Title: About The Sun
Label: Sarang Bang records/ Ode records
Tell me more: Singer-guitarist Darren McShane has an intriguing and relatively brief history in New Zealand music, having been the backbone of Moonpopper and Chainsaw Masochist, played with Figure 60 and Sea Monkey, been involved with an indie music radio station and set up Earwig Studios. Phew! Slow down Daz.
The Lowdown: Judging by the cover I suspected this to be a drum’n’bass album when it arrived at the Pigsty. Golly josh and jeepers creepers; I was knocked to the floor when a burst of guitars hit me. About The Sun lasts an ideal 33 minutes and the longest track is 3:04, the sound of perfect pop songs. McShane is in love with rock’n’roll’s past and its expansiveness, so there’s the sound of the Hammond organ, the theremin and the Mellotron on here. Dead or Alive is a jovial knockabout, Live Another Day should be played while having a picnic in your local Botanic Gardens and there’s a glorious feeling of “summer’s coming” on Holiday Well. Anyone familiar with British pop group Spearmint will appreciate Superturtle.
Anything else? Super-Turtle is a light-hearted superhero that first appeared in a Marvel comic in 1963 and occasionally popped up in Superman and other Marvel comics.
Who? Die! Die! Die!
Label: Flying Nun
Tell me more: Great name, or a guarantee of scaring off the non-metallers and anti-punkers? Answers on a carrier pigeon to the usual address. There is, of course, no prizes to realising that Die! Die! Die! are a tough-nuts rock’n’roll band who take no prisoners, and yet are probably not as hard as their name might suggest. I reckon they like cried like girls when they viewed Susan Boyle on YouTube.
The Lowdown: I’m delighted Flying Nun has been taken over by Roger Shepherd, it’s founder, and is based again in Aotearoa. For most of the 80s and 90s Flying Nun was a platform for some of the best, left-field bands in New Zealand with The Chills, The Clean, Toy Love and The Gordons all releasing records on the iconic label.
Form is intense and in-your-face and, yet, it’s been hailed as the most melodic and mature album from this Dunedin trio yet. According to the most important view in the world, Porky, this hits the right notes and he seems strangely pleased at elements of shoegazing, the much-derided sound made by middle-class students in England in the early 90s, so-called because the bassist would usually stare at his feet while playing wah-wah pedal.
Anything else? The first release on the new, shiny Flying Nun was by Wellington solo artist Grayson Gilmour and the label promises re-releases of old stock, much of which has never been on CD. Hurrah and lashings of ginger beer all round!
Who? The Roots
Title: How I Got Over
Tell me more: The Roots were formed in 1987, originally called themselves the Square Roots, released their debut album in 1993, and have released eight more studio albums, including How I Got Over, since.
The Lowdown: For How I Got Over, The Roots have ditched the frantic raps, menacing synths, and general edginess of the band’s past three albums. In their place is a mellow take on the jazzy, old-school charm. There’s even a sample of Joanna Newsom on one track. The Roots remain within hip-hop’s sphere but it’s a moodier, less tense form of hip-hop and it also delves into other genres, which the best hip-hop always has.
Anything else? Founding member Black Thought says when How I Got Over was first conceived, it reflected their relief at the end of the Bush administration and the beginning of the Obama presidency. Has that relief given way to frustration now considering Obama’s record so far.