Groeni - Hedre



The Wellington music cognoscenti have been excited about Groeni for some time. Recently there has been somewhat of a wider breakout. Groeni was originally ex-music student Alexander Green's solo project, but he has now been joined by Mike Isaacs and James Paul, both also ex-music students. "Hedre" is typical of their tight, subtle and assured approach to building moody, atmospheric electronic textures, coupled with that soulful NZ male vocal timbre which I think maybe subconsciously can trace its DNA to Trinity Roots' beautiful music of the late 90s, early 2000s. I hear echoes often, and not just in Groeni's work. The "Hedre" video is an absolute stunner. Created and directed by Joel Fear, it is a simple concept, brilliantly executed. Hypnotic and complete.  Difficult to believe it is his first video effort. With electronics at its core, Groeni's is not a sound one would associate with dynamic live performance (only so much nodding one can do in front of a keyboard!) but from what I hear, the band can deliver live. Wellington music journalist Martyn Pepperell told me, "they're making psychedelic folk with a bass music frame – this is exciting – but that's really exciting is seeing it cleanly delivered by a live band. That's what makes all the difference and helps set them apart." "Hedre" as an overall offering is almost achingly beautiful and up there with the best of 2015. If you are liking this, the new "Hinde" EP is due out October 1st and will be available at the Bandcamp link below. The band is touring to launch the EP. Details can be found at the Facebook link below. I have also included a link to the (very good) www.wireless.co.nz video premiere article as it fleshes out the band better than one of my usual blog posts can. I love this band. Can't wait to see them live.

http://groeni.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/groeniband

http://thewireless.co.nz/articles/video-premiere-groeni-hedre

Groeni - Hedre [OFFICIAL VIDEO]



Diamond Field - This City feat. Matthew Ruys


As L.P. Hartley wrote "the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there", Auckland in the '80s was a very different place to the city it has become. At night it was often quite empty except around the many night clubs that sprouted around the edge of the CBD. It was so much quieter, and less the partly Asian city it has become (I'm not saying that is a good thing). Music had emerged from the Australasian pub rock sound w/ splashes of disco, there were surges of punk, ska and post-punk, then with the emergence of synth-pop and the New Romantic movement (which somehow seemed to sit side-by-side w/ soul and RnB) we had a sound that for me, this track evokes, probably heightened by the Radio with Pictures' Peter Blake (oldies will know that name) "cinema" video effects. Just standing around in videos was also a classic "cool" device. May I stress production standards were pretty poor back then, and "This City" does not suffer from that problem. Great vocals from Matthew Ruys, and a stunning electronic back-drop driven by classic DX7 samples, such as the synth bass and electronic piano, layered up against a chorused slap bass. The overall sound of this outstanding "blue-eyed soul" track places somewhere between 1984 and 1987. The track would not have been out of place in long-disappeared nightclubs such as Quays, Zanzibar and the Six Month Club. Diamond Field is NYC-based Kiwi Andrew White. He and Matthew put the video together on the smell of an old oily rag, using an iPhone 6 Plus and Final Cut Pro. Impressive considering that. The single is available through Luca Discs/Future City Records. You can buy it and various remixes at the Bandcamp link below.

https://diamondfield.bandcamp.com/album/this-city-feat-matthew-ruys-special-maxi-single

Diamond Field feat. Matthew Ruys 'This City' Official Music Video

The Impending Adorations - Land of the Long White Cloud



When Paul McLaney (who is The Impending Adorations) released his series of progressive-rock-influenced singles earlier this year, I was quietly worried we might not get the fourth instalment of his "G.I.F.T." anthology (the acronym using the first letter of each of the album titles). The first three were "Gestalt", "Intentions", and "Further", and now we have "Threshold". Each is a masterpiece of electronic post-rock using found sounds and ambient textures to build evocative sonic landscapes, topped off by Paul's distinctive vocal stylings. I think this might just be one of the greatest bodies of work put out by a NZ artist, although I am not sure how many people know it exists. To a certain degree Paul's music is an acquired taste, but I have found that once I discarded artistic prejudice, it has been immensely rewarding to listen to. There are several dominant tracks on the latest album, my favourites being "Each Life's Legacy", "Threshold", and this track "Land of the Long White Cloud", from my experience one of the more political of Paul's tracks, although it is far from an overt statement. Rather I interpret it is a subtle lament at the destructive short-termism of modern neo-liberal New Zealand. The lyrics are provided below. Paul put the video together himself, using found footage. It works beautifully. If you would like to hear more of The Impending Adorations' music, you can listen/buy at the link below. Please buy it if you like it.

Land of the Long White Cloud lyrics...

Flags in the harbour like vertigo reach into the distance of letting go 

The Sun's shining like a bonfire in the sky 

Voice of the ocean in the throat of a shell 

Spectators in the frontline sell 

The possibilities of everything that money can buy 

Land of the Long White Cloud 

Your time is up 

The Sun beats down 

Land of the Long White Cloud 

You filled your cup just to pour it out 


A loud rhythm of silence greets 

The chorus of approval from these dead end streets 

The Sun's shining like a furnace in the sky 

Histories for sale at the highest price 

Auctions of ambitions offer up the birthrights 

Of generations yet to claim them 

Land of the Long White Cloud 

Your time is up 

The Sun beats down 

Land of the Long White Cloud 

You filled your cup just to pour it out 


God defend us

The Impending Adorations - Land of the Long White Cloud

The Phoenix Foundation - Mountain



How do they do it? Having been around for a decade and a half, The Phoenix Foundation continue to produce songs that are rewarding to listen to, intriguingly built, with layers of texture to peel away if one feels so inclined. There's also that perfect balance of saccharine and satire, and for me there's the "dopamine hit". Not always, but often. "Mountain" is the first single release off "Give Up Your Dreams" or "GUYD" as the band has been promoting it. The album is due out on August 7th, and has so far been reviewed well (see the links below). The album was approached slightly differently this time, with songs written as a band, and more structured studio time. Although apparently there was much twiddling of knobs and tweaking of effects processors after the initial recording sessions. It sounds like the album will be more up-tempo, but judging from "Mountain" and the just-released "Give Up Your Dreams" single (see Stereogum link below) it remains melodic and hooky. See the Salient link below for a very good interview with Sam Flynn Scott on the making of the album. The "Mountain" video is classic Sam Kristofski, with echoes of videos previously shot for Opossom and Tom Lark. I'm a fan. Bated breath on the new album. I have provided a link to the Memphis Industries site below for prospective purchasers. NZMusic4U is one!

http://www.memphis-industries.com/release/give-up-your-dreams/
http://www.stereogum.com/1812772/the-phoenix-foundation-give-up-your-dreams-stereogum-premiere/mp3s/
http://www.theskinny.co.uk/music/reviews/albums/the-phoenix-foundation-give-up-your-dreams
http://salient.org.nz/2015/08/fuck-the-haters-and-give-up-your-dreams/

Sam Kristofski link:
https://vimeo.com/kristofski

The Phoenix Foundation - Mountain (Official Music Video)

Introverted Dancefloor - Happiness is Such A Mess



This is music for musicians, and for those who like to think about their music as much as feel it. Introverted Dancefloor is the name of a new project from Bevan Smith, known for running a variety of monikers over time...Aspen, Skallender, Signer...and also for being one half of one the great NZ bands of the mid-2000s, Over The Atlantic. The new self-titled album from which "Happiness is Such A Mess" hails has taken four years to arrive. It sounds like it was an almost tortured genesis. Bevan deliberately put himself under a lot of pressure to create an album that was difficult to make. Limiting himself to only two synths, one mic, one filter and one effects processor, many of the songs were scratched and restarted. "Happiness.." demands quite a few listens to get inside one's subconscious, but it is a pleasure after several. And it is not just an aural experience, bringing with it some simple, hopefully helpful, existentialism...(!)

"If you ever feel unhappy,
don't forget that things are bound to change,
not that change is such a good thing,
there's a chance that things might get much worse" 

The stunning video that accompanies this single  was directed by Rowan Pierce, with photography by Matt Henley. Choreography was by Victoria Colombus with dancers Errol Anderson and Emma Martin. Bevan has been on the Carpark Records label since 1999 and says he feels grateful to still be one of what we know to be a stable of well-respected artists. But his continued presence on the label is not accidental. Here is an artist who must continue to interest music fans. And there is an integrity to the intellectualism he brings to it. It is also fun. A range of links are provided below to enable the reader to get to know Introverted Dancefloor better. Highly recommended. Watch out for the album release in September. Hopefully we will get a few more video releases ahead of the release date.

https://www.facebook.com/introverteddancefloor
http://carparkrecords.com/press/introverteddancefloor/
https://soundcloud.com/carparkrecords/happiness-is-such-a-mess-introverted-dancefloor
http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/nat-music/audio/201762935/introverted-dancefloor

Introverted Dancefloor - "Happiness is Such A Mess"

Glass Vaults - Sojourn



Gorgeous. Everything that Glass Vaults has been, but warmer. Glass Vaults' new album "Sojourn" is launching in September. The two releases so far indicate an evolution from what I experienced as a ambient melodic electronic focus with often-times dense minor scale textures, to what might be a more guitar-driven (but not dominated) sound, and a sunnier tonal outlook. The "Sojourn" single is my favourite of the two tracks released so far, "Sacred Heart" being the first release. "Sojourn" is a simple love song with a big heart, and layers of rich melody, texture...and light? Impressionist music maybe. The cover art hints at this. Richard Larsen's vocals seem enhanced by the context. And the second lift of the song at 3:10 is one of those dopamine moments. I recommend you listen to this on very good headphones, or on a sound system with good bass response. The beautifully-constructed video is the work of Ryan Fielding, and uses some footage from the much-missed "Camp A Low Hum" music festival which I regret never having attended. The love song could just as easily have been for the festival, a meeting of those that follow alternative life paths and the music that seems to be an integral part of it all. As it is, Paul Simon's "Graceland" and the NZ summer are also objects of the artists' affection here. I will be buying "Sojourn". If you would like to listen to the first two singles right now, or even get acquainted with historical material, please go to the link below. I own everything Glass Vaults have released so far.

http://glassvaults.bandcamp.com/

Glass Vaults - Sojourn

Mel Parsons - Driving Man



Sweet lonesome vocals that say something + reverb. Pedal steel + reverb. Over-driven guitar + reverb. Harmonies slurred and blurred by reverb. For me, all of that is very difficult to resist. So how did Nashville destroy country music for those who wanted the authenticity that makes this music of the wide open spaces so compelling? I am an electronica fan, but its artists like Mel Parsons (and Marlon Williams for that matter) that take me where electronica has normally had me for itself. Stark contemplative moments of emotional clarity. This is a simple but beautiful song. Though I am pretty sure this elegance would not have been so easy to create. "Driving Man" was written by Mel Parsons, produced by herself and Gerry Paul (the guitarist) w/ Lee Prebble recording (yes, at The Surgery) and Auckland's Oli Harmer mixing. Anji Sami (She's So Rad) and Lisa Tomlins are on backing vocals. The video was produced and directed by Tim McInnes  (Ruffell Productions) with photographic direction by Sabin Holloway. The video stars Beth Alexander & Khuzwane Holder. It all works.  If you would like to get to know Mel Parsons' art better, there is a (typically) great Graham Reid interview link below. Otherwise, cos of course you like it, buy it at the link below. I have.

Buy here:

http://melparsons.bandcamp.com/

Graham Reid interview here...

http://www.elsewhere.co.nz/absoluteelsewhere/6910/mel-parsons-interviewed-2015-and-the-road-goes-on-forever/

Mel Parsons | Driving Man

MeloDownz - One Liiif3



Three things that really distinguish Melodownz (Bronson Price) and his colleagues in Third3ye is a delicious use of melody and harmony, an overall subtlety of presentation, and thematic content which is far from the overly common & sometimes close-to-narcissistic "watch me on my journey to the top". "One Liiif3" is one of the best tracks from Melodownz' debut solo album, "Beginner's Luck", released late-2014. The single was produced by My Disguise (a Kiwi living in Perth right now) with mastering by Rizvan Tuitahi, himself a talented MC, producer. The album was otherwise produced by a range of producers including Ben Jamin and Jay Knight. Engineering was by Rizvan. The video was put together by Lifers.Co. Bronson has a pretty impressive backstory which you can flesh out at the interview link below. You can buy "Beginner's Luck" at the link below. I own it.

http://melodownz.bandcamp.com/

The interview with Melodownz...

http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/western-leader/63503417/Mentors-songs-of-happiness

Watch Melodownz live at the link below...


MeloDownz - One Liiif3 (Official Video)

Matthew Young - Magic



Hitting the NZ music industry like an Exocet out of a sea-fog, Matthew Young's first musical offerings in late 2014 ("Loveblind", "Knock") stunned many for the writing, the vocal delivery and the production. New Zealand has recently developed somewhat of a mini-cluster of RnB-influenced future-poppy artists and here was someone coming in at a slightly different angle and again doing it so well. The enigmatic Mr Young appears to have a 360 degree approach to what he does, whether that be writing, singing, sound and image/fashion, and so far executed all with aplomb. The only industry player not surprised by the quality of all this is Sony, who have signed him. I note Djeisan Suskov (now going by the singular moniker "Djeisan") is responsible for production on "Magic". Clearly a versatile producer, he has done a superb job on this, and other tracks I have heard. I have previously come across Djeisan's work with Artisan Guns, Dear Times Waste and his own project Cool Rainbows. All substantially different to "Magic" but the clarity and space I associate with his production is still there. The video was put together by Jordan Arts and Matthew, and is a suitably sophisticated visual presentation. Matthew Young's new EP "DIVE" is due out June 12th and is currently available on Spotify. Many of the tracks are also available at the Soundcloud link below. An exciting artist that will surely break big.

https://soundcloud.com/iammatthewyoung

Some blog interviews below...

http://sniffers.co.nz/who-is-matthew-young-interview/
https://i-d.vice.com/en_au/article/video-premiere-matthew-young-magic

MATTHEW YOUNG - Magic

The Impending Adorations - When The Wind Blows



I am pretty confident that people who should know, do. But not sure how many others realise Paul McLaney is a bona fide New Zealand musical treasure. Much of his music might be an acquired taste, but like all the greats, time tests his music well. After a period of releasing a more electronic loop-driven series of albums (which I adore), he clearly couldn't fight the British progressive rock lurking in his genes. As a result we get a three song musical cycle that presents much in the way of great post-progressive rock music of the late 1970s and 1980s. The first of this cycle was "The Best Is Yet To Come", seen earlier this year on this blog. "When The Wind Blows" is a complex, multi-layered masterpiece, and an honest message to a friend in trouble. Mr McLaney knows how to use dynamics. "When The Wind Blows" starts as standard Impending Adorations electronic fare, but evolves into something that clearly has some inspiration in the sort-of-forgotten-but-amazing late 80s, early 90s Talk Talk/ Mark Hollis' albums. Those albums are so influential and if you haven't heard them...go there! The Auckland Gospel Choir stump up beautifully in the single. The stunning video is by RedKidOne who is responsible for this three-song cyle. You can buy this very special single at the links below.
 
https://itunes.apple.com/nz/album/when-the-wind-blows-single/id985884635?uo=4&at=10lrHH

Also on Spotify...

The Impending Adorations - When The Wind Blows

Little Bark - Poly



A synthesizer break-up song? I was similarly enraptured with a Korg Poly Six back in the early 1980s. Having bought it on the (dumb) assumption it would somehow deliver digital samples ("promises I knew you wouldn't keep"), it was an unrequited love. But time heals all wounds. From the critically acclaimed "USB" album, "Poly" is a love song, at least stylistically, to that keyboard, and many others like it. Full of the dense, noisy, square wave textures typical of early 1980s synth-pop, if you knew those years well, Little Bark's music is very much a lovingly constructed homage to that era. And it is very good. The NZ Herald called this album "a sprawling, assertive record", awarding an overall 4.5 stars out of 5. The album was produced by the multi-talented Stef Animal (of amazing shoegaze band The Golden Awesome). She has also delivered us a rich, many textured video for this single as well. Little Bark is Sophie Burbery, formerly of Wellington, now based in Auckland. You can buy the album at the link below. I have bought it. Go on! Immerse yourself in 1980s' electronic love!

http://flyingout.co.nz/products/little-bark-usb-lp-cd-digital

Little Bark - Poly (Music Video)

Black English - Another Life



Steriogram, NZ's most-likely-to band of the early-2000s has an interesting diaspora, with members going on to be hair product moguls, music managers (Lorde, Mt Eden, Thomston)...and I don't know what else (can someone tell me?). But Bradley Hanan Carter has kept resolutely at it, and has over the last few years, together with a few others, mainly Americans, put together a band that has provided us with an impressive body of work, the quality of which well surpasses what he was doing with Steriogram. The band, based in Los Angeles' Echo Park area, was originally known as NO, but ran into problems getting mixed up with a number of other bands called NO, as well as having the inevitable intellectual property and search-engine issues. So they have been called Black English for awhile now and are slowly building awareness of their own particularly brand of what some have called "post-hymnal anthematic" (see Issue blog link below). It could be compared to a Killers, The National blend. "Another Life" is a superb track that sounds like it should live on the radio, but it has actually taken some time for us to get this video...the original footage being shot in 2012. I hope it makes it on to the airwaves as it sounds like a hit. The video, directed by Zak Stoltz and produced by Stephen Buchanan, is of typical high quality. In fact, the band has put out some of my favourite videos, a selection of which are below. Black English are on their own Bedroom Empire label, distributed through Arts and Crafts Records. You can buy their album "NO", (previously known as "El Prado") at the link below. I own it, play it often, and love it.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/no/id797287556

Blog Links:

http://bittersweetsymphonies.co.uk/2015/02/18/interview-with-black-english/
http://issuemagazine.com/no/#/

Selection of favourite videos...

"Leave The Door Wide Open" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W09JxJSjoO8

"Whats Your Name?" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i28vjNt19NY

"Stay With Me" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdUbp_YVmEE


Black English (formerly NO) | Another Life

Terrible Sons - Neptune



Like silk curtains lightly brushing over oneself in a gentle breeze, this deliciously hypnotic single from Terrible Sons is beautiful even without the video it now comes with. But put Arthur Gay's (Candlelit Pictures) inspired visual metaphors and execution against such a special track, and it leaps off the interwebs. Terrible Sons is a husband and wife team, Matt Barus (prev Dukes) and Lauren Barus, seen previously on this blog in her solo guise as L.A.Mitchell. The production is spacious, balanced and the surge of the chorus with its strings comes with just enough size to loosen the dynamic from the circular drone that many folk tracks suffer from. Matt describes the single as a "me against the world song". The lyrics are haunting and thoughtful. The single was released May 15th as is available at the link below. A gem.

Buy on iTunes: http://apple.co/1AVoc6W

Terrible Sons - 'Neptune'

Third3ye - Levitate



There was an article in UK newspaper The Times recently, a grudging acceptance of the hypothesis that hip-hop has been the most significant creative wave within the last fifty years of popular music. But what is hip-hop? I won't get into that, but it has grown to be as diverse as to allow us acts such as Third3ye - with their spiritual take on the genre which they call "Earth Raps". I am sure these guys would love to be a commercial success, but they are clearly not targeting that outcome over creating music that is an authentic representation of their politics, their spirituality and of course their creativity. And that it makes it even more ironic, that an act that delivers such a broad-based attack on current societal norms has such potential crossover popular appeal. Third3ye started with MC's Angelo King and MeloDownz, but has since grown to include DJTORU and producer Ben Jamin'. Although "Levitate" is interesting from a textural production perspective, it is not my favourite track off "On3ness", their 2014 album. However, as a song/video combination it is a high point. FishNClips have done a superb job on this video. Third3ye is one of my favourite hip-hop acts of the last few years. Have a listen to some of the song links below. I am especially fond of their collaborations with Edward Waaka (Edward is now on the Revolution label). There is a good live review/article on the band from blog "When Did You Fall In Love With Hip Hop" linked below as well. It captures the band well. I have bought everything the band has given us so far. Go, listen and love Third3ye's version of the hip hop revolution.

"Butterfly" http://third3ye.bandcamp.com/track/butterfly

"Out of this World" http://third3ye.bandcamp.com/track/out-of-this-world

"P3ace" http://third3ye.bandcamp.com/track/p3ace-feat-edward-waaka-prod-swervinmervin

"Crystal Cloud" http://third3ye.bandcamp.com/track/crystal-cloud-prod-edward-waaka

"Catmandu" http://third3ye.bandcamp.com/track/catmandu-prod-miek-sneak

On3ness album link: http://third3ye.bandcamp.com/album/on3ness

http://whendidyoufallinlovewithhiphop.com/2014/04/29/review-third3ye-the-kings-arms-auckland/

The Times (UK) article (subscription): http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/science/article4431552.ece

Third3ye - Levitate (Official Video)

Bird Courage - Channels



I've said it before. These guys (along w/ Streets of Laredo) converted me to alt-folk. I had seen folk as a stagnant art-form, and with my electronica bent, it was always going to be an uphill effort. But Bird Courage own me now...with their beautiful lyrics, dynamics, textural balance, and exquisite arrangements that have so little going on...but seem to flesh the songs out perfectly. Each new release continues to build on the promise that Erik Meier and Sam Saffery showed as subway performers back in 2011. The raw essence is retained, but now we get violin, cello and trumpet arrangements that polish up the songs - just enough. Bird Courage is one-half NZ, with Sam being the New Zealand contact point here. Sam is one of those rare people who was able to give up the material benefits of a legal career in New Zealand for a creative life that may at times have flirted with starvation. There is an emotional and creative integrity here. Pretty impressive. So what makes this release worthy? Well the usual brilliance is present, but in this offering we have very talented string players, ex-Melbourne violinist cum legal scholar Quyen Le, and virtuoso cellist Jacob Cohen. Sam dragged out his dormant trumpet skills for the track. He anticipates doing more with the trumpet on future material. Apparently upright-bassist Clinton Van Gemert, who joined the band in 2014 is still involved on a part-time basis. The band have been touring actively, having just finished a tour through the USA's north-west. They managed to sell out of their vinyl on the tour so clearly there is a taste for Bird Courage over that way. A point of interest, this stunning, and quite-expensive-looking-but-probably-not video directed by Cody Swanson, features another up and coming Brooklyn-based musician C.F.Watkins. She is in the process of writing a new album after recently completing crowd-funding. Bird Courage are not sure whether their next release will be an album or an EP, but going by the quality of "Channels", whatever turns up may well surpass "Maia Manu's" critical reception. Go and have a listen at the links below.

http://birdcourage.bandcamp.com/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOWx-2inrUQ

http://birdcourageband.tumblr.com/

https://www.facebook.com/birdcourage

Bird Courage - Channels

So Laid Back Country China - Open Eyed



Majestic. Sounding like Ian Curtis just woke up in a bar in Arizona and got up to sing his new material with the resident 80s cover band, this unpredictable post-punk/post-Pink Floyd/country blend gets better with every listen. Introduced to me by a very enthusiastic Calum Robb of Black City Lights, I know now why he was so amped up on the band. With four years, an album already under their belt, and living in Welly, you would think I would know have known about something this good. Better late than never. The band, led on vocals by Michael Keane and Harriet Ferry are currently releasing their sophomore album "With Knees of Honey in Goodbye Canyon", influenced by "the Nevada desert, Utah canyons and instrumental guitarists like William Tyler and Robbie Basho". The band came out of Michael's frustration with his solo work, and a decision to work on country-influenced material with Harriet Ferry, Kane Tippler and James Bennett, all artists from disparate inspirational quarters. The material has since evolved to form what they call "Canyon Rock". The band hooked up with Wellington audio engineer James Goldsmith for the new album, and in "Open Eyed" he has produced something big, organic...but not clich├ęd, nor pompous. Its ambitious material, so to do so shows an understanding of the band, something they have confirmed in recent interviews. The video from Arty Papageorgiou and Phoebe Gittins comes in from an angle I wouldn't have heard in the song, but delivers with a vengeance. It is a powerful song/video mix. You can buy "Open Eyed" at the link below. The first single "Grounded (Lips)" is also there and no doubt the new album will available at the same link very soon. I will be buying it.

https://solaidbackcountrychina.bandcamp.com/album/open-eyed

https://www.facebook.com/slbcchina

So Laid Back Country China - Open Eyed

Thomston - Collarbones



Many R&B songs are sung with an intensity that sits at odds with the banality of the lyrics. It is one of the reasons I find it difficult to spend much time with the genre. But occasionally there comes along an artist who brings depth and a new perspective. Thomston (Thomas Stoneman) is one of those. "Collarbones" is not strictly R&B, with an electro-hum reminiscent of my other NZ favourite of 2014, Bad Blocks. But its roots are there, enhanced by superb, spacious production. And the lyrics? The song is about the writer's realisation that a friend has an eating disorder, and the internal conflicts around acting on his concern. The maturity of the writing is stunning. "Collarbones" consistently brings a tear to this writer's eye. There is a care and sensitivity which I believe is no affectation, as my limited interaction with the artist has been remarkable for its courtesy and respect. Although embodying a genuine and personal message, "Collarbones" also has an element of the theatrical about it, and in some ways it could be a signature song within a musical. I find it interesting that Thomas had performed in stage productions at an earlier age as there is almost a Stephen Sondheim feel to the writing on this track. "Collarbones" is from Thomston's latest "Backbone" EP which is available in its entirety through Spotify, linked below. You can buy last year's "Argonaut" EP at the iTunes link. "Collarbones" and "Grey" from the new EP are at the Soundcloud link. I would be very surprised if at some stage over the next two years we didn't see Thomston crack the US market. If you would like to see him live, he has a few live dates coming up. See below. Top marks to Jamie Lawrence of 8com for the stunning video.

https://play.spotify.com/album/2cr1RgdlRZ9xzwH46nuknG?play=true&utm_source=open.spotify.com&utm_medium=open

https://soundcloud.com/thomston

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/argonaut-ep/id910329089

LIVE DATES:

May 2nd, St James Theatre, Auckland
May 12th, Les Etoiles, Paris
May 14th, Great Escape Festival, Brighton
August 20, Pukklepop, Belgium

More dates TBA


THOMSTON - COLLARBONES (Official Music Video)

Strange Babes - Come Back Around



LA-based Strange Babes first came to my attention last year with their jangly (and quite magical) "Holiday" single. I have since found out that there are serious pop-chops behind the band, with Joel Little's old band-mates Sam McCarthy and co-writer but non-member Jaden Parkes (both Kids of 88) writing the bulk of the songs so far. But in addition there is now the serious addition of Leroy Clampitt of Banglade$h ("Lean" is still one of the most read/listened to posts on NZMusic4U), and Maddie North (also a stylist, make-up artist and photographer). Having found a 2012 single from the band, it feels like Strange Babes was a tangential guitar exploration that found a tailwind...probably as a result of the strength of the songs. And what songs! Hooky as hell. Others have described the music as a mix of the Beatles, the Byrds, and Teenage Fan Club. The influences are clear. But it works on its own terms. Recent reviews have punters raving about this unknown live support act as they played with the Naked and Famous on tour. It is not a revolutionary sound - but difficult to resist. There is much here for the big labels so it will be interesting to see where this goes. Sam Kristofski did the video. Appropriate sort of look to it and it works too. Some links below for you to get involved with Strange Babes.

http://www.strange-babes.com/

https://soundcloud.com/strangebabes

https://www.facebook.com/StrangeBabes

Listen to "Holiday" here...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4k8k5wzCqos

Interview with Grateful Web...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04CmPnlSxuc&feature=youtu.be

Strange Babes - Come Back Around

Scalper - Lunatics



“I am made in Britain. I define Britain.” And now he has found himself, physically, emotionally, and creatively, in New Zealand (Bethels Beach, West Auckland). Early 1980s ska bands brought Nadeem Shafi (aka Scalper) to music. Growing up in an increasingly racially polarised and scary London, Nadeem was inspired by the cross-cultural blend and style of bands like The Specials, The Selecter, and the Beat. He eventually became a core member of West London's politically-conscious, and often controversial, Fun-Da-Mental. And that political consciousness remains in his music today, albeit entering at an angle. His young niece once described his music as "scary", and there is a somewhat of a restrained aggression lurking in these rhymes. But there is also a lyrical beauty to this storyteller's metaphorical polemics. For those looking to pigeon-hole, recent work could be lumped in with trip-hop, but there is a broader range of influences at work. Some have likened him to Tricky. I will leave categorisation for the listener to decide. "Lunatics" is from the "Lunatics" EP due out Monday 23rd March.  This is a pre-release ahead of "The Emperors Clothes" album, his third, which is due to be released on April 18th 2015 on French label, Jarring Effects (www.jarringeffects.net ). I have included a French blog's interview with Nadeem below. The video for "Lunatics" was filmed in the old Coromandel Hospital, put together by Jamie Greenslade, Jason Fa'foi, Mauricio Olmeda-Perez and Lucy Patterson. It . You can buy Scalper back-catalogue at the Bandcamp link below. Scalper's music is not music to escape with, but alternatively, and rather beautifully, be brought to contemplate some of life's harsher social and political realities as they emerge out of the shadow of the artist's metaphor. Highly recommended.

http://scalper.bandcamp.com/

http://www.sunburnsout.com/scalper-la-voie-du-shaman/

Scalper - Lunatics

Ophelia-Play With Me



I first came across Ophelia with their "Not So Frightening" single back in 2013 and felt it strong enough to be on this blog. That single was off the first anthology, "Face The Sea". The band's new EP "Invisible" is due out on March 13th, "Play with Me" being the first single. Alex Louise and Patrick Shanahan have been around for a couple of years doing something that at first listening sounds a little "Broods", but is maybe a little more "chanteuse". Echoing the Broods story, they also started out working with folk-driven material but ended up writing electronica. They see their current influences as "dubstep, indie/folk and orchestral soundscapes", the album focusing "on a deeper fusing of Alex’s story-telling song writing style and Patrick’s beat-driven production". This single's quality bodes well for the new EP. Compelling hook, sharp production and a superb vocal performance. An excellent job was done on the video by Design Weasel. Chris Williams directed. Have a listen to Ophelia at the links below. Remember the EP release is only a couple of days away! (March 13th)

http://listenophelia.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ophelia.co.nz/

Ophelia-Play With Me (Official Video)

French for Rabbits - Gone Gone Gone



Now comfortably ensconced in the Port Chalmers area near Dunedin, French for Rabbits are finally home to rebuild and get creative again. Brooke Singer and John Fitzgerald (and band) have had a hectic couple of years bouncing around the planet. They have also recently launched their debut album "Spirits". "Gone Gone Gone" is from the album and is the fourth single release I think. There are some great tracks on this album and I suggest you have a listen at the link below. This video, done in partnership with Ready!Steady!Studio! was mostly filmed in late 2013 on the band's first tour of Europe. As part of it they spent five weeks living at a surf camp in Portugal, home of the waterfight scenes. The New Zealand footage was shot around Aramoana, a beautiful place, with a very sad history. As Brooke says "its such a stunning place - it always feels a little eerie to me - the houses are a little bit shabby, and you can go out to the beach there and not see a soul...". The Bali kite footage was filmed separately by Jacob and Hana from Ready!Steady!Studio!. French for Rabbits are a very special band, with a fragile dream pop that is magical live. I saw them in Rough Trade in Notting Hill in London, and despite the restricted circumstances of a tiny record store, their music just floated. The album is highly recommended. I own it.

http://frenchforrabbits.bandcamp.com/

French for Rabbits - Gone Gone Gone

The Impending Adorations - The Best Is Yet To Come



In 2013 and 2014 I came upon The Impending Adorations (IA), a solo vehicle for Paul McLaney, an artist who would possibly be more familiar to those with a few years under their belts. They would have known him as Gramsci in the late 1990s, early 2000s. I had liked Gramsci, but in The Impending Adorations, with its looped found sounds, atmospheric/ambient bent, and much matured vocal stylings, I had stumbled upon something of greatness. Many other reviewers have come to similar conclusions. In 2014 Paul started to work more closely with Andy Lovegrove, who some might recognise from Breaks Co-op, they of the early-2000s hit single "The Other Side" (linked below). This meeting coincided with an increasing frustration that Paul could really only take IA live with a laptop. Wanting to build more of a live format, this led to the evolution that we hear in "The Best Is Yet To Come", the first of three singles showcasing a more organic sound...which of course, can be taken on the road. "The Best Is Yet To Come" is a beautiful piece of work, which for me is almost a blend of the best of Van Morrison, Bryan Ferry and David Sylvian (and we will throw in Tears for Fears for the triplets). Yes, this song has clear roots in the 1970s and 1980s, but this is a conscious artistic direction for Paul who says "what we are trying to achieve with the new IA stuff is to rejuvenate that space of composition that inspired me - the more sophisticated area of pop - things like Peter Gabriel, The The, Talk Talk etc - music that was informed by a few more years on the planet and the experiences picked up along the way." And Andy Lovegrove's production on this single? It's sublime. Rich, textured and balanced. The video from redkidOne has a strong thematic link with the song's lyrics. Paul says the song was "written for a dear musical colleague who is battling a pretty serious depressive illness resulting in a few attempts on his life. In my time as working musician its an illness that seems highly prevalent amongst my peers, along with bipolar etc. The video is meant to be a metaphor for that descent; the letting go. Lyra - the central character is meant to represent the other and I suppose the male/female balance is some sort of id/ego thing. The plan is that we see her evolution to something more divine over the course of the next 2 vids". So expect a trilogy of singles with an emerging visual thematic link. The next single is "When The Wind Blows", to be in turn followed up by "Realpolitik". I have heard "When The Wind Blows" and loved it. "The Best Is Yet To Come" is also one of a trio of simultaneous releases from new collective/label "Revolution Music NZ", the others being Ed Waaka's "No Enemy of Mine" and Troy Kingi's "Break A Bone". If you would like to get more involved with The Impending Adorations, I have supplied links below. I have bought everything so far!

Bandcamp - http://theimpendingadorations.bandcamp.com/
iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/nz/album/the...
Amplifier – http://www.amplifier.co.nz/release/11...
Google Play – https://play.google.com/store/music/a...
Rdio – http://www.rdio.com/artist/The_Impend...
Spotify – http://open.spotify.com/album/2CsbjW4...

Breaks Co-Op - The Other Side
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFp1s8RHemc

The Impending Adorations - The Best Is Yet To Come

Ancient Tapes - Passing Of A Year



Sink \ Sink was a pretty special discovery for NZMusic4U back in 2013. Formed by Gareth Schott, an academic in computer gaming (amongst other things) at the University of Waikato, it is a beautiful mix of ambient, lo-fi and shoegaze influences. I have included a link to their music below. Gareth (guitar, songwriting) in collaboration with Sam Brockelsby (vocals, guitar, singwriting), Rob Shirlow (bass) and Mark McGeady (drums), has recently formed Ancient Tapes, bringing together diverse backgrounds into a format that channels influences from the mid-1990s, and earlier I would say. They have a love for shoegaze, although "passing of a year" is not obviously of that genre. What is it? A dynamic, surging mash of what sounds like early 1980s Chills, Smashing Pumpkins, Jakob and even the Golden Awesome. Shoegaze makes a crashing appearance in the coda. I can also hear sink \ sink in there, perhaps driven by the cello part, an addition that takes the track to the next level. This first single off the "Hummingbird" EP is both haunting and compelling. The EP was recorded on November 20th (yes in a day) with engineering and production by Sean Erin Lynch. Although Sam Brockelsby is the principal lyricist in the band, this track's lyrics are drawn from a poem by a friend of theirs, Annabel Henderson Morrell, titled "those weighed down by keys". You can read them on the Bandcamp site. The video is a clever found-footage montage I presume was put together by the band members. Love that parting car crash edit! The "Hummingbird" EP was officially released yesterday and is available at the link below. I love it. Favourite tracks are "passing of a year" and "a lifetime of". Go have a listen. I have bought it.

http://ancienttapes.bandcamp.com/releases

http://sinksink.bandcamp.com/

'passing of a year' by ancient tapes

Princess Chelsea - No Church On Sunday



Original, quirky and a little bit world famous, Princess Chelsea has intrigued me for some time. "The Cigarette Duet" is one of those phenomena of the interwebs, with over 18 million views (no, not a misprint) of a video that pretty much anyone can enjoy for its minor subversion.  Bringing a sort of alt-nursery-rhyme (watch me destroy the English language) angle to New Zealand music, Chelsea Nikkel's art is a little ironic, sometimes acerbic but also playful and optimistic. There is maybe something of the Galactic Alliance here (if the Greens had put together a successful campaign in the Senate). In the interview linked below, Chelsea mentions someone describing the video for "No Church On Sunday" as "retro-futuristic". I think that encapsulates Princess Chelsea. And this is a much-loved artist. Most NZ musicians/bands I post on have maybe 10,000-20,000 Facebook followers if they are doing well. Princess Chelsea has over 60,000. There is something going on here. "No Church on Sunday" is from the forthcoming album "The Great Cybernetic Depression" which Chelsea says is "a more consistent sound than my first album, Lil' Golden Book, which had quite a varied palette." There is clearly lots of '80s timbre to come...in Chelsea's words, the album being "absolutely covered in Yamaha DX7s and Roland D50 Fantasy Bells with a huge snare." The "No Church on Sunday" video was directed by NZ's own video-Dali, Simon Ward, who was apparently channelling a video from early 90s female duo Shakespear's Sister. I assume "Stay", in which case I think it moves beyond that pretty easily. You can read more about Princess Chelsea and the new album at the very good Catalogue interview link posted below. You can also buy her choones at the Lil' Chief link. They do make a habit of sneaking up on one...

http://princesschelsea.lilchiefrecords.com/

https://www.cataloguemagazine.com.au/feature/princess-chelsea-talks-17-million-youtube-views-and-her-favourite-love-songs

Princess Chelsea - No Church On Sunday

Mikey Ellesmere - Mad Genesis



From "The Mikey Ellesmere LP" due March 27th, this is the first single from emerging Wellington MC, Mikey Ellesmere, real name Michael Androutsos. A one-time up and coming footballer from the Olympic football club in Wellington, injuries have seen him with time to devote to building a hip hop identity. And it is an interesting identity, one that probably can't escape the Greek community he comes from. Good! The first track I heard from Mikey about 12 months ago stood out ("Beautiful Misery" - see the Soundcloud link below). He seems to have an awareness of the overall sound he wants, and everything I have heard so far is not your usual local fare. There is ambition here. He has spent over a year working on the new album, which features Andy Fisher, Rei, Tomato Willis, El Capitan, Sujai Jones and Ants Ransley. The "Mad Genesis" single, in his words, "documents my journey mentally", "from starting as a mediocre artist and growing to what I am today, whilst also looking forward to what the future holds." Why is the video posted here? Mikey's rapping delivery stands out from the crowd (a large crowd), the production is big (Mikey's), and there are some great lines e.g. "The Parthenon is broken". If you like what you hear, there are a bunch of links below where you can follow Mikey Ellesmere. Looking forward to that album!




Mikey Ellesmere - Mad Genesis

 

Bad Blocks - Circulate



I grew up in the 1980's on David Sylvian (and brother), and friends Holger Czukay and Robert Fripp taking random, but mostly tuneful samples, and building complex textures that were initially challenging, but very rewarding in the long term. None of that was commercially viable outside what was quite a wide global niche at the time. But having never thought that particular blend of randomness would make its way into the mainstream, in 2014 I then come across Bad Blocks. Effortlessly blending a pop sensibility with cinematic vision, and what I experience as an exciting mash-up of rhythmic and tonal discontinuities, my first listen revealed a masterclass. The maturity of the "Circulate" EP is breathtaking. Confident, restrained, moving. And just challenging enough. I am so excited about the potential for this two person venture, Hamish Lang and Daniel Neeve. As their record label, Brooklyn-based Stars and Letters says, their music is "at once familiar and yet quietly corrupted". The two of them met in Wellington and were initially working under the "South City Sushi Cop" moniker, but "Bad Blocks" works so much better (and for me, is one of the best band names I have come across in awhile). Hamish and Daniel currently reside in Melbourne, but I would not be surprised if events take them much further afield. The first video from the EP is suitably proficient, directed by another talented Kiwi, Josh Prendeville (website link below). You can buy the "Circulate" EP at the Stars and Letters link below. This is my favourite purchase of 2014. Find out more at the Stars and Letters link below.

https://starsandletters.bandcamp.com/album/circulate-ep

http://starsandletters.com/badblocks/

http://www.joshprendeville.com/

Bad Blocks - Circulate from Bad Blocks on Vimeo.

Broods - L.A.F



It has taken me awhile to warm to this track (audio released July 2014, video released November 2014)...and not sure why, as it now seems an obvious inclusion in this blog. The snappy syncopation of the rhythm track, a huge chorus, and Joel Little's wonderful production should all be recognised for being essential components of one of the best New Zealand pop tracks of the last twelve months. The song is off Broods' album "Evergreen" released earlier in August 2014. I am not sure what sort of traction the band is getting stateside, but if they keep releasing tracks as strong as this, it is only a matter of time. I note the album has so far peaked at #1 in New Zealand, and #5 in Australia. That sort of success surely demands some further global label investment over the next couple of years, at the very least. The video was directed by Jordan Arts of Fish&Clips, with production by Felicia Asplet. Fish&Clips have pumped out some beauties previously (see link below), and although the video works conceptually, and there is some stunning imagery, for me it's execution doesn't quite fire. But who am I to judge? You can buy the "Evergreen" album at the link below. I have bought it.

https://itunes.apple.com/nz/album/evergreen/id895397276

http://www.fishnclips.com/

Broods - L.A.F