SHORT CUTS: A round-up of recent New Zealand releases

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Shayna King: Why I Need You
SHORT CUTS: A round-up of recent New Zealand releases

Facing down an avalanche of releases, requests for coverage, the occasional demand that we be interested in their new album (sometimes with that absurd comment "but don't write about it if you don't like it") and so on, Elsewhere will every now and again do a quick sweep like this.

Comments will be brief.

Shayna King; The Day is Young (Te Ao): The undeniably talented singer-songwriter King from Christchurch released this debut album in early December, which anyone could have told her is the absolute worst time to do so for reasons so obvious we won't even go into. The pity then is that her intelligent, acoustic-framed pop-rock -- fleshed out by a band which is just often enough let off the leash to sting -- probably went past many who might have otherwise found it. There is a craftsperson at work, memorable songs which err towards alt.country and rock (the gutsy Swept Away where guitartist Daniel Wyatt hits the wah-wah) as much as blues-edged ballads (Heart of Blues), and an undeniably strong voice which could cross between an astute indie audience and mainstream. The sole problem is -- so common amongst young songwriters - is that every song here is in first and/or second person. The relentless I/you suggests she needs to get out of her songwriting "self" and look wider for inspiration. Otherwise this is an impressive first statement. Available through amplifier, iTunes etc. See here.

City Oh Sigh; Fragments Fine (Home Alone): More you/I from a gentle, Wellington indie outfit which comes into the frame being classically trained on cello, trumpet, piano and guitar. Their percussion-free songs drift weightlessly at times and are certainly charming as they morph discreetly from spare sonics to widely embellished screen-fillers. At times I am put in mind of how the Tokey Tones once subverted pop consciousness and conventions, at others I'd love to shake them out of their politeness. And then a disarming song like the exceptional The Tide comes along with a killer subtext and a pay-off line which has been there throughout but is left eerily empty in the final seconds. Despite the you/I, this gets past cute into chewiness. Damn fine for slower moods. Available through bandcamp, iTunes etc. See here.

Debbie and the Downers; Debbie and the Downers (Rock Bottom/Mushroom): In which Milan Borich and Tim Arnold (ex-Pluto) hook up with Geoff Maddock (ex-Bressa) and Paul Burnell (Mercenaries) to deliver a sound but ultimately unmemorable collection of pop-rock with its feet in moody indie, guitar jangle, furious beat-driven guitar rock, so-far so-familar etc . . . This came out a while back and the fact it has had no traction might tell you all you need to know. It's not bad (Salty Sea should have made it to mainstream rock radio, the broody 2am C.U.N.T. is engagingly dreary, Taking It Easy is a comfortably dreamy ballad with disconcerting lyrics) but some of it is inane (Digging for Coal). However it's encouraging to know they were playing strip clubs in LA, so at least they were making some kind of living out of this stuff. Auf Wiedersehen is very LA of the Eighties. Short-lived project I imagine. Available through amplifier here.

Delaney Davidson and Marlon Williams; Sad But True, Vol 3 (Lyttelton/Southbound): The excellence that is the Davidson/Williams country-soaked duo (with helpful assistance from the equally great Tami Neilson and others) here offer a collection with the subtitle Juke Box B Sides, which tells you these are less-than-familar country songs (the excdeptional I'm Only On Fire could have dropped from one of the better Rodney Crowell albums) and some originals which go straight to the heart (the Neilson/Davidson co-write Whisky and Kisses is a scene-stealer). Local elements are here too with Williams' song about "baby killer" Minnie Deans but Davidson's reflective Lonesome Mile offers a timeless and universal sentiment. Another fine installment. Available here (there's a vinyl version with the CD a bonus digital-download EP) and Delaney Davidson has his say here.

For previous SHORT CUTS see here

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