The police are a surprisingly popular subject choice for musicians, albeit usually those at the punkier end of the spectrum. In the 1980s clashes between police and punks were not uncommon. It was the tactics of the special Auckland Task Squad team policing unit at one of their gigs that prompted The Newmatics to pen 'Riot Squad', a song that went on to have special poignancy during the 1981 Springbok rugby tour of New Zealand. The song was originally released on the Broadcast O.R. double 7" single and was later included in a retrospective collection of Newmatics material, Riot Squad where it was proceeded by a short piece incorporating an excerpt from Riot Squad with the sound of a police riot squad in action titled 'Cops 198111'.
Around the same time as The Newmatics tune a band called Riot 111 released a song of the same name. The song collaged English and Maori versions of the 'Ka mate' haka with the sound of the crowd roaring at protestors when they forced a test match cancellation during the Springbok tour. That song surprisingly reached the upper reaches of the singles charts, as did their second single 'Subversive Radicals' which reached number 19. Riot 111 continued witht he police theme on single 'Move to Riot' (featured on the podcast) and PR24, the name of the baton used by riot police. For more info on The Newmatics and Riot 111 check out the highly recommended blog Mysterex.
The Features, who are best known for their song 'City Scenes' which features on the AK79 compilation, were another band of the same era who made comment about the bullying attitude of the police on their song 'Police Wheels', a B-side to 'City Scenes'. The Features were a great post-punk band with rumbling bass and a guitar sound like shards of glass. They were blessed with the talented and innovative writing of Jed Towns, but also had a thing for performing Beatles covers. In recent times The Features have been back out and about on the live music scene and there are hopes that material recorded back in the day but never released may see the light of day.
It's not all in the past though. Twenty odd years on and Auckland ska punk band The Poisoners keep the traditions alive on their song Pt Chev Cops. And solo bearded folk/parodist Vorn gets stuck right into the cops on his cheeky number 'Get Better Work Stories' with lines like "There is no point calling the cops, they're too busy raping teenage girls". There is a great video for that song posted on the video page. Also featured on the podcast are Deja Voodoo with their take on seventies TV cop show themes, 'Funky Cop'.
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Regular followers of Counting The Beat will know that I'm not averse to slipping the odd country number into the mix. Liking country music kind of took me by surprise. A few years back I would sooner have poked my eyes out with a rusty fork than listen to anything with a twang. Something happened though and now there are country albums in my all-time top 10.
Every year the New Zealand country music community celebrates and recognises their best at the Gold Guitar Awards. However, just about every year the interesting and innovative is overlooked in favour of cliched, big hats and checked shirt country. Take, for example, 2007. A great, thoughtful, lyrically powerful self titled album by the Warren Love Band sadly, but predictably lost out to the Topp Twins whose album Flowergirls and Cowgirls actually came out in 2005.
This year, however, a song I actually like has taken an award at the Gold Guitars. Jess Chambers (pictured above) won APRA best country song with 'Stringing Me Along' which comes from The Woolshed Sessions album which Jess participated in along with the likes of Lee Prebble and Age Pryor. The Woolshed Sessions is a nice album with a laid-back folky feel that means it gets played on National Radio and enough members of the super-cool Wellington music scene to also get airtime on the bnet stations. Jess's self titled album with the firefly Orchestra is also a great listen and you can hear a live performance recorded for National Radio (stream). There's a video for 'Stringing Me Along' on the video page along with a couple of others by, or featuring, Jess Chambers.
Also featured on the podcast are a couple of other kiwi country favourites that won't turn your brain to mush. 'Already Broken' is the title track from a 1999 album by Wellington band Pit Pony, a vehicle for the songs of Steven Hinderwell. It's a good album with nice touches of mandolin, banjo and lap stell along with vocals from Catherine George and Steve Roche along with a guest spot from Shihad's Jon Toogood. You may still be able to pick up a copy at Slowboat Records in Wellington.
The Shot Band are another Wellington group but they play a more rocky bar-room brand of country. In fact their first E.P. was titled Songs About Drinking and Dying. The band also released a self titled album in 2005, but have gone quiet since proposing a tour in 2008 that didn't come off. There's a 2006 performance recorded by National Radio here (stream) and a clip for the opening track from that album, 'My Lord' on the video page.
To finish I've got a classic from 1974 - Dawn Garmson with her song 'New Zealand needs a Country Hall of Fame' - yodels and all.
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This month sees the seventh Counting The Beat contribution to an exciting international initiative, the Music Alliance Pact. 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. This month's Counting The Beat is pleased to be contributing 'Brother' from Lisa Crawley's second E.P. Hello, Goodbye and Everything Inbetween. I've also posted a live TV performance of the song on the video page.
NEW ZEALAND: Counting The Beat
Lisa Crawley – Brother
Lisa Crawley is a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter who stands out from the crowd because of her voice and the playful arrangements of her folk-pop songs. Brother, from her second independently released EP Hello, Goodbye And Everything Inbetween, would be great on the basis of its plinky-plonk piano alone, but it's the trombone that lifts it to another level.
AMERICA: I Guess I'm Floating
Janelle Monae – Sincerely, Jane
The name Janelle Monae might ring a bell - she has guested on several OutKast songs and recently signed to Diddy's Bad Boy label. After seeing her energetic performance at Bonnaroo a few days ago I can say that she'll be one to keep a close eye on. Even if Sincerely, Jane doesn't do much for you, check out some live clips on YouTube to get the whole picture.
Le Microkosmos – Es Un Hermoso Verano Lunar
Guillermo Beresñak and Pablo Retamero got together in January 2008 in Buenos Aires. From this union came Le Microkosmos, an electronic ensemble in constant search for new musical experiences with synths, programming, instruments, vocals and orchestral sampling. This quest led them to create their own cosmos from each sound, such as this acoustic-electronic ballad taken from their brand new album, Y Vas Donde Sonrisas Te Dan Esos Encapuchados De Un Mundo Nuevo.
AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
Dappled Cities – The Price
One of Australia's, if not the world's, most exciting indie-rock bands, Dappled Cities are back with their third album, Zounds. It was written and recorded after an extensive period of touring their previous offering Granddance, a classic album in the minds of many critics. The Price is a fantastic taster for old and new fans alike, worthy of immediate playlisting.
BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
Júlia Says – Cá
Júlia Says have just released their second independent EP, Menos é Mais ("Less Is More"), in which the duo go deep inside electronica with some strong influences of dance-rock. The name of the band was taken from a children's story and it's a thing that helps us to connect to the fragile melancholy and beauty of Cá.
Wildlife – Sea Dreamer
How awesome is this song? So much so that when I saw them perform it during a soundcheck at a show in Ottawa recently, everyone in the room just watched in stunned silence and then exploded in wild cheers when it was done. To put that in context, that kind of thing never happens. But Sea Dreamer, in all its pounding, pulsing, marching-gleefully-into-the-apocalypse glory, is amazing enough to be the exception.
CHILE: Super 45
Valentina Fel – Circo Podrido
Full of aggressive beats, explosive sampling and social protest lyrics, Valentina Fel is the most logical evolution of a riot girl - punk almost in the realm of grime, do-it-yourself attitude with dancehall as a commodity and flamenco-injected defiance. Her long-awaited upcoming debut -to be release in the next few months - promises to be a massive earthquake in the dancefloor that nobody could anticipate.
DENMARK: All Scandinavian
Vomit Supreme – Versus Love
A new project by Mattis Jakobsen and Malte Hill of Straight To Your Face, Rock Hard Power Spray guitarist Frederik Valentin and recently joined by bassist Karsten D. Johansen (Strawberry Slaughterhouse), Vomit Supreme have long been an All Scandinavian favorite. Punk aggression spoon with pop hooks and with the mighty Versus Love spearheading their campaign, world domination should be nigh.
ENGLAND: The Daily Growl
Fanfarlo – I'm A Pilot
I'm A Pilot, the opening track on Fanfarlo's debut album Reservoir, sets the scene for what's to follow. It's a rich, heady brew of heavily orchestrated indie-pop which at times even feels like it's pulling its punches. It's the sound of a young band comfortable in their own grandiosity and as Reservoir carefully unfolds, it's impossible not to be swept along. From now until July 4 you can download the album from the Fanfarlo website for just $1, so you've no excuse for not owning it.
TV OFF – Car Is On Fire
What a summer hit song! Cool and sexy! Singer Sara delivers delicious pop melodies over Markku's electro bits and sounds. This duo from Helsinki are putting the final touches to their debut album, but they have already gained attention around the world, playing in London and Tokyo. Soon TV OFF will take over the world.
Phoenix – 1901
For too long Phoenix have been overshadowed by Daft Punk and Air, but no more. Even though Phoenix are four albums into an increasingly fruitful career, 1901 is possibly the most immediate and loveable thing they've ever created. An anthem for indie kids, a dancefloor filler for disco dwellers. It's for everyone really.
High Voltage Humans – Laser Symphony (Catastrophy)
High Voltage Humans are a Munich-based electronic duo. The featured song is heavily energetic and balances guitar riffs with synth melodies sounding a bit like 80s space electro. It's a concrete four-to-the-floor flour-dust explosion.
ICELAND: I Love Icelandic Music
For A Minor Reflection – Óhljóð
For A Minor Reflection are a quartet from Reykjavík who play energetic, melodious, instrumental post-rock. They have earned comparisons to Explosions In The Sky and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Óhljóð, which means "discordant noise", is taken from their 2007 debut album Reistu Þig Við, Sólin Er Komin Á Loft... ("Rise and shine, the sun's up...") on Blippr.com. Guitarist Kjartan Holm's older brother Georg plays bass in Sigur Rós, whom they supported on tour last year.
Sleep Thieves – Osumi
Taken from It Was Only A Satellite, the debut EP from this Dublin three-piece, Osumi showcases the bleep-assisted electronic edge of their sound before diverting into heady post-rock guitar progressions, while singer Sorcha repeats a mantra atop like a prototype Natasha Khan. Their yearning indie-electronic-pop sound is reminiscent of Lali Puna, Broadcast and The Notwist.
My Awesome Mixtape – Me & The Washing Machine
I would have never expected to listen to an Italian band mix diverse sounds such as Anticon and The Postal Service, but when I heard My Awesome Mixtape I just had to change my mind. Infectious melodies and tight grooves, these young kids just seem to be unstoppable.
MEXICO: Club Fonograma
Los Amparito – Por Medio De La Lectura
Los Amparito is the mind-blowing, eccentric and absolutely sublime project of Carlos Pensina. He is relatively well known in Mexico's indie scene for his more electronic act Pepepe, but Los Amparito have enormous potential to break into international boundaries. This sound is like a distorted Mexican mirror of traditional music mashed with its own repetition, flourishing vocals and colorful sequences resulting in something between Animal Collective, Amparo Ochoa and El Guincho.
Firetop Mountain – How Can You Dance At A Time Like This?
Firetop Mountain are four boys and a girl from the Oslo area, who play indie-rock with a strong melodic focus. Just last week they released their debut album Indians Aren't Afraid Of Heights on their own label. Their music is sometimes powerful and energetic - songs you want to jump around to - and other times more laid-back and sensitive. Good songwriting all the way.
Mi Jardín Secreto – Yo No Quiero Bailar Esta Noche
Mi Jardín Secreto's debut album, La Ciencia Y El Arte De La Falsificación, contains 11 songs that flit between new wave, alternative rock and the sound of modern bands. The theme of the lyrics is a mixture of the warmth and coldness of the city of Lima, with characters who have adventures in a place and climate familiar to us all.
PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
:papercutz – A Secret Search
What started as Bruno Miguel's music project is now a trio with female vocalist Marcela Freitas and multi-instrumentalist Francisco Bernardo. After appearances on various international compilations :papercutz are now signed to Montreal's Apegenine label, who released their debut album Lylac in February. In April, they were winners of the 'off the beaten track' category in The People's Music Awards in London.
ROMANIA: Babylon Noise
Luna Amara – Floodmoses
Luna Amara have been around for almost 10 years, during which they've managed to create an image and a name for themselves in Romania. From mellow alternative to angry metal sounds, their music is powerful and never fails to deliver its message. Floodmoses is taken from their recently released third album Don't Let Your Dreams Fall Asleep.
SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop
The Seventeenth Century – Traffic
If Arcade Fire's Wake Up moved you to your core then get ready to fall in love with Traffic. It has that soaring choral majesty, that sprawling orchestration and The Seventeenth Century clearly possess ambitions that are no less lofty. Having had a listen to the young Glasgow band's forthcoming In The Place EP, we can say without hesitation that you're looking at the best new band in Scotland.
SINGAPORE: I'm Waking Up To...
Concave Scream – Fiction
We visit one of Singapore's finest indie bands of the 90s with Concave Scream. Fiction, taken from their third album Three, hints at the flavors of DJ Shadow, The Cure, U2 and Butler-era Suede. It is a fine tune that could sum up the entire record with its use of ethereal vocals, otherworldly chorus-effected guitar lines and a blistering rhythm section. These days, Concave Scream are pushing the envelope of their musical whimsicality by releasing an instrumental fifth album that can be found on their website.
SOUTH KOREA: Indieful ROK
The Plastic Day – I Miss Me Myself
Post-punk/grunge trio The Plastic Day released their first full-length album, 30 Seconds Between The Dreamer And The Realist, only last month but already they've gotten unusually high coverage in Korea-related English language media online. With an intense rock sound paired with English lyrics, there's no reason why they won't get even further. I Miss Me Myself might be one of the softer songs on the album, but it's one that instantly spawns an impulse to hit the repeat button.
Chuck Morgan – The Best Of You
I don't know if there's a term for the sound of Chuck Morgan. The last post I did on this Gothenburg-based troubadour tried to peg him as "romantic indie-pop". His new song, The Best Of You, continues that sound but adds even more electronic beeps and blips to the mix.
To download all 24 songs in one file click here.
It's time for a round-up of new and recent releases. This time I've got an eclectic collection ranging from lounge bar chic to drunken revelry to the hushed tones of a museum exhibition hall.
Julien Dyne is a musician with a strong pedigree. He sits behind the drum kit for both The Opensouls and Tyra and The Tornadoes and he has worked with the who's who of the New Zealand downbeat and soul community. And he's a multi-talented guy - that's one of his artworks above. Dyne has recently released his debut album (he has previously released a 12" E.P. ) titled Pins and Digits. It combines drums, programmed beats and soul inspired brass and guest vocals in an intriguing but laid back style that sounded great on my deck in the sun but would also be just right in a dimly lit lounge bar (Well, I imagine it would, I never go to those kind of places, so how would I know). There's an interview with Julien from NZ Musician Magazine here and a commentary from Julien about the album from National Radio here (stream).
The Benka Borodovsky Bordello Band take accordion, clarinet, flute, violin and electric guitar and create a whirling dervish, a wild good-time combination of klezmer, gypsy music and punk-rock energy. They're sound like they aspire to be an Eastern European version of The Pogues. Their 2008 E.P. included many traditional tunes but it's stand-out track was a very good original, 'The Dance of Death' so it's nice to hear more originals on debut album Polkapocalypse alongside five traditional tunes and two covers, including one of The Dead Kennedy's. The album is out now on Monkey Records. It makes me chuckle to think of all those cool indie kids on Auckland's K Rd, getting down to the accordion. There are a bunch of BBBB videos on the video page, a 2008 live performance from National Radio here (stream), and an interview with singer Ben Cragg on Plains FM here.
The Sonic Museum project is an interesting idea. Nine musical artists were commissioned to write and record pieces of music that were inspired by, and are intended to enhance the experience of, a particular section of Auckland War Memorial Museum. The artists involved include jazz musicians (Nathan Haines), sound artists (Rachel Shearer, Phil Dadson) and musicians more familiar to a mainstream, pop audience like Don McGlashan and Tiki Taane. The music is available to be listened to at the museum, or can be purchased for download from the Sonic Museum site. The pieces differ markedly, although all of the artists, perhaps reflecting the somber, serious tones museums tend to evoke, have opted for evocative, ambient soundscapes. I haven't had the chance to hear the music in the museum environment, but listening at home I was disappointed that all the artists had taken that approach. There's room for a song or two, perhaps telling one of the many stories that the museum exhibitions convey. Still, the idea of collaboration between institutions like museums and galleries and musicians is a good one. It's also great when these type of institutions are used as venues, like the Auckland War Memorial Museum, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Auckland Libraries, and I'm sure many others, have been. It's a great opportunity for a wider and different audience to experience live music and be exposed to new genres and artists.
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Image: The Forage by Julien Dyne, 2007, Oil on Canvas, City Art Rooms
Sam Hunt is arguably New Zealand's best known poet. Helped along by his irreverence, distinctive style and iconic delivery he's almost certainly the only living poet to have household name status. His talent as a poet is recognised across generations from the literati to the bloke at the pub. With his stovepipe trousers, open shirts and unruly long hair Hunt looks like a seventies rock star. In fact Hunt has been closely associated with the NZ music scene, he has often shared the bill with rock acts and on occasion has collaborated on musical projects, the most recent being Falling Debris, where his poems became the lyrics for music composed by David Kilgour.
For a long time I've been trying to hunt down Hunt's first musical foray. In 1972, following a number of double billings with rock group Mammal, the post and the band released an album together, Beware The Man. Nowadays the album goes for serious money on-line, and it's never been re-released. Thanks to Tony Backhouse, songwriter, guitarist and keyboardist with Mammal, I've finally managed to get hold of the songs, ripped from the vinyl to CD. Many of the pieces take Hunt's words and set them to music sung by the members of Mammal, others feature the poem being delivered by Hunt which is then followed by a musical interpretation. The most interesting however are those where the two come together and Hunt's delivery is set to music, as it does on 'Sandshoe Shuffle' and 'Con the Man and Melissa'.
An album of Hunt's poetry was released around 1980, but the next musical collaboration I've been able to track down came in 1999 when he appeared on The Warratahs album One of Two Things, released in 1999. Hunt contributed to two songs 'Fire Song' and 'Cape Turnagain'.
A year later Sam Hunt appeared on a CD tribute to another iconic New Zealand poem, James K. Baxter. The album, simply titled Baxter, featured musical interpretations of some of Baxter's best known poems. Hunt collaborated with contemporary composer Gareth Farr on 'The Ballad of Grady's Dream'. The finished piece isn't so much a song as the poem accompanied by a musical soundscape.
Then in 2001 Hunt released a single that has featured on a previous Counting The Beat episode called 'Your Body Has No Flaw'. The single came out on on Pagan Records and is now sadly our of print. At the time Hunt gave interviews where he spoke of recording a whole album, perhaps working with Pitch Black. Unfortunately this wasn't to be.
The new album with David Kilgour doesn't feature Hunt himself on the performances, a fact lamented by some critics. Instead his words are sung by Kilgour with a gentle, mostly acoustic musical accompaniment by Kilgour and his band The Heavy Eights that doesn't crowd out the poetry and will sound familiar to fans of Kilgour, amongst whom Sam Hunt ranks.
In the podcast you will songs from each of the Sam Hunt releases above. I've also put videos from Sam Hunt and David Kilgour on the video page and you can also check out a podcast of Hunt's regular appearance on Kiwi FM here.
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