Steve Abel and the Chrysalids: Flax Happy (Monkey/Rhythmethod)

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Steve Abel and the Chrysalids: Cinders of the Sun (with Jolie Holland)
Steve Abel and the Chrysalids: Flax Happy (Monkey/Rhythmethod)

Among the many unaddressed issues about the effectiveness of New Zealand Music Month is that of so many albums being released: they cancel each other out and some just won't get the attention they deserve.

I sincerly hope that out of the mountain released -- around 50 albums in, or in time for, NZMM, which is just self-defeating -- that this languid, melancholy and lowkey outing doesn't slide to the bottom.

Singer-songerwriter Abel recorded these 13 fully-formed songs in just two days with a band which includes members of Goldenhorse (Geoff Maddock, Ben King), Pluto (Milan Borich, Mike Hall) and Goodshirt (Gareth Thomas), plus guest appearances by American singer-songwriter Jolie Holland (on two songs) and Anika Moa on the te reo/English Pin of Love/Ka pinea koe.

Abel is a refined writer whose lyrics have a bone-bare quality (Deborah consists of a couple of dozen words, but they say it all) and the alt.country/backwoods balladry quality of acoustic guitars, violin and double bass -- not to mention musical saw -- lends itself to the elemental words which don't shy away from disconcerting themes (Cinders of the Sun, Heart of Misery and Frail among them).

Yet this doesn't feel like a dark journey, more the sound of someone writing and singing from a place where there is no guile, just hard truth and clear eyes.

Put aside a few dozen recently released local albums for a while and check this one out. It is quite special.

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allen - Dec 18, 2008

This makes it as an album of the year for me. It stands out as NZ song writing and is so different from much of the NZ music scene. As a live act, they are very original. As a studio album, the instrumentation supports great songs.

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