Kirsten Johnstone, Tony Stamp and Danielle Street debrief on the Grammy Awards, country/pop artist Jamie McDell explains why Kacey Musgraves won album of the year, and there's new music from Jessica Pratt, Nakhane and local beatmaker Whyfisucks.
Kacey Musgraves - Slow Burn
With competition ranging from commercially successful r+b/hip-hop artists Drake, and Cardi B, to the critically adored Janelle Monáe and Brandi Carlile, the winner of Album Of The Year at the Grammys was anyone's guess. When Country singer/songwriter Kacey Musgraves won for her album you could see a large swathe of the Twitter-verse going - who?
We got NZ country/pop musician Jamie McDell, a long time fan, to explain Musgraves' appeal.
"Firstly, she's got such a clean, controlled, understated vocal, crisp production, mixed with modern sounds [like the vocoder and disco beats] and traditional country instruments, but it's her lyrical content that makes her stand out. She's so clever, and sharp and honest.
"I guess in the past, female country artists have had a really narrow [scope of] subject matter, and she's never been afraid to talk about something different, something that's real life to her, like something as controversial as homosexuality - which, in country music is actually quite a big deal.
"It's a good thing for the genre, because - as we all know - females have a lot more to talk about than just love and heartbreak."
Nakhane – 'Interloper'
Gay South African artist Nakhane Touré put out a dramatic electro glam album last year that I missed, until New York Times named him in their ‘Artists To Watch in 2019’ list. With fans like Madonna and Elton John, a starring role in an award winning film, an incredible personal story, and irresistable voice, I’d say he’ll be everywhere soon.
With production reminisent of Goldfrapp, a great South African choir, and his rich tenor singing about “irrational jealousy and anonymous sex” this song is a sexy gospel romp that you should hear - and watch - immediately. KJ
WHYFISUCKS - ‘Waiting On My Mind’
‘Waiting On My Mind’ is the latest stand-alone single from local beatmaker WhyFiSucks (formerly known as WhyFi).
The prolific producer, who hails from Tangiteroria in Northland, has been affiliated with The Grown Room collective for a number of years and has notched up some excellent collabs, including 2017 highlight Dirty South Pacific.
A hallmark of WhyFi’s production is his lo-fi aesthetic, which sees his sonic influences of psychedelia, jazz and Memphis phonk collide with his “number 8 wire” approach to making music.
Keep your ears open for more from this artist, he’s just launched his own label called Noa Records which is sure to churn out some innovative tunes in the near future. DS
Jessica Pratt - ‘This Time Around’
There’s something comforting about the two chord repetition that opens ‘This Time Around’. Then the Californian singer-songwriter's voice swoops in, drenched in reverb, and it’s like being whisked back in time. So simple and sparse, and so sweet, the song evokes the best of sixties folk, but it’s a distinctly modern confection. TS
Someone - 'From Here'
At first, with its woozy psych pop production and un-google-able name, I thought this might be a secret non-de-plume for Danger Mouse. It’s not, and some sleuthing found Amsterdam-based songwriter and visual artist Tessa Rose Jackson behind the moniker, with a solid back-catalogue under her own name.
The chorus for ‘From Here’ winds itself around and around in my brain, and while it’s full of cliché’s like “it’s breaking my heart”, it works. KJ
Fontaines D.C. - ‘Big’
Fontaines D.C. is a post-punk band from Dublin which has been building steam on the international scene over the last couple of years with some killer live performances that have earned them comparisons to the likes of The Fall, The Stooges and The Pogues.
The five bandmates met at music school in Dublin and bonded over a mutual love of poetry and barstool philosophy. Their new single ‘Big’ is a short, sharp taster of their upcoming debut record, Dogrel - which refers to Irish working-class poetry that was considered crude and was looked down on by literary critics.
The singer’s 11-year-old neighbor was recruited to star in the video for ‘Big’ because, as he put it “he’s got the presence of a hundred frontmen”.
Dogrel is out mid-April via Partisan Records. DS
Earl Sweatshirt - The Mint ft. Navy Blue
Floating over beats thick with dust and crackle, Earl and Navy Blue’s flows are syrupy and sluggish in the best way. You almost feel intoxicated by association. Near the end you can hear the smile in Earl’s voice when he raps about not giving a f*ck, and that attitude is pretty damn infectious. TS