The eye of a white rhino
Elsewhere by Graham Reid

music - travel - arts

Wide angle reviews, interviews and opinion by writer Graham Reid

best of elsewhere 2012

best of elsewhere 2012 Content tagged as best of elsewhere 2012.

Leonard Cohen: Old Ideas (Sony)

Leonard Cohen: Old Ideas (Sony)

Because he is now 77 and has weighed words heavily all his life, we should look at the amusing ambiguities in this album's title. Songs about aging and darkness, failed love, apologising to women in his past, angels scratching at the door to come in, non-specific religious imagery . . . For anyone who has followed Cohen's career,...

Mark Lanegan Band: Blues Funeral (4AD)

Mark Lanegan Band: Blues Funeral (4AD)

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...

The Amazing: Gentle Stream (Subliminal/Southbound)

The Amazing: Gentle Stream (Subliminal/Southbound)

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...

Sharon Van Etten: Tramp (Jagjauwar)

Sharon Van Etten: Tramp (Jagjauwar)

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...

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

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

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...

Jim White: Where It Hits You (Yep Roc)

Jim White: Where It Hits You (Yep Roc)

The idiosyncratic Jim White – whose music is suffused in the dark Southern literary tradition as much as alt.country (more alt than most alt.country) -- 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....

Nathan Haines: The Poet's Embrace (Haven/Warners)

Nathan Haines: The Poet's Embrace (Haven/Warners)

At the launch of this classy album recently, the graphic designer Andrew B White -- who had done the cover for both this and Kevin Field's Field of Vision -- made an interesting aside. He noted that Haines' new album -- all acoustic -- sounded more like Field's previous one Irony, and that Field of Vision -- with electronic keyboards and...

The Verlaines: Untimely Meditations (Flying Nun)

The Verlaines: Untimely Meditations (Flying Nun)

Of the original Flying Nun bands, the Verlaines – the flexible vehicle for Graeme Downes – are still the most ambitious. Downes' lyrical depth and mercurial melodies deliver durable albums -- like the previous Corporate Moronic -- which bristle with rage rather succumb to the comforts of age. And this one is no exception....

Dr John: Locked Down (Warners)

Dr John: Locked Down (Warners)

With all due respect to Dan Auerbach of Black Keys who helmed this fine album by one of the living legends into life, we have passed this way before with 71-year old Dr John, notably in '98 with the album Anutha Zone where the likes of Paul Weller, Jools Holland, members of Spiritualised, Primal Scream and Supergrass lined up to direct him back...

Dictaphone Blues: Beneath the Crystal Palace (EMI)

Dictaphone Blues: Beneath the Crystal Palace (EMI)

Like Marty McFly at the high school dance in Back to the Future, Ed Castelow of Dictaphone Blues has beamed himself back to crucial touchstones in pop-rock (classic Fifties chords, Beatles era choruses, Seventies power pop, American stadium rock from the Eighties) and distilled them into this shamelessly enjoyable collection which is smart...

Willis Earl Beal: Acousmatic Sorcery (XL)

Willis Earl Beal: Acousmatic Sorcery (XL)

Beal's story is as interesting as this often engrossing debut album. In 2007 at age 23 after being discharged from the US army, he went and lived in the New Mexico desert while suffering from depression, then returned to Chicago, lived with his grandma and stole from the supermarket. He put up posters saying if you called his number...

Rob: Make It Fast, Make It Slow (Soundway)

Rob: Make It Fast, Make It Slow (Soundway)

In a reproduction of what must have been the original cheap cover, this minimal and curiously religious/sexual album by Rob from Ghana has all the look -- and resonance -- of a rare reggae album from Jamaica, the kind of music which comes with an air of mystery because you are hypnotosed by the sheer peculiar nature of the thing....

Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Americana (Reprise)

Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Americana (Reprise)

The thing about unpredictable Neil Young is just how predictable he has become, shuffling the deck of acoustic, country, self-referencing and noisy rock. Here he again links up with Crazy Horse for the first time on record in almost a decade and they, predicably, deliver most things here with their loose, open rehearsal feel. Behind the...

Patti Smith: Banga (Sony)

Patti Smith: Banga (Sony)

Although Patti Smith's albums have sometimes been given a rough ride at Elsewhere for their self-mythologising, pretentiousness and lack of subtlety (see here and here), there is no denying her importance in the rock pantheon, nor that her recent autobiography Just Kids is one of the finest books written by a musician-cum-poet. It is...

Clap Clap Riot: Counting Spins (Universal)

Clap Clap Riot: Counting Spins (Universal)

Must be four years at least since I saw this fizzy, fiery post-punk pop outfit play one of their early gigs, so this debut album does seem rather long overdue. Although it has been anticipated by some singles (three I think, among them the terrific top-down-highway pop-rock of Yoko Ono which appears here). There's a real power pop band...

Steve Kuhn Trio: Wisteria (ECM/Ode)

Steve Kuhn Trio: Wisteria (ECM/Ode)

Elegance in piano playing is usually the description reserved for the exclusive use of reviewers about Bill Evans, but here Steve Kuhn makes a strong claim on thoughtful pieces such as the title track, Romance and the lovely Pastorale where (I am guessing, my CD came with no cover) bassist Steve Swallow plays a soft and enticing guitar-like...

Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials: Jump Start (Alligator)

Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials: Jump Start (Alligator)

When Bruce Iglauer founded Alligator Records in Chicago 40 years ago it was to release albums by the likes of Hound Dog Taylor and Albert Collins who were burning up local clubs with their incendiary and tough minded playing. In 1986 singer-guitarist Lil' Ed and his band were invited to record a song but, treating the studio like stage,...

Lawrence Arabia: The Sparrow (Unspk)

Lawrence Arabia: The Sparrow (Unspk)

Because this deftly orchestrated album of slightly worldweary pop by James Milne -- aka Lawrence Arabia -- has already picked up five star reviews and critical acclaim at home and abroad, it perhaps hardly needs Elsewhere's assistance to bring it to your attention. But let it be noted that references to the European sounds of Scott Walker...

Eleni Mandell: I Can See the Future (YepRoc)

Eleni Mandell: I Can See the Future (YepRoc)

Possessed of kd lang's melodic skills and swooning delivery, with an ear on classic Fifties and Sixties pop which was a hallmark of the best Rumer songs and just enough folk-noir to bring shadows to what sometimes sounds sunlit, little-known Eleni Mandell from Los Angeles here serves up an album of real depth. It's a measure of Mandell's...

Trip to the Moon: The Invisible Line (Jazzscore)

Trip to the Moon: The Invisible Line (Jazzscore)

Trip to the Moon is another installment (the fifth?) of the long-running if intermittent project of Auckland multi-instrumentalists/producers Tom Ludvigson and Trevor Reekie, and various fellow-travelers: here Greg Johnson on trumpet, saxophonist Jim Langabeer, Ian “Dr Glam” Chapman on hang drums, guitarist Nigel Gavin, bassist...

Dudley Benson:Live Series Volume One (Golden Retriever/Border)

Dudley Benson:Live Series Volume One (Golden Retriever/Border)

Dudley Benson's EPs and albums always have a sense of occasion about them. They arrive as specially thought out, beautifully packaged little gifts with delightful or dramatic artwork (the Peter Stichbury cover painting on the limited edition vinly EP Minerals and Rocks, the applique by Florence Dennison on Forest) and there is a sense of control...

Alt-J: An Awesome Wave (Infectious)

Alt-J: An Awesome Wave (Infectious)

These days genre-ignoring bands are so common they require no introduction or explanation. But few are as provocative as Alt-J out of Cambridge, England who pull together slivers of Anglo-folk with hip-hop beats (like sons of the Beta Band), electronica ideas rendered acoustically, electro-blip from recent Radiohead, a cappella...

Deep Sea Arcade: Outlands (Ivy League)

Deep Sea Arcade: Outlands (Ivy League)

Hard to know what constitutes "indie" these days, but given the single Girls from the debut album by this Sydney band has been getting play on BBC Radio 1 in the UK and sounds impeccably poppy, they would seem to me to be fairly mainstrream . . . or at least could readily find their place there. That they've opened for Kaiser...

Cat Power: Sun (Matador)

Cat Power: Sun (Matador)

On the haunting Human Being here, a slinky electronica-driven piece which slides under the skin and into the subconscious, Cat Power -- out from under the cloak of bankruptcy and a broken relationship -- speaks of the rights you have: you've got your own voice so sing, you've got two hands so go make anything, we've got rules to break and...

Bob Dylan: Tempest (Sony)

Bob Dylan: Tempest (Sony)

While music magazines and rock bloggers are exercising their opinion about the Rolling Stones announcing a new tour after five years – just four dates so far – to celebrate 50 years since their formation (most writers asking “Why?” or commenting on their irrelevance), Bob Dylan just keeps traveling on his own road,...

Van Morrison: Born to Sing; No Plan B (Exile)

Van Morrison: Born to Sing; No Plan B (Exile)

Because he's released many indifferent or awful albums in recent decades (the prosecution calls What's Wrong With This Picture of 2004), one of Van Morrison's best – the appropriately titled Keep It Simple, 2008 – went largely overlooked. It was refined, focused and he sounded almost at ease with the world. Almost. While...

Sera Cahoone: Deer Creek Canyon (Sub Pop)

Sera Cahoone: Deer Creek Canyon (Sub Pop)

Seattle-based Cahoone keeps good company. Early on she drummed in Band of Horses, has toured with Grand Archives, and co-produced this with Thom Monahan who does those duties for Devendra Banhart and Vetiver. Her album Only As the Day is Long four years ago announced a mature, thoughtful writer taking a lead from Neil Young's early...

Jarrett, Garbarek, Danielsson, Christensen: Sleeper (ECM/Ode)

Jarrett, Garbarek, Danielsson, Christensen: Sleeper (ECM/Ode)

By my exceptionally crude count, pianist Keith Jarrett's name (as leader of a group or solo) is on at least 65 albums -- and some, indeed many, of those are double albums, triple sets or large boxes. I guess saxophonist Jan Garbarek wouldn't be too far behind (although he generally limits hmself to single discs) and bassist Palle Danielsson...

Flying Lotus: Until the Quiet Comes (Warp/Border)

Flying Lotus: Until the Quiet Comes (Warp/Border)

Flying Lotus -- aka Californian Steven Ellison -- is the kind of artist who is giving tripped-out ambient electronica a good name with this deliberately noctural sounding outing. His music, as witnessed on this dreamscape fourth album, doesn't entirely float off into the ether but remains cleverly grounded through influences from world...

Beth Orton: Sugaring Season (Warners)

Beth Orton: Sugaring Season (Warners)

Beth Orton has been one of the most interesting women singers this side of Kate Bush whose albums have always been rewarding and pushed the boundaries of the expected without being alienating. She still commands a pop hook and her engaging voice is a flexible instrument which she has placed into different and interesting settings. This,...

Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang: En Yay Sah (Luaka Bop/Southbound)

Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang: En Yay Sah (Luaka Bop/Southbound)

This excitingly duffed-up world beat/low-rent psychedelic rock has a wild urban pedigree which comes through in its stupidly different but absolutely addictive Afro-meets-Manhattan groove. Juju goes downtown NYC via an old school Yellow Cab, parks up outside a Warhol event and pulls out incessant machine-gun groove to blow away Lou and Candy...

Neil Young: Psychedelic Pill (Warners)

Neil Young: Psychedelic Pill (Warners)

Now this makes more sense. Although some enjoyed Young's recent Americana which saw him reunited with Crazy Horse after a decade, it was clear that was just the throat-clearing rehearsal on old folk and American roots music. This sprawling double disc is what it was leading too, but typically it isn't quite what we might expect....

Zen Mantra: How Many Padmes Hum? (Muzai)

Zen Mantra: How Many Padmes Hum? (Muzai)

As so much New Zealand music -- especially what was once called "alternative" -- gets codified for radio play and aims for a middle ground, the Muzai label out of Auckland (with a slogan "independent fighting spirit") has provided some exciting, unpredictable and genuinely alternative listening. In recent times Elsewhere...

Kora: Light Years (Kora)

Kora: Light Years (Kora)

Among the encouraging signs in New Zealand music at present -- the counter argument to all the pop which seems aimed more at radio programmers and funding money than coming from the heart -- is that some bands are moving past reggae as their default position. The ubiquity of reggae (and its cousins dub and ska) has meant it has become the...

John Cale: Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood (Domino)

John Cale: Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood (Domino)

Although Lou Reed embodies the spiritual core of Velvet Underground, in the fortysomething years since John Cale quit he has made the more interesting music. From venomous and gristly rock (Guts, Sabotage/Live) through instrumental music and affecting spoken word (his adaptation of fellow Welshman Dylan Thomas' poems), Cale has never...

Aaradhna: Treble and Reverb (Frequency)

Aaradhna: Treble and Reverb (Frequency)

Although critics and commentators will inevitably, and rightly, point out the influence of Amy Winehouse in a couple of place on this, Aaradhna's third album, that doesn't change the fact that this is undeniably one of the best New Zealand albums of the year. Okay, it's a bit too long at 17 tracks (it is bookended by the title track) but for...

Scott Walker: Bish Bosch (4AD)

Scott Walker: Bish Bosch (4AD)

Some musicians are revered, reviewed and written about, but rather less listened to. Put Scott Walker at the top of that list. This is only his fourth album in the past three decades and their abstruse lyrics, electronic effects and often declamatory tone have nothing in common with his acclaimed ballad style in the Walker Brothers and...

SJD: Elastic Wasteland (Round Trip Mars)

SJD: Elastic Wasteland (Round Trip Mars)

Few New Zealand songwriters work with a sense of the mysterious in their lyrics, most are grounded in relationships (far too many going the you/I route) but SJD -- Sean James Donnelly -- not only reaches in that profitable direction but has the airy voice to pull it off. So on the opener here when he sings of giving thanks to lizard kings...

Efterklang: Piramida (4AD)

Efterklang: Piramida (4AD)

Those familiar with television's Danish crime drama Forbrydelsen might be relieved to know not everything up there takes place against a background of shadows'n'menace. This innovative and flexible line-up around a dapper-looking trio from from Copenhagen sit somewhere between the ethereal sonic textures of Iceland's Sigur Ros and the...

Mala: Mala in Cuba (Brownswood/Southbound)

Mala: Mala in Cuba (Brownswood/Southbound)

When UK DJ and Cuban music aficionado Gilles Peterson went back to Havana in May last year to record local musicians (who have appeared on his excellent on-going Havana Cultura series), he took with him South London dubstep pioneer and producer Mala (aka Mark Lawrence of Digital Mystikz) who set himself up in another room beside Peterson's...

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