It's only seven weeks into 2017, but already we've heard a glut of great music. The RNZ Music team convenes to talk about their favourites, and the zeitgeist of 2017 - protest songs.
Jesca Hoop - ‘Memories Are Now’
If the first song on an album should be a statement of intent, Californian Jesca Hoop is ready for war. Armed with just a minimal bass line, a fizzy high hat, and - her greatest weapon - her strong and fearsome voice, she has created what I hear as a feminist anthem.
The Milltones - ‘Wildfire’
I’m a sucker for a catchy pop song, and this young Auckland band nail it. They have that classic mid-70s soft rock sound, a la Fleetwood Mac.
Nadia Reid - ‘Richard’
I love how Nadia is so assured in her artistic direction that she can sing such a vivid and exacting image about an ex-lover. It’s cutting, it’s wistful, and fully deserves to join the rich canon of songs dedicated to jilted lovers throughout the ages (refer to Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain, the entirety of Beyonce’s Lemonade)
Ghost Town - Make it (to the other side)
Singer-producer-guitarist-video artist Jed Town has been in a heap of bands, including The Features and Fetus Productions, who were once described as sounding like "recordings from within a hellish insane asylum". He’s teamed up with Auckland-based Mark Beesley is a musician and director for Ghost Town, and there’s elements of this that reminds me of Gene Clarke’s psychedelic 70s folk.
Sleaford Mods - ‘B.H.S.’
Sleaford Mods are an electronic duo who make ‘punk hop’ for working class Britain. B.H.S. is a song railing against the closing of British Home Stores around the UK, which overnight put 11,000 people out of work.
The XX - ‘On Hold’
The English minimalist trio released their third album ‘I See You’ two weeks into the year, and it’s a big step up in production and songwriting, particularly for Jamie Smith, who weaves in some unlikely samples and captures a nostalgia for the dancefloors and hedonism of youth.
Missy Elliot - ‘I’m Better’ ft. Lamb
Hip hop pioneer Missy Elliot has faced serious health challenges in recent years but with last year’s WTF and new single I’m Better she has thrown herself back in to the limelight. This track featuring Lamb clearly vibes on the predominant production style of the day as she deftly delivers each whip smart line with her own distinct and instantly recognisable voice. Welcome back Missy, we love you
Raiza Biza - ‘Strong Woman’ The remix, feat. REMI
This is a remix of a song from Hamilton rapper Raiza Biza’s 2016 Day and Night EP. Released to coincide with the global Women’s March which took place in January; here is a local rapper from the provinces who flies in the face of the argument that hip hop is inherently misogynist. ‘Strong Woman’ is a wonderfully laid-back, jazzy, sun-infused tribute to all the women that raise and nurture us.
Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita - ‘Dary’
Omar Sosa is a Cuban-born composer, bandleader and jazz pianist with a huge catalogue, and for the album Transparent Water he’s teamed up with Senegalese Kora player Seckou Keita. This track ‘Dary’ features Venezuelan percussionist Gustavo Ovalles, and it’s elegant, inventive and mesmerizing music.
Blanck Mass - ‘Please’
Blanck Mass is the solo Project of F**k Buttons’ Benjamin John Power, whose new album Worldeater is a surprisingly beautiful protest album, which hones in on deconstructing vocal samples rather than the layers of noise present in his past work.
New Dawn ‘The Dying Light’
Indira Force and Anita Clark have already, between them, tackled trip-hop, country, pre-rock n roll crooning, and indie-twee in bands Doprah, Ragamuffin Children, The Eastern, and Devilish Mary and the Holy Rollers. In an increasingly busy, overstimulating, and enraging world, this Christchurch duo are making music that encourages stillness and reflection. A sure trigger for Autonomous sensory meridian response.
Here's the Spotify Playlist for those who'd like to hear full songs without the talking.