Sunday, 6 May 2007

NZ Music: Top Five

For NZ Music Month, the Sunday Star is asking for readers' favourite five NZ albums "of any style, from any era." Here's mine. For regular readers, there'll be few surprises.

  • Inside Out - Graham Brazier
    Quite simply NZ's finest rock album, crowned with our finest 'rebel' song, 'Billy Bold' -- an anthem worthy of the name.

  • Plugged in and Blue - Hammond Gamble
    Great electric blues and originals from a highly underrated guitarist of great expressive genius, with that guitar showcased here much better that his otherwise superb solo album 'Every Whisper Shouts.'

  • Donald McIntyre's humane Hans Sachs from the classic Sydney performance of Wagner's Die Miestersinger von Nurnburg.
    Not specifically a "New Zealand album" I guess, but the performance of this world-class New Zealander here is so magnificent and so dominates the show that it demands inclusion.

  • AK79
    For a young teenager (me) who had to steal his way into town to try and hear these songs and this attitude, the record captures a moment in time that spelled promise for me and for the musos featured. 'It's Bigger Than Both of Us' was strong competition for this, but even as a double just not quite strong enough.

  • Kiri Te Kanawa singing Richard Strauss' 'Four Last Songs' might seem a world and a lifetime away from 'AK79' (and it is), but as bookends for a life of hope and promise fulfilled, and with these four songs (as the sleeve says) "sad, serene, suggest[ing] the completion of a journey, a journey from spring to winter, from morning to evening, from youth to old age," they seem to me the perfect complement.
So that's my five. What are your five faves from Outer-Roa?


  1. The Stereo Bus - The Stereo Bus

    This short lived solo project by ex-JPSE guitarist and songwriter, Dave Yetton, practically invented "Sissy Rock". The Stereo Bus was basically Dave and a bunch of session musos (well known and respected ones too, such as Ross Burge) although it mutated into a real live touring band. The album itself was sublime, but the live experience was almost religious. Lie In The Arms remains one of my all time favourite live songs. The followup album, "Brand New", was also excellent, but I prefer this first effort. Come back Dave, I miss you!

    Melt - Straitjacket Fits

    Shayne Carter is like a god to Kiwi musicians. So he bloody should be too. This is arguably the finest album from the Dunedin group who made some of the best rock that New Zealand has ever heard. Shayne's lyrical skills were at their finest on this album in songs like Missing Presumed Drowned, Quiet Come, and the simultaneously touching and chilling Cast Stone. Hard to find these days so if you see it second hand, grab it.

    Tongue Grooves - Syzygy

    This fairly obscure Wellington progressive jazz outfit (though they aren't easy to label, that's the closest) changed my life. I walked into a small bar in Hamilton called JBC (sadly defunct) to "spend a penny". While in the gents, I became aware that the single sustained note that had been playing when I walked in was still going. When I left, I looked to the stage to see a chap sustaining this one note by circular breathing on an alto saxophone. Without warning, and after at least three minutes, the rest of the band kicked into a chaotic free jazz riff in perfect synchronization and with no obvious cue. It was eerie and an understated show of their musical ability. I was blown away, and stayed for the rest of the show. It was an incredible performance, and I bought the CD on the spot. I suggest you do too. The Risk alone is worth the price of the CD.

    Second Thoughts - Split Enz

    It was hard to pick a single Split Enz album. It had to have Phil Judd on it. Split Enz was Phil and Tim. Yes, they wrote much more radio friendly songs under the guidance of Neil and Tim Finn, and don't get me wrong, Neil is a personal hero of mine, but the Enz with Phil and Tim was a unique, quirky, powerfully dramatic beast. Ideally, I'd pick both the sonically flawed "Mental Notes" and "Second Thoughts" combined, but if you have to buy just one SPlit Enz album, get this one, if for no other reason than Sweet Dreams.

    Body Blow - Headless Chickens

    Fiona McDonald was either the best or worst thing to happen to the Headless Chickens depending on who you ask. I'm strangely devoid of opinion on that question, though I do think that her arrival coincided with the Chickens most creative period, and also with their peak of sonic quality. The "big radio hit", Cruise Control was a great song, but was nowhere near the high point of this album. Check out Gaskrankinstation for the ultimate urban dead end story, and Donde Esta La Pollo for a damn good time!


    Noise gods. Saw them live twice and both times it was incredible.


    'Affco' anyone? "!"


    These guys breaking up was one of the saddest musical events of the past few years. Incredible stage vibe, and a collection of songs that really twist the heart strings and make you proud to be a Kiwi. Listen on Ipod when flying back in to NZ on a plane for maximum effect.


    The Fits are legend. Chose this one cos the guy above already had Melt, and this one has 'She Speeds' on it which is my favourite SF tune.


    Eclectic, edgy, and catchy. Go the Clean.



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