Music at Elsewhere

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Ruthie Foster: Let It Burn (Fuse/Border)

5 Mar 2012    1

After her thrilling appearance before the sad figure of BB King at a concert last year -- and I retract not a word of what I said here about King, he was woeful -- you'd hardly think Ruthie Foster needs any assistance. She seemed to be quite some package: she had a voice which went from gospel and soul to blues and rock and reggae, could play driving and rhythmic guitar and wrote strong... > Read more

Everlasting Light

Shearwater: Animal Joy (Sub Pop)

5 Mar 2012

Jonathan Meiburg -- the mainman in Shearwater, a member of Austin's Okkervil River and a diligent ornithologist with an interest in distant places -- doesn't want for ambition. Shearwater previously released a trilogy of albums (or “triptych” as Sub Pop had it) about the effect of the changing global environment and Mankind on the planet, and specifically on remote islands.... > Read more

You As You Were

The Amazing: Gentle Stream (Subliminal/Southbound)

5 Mar 2012

If you thought Sweden these days was all The Girl with a Bee in Her Bonnet and the killing sprees on Wallander, then The Amazing are here to reassure you that gentle psychedelic trip-rock with a folk edge is still there to let you lie down in the long grass . . . without the fear some psychokiller former-Nazi is lurking with a knife. While they have a lovely pastoral feel in Christoffer... > Read more

International Hair

Bears: Greater Lakes (Misra/Southbound)

5 Mar 2012

Breezy pop – from the Beach Boys through the Shoes and Wannadies to much overlooked recent acts like Camera Obscura, the Clientele and Institut Polaire – is a noble lineage of close harmonies, choruses and a backbeat. The preppy-looking Bears from Ohio (not to be confused with former Bowie guitarist Adrian Belew's “the Bears” also from Ohio) don't mess with... > Read more

You're Going

The Cramps: File Under Sacred Music; Early Singles 1978-81 (Munster Records/Southbound)

27 Feb 2012

The seriously silly but fright-night funny, ridiculously retro but cutting-edge punk Cramps just kept cracking reductively simple covers of B-grade 50s rock'n'roll, raw rockabilly and thrash-trash two-minute songs beamed in from sci-fi drive-in movies. Their references, at the height of New York punk then New Wave, were surf rock guitars, coffin-kickers like Screaming Jay Hawkins and... > Read more

Love Me

Gianmarco Liguori: Duga-3 (

27 Feb 2012    2

Rather by stealth, the Auckland-based guitarist, keyboard player and composer Gianmarco Liguori has created his own fascinating niche in music which exists at a place where jazz, soundtracks and improvised art music intersect. In some incarnation he is behind the interesting instrumental group Salon Kingsadore (see here) but the albums under his own name (Stolen Paintings here and Ancient... > Read more

Cosmic Protrusion

Richmond Fontaine: The High Country (Shock)

27 Feb 2012    2

If anyone can write a concept album it's Willy Vlautin of the Oregon band Richmond Fontaine whose first novel The Motel Life was as dark and violent as anything by Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men, The Road) or Elmore Leonard. Previous Richmond Fontaine albums have had themes too: The Fitzgerald was based on Waitsean, marginal characters around a seedy casino where... > Read more

The Chainsaw Sea

Lydia Cole: Me and Moon (

21 Feb 2012    3

Lydia Cole has had some interesting and, I think, generous reviews for this quiet, intimate and at times very engaging album. But . . . And we'll get to that "but" in a minute. It seems these 11 songs were born of a heartbreak and, according to her promo sheet, "Cole spent the last 18 months in hibernation where she turned to her allies -- music, art and time -- for... > Read more


Wendy Rene: After Laughter Comes Tears (Light in the Attic)

20 Feb 2012

The career of raw-edged pop-soul singer Wendy Rene is remarkably brief as the subtitle of this 22 song collection attests: it is The Complete Stax and Volt Singles and Rarities 1964 -65. By '67 she had quit music to concentrate on raising her children, doubtless prompted when she declined to fly with Otis Redding and his band on what was their final flight. It was also to be her final... > Read more

He Hasn't Failed Me Yet (previously unreleased)

Various artists: George Yearbook 2011 (Frequency)

20 Feb 2012

Although I was once corrected in print by a programmer when I said radio was about music (he, astonishingly, said in a letter to the newspaper that I was wrong, radio was about advertising!) it is encouraging to know some stations still put music before cheap promotional stunts. What is always surprising is that not more music stations put out compilation albums, such as this from the folk... > Read more


Various artists: Apple compilation (EMI)

20 Feb 2012

This double disc through JB Hi-Fi stores was previously only available in the enormously expensive 17 CD collection of artists signed to the Beatles' Apple Records (Badfinger, James Taylor, classical composer John Tavener, Mary Hopkins, Billy Preston, Modern Jazz Quartet, Doris Troy, Jackie Lomax and the Radha Krsna Temple). The first disc here is 20 tracks by the ill-fated Badfinger (their... > Read more

Suitcase (early version)

Of Montreal: Paralytic Stalks (Shock)

20 Feb 2012

Quick rule of thumb? Avoid songs which have the word "destiny" in them, they are usually worthy, pretentious, over emotional and . . . frankly, they are usually awful. Now we might add "quotidian" as a caution (it appears here on this truly over-wrought album) and indeed any songs which have as titles Malefic Dowery, Ye Renew the Plaintiff, Excorsismic Breeding... > Read more

We Will Commit Wolf Murder

Various artists: Womad, The World's Festival 2012 (Cartell)

20 Feb 2012

With the annual Womad festival about to descend on New Plymouth's beautiful Bowl of Brooklands site once again -- over the weekend of March 16-18 -- this 16 song collection wil serve as a primer and a memento for many. Of course there is no subtitute for seeing some of these acts (some are very visual) or enjoying deep immersion in whole albums, but here are single-track tasters of Staff... > Read more


Ringo Starr: Ringo 2012 (Hip-O/Universal)

20 Feb 2012    1

It's a shame the most interesting Beatles at the time of their 1970 break-up – Lennon and Harrison – are no longer with us, because the post-Beatles legacy is carried into the second decade of the 21st century by McCartney and Starr's simultaneously released albums . . . which confirm their irrelevance in contemporary music, McCartney's Kisses on the Bottom especially. But... > Read more


First Aid Kit: The Lion's Roar (Liberator)

15 Feb 2012

For this, their international debut, the Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Soderberg who are up front of First Aid Kit, have had considerable assistance and acclaim. Recorded by Mike Mogis in Omaha (who has done similar work for Bright Eyes, and BE himself, Conor Oberst, guests on the final track King of the World), The Lion's Roar would seem to confirm them being tipped as a new big thing... > Read more

In the Hearts of Men

Spartacus R: The View (Loop)

13 Feb 2012

Halfway through this weirdly psychedelic and constantly surprising album -- inconveniently released at the end of last year when people were buying greatest hits for Christmas and rock writers were compiling their "best of the year" lists -- is the oddball piece Golden Sands. Musically it opens with astral-flight synth and then establishes a subtle, repeated groove -- first... > Read more


Mark Lanegan Band: Blues Funeral (4AD)

13 Feb 2012    1

As with Nick Cave, Mark Langean knows the idiom that suits his mood and voice best . . . and it is a similarly dark place, as the title of this deeply impressive album suggets. But Lanegan -- who has appeared in these pages on albums by the Queens of the Stone Age, Gutter Twins, Soulsavers and others (see here) -- knows how to mix up the misery and gothic imagery in music which has a... > Read more

Haborview Hospital

Vintage Trouble: The Bomb Shelter Sessions (Shock)

13 Feb 2012

Although they were somewhat obvious -- hot young black soul-blues singer with James Brown moves fronting a white blues-rock band -- this four piece from San Francisco certainly impressed in a Jools Holland showing (see clip) last year. This is the belated local release of their 2010 debut which garnered them considerable attention for its tough minded economy and rock edge. Ty Taylor... > Read more


Various Artists: Chimes of Freedom; The Songs of Bob Dylan (Fontana)

13 Feb 2012    1

The Word magazine out of Britain recently had a very funny article about this four CD set of previously unreleased songs by artists covering Bob Dylan, profits from which go to Amnesty International. What the Word did, working on the premise that the set might be a clever way of also getting the bard to a young audience, was to ask kids who hadn't heard of Bob Dylan what they thought of the... > Read more

With God on Our Side

Steven Graves: Matter of Time (

12 Feb 2012

American journeyman musician Steven Graves gets some good comments in the US for his socially aware music, and its rootsy Americana parameters which are broad enough to encompass Neil Young and Bob Dylan as well as Bob Marley and the Grateful Dead. His heart is in the right place -- 100 per cent of the proceeds from the digital download of the single White Buffalo off this, his third album,... > Read more

Love is Real