Articles about music

Tunes for the body, heart, mind and soul.

Here Comes Science — They Might Be Giants

Here comes science! This is a great CD/DVD for the young people in your life — and that includes you. I gave it to Jay for his 5th birthday recently. TMBG do a nice line in kids’ music and video, and this is the best so far.

I love TMBG’s regular albums, but their kids’ stuff is understandably not always my cup of tea. No! was pretty good, but Here Come the ABCs was just too simplistic for my sophisticated musical sensibilities. (My pre-school children quite liked it though.) But Here Comes Science is just about on a par with their best. I didn’t like all the “funny” voices on ABCs, but Science keeps them to a minimum.

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Sunny Disposish

Any time the thunder starts to rumble down
Don’t let hope tumble down
Or castles crumble down
If the blues appear just make the best of them
Just make a jest of them
Don’t be possessed of them

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Headless Chickens — live in Auckland

Headless Chickens played their first gig in almost a decade last Friday. The setlist was packed with great songs, the crowd was into it, the sound was excellent. They rocked.

Headless Chickens have been one of my favourite bands since the early ’90s, even though they pretty much called it a day in about 2000. I remember listening to their first recordings on BFM in New Zealand 20 years ago, and then the splash they made in Australia a few years later with their Body Blow album. I still listen to their music now, so imagine my surprise when the Fiona McDonald we met when we moved back to Auckland turned out to be Fiona Headless Chicken, whose sweet yet gutsy voice helped make the Chooks such a unique band. And imagine my even more surprised surprise when I found out that the band were going to re-form for a tour of Australia and New Zealand.

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Earth From Space — The Bads

Earth From Space, by The BadsMellow mellifluous melodies. The Bads are a girl/boy duo from New Zealand; you could call them a guitar-based pop/rock group, or even a “popular beat combo” (as John Peel used to say). But that would just be lazy pigeonholing, so if you pretend you didn’t read that then I will pretend I didn’t write it. Anyway, it seems that of the two Bads, Diane does most of the singing, with Brett singing backup and breaking into the lead occasionally. I can’t find any information on what they each play, so I suppose they are both prodigious multi-instrumentalist polymaths.

Song titles such as Feels Like Rain, Trouble Rides A Fast Horse and Bush Fire Sunset make this sound like good ol’ country music. The first of these songs does sound pretty much like that, with its lazy drawl and twangin’ guitar, but the rest of the album shows some nice variation. The opening song Off The Rails has just the most irresistible chorus — I find it tremendously uplifting, in a minor-key sort of way. The driving Carry The Weight is another of my favourites, with powerful guitar and nice male/female harmonies.

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The Lake — Anna Coddington

The Lake by Anna CoddingtonHere’s a set of simple, affecting songs, beautifully sung and sympathetically arranged. The overall theme is Love Gone Wrong, the traditional singer-songwriter preoccupation. But Anna Coddington turns it into something that sounds great — “beauty exploding from despair”, to use one of her own lines.

I was looking forward to buying this CD, since I enjoyed Anna Coddington’s performance a few months ago. Even though it’s been quite a long time since then, I still remember quite a few of the songs. The songs worked really well live, with Anna accompanying herself on guitar; the fuller production on the album adds another dimension without ever overwhelming the basic voice and guitar structure.

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Alec Empire and Nitzer Ebb

I was listening to one of the tracks from the new Alec Empire album “The Golden Foretaste of Heaven” the other day. I was loving it but it seemed a bit familiar. The relentless pounding beat; the hypnotic, discordant basslines; the snarled vocals; the overall claustrophobic intensity of the thing. Alec Empire is a German with an English-sounding name, but his music reminds me of an English group with a German-sounding name. Nitzer Ebb were big(gish) in the ’80s but I only really got into them a bit later. I seem to own all of their albums and quite a number of singles, so I must like them. They released a career retrospective compilation (Body of Work) a couple of years ago; I thought that marked the end of the band, but apparently it just marked the beginning of their comeback.

I was amazed a year or so ago to see that “Nitzer Ebb” were due to play a gig at a local venue here in Auckland. They will most likely release a new album this year. It will be interesting to hear what it sounds like. They started out 25 years ago with noises, shouting, fist-pumping and Futurism (that’s where the Alec Empire connection comes in) but moved more and more towards traditional song structures. Apparently they have already played some of their new material live and broadcast so I can’t wait to hear it.

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Ben Kemp & Uminari / Anna Coddington

Ben Kemp looks like a rugby player, but he has the most delicate falsetto voice and a rather poetic songwriting touch. His band, Uminari, are tight and very cool in a quirky Japanese way, especially the drummer who is so cool he doesn’t need drumsticks. We saw these guys at the Classic Comedy Bar and they put on a great show. But they were supported by local singer-songwriter Anna Coddington, and I liked her set even more.

Ben Kemp is a very nice Kiwi musician who has lived in Japan for some time now. He has gotten together with a group of Japanese musicians to form his band. The music works really well live — they go for extended soundscapes built around each song, with Kemp’s voice sometimes acting as another instrument. The mood ranges from gentle and contemplative to a bit more noisy and experimental on some tracks, where they might try to evoke the sound of the sea or a storm. It’s hypnotic stuff.

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Five great Japanese pop bands

When I lived in Japan (and even before then) I discovered lots of great Japanese music. (And also lots of bad music, but never mind about that.) Here are five of my favourite pop bands. None are particularly new, but maybe I’m just a “classic J-pop” kind of guy. I don’t know if all of these these could even be considered J-Pop — I don’t think all Japanese pop bands are necessarily J-Pop — but maybe J-Pop is more a state of mind than a sound anyway.

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Linda Linda Linda

Linda Linda Linda

Linda Linda Linda is a great movie about the Redemptive Power of Rock ‘n’ Roll. This may sound like a contradiction — surely most films about RPRR are pap. But Linda Linda Linda is a wonderful combination of arthouse weirdness, raw energy, social commentary and Japanese schoolgirls. With ingredients like that, it’s no wonder the result is so much fun.

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Out of the Moon — Goldenhorse

Out of the Moon by GoldenhorseGoldenhorse are the best pop band in the universe right now, and their two albums are a microcosm of all that’s good in music. Their jaunty melodies with dark undertones and the sometimes-sweet, sometimes twisted lyrics form an irresistible combination. Listen to Goldenhorse now and make yourself into a better person. Continue reading

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