire, and resonates with this writer, considering the disjunction of the origins of the "hipster" aesthetic, and its current expression across a range of demographics.  I hope Tom remains a little controversial. Big things coming here. Great little video nasty by the way. You can buy this track and/or the EP at the link below:


TOM LARK - Hipsteranity (Official Video) HD

Junica - You're My Sun' ft. Mike Edwards (Jesus Jones)

I apologize for not updating the blog for the last few days, but sometimes my real life gives my blog life short shrift. Currently in Aspen, Colorado, I have been trekking around US cities for the last week. As usual, there has been plenty going on in New Zealand music over the last few days, but my event of the week was the release of the self-directed, self-edited, self-photographed video of "You're My Sun" by Junica (Nik Brinkman). Regular readers of this blog know how highly I rate Nik. He is the consummate artist/aesthete with an ability to deliver across a range of media. He is a very talented writer of pop songs with broad appeal, but discernable identity. With "You're My Sun", off his recent album "The Celebration", Nik has put together a great pop video on what I know to be a limited budget. The quality of this video is top-decile. It's a pity that the great Mike Edwards (principal of one of my favourite bands of the early 90s, Jesus Jones), had his contribution to this song blended into something unrecognizable, but I am sure the producer (Greg Haver - prod'n for Manic Street Preachers) was working towards what best represented the song, the performance and Nik's idea. The overall offering is superb, and refreshing to see coming out of a Wellington that often defines itself within other genres. If you would like to buy this song, or the album, please go to the link below. I bought the album a long time ago, and it remains on high-rotate. I have also included a link to Jesus Jones' "International Bright Young Thing" and "Right Here, Right Now". Two of my favourite songs ever.

You can buy Junica's "The Celebration" at the link below:


The Jesus Jones "International Bright Young Thing" and "Right Here, Right Now" single/video links are below:



Junica 'You're My Sun' ft. Mike Edwards (Jesus Jones)