Graham Reid | | 6 min read
A considerable number of the Laneway acts – international and local – appeared in such lists.
So, leaving aside any number of fine artists also on the bill, let's just turn attention to 10 who could just be the talk for some time after.
High anticipation for the following then . . .
Belle and Sebastian: A decade ago this band – whose clever and literate pop songs quietly insinuate themselves into your brain and music collection – were voted Scotland's best band by their countrymen. And since then they have just got better. You could start your listening as far back as their third album Boy With the Arab Strap (1998, which earned them a Best Newcomer Award at the Brits) or come more up to date with the fine The Life Pursuit ('06). But they have a new album out Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance a week before Laneway, and with its danceable songs which nudge into electro-pop you could expect quite a number from it on the day. For more on Belle and Sebastian at Elsewhere start here. You can find music by Belle and Sebastian streaming free at Spotify here.
Courtney Barnett: This Melbourne singer-songwriter has already proved her popularity here in concert (Kings Arms in September), and it's pretty easy to do your homework on her. She's only released a couple of EPs which have been helpfully pushed together as The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas. Skirting the edges of indie-pop, alt-country and classic folk-influenced singer-songwriter styles, Barnett has a brace of great songs and a convincing delivery. She'll impress if she's new to you. For more on Courtney Barnett at Elsewhere start here. You can find her compilation streaming free at Spotify here.
Future Islands: Synth-pop has made something of a triumphant return in the past decade (more dance, less angst than in the Eighties) and this Baltimore-based trio are at a peak right now with their fourth album Singles ending up in numerous “best of 2014” lists. Even the dad-rock magazines Mojo and Uncut magazines in Britain hailed this one. The lead-off track and single Seasons (Waiting On You) sets the tone for sweeping synth-pop. They'll snuggle in neatly alongside Belle and Sebastian. And in your record collection alongside Fine Young Cannibals, if you have a long memory. You can find the Singles album streaming free at Spotify here.
Jakob: Not exactly eight years in the making – because much of that time saw them individually and as a group sidelined for various reasons – but the new album Sines from this Hawkes Bay instrumental trio (again, in every credible New Zealand “best of 2014” list) is a thrilling affair. Go back to their exceptional debut Subsets of Sets (2001) also to get the big picture of a band which paints on a massive sonic scale, but also deals with subtle details and nuance.
Jungle: Because the wheel doesn't need reinventing this somewhat secretive London duo who head a collective of like minds don't even try. So on their self-titled debut album of last year (another on some of Those Lists) they simply bring together elements of smart disco and dancefloor funk.
There are Bee Gees-like falsettos, deep soul grooves, lots of loping bass . . . Laneway won't have a mirrorball in the sky but that won't stop you moving to this one.
You'll party like it's . . . . 1977? Monday Night Fever anyone?
Flying Lotus: The only odd thing about this extraordinary artist is his most recent album You're Dead! appeared in many international best-of lists but very few – none that I could see – here in New Zealand. That's strange since his previous Cosmogramma (2010) and Until the Quiet Comes ('13) certainly did. And You're Dead! Was a step up again. Maybe it was because it erred more towards innovative electro-jazz and had its reference points in Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis's stuttering cut-up funk? So perhaps a better starting place on this electronic, hip-hop experimentalist from LA – who is the nephew of Alice and John Coltrane – are those earlier albums. One of the most anticipated names on the Laneway bill because he could present a set that divides the audience into “Genius” and “What was the hell was that?” factions. You can find this album streaming free at Spotify here.
St Vincent: Four albums in to a career that was always very impressive but never quite cracking it, the lady born Annie Erin Clark really nailed it with her self-titled album last year which was on nearly every List imaginable. All the elements of edgy pop and guitar-driven New Wave-references are there but she too – and isn't this the prevailing trend of the past five years? – has moved firmly into fuzzy and sometimes discordant electronica. But there's also real soul in what this gal from Oklahoma and Texas (who got her start in the choral pop of Polyphonic Spree and Glenn Branca's 100-piece guitar orchestra, two more different groups you could hardly imagine) brings. Make the time to check out her '09 Actor album also. Went past far too many people that one. See here for more on that one. You can find St Vincent's new album streaming free at Spotify here.
Tiny Ruins: The debut album by Hollie Fullbrook aka Tiny Ruins Some Were Meant For Sea ('11) is definitely worth buying, but it is very much an at-home listening experience. She found it hard to translate its intimacy to easily distracted audiences. However last year's Brightly Painted One broadened her musical palette, brought in a band (Tiny Ruins are now a group) and the songs should have greater reach than the front few rows. It also won her Best Alternative Album at the New Zealand Music Awards. Both albums appeared in “best of” lists in their respective years so she's got a small but strong body of work – and some solid international touring miles behind them – to suggest this could be a highlight of the day. For more on Tiny Ruins at Elsewhere start here. You can find Tiny Ruins streaming free at Spotify here.
FKA twigs: Debut albums don't come much more impressive or consistent than LP1 by Tahliah Barnett (aka twigs, and latterly FKA twigs) who brings sex, erotica, r'n'b soul and a choral sound (true) together with smart beats, electro-soul and some redefining of the possibilities of studio production.
Music this clever and innovative doesn't come often, but you do wonder how it can be shaped on the day.
That's why we have Laneway.
You can find this album streaming free at Spotify here.
Little Dragon: Sweden is really pumping out the talent from the hippie-trippy world music vibe of Goat to Lykke Li (scheduled for this Laneway but who had to pull out) and any number of pop stars (Robyn). This electronica outfit caught a lot of attention for their second and third albums (Machine Dreams in '08 and Ritual Union of '11) but last year's Nabuma Rubberband didn't seem to get the same traction here. Or indeed anywhere if you look at Those Lists. However it was nominated for the Best Dance/Electronica category at the Grammys. Expect them to sideline some of their more home-listening experimental stuff in favour of the banging pop-electronica end of their spectrum. That would be sensible. You can find this album streaming free at Spotify here.
For more information on the Laneway Festival in Auckland (tickets, artists' profiles etc) go here.