This year's Apra Silver Scroll Awards mark the fiftieth anniversary of New Zealand's most significant songwriting prize. So it's appropriate that the long list of songs released yesterday to be voted on by Apra members might actually be the best ever.
In saying so, I'm doubtless influenced by the fact that I have raved here about a number of the songs on the list, including songs like this sparkling one-off collaboration that came and went nine months ago:
This dreamy slab of shoegaze with its firecracker lead break:
Anthonie Tonnon's eloquent, indignant indictment of Nick Smith MP:
This twinkling meditation on polyamory:
This musical musing on the days of our lives (which has the additional virtue of having provoked Mike Hosking in an Alan Partridge moment):
And this remarkable soundtrack banger by that young woman from Devonport:
I'm not saying these are the favourites – that's not up to me – but I'm pleased to see them recognised, along with all the others.
One quirk this year is that two songwriters – Sean Donnelly (SJD) and Ruban Nielson (Unknown Mortal Orchestra) – have two songs on the longlist and one, Joel Little, has his name on three. That's all good for Joel, with three different acts, but I hope having double success doesn't split the vote for for the other two.
The other list pubished yesterday by Apra comprises the five finalists for the Lost Scroll – the 1981 Silver Scroll Awards that, for reasons no one is quite clear on, never happened – and it's really quite remarkable:
'Counting The Beat', The Swingers
'No Depression In New Zealand', Blam Blam Blam
'One Step Ahead', Split Enz
'See Me Go', The Screaming Meemees
'Tally Ho', The Clean
Let's be honest: two or three of those songs very probably would not have reached the radar of Apra judges and members at the time, but with the clarity of history it's clear that our year of social unrest was also a landmark year in popular music.
Richard Langston reminded me yesterday that in 1981, we were both junior reporters at the Christchurch Star (I was 19 and in my first year of journalism) and on the day that Flying Nun Records released 'Tally Ho' we went out at lunchtime and bought our copies direct from Roger Shepherd at The Record Factory, on Colombo Street, just south of Cathedral Square.
We were shooting the breeze under a Facebook post by The Clean's David Kilgour, who had decided after 'Tally Ho!' was named to tell the tale of its conception, "just so I dont have to repeat this story over and over again". Here's a lightly-edited version of his account:
"Must've been early 1980. Orientation at Otago Uni had just finished and a party was held for all the workers . The Clean were hired to play at the party, along with The Chills. (Possibly others? Sneaky Feelings perhaps.)
"No one turns up, maybe 15 people, half of them are musicians/friends . The afternoon finishes up with Martin [Phillipps] jamming with us. Robert starts playing the 'Tally Ho' riff and we jam on that for a while, all very excited by the RIFF. You gotta remember Hamish and I were mad about this kind've shit, from '96 Tears' to 'Mendocino', etc ...
"Until we recorded the track, I had been playing around with words and melody live, scat singing, never really completing the lyric till the morning of recording the track. We had been in Auckland for about a month living with the Androidss and couch surfing here and there. Roger Shepherd had tracked us down at the Androidss pad and offered to pay for us to record a 45 in Christchurch on our return.
"The last weekend in Auckland we played at the Reverb Room. On the Friday night after playing I dropped a tab of DMA – which is basically and very strong psychedelic speed, horrid stuff, just horrid – taken in the hope it would be the real thing, ala LSD. I had a terrible time, tripping for almost two days and yeah, I managed to pull off the last gig on the Saturday night. It took me a long time to sort myself out mentally after this experience, weeks .... maybe I never recovered! Ha!
"So we arrive in Christchurch a few days later. At breakfast on the day of recording I started writing out 'final' lyrics on a tissue with the help of Martin. I kept that scrawl for many years, but alas it's now gone. So yeah, the lyrics are of post-acid mental breakdown confusion , yearning to connect!
"When we got the test pressing we were disappointed with the sound of it and figured we probably could've made a better job on our two-track Revox. We became even more determined to record ourselves. The recording session took about half a day. Arnold [van Bussell] from Nightshift studios engineered, and considering it was a meeting of chalk and cheese we managed to mangle a recording out of it.
"I even went to the mastering of the disk in Welington to make sure they didn't ruin what was already kind've ruined. God knows what I was thinking – I knew I couldn't make it any better with my limited tech knowledge, but was probably freaked out they would make it sound worse, somehow. But of course now it shouldn't sound any other way. Pure garage right? And then it made the top 20! Were we shocked and delighted? Yeah!"
Just a reminder about ALT+CTRL+DANCE on K Road tomorrow night – 27 live bands and DJs across four different venues for only $20. I'll be playing mostly old-school house music at the Wine Cellar from 11pm to 12.30am, before Harry the Bastard takes over.
This downloadable Loop Select Mixtape, featuring local acts ranging from Benny Tones and Rodi Kirk to French for Rabbits, is well worth your attention.
Keegan Fepuleai, the promoter behind ALT+CTRL+DANCE, is about to launch a new record label, Age Sex Location. He dropped the first taste of it this week, with this downloadable track from German producer Ray Kandinski:
And, finally, the excellent Cousin Cole has mashed up The Weeknd's monster 'I Can't Feel My Face' with Tribe Called Quest's 'Can I Kick It?' and made a whole new vibe. Click the Buy button for a free DL: