Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Return of Crystal Castles

This week was notable for the return to live performance of long-time blog favourites Crystal Castles, aka Ethan Kath and new vocalist Edith Frances. The shows on Tuesday and Wednesday at Electrowerkz in London marked the (new) duo’s first* outings since charismatic vocalist Alice Glass left “the band” in late 2014.

Further dates have been booked across the USA in the months ahead, including an appearance at the SXSW Festival, with a return to the UK for the Reading Festival tentatively earmarked for August.

The new incarnation of Crystal Castles has already produced a couple of demo singles in the form of ‘Frail’ and ‘Deicide’ (clip below), but reports that Kath has been working alongside Frances on an album since April of last year have yet to amount to anything more substantial.

And while there was a certain chemistry between Kath and Glass that will be difficult to replicate, the reality is the real musical talent behind the project always belonged to Kath, with Glass’s frequently-chopped voice and live antics merely supplementary to the producer’s wider composition wizardry.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see what eventuates in the year ahead, both in the studio and on stage, but everythingsgonegreen is salivating a little at the prospect of this latest “comeback”, just when it looked like all was lost. It now looks like the new pairing is starting to develop some real forward momentum.
For her own part, since the split, Alice Glass self-released the charity-single ‘Stillbirth’ in mid-2015, but little has been seen or heard from her since.
(* not including a short DJ set (by Ethan) and a few songs (for Edith's live debut) in Johannesburg back in November 2015 ...)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Fresh Cuts for NZ Musician February/March 2016

Yet again I managed to sneak a couple of album reviews past the quality control police over at NZ Musician magazine (for the hot-off-the-press February/March issue). Publication of the Kong Fooey review (below) was especially timely, with the band set to play Wellington's Bodega this coming Saturday night. What a funky little album that one is.
I was also quietly a bit chuffed to see Yoko-Zuna feature on the magazine's front cover, given that I wrote the accompanying feature piece. Well, I say "wrote" but what I really mean is "co-wrote", given the hissy fit I had when challenged by the editorial team to make some minor changes to my original draft.

All I really did was conduct the initial interview, submit 1800-odd words, throw my toys, stomp my feet, then sit back wait for the co-editor to tidy-up my half completed mess. Hackdom 101 made easy. But I'll say no more ... let's just say I'm thrilled this incredibly talented young band got the exposure they deserve and leave it at that. My job was the easy bit.
I'll link to that piece in a few weeks, but in the meantime, here are those album reviews:

Kong Fooey – Final Destination
Final Destination is the soul-infused hip hop debut album from Kong Fooey; the collective work of ex-Pumpkinhead beatmaker Jason Peters, guitarist David Haslett, rap artists Maitreya (Jamie Greenslade) and Topaz (Alice Egan), plus guest co-conspirators, vocalists Ella Rose and Katerina Theo. It’s an album that positively oozes the good vibes and raw energy of old-school style funk, and a cursory glance at titles like Time To Move, The Mahina Shuffle and Get In The Flow only serves to confirm that Kong Fooey's sole intention is to make us dance. Awash with brass, heavy bass, vintage keys, and lashings of funky guitar, it’s also an album dripping with ubiquitous Stax and Motown reference points. That formula lays down a foundation for the vocal collaborators to do their thing, and when they do the message is almost always one of genuine positivity: “Life is too short to be wearin’ a frown” (on early single Let Go) being just one upbeat lyrical refrain on an album crammed full of them. There’s a strong element of humour across the generous 15-track release, and if that cover looks familiar, it’s because it apes the Elvis debut, and The Clash’s London Calling, with its distinctive pink and green lettering and font set against a black and white photo image. Something that only adds to the retro-feel of the whole thing. This one is as sharp and punchy as they come.

Golden Curtain – Hell Is Other People
Album number three for Hawke’s Bay’s Golden Curtain, the super tight three-piece consisting of guitarist Andrew Mckenzie, bass player Brad Gamble, and former Garageland stickman Andrew Gladstone on drums. Short in its duration, with just eight tracks clocking in a few ticks under 25 minutes, Hell Is Other People takes us on a whirlwind journey into the world of alt-country Bay-style, with ’60s passages (Toys), boy-girl excursions (Penelope Blue, Lucille), and an occasional venture into rockier climes (Like An Island). All supplemented with a pop twist, colourful textures, and subtle hints of psychedelia. Produced by the band, mixed and mastered by Brett Stanton, one of the album’s real strengths is the strong vocal harmonies throughout – something that seems to hint, inadvertently perhaps, at a certain togetherness or unity, or of a collective self-assurance. At the very least, there’s a sense that this band is perfectly comfortable in its own skin. Or it might just be as simple as Golden Curtain being right at the very peak of its powers. Despite the relative brevity it’s a solid album, with the musical package suitably complemented by the rather fetching pop-art album cover artwork by local music identity, artist, and all-round Hall-of-Famer, Fane Flaws.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Album Review: Thriakis Dub Destroyer - The Galactic Journey (2016)

While web label Original Dub Gathering (aka Ondubground, or ODGProd, depending on where you look) describe the Paris-based Thriakis Dub Destroyer as "one man dub", it's clear the artist himself does his best work when involving others in a collaborative process. At least that's the case so far as his latest release, The Galactic Journey, is concerned.

The Galactic Journey, a follow-up to 2013's Cosmic Dub Monster and 2014's Space Dub Signals, is an 11-track trip into the murky netherworlds of electro and digi-dub, in the spirit of past blog favourites like Panda Dub, Art-X, and to a lesser extent, Radikal Guru.

Highlights include collaborations with fellow space travellers Sensi T (‘Faya Ago Bun Dem’) and Rebel I (‘Ganga Spirit’), but infectious opener ‘Running The Line’ is probably the best thing here. The album is available as a free download (and/or via donation) on the Original Dub Gathering website, via Soundcloud, grab a copy of it below:

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Classic Album Review: Mogwai - Happy Songs for Happy People (2003)

I recently picked up a copy of Mogwai's mammoth career-spanning compilation Central Belters. While listening to it, I was reminded of just how much I loved the band's Happy Songs for Happy People album when it was released a dozen or so years ago.

It's probably my favourite Mogwai album, and I reviewed it for another site at the time. It's a fairly rudimentary review, but I still feel exactly the same about the album today:

Atmospheric, deep, light, depressing, uplifting, rolling, building, tensing, climaxing, cascading. Just plain rocking.

Happy Songs for Happy People is an album that takes me places I’d seldom otherwise go. Happy meets sad. Manic meets melancholy. Feeling upbeat and downbeat, warm and cold, both comfortable and uncomfortable, all at the same time.

Tripping ...

Panoramic moments of clarity, copious portions of fuzz. Sparse piano leads and interludes, crashing cymbals, and walls of guitar. Go there, you may like it.

Probably the best and most consistent offering from one of the most under-rated (of the many) Glasgow bands to emerge in the Nineties. Dig the metallic silver packaging, man.

Celtic FC supporters too, apparently. Class.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Album Review: David Bowie - Blackstar (2016)

On the day that David Bowie released Blackstar, the album was reviewed on prolific music site Pitchfork. The review opened with the following:

David Bowie has died many deaths yet he is still with us. He is popular music’s ultimate Lazarus: Just as that Biblical figure was beckoned by Jesus to emerge from his tomb after four days of nothingness, Bowie has put many of his selves to rest over the last half-century, only to rise again with a different guise. This is astounding to watch, but it's more treacherous to live through; following Lazarus’ return, priests plotted to kill him, fearing the power of his story. And imagine actually being such a miracle man – resurrection is a hard act to follow.”

Which, given what was about to unfold, is more than a little bit spooky. Two days later, David Bowie was dead.

It all seemed so surreal. Nobody was prepared for the devastating news of his passing. And although there had been rumours and hints about the poor state of his health around the time of the release of The Next Day back in 2013, he'd largely kept the severity of his cancer a closely guarded secret.

Blackstar was the cross-generational superstar's 25th studio album, released to coincide with his 69th birthday. The day it was released, the same day as the Pitchfork review was published, a good friend – quite possibly the biggest Bowie fan I know – had shared with me some of her thoughts on the album. I invited her to put those words into some semblance of order so I could use them for a (guest post) album review.

But then, in the immediate wake of Bowie's death it just didn't seem appropriate, or make any sense, to be offering a critique of his final work. An album co-producer Tony Visconti later called a “parting gift to fans” ... I decided to wait until the dust settled and I had my own copy of the album.

By that stage, Blackstar was at the top of the New Zealand album charts, and Bowie had another ten albums inside the Top 40. What I thought of the great man's swan song hardly mattered in the slightest; the album's commercial relevance was already assured, and a whole bunch of earlier work suddenly had fresh chart momentum. As is so often the way of things when the Grim Reaper comes calling.

Blackstar opens with the sprawling title track, which – at something close to ten minutes in duration – feels like several recurring ideas and themes (death, certainly) rolled into one. At the very least it's something of a musical throwback to the experimental, arty, prog-rock excesses of the early Seventies glam period which informed so much of Bowie's best work.

The fragility of his voice is immediately apparent on the opener – as it was throughout The Next Day – and it's something that stands out across the remaining thirty or so minutes of Blackstar. Rather than disguise this, or even attempt to, Bowie uses it as a tool to portray varying degrees of emotion, and an unapologetic sense of vulnerability. It seems the alien may have been human after all.

A couple of these tunes have had previous outings. ‘Sue (or in a season of crime)’ was released as a single in 2014, and appeared on that year's three-disc compilation set Nothing Has Changed, while the less ambiguous ‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore’ saw the light of day as that single's B-side. I note that the saxophone part (on ‘Whore’) enjoyed a makeover for the album version. Sax being one of the more prominent instrumental features on Blackstar.

And certainly, regardless of any additional poignancy it now offers, current single and album centrepiece ‘Lazarus’ is an undoubted highlight here. It appeals as the most straightforward “pop song” on an album which veers strongly away from all traditional forms of that description.

Whatever else David Bowie was, he was an artist who favoured innovation and experimentation above all else, and there’s plenty of that on Blackstar.

And yes, of course, there’s all that slightly unnerving stuff about death. Who else but David Bowie could get away with such an outrageous parting shot?

And so he’s gone. But not really. His music lives on, his discography is something quite phenomenal, and Blackstar is a worthy, if very late addition to that wonderful legacy.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Enchanted Castle

Here’s something local, from Brian Tamaki and the Kool Aid Kids, released on Bandcamp a few months back (in December). I’ve really grown to love this EP. I was initially drawn in by the spikey DIY edges of (single) ‘Eating Glue’, but actually wound up loving the rest of it a whole lot more.

As 2015 “short albums” by NZ-based bands go, The Enchanted Castle is up there with the best I heard. Download as a name-your-price, and if you like, also check out the band’s 2014 album Hot Buttered Blasphemy on the same deal.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Happy Birthday To Us ...

This weekend represents a 5th birthday for everythingsgonegreen.

Officially old enough to start school. Which I'm sure will please my proof reader no end.

Five years online, 366 posts, and just this week the blog clocked up its 90,000th individual page hit.

I'm not sure how those numbers stack up against other hobby blogs of a music and pop culture bent, but it really doesn't matter, I'm writing this stuff anyway. If people dig, and they read, then I dig, and I'll write. That's how it works, I guess.

There's some interesting symmetry in those numbers. 366 posts represents almost exactly a post every 5th day. 90,000 page hits represents 1,500 page hits per month on average, or something close to 50 hits per day.

One blogpost is responsible for nearly 10 percent of the blog's total page hits - this one.

New Zealand accounts for the highest proportion of hits (32%), naturally, closely followed by viewers from the USA (26%), with France, Germany, and Russia (!) rounding out the top five in what Google call “audience” stats.

I realise the blog has become very Kiwi-centric in recent times, but c'mon Australia and the U.K. ... where the bloody hell are ya?

Internet Explorer remains the browser of choice, albeit narrowly over Firefox, Chrome, and Safari.

There's definitely a strong relationship between the number of visits or hits, and the amount of blog activity or blogposts published. For example, a December 2013 blog peak of over 3,500 page hits coincided with the highest number of posts published (21). In other words, post it, and people will visit.

Yes, I’m obsessed with numbers and the pretty patterns they weave. Just quietly I’m also a touch OCD and a wee bit anal, but if I don’t note this stuff for posterity, nobody will. Um, simply because nobody else cares!

It's also Waitangi weekend here in New Zealand. A long weekend with a bank holiday Monday, right in the middle of summer down here at the bottom of the world.

That means it’s the weekend we traditionally "celebrate", or at least acknowledge, the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, a founding document, signed in 1840 by local Maori and representatives of the British Crown.

There's a lot of politics skirting around the periphery of those celebrations, and most New Zealanders have their own thoughts on what the Treaty means to them, but it's not unusual for things to get a little heated.

As if it wasn’t hot enough already. As I type this, it’s a scorcher here at Paraparaumu Beach (the home of the tree hut where everythingsgonegreen resides) as we head for another 30-degrees-plus day of searching for shade.

So here’s 'Sun Is Shining', a particularly apt tune from a man who shares our birthday this weekend. Bob Marley would have been 71 yesterday:


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Albums of 2015

Yes, yes. I know. We’re practically a tenth of the way through 2016 already and everythingsgonegreen is still living in the past. Even more than it usually does. Still wrapping up the formalities of bidding 2015 a fairly fond farewell. And other “F” words. But being late is nothing unusual for this blog. To be fair, I would have published this a fortnight ago, but my AA meeting went on longer than planned, and the barman wouldn’t let me leave.

And so these are the albums that made the most impact on me throughout 2015. Not “the best albums”, not the most popular or critically acclaimed, but the albums that were significant to my world. The music I played the most, I guess is the best criteria to use. I make no apologies for the local bias. The only prerequisite for an album’s inclusion was that I had to have my own copy of it in one form or another. Spotify and streaming mean nothing to me.

10. Blur – The Magic Whip

Damon Albarn has his moments, and I think The Magic Whip is one of his better ones. I really didn’t need any more Blur, and Modern Life Is Rubbish was always going to be enough for me, but this turned out to be a lovely unexpected bonus, and a real grower as the year progressed. My original review can be found here.

9. Adrian Sherwood – At The Controls Volume 1 1979 – 1984

It probably goes against all of the unwritten rules of music blogging to include a sneaky retro-compilation on these sorts of year-end lists. But everythingsgonegreen despises rules, especially those pesky unwritten ones, so here it is, another superb set of tunes from ace producer Adrian Sherwood. I loved this, and I dribble from the mouth a wee bit when pondering just how deep the yet-to-be-released On-U Sound archives might run. Despite being a huge fan of the label and of the Eighties, I was gobsmacked to discover a couple of bands here that I’d never even heard of before. And then there was the primo Shriekback track I knew nothing at all about. We’re nothing if not current and cutting edge up here at everythingsgonegreen towers … or the tree hut at the bottom of the backyard as it’s otherwise known. Shame – with some mitigating circumstances – on the hapless JB Hi Fi guy who didn’t know this album even existed. My original review can be found here.

8. Fat Freddy’s Drop – Bays

It's no secret that everythingsgonegreen is a massive fan of local dub/reggae/funk crossover merchants Fat Freddy's Drop. But even I baulked at the option of paying something close to $150 for two tickets to the band's recent NYE (2015/2016) gig at Petone beach. It was effectively a homecoming or hometown gig, but nothing about that price was especially festive or neighbourly, and it was all a little too rich for yours truly. Less disappointing and even less prohibitive was the $24.99 I'd already forked out for a copy of Bays, the band's rather excellent fifth album from earlier in 2015. All of the regular Fat Freddy's touchstones are present and accounted for on Bays – bass, horns, drops, laid back grooves, and songs about food. You mostly know what you're going to get with these guys. Some (local) critics will doubtlessly argue that's a bad thing, but I reckon the intense progressive electro vibes found on 'Razor' and 'Novak' actually do represent something quite different here. Of course it won’t be enough to satisfy those naysayers, nor the bandwagon-hoppers who continue to tag the band with the lazy and tiresome "barbecue reggae" label. But who really cares about unimaginative worn-out labels? Beyond wanting to give one or two regular grizzlers a poke in the eye with a particularly sharp stick, the band obviously couldn’t care less.

7. Belle and Sebastian – Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance

We live in a topsy-turvy world. A world where everything we once believed is now in danger of being turned completely on its head at any given moment. For proof of such a claim, look no further than Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance. A rare and barely imagined two-headed beastie; a disco-pop album made by long-time kings of bedsit twee, Belle and Sebastian. An album that challenges all of the things I thought I knew about Stuart Murdoch and his stalwart gang of Scottish indie pop perfectionists. Two decades into their journey, album number nine feels like something quite special for the band. It’s clever stuff, charmingly existential, as ever, while shamelessly strutting its way across the dancefloor with its arse hanging out. Always a good look. And I don’t know if Belle and Sebastian have peaked inside the Top 10 of the ‘fishal UK album charts all that often, but Girls In Peacetime did exactly that, by hook over crook, all part of the plan, as espoused on notional centrepiece ‘The Everlasting Muse’ … “a subtle gift to modern rock, she says ‘be popular, play pop’ … and you will win my love”. I’ve had a fractured relationship with Belle and Sebastian over the years, but who doesn’t love a happy ending?

6. Mel Parsons – Drylands

Mel Parsons is a huge talent. As a musician, as a vocalist, and as a songwriter. Drylands represents exhibit A, and is, from all accounts, her best work yet. It’s also an album that just gets better with each and every listen. My original review can be found here. 

5. New Order – Music Complete

When it first arrived, I never expected Music Complete to wind up on any year-end lists. But then, when it comes to New Order in context of 2015, I really had no expectations at all. Why would I? The band has nothing left to prove, and this barely anticipated late addition to an already astounding musical legacy was the band's best full length work since 1989's Technique. And if you think that's merely a case of blatant fanboy hyperbole (which it partly might be) then it's still a long way short of Mojo magazine's rating of New Order as its 2015 band of the year. Yes, really. My original review can be found here.

4. She's So Rad – Tango

Tango was such a long time in coming that by the time it arrived I'd already heard most of it in one form or another. But that did nothing to dampen my enjoyment of it. Circles, the band's 2011 debut, largely flew under my radar, and to some extent a steady drip-feed diet of this stuff has given Tango an impetus the first album probably lacked. Main Rad dude, Jeremy Toy, wears his musical influences on his sleeve for all to see, and Tango is an exercise in blending a strong Eighties synthpop aesthetic with copious helpings of early Nineties shoegaze. And who doesn’t love a little bit of both of those things? But it’s not all retro-centric, with David Dallas’ straight-outta-Auckland hip hop cameo on ‘Say The Word’ taking things to another place entirely. Best bits: ‘Levels’, ‘Cool It’, ‘Confetti’, and ‘Sewn Up Sunshine’.

3. Yoko-Zuna – This Place Here

When I spoke to Cam Duncan, this album’s producer, early last month, he talked a little bit about how music fans can *feel* music before they actually *hear* it. That was all a bit flowery and “out there” for a mere layman and pragmatist like me, but I think I partly knew what he was trying to get at. For me, This Place Here conjures up widescreen cinematic imagery the very instant I do hear it, so I suppose that’s close enough. It’s probably just the sax and the wider jazzy feel, but I’m reminded of that scene in Scorcese’s Taxi Driver, where there’s a downpour and a narrative/voiceover describing how the rains arrive to cleanse the streets of all the gunk and grime. All of mankind’s sins are washed away, as if the drenching was all part of some great masterplan (Travis: “someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets”). It’s Seventies New York at twilight, dusky downtown streets, and film noir black and white imagery. Only it isn’t really New York. This Place Here is a trip. It’s an album conceived on the streets of urban Auckland, on Grafton Road, on Queen Street, and on K Road. In the small clubs and jam-bars in the side streets off the main drag. And that voiceover? … it comes in the form of multiple narratives from some of the best hip hop exponents those streets have to offer – from David Dallas to Team Dynamite, Spycc, and others. In more simple terms, the album was a mature, multi-collaborative, and perfectly formed mix of hip hop, RnB, and jazz. With a super-sized “just jamming with mates” feel right at its core. My original review can be found here.

2. The Phoenix Foundation – Give Up Your Dreams

I reckon The Phoenix Foundation might just about be the best band in New Zealand right now. And I'm not saying that just because they're regular neighbourhood guys from just down the road; the band's output across more than a decade speaks for itself, and album number six, Give Up Your Dreams, is arguably the best work yet. With its capacity for musical surprises and a more than generous sprinkling of lyrical brilliance, it certainly appeals as the band's most consistent full-length effort. From the psych-rock of opener 'Mountain' to the electro-pop textures and harmonies of closer 'Myth', and everything in between, The Phoenix Foundation effortlessly conjure up a masterclass in state-of-the-art pop on GUYD. While it’s tempting to single out the bouncy hooks of 'Bob Lennon John Dylan', or the title track itself as highpoints, no single track really stands out ahead of the rest, and it’s the sheer variety on offer that ultimately leaves the longest lasting impression. A career high for the band.

1. Of Monsters And Men – Beneath The Skin

I’m not sure whether I should feel guilt pangs for loving Of Monsters And Men as much as I do. But, just quietly, sometimes I do feel that way. I have form for this sort of thing. Back in 2012, the band’s excellent debut, My Head Is An Animal, also featured highly (number 2) on the blog’s end-of-year album wrap. There’s just something so damned irresistible about Of Monsters And Men. Is it still too soon to call them Iceland’s best pop export since Bjork’s imperious Sugarcubes? There’s a strong argument to be made there, it has to be said. If the debut was all about embracing childlike magic and feelgood triggers, and I think it was, then 2015’s Beneath The Skin is a far more adult and grown-up affair. As an album it’s altogether an earthier, more grounded, inward-looking work. But being a little darker lyrically, and unafraid to broach some of life’s more existential questions, just means the band’s music is all the broader in appeal this time out. Thankfully, none of the quirk or charm of previous work was lost in the process of giving this stuff a more introspective or serious hue. For the absence of any doubt, check out ‘Crystals’, ‘Empire’, ‘I of the Storm’, and ‘Wolves Without Teeth’. Guilty pleasures be damned, I can’t wait for album number three already.

Honourable mentions:

The Orb’s Moonbuilding 2703 AD, a four-track epic spanning some 52 minutes, making it rather reminiscent of the now archaic Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld. Without being quite as good as that particular masterpiece.

Leftfield’s Alternative Light Source, which was effectively Neil Barnes and a whole list of collaborators making Leftfield’s first set of new and original material this century. I especially enjoyed the contribution of James Williamson (Sleaford Mods) on the mildly amusing but nonetheless slightly disturbing ‘Head and Shoulders’.

St Germain’s “comeback” work St Germain, a self-titled third album for French producer Ludovic Navarre. While this one was not quite in the same league as its predecessor, Tourist (2000), I thought it was a wonderful exercise in exploring the concept of rhythm, specifically as it relates to Africa and naturally, the blues. Put like that, it might also have been about the meaning of life …

Oxford band Foals released What Went Down mid-year and for a long time it was a stick-on certainty to make this list. But as the year wore on, the more I listened to it, the more bored I became. A decent collection of songs, just lacking one special element … even if I’m not entirely sure what that element was. I preferred 2013’s Holy Fire, but still love Foals, and this one possibly suffered from me becoming overly familiar with it a little too quickly.

Finally, Jamie xx’s In Colour was hailed everywhere else, and while I liked the vast majority of it, the stuff I didn’t like – and I include the big “hit” ‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)’ in that – really put me off. When he’s good, he’s great. When he’s not, he’s … well, not. In Colour was, for me, despite all of the bouquets, a patchwork album. But still worthy of an honourable mention.

Biggest disappointment of 2015: The Pop Group’s Citizen Zombie. A 35-year wait. For that? Really? I expected more from Mark Stewart. Because I know what he’s really capable of. But then, that’s easy for me to say. I’m not a once angry young man who has grown old. I’m a once happy (and extremely handsome!) young man who has grown angry.

Was there also a Prince album I could get my knickers knotted over? I think there might have been. It’ll be the one in the recycle bin.

Best reissue: Paul Hardcastle’s 30th anniversary edition of ‘19’. You probably knew that was coming. So many different versions, so many of them truly epic. Seemingly more relevant today than it was back in 1985.

Best live album: The abbreviated version of Live at Carnegie Hall from Ryan Adams (not the sprawling three-album set), which set me up nicely for seeing Adams live at Wellington’s Opera House in July. It was my first time seeing him and he was truly impressive.

Best gig: I’m tempted to say Ryan Adams, but Fleetwood Mac in Auckland was pretty special. The swirling wind and monsoon conditions made it difficult at times, but boy oh boy did it up the drama quotient tenfold. I’ll never forget Stevie Nicks taking ‘Gold Dust Woman’ somewhere very special indeed, just as the heavens opened one last time. It was a thoroughly mental but very memorable 24-hour blast getting up there and back.

Just quickly, another thing on Fleetwood Mac: I couldn’t include the three-disc Rumours deluxe box in the best reissues because it was released as far back as 2013. But it was new to me this year and quite special in its own right. Aside from the additional disc of alternative takes and demos, there’s live tracks from the band’s 1977 World tour – which somehow seemed especially poignant and timely.

So that more or less wraps things up, and puts 2015 where it belongs – in a big fuck-off box. And ties the bow. I’m reaching up and placing it on the shelf beside the others right now. Thanks for reading. You had the easy bit. I think.


Friday, February 5, 2016

Boogie Wonderland

I was recently asked by my son Quinn if I could compile an Earth Wind & Fire playlist for him. While on the surface that might seem like a perfectly normal request, he’s only 12, and I was more than a little (shocked and) amused that he even knew who Earth Wind & Fire was. Let alone be keen to fill his device with music by a band from a bygone era. But then I realised how he became aware of Earth Wind & Fire; there’s a scene from the movie The Intouchables where our hero – played by Omar Sy – enthrals an otherwise staid group of party-goers with some great dance moves against the backdrop of Earth Wind & Fire’s epic ‘Boogie Wonderland’.

Clearly it was this moment that captured Quinn’s imagination, and made Earth Wind & Fire de rigueur in his otherwise very limited post-millennium pop culture world. I realise there are other clips of the band I could conjure up for purposes of this post, but for me (and Quinn, obviously) this scene sums up perfectly everything that was great about Earth Wind & Fire’s music while the band was in its late Seventies/early Eighties pomp. What a great band they were, and this exciting track in particular just goes to prove how cross-generational disco music can be when done well.

R.I.P Maurice White