Welcome to the centennial episode of Counting the Beat. For 100 podcasts, over around 2 and a half years, I've been bringing you NZ music rarities, obscurities and new releases. Counting The Beat started out as a New Zealand music radio show on a station called The Beach on Waiheke Island. But when The Beach folded I shifted from an on-air format to a podcast. When we started a new station, Waiheke Radio, I kept the podcast going although it is broadcast on Waiheke Radio and a few other stations beside.
To mark the 100th episode I thought I'd take a look back at some of my favourite features and tracks from the Counting The Beat back catalogue.
I've made six cover specials - four featuring NZ bands covering other kiwi acts and two of international artists covering New Zealand songs. In the Covering The Beat International Special one of the tracks I included was The Diskettes covering Pauly Fuemana's 'How Bizzare'. Another favourite cover is from Covering The Beat 3, here's Cut Off Your Hands covering Split Enz's 'Shark Attack'.
If you take a look down the sidebar of my site you'll find tags that let you find episodes featuring particular artists. There are a couple who feature more than others - I think Chris Knox is up there but there are also a couple more obscure acts who have turned up again and again. One of them is Bear Cat - here they are with 'Red Panda Blues'.
One of the things I like to do on Counting The Beat is take a theme or subject and look at how that's been approached by different New Zealand artists over the years. In True Crime Stories (mp3) I featured songs about real life crimes and criminals including a number by The Howard Morrison Quartet about escaped convict George Wilder. Over the time I've been making Counting the Beat I've become quite a fan of The Howard Morrison Quartet, as well as true Crime Stories they've been included in episodes on Rugby and The Honours System.
Another thing I've tried to do on Counting The Beat is give people a chance to hear music that is out of print. A neighbour let me borrow a pile of records to have a look through to see if there was anything I was interested in laying. In the middle of the pile was a record I had heard rumours of but never had really confirmed even existed. It was the second album by The Gordons, titled Volume 2 - It featured in the episode Rare as Hen's Teeth in Jan 2008.
One of my favourite theme shows was one titled Like An Illuminated Ping Pong Ball That's the Only Way I can Describe It, the show collected together NZ songs about UFOs along with excerpts of a TV news report on UFO sightings over the Kaikoura Ranges.
I have a thing about songs that are about, inspired by or named after New Zealand place names. In fact the very first Counting The Beat (mp3) was a place name special. One song included in that episode was 'Sandringham' written by Matthew Bannister, formerly of Sneaky Feelings and performed by his band The Weather. I first heard this song when that band played a free city council funded show on Waiheke Island and when I was putting together my 1st place name special I tracked down Bannister and asked him if he could supply me a copy of the then unreleased song. The songs out now on an album it that itself is named after a location, Aroha Ave. Also in that special is a song by NZ folk pioneer Peter Cape, the man who wrote the iconic 'Taumaranui on the Main Trunk Line'. it took me a while to get my tongue around it but the song is 'Taumatawhakatangihangakouauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu' (and that's an abbreviation of the actual place name).
Sometimes there's some real detective work involved in putting together an episode of Counting the Beat. For a long time I wanted to a make special on music featuring the input of iconic NZ poet Sam Hunt. But there was one thing missing. In the seventies Hunt had collaborated and released an album with a kiwi folk rock band called Mammal. I has seen it listed on Ebay auctions for US$500 but couldn't find a copy I could hear anywhere. After months and months I managed to track down one of the members of Mamma, Tony Backhouse, who was still making music. I made contact asking if he had a copy, which he did, one a friend had copied because he didn't have one himself, but he was in Australia and the recording was in a garage in NZ. Eventually after a few more emails I had a recording and the Sam Hunt special could finally be made.
The Free Music Archive is a project started by American free-form radio station WFMU. The Archive is an on-line repository of creative commons licensed music free to stream and download. Since it started early in 2009 I've been monitoring the the music added to the Archive trying to identify and tag all the NZ music. There are a bunch of kiwi artists there such as The Veils, Bang Bang Eche, Dub Terminator, Bruce Russell and Surf City. You can also find full live sets from The Mint Chicks and The Bats.
To close my retrospective of 100 CTBs I've got something from one of the highlights of producing the show which has been going to the Silver Scroll Awards - a competition organised by RIANZ, the songwriters organisation to recognise excellence in songwriting. The tradition at the awards ceremony is to have the nominated finalist songs performed by other kiwi artists. I've been luck enough to be able to get along twice to interview the finalists and record the show You can hear Counting The Beat Silver Scroll specials from 2007 and 2008 (in 2009 it was held in Ch Ch). In recent years the show has also closed with a grand finale. In 2008 the closing act was The Chills on stage at the Auckland Town Hall with pipe organ, choir and bells performing 'Heavenly Pop Hit'. You can see a video of the performance on the video page.
Thanks for listening and following the blog everyone. I might not be the most regular but I've still got a few more in me yet.
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This month marks fifteen months of Counting The Beat contributions 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. There are now 35 countries participating and interest is growing. This month Counting The Beat is pleased to be contributing 'Greenock' from the Pumice album Pebbles.
NEW ZEALAND: Counting The Beat
Pumice - Greenock
New Zealand's best one-man band multi-instrumentalist psych-noise outfit is Pumice, the pseudonym of Stefan Neville. One of Pumice's best albums, 2007's Pebbles, is about to get a vinyl release on Soft Abuse Records. Wheezing organ and guitar feedback combine in album centrepiece Greenock, named after the Scottish village Neville's ancestors originated from.
Eloisa Lopez - Espiral
This is one of Zonaindie's favorite tracks from 2009. It was taken from Eloisa's third album, Por Un Paisaje. Maybe we like her so much because she manages to elegantly combine acoustic textures with native South American percussions and digital sounds. Espiral is a great example of this, and yet an unbelievably catchy tune that has Leo García as a guest vocalist. What else could you ask for?
AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
Kite Club - Royal Gums
Royal Gums is one of those tracks that grabs you straight away and drags you along for three minutes thanks to its chanting hooks and penchant for large-scale production. It opens with a beat lifted from Psychocandy and an explosion of layered vocals but then settles into a calming, meditative refrain, just letting the melody and harmonies carry the song. Kite Club (aka Nicholas Futcher) marries the laptop trickery to the tune without letting it control the song nor detract from its melodic core.
BRAZIL: Meio Desligado
Barulhista - Indieota
When it comes to avant-garde music in Brazil, Barulhista (which means something like "noise follower") is certainly an artist to keep an eye on. His electro-acoustic sounds encompass experimental electronica and more concrete music both in his solo songs and in the soundtracks he composes. Indiota (a mix of "indie" and "idiot" in Portuguese) is as close to pop as he has ever been.
Novels - No Hard Feelings
A supergroup of sorts featuring members of Born Ruffians, Tokyo Police Club and Will Currie & The Country French among others, Novels quietly released their self-titled debut EP into the world around Christmas. As No Hard Feelings (not to mention the other four tracks) demonstrates, it totally lives up to its pedigree. The album is full of catchy, 70s-inspired pop and it makes the EP well worth a (free!) download.
CHILE: Super 45
Moreno - Pica
Moreno is the new darling of Chilean indie-rock. With a powerful and psychedelic sound, Giancarlo Landini's project - he plays every instrument on record and has a backing band for live shows - is inspired by lo-fi legends such as Lou Barlow (Sebadoh), J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr) and Robert Pollard (Guided By Voices), with a classic flavor.
Mosaic - Sunshine Train
Mosaic are one of the new generation of bands from Chengdu. They were called GT6 before they changed their name in 2008. At the end of last year they successfully completed a tour of China through 10 cities. Although they haven't released a full-length album, they are definitely worth a listen.
COLOMBIA: Colombia Urbana
Rayo y Toby - Manitas Mágicas
After trying with different partners, Rayo and Toby finally realized they themselves were the perfect combination. The duo mix good urban music with a shot of melody and their approach is both fresh and unsettling.
DENMARK: All Scandinavian
Before The Show - Gabriel
Before The Show was originally a solo project by multi-instrumentalist Laurids Smedegaard, who often worked on his own songs just hours before he went on stage with any one of the numerous other bands he's involved in (hence the band name). Now a quintet, Before The Show are working on getting their debut released and until that happens we can all enjoy this excellent taste of what’s to come.
ENGLAND: The Daily Growl
Jose Vanders - For Now
Jose Vanders is a piano-playing chanteuse who is less eccentric than Regina Spektor and smarter than Kate Nash, but with even more doe-eyed, curly-haired cuteness. For Now shows off her gift for melody and picture-book lyrics, albeit on a ukulele instead of her usual piano. Jose has released three exquisite EPs in each of the past three years, aged 17, 18 and 19. Surely fame beckons at 20.
Barthol Lo Mejor - Windshield Pfeiffer
Barthol Lo Mejor makes popdada music - experiments with electro rhythms and unconventional sounds including pieces of conversations, cliches, old movies and anime cartoons. His music is considered effective for recovering from hard drug addiction. Windshield Pfeiffer is part of the K8 MOSH EP, available for free download here
Kiki Pau - An Old Song
After their well-receive debut Let's Rock, Kiki Pau return with a fantastic sophomore album to be released in early March. A MAP exclusive, An Old Song is the opening track of White Mountain and shows a more guitar-driven band with uplifting spirits. Those following the Nordic indie scene will hear about this band quite a lot this year because the whole album is a keeper that channels the classic sound of T.Rex, The Velvet Underground and left-field US guitar gods such as Pavement and Guide By Voices without forgetting a twist of Finnish pop.
Satine - Iron Güm
Drawing inspiration from northern poptronica (Under Byen, Mùm, Efterklang) and electro rock bands (Radiohead, The Notwist), Satine gave birth to their first intimate yet powerful tracks in 2004. Live, the band unfolds a dreamlike visual universe with video projections and light shows that make every concert a unique experience. But it's always deep, beautiful and organic.
GERMANY - Blogpartei
Napoli Is Not Nepal - People Call It Mantra
Napoli Is Not Nepal is the solo project of Cologne-based Hendryk Martin. What he calls 'electro nihilism', I'd call outstanding ambient electro with some eclectic moments. Although People Call It Mantra was released in mid-2009 as part of the album Boredom Is Always Counterrevolutionary, it's still quite a statement for the growing influence of music that sits between ambient and indie.
Etten - Clockwork Skies
Etten, former lead singer of the Greek band Film, weaves her tales of hope and dreams in a warm bearskin coat of pop sensibilities. Her voice offers the moods 'light and shade', while production touches colorfully paint enchanting pictures. Dark, but never needlessly so, I Know You're Behind Me But I'm Not Scared is an intoxicating, addictive debut that offers a rich, distinct world of lullabies, spacey timbres and ghostly beauty. It blends brittle, 80s-influenced electro and Knife-inspired synths with buzzing basslines, guitars and samples in a sound that's both atmospheric and richly textured.
ICELAND: I Love Icelandic Music
Mammut - Svefnsykt
Mammut were formed in 2003 by two boys and three girls, aged 14-16. David Fricke of Rolling Stone magazine called them "a really good band". They played SXSW in 2007 and toured with dEUS in Iceland and Germany. In 2008, Mammut released their second album, Karkari, through Icelandic label Record Records. Svefnsykt was its first single.
Noush Like Sploosh - 3 Act Circus
Noush Like Sploosh is one of the most promising hopefuls of India's growing, urban singer-songwriter scene. Armed with a dry wit and a musical sensibility falling somewhere between Regina Spektor and Imogen Heap, Noush Like Sploosh's music is refreshing indie-pop that's lyrical yet largely accessible. 3 Act Circus brings together myriad references, a laid-back ambient pop vibe and Ms Sploosh's positively delectable vocals.
RNRM - Zsa Zsa Zsu
RNRM are one of the finest electronic acts to have emerged from Indonesia's underground and have earned praised in several music scenes, from punk-rock to high-class dance clubs. Their latest record, Outbox, was listed as one of the best albums of the last decade by Deathrockstar.
Autumn Owls - Raindrops In The River
Autumn Owls are a Dublin four-piece who have been honing their brand of nocturnal atmospheric rock songs since 2006. With two burgeoning and impressive EPs released and a debut album on the way, the band will travel to Austin this year to play the SXSW festival. Watch out for these guys in 2010.
København Store - Strangers
The main quality of København Store's music is its ability to build a layered and monumental sound with an incredibly strong emotional impact. There is something vast about the band, as if they could throw their songs for miles and miles. Strangers is taken from the forthcoming release, Hi. The new album will be the first chapter of a trilogy.
JAPAN: JPOP Lover
LITE - The Sun Sank
LITE are one of the most enthusiastic live bands in Tokyo. They are often compared to Battles and Mogwai, and combine math-rock power and precision with emotionally-charged compositions. They will be doing a U.S. west coast tour with Mike Watt & The Missingmen in March. The Sun Sank is taken from their latest EP, Turns Red.
MEXICO: Red Bull PanameriKa
Furland - Quiero Ser Un Color
Furland are famous for having a huge grass-ball on stage, this Mexico City quartet dream of tripping to a place where strawberry fields stretch forever. On their proper debut, La Historia de la Luz, they explore the eternal message of love through light, sound... and a banjo. Quiero Ser Un Color is the first single off a 360-degree work filled with lush orchestrations, majestic vibes and acidic lyrics stuffed with cotton candy - food for thought.
NETHERLANDS: Amsterdam Event Guide
Moon & Sun - Ashes
To escape from the harsh winter we need some music that draws pictures of summer hazy beaches, endless days and warm nights. Enter the gorgeous Moon & Sun from Amsterdam. Their whimsical, sexy sound merges with a slightly more eerie tone of the vocal melodies and harmonies between frontlady Monica Tormell and her accompanying musicians. Playing a mix of piano, drums, guitars and steel drums, Moon & Sun have definitely got the 2010 sound down with their Caribbean sensibilities.
Team Me - Weathervanes And Chemicals
Team Me play warm and rich orchestrated pop music in the same vein as Sufjan Stevens, Efterklang, Hjaltalin or Sigur Rós. This used to be Marius D. Hagen's one-man band - a recording project where he could play the songs that didn't fit in his other bands. But Team Me has grown into a seven-strong orchestra and the fragile acoustic songs Hagen used to play have been transformed into a much larger and richer sound. Hagen is also a member of alternative rock band Jaqueline and half of semi-electronic pop duo SiN along with Tord Øverland Knudsen of English band The Wombats. SiN will release their debut album later this year and hopefully we'll also get a release from Team Me in 2010.
Rafo De La Cuba - Freak Profesional
Rafo De La Cuba has left anonymity to become an idol of Web 2.0. His home demos skip from ear to ear so it was no surprise that someone so talented could not stay hidden. Influenced by The Beatles, his songs tell simply of life - intimate stories turned into melancholic, but not sad, poetry. Hopefully we won't have to wait too long to hear new material, with his debut LP due to be released soon.
PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco?
Jasmin Jones - Lost In Rainbows
Jasmin Jones, whose mother is Portuguese, was born in Australia and lived in different countries during her childhood. She is a surfer and nature lover. Her debut album Beyond The Clouds will be released this year, even though she didn't find a label to represent her. Jasmin currently lives in Lisbon and besides her solo career, she is the vocalist for Triplet, a rock band.
ROMANIA: Babylon Noise
Kumm - Pop Song
Kumm started 12 years ago as an art-rock band. Much like their influences, Sonic Youth and Spritualized, they have developed a new approach to rock by constantly experimenting with various sounds and styles. Their latest album, Far From Telescopes, is a refreshing pop experience, a new episode of their music journey - far from their roots and closer to simpler things. This is a band that has grown up by getting younger.
SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop
Werd - Breakdown
Even if you're just a casual hip hop listener, you owe it to yourself to give Werd a spin. The 22-year-old's rhymes are as cunningly creative as they are uncompromising and he executes them with such furious, stylish precision. You can (and should) download everything the Edinburgh rapper has done for free from his Bandcamp page. In the meantime, the irresistible force of sub-two-minute track Breakdown will leave you wanting more... which is the point, yes?
SINGAPORE: I'm Waking Up To...
Stellarium - Chocolate & Strawberry
Stellarium are a shoegaze band, and that's all you need to know. Instead of updating a familiar sound, they do something even more commendable by playing shoegaze as if it never went away. The moment the fuzz bass comes in during Chocolate & Strawberry, you're caught in the band's intricate web of white noise, ghostly reverb and cryptic vocals. Overall, the whole thing sounds like a long shutter exposure speeding past bright lights. Bliss.
SOUTH AFRICA: Musical Mover & Shaker!
Dans Republic - Afrikaans
Dans Republic is the coming together of two groups - Flash Republic, a band with the ability to set the dancefloors alight, and Foto Na Dans, who are breaking the boundaries of Afrikaans music with their own signature style. Their electro-tinged song Afrikaans showcases and merges the English and Afrikaans genre. It blends their unique styles seamlessly into something that is dreamy, indie, rock and electro all at once, yet never compromises each band’s sound.
SOUTH KOREA: Indieful ROK
The Pony - Disturbance
Four-member indie-rock band The Pony released their first full-length album, Pony, last year. Full of well-produced tracks, it offers plenty of variety. Disturbance is a catchy, energetic song with great hooks to keep the listener coming back for more.
SPAIN: Oscuro Magazine
Estereotypo - The Big Fake
Estereotypo are one of those pop-rock bands with which you can't remain indifferent. It's best to see them live, where their power and presence are reminiscent of bands like Franz Ferdinand, The Faint, Foals or Delorean. Based in Santander, their second album, Love Your City, is out this month and The Big Fake embodies the powerful sound of this great indie band.
Staphan O'Bell - On The Rooftop
This song is great example of romantic swirling pop à la Rufus Wainwright. It's one of three songs that are available from Stockholm resident Staphan O'Bell's forthcoming album. If On The Rooftop is any indication then that album will be one to keep an eye out for.
UNITED STATES: I Guess I'm Floating
Toro Y Moi - Thanks Vision
Toro Y Moi is the solo work of South Carolinian Chaz Bundick. Hailing from the college town of Columbia, Bundick creates distorted lo-fi pop music that warmly floats between your ears like something beautiful you'd stumble across while sifting through static radio waves.
Atkinson - Pais Tropical
Wincho Schäfer, Erik Aldrey and Rafael Cadavieco are musicians from famous Venezuelan bands Desorden Publico, Zapato 3 and Amigos Invisibles who decided to join talents in this interesting project called Atkinson. They launched their first production last March and since then they've been touring the country amazing new fans with smart lyrics and clean but catchy pop-rock. Pais Tropical is a musical explanation of the socio-political particularities of Venezuela.
To download all 35 songs in one file click here
Posted by Chris at Monday, February 15, 2010
The Mint Chicks are an astounding band - over their eight years of existence they have been indie darlings, reached the finalists of the countries top song writing awards, and won a slew of Tuis. All the while they've been incredibly innovative and not afraid to try new things or turn expectations on their head. The Mint Chicks often have more ideas in one song than some bands do in an album.
In recent months the band have been receiving praise and airplay for a couple of covers - Ray Columbus's 'She's A Mod' and The Tall Dwarfs 'Crush'. However The Mint Chicks have just released a great new original song, 'Bad Buzz', the title track of a new EP to be released on USB stick in mid February. So I thought I'd mark the occasion by looking back at some Mint Chicks material that you won't find on their albums.
Mid 2009 the Mint Chicks posted an untitled song on their website - a song with a catch. To listen to it you had to simultaneously play four videos embedded on the site, the four videos each featuring one band member but together making up one face. You can still see the video and hear the song here.
Anika Moa's live cover of The Mint Chicks 'Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!' on TV opened up to many an awareness of the songwriting skill of the band, by allowing them to hear how the song still worked with such a different treatment. You can also see Moa perform the song on her 2007 Red Bull session. Red Bull have a real treasure trove of over 200 live performances filmed in HD available on their site including a great set by The Mint Chicks from 2008. The Mint Chicks have also covered Anika Moa - they performed her song Stolen Hill at the 2006 Silver Scroll awards. I have tracked down a copy of that performance but it's a pretty ropey audience recording so I'll post it here as a web only feature.
Another live in the studio session from the Mint Chicks available on line is a radio session recorded by American radio station KBOO. The whole session, which traverses the entire Mint Chicks career is available for free download or streaming on The Free Music Archive.
In Christmas 2008 the band released an on-line EP of chipset, or 8-bit, versions of two previously released songs and four that would later appear on the album Screens. That whole EP can be downloaded for free from The Mint Chicks website.
And now to mark the release of the EP the Mint Chicks are running a series of competitions including a remix competition of 'Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!'. You can find out about the competition and download the tracks at Music Hype.
You'll also find some Mint Chicks videos on the video page, including the band covering the song Counting the Beat.
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