Archives for posts with tag: Courtney Barnett

Ha the UnclearDay 16 of our 31 Days of May New Zealand Music month marathon comes from Auckland-via-Dunedin band Ha The Unclear. It’s a sickeningly good new single “Big City”

Ha The Unclear are the unchallenged masters of the NZ vernacular song in the same way that Courtney Barnett nails the philosophical minutiae of everyday Australia existence.

Ha The Unclear would no doubt appreciate if a bit of the fame and fortune and world tours of the feted Australian rubbed off on them. But here in NZ we are mostly still embarrassed about ourselves and our funny ex-cent and musicians who perform as their natural Nu Zild selves.

Actually, we are mostly still embarrassed about local musicians full stop. So embarrassed our commercial radio stations still prefer overseas sounds and locals who re-heat generic international sounds, justifying this on the basis “it’s what the public want” even though it must be hard to know what you want – what you really, really want – if you never hear it.

Not me. I’d much prefer a local song about the disconnection of people in big cities as told through the experience of narrator struggling to be a responsible first-responder putting a vomiting stranger on a bus in the recovery position so they don’t choke, while the rest of the indifferent human cargo shuffle off at the next stop. In the Big City, “everyone’s anonymous.” And all done with the wit and casual storytelling style of CB.

Ha The Unclear have songwriting and musical chops to spare.  “Big City” sparkles with the zip and zest of Squeeze and early Split Enz and the chorus is a A-grade earworm. C’mon New Zealand, don’t be anonymous.

Tajette O'Halloran Photography

Tajette O’Halloran Photography

No month of Australian Music would be complete without mention of Courtney Barnett, a young Melbourne musician taking the world by storm (well, sell out shows on a never-ending world tour right now). She’s doing that by elevating ‘slacker’ pop (which I’m guessing is a step up from ‘Deadbeat Rock’) into a literary & music art-form.

So, for Day 12, here’s ‘History Eraser’ from one of Courtney’s first two EPs (now combined into a double LP called ‘The Double EP – A Sea of Split Peas’ ).

Everyday life transformed into something disarmingly honest, funny & sometimes sad, with brilliantly told stories. I’ve said here before that Courtney is the Alan Bennett of indie-pop in terms of her ability to tell vivid stories about everyday things with honesty and wit…. plus still making these work as great slouchy pop tunes with killer chorus hooks.

You should have this. It is available from her own label Milk! Records which is based in Melbourne and run along with friends (in case you were worried how she will post her LP to you when she is on tour).

'Proteus' by Astro Children

‘Proteus’ by Astro Children

This is not a best of 2013 list, just the albums I played and enjoyed the most in 2013. As is the custom in such lists I have ranked these in order which more or less means the closer to 1 they are the more I played and enjoyed them. Simple…

There is no science in this. Nor is there any particular claim to artistic merit, but feel free to read whatever you want into the rankings (and omissions) – it’s more fun that way!

(If I’ve written something here about the album during the year there will be a link to that.)

So… PopLib’s Top 10 Favourite Albums of 2013 were:

10 – Inside a Replica City – Strange Harvest (self-released)
9 – Pearl Mystic by Hookworms (Gringo Records)
8 – A Pebble & A Paper Crane by Kane Strang (self-released)
7 – Plumes by Ginnels (Tenorio Cotobade)
6 – Tumult in Clouds by Ela Orleans (Clandestine)
5 – The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas by Courtney Barnett (Milk!)
4 – Slow Summits by The Pastels (Domino)
3 – Waiting for Something to Happen by Veronica Falls (Slumberland/ Bella Union)
2 – II by Unknown Mortal Orchestra (Jagjaguwar)
1 – Proteus by Astro Children (Muzai Records)

Astro Children at the Kings Arms in Auckland, December 2013. Photo by Ben Howe from

Astro Children at the Kings Arms in Auckland, December 2013. Photo by Ben Howe from

[I think ‘Tumult in Clouds’ by Ela Orleans was first released in 2012. I heard it mid 2013 and it is set for re-issue in 2014 (the original Clandestine pressing sold out). For the purpose of this list I’m treating this timeless double LP classic as a 2013 release.]

Other contenders – Calendar Days by Dick Diver, Any Port in a Storm by Scott & Charlene’s Wedding, Tussle by Day Ravies, The Man who Died in his Boat by Grouper, Floating Coffin by Thee Oh Sees, The Flower Lane by Ducktails, Victoria & Jacob by Victoria & Jacob, The Argument by Grant Hart.

The only reasons these albums didn’t burst into the Top 10 are (1) The Top 10 is only 10 and it is already full and (2) I haven’t had as much time to listen to these yet as the others so they are ‘less played’ so far (but not necessarily less enjoyed when they were played).

The album by Victoria & Jacob arrived just before Christmas (from the wonderful Where It’s At Is Where You Are (WIAIWYA) label in the UK). It’s a cracker. If you want to like CHVRCHES but just can’t get past the sugary sheen of their electro-pop or the gratuitous use of “V” in their name, then I recommend the Victoria & Jacob album as a much better exploration of that genre. It’s electronic pop, with beautiful vocals and big beats. But it’s also a bit darker, heavier and somehow dreamier than CHVRCHES & much more satisfying as a result. There’s a slight reminder of early Cocteau Twins and an even bigger reminder of 90s Scottish electro-dreampop outfit One Dove (both favourites here) and I have enjoyed the Victoria & Jacob album a lot in the short time I’ve been playing it.