In these complicated times, many musical artists have been obliged to expend some of their precious creative essence on new ways to earn the money that would allow them to continue being musical artists, as opposed to, say, hospitality workers or officials at the Ministry of Culture and Heritage who, in quiet moments, wistfully question their life choices.
Principal among those ways is, of course, going to the people via crowdfunding. And I'd like to recommend to you Lawrence Arabia's new crowdfunding venture, Lawrence Arabia's 2018 Singles Club, on Kickstarter.
The idea is pretty sound: for a pledge of $20 or more, you'll receive a new digital single every month of 2018. Pay a few dollars more and you'll get the as-yet-untiled Lawrence Arabia album into which those singles will be compiled. Or a tea towel.
And if you're an official at the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, you may even choose to briefly quell the voices in your head by ponying up $200 for a personal video call in which Lawrence will sing 'Wind Beneath My Wings' solely for you, or $500 for a kind of life-membership package which includes your name on the door for every Lawrence Arabia gig until the end of time. You may even have a spare $2000 for a private Lawrence Arabia show at your own home or other nominated place.
But even if you don't have any money or you hate Lawrence Arabia's music, I would encourage you to go and browse the page itself, because it's extremely witty.
You may have heard the band on 95bFM this morning, discussing the exact nature of Satan's buttplug with Mikey Havoc and premiering their new single 'Sight Beyond The Line'. It's from their debut album, The Hill Temple, which is out next month. You can't hear that anywhere else at the moment, but here's the last single, 'Runes / Ruins', which is about as poppy as they've ever got:
Meanwhile, Digital Music News has a useful story on YouTube's new monetisation rules, which pretty much crap on independent musicians who thought they might earn a little beer money from the ads placed against their videos.
Under the new rules, "content creators" will lose the ability to monetise their videos unless they can show 4000 hours of total watch time within the past 12 months (or have at least 1000 subscribers). Now, this might be fine for "creators" who video their breakfast every morning, but it's less so for artists like, say, Disasteradio, who spend three months crafting a brilliant clip. Worse, YouTube will continue to place ads against their content – they just won't get a sliver of it. And they may have trouble claiming even the money have already earned.
The change appears to be YouTube's way of weeding out the "bad actors" – Nazis and crypto-paedophiles – who have been scaring off big advertisers. It seems a particularly ham-fisted way of achieving that goal.
Kody Neilson has given a glimpse of what he'll be playing at Splore next month, in the form of an instrumental piece called 'Bic's Birthday', which is the lead track on a forthcoming album of similar material called Birthday Suite.
We spent New Year's Eve down at Silo Park for the second Wondergarden festival and had a great time. I thought the event production – staging, light and sound – was a significant step up from the year before, and it was a treat hearing the local dance-pop of Leisure and Chelsea Jade so well-presented.
Chelsea's time in Los Angeles really seems to have focused her music, and Leisure's lolling funk sounds heavier and deeper live than it does on their album. And SWIDT were a riot: the single funniest moment of the evening was when they got a bit carried away with riffing on the letter "C" and declared "We're a Christian rap group." The Pasifika ladies standing next to us just about died laughing. I gathered they knew the boys.
Silo Park is also, we were reminded at midnight, a great place to watch the Sky Tower fireworks.
But quite a few people were not so happy with their evening, and were quite vocal about saying so. The reason? That perennial bogey for festival promoters – the bars.
I think it needs clarifying that the queues weren't really a problem for most of the event, which began at 2pm. We arrived at 7.45pm, didn't queue at all to buy bar tokens and waited an entirely manageable (indeed, amiable) 10 minutes to buy drinks.
But those were the only drinks we bought. Some time in the next hour, perhaps a third of of the eventual 3500-strong crowd arrived, it seemed, all at once. I looked around, saw long, long queues snaking slowly toward the two onsite bars and decided that the plentiful free water would do. People who did queue for drinks reckoned they waited up to an hour.
There were two problems here. One was simply a lot of thirsty people arriving at the same time. Remember the first two or three hours of past Laneway festivals on the same site? Like that, probably a little worse.
The other problem, and it has undone a number of events in recent years, was the requirements of the temporary liquor licence. The conditions included a limit of two drinks per person – which probably put 50% more people in the queues straight off the bat. Licensing conditions also tend to weigh against bars working too well (that was certainly what happened at Oro Festival last year, when what the production managers thought was a super-efficient design was vetoed by the licensing authority). I don't know exactly what happened at Wondergarden, but the relatively constrained site and the fact that it was an all-ages festival may have been a factor.
Now, sure, no one needs booze to have a good time, but there's a certain cultural conditioning around having a drink on New Year's Eve. I imagine everyone in a bar queue as midnight struck will have had mixed feelings. On the other hand, making it hard to get a drink probably did make for a safer event, which is significant when there are kids around.
What can be done? I guess, trying again for more and better bar space next year, and trying to get the drinks-per-person limit lifted. And – oh the irony – it would make sense for late arrivers to preload in a reasonable fashion. Perhaps the pass-out regime could be more liberal, so the very thirsty could dart over to the Wynyard bars – but that creates issues in itself. The police tend to take a dim view of "sideloading" from that stash of beer in the car.
But it would be also be sensible to make non-alcoholic drinks available away from the overtaxed bars. Late in the event, the food stalls were almost idle, yet apart from coffee and the dreaded kombucha, none sold drinks. Why not put in a juice bar?
In terms of the music itself, my only complaint would be that the named DJs between acts (because there was only one stage, the breaks were relatively long) were something of a non-event. It might as well have been someone's Spotify playlist. Why not build a DJ pod out on the grass, to put a bit more focus on the selectors?
In the event, our son was pretty exhausted by midnight (he copes very well for a person with autism, but there are limits), so we didn't watch much of the headliners, UMO. It was a balmy night, and it seemed most appealing to head home, relax on the deck and enjoy, yes ... a drink.
Megan Whelan, who's been covering the summer shift for RNZ, did a lovely interview with Mark Williams, who has two tracks on the Aotearoa funk and disco compilation Heed the Call, to talk about the old days.
Williams, who seems to be one of the nicest men in music, was philosophical about the uproar generated in Old Zealand by his disruptively androgynous style in the 1970s, noting that he was as likely to be embraced as reviled: "I was derided on the one hand and loved on the other – I couldn’t walk down the street without one thing or the other happening."
The good news is that Alan Perrott and John Baker's little project has caused much more of a splash then they ever expected – to the extent that there will be a Heed the Call launch show in late March, featuring many of the original artists. Be assured I will keep you posted on that.
Williams noted that although there wasn't a lot of funky disco music produced here in the 1970s, the music was embraced, particularly by young Māori and Pasifika. That reminded me of an exercise I did a little while ago, just to kill time on Twitter.
You may not know it, but New Zealand's music sales charts from 1965 onwards are in a searchable archive at charts.org.nz. I searched for a few of the greatest hits of disco, and most of them did register here. Most notably, the greatest dance record ever, Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love', spent 14 weeks in the New Zealand charts in 1977, peaking at No.2 – her best chart placement in this country. 'Love to Love You Baby', her first hit in, in 1975, reached No.8.
Chic's 'Le Freak' hit No.1 here in 1978 – better than it did in most countries. (In France, by contrast, it peaked at No. 140 in only three weeks on chart. What was wrong with you, France?)
Some tunes were bigger here than anywhere else, most notably Heatwave's 'Boogie Nights', which we sent to No.1. (It only made No. 13 in Germany, where Heatwave were actually from.)
Sister Sledge's 'We Are Family' made No.6 in 1979, Gloria Gaynor's gay anthem 'I Will Survive' made No.10, Jimmy 'Bo' Horne's 'Dance Aross the Floor' reached No.4, and Van McCoy's slinky 'The Hustle' made No.5 way back in 1975.
We kept it up into the 1980s, when Grandmaster Flash's 'The Message' reached No.2 in the singles chart in 1982 (the album peaked at a respectable No.14). And even the cool clubland anthem that was Indeep's 'Last Night a DJ Saved My Life' reached No.25.
The industry may not have been set up well to produce the music in New Zealand, but there seems little doubt that we, the people, loved to boogie.
There was, of course, a layer of music that barely reached New Zeaand from the clubs of New York– and that's what's captured in the brilliant new compilation Reach Up: Disco Wonderland, put together by Portishead's DJ Andy Smith. Some of the songs are a little naive, but most of them are slinky, sensual and strikingly predictive of the dance music that took over the world a decade or more later.
None more than this banger by Tamiko Jones:
Reach Up is available as a triple LP (I got mine at Southbound Records) and in digital formats. The digital links (including high-quality files to buy on Bandcamp) are all listed here.
And if you just can't get enough of this stuff, come on down to Golden Dawn after work today. Sandy Mill and I are playing a sweet sunset set in the courtyard from 5pm-8pm and there will be a lot of disco.
I discovered only yesterday that, in perhaps the most unexpected collaboration you could imagine, Nona Hendryx teamed up with former member Magic Band guitarist Gary Lucas to record a Captain Beefheart tribute album. No, really: the Village Voice story is here.
I haven't had a chance to give the album a proper listen, but I do like this:
It turns out that Nona has been performing Beefheart songs since 2013. This was a warm-up for some showd with an orchestra in the Netherlands:
This is an intriguing – and from what I've heard so far – rewarding project. The album, The World of Captain Beefheart, is available in the usual places.
Not for the first time, we woke in New Zealand today with too much to look at in Washington; less the Trump trainwreck than a blockbuster movie of a trainwreck where the director has tried to stuff too much into the shot.
The big headline was the release of the first, incendiary excerpts from Michael Wolff's forthcoming book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, which is said to be the product of more than 200 frank interviews with Trump-world figures, including the President himself.
The lengthy passage obtained by New York magazine depicts an angry, disillusioned candidate Trump being persuaded by the offer of Mercer family millions to bring aboard Steve Bannon – and then the first iteration of the Trump White House, a roiling royal court in which everyone competes for the attention of a needy idiot-King and mocks him behind his back.
The Guardian's scoop was more direct: it had Bannon dumping mightily on his erstwhile rivals for the King's favour and slating Donald Trump Jr's already-documented meeting with a group of Russians at Trump Tower as "treasonous" and "unpatriotic". Bannon had the story excerpted on Breitbart, in what seems a clear indication that he takes no issue with it. And that in turn prompted this statement from the White House, in the president's name and remarkable even by the standards of petulance the world has come to expect this past year:
Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.
Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base — he’s only in it for himself.
Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.
We have many great Republican members of Congress and candidates who are very supportive of the Make America Great Again agenda. Like me, they love the United States of America and are helping to finally take our country back and build it up, rather than simply seeking to burn it all down.
The first breakouts from the book had the effect of bumping out of the headlines a bizarre flurry of new year tweets by Trump himself, including one in which Trump declared he had a bigger nuclear button than Kim Jong-un and others which revived debunked claims about his predecessor giving money to to Iran to fund terrorism, attacked "Crooked Hillary", the New York Times and the news media in general, appeared to threaten the government of Pakistan, promoted Sean Hannity's Fox News show, quoted praise for himself on another Fox News show and– perhaps most bizarrely – claimed personal credit for a fatality-free year in commercial aviation.
It was easy, amid all this noise, to miss the New York Times op-ed headed The Republicans' Fake Investigations, in which Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, the former journalists who founded Fusion GPS, the company behind the "Steele dossier" on Trump's Russian connections, lay out what they have told three Congressional committees – and the lengths to which some Republican reps have gone to bury what they've said. At once, Republicans have blocked the publication of their evidence – and tried to make Fusion the subject of the inquiry.
We suggested investigators look into the bank records of Deutsche Bank and others that were funding Mr. Trump’s businesses. Congress appears uninterested in that tip: Reportedly, ours are the only bank records the House Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed.
We told Congress that from Manhattan to Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., and from Toronto to Panama, we found widespread evidence that Mr. Trump and his organization had worked with a wide array of dubious Russians in arrangements that often raised questions about money laundering. Likewise, those deals don’t seem to interest Congress.
It is time to stop chasing rabbits. The public still has much to learn about a man with the most troubling business past of any United States president. Congress should release transcripts of our firm’s testimony, so that the American people can learn the truth about our work and most important, what happened to our democracy.
What Simpson and Fritsch have written chimes with Bannon's characterisation in Wolff's book of the Mueller investigation into Trump-Russia as being all about money-laundering:
“You realise where this is going,” he is quoted as saying. “This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [senior prosecutor Andrew] Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr and Jared Kushner … It’s as plain as a hair on your face.”
Last month it was reported that federal prosecutors had subpoenaed records from Deutsche Bank, the German financial institution that has lent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kushner property empire. Bannon continues: “It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit. The Kushner shit is greasy. They’re going to go right through that. They’re going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me.”
But it also made me think of Talking Points Memo, where Josh Marshall has been chipping away at Donald Trump's fetid business history for more than a year. Josh clearly thought the same thing and has now posted a column headed The End of the Beginning in which he observes that:
... the focus on conspiracy during the 2016 campaign cycle has almost totally eclipsed examination of Donald Trump’s longstanding involvement with the Russian criminal underworld and money laundering which laid the basis of what happened in 2016.
With the Fusion GPS evidence and much, much more now in the hands of Mueller and his team, it does seem increasingly likely that President Trump's dark business history is a key focus of their investigation. Wolff's book underlines what was already known about the willingness of these people to turn on each other: others will flip. Unless, of course, Trump and Congressional Republicans actually do attempt to kill the investigation by rolling Mueller. Then the world would be in unfamiliar and unprecedentedly dangerous territory.
At any rate, if you would prefer 2018 to be any less weird than 2017, you're likely to be out of luck.
What do these musical artists have in common? Alt-J, Tricky, the Skatalites, Mulatu Astatke, Mac DeMarco, Calexico, M83, The Residents, Tame Impala, Freddie Gibbs, Thundercat and the Sun Ra Arkestra.
Answer: they have all played, or are soon to play, shows in Israel managed by Naranjah, the same company that was promoting the now-cancelled Lorde show in Tel Aviv. They don't appear on the lists of artists whose names are treated as endorsements by the Israeli government and its cheerleaders, and they largely haven't been called out by those who believe Israel's policies should make it a pariah. As far as I'm aware, no one asked them what they thought about The Situation.
Lorde didn't have that advantage. Days after her latest round of tour dates was announced, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) publicly called on her to reconsider playing in Tel Aviv. From that point, she had to make a choice – stay the course, or change her arangements – and the choice she made would be regarded as a statement of position. She had been drafted into a culture war. Or, to put it another way, she was big enough to have been considered a combatant; it was just a matter of whose side she was fighting for.
Lorde's general management is handled by Crush Music and her booking agent is the giant CAA, who would have booked the Tel Aviv gig. But she famously makes her own creative and business decisions and, to her credit, she didn't seek to portray the choice as anyone's but hers. She didn't let it lie and then make a quiet cancellation, like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis did.
She made a personal decision – which was, in the end, the one you'd expect a woman of her age and general progressive sensibility to make. Indeed, the submission that she publicly acknowledged was an open letter on The Spinoff by "two young women based in Aotearoa, one Jewish, one Palestinian," asking her not to go.
Eran Arielli, the founder of Naranjah, expressed sympathy, telling the Jerusalem Post he had been "naive to think that an artist of her age would be able to face the pressure of appearing in Israel," adding that "she doesn’t deserve all the shit she’s had to endure over the past week ... This is not the first cancellation we’ve had, and it won’t be the last."
Ironically, it turned out that the shit involved in playing the gig was nothing on the shit that not playing it has brought down. Israel's Culture minister Miri Regevprevailed on her to "be a heroine of pure culture, free from any foreign – and ridiculous – political considerations." (Ironically, Regev has repeatedly threatened to withdraw state funding from any Israeli artists who speak against Likudnik doctrine. So much for it being "ridiculous" to allow politics to intrude on culture.) The Israeli ambassador to New Zealand requested a meeting. Any number of internet right-wingers unloaded on her. And Brian Edwards wrote a series of pompous, patronising and muddled Facebook posts and blamed social media when people said they didn't like them.
And then, this full-page ad appeared in the Washington Post.
There's a lot to unpick in the ad. The baseless and defamatory smear that Lorde is a "bigot" whose "Jew hatred" aligns her with "those committed to Israel's fiscal destruction". The farcical linking of her decision about a gig with New Zealand's sponsorship of UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which, as MFAT put it:
... reaffirmed that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.
The resolution carried exactly a year ago, with 14 votes in favour and none against (even the US only abstained). I'm pretty sure Lorde was at the beach at the time.
The ad also asserts that Lorde, in making her decision, "joined the anti-Semitic BDS movement". In fact, in her statement she doesn't mention BDS. As far as I'm aware, she has never acknowledged BDS at all.
So why wouldn't anyone want to be associated with BDS, whose published goals – an end to occupation and settlement of the Territories, equal rights in law for Palestinian Israeli citizens and the right of return for refugees – are ambitious but roughly in line with the will of the international community?
It's complicated. The founders of BDS consciously (and with the support of various anti-apartheid heroes) adopted apartheid and the global boycott movement against it as a frame for their campaign on the plight of Palestinians. But the two campaigns aren't strictly comparable. The cultural academic and sporting boycott of South Africa had the explicit support of the UN General Assembly from 1968. By contrast, a number of national and local legislatures have passed laws specifically outlawing BDS, even as the movement becomes more mainstream.
But a bigger problem is that pestilence of the "anti-imperialist" Left, anti-semitism; less among the Palestinian campaign founders than some of the white folks who follow them. In 2013, for example, a campaign in the name of BDS against the opening of a Max Brenner chocolate shop at the University of New South Wales turned very nasty, with anti-semitic and Holocaust-denial trash posted on the campaign Facebook page. Jews anywhere have a right to be appalled and alarmed by that. And yeah, it happens here too. I've seen it in the past few days.
We thank Nick Cave for making one thing abundantly clear—playing Tel Aviv is never simply about music. It is a political and moral decision to stand with the oppressor against the oppressed.
Because if the left-wing politics around this are dodgy in places, the right-wing politics are in many ways worse. The Israeli right, too, aggressively touts its supporters in pop, whether those artists actually endorse Israeli government policy or not. Cave clearly chafed at being hectored by Roger Waters, but he didn't have to deal with an assault like this week's Washington Post ad.
The ad was placed by the World Values Network, which is the creation of Shmuley Boteach, a longtime self-promoter who refers to himself as "America's Rabbi". Last year's exhaustive profile of Boteach by Rob Bryan depicted a fraudster in deep with the most unsavoury elements of the far-right establishment. His ad's invocation of Putin and Assad sits oddly alongside his his enthusiastic support of President Trump and his association with the openly Assadist Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat who comes from the creepy RT-reading end of the pool. He is friends with evangelist John Hagee (who blames the Holocaust on the "half-Jew" Hitler) and with Steve Bannon. He even writes for the home of the "alt-right", Breitbart, where he continued his assault on the New Zealand pop star.
While Boteach – whose organisation is funded by the controversial US casino magnate Sheldon Adelson – has been quick to level suggestions of antisemitism at figures he regards as anti-Israel, he has also had no qualms about defending others on the right from the same accusation, including Steve Bannon and the Breitbart website.
In 2016, Boteach defended Bannon from accusations made by Jonathan Greenblatt of the US Anti-Defamation League, who criticised Bannon’s appointment as a White House adviser, saying it was a “sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the ‘alt-right’ – a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed antisemites and racists – is slated to be a senior staff member in the ‘people’s house’”.
In an open letter to Greenblatt, Boteach vouched for Bannon, saying it was unfair to object to his appointment on the basis of Breitbart’s content or audience.
Yes, he defends nazis.
Like BDS, Boteach glommed on to Lorde as a way to fuel his cause. Had she decided to play Tel Aviv, she'd have been added to his roster of pop friends of Israel. Because she decided otherwise, she's subject to a vicious, defamatory attack. It all makes headlines and helps Boteach's profile.
It cannot be emphasised enough that the New Zealand Jewish Council wants nothing to do with this and its chair Juliet Moses has criticised the ad. Wellington-based Davd Cohen, who was also disappointed by her decision, wrote in a column for the Times of Israel that it in no way amounted to bigotry. But Moses's column slating the supposed "bullying" that turned Lorde against her Tel Aviv show looks a bit thin in light of what Lorde is now facing. Would you want to be targeted by the Bannon-Breitbart shitmonster?
It's all an illustration of the almost unmanageable politics that Israel and its government's policies carry with it – most notably outside Israel. As ever, the debate within Israel is more lively: the Wikipedia section on the resistance (notably from academics who would lose out from an effective educational boycott) to official attempts to ban and criminalise even verbal support for BDS is illustrative of that. And in many ways, Israeli government is more tolerant and liberal than the Palestian authorities – as part of its 2016 report Human Rights Watch noted that the four official executions in Gaza in 2016 included that of "one person accused of same-sex relations".
At least five categories of major violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law characterize the occupation: unlawful killings; forced displacement; abusive detention; the closure of the Gaza Strip and other unjustified restrictions on movement; and the development of settlements, along with the accompanying discriminatory policies that disadvantage Palestinians.
Many of Israel’s abusive practices were carried out in the name of security. Palestinian armed groups have carried out scores of lethal attacks on civilians and launched thousands of rocket attacks on Israeli civilian areas, also in violation of international humanitarian law.
"Whether it’s a child imprisoned by a military court or shot unjustifiably, or a house demolished for lack of an elusive permit, or checkpoints where only settlers are allowed to pass, few Palestinians have escaped serious rights abuses during this 50-year occupation," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Israel today maintains an entrenched system of institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians in the occupied territory – repression that extends far beyond any security rationale."
Maybe you don't get to parade around as a member of the liberal democracy club when you harbour that ulcer.
Your view of these issues is going to be strongly governed by who you are and where you're from. I get that there's an existential echo around any threat to Israel that I don't automatically hear. But Lorde, having been thrust into the controversy when others weren't, has made her personal decision – the one you'd roughly expect given who she is and where she's from – with some grace.
And now she weathers the storm. It might be wise and decent to not make that any harder for her.
Hi folks. Normally, I'd welcome comments here, but I honestly don't have the energy during the holiday period to oversee a discussion that would undoubtedly need pretty much constant watching. Sorry, but comments are off.
I hate end-of-year "best of" lists. I mean, I like reading them, but they make me feel inadequate. They're always full of records I haven't heard – or even heard of. Some writers conjure great insight into every pick when I'm just, well, I liked that.
I'm not all that systematic anyway, least of all when it comes to something as fuzzy and close as music. But I have had some pretty great experiences with music this year, so I thought I should contemplate my musical memories of 2017 in a non-listicle way.
Things kicked off well, with dancing to the amazing Theo Parrish on the roof of the art gallery. And then, a few days later, a transcendent experience with Nick Cave at the then-Vector Arena. I'd seen and been moved by the remarkable film Cave allowed to be made in lieu of press interviews for Skeleton Tree, so I understood when was going on emotionally with this return to the stage. But the joy and power of it was something I've rarely experienced – and I've been to a lot of gigs.
The same month, Laneway Festival made the big move to Albert Park. I really liked Bob Moses and I loved the cavernous set from The Veils, but most of all I think I just really liked the new venue. I hope they can stay there a long time.
I missed Fazerdaze, whose Morningside became one of my go-to albums for 2017, but happily Flying Out put together this video of the band preparing for and playing the festival.
In February, one of my favourite records of the year, Nadia Reid's Preservation was released. Its a deep record, one that gves up a little more with each play, and my enjoyment of it was enhanced by Nick Bollinger's wonderful review on RNZ, which offered insights into the poetry of the songs.
February was also Splore time, and deep into the Saturday night, with my friends around me, I danced to one of the best DJ sets I've ever heard, from the young Danish DJ Courtesy (she's back next year, with one of her Copenhagen crew in tow). Fat Freddy's Drop's Sunday set, with all the mud people, was a community experience.
As March began, Lorde returned. I loved the teaser and reveal for 'Green Light' and, when Melodrama was duly released, I liked that too. If the challenge for Lorde was to demonstrate that she had a career in her and not just one, very singular, album, then she more than passed that test. Her No.2 place on Metacritic's list of 2017 lists suggests I wasn't alone. But ... although I loved her writing more than ever, I did reach a point on repeated plays where the production became wearying. And much as I loved her Powerstation show, I did wonder whether the next time she goes out she'll want to have someone else on stage to interact with and a more flexible approach to playing those songs live. But this is quibbling. She's awesome.
The following month, Lorde provided a handy benchmark for the rapid and prodigious change underway in music industry revenues. As I wrote:
Moreover, the 700% growth in streaming revenue – from $5m in 2013 to $43.3m in 2016 – has helped the industry to a second year of growth, after a long decline. And, because people still like to buy things, vinyl now accounts for 14% of sales – $2.5m in 2016, up from $1.6m the year before. Public performance income (mainly licensing revenue from sound recordings aired on TV and radio, and public performance of recordings in bars, gyms and the like) is up too, at $14.2m, from $13.7m in 2015 and $11.6m in 2013.
It was interesting that both Stridulators, Chris Burt and Steve Roach, were astonished by how good this literally homemade recording sounded when they went back to it at my request more than 30 years later. Musicians, like any creative artists, sometimes lose touch with how good their work is.
Having rediscovered this part of their creative histories, Steve and Chris decided that perhaps a digital re-release of these long-unavailable songs would be in order. And this week, they finally got around to it: On the brand new House of Squirm Bandcamp page, you can now buy 'Queue' and 'The Inside Track' plus the original unlisted track on the 7" for $5. There's also an entire 1986 show at the Rising Sun by Selwyn Toogood (Steve and Ben Hayman) as a free download.
In August – once a week for a month – we were treated to the warm-up for and recording of Neil Finn's album Out of Silence, live on the internet. I really can't say enough about what Neil did here – those Friday nights brought me a way of interacting with music, at the point of its creation, that I'd never experienced before. There was another novel feeling when the album came out – I'm sure that I wasn't the only one who felt a sense of ownership in it because of that experience. You live in a small country, it's up to you to make it interesting. Bravo, Neil. Bloody bravo.
There was a very welcome return from Disasteradio, whose album Sweatshop was full of the familiar chip-pop, but with a new melodic dimension. And, of course, this amazing video.
Disasteradio was also part of the lineup for The Other's Way Festival, where again, Ben Howe and his team turned K Road into a big musical party. I loved his manic set atWhammy, I was taken quite by surprise by Arthur Ahbez's joyous retro-fest and and I saw out the evening dancing to Micronism. This is such a great event.
The first week of October brought the grim news that The Golden Dawn, a great home for music despite its triangular room, is to close in March. And we're still not clear on what might fill that gap when the GD and the KA are gone. But there was cheer, too, with the release of the first taste of a new Anthonie Tonnon album. I was lucy enough to hear some more of the songs at a tiny gig at West Lynn's Freida Margolis and I really am struggling to wait:
One interesting feature of that Freida Marolis gig was Tono playing a Synthstrom Deluge. I met Rohan Hill, the creator of this remarkable portable synthesiser a while ago and I was hugely impressed by both the device and by the way Rohan had created it almost from scratch. I suspect even he was surprised to see it in the hands not of an electronic music producer, but a one-man band like Tono.
Not long afterwards, we were lucky enough to be invited to a little showcase at Golden Dawn for Julia Deans' forthcoming follow-up to Modern Fables, the album We Light Fire. And we weren't alone in being blown away not only by the new songs, but by her performance of them. And yes, that's another album we'll have to wait till next year for. It's just cruel.
Happily, I was able to bridge the gap somewhat by inviting Julia to play at our final Orcon IRL event for the year. Here she is doing the title track ...
Julia confessed to being a bit croaky after the New Zealand Music Awards three days before. Yeah, me too. But I will say that I think it was best, tightest stage presentation since the event moved to the Arena. My favourite part of the evening was Ladi6 winning her award, and what Ladi said about accepting the sacrifices involved in pursuing a creative life. They're good people – and I can heartily recommend the soulful, expansive Royal Blue 3000 EP Ladi and her crew put out in June. It's just $7 on Bandcamp.
You should take with a grain of salt news reports that RMNZ is planning to take the whole thing back to the industry and away from the public. That's not really going to happen – but next year will be the first Music Awards in many years not produced by J&A, so it will be different in that respect at least.
And then, by golly, it was Heed the Call, the marvellous, loving compilation of Aotearoa soul, funk and disco put together by Alan Perrott and John Baker. I think both of them have been quite taken aback by the response to the record, but it really deserves applause. And apart from anything else, the vinyl sounds great: given the frequently indifferent quality of New Zealand pressings at the time, you could confidently say these tunes have never sounded better.
I should note that a had a very happy time dancing to the other Mark Williams song on the album, 'House for Sale', at the little launch evening at Golden Dawn. What beautifully-made track that is.
Here are Troy and the Galactic Chiropractors playing a RNZ session ...
I can see I'll also be doing quite a bit of irie vibing to the reunited Unitone Hi-Fi if they can deliver more like this late-breaker ...
The best local remix of the year came late too. DiCE's rework of Aldous Harding's 'Horizon' goes to a whole 'nother place, but it's a place that makes perfect sense (and it's still a free download):
And that's it! The summary above is based mostly on things I actally wrote about here, so there are a few gaps (for some reason I never ended up writing about one of my favourite songs of the year, Reb Fountain's 'Hopeful and Hopeless'), but feel free to add your own thoughts below.
For now, we're looking forward to another full summer of music, especially in festival lineups. I'll be going to a bunch of those, starting with Wondergarden on New Year's Eve, but you'll also find me out on the deck in the gathering dusk, trying to find the way to Zygertron ...
Have a happy summer, whanau. See you down the front.
PS: Some other lists from people who can actually write lists ...