Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: The Story

I think that when Metro magazine does well is when it can create a sense of event around itself, and Simon Wilson and his team have really done that with the October Lorde cover and the Duncan Greive story it showcases. The story itself is tremendous: authentic, insightful and, I think, the best thing Duncan's written.

It sheds light on some things I'd wondered about. For instance, had Ella Yelich-O'Connor at some point been formally identified as gifted? Turns out, yes.

On some tests [at the age of six] she had the mental age of a 21 year-old. The report strongly suggested enrolling her in a programme for gifted chidren.

Sonja did so, reluctantly, but after a few weeks gave in to her own instincts. She picked her daughter up and told her "Get in the car. You've got to be in this world with everyone else."

Good job, mum. Because having friends, being in a girl gang, keeping it real, they're both key to the New Zealand suburban kid identity and to this first collection of Lorde's songs.

The narrative needed a landmark story -- as opposed to another publicity interview -- and I think Duncan has provided it. You can read an excerpt here. It includes this passage:

“I think women who say, ‘No, I’m not a feminist — I love men,’ I think that is just… You don’t know what it means. You think it means that, ‘I don’t shave under my arms, I burn my bras. Fuck men!’ How could you be so uneducated, and so unwilling to learn about something which is so important to you?”

She’s also conscious of the influence she has on other young women. “Taylor Swift is so flawless, and so unattainable, and I don’t think it’s breeding anything good in young girls. ‘I’m never going to be like Taylor Swift, why can’t I be as pretty as Lorde?’ That’s fucking bullshit,” she says, straining forward for emphasis.

And yet, if you watch Twitter, Lorde's already at that place. Girls do want to be her, she has become an ideal. She is shifting the popular idea of beauty simply by being there. That's a lot of weight for a kid to carry. Fortunately, she's clearly not just any kid.

The other story I'd like to read is the Big Music story -- what was said and done to get Lorde to the American public? What was the nature and extent of that 360 deal she signed with Lava? Who has a piece of what? Update: I know a bit more about this now, and the much-talked-about 360 deal is basically a myth. Here's a little background in comments.

In an effusive dispatch commentator Bob Lefsetz declared that "'Royals' doesn’t sound like anything else. That’s the recipe for instant success, doing it different and well."

But it seems to me that not-sounding-like-anything-else is often more of a curse than a blessing. 'Royals' is catchy, yes, but also weirdly stark and restrained compared to almost everything else you'll hear on pop radio. It seems a wonder that the beatmasters and song-doctors were never called on to embiggen it and rewrite the choruses to industry standard.

Because Lorde's debut album Pure Heroine, out today, does actually sound like what it is: a record made with a consciously (and necessarily) limited palette in a small studio, by two people. She provides her own backing vocals, there are no orchestras, no instruments in a conventional sense. And it makes a virtue of that.

I don't think it's the best thing she'll ever do. It trails off and sounds more conventional, even a little distracted, at the end. 'White Teeth Teens' is actually annoying. But with 'Royals', "Tennis Court', 'Team', 'Ribs' and '400 Lux', it's a great, and disruptive, pop record.

I've written a lot about Lorde (yes, I know you've noticed), because I find the whole phenomenon fascinating. This stuff doesn't happen often. One thing I've really enjoyed is the real-world-viral plan of letting fans request the album lyrics by fax, or find them in the Public Notices columns of the newspaper, or on the ceiling of the bus. When did you last see a chart-topping pop record sold on its words?


 My old buddy doesn't reckon he'll go to Laneway in January -- apart from Kurt Vile, nothing floats his biat. Which is funny, because I'm all OMG best Laneway lineup ever. It's this:

CHVRCHES, Danny Brown, Daughter, Doprah, Earl Sweatshirt, Frightened Rabbit, Ghost Wave, Haim, Jagwar Ma, James Blake, Jamie XX, Kurt Vile, Lorde, Mount Kimbie, Parquet Courts, PCP Eagles, Rackets, Run The Jewels, Savages, The Jezabels, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Vance Joy, Watercolours, XXYYXX, Youth Lagoon.

Of those, I'm seriously keen to see: Danny Brown, Daughter, Haim, Jagwar Ma, James Blake, Jamie XX, Kurt Vile, Mount Kimbie, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Watercolours and, of course, Lorde in her only New Zealand show of the summer. But yeah, there's very little rock 'n' roll there. (I do have a worry that Haim will sound like Shania Twain.)

What Laneway will lack in comparison to the Big Day Out, 10 days earlier at Western Springs, is sweet, soft grass. The Big Day Out has probably already sold more earlybird tickets than the Laneway promoters will be allowed to put on their whole site. I'll go to both, and I'm thrilled to have the Big Day Out within walking distance of my house. But I know which musical lineup I'm more intrigued by.


A funny and charming new video for 'Evolution Did' by the Phoenix Foundation. Huzzah!

And just to lock it in, a She's So Rad disco remix of the same song. Get down!


Lawrence Arabia has a tour -- a proper tour, going to Takaka and Barrytown and everything. Moreover, he has this great Anna Taylor poster to tell the public about it.

More details here. Unfortunately, the press release, attributed to Frank Sargeson, has a whacking great grammatical error in its first sentence. It's so disappointing, but I'm sure I'll move past it eventually.

This Lawrence Arabia remix of the Ruby Suns' 'In Real Life' will probably help with the healing process.


Via Michael Earley, this Gawker article, The 10 Most Depressing Parts of The New Yorker's E.D.M. Article Ranked is, indeed, very depressing. The New Yorker story it refers to is a profile of Paris Hilton's ex, a DJ called Afrojack, and shows how modern dance music -- a form created by the most marginalised Americans in tough, urban environments -- has now reached its lowest common denominator in Las Vegas.

EDM (it stands for Electronic Dance Music): so depressing and so, so lucrative.


Things aren't all shit, though. Here's some slinky deep house from the German label Exploited Records:

And a similarly deep take on Gil Scott Heron's 'We Almost Lost Detroit':


At TheAudience, a very accomplished new club track on the local front from a guy who calls himself High Høøps

He has a Soundcloud page, where has has had a more than creditable flows-like-honey crack at Stardust's 'Music Sounds Better With You':

I like!


And to finish in a completely different vein, here's something you may not have heard before. Battling Strings was the first band of a bunch of Shore kids I knew. One of them was David Saunders, another was Rachael King. And another was Andrew Moore, who uploaded this 1986 track this week. Ah, youth ...



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