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.
Bad Blocks - Circulate from Bad Blocks on Vimeo.
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.
Broods - L.A.F