New Releases April 08

What's going on? There is an avalanche of great new releases at the moment. In fact, there are too many to cover in one episode of Counting the Beat. Watch out for a second April round-up coming soon.

Dudley Benson won a Counting The Beat Alternatui for best male solo artist way back in 2006. This month he has just released his debut album, The Awakening. This is in much the same vein as his two earlier EPs, featuring his trained classical voice, choir and strings. So not your standard pop fare then. Part of what I like about this album is the sheer "what the hell!?" element. Probably not everyone's cup of tea but an accomplished work from an original and talented artist. Worth checking out are a video about the making of this unique album on the video page and a live performance on National Radio (stream).

Collapsing Cities (another Alternatui winner) are an altogether different prospect. Their debut album, Elixir Always, is all tight, guitar driven indie pop, kind of like an antipodean Franz Ferdinand. Like their earlier EP, of which two songs reappear on this album, just about every song has the hooks and drive to be single. There's not a dud here. Great lyrics too - highly autobiographical tales of life as a guy in his early twenties with a wry humorous touch - "if I'm still a telemarketer next year I think I'll end my life". There are a couple of clips on the video page and some free downloadable remixes of album tracks here.

The Winchesters are one of a crop of new bands that seem to be highly influenced by the new indie blues sound of bands like The White Stripes and The Black Keys. And there's nothing wrong with that. Their self titled EP features four infectious fast paced guitar driven numbers. A standout is opening track 'Down in Huntly'. I'm a big fan of songs that feature New Zealand place names. As a blog only bonus you will find links below to download two Counting The Beat placename specials below - I've Been Everywhere and I've Been Everywhere and Back

Concluding this new releases round up is An Emerald City, yet another another Alternatui winner (best instrumental 2007). An Emerald City play moody instrumental pieces that aren't a million miles from Aussie band The Dirty Three, but with an Eastern influence. The band have just released a four track self titled EP that includes the track 'Qing Song' that will be well known to bFM listeners along with two newies, 'A Question' and 'Mr Finn'. This band have been receiving good reviews for their live performances and a heap of student radio airplay for a couple of years. It's good that they finally have something out.

Download the Counting The Beat - New Releases April 08 Podcast

Blog Only Bonus: Counting The Beat Placename Specials

Download Counting The Beat - I've Been Everywhere

Download Counting The Beat - I've Been Everywhere And Back


Record Store Day

On April 19 independent record stores across the USA are marking Record Store Day. The purpose is to highlight and celebrate the role independent record stores play in promoting and providing an outlet for the music that your supermarket, chain store or Warehouse doesn't stock. These stores are under threat world wide. In Auckland probably more record stores have closed in the last ten years than remain open. The result isn't just a decline in convenience. When small and specialist record stores disappear there is an impact on the kind of music that can be made, distributed and purchased. Chain stores just don't stock music from outside of the mainstream, their focus is on the dollar. While the people who run really good independent stores definitely want to make a buck they are also music fans and that makes all the difference.

One of the greatest record shops I've ever known was Crawlspace Records on K Road in Auckland. Focussing primarily on the punk / alternative end of the musical spectrum Crawlspace was well stocked and the staff were incredibly knowledgeable. I love it when you can discuss music with the person behind the counter. The fact that you can't do that in Real Groovy is the factor that means that store is not nearly as good as it could be, despite the huge range. I would go into Crawlspace and Stu would recommend stuff that had come in, because he knew my tastes and interests. Brilliant.

Crawlspace took love of the music to a new level. In addition to a shop there was a record label. They released material (mainly on vinyl)by up and coming New Zealand bands like Jakob, re-releases of lost classics like The Victor Dimisch Band's 'Native Waiter' and provided an outlet for people like Chris Heazlewood of King Loser to make excursions from their musical day jobs. Then there was the Artist Series, extremely limited run releases of experimental or "peripheral" NZ music pressed on 8" lathe cut plastic records known as Geraldine Pressings. These releases were always challenging, sometimes extraordinary. Take for example The Pointsman, a group that featured another shop staff member, Gonzo. While not to everyone's taste the eerie sound of a pickup being scraped over a balloon, accompanied by squalls of guitar feedback and drone released in a limited run of 25 is testament to a passion for art over economics. (Some of the Artist Series were collected on the CD compilations Fit for Kings and Fit for Kings 2)

I was genuinely upset when Crawlspace closed. I couldn't just go to another store and buy what I wanted there - it was actually the end of being able to access that music at all. While I have never found another record shop like it there are others that rate a mention, in particular Galaxy Records in Christchurch and Slow Boat Records in Wellington. In fact, to mark Record Store Day, Slow Boat are hosting an in-store performance by Samuel Flynn Scott.

I would be interested in hearing your record store stories and recommendations. Just click on comments below.

Download the Counting The Beat - Record Store Day Podcast


Like an illuminated ping-pong ball, that's the only way I can describe it.

In late 1978 / early 1979 there were a series of sighting of mysterious moving lights over the Kaikoura Range that many believed were extra-terrestrial craft. However, unlike many flying saucer sightings, these unexplained objects were seen by credible witnesses and were caught on film by a TV crew. There were even unexplained radar readings that coincided with their appearance. The event caught the imagination of the country and the world (you can see an American news report on the sightings here).

The Kaikoura lights were behind the title of the 1991 Flying Nun compilation Pink Flying Saucers Over the Southern Alps and 28 years after the event The Mysterious Tape Man recorded a track, 'Kaikoura U.F.O.' on his EP The Tape Man Goes to Outer Space.

The Kaikoura "U.F.O.s" were also the subject of the A-side of a single released by Napier band Five Year Mission in 1985. This outfit were as influenced by Sci-Fi TV as they were by punk and sometimes played live in Star Trek uniforms. Both sides of the single can be downloaded at the NZ Punk Archive.

Another sci-fi obsessed band were 1990's Gisborne group TK 421. They're one of those bands that seems lost to history with nothing about them at all available on the net. I remember seeing them play live once. When I requested a song from the EP they stopped and demanded to know how I knew their songs. They couldn't actually believe someone would buy their EP, "Crappy", which included both the track 'U.F.O.' included on the podcast and, probably their best song, 'Godzilla vs Tokyo'.

The podcast concludes with a track from one of my favourite bands of all-time, The 3-Ds. It is, of course 'Outer Space' (clip available on the video page).

Download the Counting The Beat - U.F.O. Podcast