Music at Elsewhere

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Blanche: Little Amber Bottles (LooseMusic/Shock)

20 Nov 2007  |  <1 min read

Think Johnny Cash duetting with Nancy Sinatra; think from Detroit with Gothic overtones; think Nick Cave with a backwoods twang . . . This band out of the Motor City USA has a real country heart, so much so that Jack White hooked them in to support Loretta Lynn on the Van Lear Rose album he produced for her. Mainman Dan John Miller played Luther Perkins in the Cash bio-flick... > Read more

Blanche: Last Year's Leaves

Rahim Alhaj: When the Soul is Settled: Music of Iraq (Smithsonian/Elite)

20 Nov 2007  |  <1 min read

It may be some time before the soul of Iraq is settled but if anyone can bring the traditional music of that troubled country to international attention it is Baghdad-born Alhaj who fled Saddam Hussein's regime to Jordan then Syria, and now lives in New Mexico. A graduate with honours in music, he has been playing oud since he was nine and has been giving concerts since he was 14. This is... > Read more

Rahim Alhaj: Taqsim Maqam Mukhalif

Tim Guy: Hummabyes (Monkey)

20 Nov 2007  |  <1 min read

This gentle album is so light it makes the Bats sound like Thin Lizzy. Auckland-based singer-songwriter Guy has stripped his music back to airy arrangments for guitar and bass (with ukulele, slide, harmonica and triangle where required) but the whole thing has a summershine spaciousness and the smart production lets these whimsical (but never twee) songs breathe even more gently.... > Read more

Tim Guy: Cater For Lovers

The Low Spark: Out in the Ozone (LowSpark)

14 Nov 2007  |  1 min read

Dunno about you but I'd always rather hear the young, enthusiastic, overstated, lightly misguided, energetic debut from a band than being bored witless by their fourth album. Fact is though that in New Zealand few bands make it to number 4. So we take what we get, right? As I was going into my driveway the other day I saw a battered van pull up and a young guy with unfashionably floppy... > Read more

The Low Spark: Ozone

Hobotalk: Homesick for Nowhere (Yellow Eye)

12 Nov 2007  |  <1 min read

The Scottish singer-songwriter Marc Pilley who is the hub of Hobotalk has a gentle way with his music: nothing feels forced or false, and the augmentation of his simple tunes by mandolin, violin, female backing singers and the like just bring these songs to life even more. A refined simplicity is the key here and you can hear why he was shortlisted for a Mercury Music Prize in 2000 for his... > Read more

Hobotalk: These Times Sure Could Break Your Heart

Lightning Dust: Lightning Dust (PopFrenzy/Rhythmethod)

12 Nov 2007  |  <1 min read

Said it before, will say it again: when albums come from PopFrenzy they rise to the top of the heap, just on the basis of previous albums from the label (the Clientele, Camera Obscura) being so damn good. No major disappointment with this one either where the shimmering, quivering voice of Amber Webber is quietly hypnotic in songs which are cut right back to the bone. Maybe they are trying... > Read more

Bill Direen: Human Kindness (Powertool Records)

12 Nov 2007  |  <1 min read

Bill Direen is an auteur whose work covers pop and experimental music, poetry, European literature and much else. As a graduate of the DIY punk years he has seldom resorted to anything approaching hi-fi -- and these recordings (some mere fragments) from an attic in Switzerland and other such places have a ragged edge as you might expect. Just when things are going along nicely it is in... > Read more

Bill Direen: Romeo's Song

The Broken Heartbreakers: The Broken Heartbreakers (Rhythmethod) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

12 Nov 2007  |  <1 min read

With a sound which draws equally on the Left Banke, the Everly Brothers, Brian Wilson, Beatles, harmonies and the Anglofolk tradition, this Auckland group can hardly fail. In songwriter John Guy Howell they also have someone with a genuine gift, and the arrangements here -- minimal guitars, a lovely drone quality in Angels, mellotron and mandolin -- are utterly seductive. Mike... > Read more

The Broken Heartbreakers: Come on Home

Robert Scott: Tascam Hits (Powertool Records)

12 Nov 2007  |  <1 min read

These low-fi home recordings by Scott -- a member of the Bats and the Clean -- were recorded in the late 90s and those who demand their music polished and honed won't find much of interest here. But these delightful working drawing of songs, eerie instrumentals and sonic ideas -- all put down on a Tascam cassette recorder -- have much to recommend them. Bats fans will hear echoes of that... > Read more

Batucada Sound Machine: Rhythm & Rhyme (Border)

5 Nov 2007  |  <1 min read

The first album by this big and boisterous band was a live outing recorded at Womad in 2005. It didn't do it for me and was one of those "guess you had to be there" albums. But it was clear that aside from energy and enthusiasm (which they had by truckloads) they certainly had some musical chops and their set sounded like an implosion of various South American and Cuban musics... > Read more

Batucada Sound Machine: Rivers of Rhyme

The Darlings: The Cicada Sessions (Ode)

4 Nov 2007  |  <1 min read

The Darlings are New Zealand singer Jackie Clarke and singer-songwriter Callie Blood with drummer-to-the-stars Wayne Bell, here mostly playing acoustic guitar -- which makes them somewhat of a Kiwi supergroup given their long pedigrees in various band and studio sessions. Together they make what their bio calls "grown-up pop", which is a very apt description given the classy and... > Read more

The Darlings: So Near So Far

James Luther Dickinson: Killers From Space (Memphis/Elite) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

3 Nov 2007  |  1 min read

In a cover which looks like it was thought up by a couple of drug-addled on-line kids -- and with a title from a B-grade movie -- comes the latest album by one of the great ignored/overlooked/wayward talents from the South. This is a man for whom a never-recorded, whiskey-soaked Sun session overseen by a voodoo priestess with Mick'n'Keith (c '72) formed the cornerstone of this album -- which... > Read more

James Luther Dickinson: Eloise

The Pines: Sparrows in the Bell (Elite)

3 Nov 2007  |  <1 min read

If these young guys had been around 35 years ago and come out with this album they would have been pegged as yet another "new Dylan". And even now that's a tag they would seem happy with: the opener has the refrain "world gone wrong" which was Dylan album title, and Dylan's slower delivery is everywhere in these country-styled songs. Produced by Bo Ramsey -- who is... > Read more

The Pines: Throw Me in the River

Band of Horses: Cease to Begin (SubPop) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

3 Nov 2007  |  <1 min read

Increasingly I am liking contemporary rock albums that annoy me because I can't quickly figure them out -- and this is one of them. Not having heard their "critically acclaimed" debut Everything All The Time I can't say how much this Seattle-based band have changed since they lost their co-founder. But what I hear on this album is often irritating (like that twerp from... > Read more

Band of Horses: Is There a Ghost

Sigur Ros; Hvarf/Heim (EMI) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

3 Nov 2007  |  <1 min read

More mysterious loveliness on a double-disc which, in the release schedule of most bands, might have seemed like a stop-gap measure: previously unreleased tracks and rarities, and stripped-back versions of other material. If Eric Clapton or the Arctic Monkeys had done this you'd be yawning. But Sigur Ros from Iceland create such eerie sonic landscapes -- some stretching to an 10... > Read more

Sigur Ros: Von

Joan Armatrading: Into the Blues (Shock)

3 Nov 2007  |  <1 min read

For years Armatrading - whose job description includes folk, reggae, rock, jazzy pop and so on -- had been promising herself she would write an album of songs within the the same genre. This is it, her "blues" album. But far from being a monochromatic trawl through same-same songs in a blues style she brings her inclusive musical intelligence to 13 songs which reach from... > Read more

Joan Armatrading: There Ain't A Girl Alive

One Man Bannister: Moth (Powertool)

2 Nov 2007  |  <1 min read

Auckland singer-songwriter and sometime member of Don McGlashan's band Matthew Bannister made some of the most charming, slightly unnerving and genuinely lovely music with his Flying Nun bands Sneaky Feelings and Dribbling Darts of Love, and in my opinion never really got his dues. He thought the same and wrote about his music and life in the Nunnery in Positively George Street. It's... > Read more

One Man Bannister

Delgirl: two, maybe three, days ride (Yellow Eye)

28 Oct 2007  |  <1 min read

This Dunedin-based, folk-country three-piece of Deidre Newall, Erin Morton and Lynn Vare impressed with an earlier EP Live at the Wunderbar which hinted at something special, but wasn't quite strong enough to be placed on Elsewhere. But that promise has come with this album of close harmony, suggestions of and Polynesia, understated balladry and smart lyrics. The gentle... > Read more

Delgirl: Promising

Josh Ritter: The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (Shock) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

27 Oct 2007  |  1 min read  |  3

Elsewhere has been around long enough to do a bit of bragging about bringing certain people to your attention long before anyone else: one of them being this American singer-songwriter whose previous album The Animal Years (see tag) was such a gem. I just kept bringing it back and named it as one of the Best of Elsewhere 2006. Then he was discovered by the British press -- although not by... > Read more

Josh Ritter: Rumours

Jim White: Transnormal Skiperoo (Luaka Bop/Shock) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

27 Oct 2007  |  <1 min read

White came into something close to mainstream attention with his droll film Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus, a poke around the backroads and backwoods of the American South and the music and characters that make it so distinctive. It was at times uncomfortable viewing, but also an essential documentary if you want to get a handle on "that dark Southern stuff" as Lucinda Williams... > Read more

Jim White: Diamonds to Coal