By ALEX LYALL

 

Welcome to this week’s Haul! It’s been another week of solid tunes, with Grouper, The National and The Horrors all putting out career-defining material. Estère continues her march to the top of the top and Stevie Nicks reminds us that she’s been just there, announcing shows for this November. 

 

Estère – Pro Bono Techno Zone

It wasn’t until the backing vocals came in that I actually realised Estère is a Kiwi. And I only realised it after picking up on the accent (always an enticer for me). Unfortunately, this kind of energy and confidence is often lacking in New Zealand music. Not to say that NZ music is dull – it’s just that this is a special kind of energy. Also, the production is ridiculously sharp.

Estère has made a brilliant track that is equal parts frantic and fidgety. Squeaky horns and funk guitar add to it as well, easily making it one of New Zealand’s best songs this year.

 

Physical – You Can’t Have Me

Physical are a Wellington duo made of Julia Catherine Parr and Nik Brinkman. If that second name isn’t immediately familiar, then you probably know him better as Junicathe face and man of synth-pop in 2011.  And if you listen to You Can’t Have Me and wonder where all the flagrantly sadboy plays went, you’re not alone.

You Can’t Have Me is simply just not that kind of song. It doesn’t burst, or even attempt to wear its influences on its sleeve, instead it crawls and lets creeping synth accompany the firm vocals Parr contributes. It is still a song about feelings, but Parr forces herself to stay in control and not give into emotions as readily as Junica had.

In fact, it is utterly unrecognisable from any of Brinkman’s earlier work, and while Physical are a perfectly fine team who have made a perfectly fine song, it is a shame to lose that spark which made Brinkman popular back in the day. People naturally align themselves with sensitive music. Even if I do recall somebody trying to throw an ice-cream at him at the Big Day Out.

 

Grouper – Children

There’s not a lot that gets me more excited than the collection of words: ‘new’, ‘Grouper’ and ‘song’. It’s hard to comment on why this song should be treated with unique excitement, it’s just a typical Grouper song, really. Everything and anything melancholy. But that’s the point; as Grouper fans we demand music that’s icy and provoking of tears. And, as the old saying goes – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Ugh, she’s so bloody good.

 

Alex Cameron with Angel Olsen – Stranger’s Kiss

Good song, amazing music video.

Jemima Kirke, of Girls fame, stars here. She dresses up as Alex Cameron and dances as he would dance in order to find him in busy New York. It’s an odd way to find somebody for sure, but it does eventually work with the two reuniting at last.

 

The National – Carin at the Liquor Store

I had a feeling that ‘Carin’ is the name of Matt Berninger’s wife, and a Google search confirmed just that. So this then must be a love song about his wife, and how he just loves the way she buys alcohol. I had actually begun to get the impression that The Nation do have a habit of focusing on bizarre aspects to personal relationships. But that in a way, makes their music that much more special. They veer away from the boring ‘I love your smile/eyes/face/laugh’ that seems to clog most love songs.

What else makes the song special? Those vocals, and that piano. Absolutely divine.

 

The Horrors – Something to Remember Me By

It’s a unique skill, but The Horrors have proved to be masters at writing moderately-long songs. Something to Remember Me By works so well because it’s able to make use of the unusually-groovy bassline it has running through it, and because it runs so long it’s able to counter, and enhance, the awkward delivery of Faris Badwan’s vocals.

It’s a great song, but what. on. earth. is that artwork? Seriously? What have they done?!

 

Stevie Nicks & The Pretenders

Just before Bruno Mars brings his 24K Magic World Tour, Stevie Nicks hits New Zealand with her 24 Karat Gold Tour with The Pretenders in support. New Zealand will be very blinged out.

 

For all the tunes to keep you warm this winter, check out previous episodes of The Weekly Music Haul.

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