Category Archives: Reviews

UNKLE – The Road Pt.1 (Songs For The Def)

 

This is a very different UNKLE from the one you met back in 1998. Gone are DJ Shadow, Thom Yorke and the hundreds of samples that comprised Psyence Fiction. Instead, trip-hop pioneer and Mo’ Wax founder James Lavelle joins forces with a whole new team of collaborators to create his latest vision for UNKLE. Continue reading

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David Rawlings – Poor David’s Almanack (Acony Records)

 

This is David Rawlings’ third album under his own name, or that of The Dave Rawlings Machine. But really, this can easily be considered a Rawlings/Welch album, as Rawlings’ long-time partner Gillian Welch co-writes half five of the album’s ten songs, and sings and plays on all of them. Continue reading

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Herriot Row – Lesser Stars – Southbound

From the first few notes from the debut album of Aucklander Simon Comber (aka Herriot Row) you are instantly transported back to James Taylor’s 1970s.  These are songs of place and time, polished carefully like precious, fragile gemstones.  They are soft and sensual in their own way, with just a hint of the Kiwi dry sarcasm buried in the layers.  But moreover, they are unrushed and take their time to get there – where ever that may be.

From the delicate instrumental Farewell Spit to the heart-breaking, yearning song of travel memories Till The Older Brother Says Goodbye.  The latter feels like Comber is trying to reconcile some kind of parting of with his real or imagined sibling, under circumstances that are perhaps not entirely amicable.  Hoever, the animosity cannot remain, the olive branch is proffered (“until the clock in my chest begins to tick a little lighter’).

Love and loss, easy themes to write about, hard to do well, run clear and crisply through this 11-song collection of principally acoustic guitar based numbers, subtly embellished by a few friends – piano (Rob Shelton), (Andrew Macguire) percussion and vibraphone and John Vanderslice (Moog and techy stuff).   The best example of loss comes with the haunting tune about poet RAK Mason’s ghost out on Queen’s warf in the damp fog, walking like the song with queasy unease (The Beggar).

Opener Learning To Talk has a wonderful and compelling hook that insists you listen closely.  Sadly, Comber’s voice is not quite suited to this song and I feel he could have asked a female vocalist, perhaps one with a higher voice, to tackle it with more success.  Where it all gels perfectly though, is on his wonderful ditty Beautiful and Harmless, his instantly infectious but not entirely trustworthy love song.  This is a simple song, structured around a couple of satisfying chord changes and a quirky melody.  It slightly feels like something I’ve heard elsewhere but I can’t quite place it.  Within two listens I was singing this nifty little earworm all afternoon.  Watch out for this one fronting TV advert or TV promo very soon.

The song known as The Usual Business starts with the slightest hints of a Graeme Downes composition.  It’s a retarded observational piece about the chaos of a big city, moving in slo-mo as a busker moves in cinematic fashion through the streets to his position.  “It’s the usual business and I headed into town, to sign for my cigarettes with a painted frown.”  I like this one the best for its ironic honesty.

Lesser Stars was recorded in San Franscico with producer Vanderslice (Mountain Goats, Spoon) at the helm.  Comber’s moniker may not leap out at you, unless you’ve been to see the Chills national tour or the Verlaines Australian shows, where he did a bit of support work recently.  His US recordings came off the back of a tour with American indie icon Barbara Manning.  Until recently it was a one-man affair but when he heads out in support of this album it’s be as a proper band with Stu Harwood (Anthony Tonnon Band) on drums and Dave Flyger (Paquin) on bass.  It’ll be interesting to see how this all translates to a live stage and weather he can maintain the delicious intimacy of the album and all the charm it conveys on a stage.

Tim Gruar

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Aaron Carpenter & The Revelators – Tuning Fork August 4, 2017

Crossing over from Waiheke Island, Aaron Carpenter and his Revelators celebrated the release of their first long player, Pretty Lies, with a show at Auckland’s Tuning Fork. Continue reading

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Bridge Burner – Audio Foundation July 29, 2017

This one is a freebie in more ways than one. As with all other performers at 95bFM’s bStreet Festival, Bridge Burner’s set was free entry. This review is also “free.” I didn’t arrange it with 13th Floor beforehand, I was at the gig in no role except a metal fan who liked Bridge Burner’s debut EP, and I’ll be sending it to my editor out of the blue just cause I want to write it. Continue reading

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Steve Hackett – Auckland Town Hall July 28, 2017

Former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett brought his “Genesis Revisited” show to Auckland last night. Incredibly, after over 40 years and countless albums, this was Hackett’s first foray into New Zealand. Continue reading

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The Miltones – Tuning Fork July 22, 2017

 

The Miltones wrapped up their album release tour in front of a hometown crowd at Auckland’s Tuning Fork. And what a crowd it was…they showed up early and in large numbers making for a very special evening. Continue reading

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Sigur Ros – Spark Arena July 21, 2017

After being bewitched by the Icelandic art rockers as a late teen via Takk and hearing awed  reports from friends who had already seen them, I felt nervous going to last night’s concert at the Spark Arena as I grappled to lower my stratospheric expectations. Being a reviewer can be jading and I’ve seen many a fantastic band fail to live up to their name in a live setting. Continue reading

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Kirin J Callinan Kings Arms July 20, 2017

 

Kirin J Callinan claims he is a different man than when he last performed in Auckland  back in January of 2015. That may be, but he is still a riveting performer…mercurial, unpredictable, a bit shambolic, but always entertaining. Continue reading

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Paris Can Wait, Director Eleanor Coppola

When the 80-year-old wife of Francis Ford Coppola, who’s been his helpmate, assistant and cohort since 1963, decides to write and direct her first feature film – what happens? Eleanor Coppola picks up the reins as if she’s commanded them her whole life and delivers a sure-footed tale of romance and self-discovery on a road trip through the French countryside. Continue reading

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Steve Earle – So You Wannabe An Outlaw (Warner Bros)

 

After a folky duets album with Shawn Colvin and an exercise in the blues…2015’s Terraplane…Steve Earle gets back to the country with his strongest album in years. Continue reading

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Mmmm Mmmm – Kings Arms July 15, 2017

Mmmm Mmmm was a multi-stage, multi-band event at Auckland’s Kings Arms featuring the likes of Earth Tongue, The Beths and Miss June. Continue reading

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Cowboy Dan, Being & Mali Mali – Wine Cellar July 14, 2017

 

It was a cosy night at Auckland’s Wine Cellar as Cowboy Dan celebrated the release of their new song Stopping By with help from Being and Mali Mali. Continue reading

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Queens Of The Stone Age – Logan Campbell Centre July 13, 2017

 

Josh Homme and his Queens Of The Stone Age opened their Villains tour at Auckland’s Logan Campbell Centre last night, proving that bone-crunching, riff-driven guitar rock is still alive and well. Continue reading

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The Undertones – Powerstation July 12, 2017

 

Bands! If you want to sell out The Powerstation, take a cue from The Undertones…record a handful of catchy, punky pop tunes, then wait 35 years to finally get around to playing in Auckland. Continue reading

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