Covers Special - International Chris Knox

I expect that by now you're all up with the news that Chris Knox , an iconic kiwi artist with a 30 year career taking in solo material, The Enemy, The Tall Dwarfs and The Nothing, has suffered from a stroke. Rather than go over all the details here I recommend that you check out the blog that has been established to provide news and updates on his recovery - The irony is that that blog could well be Knox's first official website.

Since forming The Enemy in Dunedin in 1977 Knox has earned a crust as a musician, cartoonist and critic. His stroke has meant he can't do any of those things at present so fans are being called on to support him by buying his music. It's hardly an imposition. Knox's last album, A Warm Gun, recorded with his band The Nothing is one of his finest albums. Buy it from his blog and you'll ensure maximum profits return directly to Knox.

Some of Knox's more talented fans, including David Kilgour, The Mint Chicks, Lou Barlow, Graeme Downs, Guided By Voices, The Mountain Goats, Jay Clarkson, Martin Phillips, Jay Reatard, Yo La Tengo, Lambchop, Shane Carter, Pumice, Alec Bathgate, Will Oldham, Jeff Mangum, and Bill Callahan, are currently working on a fundraising album of Knox covers.

The list of contributors to that tribute album are an indication of the high regard with which he is held by musicians around the world. So it's no suprise that his songs have already been covered by many kiwi and international artists. This episode of Counting The Beat gathers some of those covers.

Perhaps the best known cover of a Knox song is Frente's 1993 version of the classic 'Not Given Lightly', which while going nowhere overseas certainly garnered the Australian band a lot of attention in New Zealand.

A couple of years earlier the Tall Dwarfs song 'Face of Fashion' was covered by Marshall Crenshaw, an American singer songwriter who got his break playing Knox favourite John Lennon in a Broadway show and playing Buddy Holly in the movie La Bamba.

In 1999 ethereal 4AD group Hopeless Blister covered another Tall Dwarfs song, ' Outer Skin'. The song originally appeared on the 1993 Tall Dwarfs album PolyPhoto, Duck-Shaped Pain and Gum.

Perhaps because of his iconic status Knox has been covered by relatively few New Zealand musicians. One group that has is The Hasslehoff Experiment (pictured) who in 2002 recorded a cover of The Tall Dwarfs 'Brain That Wouldn't Die' for the Flying Nun 21st anniversary album Under The Influence, an album that also featured Knox covering his Tall Dwarfs bandmate Alec Bathgate.

In just the last month two Knox songs appeared on a compilation released by German label Morr Music. The compilation, Not Given Lightly, is a collection of electro-acoustic covers of Flying Nun and eighties kiwi indie songs, including the title track and a cover of the Tall Dwarfs 'All My Hollowness To You' by It's A Musical.

Incidentally, this is only the second time ever that Counting The Beat has included music by non New Zealand artists. I've loaded a number of Knox clips on the video page. Also National Radio have a heap of material available to be streamed - Chris Knox interview and song - Interview about The Nothing - The Nothing live .

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The Ones That Got Away

Sometimes I feel like there's almost too much music to listen to. And that means I miss things that deserve greater attention. In this episode I go back and take a listen to some recent-ish releases that I overlooked. They're the ones that got away.

I've been a fan of Bachelorette since her first E.P., The End of Things, but her new album My Electric Family is the release that I've always hoped she would put out. Annabel Alpers engaging tech-pop songs have often touched on themes of isolation and humanity's interaction with technology and reflecting that her music has been mainly solo with just her and her synthesisers. However, as indicated in the title, on My Electric Family Alpers is joined by musicians from Cassette and HDU and as a result the songs are more expansive and richer in texture than past releases. This album has also attracted Bachelorette overseas attention and has been released on US label Drag City. I've posted some Bachelorette clips on the video page and you'll find a National Radio interview here.

That Bachelorette album features members of the band Cassette. Cassette's debut E.P. Emo, released in 2000, was a classic, it's Neil Young like country rock was super laid back with a subtle underlying groove. It was a long wait until the debut album Cut For Summer came out in 2006 but the band had lost none of it's appeal in the meantime. The Cancer E.P. came out in 2008 and then with almost unseemly haste Cassette released their second album The Jingle King earlier this year. Cassette's slow laid back approach is still there along with the groove but songs now build into waves of blissful guitar.

A Low Hum, run by Blink, has been responsible for nurturing and giving opportunity to many emerging artists over recent years through the A Low Hum magazine and CD series, the acclaimed Camp A Low Hum, and releasing CDs and digital downloads from a small roster of artists. A Low Hum releases and events have always been noted for going the extra mile for their imagination and aesthetics. Earlier this year A Low Hum released a digital sampler comprising high quality digital downloads with limited release hand-printed posters. The sampler features Disasteradio, Secret Knives, Mount Pleasant, Ropes, Nikky Brinkman and Over The Atlantic. I've put some Over the Atlantic clips on the video page.

Finally, something brand new. The Mint Chicks recently released their third album Screens. The band have just released a brand new, untitled song on their website. To hear it you need to visit the site and simultaneously play for video clips which together make up the visuals and audio of the song. It takes a bit of buffering but it's worth checking out.

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Music Alliance Pact July 09

This month sees the eighth 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 'Southern Hemisphere Blues' from Urbantramper. For more material from them check out the Urbantramper blog.

NEW ZEALAND: Counting The Beat
UrbantramperSouthern Hemisphere Blues
Urbantramper are a five-piece from Wellington who are part of a loose collective known as Treeninja. The band produce introspective pop songs that reflect an endearing, naive angst about their place in the world. This is a group with a manifesto! They're currently considering issues of music distribution, copyright and the impact of these on the nature of the relationship between musician and audience. Urbantramper have a strong back catalogue and a new album due in September.

AMERICA: I Guess I'm Floating
Spanish PrisonersKiss The Lawn Goodbye
Brooklyn's Spanish Prisoners, fronted by Leo Maymind, create fractured power-pop in the vein of The New Porno's Dan Bejar (Destroyer). They're currently working on a new album but in the meantime they've released a free three-song EP - download it here - from which Kiss The Lawn Goodbye is taken.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie
Mi Pequeña MuerteLa Música Nueva
Mi Pequeña Muerte means "my little death" so you're probably thinking this is not a particularly optimistic band. That was true for Hospital, their 2004 debut album, which was loaded with melancholic indie-rock tunes and moaning vocals. But this is 2009 and believe it or not, the band's third album is called Un Futuro Brillante ("a brilliant future"). Maybe that was just pure irony, but in this new effort they define themselves with shiny sounds and instruments, including horns and Moog synthesizers.

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
Boat BeamThe Rain Pauly
So it turns out that Josephine of Sparkadia is now in this gorgeously gentle folky trio in Madrid called Boat Beam, and they seem to be kinda popular (check their MySpace). How crazy is that? I could listen to The Rain Pauly for days.

BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
NancyKeep Cooler
Five-piece band Nancy have played just a few shows in Brazil and may be more well-known outside the country. They were the first Brazilian band on virtual label RCRD LBL and have been featured on BBC Radio's Introducing programme, showing their soft indie tunes. Nancy's members live in different cities and countries so the band's debut album, Chora Matisse!, was composed on the internet through emails and IM.

CANADA: I(Heart)Music
Rah RahI've Got Faith
When I had to submit my ballot for the Polaris Music Prize (think a Canadian version of the Mercury Prize), the one album that was toughest for me to leave off was Rah Rah's amazing Going Steady. As I've Got Faith shows, the band combine the best elements of Broken Social Scene (with the constant sense they're just barely keeping everything together) and Arcade Fire (in its epicness), with the end result being a sound that's all their own.

CHILE: Super 45
PedropiedraSol Mayor
Pedro Subercaseaux has been involved with music for almost a decade. Having explored such diverse styles as cumbia, hip-hop, electronica, pop and rock, he has been part of several projects such as Hermanos Brothers, Tropiflaite, Yaia and CHC, gathering a good amount of success along the way. This year Subercaseaux has decided to release his debut solo album, under the moniker Pedropiedra, in which he demonstrates his great ability to craft catchy pop-oriented melodies.

DENMARK: All Scandinavian
The WorksLive And Direct (featuring Jams F. Kennedy)
It's time to bring some urban tunes to all ye faithful readers of the Music Alliance Pact. Enter The Works aka producers Twelve Beats and Terry Tester, whom I stumbled across quite recently and whose intriguing fusion of hip-hop and electronica I haven't been able to shake off since. Minimalist, yet rich on details. Hardly moving, but always taking you places. Their debut release, Yokohama EP, is out now and streamed in full on their MySpace.

ENGLAND: The Daily Growl
FriendshipThe Graveyard Shift
Tired of indie bands showing off their 'African influences'? Well, get ready for one more, although this is done with a lot more bite, distortion and general sense of fun than most.

Neufvoin are an up-and-coming indie band who create beautifully-arranged catchy pop melodies with guitars, synthesizer textures and a few other instruments. Apparently, they also like playing with bots and droids. Robot is taken from their debut Robokop EP, six songs produced by Rubik frontman Artturi Taira that journey many different musical landscapes.

FRANCE: ZikNation
Jessica FichotUn, Deux, Trois (1,2,3)
Born in America to a French father and Chinese mother, chanteuse and songwriter Jessica Fichot was raised in France in a multicultural environment. She is a lot like her hometown of Paris: French at heart, but with a soul that's truly international. Her multi-ethnic upbringing colors the songs on her debut album.

GERMANY: Blogpartei
BonaparteGigolo Vagabundo
Bonaparte are a Berlin-based artist collective from all across Europe. Their sparkling weird-folk is powered by Balkan pace and electronic rhythms. Outfitted with crazy costumes, they are one of the most exciting German live acts around.

ICELAND: I Love Icelandic Music
Sudden Weather ChangePrey Mode
Sudden Weather Change are a five-piece rock band from Reykjavik who have been compared to Sonic Youth and Pavement. Prey Mode is taken from their debut album, Stop! Handgrenade In The Name Of Crib-Death 'nderstand, which came out in April on the Icelandic Kimi Records label and will be released in Europe and America in September.

IRELAND: Nialler9
The Holy Roman ArmyElegy
Ireland has already produced its fair share of amazing records so far this year and we can now add The Holy Roman Army's album to that list. How The Light Gets In is the brother and sister duo's debut and it's filled with ambient and electronic flourishes with an organic heart. Perhaps it's not a surprise they are a doctor and a psychologist respectively. Elegy is a perfect example of the band's yearning for something emotional between the city's streets.

ITALY: Polaroid
Iori's EyesAnchor
Iori's Eyes are a boy and a girl from Milan who play gentle pop with a dreamy touch. Their music brings together a folk mood and a post-rock background. Their songs sound as fragile and delicate as little toys, but definitely know how to be surprising and poignant. Iori's Eyes just released their debut EP, And Everything Fits In The Yellow Whale, and I can't wait to listen to a proper album.

LITEGhost Dance
LITE are a Tokyo-based instrumental band who play experimental rock with striking, groove-heavy basslines. Formed in 2003, their spirit is similar to Mogwai, 65daysofstatic, Battles, Toe and Envy. In May, LITE visited America for the first time, going out on tour with legendary bass guitarist Mike Watt.

MEXICO: Club Fonograma
Hello Seahorse!Universo 2
Hello Seahorse! is the year's most acclaimed Mexican indie band. With their third album, Bestia, the trio have made the transition into a multi-dimensional group with a masterwork under their belt. Bestia shines in between ghosts and hazy sonic beauty, in a universe of its own, and proves Hello Seahorse! have total control over their romanticized and passionate, sublime creations.

NORWAY: Eardrums
SilverdropReal Life
It's July, it's summer and it's time for some fresh and shiny indie-pop from Norwegian six-piece Silverdrop. These are definitely sounds for the sunny days and the band's new recordings are even more bouncy and energetic than the songs I've heard from them before. Silverdrop are currently working on their debut album.

Francois PeglauSpring Lovers Song (Si Tú Quieres)
Francois Peglau's songs do not need much explanation, they just happen. They are simple and beautiful - they could be borne from a whistle on a bus or a nice sunny day with friends. Francois moved to London two years ago and Spring Lovers Song (Si Tú Quieres) is his most recent song.

PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
Andrew ThornME Jane
Andrew Thorn is João Pedro Coimbra, a Portuguese composer/musician/producer and founder of the extremely successful duo Mesa. Andrew Thorn is João's way of exploring his creativity beyond Mesa's sound. The debut EP, Brutes On The Quiet, was released independently (Mesa is signed to Sony/BMG) on July 13 and ME Jane is the first authorized download by the artist and a MAP exclusive.

ROMANIA: Babylon Noise
Melting CarouselSeveral Other Universes
Melting Carousel are an indie-pop band from Timisoara with an eclectic approach, ranging from alternative pop to jazz.

Maple LeavesEasy Speak
Even though Glasgow's pedigree of producing twee, folky-pop bands (Belle & Sebastian, Camera Obscura) is strong, few have been as relentlessly joyous as Maple Leaves. With their dreamy girl-boy vocals and penchant for colouring their songs with flute, piano and acoustic guitar, Maple Leaves are guaranteed to put the spring into anyone's summer.

SINGAPORE: I'm Waking Up To...
Force VomitLiberator
Surfing and punk-rock in the city state of Singapore don't necessarily go hand in hand due to the lack of any noteworthy waves (both literally and metaphorically). Enter Force Vomit, the antithesis of Singapore's two shortcomings with their brazen brand of surf-punk that takes the piss out of Singapore's sanitized idiosyncrasies and semblance of normal life. Sounding like a Dick Dale number cut by switchblades, Liberator should easily find a place in a Tarantino film.

Dringe AughTutelar
Singer-songwriter Dringe Augh offers lovely songs full of lively guitar play. Over the years he has recorded several demos and his first official EP, Individually Wrapped, was released in June. On the new version of Tutelar, Dringe is accompanied by delightful female vocals from Eunjie Song of modern folk duo Sogyumo Acacia Band.

SWEDEN: Swedesplease
I was stumbling around the net (MySpace in particular) and came across this band called MAKTHAVERSKAN. I have since learned they are signed to Luxury. Consider this your introduction to the new 'it' band from Gothenburg. They are agit-pop combined with post-punk and a little bit of Joan Jett tunefulness.

VENEZUELA: Barquisimeto Musical
Gonzalo TeppaDe Conde A Principal
Gonzalo Teppa is a musician, composer and a breathtaking double-bass player. Born in Barquisimeto, he has wowed audiences in Mexico, Brazil, Spain, USA, Colombia and Bolivia. Downbeat Magazine has selected him as solo artist of the year twice. De Conde A Principal is a version of an original work from Venezuelan composer Aldemaro Romero. It belongs to his latest work, ConTrabajos De Aldemaro.

To download all 26 songs in one file click here


New and Recent Releases July 09

Sora Shima's third E.P. Destroy Electronica balances power, noise and beauty in five (sometimes lengthy) instrumentals. On E.P. opener 'Here be Dragons' the Hamilton drum, bass and guitar four piece create a moody, evocative soundscape, that shimmers and builds into thundering waves of sound. 'Calor Human' is more contemplative with a cello adding a warm touch, while 'Hello Big Sky' adds beats to the droning guitars. Sora Shima inhabit a position on the musical landscape close to Napier band Jakob, Dunedin's HDU, and defunct Christchurch band Barnard's Star. I wish I'd discovered this band earlier. At the Sora Shima website you'll find links to free downloads of two earlier E.P.s and info on how to get hold of Destroy Electronica. I've also posted a couple of Sora Shima clips on the video page - check out the video for 'Hovercraft' - it's really good.

Over the 30 odd year career of The Clean they've only released a handful of studio albums, but their reputation means each is eargerly awaited by fans around the world. They have taken their influences, punk, psychedelic pop, and more recently folk and eastern drones, and melded their own unique and instantly recognisible sound. The Clean are one of only a few kiwi musical acts who can be said to have had a global influence, cited as such by the likes of Pavement and Yo La Tengo. They've recently signed with American label Merge Records who will release Mister Pop in September, the band's first studio album, since 2001. The song 'In the Dreamlife You Need a Rubber Soul' is available from the Merge website as a free download. For more more info on the early days of the band check out Part 1 of National Radio's Flying Nun doco. There's a recent live clip on the video page.

The New Telepathics are led by Darren Harkness, born in Gore, and now living in Germany. Darren has a broad musical background, having played in rock group Dead Flowers, experimentalists From Scratch and indie group Spacesuit. The New Telepathics album Rudiments and Theories of Silence is a diverse collection of rich and complex songs ranging across, and melding, those various musical threads along with jazz and light touches of Afrobeat. Sometimes including up to ten members, The New Telepathics are an amazing live group. I've put a video of the group performing in studio on the video page and there are more songs at the Red Bull Studio site. There is a National Radio interview with Darren Harkness here (stream).

I've been a fan of Urbantramper since I heard the song 'Shitty Flat' on an A Low Hum compilation a few years ago. That song is a great example of the endearingly naive angst that is the subject of Urbantramper's introspective pop. The band are currently developing a loose manifesto, examining issues of music distribution and pricing and the impact of these on the relationship between artists and audience. As a result the band are experimenting with free and pay-what-you-want distribution of downloads. On the Urbantramper blog the band have recently made a number of new and past songs available for free but they will release a new album in September. Their last, 'Tokon and the Colours' is the only release currently available. You can buy it through Amplifier. There are Urbantramper clips on the video page and you can hear a National Radio live session here (stream).

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I've Been Everywhere Man (Round Hamilton)

I've got a bit of a thing about collecting songs named after New Zealand towns and locations and every once in a while I put together a Counting the Beat special featuring some of those songs. In this episode I focus in on a specific part of our country, the Waikato.

Waikato is where you will find the town that lent it's name to one of our best known place name songs, 'Taumaranui', who's heyday as a mid journey stop-off town in the days of rail was immortalised in song by Peter Cape. The song was initially banned by the NZ Broadcasting Service because of it's reference to the "sheila" serving tea.

The largest city in the Waikato is of course Hamilton, a city often ridiculed by those who don't live there for being a boring backwards place full of farmers. The Big Muffin Serious Band, a good time folk band who hail from Hamilton themselves, also have a go at lampooning the place on their song 'Hamilton'. The Big Muffin Serious Band have released two albums, Jabberwocky Goes to Town and Heavens to Murgatroyd. 'Hamilton' was written by Chris Thompson who also has a more serious folk career. His latest album Snapshot is available through Amplifier.

In the city of Hamilton you'll find a suburb called Hillcrest. That suburb was the subject of a an instrumental number called 'The Hillcrest Incident' by an unlikely outfit, The Hollow Grinders, unlikely because they're a surf guitar band in a land-locked city hours from the sea. You can download this song and a handful of others from the band's website.

Further up State Highway 1, towards the Northern reaches of Waikato, you'll find Huntly, a place best known for the two huge chimneys on the thermal power station sitting just out of town on the Waikato River. Surprisingly I have not one, but two songs about Huntly. 'What's Wrong With Huntly' by Hugh and The New Zealanders started as a gag but became a student radio hit and a popular download on Amplifier. The song 'Down in Huntly' is by The Winchesters, one of a clutch of bands that emerged a year or two back that were heavily influenced by The White Stripes and The Black Keys. After a bit of a hiatus while band members travelled they are back on the scene. Their 2008 4 track E.P. is a cracker.

Finally, a song not strictly named after a location but after an incident named after a location, 'The Battle of The Waikato' by The Howard Morrison Quartet. The HMQ were an all-round entertainment group delivering a a stage show of musical comedy, often playing on the fact the band were all Maori. 'The Battle of The Waikato' was recorded live on stage in the Auckland Town Hall and was released a single in 1959.

There are a couple of earlier place name specials here and here.

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