Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: Magnificent melancholy

In the unusually detailed record company bio accompanying I'll Forget 17, his debut* album as Lontalius, Eddie Johnston notes that the first the world heard of him and his music was in YouTube videos of him covering Crowded House songs.

There's a circularity in the fact that I'll Forget 17 was mostly made at Neil Finn's Roundhead Studios, but perhaps a greater one in some of the record's plangent melodies, which could have have come from the hand of Finn himself – and then been shaped in a world of R&B, pop and the internet. That's about the closest I can get to characterising what's going on here.

Songs from this album have been previewed and trailered quite extensively, which is good for marketing but not always good for the art. They make far more sense here as a cohesive whole. Johnston showed quite a degree of self-awareness in naming the record (the title is a lift from a Frank Ocean lyric). He won't be a teenager for long and it might be the last time he gets to feel this way on the regular. There's no ironic distance here: this is how the kid felt.

The unusual weave of guitar, electronics, strings, drums and piano on I'll Forget 17 doesn't sound like anything particular in modern pop music right now  (I was trying to think of what Velvet Underground song the guitar intro to 'It's Not Love' reminded me of – turns out it's 'The End' by The Doors). But its magnificent melancholy does have parallels. It's what Johnston was hearing in the Drake covers on Soundcloud that got him noticed by the world. His cover of 'The Real Her' didn't just make me listen to Drake in a different way, it made me listen to that kind of music differently.

And the timing seems pretty sweet. It's was only last week that the music blogs got frantic about a leaked Drake cover of Nico's 'These Days'. I know, fellow old white guys, I know: Drake covering Nico? As it transpired, it wasn't a cover by Drake, but an unmastered version of a cover duet with another artist, the terribly-named Baebo Baggins – which happened to escape in a version that only had Drake's vocals on it. It probably wasn't an accident, but the leaked version has gone and something more like the one that's coming out has replaced it. And it's really lovely.

So this is the world Eddie Johnston is heading into. By the end of the month, he'll be in Los Angeles, completing an album (it's already half done) with sometime Frank Ocean producer Om'mas Keith – which will presumably sound very different to this one, made with his friends. It's another way in which he won't be 17 any more.

But for now, I can't recommend this record highly enough. 'All I Wanna Say', 'Kick in the Head' and 'It's not Love' are shimmering, swelling songs to make 17 year-olds feel sad in their bedrooms – and to make everyone else remember for a few minutes when that was them too.

You can listen to all the tracks from I'll Forget 17 on the Lontalius website.

*Although it's being called a "debut", there is in fact another Lontalius album: 2013's The World Will Never Know About Us, a collection of tiny tunes (the longest is under two minutes) that you can play and purchase at a price of your choosing on Bandcamp. It's really worth a listen.


Our old kitchen stereo, a good-quality Yamaha micro system I found years ago in a sale at Paul Money, had been ailing for a while. It would simply refuse to power up for a couple of days and then inexplicably start working again. The non-working periods got longer, to the point where we decided that having paid down our GE Credit card, it was time to look and see whether Harvey Norman might have a more modern system for us.

The website wasn't promising, but when I went into the Mt Roskill branch, there was a Sony CMT-SBT300W, which featured AirPlay (and hence Wifi), Bluetooth and USB playback, as well as a CD player and FM tuner. It's the version without a DAB tuner, but whatever. It plays from everyone's phone and I can AirPlay lossless tracks straight from my computer in the office. Best of all, it was $310 off because the box had been opened.

While we were removing the old system and installing the new one, out popped something I'd forgotten had existed: my old 80GB iPod Classic.

It was dusty and had literally not been touched for years, but it lit up the second I touched the clickwheel. So I connected it to my computer and it synced. I deleted and restocked it with as much music as I could be bothered with – about 60GB – and it synced again, perfectly. There was a slight hiccup when I realised it couldn't play Apple Lossless files and had to re-sync with everything crunched down to 256k AAC, but that meant it just held even more music. It feels like this device and its tiny hard drive would survve the zombie apocalypse.

I've also been due a new iPhone – my four and half year-old 4S has been amazing, but I wanted something a bit quicker to travel with and Spark was offering a good deal with paying it off, so I got an iPhone SE on launch day, Thursday. It's the innards of the 6s squeezed into the smaller frame of the iPhone 5 and it's a little miracle. Apple still makes wonderful devices.

But even after I synced it with my existing data, there was no music on it. And when I went to fix that, there was this:

So. No obvious means of doing one of the things that made me want a 64GB phone for travelling: putting music on it. I'm supposed to get with the programme and just have iCloud Music Library replicate my desktop iTunes over the network. If I wanted to play music on a plane, I'd need to painstakingly download from the cloud each album (or each track) for offline play, even though I have them on my computer.

There is a straightforward workaround: I just need to turn off iCloud Music Library, sync all the music I want and then turn on iCloud Music Library again. I know that. But Apple doesn't say so and I assume many new phone owers are flummoxed by this. It's another example of how Apple makes great devices and poor choices about how they work with content.


Two new local videos this week ...

Chelsea Jade continues to make excellent use of her childhood instruction in ballet. This video from down at Silo is really swish ...

And Tourettes has worked up his poem for the local cultural apocalypse, 'The New New Zealand' into a suitably moody track, with hints of Burial.

I'm not sure if they cleared everything sampled in the video – from the Skeptics' 'A.F.F.C.O.' to The Quiet Earth – but if not, I trust the owners will be kind. It's art, after all, and these things are there as more than wallpaper.


A report from the LCD Soundsystem reunion.

Afrika Bambaata's 40,000-strong record collection is to be preserved at Cornell University.

Apart from the absolute tragedy of the three headliners, the Glastonbury lineup looks pretty good.

And this week's most joyous headine: Avicii quits music.



More fresh (uploaded this morning) disco fruit from A Label Called Success. A live mix from Manuel Darquart:

And mo' disco from Hamilton's remarkably productive Terrorball. This is from his EP of edits of tunes from the Daft Punk side-project Le Knight Club, but his Soundcloud profile has lots of other new work too – nearly all of it free to download (although you can give him money on Bandcamp if you like).

Auckland's Dub Terminator is back! In a dub'n'bass style this time, and it's fire. Free download:

Strange atmospheres from New Zealand producer Caitlin Blake:

A wicked Copycat re-take on the Beastie Boys' 'Brass Monkey'. (Hit 'Buy' for a free download from Bandcamp.)

And finally, a really neat dub of one of my favourite records ever, 'Frankie Knuckles' and Jamie Principle's 'Your Love'. It's a share-to-download bizzo on HearThis:


The Hard News Friday Music Post is kindly sponsored by:

The Audio Consultant

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