Music at Elsewhere

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The Bads: So Alive (Mana/Warners)

15 May 2009

At the tail end of their emotionally probing Say Your Goodbyes here Dianne Swann and Brett Adams sing "see how much we've grown", a line that might be autobiographical about this duo which has confidently moved past rock to a place in country-framed singer-songwriter territory, while keeping one ear on a pop hook and arrangment. So Alive bristles with fine songs by the Swann-Adams... > Read more

The Bads: Baby Come Home

Attack in Black; Years (by one thousand fingertips): (Dine Alone/Shock)

14 May 2009

Maybe it helps not to know that this Canadian band's debut Marriage was some kind of rootsy punk/rock/alternative album (I'm quoting from the bio, never heard it myself). Or that their vinyl-only follow-up was a limited edtion.  It means that you comes to this one -- their fourth studio album apparently, so they are mature, because they've been at it for a few years -- with no... > Read more

Attack in Black: Birmingham

White Lies: To Lose My Life (Fiction/Universal)

14 May 2009

We can probably keep this fairly simple: this English three-piece went to number one in Britain the week after the releasse of this, their dramatic, brooding and big sounding debut. Every generation gets the Teardrop Explodes it needs? Yes, you cannot help but hear early Teardrops (and Echo and the Bunnymen, moody Bowie, Arcade Fire, Joy Division . . . .) in their sky-scaling sound, but... > Read more

White Lies: Unfinished Business

Madness: Complete Madness (Union Square/Triton)

13 May 2009

When the so-called "2 Tone Revolution" appeared in Britain in the late Seventies/early Eighties -- ska music, white shirts and black suits -- of all the bands in the vanguard, Madness seemed the least likely to go the distance against the serious intentions of the Specials and more pop-politics of The Beat. Madness -- the self-styled Nutty Boys -- seemed a bit lightweight in that... > Read more

Madness: One Step Beyond

Ivashkin, Barlow, Halliday: Pacific Voyage (Alma)

12 May 2009

This probing, challenging and at times quite thrilling project by cellist Alexander Ivashkin -- with Ora Barlow and Kim Halliday of Pacific Curls) on various flutes, gourds, ukulele and other instruments -- is, in the words of Ivashkin, "an attempt to repeat Gauguin's voyage [to New Zealand] on a symbolic level". The French Impressionist laid over in Auckland on his voyage around... > Read more

Ivashkin, Barlow, Halliday: I Jisu (with the Vunimono Village Choir, Fiji

Marissa Nadler: Little Hells (UN SPK)

10 May 2009

Sounding as if she is being beamed in from some strange part of space down a shimmeringly beautiful cosmic line, this dreamy alt.folk singer from Boston manages to bring together a slightly eerie quality and distant guitar with a voice which could lure sailors onto rocks. There's a slightly Gothic charm at work here (she's referred to Edgar Allan Poe in the past), but you can also hear why... > Read more

Marissa Nadler: Ghosts and Lovers

The Flatlanders: Hills and Valleys (New West)

10 May 2009

The great Flatlanders from West Texas - Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock, each one a name in their own right -- record together so infrequently that every album (they average one a decade about 40 years) is an occasion. Unfortunately it is never quite the special occasion you wish for. This one starts with the exceptional Homeland Refugee which is as a harrowing and true... > Read more

The Flatlanders: Sowing on the Mountain

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band: Outer South (UN SPK)

10 May 2009    2

You don't have to get too far into this album -- maybe just a few chords in fact -- to click that this isn't the Conor Oberst (aka Bright Eyes) of previous releases, the guy who started by juggling electronica dabbles with folksiness, then moved into alt.folk and bent pop. This time out with a bunch of friends who share an affection for Seventies pop-rock and singer-songwriters -- as well... > Read more

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band: To All The Lights in the Windows

Cyril Neville: Brand New Blues (MC Records)

10 May 2009

As with the Marleys (Bob, Rita, Damian, Ziggy et al), we are hardly short of Nevilles in the world: there are the original Neville Brothers and their offspring (notably Ivan) as well as others in the extended family (Charmaine). Here Cyril, the 61-year old Brother and co-founder of the classic pre-Nevilles band The Meters, delivers a winning blend of soulful blues in which he gets the... > Read more

Cyril Neville: Brand New Blues

Soname: Plateau (Harmonia Mundi)

10 May 2009

Latterly it seems that the world is resigning itself to having a Tibet in the absence of Tibet: holding the notion of Tibetanism and that country being kept alive by the diaspora, even if the country doesn't exist as it used to. Most people in the West have a misty-eyed Lost Horizon/Shangri-La view of that country as a place of deep mysticism and benign lamas, but that would deny the... > Read more

Soname: Mother and I

Booker T: Potato Hole (Anti)

9 May 2009    1

This was either going to be brilliant, or . . .  First the background: here is the great soul-funk Hammond B3 organ player Booker T (he of Green Onions fame with the MGs, and that band behind dozens of Stax artists) teamed up with Southern rockers Drive-By Truckers who know this sound and style inside out. Oh, and Neil Young (who toured with Booker T and the MGs in the early Nineties... > Read more

Booker T: Get Behind the Mule

Dictaphone Blues: On the Down and In (Blah-Lah-Lah)

4 May 2009

If this year's New Zealand Music Month of May is anything like the last -- and there's no reason to think it will be otherwise -- then somewhere in excess of 50 albums will be released by local artists to coincide with it. Some will rise to the top by virtue of publicity more than merit, some will be lousy (that's not unpatriotic, just a fact Jack), some will be terrific but probably always... > Read more

Dictaphone Blues: 100 Suns Inside My Lungs

Arcade Fire: Miroir Noir (DVD/EMI)

4 May 2009

Arcade Fire deservedly won a massive and loyal audience for their exceptional Neon Bible album, an album that was orchestrated and grand as much as it was earthy and rock-framed. It was music of achieved ambition by a band that seemingly appeared out of nowhere. This film by director Vincent Morisset -- and it very much feels like a slightly self-conscious "art film" in places:... > Read more

Arcade Fire: Intervention

Justin Townes Earle: Midnight at the Movies (Bloodshot/Southbound)

2 May 2009

Being the son of Steve Earle and named for Townes Van Zant might seem a burden to many (just how many step-mothers do you have? wasn't Townes a troubled man?) but it seems to rest easy enough with this young singer-songwriter who even allows band member Cory Younts a breezy whistle on the gentle pedal steel'n'light ragtime of What I Mean To You. And you just know he could play some of these... > Read more

Justin Townes Earle: Midnight at the Movies

The Handsome Family: Honey Moon (UN SPK)

2 May 2009

Because we're more used to hearing this husband and wife duo of Brett and Rennie Sparks in a dourly poetic and dark mood, this album's prevailing sentiments of optimism (as epitomised by its recurrent images from Nature and the themes of love) comes as something of surprise. There is still that melancholy oldtime music sensibility with banjo, lap steel, violin and so on but -- as with... > Read more

The Handsome Family: A Thousand Diamond Rings

King Creosote: Flick the Vs (Domino)

2 May 2009

Scottish singer-songwriter Kenny Anderson, aka King Creosote, gets away more albums and EPs than I see local buses: I think he's closing in on Bob Dylan's tally somewhere in the mid-40s -- and he seems to average about three a year on his own Fence label. So if you've missed him, or don't have the time for this one, don't worry about it: within a few weeks he'll be back with something else.... > Read more

King Creosote: Camels Swapped for Wives

Various: Troubadours Vol 1 (Exile)

2 May 2009    2

My guess is that you'd have to look long and hard (possibly through secondhand bins) to find albums by Glen Moffatt, Al Hunter and Red McKelvie who, from the late Eighties to the mid-Nineties carried the flag for contemporary New Zealand country music. They didn't owe a lot to Nashville other than the sense of a song but were too straight to be alt.country (which at the time was still an... > Read more

Al Hunter: Sleep Won't Come

Red Red Meat: Bunny Gets Paid (SubPop/Rhythmethod)

2 May 2009    1

The now familiar "Deluxe Edition" is usually reserved for albums which have achieved some special position in people's lives: classic albums (Sabbath's Paranoid), cornerstone releases, Essential Elsewhere items and the like. And now this by a long disbanded band from Chicago that only a few heard about? Not even going to pretend here but will just give you the backstory as I... > Read more

Red Red Meat: Variations on Nadia's Theme

Brian Blade: Mama Rosa (Verve Forecast/Universal)

2 May 2009    1

This multiple-threat recently appeared in New Zealand as a member of the John McLaughlin-Chick Corea Five Peace Band and even in that illustrious company made an immediate impression as a drummer of exceptional character and energy (see bottom of this page for a Five Peace Band concert review.) Jazz drumming doesn't come much more intelligent, musical or as enjoyable to watch than Blade when... > Read more

Brian Blade: Get There

Eleni Karaindrou: Dust of Time (ECM New Series/Ode)

2 May 2009

The Greek composer Eleni Karaindrou released an extraordinary double album in 2005, Elegy of the Uprooting which employed a full orchestra, choir, herself on piano, singer Maria Farantouri and many more. In evocative passages of aching music and the most delicate of melodies she delivered an evocation of people suffering from exile or abandonment, or going through the emotions of homecoming... > Read more

Eleni Karaindrou: Waltz By The River