Archives for category: New Zealand Music Month
Too Tone NZ Music Month

Shop display of re-purposed NZ Music Month poster at Too Tone Records (2010-2017) in Dunedin.

It’s May. It’s New Zealand Music Month. It’s time for another tilt at the obsessive-compulsive posting of 31 NZ songs from Bandcamp over the course of the month to try to turn the world on to the kind of sonic lint that lurks behind the glittering facade of  “Popular Music”.  Kicking off the 2019 roll call is the opening track from Shayne P Carter‘s latest solo album “Offsider”.

“I Know Not Where I Stand” is a huge clunking, shuffling beast of a song. Never one to rest in a comfortable spot musically speaking, proficient guitarist Carter (Bored Games, Doublehappys, Straitjacket Fits, Dimmer) set himself the challenge of mastering the piano. His approach is similar to his instinctive approach to the guitar – as much about sound, propulsion, atmosphere, and tension as it is about melody.

Carter’s “Offsider” album is recommended for anyone into seriously good, original, adventurous pop or rock music, and particularly for those who go on about the heyday of Flying Nun Records but stopped buying new music many years ago.

Shayne Carter has written a book. Dead People I have Known is what it is called and it is available in a few days time. It’s a memoir, though it could be a novel. If it was a novel it would be better than Iain Banks “Espedair Street” and David Keenan’s “This is Memorial Device” combined.  The characters in Shayne’s book are also unusual and unlikely but they are real. Many of them are dead, as the title accurately explains.

It’s not the first book by a musician from Dunedin. Sneaky feelings’ Mathew Bannister wrote one that was pretty good in its weird combination of misguided self-loathing and self-importance. I haven’t read Peter Jefferies’ book yet.

Shayne Carter is the only one of my Dunedin music heroes I have not properly met or talked to. He was, and still is, too intimidating. His book makes it pretty clear that being intimidating, or just an occasional arsehole, was a deliberate ploy.

I read the book in one sitting. Partly because it was someone else’s review copy and I was probably not meant to see it. Also because it was, as they say, a page-turner.  Actually I read most of it twice because I have an annoying habit of opening up new books and reading bits at random first, as if to get a taste before committing to a full reading. Then I read it again, from beginning to end to join up all the bits I’d read previously. I look forward to reading it again when I buy a copy upon its release.

A couple of things about Shayne’s writing style struck me. The first was that his ease of storytelling, the way he created the scenes, brings his characters to life through their actions and words, and the associated emotion, reminded me of Tim Winton’s writing.  Like his “Breath” perhaps, but about music, and the characters associated with it, rather than surfing.

The other thing I felt, as the story whizzed along, one outrageous incident after another, was that this was almost like the kind of improbable fictional life story narrated by the central character from an implausible and fantastical Peter Carey novel.

Those were both novelists I really enjoyed, back in the days when I read novels. Nowadays I read almost exclusively music books, finding that with the best of them truth is indeed stranger than fiction.  This is more than a music book. It’s a memoir of course. But it’s also a social history, mostly of a Dunedin that is still almost there, as well as an affecting reflection on life, death, culture, identity, love, self-loathing, ego, regret, creativity, family, and friendship and more.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, it is possible to review Carter’s “Dead People I Have Known” using unaltered snippets taken from reviews or short descriptions of my favourite of Carey’s books:

“Boldly inventive, irresistibly odd.  In this darkly funny novel, death is sometimes a necessary prelude to real life. A story that couldn’t be true unless its teller were mad.  His search for a place in life where he can accept himself and be accepted by others.  A masterpiece of coal-black humour and compassionate horror. Fiendishly devious and addictively readable.”


The Golden AwesomeDay 13 of PopLib’s 31 Days of May celebrating New Zealand Music Month is another Psychedelic Sunday so here’s “Astronomy” by Wellington ‘shoe-gaze’ noise band The Golden Awesome.

“Astronomy” is from an album called “Autumn” The Golden Awesome released on the US M’Lady’s Records label which is a bit hard to find round these parts now.

Although ‘shoegaze’ tends to be the genre most often used in relation to The Golden Awesome there is a healthy a dose of The Jesus and Mary Chain about the crushing bass guitar and swarming feedback guitar drones on some of the tracks on “Autumn” as well as the kind of swooping sonic overload and sweet melody associated with heavy ‘shoegaze’ favourites My Bloody Valentine which you can hear in “Astronomy”.

The mix of crushing saturated walls of glorious drone noise and breath-taking dream-pop melody is a feature of the album. The keyboards and the distinctive harmoniser processed vocals are from Dunedin musician Stef Animal and you can find out more about who else is in this low-key band in this rare UTR interview.

At the 5 minute mark in the video below you can watch the band playing “Astronomy” live at the Radio KDVS studio in Davis California when the band toured the US West Coast a few years ago.

ThisisDEAFDay 10 of our 31 Days of May for New Zealand Music Month marathon comes from Wellington band DEAF and their darkly atmospheric post-punk stunner “Truancy” –

“Truancy” is earworm pop – a gloriously constructed and recorded piece of freakishly hummable oddness, built on monstrous chorus bass, subtle arpeggio guitars, foggy synth washes and intriguing vocals delivering a chorus that may or may not be be “what I want to be, when I finally grow up, is a clown.”

Former Sunken Seas guitarist Luke Kavanagh is the distinctive vocalist here. It’s a winning vocal performance that makes the song, reminiscent of the slightly unhinged nocturnal otherness of say Fad Gadget, or Gary Numan, and perfectly matched to the dark-yet-accessible melodic post-punk of “Truancy”.

DEAF are comprised of former members of Sunken Seas and Tiddabades. In addition to Luke Kavanagh’s guitar and vocals, DEAF consists of Hayden Ellis (bass), Craig Rattray (drums) and synth players Mat Machray & Jarrod Crossland.  “Truancy” is a very promising introduction and taster for an EP expected later in the year.

Only at Day 10 of our NZ Music Month trawl through the uncharted waters of New Zealand music on bandcamp. Songs you won’t hear on any mainstream radio station (or Spotify playlist for that matter) in NZ Music Month or any other month but all well capable of being the soundtrack to our lives if we take the time to explore and listen beneath the surface.

Troy KingiDay 2 of 2018’s 31 days of May madness for New Zealand Music Month, and time for a journey through time and space. Here’s the opening track “Aztechknowledgey” from Troy Kingi’s accidental concept album (and modern psych-soul masterpiece) “Shake that skinny ass all the way to Zygertron” 

It’s an album that defies all the conventional tropes of contemporary New Zealand Music yet it carries on a fine tradition from the 1970s of  soulful psychedelic rock from these shores – think Golden HarvestButlerTicket, & Collision.

Here’s the explanation of it all from the album Bandcamp page:

“This galactic Seventies funk album, is due to what he has been listening to over the last few years, especially Bill Withers, Shuggie Otis, Curtis Mayfield, Al Green and Marvin Gaye. Troy knew that he wanted an outrageous over the top album, and wrote down the most way out song titles he could imagine, all about being out in space. From there he went to the beach with his brother, and every night they would sit in their deck chairs, stare at the stars, and talk about one of the song titles. Each night they discussed the back story of a song, and from there Troy wrote the album. It was never originally intended to be a concept album, but it turned out that way, with three main characters appearing throughout the lyrics, until they all became one. “

“Shake that skinny ass all the way to Zygertron”  is self released and available on Troy Kingi’s Bandcamp as a download or gatefold CD.


Males_None the wiser

Richard Ley-Hamilton of Males

Day 31 of NZ Music Month is a song from the debut album “None the Wiser” from Dunedin’s mighty falsetto pop-Gods Males. It’s called “Chartreuse” –

“Chartreuse” demonstrates just how far their helium-voiced guitar power-pop has come since their double EP debut release “Run Run Run/MalesMalesMales” in 2013.

It’s a sophisticated slice of melodic and multi-layered noisy guitar pop, the kind of thing which would not sound out of place on an early album by US band Spoon.

At the time of its release on March 21, 2016 Males “is/are/were” Richard Ley-Hamilton (guitars, vocals), Sam Valentine (bass), and Paul ‘Pipsy’ McMillan (drums).


Day 30 of NZ Music Month comes from Auckland/ Nashville band Punches. It’s a track from their 2011 album “Etheria” called “Downtown” –

Punches was Kelly Sharrod (Dimmer) and James Duncan (Dimmer, SJD), and on “Etheria” – recorded partly in Nashville and partly in Auckland – they were joined by a bunch of Dimmer-associated friends.

“Etheria” was released on Arch Hill Recordings in 2011 and you can still track down the CD release via the Flying Out online store.

Transcendents 2016Day 29 of NZ Music Month is the fractured rock music of Christchurch band (of one) The Transcendents. They have a new 10″ EP out Called “The Sun Is Still Asleep” and “Say Never” is the more reflective acoustic song therein.

Once more The Transcendents create their own post-rock landscape of sounds which defy most of the accepted conventions, like a song might sound in one of those dreams where your mind is stuck in a loop.

Yet, like an abstract painting, this still displays enough form for recognition. The lyrics provide a narrative and the song still has shape and form. There may be no easy listening on “The Sun Is Still Asleep” but you’ll still be rewarded for listening.