Porky Prime Cuts begins the new year with three albums we didn’t get to last year but deserve a review. Two, Savoy and To Dreamers arrived late in 2010, while Beauty in the Ashes was in the To Do file for too long.
Label: The National Grid
Tell me more: The South Tonight have good breeding: their bio includes Sneaky Feelings, Mainly Spaniards, Surfin USSR; if you know your Flying Nun, you might know of these.
The Lowdown: The record label seems pretty determined to place this in the alt-rock category, but I think The South Tonight have a little more up their sleeves than that vague label would suggest. Harking back to the golden days of the independent 1980s Christchurch scene, with an emphasis on guitars, a leaning toward post-punk but with the influence of alt-country and other contemporary mores seeping in. Savoy fairly rattles on, with a variety of mood and sound changes to keep the listener intrigued and savvy lyrics, such as the chorus from the consumer-aware opening track: “Oh no, give me the bacon, oh no, give me family size, oh no, give me the pork chop, give me a bucket full of caramel corn.” Meanwhile, on Red Tape, they lament the lack of trust and the intrusion of officialdom in the modern working world, all to a mesmerising riff the Mint Chicks would have spat on their granny for. This may have been among Porky’s favourite albums of 2010 if it had come in earlier.
Anything else? www.pennylanerecords.co.nz
Title: To Dreamers
Label: Sub Pop
Tell me more: Like Ariel Pink, a favourite of Porky, Stoltz has only just come into focus, despite being around for some time, in his case since the late 90s. Like Pink, he utilises recording technology at home.
The Lowdown: This album most certainly belongs to the 60s, with its melodic harmonies and San Francisco feel. Stoltz wants to be Bolan, McGuinn, Brian Wilson and Drake all in one and does a decent impression of them all. There’s even a cover of the 1965 hit, Baby I’ve Got News For You, featuring the composer, ‘Big Boy’ Pete Miller. Defining an album as retro is an all-encompassing tag for journalists, and I have been guilty of that so far, but there is more to To Dreamers than a trawl through the finest musical decade. I hear the sound of modern California in the frenetic Keeping the Flame, for example, and I Like, I Like sounds only like it could have come out of 2010. Maybe he wears his influences too clearly on his sleeve but Stoltz does it very well and is one of the finds of the year.
Title: Beauty in the Ashes
Label: Borrowed Suit Records
Tell me more: An interesting character is Muir: of Scottish and Maori descent, the eldest of five children; she worked in shearing sheds after school and later became a missionary in her home country. She’s now a midwife, one with a good guitar.
The Lowdown: Beauty in the Ashes took me by surprise. I had, without any real foundation, suspected this might be a mundane folk/ alt-country album lacking an edge or purpose, except to espouse her Christian views. Wrong and wronger. Muir has a great voice, some sparkling ideas and a decent amount of passion. And Ashes is hardly dull, infused with energy and songs that reflect her background, as briefly mentioned above. Muir uses her own experiences and that of fellow Maori in modern New Zealand in songs that amplify the positive in any difficult experience. As for the religious side, Muir’s take is largely to use her faith’s determination to find the positive in any difficult situation.
Anything else? Ashes was recorded in a garage in Wairarapa and a Wellington flat.