Who? Connan Mockasin
Title: Forever Dolphin Love
Label: Phantasy/ Because Music
Tell me more: Please don’t be deceived by the support slot on Crowded House’s UK tour, you really can’t blame someone for snapping up a prime spot with New Zealand’s most famousest band ever when you’re a struggling artist in London. Kiwi Mockasin – who’s dropped his band, the Mockasins, sounds, thankfully, very little like the chart-bothering hit machine of the Finn brothers. Simplistically labelled by some as alternative or psychedelic there is far more to Connan than those terms would imply.
The Lowdown: The first thing you hear is a group of children saying “hello Connan” and there’s a childlike, otherworldliness throughout Forever Dolphin Love. It’s significant that it was written while Mockasin was living in a tent outside his parent’s house. It is a homespun album, made by someone without pretension, sung with recourse to babbling and even singing in an interplanetary language. Mockasin clearly isn’t aiming for constant MTV rotation or a GQ cover piece but he has a niche audience, the same that’s happy to listen to 20 listens of a Radiohead album before “getting it” and play Beatles records sideways.
Anything else? Comes with Forever Dolphin Live, an, ahem, live album with one track not on Dolphin Love.
Who? William Fitzsimmons
Title: Gold in the Shadow
Label: Nettwerk records
Tell me more: Fitzsimmons hails from Pennsylvania, a state renowned for tough people and tough-as-nail-boxers such as Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Despite its proud pugilistic history Fitzsimmons is no fighter and there’s barely an angry word on Gold In The Shadows, his third album. Both those previous efforts were sombre affairs but Gold deals more with healing and moving forward.
The Lowdown: With someone who is a mental health worker and has his own mental health issues to deal with, there is going to be some weightiness on a ten-track album. But he does it with the positivity I alluded to earlier and some of the songs are almost trippy, enchanting, reminding me of under-rated English artist Neil Halstead, who blends folk music with the rhythms and layered melodies he developed in shoegazers Slowdive. Fitzy’s approach works on the jaunty The Tide Pulls From The Moon and Psychasthenia, the most ambitious musical track on this album. But there is some turgidness that pulls it off on another direction, and something like Bird of Winter Prey is too languid, almost too simplistic, to bear listening to in full. Pleasant sounds for unpleasant people.
Anything else? Both Fitzsimmons parents were blind.
Who? My Ceramic Rabbit
Title: Sex A Word
Label: Matchbox recordings
Tell me more: Hailing from South Wales and compared to majestic British 80s idols such as The Smiths and The Cure, My Ceramic Rabbit seem to have it all, or a good chunk of it anyway. Formed in 2007 as a three-piece they have since increased by 33 percent and despite the strangely limited amount of online information on the band, this appears to be their first major release.
The Lowdown: The first track, Until the Moon Bites Back, is a gloriously melody-fuelled hummer that reminds me enormously of early Suede with crisp, captivating lyrics. A fine start, so let’s move on to Heaven On Her Own, that equals fellow Welshmen The Howl’s adeptness at blissed-out pop songs with oodles of guitars. By the opening chords of the third track, White Emotion, I’m feeling good, whistling away on the bus as my CD walkman (yes, one of those) churns out a great chorus. However, Daniel Evans’ vocals are showing hitherto signs of weakness and that’s an ominous sign. After 3:14 of that track, you would not be committing a musical crime by stopping the CD as it falters like a gymnast on the cusp of a ten-score Piked Double Arabian with Full Twist. Why the change of tone I can only surmise but by the final (eighth) track, Sex A Word, I’m relieved at its brevity.
Anything else? It’s produced by former Damned guitarist Roman Jugg.