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