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 Columns Australian and New Zealand Music News

Australian & New Zealand Music 

by Evan Alexander


It’s all ‘bright new things’ right now; entertainers in the southern hemisphere must be currently pushing a median age somewhere around 17 (possibly in the wake of the travesty of Aussie Idol artists that are still managing to maintain secure positions all across the charts). A plethora of young poppers are being offered up all across commercial media.


20 year old Australian songstress Missy Higgins is Australia’s current darling, the talented Higgins has been the success story of 2004 with her 'The Sound of White' album debuting at No. 1 in Australia and selling more than 45,000 units in just three weeks.

Higgins is the latest addition to the all-Australian ‘Homebake Festival’ line-up in December, other acts added to Homebake are Machine Gun Fellatio, Cut Copy, sonicanimation, The Cops, End of Fashion, Gelbison, The Art of Fighting, The Spazzys, Wicked Beat Sound System, Sarah Blasko, Ground Components, Koolism and Gerling. Homebake is on December 4 in Sydney's Domain.

The other big commercial / pop newcomer is Eran James. Born and raised in Melbourne, at 15 years of age, James was eight when he started singing and was 13 years old when he signed to Universal Music. His debut album ‘Reviewing The Situation’, features covers of acts as varied as John Lennon to James Brown and Fatboy Slim.


Dallas Crane have been treading the boards of the Aus Music Scene for nearly a decade now. In for the whole nine yards, cutting their teeth live, honing songs and building a fan base. The release of their self-titled album serves as a testament to this. Dave Larkin, Shan Vanderwert, Pete Satchell and Chris Brodie first started pounding their crunch guitar based rock n pop in Melbourne pubs in 1996.

After what could be construed, in Australian Music Industry terms, as a ’meteoric’ rise over the last twelve months, The Red Sun Band have just released their debut long-player “Peapod”. A sensual, brooding wash of hook-ridden angst wrapped in a wash of fuzzy guitar and swirls of organ, Singer/guitarist Sarah took a moment out to answer a few questions for me.


You guys have been flat out lately, what do you do when you get to chill out?

sleep a lot.

In general, as your profile increases, are you noticing different or larger audiences at live gigs?

i tend to keep my eyes closed, so I couldn't really say. the last show in Sydney was really big though. i think as people get to know the music; they listen at live shows more.

After three singles, you've now released your debut album (Peapod Aug 30th), a longer process obviously, how did you approach recording 11 songs instead of three?

we did seventeen at once. i guess because we'd been waiting so long to make an album it was very easy. it did take longer, and towards the end we all went a little stir crazy... but it was the same process- playing the instruments at the same time and then recording vocals and percussion and other embellishments later (when we went mad).

Being your debut album, is ~Peapod" a mix of newer songs combined with some you've had for years?

yes. the oldest song is astrovisionary, i wrote the lyrics many years ago, even before the band. peapod is the newest which was written just before we went into the studio. fresh songs always sound best.

Both individually and as a band, do you have a set system in the way in which you approach your songwriting process?

not really. it seems to be different for every song. some are written in private, others are more collaborative. writing the band part of it is really noisy.

The production on "Peapod" highlights a density of texture, an almost swampy broodiness, was there any particular approaches you took within the recording / mixing / mastering processes to garner / capitalise upon that.

um, not my bag. turn up the distortion i say.

What sort of stuff were you listening to immediately prior to recording the album?

the voices in my.. the shins. and sparklehorse.

What's wrong with the Oz Music Industry / what's right with it?

it's ok.

What is the best piece of advice you've received about the music industry

just play good music. all the other stuff will just happen.

What do you look forward to at the end of the day?

hopefully to have finely tuned the whole writing, recording, making artwork, answering questions, so that we can keep doing it and be happy people.


 Web site: http://www.theredsunband.com/



New Zealand Music News


The big news on the New Zealand front is triple pronged. Scribe, Brooke Fraser and Hayley Westenra – the headlining acts NZ’s bright young things – reigned supreme at the 2004 New Zealand Music Awards.


Brooke Fraser, the 20-year-old singer/songwriter awards rookie, who's debut album 'What To Do With Daylight' has hit four times Platinum in her homeland and spent over 40 weeks in the charts had a double win, walking away with the Tui Awards for two of her nominated categories for Best Female Artist and Best Breakthrough Artist.


But it was Hip-hop sensation Scribe who dominated the winners’ list, collecting seven awards. With his debut album The Crusader, the hip-hop superstar won Album of the Year, Best Urban / Hip Hop Album and Best Male Solo Artist.  His debut single, Stand Up, was awarded Single of the Year while Not Many – The Remix!  – co-written with P-Money, Con Psy and Savage – won its authors the award for Songwriter of the Year. Scribe also won People’s Choice Award – voted on by New Zealanders around the country and Chris Graham’s video for Stand Up earned both him and Scribe Tuis in the C4 Best Music Video Award.

 Dimmer, the creation of former Straightjacket Fits front man Shayne Carter picked up two for Best Group and Best Rock Album.

Hayley Westenra’s outstanding success in the UK, Asia, and Australasia was recognised with an International Achievement Award.  Hayley’s album Pure won Highest Selling NZ Album having sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide.

Salmonella Dub continues to produce winning beats picking up the Best Dance / Electonica Album for One Drop East.  The group won the same award last year for Outside the Dub Plates.

The award for the Highest Selling New Zealand Single goes to pop idol Ben Lummis for They Can’t Take That Away and Goldenhorse takes out Airplay Record of the Year with its single Maybe Tomorrow.

The 2004 New Zealand Music Awards are presented by RIANZ and are in their 39th year.

Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) music awards spokesperson Adam Holt says the 2004 Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards winners strongly reflect the quality and depth of local music.
"Increasing numbers of young local talent are now achieving success both here and internationally and that means the future of New Zealand music is in great shape, it's also fantastic to see that artists are excelling across a number of different genres. Local musicians are producing great music that caters to the tastes of all New Zealanders." 

 Liam Finn (son of Neil of Crowded House / Split Enz fame) and his band Betchadupa have released their second album 'Aim For Your Head'. Their debut effort 'The Alphabetchadupa' gave people an idea of the band but the pop / rock sensibilities and melody driven oomph of ‘Aim For Your Head’ sees them setting the bar a few rungs higher, Having recently relocated to Melbourne, the band are now in full motion. With an ever-increasing dedicated fan base quickly developing on both sides of the Tasman, Betchadupa look set for a big ride.

Pacifier, the band formerly known as Shihad, who changed their name to Pacifier (whilst recording their last album in the US during the Sep 11th attacks) because it sounded to much like Jihad have now changed their name back to Shihad. Expect their new album to be out in a few months.

New Australian Releases


Peabody,The Red Sun Band

Slanted Recordings


The Red Sun Band have been garnering a fair bit of attention over the last twelve months. After three singles, their brooding, Mazzy Starred infusions of alt / indie,  sub-pop rock have had them pegged as one of the ‘next big things’, but don’t hold it against them.  

An enthused, sure-footed, melodic debut, ‘Peabody’ churns along an atmospheric route that, if it wasn’t so inspired could be referred to as sluggish.

The title track sets the precipice, opening the album with a convoluted netting of swampy, angst drawn electric guitar and midnight drumming that, along with chordal refrains coerced out of out a low slung organ, cornerstones the entire “Peabody” soundscape.

 Continuing on through the pointed jaunty tunefulness of ‘Sleep Forever’ onto the wailing terrils of feedback soaked whine that trail out closing track ‘Astrovisionary’, The Red Sun Band have a knack of being able to infer a musical saga of haphazardness and emotional languor that smoke-screens a sharply focused and concise delivery of raw emotional wrangling.

That said, there’s no doubt where this hive gets its honey. Sarah’s anguished; breathy vocals form the focal point, affectingly brittle, lulling and yet freshly tarnished.





King Curly

Curly Recordings


Under the guise of his alter ego ‘King Curly’, “Lullaby” is the second album from Sydney singer/ songwriter Steve Appel. Pulled into the national eye when a home recording of his song ‘Curly and Sue’ received an unprecedented public response after an airing on ABC radio, the refreshing, unassuming nature of the resulting album “Familyman” (2001) secured Appel a focused position on the somewhat under exposed canvas of Australian folk.

The aptly titled “Lullaby” sees him continuing to extend his self-effacing brand of melancholic, understated realism with confident aplomb. Authentic responses to emotive callings, tinged with a lilting, organic, almost baroque musicality are countered by a gritty, sham stripped ‘tell it as it is’ lyrical mentality that lifts Appel those few crucial rungs above his contemporaries (of whom though, to be truthful, there are not too many) on the ladder of validity. The title track is the pick of the bunch, not so much ‘tongue in cheek’ as ‘tongue between teeth’, meandering along a lazy waltz it manages to simultaneously comfort and haunt (“broken skin beneath an open sky”). Despite some easily digestible exteriors, there is an eerie lack of complacency that lurks beneath “Lullaby”, tracks like ‘The Land of Love’ speak of a place with “no hassles, records, issues or rules” where “you can smoke cigarettes inside” and via a swarthy groove and a dangerously down-home guitar riff, even a cover of “Teddy Bears Picnic” manages to slightly disturb.



The Long Road Back

Peter Andre



Not quite long enough, I’m sure some of you would exclaim and I’m inclined to agree, but if Peter Andre is what turns on your faucets, this ones gonna get you wet.

Thanks to his participation in one of those celebrity reality shows over in the UK earlier this year, Andre is currently enjoying his second bite of the cherry.

It hasn’t improved his music any, he’s still peddling the same mush of unenthused pop tripe he always has, but not unlike his first run ten odd years ago now, he has the best minds and ears in the - unenthused pop tripe - market to help him do it. Hence the production is snappy, the vocals are rich, the snare is phat and the melodies are dutifully constructed epicentres of thick ‘Stock, Aitken and Waterman’ flavoured syrup. Too sugary and unimaginative for my palette, you could swear on ‘Mysterious Girl’ that all they’ve done to ‘Girl I’m Gonna Make You Sweat’ is wipe off the vocal track and replace it with their (notice my pertinent use of the plural) own.

If upon hearing this you think you’ve heard it before, it’s because one way or another, you have.



Receiving Transmission

Dollar Bar



A double disk set from this punked up Australian five piece, Dollar Bar have earned their suppers. They’ve been doing this for a while now and they do it well. The first disk, the ’album proper’ is a well hung collection of crunch factored, melodic, punk pop that rattles with well focused angst and a general disenchantment for all things related to relationships.

Their melodies, both conscious and inherent, are what keep’s Dollar Bar floating on the top of the Australian sales pool. From the taut desecration of ‘Some Assembly Required’ to the stuttered grumble of ‘Note To Self’, structured, lean and sprung like coils, all eleven tracks’s on ‘Receiving Transmission’ bear merit. The second disk contains eleven tracks of album offcuts, singles and the like. Including their slightly questionable version of Kasey Chambers ‘Not Pretty Enough’. More of the same, but if it’s the same thing that your after, tuck in.


New Zealand Releases


Haunted Out-Takes

Sola Rosa



 The latest ten tracker by New Zealand’s Sola Rosa, namely Andrew Spraggon and his pit-crew, is an innately wrought little masterpiece of phat, sullen beats in a low-fi, down-groove infested nether world.  Fashioned around a stubby base of trip hop and sample inserted electronic groove, the entire album was written, produced and arranged by Spraggon, who also performed (programmed) ninety percent of it himself too.

Spraggon’s touch is a gentle one; he coerces and lulls you, tugging lightly on the parts that resist. The five and a half minute ‘Terrafirma’ is an absolute pearler; acoustic guitar peeling away behind an iridescent lead, drenched in reverb and whammy bar glitter, ‘Scratch Apprentice’ is another triumph. His poignant use of samples (yes, there is such a thing) allows for the sparsity and simultaneous register depth of his grooves to dominate the fore. Think DJ Shadow’s ‘The Private Press’ with some of the Californian sass replaced by New Zealand serenity.





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