1.Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs “Dirt Don’t Hurt”
Feisty acoustic blues from the ever-consistent Holly Golightly. A gravel voice, dirty guitars, lo-fi percussion and vengeful lyrics – what more do you need?
2. Calexico “Carried To Dust”
A nice return to form from our old mates (rumoured to be touring here again this year). No new ground broken, but more tasty Tex-Mex comfort food and much brighter than their previous effort, “Garden Ruin”.
3. Pete Molinari “A Virtual Landslide"
Tipping his hat to the rock balladeers of the 50’s and 60’s, Pete Molinari twists his Pitney-ish voice around some stunningly beautiful songs. Backed by the house band from the unashamedly retro Toerag Studios, this is a timeless record that still sounds remarkably ‘now’.
4. Vetiver “Thing Of The Past”
A loving tribute to lost country rock gems from the 60’s and 70’s, brought to you by Devendra Banhart’s guitarist, Andy Cabic. Gentle and beautifully formed (and with a gorgeous cover!), it is undeserving of its’ obscurity – rock snobs ahoy!
5. Otis Taylor “Recapturing The Banjo”
Honourable mention goes to ‘new blues’ pioneer Otis Taylor, confirmed for this year’s Wellington Jazz Festival. Here Otis and some of his big-name banjo buddies drag banjo folk/ blues kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Should be a great show – see you there!
Not a bumper year for classic albums, especially if you remained unmoved by the critics’ faves, Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes…
1. Bon Iver “For Emma Forever Ago”
Head and shoulders winner for me this year. Justin Vernon’s plaintive voice and tangible melancholy were presented on a debut album that is at times almost too gorgeous to listen to. It seemed almost like a song cycle charting the journey from isolation, despair and devastation to redemption, acceptance and hope – in his own words “this is not the sound of a new man, or crispy realization, it’s the sound of the unlocking and the lift away…” Quite magnificent.
2. Fleet Foxes S/T
An album that has survived initially seeming almost too good to be true – this young Seattle band signed to iconic indie label Sub Pop felt like they were channeling CSNY, The Beach Boys, Judee Sill and more. But this is more than accomplished mimicry and studio trickery by junior rock snobs with impeccable taste – the album is full of memorable songs that will get stuck in your head, and spinetingling harmony singing. Altogether now – “I was following the I…”
3. Vampire Weekend S/T
In hindsight it was actually a fairly vintage year for smart, melodic, literate US indie pop/ rock, and few were as smart, melodic and literate as NYC quartet Vampire Weekend. Singer Ezra Koenig’s jerky, quirky lyrics and delivery may recall vintage Talking Heads, but with musical influences that take in modern classical and African hi-life, their sound has been variously described as “Upper West Side Soweto”, or alternatively “trust fund venlafaxine er online
frat rock”. Either way, the album is a ton of fun.
4. Jenny Lewis “Acid Tongue”
A very late-comer for end of year honours for me, I had found her earlier “Rabbit Fur Coat” album a little cutesy and pat, and thus didn’t hold out that much hope for her newbie. But, knock me down with a feather if it didn’t creep up on me – gorgeous songs like the title track, “Black Sand” and “Pretty Bird”, along with the spirited “Carpetbaggers” (featuring a sprightly vocal cameo from Elvis Costello, the best thing he’s done in years!) – its’ country-soul flavourings hinting at Bobbie Gentry, Laura Nyro or Dusty Springfield, and providing a thoroughly enjoyable listen from start to finish.
5. Samuel F Scott & The BOP “Straight Answer Machine”/ Luke Buda “Vesuvius”
The second solo album from our Phoenix Foundation homeboys are like the yin and the yang that make my favourite local band tick. While Sam’s is a rather more live and direct affair than his more experimental debut, Buda is in a melancholy mood, which, coupled with very sleek production and sonics lend an almost 10CC feel to some tracks. They are also both filled with great songs like Sam’s “Raver On Probation”, “Black Mark” and “Sodium Ions”, or Luke’s “Crystal Ham”, “My Imminent Demise” and “The Answer’s Always Yes”. Clever boys!
1. Heidi Talbot “In Love And Light”
Apart from the deliberately moody/ fractious, slightly bolshie cover, this album is a sweet, just this side of whispery-likkle-girl delight. Produced by Boo Hewardine, Celtic and pop mesh rather nicely from the ex Cherish The Ladies (stupid name!) lead.
2. Eliza Gilkyson “Beautiful World”
For Ms Gilkyson it hasn’t always been a beautiful world, but these days she mingles the optimistic with the eco-friendly, the jazzy with the amiably ambient, still with catchy melodies and a voice at its’ very best.
3. Fotheringay “2”
38 years on and Sandy and Trevor are reunited posthumously as the album started in 1970 finally gets finished (hey, closure!) by Donahue, Donaldson and Conway. Sandy’s version of “Wild Mountain Thyme” is worth the price of admission alone, along with a lovely version of “Silver Threads And Golden Needles”, and I’ve always rather warmed to Lucas’s voice (despite critical opinion which likens it to a particularly virulent species of hardboard). Well worth the wait.
4. Teddy Thompson “A Piece Of What You Need”
Good looking, likeable young chap with a fairly ordinary voice makes blindingly good rock’n’roll album.
5.Lindsey Buckingham “Gift Of Screws”
“The attar from the rose/ is not expressed by suns alone/ it is the gift of screws.” Most mystics talk like this – poetic gobbledygook made manifest. In his favour, however, super guitar work, good grunty bass, other people guesting (step forward Mac mates), better songs than the last one, a good rock sensibility and a sense of the album as complete in itself.
Not a stellar year…