Tomorrow, Saturday, is international Record Store Day – you can tell by the appearance of solemn thinkpieces about how Record Store Day is ruining everything. This year, it's the Chicago-based reissue label Numero Group, which which published a blast about how an event created to draw attention to independent retailers has become an excuse for major record companies to issue overpriced picture discs that no one really needs and clog up pressing plants so that honest indies can't get their records made.
And it's true, to an extent. My eyes inevitably glaze over when I look at the official list of RSD releases (here are the 400-odd releases for 2018) and I can't work out what what might even get to New Zealand (even the shops don't know until remarkably late in the piece), what I could justify spending money on, and what I'd even actually want.
But I don't think that really matters all that much in New Zealand, where RSD plays out more than anything as a nice day to walk into one of our few remaining record shops. Peter McLennan has, as usual, done a great job of rounding up what's happening at participating stores in Auckland, Wellington, Tauranga, Palmerston North, Christchurch, Dunedin and – for the first time! – Grant Smithies' little shack o' sound at Family Jewels Records in Nelson.
Not everyone will have RSD exclusives, but there are, variously, live performances, guest DJs, discounts and prizes. And some of the more relevant exclusives aren't even official RSD releases. Southbound Records in Auckland has the reissue of Unitone Hi-Fi's Wickedness Increased album and Marbeck's will have the 12" (with remix) of Sandy Mill's new single 'Giftbox' (Sandy is playing too, at 1pm).
Southbound has 50% off all secondhand vinyl and 95bFM DJs, Slow Boat in Wellington has the Minister of Finance and Tiny Ruins (not together, as intriguing as the idea would be) and Real Groovy has beer and SWIDT. Everyone's doing it differently.
I'll be DJing down at Marbeck's from 11am-noon, then heading up the hill to have a look at the others. Honestly, if you're free tomorrow, just go to one of the shops Peter has listed and have a look around. We would be a poorer place without these stores and the people who run them.
PS: Turns out there's more going on in Christchurch than Peter or I knew – including a brand new record store in Woolston. Christchurch City Libraries' Donna Robertson has all the details in a blog post here.
These days, of course, when you say "record shop", you're generally talking about a shop that sells vinyl, new or used. And for all the talk about the "vinyl revival", only a minority of people have turntables. But people care about records in a way they don't about CDs. And that's captured in this 2016 short film about Southbound and the people who go there. I can confirm that one of the nicer things I can do with my spare time is swinging by the shop to leaf through the racks and yarn with Roger and Kerry while I'm at it.
And I don't know whether the timing was conscious or not, but NZ On Screen has just published this completely wonderful 1949 newsreel report on the pressing of Ruru Karaitiana's song for Pixie Williams, 'Blue Smoke', the very first record to be locally written, recorded and manufactured in New Zealand. I had no idea this film even existed and I'm absolutely smitten with it.
I mentioned Sandy Mill's new single 'Giftbox', which you can stream in the usual places, and buy here on Bandcamp. It includes two dancefloor remixes by Dean Webb, which raise the tempo on the soul styles of the original track. Here's the radio edit ...
Today, Sandy also officially announced her five-track EP, A Piece of Me, which can be pre-ordered here on Bandcamp (or instore at Marbecks) ahead of a May 4 release.
Nick Dow's debut album, Layers, was recorded in Lyttelton with Ben Edwards (Marlon Williams, Nadia Reid, Aldous Harding) at the controls – but while it has some of the feeling of the Lyttelton sound, it's musically something different altogether.
Dow's jazz background comes through in the accompaniments to songs like 'Run' and 'Playing for the Music', but most of the songs themselves sound more in the vein of the kind of R&B-aware singer-songwriter thing that's been blowing up in Britain in the past few years, with more than a little James Blake in there too. Between them Dow and Edwards have made it sound quite magnificent and it's hard to believe it's his debut recording.
He's interviewed here by the Australian music blog Happy, and has tour dates in June. The video for the title track was released last week:
The album itself is on the streaming services and you can also hear it in full here on Soundcloud:
I think we'll be hearing a lot more of him.
With Lorde's Melodrama tour in the US reaching its conclusion, Gareth Shute has written up one of the more notable elements of the tour: the many cover versions she performed along the way, often as a way of acknowledging where she was on the night (Patsy Cline's 'Leavin' On Your Mind' in Nashville, for instance). His Lorde’s top five covers from her Melodrama tour for The Spinoff comes with an embedded Spotify playlist of (probably) all the cover versions she's done on stage.
Gareth added her version of Patsy Cline's 'Leavin' On Your Mind' (performed in Nashville, Patsy's birthplace) to the playlist after I alerted him to it yesterday, but I reckon it deserves an embed too ...
Thanks to Keegan for the tip on this one: Nu Guinea are not from New Guinea, but Italy. And their new album Nuova Napoli (here on Bandcamp) is full of fluid, funky afrodisco-influenced goodness like this:
And the across-the-ages UK dance music show Glitterbox has Debbie Sledge of Sister Sledge as an in-studio guest this week. You may worship at the disco altar.