Song of the Week – Barcelona

Barcelona – Ed Sheeran

Ed is back with better material than ever with his new album Divide. He’s tried to take on a different sound in every track on this record and it sure makes for fun and surprising listening!

My favourite track from my first couple of listens is jazzy tune Barcelona. This song just makes me grin – right now I’m on the train listening to it and I’m having to work hard to stop my feet tapping and my shoulders jiggling in time with the bouncy and fun-loving track.

If you’re looking for a song to ensure you feel happy, make you want to dance and unable to not singalong then this is it! Pure happiness for three minutes!!

Song the Week – Big Picture

Big Picture – London Grammar

English alt-pop group London Grammar are back with a vengeance with new track Big Picture, an epic ballad with a modern electro sound. In shades of their previous works it is a true builder – with every line sung the melody layered beneath grows and grows to great effect.

It’s hard not to sit up and listen when you hear Hannah Reid’s insane voice! This woman has such a unique sound and can show off the most impressive range, but the control she has of her instrument is the icing on the cake. Throughout Big Picture she changes the tempo and the feeling of the track regularly, her voice holds the power. The best part – the rest of the band (Dan Rothman and Dominic Major), know this. For that reason the bases to the songs aren’t overpowering but instead shadow Reid and move in her direction. It works beautifully and helps to make their music so powerful.

Big Picture is just a small taste of what’s to come on London Grammar’s new album and now I’m bloody excited.

Song of the Week – Shine Like the Sun

Shine Like the Sun – Thomas Oliver

I have been waiting for the release of this song for months and months now! I first heard it during Pass The Gat performances at the Taranaki Arts Festival and WOMAD. Played acoustically live it brought tears to my eyes – and now the released version has had the same affect.

Thomas Oliver is a super talented Kiwi musician with an array of talents and this first taste from his album due out in April (and paid for all by crowd funding) is a sign he’s perfected his true sound as a solo artist.

He first burst into the scene years ago with the Thomas Oliver Band who played a foot stomping style of folk music. Following that he showcased his incredible weissenborn playing skills on Beneath the Weissenborn.

Both of these sounds were fantastic and much loved by the people who discovered them, but Shine Like the Sun is more mature and accessible for listeners. The blues style riffs add some grunt to the gentle track, his falsetto shines in the chorus, and those lyrics? Romantic as hell!

I think Oliver is onto a winner with this touching ballad.

Three hip hop albums you’re stupid not to be listening to:

I keep going to write a blog for a song of the week but over the last couple of months I just can’t chose one, because I have too many options!

So I’ve decided to write this post instead, because three hip hop albums have been dominating my listening as of late. I’m sure many of you are already fans of at least one of these artists, but if you’re not – it’s time you chucked these talented musicians on your playlist.

  1. Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!

The third studio album from Childish Gambino (Real name Donald Glover – also an actor who plays my favourite character in TV sitcom Community), Awaken, My Love!, has a more soulful style than his previous works. The artist has moved on from a rap focus and embraced his voice. I liked the old stuff, but this I love!! Each song has a funky base line and melody but the vocals are jazzed up in each different track too – it’s amazing what this man can do with his voice. Must listen tracks are Redbone, California and Stand Tall.

  1. Anderson .Paak – Malibu

This California man, born Brandon Paak Anderson, initally started producing music under the name Breezey Lovejoy – I’m glad he reverted to his current moniker. I never knew of Breezey’s work but thanks to the album Malibu, I’ll never forget Anderson .Paak. This is one hell of a record from the groover, its GRAMMY nomination for best urban contemporary album is testament to that. Each track on this album is upbeat and catchy, a smooth mix of soulful vocals and light rap makes for easy listening, but if you want to delve deeper into the tracks there is a lot to them. This is a record you won’t tire of quickly – having 16 songs on offer also helps on that front- impressive! The Bird, Put Me Thru, Celebrate and Am I Wrong are the stand outs for me.

  1. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book

He just smashed it at the GRAMMYs – he snapped up the best new artist prize as well as best rap album, and that’s a mean feat for an artist who only released his album via streaming. What a step forward for the music industry! But the reason Chance won is because he’s brilliant. With shades of Common and Kendrick Lamar, anyone who didn’t know of him before the GRAMMYs will certainly be a fan after seeing his compelling performance. I couldn’t take my eyes of the screen and have been watching it on repeat. Coloring Book, featuring an impressive array of collaborators such as Justin Bieber, Anderson .Paak and Kanye West, makes for compelling listening and I keep going back for more. His gospel take on rap music is powerful as heck but also funky as hell. Give it a crack and start with tracks No Problem, All We Got, Blessings, Same Drugs.

Concert Review: James Taylor

How sweet it is, to be a crowd member at a James Taylor concert.

Last night I headed along with other picnic basket carrying fans and settled in on the grass in the glorious Napier sunshine for a stunning night at Church Road Winery. What a setting! You couldn’t ask for a much dreamier spot or day to hear the dulcet tones of this American music superstar.

I don’t say superstar lightly, he is one of the most humble and gracious performers I’ve ever witnessed, yet he still has this insane star quality. We were mesmerised by his passionate storytelling and loved the pride with which he introduced each band member and rattled off their talents (of which I can confirm they had many –what an outstanding array of artists!).

Songs took on new meaning as they were preceded with tales of encounters with the Beatles and song swapping sessions with Carole King. Taylor acknowledged that the first time he played You’ve Got a Friend he never imagined he’d end up playing it every day for the rest of his life – but he was quick to say that that was in no way a bad thing! Amen to that – what a magic song it is and he brought it to life wonderfully last night, the crowd sang every word with their arms wrapped tightly round their mates, it was a real highlight.

This was one of many songs we were treated to in this concert of hit, after hit, after hit. We got all the goodies as well as the odd new song thrown in and it flowed perfectly. New tracks like Today, Today, Today truly stood up against the rest and showed he’s still a current artist with plenty more to give. My favourites were Copperline, Shower the People, Sweet Baby James and Country Road, each was played and sung with stunning ability and made everyone sit up a listen.

This is one of those concerts you think back about the next day and realise you’re bloody lucky you’ve witnessed such a musical genius at work. James Taylor still has full control of his lullaby voice and picks those guitar strings with lightning speed. My only criticism was finishing on a song which wasn’t a singalong, it left me thinking ‘that can’t be it?’ I felt certain there was a little more left in the tank. Perhaps playing Something in the Way She Moves, would have been a better choice given it seemed to be the only song people were whispering afterwards that they were sad not to hear.

But when I think about it – maybe my one minor complaint is created only because I didn’t want what was an epic show to end.

A+ work from you James Taylor – what a night!

The 2017 Auckland Laneway Festival Awards

Best festival venue:

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The Rotunda stage in Albert Park

Well what a festival! Moving to Albert Park was the best venue change imaginable. Laneway has gone from being an event which had echoey acoustics, no shade on impossibly hot days and no way near enough space for all the punters – to a festival which is a dream for attendees. The gorgeous Albert Park was a stunning setting, trees framed the stages, provided much sought after shade, the sound quality at all stages was fantastic and the vibe was outstanding. 10/10!

The best act of the day:

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Glass Animals play the Rotunda Stage

There’s no doubt about who takes this award out, Brit rockers Glass Animals were the clear stand out of the day – my only complaint? 45 minutes just wasn’t enough!! I had extremely high expectations for this band as I have cranked their latest album How to be a Human Being for about four months ahead of this show. I was worried they might let me down and I’d walk away from their set feeling sad the music didn’t translate as well live – boy was I wrong and man am I glad. These guys excelled! This was the most entertaining performance I’ve seen in years, front man Dave Bayley leapt on stage for first song Life Itself dancing around like a mad thing and that energy never subsided, he was contagious. I couldn’t wipe the grin from my face as they rattled through song after song with every crowd member boogeying and singing along with ultimate enthusiasm. I can’t pick a favourite song of the set because each one played was just as good as the last – why aren’t they doing side shows? I need more Glass Animals in my life!!

The most polished performance:

There’s no doubt about who this award belongs to – the ever wonderful Tame Impala. These guys have been on the festival circuit for years now yet each show is fresh, flawless and crowd appropriate. The genius that is Kevin Parker knows exactly the right set list and never fails to deliver an entertaining performance. Seeing the day out dancing energetically (before our legs completely gave away with exhaustion) to Elephant, New Person, Same Old Mistakes, Eventually and Let It Happen was the best end to the festival I could have hoped for.

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Tame Impala play the Princes Street stage

I have to give second place in this category to the Veils. Despite being disappointed we mostly got new music and not some of their old hits I have a soft spot for, this band are very compelling to watch. Their set was straightforward visually but musically faultless. Finn Andrew vocals are chilling and the songs from their latest album came to life for me. Overall a very enjoyable set.

The most vocally talented:

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Aurora plays the Rotunda stage

Norway artist Aurora played a magic show. She had a compelling stage presence and the crowd was mesmerised from the first line of the first song. That voice is stunning! She has the most incredible range and is so in control of it that in just 45 minutes she showcased it in its entirety. I think I would have been enchanted if she just stood on stage and sang cover songs – it’s that good! But of course there is so much more to Aurora than that. Her songs are works of art, ranging from slower ballads to up tempo tracks which have you jumping up and down screaming along with her. This young artist was bound to be a highlight for many Laneway goers yesterday, she was certainly one of mine.

The act to watch:

A close second to Aurora on the vocals front is Australian singer Julia Jacklin who channels Laura Marling in her soulful sound. She plays guitar beautifully, has songs which are full of wisdom lyrically and sings without fault. Definitely one to watch! Pool Party and Don’t Let the Kids Win have a refreshing maturity to them and that came across brilliantly on stage.

The best new band on the block:

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The DMA’s play the Princes Street stage

Aussie rockers DMA’s were a breath of fresh air yesterday. Reminding us all of Oasis, they blew me away with their gentle rock tracks. The band layers different guitar sounds cleverly to create a thick but still tender song base which the vocals could soar over. They barely talked on stage but still managed to have a real presence and I loved swaying along to the passionate songs like Step up the Morphine and Too Soon in the sunshine.

The disappointing:

Nick Murphy (formally Cher Faker) did nothing wrong, he played his music well, his band was talented, his vocals were spot on but he just lacked something. Despite knowing all the words to his songs and him playing a great selection of hits in his set, it was still a performance I felt happy to walk away from. Murphy’s set was just a bit boring, the highlight was when he brought Marcus Marr on stage to play their hit The Trouble With Us, but even that was underwhelming. I read that he started touring with a band as he felt he couldn’t connect with his audiences on stage as a one man act, well if this was him with a band, I hate to think what seeing him on his own would have been like.

Concert Review: Passenger

It’s been two days now since I saw Passenger bring his latest album to life at the Opera House. I’ve finally had a moment to sit down and do a wee write up about what I witnessed and I haven’t forgotten a thing and that’s because Mike Rosenberg is bloody good at what he does. I feel convinced anyone who attends a Passenger concert will be carrying this blissful feeling of contentment for a few days too!

On Wednesday night Rosenberg showcased his new album, Young as the Morning Old as the Sea, to a full house – an impressive feat given he’s visited New Zealand to play gigs at least three times in the last five years.

When you are one of the people in the crowd you understand why his fans keep coming back. This is a talented musician (backed by a great band for the first time), but also an incredible performer. Rosenberg has the crowd as putty in his hands from the moment he walks on stage.

He talks a lot, most musicians don’t get away with this much chat on stage, but he pulls it off effortlessly with his quick wit, silly gags and most importantly, his passion. This guy may be a joker, you certainly laugh through a lot of the show, but he’s got a depth to his music and the stories he tells, something a lot of performers lack.

The songs tell the most magnificent stories already through the clever lyrics and melodies, add to that a Mike Rosenberg introduction about what inspired the track and it really takes things to another level.

This was truly the case when he played Travelling Alone – a song about two people he met while busking in different parts of the world. I loved learning about the man who was in the middle of the overseas trip he’d planned with his wife before she died, and the woman who had been left heartbroken by her 10-year-long partner. There were certainly a few tears in my eyes by the end of this stunning acoustic track.

The band was a great addition and brought the tempo of the concert up. The piano melodies, base lines and beats added an exciting layer to the newer songs like Everything, Beautiful Birds and Young as the Morning, Old as the Sea. But on his own is what Mike Rosenberg knows best and when the band left the stage or took a quieter role, he really shone.

Highlights included a very creative rendition of Paul Simon’s The Sound of Silence, in which he (funnily enough) used silence in the most effective style. 27, was upbeat and fun, as is the always hilarious ode to the crappy things in the world – I Hate. Scare Away the Dark was the perfect closer, a sing-along which led into the most effective encore build up as the crowd echoed the final melody over and over until Passenger gave us just a taste more.

He finished the set with Home for the people like me who are suckers for his soppy and slow songs, before getting everyone to their feet smiling and foot stomping to finish on Holes.

The show was a fantastic two hours of compelling music from a gifted artist who appeals to such a wide variety of people. Thanks Passenger for a fab night and the blissful after effects!