Graham Reid | | 1 min read
If the Volume exhibition at the museum in Auckland shows us nothing else it is that – from Fifties rock'n'roll to contemporary r'n'b – New Zealand musicians have been adept at adopting and adapting imported genres.
So it is with post-r'n'b electro-pop.
But where Electric Wire Hustle, for example, get by on Mara TK's soulful vocals and ethereal synth-psychedelic sonic landscapes (and Broods on production and presentation), their labelmate Anna Coddington starts with a more simple and grounded premise: Songs.
As someone previously nominated for a 2013 Silver Scroll songwriting award (for Bird in Hand which opens this collection), she can almost seem rather old school in this world of sonic possibilities made available through technology.
But here, as on her previous albums, you get the sense that she could easily strip away the embellishments of synths, strings, programming and backing vocals to present these songs in a compelling, singer-songwriter fashion just with an acoustic guitar.
This is not to say that such a presentation is a superior or more valid form than EWH's complete-package approach, but it does mean that at a lyrical level she refines her songs into emotions which reach out. Then they get embellished.
Yes, there is a seriously overworked first-person perspective here – the “I” appears in each of the 12 songs – and that is often the most conspicuous short-coming in the singer-songwriter genre which can sometimes make you want to scream, “Oh, just get over yourself”.
But here, because of her melodic smarts, shifting emotional perspectives and those embellishments, she moves from big-hearted ballads (Till the Leaves Fall Down with a string quartet), disco-influenced soul-funk (Release Me), Eighties-meets-21st century on the indie-pop/r'n'b of The Runner (which channels some Michael Jackson) and – when the singer-songwriter steps forward – to that spare situation of just guitar and cello (the impressive closer Run With Me).
But when she couches these songs in all that post-r'n'b electro-pop can offer, these songs are given grooves that grip, the melodic hooks come to the fore with ear-catching backing vocals and the strings add emotional weight and breadth.
Check the title track where they all come together. It's not alone either because there are some damn fine “I” songs here, and they are given thoroughly contemporary settings.
But the technology always remains in the service of the songs.
There is much more on Anna Coddington at Elsewhere starting here, including a recent interview.