Music at Elsewhere

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Sam Gray Singing; Songs About Humans (Raw Onion)

26 Mar 2012

This album by an expat New Zealander currently in Austria (but clearly itinerant in Europe and he tours, the album recorded in Oslo and released through a company in Denmark), is one which may delight, bewilder and annoy in just about equal proportions . . . and is quite uncategorisable. For want of a better term I would suggest "post-prog avant-classical alt.rock" and should tell... > Read more


Jim White: Where It Hits You (Yep Roc)

19 Mar 2012

The idiosyncratic Jim White – whose music is suffused in the dark Southern literary tradition as much as (more alt than most -- was the central figure in the remarkable doco Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus as he traveled around backroads and broke-down townships ruminating on Christianity and country music. A troubled man for troubled times, and now... > Read more

Epilogue to a Marriage

Dion: Tank Full of Blues (Blue Horizon)

19 Mar 2012    1

Dion's first hits – the classics Runaround Sue and The Wanderer – came before the Beatles even got into a British recording studio and by then, in his early 20s, he'd already been treated for a heroin habit. In the mid Sixties -- because the Beatles-lead British Invasion swept aside artists like himself --  he quit aiming for the pop charts and delved into blues and for... > Read more

I Read it in the Rolling Stone

Field Music: Plumb (Shock)

19 Mar 2012    1

Having been spectacularly underwhelmed by the much acclaimed previous albums by this British band doesn't mean I don't come to another hoping for the best. But the best here has always be the property of their predecssors and it would only be the most short-concentration span -- or 15-year old -- reviewer who didn't start ticking off the accumulation of source material (Beatles and Beach... > Read more

Is This the Picture?

The Eastern: Hope and Wire (Rough Peel Records/Rhythmethod)

12 Mar 2012    3

The self-titled 09 debut and Arrows ('10) by this Christchurch band alerted many to their poetic, political and bare-knuckle country-influenced songs which sit alongside Springsteen's working class balladry, the rambunctious Pogues, whisky-voiced Steve Earle, pub rocking Dr Feelgood and Cold Chisel's open-road truths. Their range is given full rein on this ambitious but exceptional... > Read more

The James Girl

Bruce Springsteen: Wrecking Ball (Sony)

12 Mar 2012    6

By design and sometimes by chance, Bruce Springsteen has frequently tapped into the emotional state of the American republic. He has documented the lives of outsiders and the dispossessed, the blue collar workers, lost boys and lonely girls, and – when more recently linking with the Pete Seeger tradition on the album We Shall Overcome; The Seeger Sessions – the lost spirit of... > Read more

Jack of All Trades

Sharon Van Etten: Tramp (Jagjauwar)

12 Mar 2012    1

Among the many this New Jersey singer-songwriter thanks on her third album are Aaron and Bryce Dessner (the National), Kyp Malone (TV on the Radio) and Zach Condon (Beirut); her “recommended listening” list of almost 30 includes Bon Iver, Kurt Vile and War on Drugs; and the album is dedicated to John Cale. All valid reference points for her folk-poetry gone to indie.rock... > Read more


Whirimako Black/Richard Nunns: Te More (Rattle)

7 Mar 2012

This gentle, hypnotic and spiritual album seems a natural consequence of all that has gone before from these two artists: Whirimako Black's moving songs in te reo (especially her exceptional Kura Huna with Russel Walder) and Richard Nunns' longtime exploration of the ambient aspects of taonga puoro. Stripped right back to a warm and beautifully spacious simplicity, these original songs are... > Read more

Ororuarangi Suite Part 1

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