8 Jul 2017

The Mixtape: RNZ Music's faves of 2017 so far

From RNZ Music, 4:10 pm on 8 July 2017

We’re half way through 2017, and what an amazing year for music so far. Alex Behan, Tony Stamp, Kirsten Johnstone, Katie Parker of The Wireless and Trevor Reekie pick some favourites.

Mogwai – 'Coolverine'

I’ve been listening to Mogwai since 1997 and hungrily devour anything the Scottish post-rockers put out. I enjoy them in a similar way to dance music, where the songs gradually gather intensity, and eventually deliver some kind of release, comparative to the 'drop' in an EDM song. 'Coolverine' floats along, buoyed by various counter-melodies, before a ride cymbal and propulsive bassline deliver the kind of explosive catharsis that no other band does as well as these guys. Tony Stamp

Lorde – 'The Lourve'

There are so many little moments to love in Melodrama – her choices of words, breaths, and phrasing, the production quirks that Jack Antonoff brings. Every song has a place, and makes a narrative chapter in this concept album. It makes me love even the songs I’m not so keen on out of context. 'The Lourve' captures that feeling of falling fast and hard in love, and I think it’s a masterpiece of a song. Kirsten Johnstone

Graham Brazier – 'Around The Bend'

This is a song from Graham Brazier’s posthumous album. It’s a song about Dave McCartney, and this is a very personal choice, because I worked with and loved both Dave and Graham. Graham was always mystified by Dave saying to him late one night “let’s keep playing music until we die” and that line features in this song. It was recorded by Alan Jansson, and started off with a calypso feel, but he took away the original guitar and added piano and strings. He played it to Graham and it brought him to tears. Trevor Reekie

Harry Styles – 'Sign Of The Times'

One Direction’s Harry Styles was always destined for solo stardom and I am so pleased to see him fulfilling his bountiful potential. 'Sign of the Times' was the first ever solo track from young Styles and a pretty explicit bid to be taken seriously as a musician. Fortunately, it's lovely: a kind of apocalyptic rumination on the state of the world which, while perhaps a little obvious in these times of Trump, is strangely moving coming from a performer defined by youth. Katie Parker

Frank Ocean – 'Chanel'

After a long silence between albums, Frank Ocean hasn’t taken his foot off the gas since the release of Blonde. 'Chanel' is one of three songs he’s released in just the last few months and while his Calvin Harris collaboration will chart higher and longer, 'Chanel' is Frank as his fans love him, open, honest and bleeding all over the tracks. Alex Behan

This Is The Kit – 'Bulletproof'

Kate Stables -AKA This Is The Kit- is new to me, but she’s about to release her fourth record. Moonshine Freeze, due out on Rough Trade, has had two singles released and I love them both. 'Bulletproof' won me over as soon as I heard the opening guitar refrain, and it only gets more beautiful. Her voice is plaintive and the song evokes a sense of melancholy that I'm often drawn to in music. The lyrics, which are kind of nonsensical, take on a gravitas because the music is so powerful. Basically, as soon as she starts singing, I start welling up. Tony Stamp

Nadia Reid – 'The Arrow And The Aim'

Riffing on the same themes as Lorde’s album, of relationship breakup and subsequent independence and blossoming self-assurance, Preservation is a logical and powerful step on from her first album. With old-worldy melodies, a grit and determination in her voice, and a band swelling around her in the necessary moments, ‘The Arrow And the Aim’ is a cathartic study of learning to live without someone. Kirsten Johnstone

Nigel Gavin – 'Tone Two'

One of the founding members of Gitbox Rebellion and a collaborator of King Crimson’s Robert Fripp, Nigel Gavin is a terrifyingly good guitarist. This comes from Waggledance, Music for Seven Stringed Guitar – the guitar has an extra bass string on it. Nigel just has stunning style and a sense of playfulness. Trevor Reekie

SZA – 'Drew Barrymore'

US R&B performer SZA has been up and coming for a while and her debut album CTRL released in June is incredible. The song I chose, ‘Drew Barrymore’, is equal parts vulnerable and defiant and as such is a rare nuanced take on bravado with an amazing sound and cool modern production. This song - along with the rest of SZA’s work on CTRL - is easily some of the best music released so far this year. Katie Parker

Future – 'Mask Off'

Future released two albums in consecutive weeks earlier this year with both records debuting at number one on the Billboard charts. Sure that’s the first time in history, but it’s also a sign that Future’s mainstream moment has finally come.  'Mask Off' is built around a flute sample, and the lyrics are almost nonsensically superficial, but there’s no denying the popularity of the song, and once you let it in, it stays around for a while. Alex Behan