Wishing You A Counting The Beat Kiwi Christmas

Te Harinui is an NZ penned Christmas song by Willow Macky about New Zealand's first Christmas church service, performed by Samuel Marsden in 1814. It's commonly performed in schools and at kiwi Christmas carol functions but I'm particularly keen on the instrumental version performed by The Hollow Grinders, a surf guitar band from the landlocked city of Hamilton. Visit their website and you'll also find a surf guitar version of 'When A Child Is Born'.
Hollow Grinders website

If you can track them down there are a couple of great out-of-print NZ Christmas compilations that came out around the turn of the century. Christmas On The Rocks was released in 2001 and features the likes of The Hollow Grinders, Shaft and Mary. A couple of years earlier Christmas in the Summertime gathered 20 Christmas tunes including covers of popular carols by the likes of Sommerset and The Spelling Mistakes and originals like the title track by The Brunettes.

Like Te Harinui, 'Sticky Beak The Kiwi' is a truly kiwi Christmas Carol. Sticky Beak informs Santa that rather than Rudolf pulling the sleigh it is he who will perform the honours in the southern hemisphere. The classic version of this song was performed by Julie Nelson on Kiwi Records in 1962. You can find it on a collection of New Zealand children's stories and songs, Don Lindens Children's Favourites Vol. 5

Download the Counting The Beat - Kiwi Christmas podcast


Music Alliance project

This month Counting The Beat is venturing into new territory - joining an international initiative, the Music Alliance Project. On a monthly basis music bloggers from around the globe select a track from their own country which is then posted collectively and simultaneously on those blogs - giving each nation's track international exposure. For the inaugural Counting The Beat contribution to this project we are proud to present 'Red Panda Blues' by Bearcat.

AMERICA – I Guess I’m Floating http://iguessimfloating.blogspot.com/
Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele – 26 Miles http://www.myspace.com/dentmay
Mississippi-based Dent May has been recording in various southern states since his formative years in high school. After going to college and refining his sound, he emerged with a new act that made use of his self-proclaimed magnificent ukulele. His pleasant pop arrangements, strong vocals and doo-wop-like vocal harmonies will appeal to anyone hoping to hear some happy music. His debut album is due out in February via Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks label. Never underestimate the ukulele.

ARGENTINA – Zonaindie http://zonaindie.com/
Banda de Turistas – Todo Mío El Otoño http://www.myspace.com/bandadeturistas
Mágico Corazón Radiofónico is the first album by Banda de Turistas and it turned out to be one of the biggest surprises of the year. With Mario Caldato Jr. (Beastie Boys) in charge of the mixing, this song reprises the beat sound of ancient Argentine rock bands like Los Gatos.

AUSTRALIA – Who The Bloody Hell Are They? http://whothehell.net/
The Philadelphia Grand Jury – Going To The Casino (Tomorrow Night) http://www.myspace.com/philadelphiagrandjury
Three long-time Sydney musicians start the funnest band to come out of the city in the past year. You might have known them in previous lives as one part Berkfinger, two parts The Sweats. Combined, they channel an updated retro rock style that somehow manages to both pay homage to Elvis and sound incredibly cool. Not an easy feat, so respect where it is due.

BRAZIL – Meio Desligado http://www.meiodesligado.com/
Macaco Bong – Bananas For You All http://www.myspace.com/macacobong
Macaco Bong is an instrumental trio from Cuiabá, considered one of the best live acts in the country. They sound like an original mix of post-rock, alternative metal and free jazz. Their guitarist doesn’t use any pedals or effects, playing his Fender online with overdrive from the amps he uses. The band is part of Espaço Cubo, a collective that works with culture and its social aspects, starting a revolution from the underground.

CANADA – I(Heart)Music http://www.iheartmusic.net/serendipity/
Black Hat Brigade – Swords http://www.myspace.com/blackhatbrigade
Their hiccupped vocals and apocalyptic-sounding music makes bringing up Wolf Parade almost inevitable, but Black Hat Brigade make a pretty convincing argument with their self-titled EP – and particularly with Swords – that they don’t necessarily come off any the worse in the comparison.

CHILE – Super 45 http://super45.cl/seccion/blog/
Fredi Michel – Enganamí (Comeme Remix II) http://www.myspace.com/fredimichel
One of the weirdest and most original bands from Santiago, Fredi Michel are a mix between cumbia, dub and avant pop (via Broadcast). Even though they’ve been playing for years they have only recorded a few songs and some of their friends have made some remixes, such as the one featured here. Fredi Michel have announced they will finally release their debut album next year.

DENMARK – Pastries, Peppers And Canals... http://danishmusic.blogspot.com/
Oliver North Boy Choir – Tonight http://www.myspace.com/olivernorthboychoir
Oliver North Boy Choir are the kind of band that Denmark does spectacularly well. Signed to Danish uber-indie label Crunchy Frog, Camilla Florentz, Mikkel Max Hansen and Ivan Petersen release pieces of ethereal beauty via download only. Oh, and they don’t play live either.

ENGLAND – The Daily Growl http://thedailygrowl.co.uk/
Jay Jay Pistolet – Golden Age http://www.myspace.com/jayjaypistolet
You may not call it a ‘scene’, but there's only one degree of separation between many of London's young bands and artists. Jay Jay Pistolet, friend of Mumford & Sons, Derek Meins and no doubt plenty others, is no exception. Not that this is important. Let JJP, who often comes across as a young English version of M Ward, be judged for himself.

GERMANY – Blogpartei http://www.blogpartei.de/
Mio Myo – Switch http://www.myspace.com/miscymusic
Switch is the latest single of the Nuremberg-based quad Mio Myo. It can be seen as a description of their sound – a bit ghosty and spheric, a diversity of electronic and analog instruments, and a voice reminiscent of Thom Yorke. Their songs always deserve a second hearing.

ICELAND – I Love Icelandic Music http://icelandicmusic.blogspot.com/
VickyAlien http://www.myspace.com/vickypollardmusic
Vicky, previously called Vicky Pollard (named after the Little Britain character), is one of the coolest new Icelandic rock bands. The band started in November 2006 when they accidentally got together and started jamming in their hometown Hafnarfjörður. They produce a sort of poppy metal or heavy pop. In 2008, these four girls and male drummer recorded their debut album Pull Hard, which was released on the Töfrahellirinn label in October. http://www.fileden.com/files/2008/7/19/2009830/Vicky%20-%20Alien.mp3

IRELAND – Nialler9 http://www.nialler9.com/blog/
Sunken Foal – On Platinum Rays http://www.myspace.com/wesunkthefoal
The brilliantly titled Sunken Foal (think about it...) is also known as Dunk Murphy of Ambulance. After an appearance on BBC Radio 1’s Mary Ann Hobbs, his debut Fallen Arches has just been released on Planet Mu. The album is a textural, ambient, electronic-acoustic and, most of all, beguiling release of leftfield sounds.

ITALY – Polaroid http://polaroid.blogspot.com/
Scarlets – Every Waterloo http://www.myspace.com/wearescarlets
Young, talented and stylish, Scarlets play nervous and tight songs heavily influenced by new wave. They’ve just released an EP on Angle Records full of love for The Smiths, The Jam and the sharpest Brit sound. They’re definitely a name to keep an eye on in the coming months.

NEW ZEALAND – Counting The Beat http://countingthebeat.blogspot.com/
Bearcat – Red Panda Blues http://www.myspace.com/bearcatbearcat
Bearcat are one of a bunch of new New Zealand bands dabbling in folk influenced indie-pop. Apparently Bearcat is a literal translation of the Latin word for panda, and as well as naming themselves after the endangered mammal, the band have chosen to make pandas the subject of many of their songs too. Bearcat avoid the danger of this resulting in one-line-joke novelty songs by writing catchy and memorable tunes that have every chance of survival.

NORWAY – Eardrums http://eardrumsmusic.com/
The Little Hands Of Asphalt – The Future http://www.myspace.com/thelittlehandsofasphalt
The Little Hands Of Asphalt is the solo project of Sjur Lyseid, the singer in the Norwegian indie-pop band Monzano. As TLHOA, he makes warm, sensitive folk-inspired songs, often performed with an acoustic guitar as the main instrument. Sjur Lyseid is a great storyteller and his lyrics are always worth listening to. The song we have for you is a Music Alliance Pact exclusive, taken from his forthcoming debut album Leap Years which will be released in March 2009.

PERU – SoTB http://sideoftheblog.blogspot.com/
Pelo Madueño – Es Hora http://www.myspace.com/pelomusic
After his successful debut album, Ciudad Naufragio, Pelo Madueño returned this year with No Te Salves, an intimate album full of emotions. Based in Spain, Pelo shines as a songwriter and gives us a real insight into the independent scene.

PORTUGAL – Posso Ouvir Um Disco? http://possoouvirumdisco.blogspot.com/
Nuno Rancho – Not For Sale http://www.myspace.com/nunorancho
Unready Demo is Nuno Rancho’s first solo work and you can download the other tracks on the EP for free via a link on his MySpace. In 2002, he started playing music in a band called Wheelchair and two years later he formed Kyoto. Today, besides Kyoto, Nuno Rancho still finds time to play and write for TiMaria, an electro-pop trio which has a completely different sound from his other work.

SCOTLAND – The Pop Cop http://thepopcop.blogspot.com/
Dotjr – More Than You Know http://www.myspace.com/dotjrmusic
The Pop Cop only ‘discovered’ Dotjr last week and we were so bowled over there was no choice but to fast-track him into this month’s Music Alliance Pact. Dotjr (pronounced dot-jay-are) is the solo project of James Reeves, a 21-year-old native of the Isle of Lewis, and his joyous, soaring music has the kind of ambitious pop sound that radio DJs fall over themselves to play. More Than You Know is epic, swooning and Christmassy. Pretty much perfect then.

SINGAPORE – I’m Waking Up To... http://wakingupto.wordpress.com/
Leeson – Some Girls http://www.myspace.com/leesonsg
Leeson are a five-piece indie-pop band from Singapore who play a revelling cocktail of poppy, dancey tunes that will have your feet tapping and singing along to their infectious melodies.

SOUTH KOREA – Indieful ROK http://indiefulrok.blogspot.com/
The Black Skirts – Dog http://www.myspace.com/blackskirts
The Black Skirts is the name used by Castel Prayon and his live band when climbing the digital music charts of Korea. In November the band's first album, 201, was released. The first song up for promotion was Like Me and people soon heeded the title’s request. For somebody who usually isn't too keen on being poppy, Castel Prayon sure knew what he was doing when making those songs, and Dog is an excellent example of that.

SPAIN – El Blog De La Nadadora http://lanadadora.blogspot.com/
Elurretan – Momo Alper Bat Da http://www.myspace.com/elurretan
Richar and Mikel are from Euskadi and sing in Euskera, their own language. Their songs are inspired by The Beach Boys, Burt Bacharach, Jonathan Richman, Mikel Laboa and C86. You can download their last album, Momo Eta Beste Izaki Batzu, from their website (http://www.elurretan.com). Elurretan love music and want to share their songs with everyone who likes them. Is it possible? I think so.

SWEDEN – Swedesplease http://www.swedesplease.net/
Francis – Bad To The Bone http://www.myspace.com/francisishere
Francis take the strange blues of The Tallest Man On Earth and add a cabaret atmosphere. Debut single Bad To The Bone sounds like a transgender version of Stevie Ray Vaughn if he/she worked in a travelling eastern European circus and was channelling Tom Waits.

To download all 21 songs in one file click here:


New Releases Dec 08

This episode is my final round-up of new and upcoming releases for 2008.

First up is Bill Direen, long regarded as as an important and influential, if not somewhat underground, figure in the New Zealand music scene. He's probably best known for his 1980's classic, 'Alligator Song'. However, whenever he reappears on either record or the stage he receives rapturous acclaim from his loyal fanbase. Direen has just released a new album with the Bilders, his first with the band for over 20 years, on Powertool Records. Chrysanthemum Storm is from the more straight-forward indie rock end of the Bill Direen spectrum, and stands up well against his back catalogue. Direen also has a collection of songs out called Songs for Mickey. They were written to accompany a stage show on the life of Michael Joseph Savage. For newcomers to Direen I would recommend giving that set a swerve and heading for Chrysanthemum Storm.

Video for Chrysanthemum Storm track 'Rosko Votes Right' on video page
Interview with Russell Brown on Public Address Radio

National Radio interview with Direen and members of the Bilders

Dear Time's Waste is the musical project of Claire Duncan. She is has been out and about on the live scene, including support slots for Cut Off Your Hands, some of whom sometimes play with her live. Dear Time's Waste will release an EP early next year, but in the meantime their are two songs doing the rounds. Claire's vocals are laid back and somewhat melancholic, her voice reminds me a bit of American Laura Veirs. On Clandestine, which is on the podcast and has also received some radio play from discerning stations, she is backed by layers of chiming guitars. Room For Rent, available on her myspace page is a bit more murky, reminding me of My Bloody Valentine. I'm looking forward to that EP.

When I first heard of Yule I thought I was going to be hearing Christmas songs, but luckily the eight tracks of his debut release Aaaarrrggh!!! give that genre a miss, although the collection is really diverse, ranging from indie-folk to post-punk guitar crunch, with some electronic sounds, and a light-hearted ukulele ditty about eating vegetables thrown in. Aaaarrrggh!!! has been described as being all over the place, but that's a good thing and in that way this EP sits nicely alongside another eclectic local release from earlier in the year from The New Telepathics. Aaaarrrggh!!! is available from Amplifier.
Lumiere Reader interview and profile

Onanon are a Dunedin band striving to uphold that city's fine tradition of 80s and 90s alternative guitar bands - you know the likes of The 3ds, The Clean and all who followed in their wake. Together since 2001 they have released an album and a few EPs and are now releasing a second album titled Home Baking which delivers more raw guitar mayhem and catchy tunes and melodies. The album has also been released in a limited edition vinyl pressing with vary nice artwork that differs from the CD (which you also get if you buy the record).
Onanon Youtube channel
Older Onanon videos

Finally, The Mantarays, an instrumental three piece from Wellington, who on their debut, self-titled EP, deliver groovy goodness a la Booker T and The MGs, with some Bo Diddley and Latin vibes thrown in. A great summer party record from former members of The Black Seeds, The Chandeliers and Six Volts. Highly recommended.

Download the Counting The Beat - New Releases Dec 08 podcast


Phoenix Foundation Alumni

The Phoenix Foundation are one of the country's most acclaimed bands, although that hasn't necessarily translated into sales or awards. At the heart of their success is the fact that the band is made up of a bunch of incredibly talented songwriters and musicians. The guys from the Phoenix Foundation are bursting with songs, so much so that no fewer than four solo albums have emerged this year from band members.

The latest solo Phoenix alumni album is Vesuvius from Luke Buda, his third if you count the collection of demos, the C- Sides. Recorded over a much shorter period than it's predecessor Special Suprise, this is a more cohesive album. He worked with Craig Terris and Tom Watson of Cassette, and the country tendencies of that band (also present in early Phoenix Foundation material) seep through into Vesuvius but without overwhelming the strong vein of clever indie-pop that we're used to from Buda's contributions to the Phoenix Foundation. Video for 'Imminent Desire', the first single from the new album is on the video page. Also check out a live performance on National Radio (stream).

Many of the songs on Vesuvius would sit comfortably on a Phoenix Foundation album, and the same is true of the songs on Straight Answer Machine, the solo album released by Samuel Flynn Scott earlier in the year. There's a warm relaxed playfulness to this album that results in songs that manage to both suprise and seem familiar at the same time. It's well worth while checking out this and Flynn's earlier solo album The Hunt Brings Us Life - there's a video for 'Giving Up Is My New Morning Sun' on the video page. Worth a listen as well is great National Radio session (stream) with Lawrence Arabia and Craig Terris of Cassette.

Friendly Barnacle is the band headed by Phoenix Foundation bass player Warner Emery. Around the middle of the year Emery released The Tides, a pleasant, if not groundbeaking, album that will be welcomed by any Phoenix Foundation fan, or, for that matter, fans of mid 8os Flying Nun pop or those just digging the Wellington indie scene. (National Radio live performance - stream)

Conrad Wedde is the other Phoenix Foundationer to release an album this year as T.C. Wedde. Bronze is an album of mostly instrumental electronic music with a touch of guitar. Some of the pieces feel like interesting musical doodles, but others stand up as songs and point to the importance of Wedde's contribution to the overall soundscape of The Phoenix Foundation.

While we await a fourth album from the Phoenix Foundation there are plenty of musical goodies in their back catalogue and in this collection of solo recordings.

Download the Counting The Beat - Phoenix Foundation Alumni podcast


2008 Alternatuis

It's that time you've all been waiting for - the 3rd annual Counting The Beat Alternatuis. The Alternatuis, as you can probably discern from the title are our alternative to the mainstream NZ music awards. They differ in many ways -firstly the process is completely subjective - there is no attempt made to have a representative or democratic selection of winners. Secondly, the award categories change from year to year - it's more a case of choosing acts and releases we like and fitting the categories around them. And thirdly, there are no trophies and there is no material gain for the winners - they simply get to bask in the glory of being selected as the very best by Counting The Beat.

Single Of The Year
My criteria for this award isn't necessarily a song that gets released as a single, after all what does that mean these days, but a song that reaches out and grabs you, sticks in your head and is undeniably catchy. In May this year Real groove magazine issued a CD of up and coming kiwi acts to mark NZ Music Month. For weeks after I drove everyone in my house made playing one song again and again, and I still love it now. Monkey Eats Bananas by Princess Chelsea is silly but incredibly compelling. Xylophone, electric piano, a nonsense lyric that doesn't kick in until two thirds of the way through the song, all atop a great rolling bass line. Brilliant.

Band Of The Year
The Broken Heartbreakers are a fantastic band. Their songwriting goes from strength to strength, they're are a great live act and they're always out playing. They have a real sense of how to make each show seem special, they connect and care about their fans. And this year they released an outstanding self-titled album of touching and tender country-folk songs. I've long been a fan but this year is the year that The Broken Heartbreakers have really hit their stride. (Listen to a National Radio live session - stream, or check out the clip of them performing live on TV on the video page)

Newcomers Of The Year
The Sing Songs have made life hard for themselves by choosing a name that makes it impossible to google them, but if they can overcome that they should have a great future. They write catchy acoustic indie-pop tunes that combine simple but memorable melodies with clever leftfield lyrics about things like HTML, pamphlet delivery and the Olympics. Fans of The Brunettes should check this band out. The Sing Songs have gone straight from Myspace to the Waiheke Radio playlist. Hopefully there will be a CD release soon so more people can hear them too. ( The video for their song Pamphlet Baby is on the video page and there's a good profile on Einstein Music Journal)

Rock Release Of The Year
There is not a dud moment of Elixir Always, the debut album from Collapsing Cities. Last year they picked up the Single Of The Year Alternatui, and then this year they released this album on which every song could stand up as a single. Collapsing Cities write great infectious post-punk-pop-dance tunes perfect for dancing but check the lyrics - funny self deferential tales of young adult life - "if I'm still a telemarketer next year I think I'll end my life". This is one of my favourite albums to take along when I've got a long drive, it lifts my energy every time. (Check the clip on the video page and their Myspace remix page for free downloads)

Album Of The Year
It may make for disturbing listening but Renee-Louise Carafice's album Tells You To Fight is a stunning and unique album. By now, surely everyone knows that the songs on the album were her reaction to a period of hospitalisation for depression. On the basis of the early demos she went on to win a major cash prize and then produced this album in the USA. Carafice avoids the trap of producing a bunch of overwrought solo recordings that the subject matter may have suggested. The arrangements and production and Carafice's unique voice result in songs that are dramatic in their content and delivery. This stands out as a great NZ album. (Check the clip on the video page, or take a listen to a live session recorded for National Radio - stream)

So that's it for another year. These are the third Alternatuis and each year we discuss the need to up the ante and the profile of the awards. This year the launch of Waiheke Radio got in the way out for next year when big things will happen -maybe.

Download the Counting The Beat - 2008 Alternatuis podcast

2007 Alternatuis

2006 Alternatuis



City of Sails, the Queen City, the Big Smoke, latte supping drain on the nation, call it what you will but everyone in the country has some kind of opinion on Auckland. And some of our musicians have expressed this in song, ranging from odes to the city's suburbs to ferocious attacks on the city's decay with the odd bit of strangeness in between. Here's a very localised version of one of my favourite Counting the Beat topics - a Place Name Special.

Matthew Bannister is, of course, best known for his time in Sneaky Feelings, the Beatles influences odd one out of the early Flying Nun scene ( I highly recommend his book on this period, Positively George Street ). He went on to form Dribbling Darts of Love, he's dabbled with a solo career and now he's released an album with his band The Weather. His songs have always had a melancholic touch and this album continues in that vein. It's full of songs about suburban life including odes to the area that was his home during much of the writing of the album, 'Aroha Ave' in the suburb of 'Sandringham'.

Ska/punk band The Poisoners tackle a couple of big Auckland issues on their debut self-titled album, including the gentrification of 'Grey Lynn' and hold-ups of suburban shopping centres in 'Pt Chev Shops'. Their album is available through Amplifier.

Ponsonby wasn't always the well-heeled, wealthy area that it is now. In days gone by the gentrified villas of today were rental accomodation for low income earners, students and musicians. Years before they went to Australia and hit the big time with songs like 'April Sun in Cuba' and 'Rain' Dragon lived together in a Ponsonby house and they wrote about their time there in 'Rock'n'Roll Ponsonby'.

Just about every suburb of Auckland is name-checked in 'Auckland' a great satirical look at the city by The Moth, the name adopted by Tim Mahon for his 2003 album Music From A Lightbulb. Tim was once the bass-player in Blam Blam Blam. He has also played in The Plague, The Whizz Kids and Avant Garage. For the album Tim pulled in a bunch of musical colleagues form all of his past outfits to create something that didn't sound any the bands he had been in before. Music From A Lightbulb is a bit of an oddball album - it's big bold and satirical, a little bit left of centre, (a bit) jazzy and avant garde - it will probably appeal to fans of Six Volts and The Labcoats.

The Moth poke fun at Auckland, but others just plain don't like the place. Honourable mention needs to go to Alpha Plan who put a picture of the SkyTower on their 1997 album City of Bastards. But first to express distaste were The Androidss whose ' Auckland Tonight' has he chorus "I don't wanna be in Auckland tonight". The song can be found on the compilation Bigger Than Both Of Us and the video is a must-see, a night-time journey around central Auckland in 1981. You can see it on the video page.

Die! Die! Die! made the move from Dunedin to Auckland, but maybe they didn't like what they found when they got there. 'Auckland is Burning' is from the bands 2005 self titled E.P. and it's a fitting and ferocious way to close. There is a free download of a march 2008 concert from the band at Have You Heard, which includes another Auckland song, 'Britomart Sunset'.

Download the Counting The Beat - Auckland podcast


Free and Legal

You know, not all music downloading is stealing - and Radiohead aren't the only band to give away music for free.

Daytrotter is a fantastic American site based in Illinois site that records and posts sessions by upcoming and indie bands - their mission is to post "exclusive, re-worked, alternate versions of old songs and unreleased tracks by some of your favorite bands and by a lot of your next favorite bands". Earlier this year The Brunettes stopped by for a session and just recently The Ruby Suns recorded three songs including reworkings of early tracks and 'Kenya Dig It?' from the newalbum Sea Lion. The session also gives the opportunity to hear what the Ruby Suns sound like now that they are down to a two piece live unit. (Their is a video for the original song on the video page along with some great live clips recorded on the streets of Paris.)

Jet Jaguar is just one of the many electronic musical projects of Michael Upton from Wellington. On his site nonwrestler.com he has tracks available from Jet Jaguar, Malty Media, Montano, and Monkey Shuffle. Especially nice are four Jet Jaguar remixes of the Phoenix Foundation.

The Enright House have become a bit of a Counting the Beat favourite of late and they have just released two free online albums, one of remixes and collaborations, and the other - my current favourite of the two - a collection of acoustic versions of previously released songs. The best songs of The Enright House have a feeling of epic grandeur that is retained in both of these new releases despite the different treatments of the songs. The Enright House are associated with A Low Hum, a label with a track record of releaseing fine alternative and underground music from NZ, much of it for free. Check out their site for free downloadable EPs from Secret Knives, Mount Pleasant, and Red Steers. There are two The Enright House clips on the video page and also check out their National Radio live session (stream).

Download the Counting The Beat - Free and Legal podcast


Bad Politics Baby

The level of political support and funding for NZ music has been one of the successes of the last nine years of the Labour govt. While there are legitimate arguments that the NZ On Air model leads to a glut of sound-a-like commercial fare there has also been a huge surge in interest in NZ music, a dramatic increase in airplay and subsequently the kiwi music scene has become more sustainable for musicians and record labels alike.

Never-the-less, despite the current political support for music, very few contemporary kiwi musos are making songs about politicians. To find songs praising politicians we need to cast back into history. In the early 70s, Norman Kirk, the leader of the Labour Party was a very popular figure – so much so that when Ebony wrote a song about him, 'Big Norm', it became a minor hit. A decade and a half later Gerry Otimi and the Inventors School heralded another Labour leader in song with 'Kia Kaha David Lange'. Take a listen and it will be obvious why Gerry didn't share Ebony's success. You can hear the song on the Counting The Beat Nuclear Free podcast (mp3).

It's even rarer to have politicians themselves make records. National Party MP Marilyn Waring surprised many, especially those fromher own party, when she released a single in 1980. She was originally approached abour recording a single with punk band Proud Scum, a collaboration I wish she had seen through, but rejected that in favour of a cover of John Lennon's 'Working Class Hero'.

NZ music hasn't always had the political support it enjoys now. Marilyn Waring was part of a National government headed by the infamous PM, Rob Muldoon. In those days rock and pop records attracted a 40% sales tax, while opera and classical recordings were deemed to be cultural products which were tax exempt. Musicans and the music industry railed against the distiction to no avail. Dunedin band The Knobz took exception and recorded the tongue-in-cheek protest song 'Culture' featuring a Muldoon impersonator and a video clip filmed on the steps of the Beehive. (There's a ropey version of that clip on the video page)

Muldoon impersonations also featured on a satire record by Danny Faye in the mid 70s. One side features 'My Way' recorded in the style of Muldoon while the other is in the style of Labour leader Bill Rowling.

As we head toward the current election one of the (many) disappointing aspects of the campaign has been the lack of campaign songs. Where are the rousing anthems of political prowess and utopian vision? They are few and far between. National have commissioned a song from a New Zealand songwriter - the insipid 'Choose A Brighter Future'. Meanwhile Labour comissioned a song last year, 'A Better Way With Labour', which was written and recorded by none other than Chris Knox. Sadly it hasn't been blasting through prime time telly in the political broadcasts – you've got more chance of hearing Mr Knox on a bread ad. I don't know if Labour decided the song didn't fit the image or whether Knox couldn't come up with a decent rhyme for a new verse on trust (it's all about trust, you know) but you can hear the song here on Counting The Beat.

Download the Counting The Beat - Bad Politics Baby podcast


Shiny Radio

It's just over a year ago since a few of us got together and decided that Waiheke needed a community radio station. We had all been involved with the island's previous station, The Beach, which was owned by NZ broadcasting legend Barry Jenkin. But that had just collapsed. We naively thought we'd be on air within a few weeks but that wasn't to be. What followed was a year of hard work raising funds, battling with council bureaucracy, building a studio, borrowing and begging for equipment, training volunteers and more. We've been on air for a little while but this Labour Weekend Waiheke Radio has it's official launch.

To mark the occasion I've pulled together a few songs by NZ artists that focus one way or another on radio. I read somewhere once that a sure fire way to get a hit was to write a song that had radio in the title and chorus because it was bound to be popular with radio programmers. Well that didn't happen for any of these artists but it has guaranteed them airplay on Waiheke Radio and here on Counting The Beat.

SJD has a new album Dayglo Spectres just out, but on his critically acclaimed 2007 album Songs From A Dictaphone you'll find 'I Am The Radio', a jaunty song with a great groove that explores the idea of God listening and then singing through the radio. This song was one of a number on the Dictaphone album that brought together Sean James Donnelly's dance floor focused production and his developing melodic songwriting skill. By all accounts the new album continues in that direction which in my opinion is a good thing.

Following SJD is a song 'Transistor Radio' from Miriam Clancy's 2006 album, Lucky One. That album, on which Clancy brings an accomplished country-folk feel to the all-to-common female singer / songwriter gig made lots of best of year lists when it was released. Having gone to the States to ply her trade and returning to have a baby and play a handful of gigs, she is reported to be working on new material. 'Transistor Radio' is the tale of young woman hitting the road, leaving her life and love-gone-wrong behind, with only a shoulder bag and a transistor radio for company. No ipod for this girl! There's a live clip of Miriam performing this song on the video page and a live National Radio performance here (stream).

Early 80s Auckland ska outfit, The Newmatics, are best known for 'Riot Squad', a song about police thuggery at punk gigs that took on new resonance during the Springbok tour (that song features in an earlier episode - mp3). The Newmatics were part of the same scene as Blam Blam Blam and The Screaming MeeMees, melding the DYI aesthetic of the punk and Flying Nun scenes with a crowd pleasing horn driven sound that got the crowds jumping. 'Broadcast O.R.' is a more world-weary number from the group about the constant stream of depressing news about the state of society in the media and tuning into the top 40 just to forget it all. The song was released on a double 7" E.P. in 1981 but is also available on the 2003 compilation Riot Squad. the group reformed and played some gigs in 2002. There are clips of one of those shows on the video page. I also recommend you check out Simon Grigg's excellent site about Propellor Records and the NZ music scene in the eighties.

Horns also feature in 'Radio', an upbeat song from Geneva, a young 8 piece band who got a break in 2004 while still at school, doing well in the Rockquest, appearing on TV and winning the production of a video. They now have an EP out called The Word is Going Round. 'Radio' is a pretty infectious number with horns, crunchy guitar and lyrics about everything sounding the same on the radio and not hearing anything interesting - not a problem on Waiheke Radio.

Rounding things off is 'Shiny Radio', originally recorded as a promo for Dunedin student station Radio One by Jetty. The full (albiet short) song appeard on the bands 1998 album Soundtrax for Modern Heartbreak. That album is, in my opinion, an overlooked NZ music gem. Influenced by the likes of Pavement and Guided By Voices, who were influenced by The Clean and others in the Flying Nun stable, Jetty brought The Dunedin Sound back home half a generation later. The album, know going under the name Soundtracks for Modern Heartbreak has just been re-issued by Powertool Records - highly recommended.

Download the Counting The Beat - Shiny Radio podcast