30 May 2012

Playlist: George FM 'In The Pocket' Wed 30 May

Asher Roth with Hassani Kwes & Kenny Keys | Pabst & Jazz
Orbital | Never
Ben Browning | I Can't Stay (Knightlife remix)
Margaret Dygas | Ocbinh's Groove
Fort Romeau | SW9
Tale Of Us | Dark Song (Dub)
Soul Clap | Rock The Boat
Bear Feet | Feelin' Lucky
Ooft! | Funtime
Ramboiage | Inside Your Love
Maya Jane Coles | Not Listening
Jasmine Kara | In The Basement (EroDiscoBrakes)
The Beatles | Tomorrow Never Knows (Leftside Wobble edit)
Only Children | Whatcha Wanna
Cosmic Boogie | I Can Feel It (Toby Tobias 'Feel Up Summer' mix)
Narada Michael Waldren | 2nite (LNTG edit)
MFSB | Mysteries Of The World (J*Ski's Extended edit)
Don Ray | Standing In The Rain (The Noodleman edit)
Alan Wilkis | Wolfman
Speech Defect with Aaron Phiri | I Wanna Do My Thing
Quantic & His Combo Barbaro | Un Tarde en Mariquita

29 May 2012

Review: Incognito 'Surreal'


When a group has been around as long as Incognito have, it sometimes becomes difficult for reviewers to properly appraise their albums because they often have a pre-conceived opinion of the groups' sound. As I was researching Surreal, the fifteenth ( !! ) studio album from Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick's enduring jazzfunksoul outfit, many of the "critics" quickly defined themselves (and not always intentionally) as either a) screaming fanboys, or b) diehard haters. Straight up? I'm neither. Aware of Incognito's music and their reputation, I've enjoyed listening to them over the years, but must admit to not owning a single album of theirs. That doesn't mean I don't possess one, of course (two, as it happens), and it also doesn't mean I'm not in a position to pass judgement on this one. Harsher folk than I would suggest this kind of music is too syrupy, too earnest, too damned cheesy; but that's the thing. This is proper soul music. To some ears those sweet harmonies, thoughtful playing and beautifully constructed songs performed with real emotion seem somewhat fake. OK, so maybe some soul music is, but Surreal is not. This is classic Incognito: relentlessly funky and effortlessly soulful. Yes, it's also pretty smooth, but the band (Bluey's regular touring group) are on fire, with deliciously chunky horns, shimmering layers of keys, big fat fluid bass lines and on-point drumming complimenting an excellent selection of vocalists. Regular Incognito collaborators Vanessa Haynes and Maysa are joined by fast-rising UK soul stars Natalie Williams and Mo Brandis, all of whom lay down some extraordinary performances. Cleanly produced but with a live feel which provides just enough of a raw edge to keep it fresh, Surreal shows that there's plenty of life left in the old fella yet. No offense, Bluey. You're still looking good too, mate.

3 stars from 5

28 May 2012

Playlist: George FM 'In The Pocket' Sun 27 May

Sa-Ra Creative Partners | The Bone Song
Lateef Dameer & Nurthice | River On Glass
Common Kings | Original Alcoholic
Stevie Wonder | Golden Lady (Scrimshire edit)
Parliament | Up For The Down Stroke
Del Tha Funky Homosapien | Mr Dobalina
Duff Disco | XTC
Adele v Daft Punk | Something About The Fire (Carlos Serrano edit)
Blackstreet v Quantic Soul Orchestra | No Diggity (B.Cause's "Follow Me" rework)
Snoop & Pharrell v Quincy Jones | Drop It Like It's Bossa Nova
Mystikal | Shake Ya Ass
Maxwell | Ascension
Aloe Blacc v Biggie Smalls | Juicy Dollars
The Spinners | It's A Shame (Frico edit)
Kastil | Baltimore Thunder
Gazeebo | I Love Me Some BJs
Nel Oliver | Dream On (The Revenge edit)
Gazeebo | Scaredy Cat
Steve Bender | The Final Thing
Hot Toddy with Danielle Moore | Won't Let Go
Jadoo | Mellow Mellow
Drop Out Orchestra | Release Myself
Dublex Inc. | N.H.L. (I Wish Those Days)
Rayko | Just A Little Bit Of Love
Kimbra, Mark Foster & A-Trak | Warrior

23 May 2012

Review: Homebrew 'Homebrew'


Don't believe the hype? You can't argue with the facts, bro. The debut album from Homebrew, Avondale's most infamous hip hop crew, is really fucking good. Lyrically, musically, conceptually, this is a seriously tight package, spreading its' wings over two discs. Apparently divided between 'light' and 'dark' themes, I guess it depends on your definition of light and dark. Whatever. There are few New Zealand lyricists who are better able to capture the subtle (and not so subtle) nuances of life in our country better than Tom Scott. He has a wry sense of humour and a keen eye for detail, which he allies to an always on-point rhythmic delivery. There are no lazy Americanisms here either, cuz, as he tells tales of growing up poor in Auckland, acknowledging local landmarks, laying out relevant philosophical and political arguments and exposing the underbelly of a lifestyle most of us are more than familiar with. There are so many examples, but I'm highlighting my current favourite: Good God. Tom is viciously brilliant. Check it, as it provides the ideal counterpoint to the gimmicky-sounding Benefit (thankfully the only time that trick gets played out). Musically too, the album shows a surprising maturity, with enough raw, loose and gritty to balance out the woozy, hazy and experimental. Refreshingly un-Dilla-like, the beats move between golden era boom bap, piano-laden Blue Note-referencing head-noddin' and warm, live instrumentation. Some of the guest players include Chip Matthews and Christoph El Truento, while Lui Tuiasau (@Peace), Esther Stephens, Tyna Keelan, Tourettes and Hollie Smith appear on vocals; but the plaudits due belong to Tom, Haz and Lui, aka Homebrew. They're not just a lot harder working than they'd like us to believe, but they're also a hell of a lot smarter. Who woulda thought? Yes, the album is ambitiously-assembled, but it's impressively-realised, and one of the best debuts I've heard in years. Believe the hype.

4 and 1/2 stars from 5

I've never been one to advocate drug use, but I am quite prepared to highly recommend you check out the track Datura below, featuring Lui Tuiasau, and taken from the above album...

Home Brew - Datura (featuring Lui Tuiasau) by homebrewcrew

Playlist: George FM 'In The Pocket' Wed 23 May

Parliament | Chocolate City
Sharon Redd | Handle It (J'Kriv's Razor-n-Tape dub)
La Royale | The Crush
Pittsburgh Track Authority | Now's Tomorrow
The Emotions | Flowers (Soul Ganga edit)
Dianne Marie | I've Waited Much Too Long (Frico edit)
Candi Staton | Broadway (Rayko edit)
Funk Ferret | Smash Ya Moustache
The Bee Gees | I'm The Man Who Loves You (Late Nite Tuff Guy edit)
Brother2Brother | Chance With You (Stickypod Connection reboot)
Bobby C Sound TV | Jelly Belly
The Temptations | My Girl (The Steadies edit)
Funk Ferret | I Wish It Was Summertime
The Black Seeds | Loose Cartilage
Eddie Numbers | Never Rap Again
Sa-Ra Creative Partners | The Bone Song
Mo' Kolours | Twelve
Rayko | Love Come Down

22 May 2012

Review: Ladyhawke 'Anxiety'


Anxiety is the eagerly-awaited and oft-delayed second (I'm from New Zealand, bro, I'm not using the word "sophomore") album from Ladyhawke. The Masterton, New Zealand-born 32-year old otherwise known as Pip Brown has seemingly nailed her colours to the mast with the title of this album - and it's true that the "second album slump" is something many musicians (and critics) are acutely aware of and, quite rightly, anxious about. Happily I can report there's no such slump for Brown, and nor should she be particularly anxious about how her new album is received - despite not really sounding very much at all like her feted debut. While the '80s influences are still present, they're dialled back big time, with gritty rock n' roll guitars (played by Brown) often outmuscling squiggly-sounding synths, and live drums (also played by Brown) edging out programmed beats. The electro-styled floor-fillers from her debut have largely been replaced by pop-rock songs with big choruses and a handful of welcome Pixies and Nirvana references. A couple of notes, though: Brown's vocal delivery sounds at times a little too removed, and she sounds just too damned nice. Not always, but often enough for me to wish she'd perhaps let her guard down an little more when recording her vocals. And, while there are some truly cracking songs here, there's no obvious chart-straddling follow-up to her previous mega-hits My Delerium and Paris Is Burning. You can decide whether or not that's a bad thing. I think it's great, and I like this record a lot.

3 and 1/2 stars from 5

Check out the single Black, White & Blue below, or follow some of the links above for more... aaaand you can read my interview with Ladyhawke from May 2012, here.

BLACK WHITE & BLUE by Ladyhawkeofficial

21 May 2012

Interview: Ladyhawke


Ladyhawke's eagerly awaited new album Anxiety is about to drop worldwide at the end of the month. Originally scheduled for a late-2011 release, repeated delays have resulted in the artist otherwise known as Pip Brown spending a long time on the promo trail, talking about herself. Despite this, when I spoke with her recently she was forthright, eloquent and hugely charming.

She's a role model to thousands of young women, yet she likes to wear mens clothes. She has a massive live following and months of touring the globe ahead of her to promote her new album, yet she suffers from almost uncontrollable stage-fright. She is a world famous pop star, yet she manages to retain her realness amongst the madness.

And it has been some madness: Ladyhawke's self-titled debut solo album propelled her into a realm in which seldom few musicians exist. The singles Paris Is Burning and My Delerium were massive globally, earning her a clutch of Tuis, a couple of ARIAs and the international acclaim and attention of folks like Peaches, Kylie Minogue and Perez Hilton. She has travelled the world, playing across America and Europe, at renowned festivals such as Glastonbury and SXSW. She is signed to Modular (a subsidiary of Universal Records) and is clearly a global priority for what is an extremely powerful label.

Yet she's still the Kiwi girl who grew up in Masteron: "I've never changed who I am," she declares, "From the word go I was quite vocal about who I was and set a precedent almost. I've been quite lucky because everyone just lets me do my own thing, no-one's ever asked me to change."

She pauses, laughing: "The only time I've ever encountered people trying to change me is when I do photo-shoots, and the stylist will try to make me look really girly or something. I quite often have battles with that because it's my image I'm putting out there and the way I look is the way I'm happy looking! I get really offended, like they don't think the way I look is cool enough for their magazine or something?"

Ladyhawke's look is only one of the things Brown has firmly under control, with song-writing and studio partner Pascal Gabriel well aware of "best practice", Pip Brown-style: "He knows I like us both getting in a room and coming up with an idea together," Brown admits, "If he thinks of an idea without me there it doesn't feel right to me, I feel like I haven't been a part of it."

For someone with such a considered approach to her career, the delay in the release of Anxiety has been frustrating: "It's been finished since last year, I can't even remember when! August, or July or something!" she sighs, recalling the reasons for the long wait, "It's all the crap you have to wait for, all the red tape and label stuff. It was supposed to come out in October, I'd mentally prepared, had done a heck of a lot of promo and when it got pushed back I was like 'Oh my God!'"

Anxiety will be out at the end of May worldwide, and Brown brings her band to New Zealand in July, plating a handful of shows on a tour which also takes in Europe, the UK, Australia and the US. I'm particularly intrigued by her profile in America, as her success there is something which seems to have slipped under most Kiwis' radars. "I love touring the States," says Brown, "It's a huge place and it's a lot of hard work but it's really fun. There's a lot of support there, I've played some amazing shows and it's been incredibly positive."

Why don't we in New Zealand hear more about your success overseas? "I don't even know," Brown says, laughing nervously, "It gets brought up quite a lot, people say to me 'Why do you think people don't like you in New Zealand?'" She's laughing again, but it's awkward, "I really don't know. Maybe it's because I don't live there anymore?"

This seems to be a recurring theme among New Zealand musicians who have ventured overseas either in search of success or in order to follow a path that is being tread by Ladyhawke, or the likes of The Naked and Famous or The Datsuns. The infamous 'Tall Poppy Syndrome' is alive and well - and keenly felt.

"What a lot of people don't realise is when you've been away for a certain amount of time or you've had a bit of success, you get some really nasty comments," Brown says, "You get such cynicism in New Zealand and it weighs you down, and makes you wonder why - shouldn't everyone be proud?"

Honest words well spoken, and further proof that in a world of increasingly manufactured ready-made stars with their safe sound bites and scripted interview responses, Pip Brown has the strength of character to stand by her beliefs. Refreshingly real, indeed.

Interview destined for publication in Volume magazine - but remained unpublished due to the mag closing its' doors.

Check out my review of Ladyhawke's second album, Anxiety, here.

20 May 2012

Playlist: George FM 'In The Pocket' Sun 20 May

Duff Disco | Over To The Left
Tweet | Oops (Oh My)
R.A.M.P. | Daylight (Sleazy McQueen edit)
Crazy P | A Night On Earth
Lewis McCallum | Fly Or Die
Mayer Hawthorne | Um Caso Estranho
John Legend & The Roots | Hard Times
Grandmaster Flash | The Message (Roots Manuva remix)
Up, Bustle & Out | Hip Hop Barrio
Hot 8 Brass Band | Sexual Healing
Starblazers | Sunshine
Crazy P | Sun Science
Rasmus Faber with Melo | Get Over Here
Sepalot with Ladi 6 | Go Get It (A.C. Slater remix)
7 Samurai | Muzic
Toots & The Maytals | 54-46 That's My Number (Wolfgang Lohr remix)
Homework | Lenny
Maya Jane Coles | Not Listening
Florence & The Machine | You Got The Love (The xx remix)
Talking Heads | Moon Rocks

Highlight: Frankie Goes Deep

I'm such a sucker for mashups like these, I really am. It's not complicated - but that's the way with many truly good things. Frankie Goes Deep are an outfit from Croatia doing cool things with their re-touches and re-edits, but this one is a real gem - and relevant, too: Cassius x Donna Summer. All class. Enjoy.

Donna Summer meets Cassius - If it Hurts just a little'99 (FGD MIX) by just mozsi

17 May 2012

Playlist: George FM 'In The Pocket' Wed 16 May

Trus' Me v Chic | Working Nights / Rhythm Maker
GQ | Lies (Theo Parrish remix)
Los Charly's Orchestra | Rio Chico's Sunset
Drop Out Orchestra | West Gothic Climax
Bonar Bradberry | Turning Loose (Ron Basejam remix)
Holy Ghost! | Hold On (Blackjoy version)
6th Borough Project | Endless Nights
Linkwood Family | Miles Away
Oliver | All Night
Andy Ash | Freak
Totalcult | Disco Call
Young MC | Bust A Move (Stickybuds remix)
The O'Jays | Darlin' Darlin' Baby (Deep & Disco rework)
Mayer Hawthorne | A Long Time (Finnebassen remix) (Silly Pilly edit)
Rayko | Getting Down
Starsgarage | The Massage

14 May 2012

Review: Eddie Numbers 'Another Day In Paradise'

Another Day In Paradise

One of my Facebook friends (and, as it happens, real life acquaintances) mentioned the other day that we should define ourselves not as generation x, or y or whatever, but rather we should align ourselves with the musical genre we grew up with. His was hip hop. While I'm unsure as to what mine actually is (it can't be yacht rock, surely...?), I know it ain't hip hop. There are hip hop artists I like a lot (The Roots, Madlib, Latyrx, Foreign Exchange, etc.) but I usually steer clear of "reviewing" hip hop albums as I just don't feel qualified enough to offer strong, considered opinion. In this case though, I'm making an exception. Another Day In Paradise is the debut album from New Zealand group Eddie Numbers, and it's not strictly just a hip hop album, blending guitars, strings and layers of keys with sharp story-styled lyricism and straight-ahead micsmanship. Eddie is the frontman, and Numbers are his live band - and they're hype, laying down exceptionally-played energetic grooves for the London-born, Auckland-based emcee to grace. If The Roots are your benchmark for a live hip hop group, then you'll be feeling these guys. The over-riding lyrical themes are pretty dark though (aside from a little sharply witty hipster-baiting), touching on broken relationships, coming up tough in the city, and, er, transporting a body out to the Waitakeres in the boot of a car. Told you it was dark. Having said that, the album also contains two clear standouts: the Deftones-style Problem, which must go down a treat live; and my current favourite "hip hop" track, Never Rap Again. I'm impressed, and I can see why these guys have built up a big live following in no time at all. This album deserves the amount of hype and attention Homebrew are getting for their debut album. Get amongst.

4 stars from 5

Check out what I reckon is one of the best local tracks I've heard in a while, Never Rap Again...

Never Rap Again by Eddie Numbers

Playlist: George FM 'Groovadelica' Mon 14 May

Enjoyed filling in for Jason Eli on George FM this morning. Here are the tunes played.

Jill Scott | Golden (Jason Eli edit)
Chico Mann | Go To That Place
Playgroup | Number One
Lava Lava | Burnt
Cooly's Hot-Box | Lose Your Friends
Latyrx | Lady Don't Tek No
Blendcrafters | Melody
Raphael Saadiq | Skyy Can You Feel Me?
Eddie Numbers | Never Rap Again
Sebastien Tellier | La Ritournelle
Unknown | Snoop & Seed
The Beastie Boys | Make Some Noise
Beats International | Dub Be Good To Me
DJ Twister | A Message To You Cutty
Sister Nancy | Bam Bam (Sleazy McQueen Covert edit)
Mayer Hawthorne | The Walk (Rizzle Kicks remix)
The Jones Girls | Nights Over Egypt (Womack & TOT remix)
Debonair | Winter Madness
Todd Terje | Inspector Norse
Drop Out Orchestra | Man On The Run

ps. Once more, the links above provide plenty of extra content - including some free downloads!

Review: Rob 'Make It Fast, Make It Slow'

Make It Fast, Make It Slow
[Soundway Records]

Make It Fast, Make It Slow is without doubt one of the most intriguingly weird afro albums I've ever encountered. Apparently the enigmatic Rob recorded a couple of albums during 1977 which, though released by the legendary Essiebons label, did little business locally at the time. Nowadays, of course, original copies are prized amongst collectors. The title track of this album was featured on the first of Soundway Records' excellent Ghana Soundz compilations - who are also to thank for this re-issue. A strangely psychedelic brew of afro-beat, funk and reggae, with the emphasis on heavy percussion and horns, Make It Fast, Make It Slow is a beguiling listen, with everything slowed down to treacle-speed; even Rob's vocal range is limited to a few emotive growls and grunts as he guides the listener through a strange mix of religion, philosophy and sexuality. While you could file Make It Fast, Make It Slow in the "afrobeat" section of most music stores, that label doesn't really go anywhere near properly describing the sounds found within. You know how famous old guys like William Shatner record bizarre vanity project albums which somehow actually end up sounding weirdly cool? Yeah, so Rob was never so famous, but that's the section this album belongs in. Worth searching out for the weirdness alone.

3 stars from 5

13 May 2012

Playlist: George FM 'In The Pocket' Sun 13 May

Happy Mothers Day!

Chris Malinchak | There I Was
Bicep | Love Comedown
La Royale | The Crush
Nu Shooz | I Can't Wait (Phil Drummond 2012 mix)
Soul Clap | Rock The Boat
Waze & Odyssey | All I Wanna Say Is (Yeah)
The Streets | Weak Become Heroes (Ashley Beedle's Love Bug Vocal mix)
Debukas | Golden Mind (Pional remix)
Jewel | Paradise (extended version)
Scratch | Keep On Searching For Love
Jimmy Castor Bunch | It's Just Begun (Larry Levan remix)
Rainbow Brown | Let's Go Another Round
Jeanette 'Lady' Day | Come Let Me Love You (Shep Pettibone mastermix)
Patrick Cowley | Get A Little (extended version)
Stephanie Mills | Put Your Body In It
Tyree | Nation Of Hip House
Ish | Don't Stop
First Youth | It's Yours
Plush | Free & Easy

09 May 2012

Cosmic Disco Mixtape

A one hour mini-mix put together live & loose, without any technical assistance (outside of a beer or two, that is...), and featuring a bunch of slow disco & cosmic boogie tracks which are currently spinning my wheels. Oh, you want a tracklist? Yeah right. Try your luck with shazam, pal.

Available for streaming AND free download...

Cosmic Disco Mix by bro90

Playlist: George FM 'In The Pocket' Wed 9 May

Asphalt Jungle | Freakin' Time (Pts 1&2)
Candy Bowman | I Wanna Feel Your Love
Byrdie Green | Return Of The Prodigal Son (DJ Twister edit)
Bobby McFerrin | Thinking About You (Groovers edit)
Bobby Caldwell | Carry On (MyKill edit)
Michael Wycoff | Looking Up To You
Alphabet City | Trouble Trouble
Q-Tip | Manwomanboogie
Moodymann | Ol' Dirty Vinyl (U Used To Know)
Kleeer | Taste The Music (LeBaron edit)
Florence & The Machine | You Got The Love (The xx remix)
Santigold | Disparate Youth (The 2 Bears remix)
Caribou | Sun
Flying Lotus | Do The Astral Plane
Little Dragon | Constant Surprises
El Guincho | FM Tan Sexy
Ben Browning | I Can't Stay
Me&You | Sneaker Thief
The Juan Maclean | Happy House
Fat Freddy's Drop | Ray Ray (Slope remix)

Plenty of good procrastination to be had simply by following all the links above. Enjoy, folks...

02 May 2012

Playlist: George FM 'In The Pocket' Wed 2 May

S Strong | Whitestick
Funkommunity | Start Again
Superspirit | Welcome To The Cosmos (Jugoe remix)
Myele Manzanza with Rachel Fraser | On The Move
The Black Seeds | Don't Turn Around
Miguel Migs with Meshell Ndegeocello | Tonight
Funk Ferret | Smash Ya Moustache
Oliver Sain | Leygo
Sam & Dave | Soul Man (DJ Twister edit)
Stevie Wonder | Love Light In Flight (Sleazy McQueen edit)
Windjammer | Tossing & Turning
Eddie Numbers | Never Rap Again
Angie Stone | Slippery Shoes (Blazin' Encore's Sunday Groovin' rework)
Talking Heads | Moon Rocks
Axton Frick | Take Off (Bob Gravity remix)
Treasure Fingers v Chromeo v Daft Punk | Harder Better Faster Stronger (DJ Soo's Ridiculously Overdone rework)
Mic Newman | Keep On Dancin' (remix)
Soul Clap | Rock The Boat
Maya Jane Coles | Not Listening
Disko! Selectors | Tonight (edit)
Etienne de Crecy | Super Disco
Toots & The Maytals | Monkey Man

Today's "Dusty Discovery" comes courtesy of Mr Jay Jeffrey, who turned me on to - and then procured a piece of vinyl for me - the Windjammer track, Tossing & Turning. Check it out here...

01 May 2012

Review: The Black Seeds 'Dust & Dirt'

Dust & Dirt
[Easy Star Records]

The Black Seeds are one of the Wellington bands at the forefront of what is often disparagingly referred to as our "BBQ Reggae" scene. While that's a tag a few bands undoubtedly deserve, on the strength of Dust & Dirt it's undeniable The Black Seeds do not. Without dialling up the cliches, the bands' fifth album sees their sound maturing, and the group making a genuine effort to push beyond reggae grooves - though that distinctive lope does remain a central core, particularly on "old school Seeds" songs like Love Me Now. However, it's almost as it the band consciously decided against recording an "anthem" like So True or Cool Me Down with which to climb the charts, but chose to further explore the directions hinted at on their last album, Solid Ground. There were a couple of changes which may have encouraged the experimentation: the bands' own Mike Fabulous handled production and the album was recorded in their own studio space. Either way, Wide Open and Settle Down benefit from the touches of psych-rock, and The Bend shows welcome traces of funk, with its' Stevie Wonder meets Salmonella Dub groove. The other noticeable shift may also have something to do with Fabulous (or more to the point, his solo project Lord Echo), as songs like Don't Turn Around, Loose Cartilage and lead single Pippy Pip slide into beautifully layered disco-reggae blends - and end up being some of the best tracks here. Indeed, Fabulous' production gives Dust & Dirt a sense of grittiness and real warmth which is sometimes missing from their early, often over-polished work. There's an overwhelming feeling that Dust & Dirt may be the beginning of something new for The Black Seeds, who are clearly capable of far greater things musically than their first few albums would've indicated.

3 and 1/2 stars from 5

Aside from investigating some of the links above, you could also check out a few tracks from the album in the player below...

The Black Seeds by Easy Star Records