It's almost half way through the year, the shortest day is drawing near - the perfect time to cosy up and listen to some excellent tunes. The RNZ Music team convenes to present some of their favourite sounds of 2016 so far, in three parts:
David Bowie - Lazarus
Kirsten Johnstone: We should have seen it coming. What a way to go out.
Beyonce - Freedom
Nick Bollinger: All the themes of Lemonade - racism, liberation and African-American womanhood – come together in the concept album’s climactic track, complete with Kendrick Lamar cameo.
Kanye West - Ultralight Beam/30 Hours
Sam Wicks: Ultralight Beam again sees Yeezus in god-mode, the Megachurch-sized gospel song featuring a choir of supporting players – plus a four-year-old catching the Holy Ghost.
Anderson . Paak - Lite Weight
Yadana Saw: “There’s no reason to be afraid, no time to be like that” sings Anderson. Paak. If Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar and Outkast's The Love Below collided it would be Malibu - a rich, satisfying and uplifting slab of soul, hip hop, funk and disco. It is our time to like Anderson .Paak
SWIDT – No More Parties In Stoneyhunga
Hussein Moses: “Biggest victory for Onehunga since Dressmart” – David Dallas
Rock Away - Unity Pacific
Trevor Reekie: Unity Pacific is Tigilau Ness and his son Che Fu - you can hear the affection in the music.
G.L.O.S.S. - We Live
Zac Arnold: G.L.O.S.S. stands for 'Girls Living Outside Society's Shit.' This record is angry - not in the thuggish joke hardcore kinda way - this is seriously angry. It's political - finally a punk record that says something.
Average Rap Band 'El Eh'
Sam: Visa issues meant Average Rap Band’s Tom Scott very nearly didn’t make his first trip to the States. El Eh marks the point the trip was off, Tom's resigned vocals floating over synth funk as hazy as the LA skyline.
Kirsten: A perfect headphone song with intricate textures, back-masted voices, wistful piano and lush orchestral arrangements, gently drifting through sentiments of hopelessness and acceptance.
Purple Pilgrims - Forever
Hussein: Forever is a weird, understated and experimental take on pop music from sisters Valentine and Clementine Adams. See our visit to Purple Pilgrims HQ
Drax Project - Cold (live session)
Yadana: The jazz, hip hop, pop quartet at their best: sparkling, soulful, stripped back and live. Onstage is where their jazz improv and tight musicianship shine.
Brigid Mae Power - Is It My Low Or Yours
Trevor: This is from the Irish artist's second album, she's got a very ethereal quality - words that disappear into languid whispers. I think she's going to help re-define folk.
Parents - Wounded
Zac: The last song on the last record ever by Auckland punk collective Parents. They'll be missed on the live scene.
Dave Dobbyn - Burning Love
Nick: Elder-statesman of Kiwi song pens a mature ode to enduring love, with a melody McCartney would be proud of.
Bat For Lashes - Sunday Love
Yadana: It's been an ear worm for me. It's got a propelling, twinkly 80s synth quality. I love how she takes on interesting characters - in this case it's a bride who's been left at the altar, while her groom has died in a car crash.
UMO - First World Problems
Sam: UMO’s most tightly-wound record yet, a psych-funk offering Ruban Nielson’s describes as a song about modern love, “while a decadent world falls apart around you.”
Zen Mantra – Maybe I’ll See You In My Dream
Hussein: A cathartic and heart-breaking song from Christchurch’s Sam Perry that’s dedicated to the memory of his father.
No Zu - Spirit Beat
Zac: Proving that I don't just listen to hardcore punk, this has a wacky sense of rhythm, bongos, congos, Omar Soleyman synths and chanting.
Tom Waits The Soul of a Man (Blind Willie Johnson)
Trevor: Tom Waits is the right man to take this song. There's a famous description of Tom having a voice "soaked in a vat of Bourbon hanging in a smokehouse for a couple of months, then taken outside and run over with a car."
Aldous Harding - Horizon (Live at Whammy Bar)
Kirsten: Only existing in live form as yet, this shows Aldous at her best, creating space and simplicity with an ill-fated love song.
Lontalius - A Feeling So Sweet
Nick: Drawing as much on Drake-style R&B as introspective singer-songwriting, Eddie Johnson takes those indescribable feelings of teenage longing and turns them into perfectly aching pop.
Team RNZ Music this time around:
Zac Arnold - Music 101 host, producer, videographer.
Kirsten Johnstone: RNZ Music content producer, team leader.
Yadana Saw: RNZ Music content producer
Hussein Moses: Pop culture and music writer for The Wireless
Nick Bollinger: Host of review program The Sampler
Trevor Reekie: Host of Access All Areas and Hidden Treasures.
Sam Wicks: RNZ Music content producer