Proud Cantabrian and cricket bore James Milne’s last album as Lawrence Arabia, The Sparrow, came out last year, and remains out to this very day. Herr Arabia is playing with a band and a string quartet at Wellington’s San Francisco Bath House on Saturday January 26, at Laneway Festival on Monday January 28, and at Music at Matua in Waimauku on Saturday February 9. Here are five albums he’s loving right now…
1 – Chris Cohen, Overgrown Path: At the end of the year I tend to get a couple of requests to contribute to Best Of 20xx lists which drives me into a protracted period of deep reflection and vicious palm rubbing about my retrogressive listening habits and how the only album I listened to all year was After The Gold Rush. This period of angst and perspiration took me way past the deadlines for contributions this year but it did coincide with a weirdly fertile period for listening to actual current albums, the first of which was Chris Cohen’s Overgrown Path. It’s a beautiful, complex and contemplative record, kind of pastoral sounding without being twee.
2 – Here We Go Magic, A Different Ship: Soon after hearing the Chris Cohen record, I experienced the strange sensation of being quite seriously engaged with two contemporary albums at one time, when I heard Here We Go Magic’s latest album. They had an undoubtedly magical song a few years ago with their mysterious Fangela, but I found the debut too nebulous and downright current to really get my teeth into at the time. But this record was refreshingly more conservative with sonic hooks in the right places for a dyed in the wool fuddy duddy like yours truly. It’s produced by Nigel Godrich, so it sounds rich and clean, it’s expansive and unfettered by fashionable gauze. The singer has a beautiful voice and the melodies go to unexpected places.
3 – Mac DeMarco, 2: Like Here We Go Magic, this is another record where tempered avant-garde pretensions and a higher-fidelity recording result in a much improved listening experience. This record is my best friend at the moment; I’ve had life-changing moments and revelations while listening to it. Even though it is undeniably hip as a whole, it recalls J.J. Cale, Dire Straits, ELO, Blur and many other artists of varyingly minimal levels of Now Factor. And while it forms uncanny recollections of moments listening to classic rock radio, its persistently consistent sound throughout gives it the feeling of something original and timeless. I am an evangelist for this record.
4 – Thee Oh Sees, Putrifiers II: Pretty kick arse psych garage from this San Francisco band. This feels to me like one of those records where underappreciated journeymen make good on their years of slogging and really CONNECT with people. Lupine Dominus is the song that got me into it, which is truly mindbending heavy Kraut/Stooges madness of the highest order. I’m also really taken with the picture of the dog in a suit on the back of the sleeve. They’re playing in New Zealand in early February, which will be a rare opportunity to see me tripping balls in public.
5 – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Mature Themes: Like all of Ariel Pink’s stuff, if you’re willing to see past the perversity, absurd grossness and sheer irritation factor, there is pop here as catchy as bottom trawling. The whole album is full of these quite maddening pieces which combine Dada-esque scatological lyrics with an innate ability to pastiche whole swathes of pop and pop culture history. I can understand how people don’t get this, but once you’re in his world the whole thing becomes kaleidoscopically charming and hilarious. Amidst all this confusion and infuriation, Mature Themes and Only In My Dreams are two sincere, majestic instant classics.