From Wellington stoner country to Beijing glitch hop, 2015 was packed with awesome releases from both New Zealand and China. Here are fifteen Kiwese favourites!
Illustration by Ali Pang.
With Knees of Honey in Goodbye Canyon by So Laid Back Country China
So Laid Back Country China (or 很放松乡村中国) is a four-piece band fronted by Harriet Ferry and Michael Keane, former members of beloved Wellington folk/country hooligans Big River Chain and John the Baptist.
Originally meant to be an EP, With Knees of Honey in Goodbye Canyon, is a slow-release trip into wide open country spaces, at once soothing and hair-raising in the sparse layering of instrumentation and vocals.
Favourite track: Open Eyed
No Need For Another History by Hiperson
Rejoice!! Our long diet of Hiperson demos streamed off Youku was finally supplemented this year, with No Need For Another History released on Maybe Mars in April. Recorded by China’s post-punk overlord Yang Haisong, Hiperson have re-recorded well-loved tunes such as《他打定主意做一个游客》He Made Up His Mind to Be a Tourist and 《门》Entrance, alongside new material that reasserts their guitar-driven, sharp tongued sound.
Those distinctive stabbing staccato vocals from Chen Sijiang, alongside puns such as “这是通往剧院的大路!” yelled in tandem with guitarist Ji Yinan, in my opinion make Hiperson one of the most lyrically talented bands in China today. Check out the Kiwese interview with Hiperson earlier this year.
Favourite track: 《幕布》The Curtain https://hiperson.bandcamp.com
TANGO by She’s So Rad
THIS ALBUM IS JUST SO GREAT!!!
TANGO is a joy from start to finish – really tight songwriting and jangly pop melodies led by the band’s Anji Sami and Jonathan Toy. Nominated for Best Alternative Album at this year’s NZ Music Awards, lost out to UMO’s Multi-Love (also excellent).
Favourite track: Better Off On Your Own https://shessorad.bandcamp.com/album/tango
Chinese Football by Chinese Football
China’s national football team is unlikely to score points anywhere, but Wuhan’s delightful indie-pop band Chinese Football are winners!
This year Chinese Football released both a self-titled EP and a self-titled full length album, the latter of which I am rating here. Sparkling TTNG-esque math rock riffs, endearing vocal harmonies and brightness. Forever destined to be compared to American Football, Chinese Football’s music would indeed be suited to cruising around the sunny Midwest.
Chinese Football play Chengdu’s Little Bar on 8 January and Chongqing’s NUTS on the 9th. Yay!
Favourite track: 400米
Carb on Carb by Carb on Carb
Aucklandite indie-emo-pop power duo Carb on Carb released their much anticipated self-titled album back in February, what a pearler! James and Nicole have been busy touring the USA this year, making a lot of new friends and forging their own American dreams.
If you are in the market for odes to beloved pets, sweet riffs and breakneck drum rolls, this is where it’s at. Added 2015 bonus, James released the God Bows to Math + Carb on Carb China Tour Documentary in September, which premiered on Kiwese! Good times!
Favourite track: Phenomenal Ladies https://carboncarb.bandcamp.com/album/carb-on-carb
Mù Chè Shān Chū by Howie Lee
Space Epic by Terror of the Deep
‘Cos it makes me feel – – – ~ – – –
– – – ~ – – – so unreal!!’
Oh man. I fucking love Terror of the Deep. Their music makes me imagine walking up Riddiford Street with sunglasses on, blue skies, and a hop in my step. Flax and toi toi. Newtown. Space Epic has a much lusher, texture than TOTD’s previous spare and crunchy bass-guitar-drums sound, with the addition of Tom Watson on keyboard and trumpet. Picks up where Permanent Weekend left off, with a re-recording of ‘When the Planets Align.’
Recorded by OOS’s Dan Beban at Pyramid Club and mixed into the galaxies in 2015. A journey through space, to Neptune and beyond…
Favourite track: Saturn
Demos on Douban by South Acid MiMi Dance Team
South Acid MiMi (Shishi, Weilin + Yixiao) are such rad bitches. Straight outta Kunming, this freaky disco punk trio is leading crowds to the dance floor. I saw one of their early shows in January when I was randomly in Kunming and it was the most refreshing thing I’d been to in ages. They sound like… Grimes? Iggy Pop? Karen O?
These bizarre, addictive beats from three keyboards, vocals, a laptop, LED light poi and various bottles of spirits. South Acid MiMi are gearing up to release an album with Ruby Eyes Records in Beijing next year.
Stay tuned for a Lady Lazer Light x Kiwese x South Acid MiMi production very soon!!
Favourite tracks: NUNUDUGU, Lucy in the Sky With Dolphin, Love is Pain, Disco 女孩, The End, so many!!
Seed (single) by Mermaidens
Mermaidens are Scrumpylicious incantation creators. Seed is a mean tune. Sounds like discordant fuzzy kelp scum, the three-piece creating a bubble of noise that scares off even those freaky fish with lightbulbs on their head. Look forward to more next year.
Loop by Stolen《循环》 秘密行动
Stolen (pinyin: mìmì xíngdòng) tore shit up this year. I saw them play a countless number of times around the country, bursting with energy at every gig. After signing to Beijing’s new D-Force Records, they had the opportunity to professionally record in Taipei, producing a more refined collection of their excellent free demos.
Dark, chilling, insanely danceable – with Loop and a huge national tour under their belt this year, Stolen have raised the bar even higher. While one hears Joy Division or Kraftwerk when listening to Stolen, their newer material is more electronic beat based, scatty tech rhythms. The boys have been writing new material up in the mountains, so anticipate more from them next year!
Favourite track: A Glossy Flirt
Womb by Womb
Wellington woodland dream folk. Womb is the solo project of Charlotte Forrester, womb companion of Haz Forrester, who she used to play with in Athuzela Brown. This is really gorgeous music. The echoey vocals remind me a lot of Grouper, while the sparse guitar phrasing in ‘Sounds of Our Voices’ definitely brings Electrelane to mind. Sonorous Circle label mate Sean Kelly mixed and mastered these five lovely tracks with some Seth Frightening magic.
Favourite track: Cosmic Dreaming
People, Society, Money by Fatshady
Fatshady is the biggest rapper in Chengdu. He entered the hip-hop lexicon several years ago with his track 《明天不上班》, empowering audiences to bunk off work in style. He raps completely in Chengduhua, garnering immediate appeal by opposing the bland, standardised Mandarin of TV, radio, school, officialdom…
While the beats are pretty simple (as if ‘shab shabba Ranks’ could come in at any moment), the rapping is second to none. While I can only understand half of his lyrics, his music speaks to my friends unlike any other artist I’ve seen – because he is using their language. There is no one else doing it quite like Fatshady. Out on C.D.C.
Favourite track: 坝坝球
A. Cushion Plant and B. Gold in Quartz by Team Cat Food
(Auckland via Wellington, NZ)
February saw a Team Cat Food double release. As with everything these guys have released, I love it. Mellow and vibey electronic textures and beats, with i.ryoko and Seth Frightening featuring on each side. Churrrr.
Favourite track: Cushion Plant, Ponderosa
A Million Farewells by Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes
Well, this is epic. Shanghai’s famously un-Googleable Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have released this noisy emotional outpouring on Genjing Records. Former So So Modern drummer Daniel Nagels joins ‘Tom’ – Xiao Zhong of Pairs, ‘Katie’ – Sharon Cee-Q with her dreamy vocals, and Samuel Walsh on bass.
‘My Life is Over’ will have your ears ringing, while other more dream pop/shoegaze tracks act as a welcome counterpoint. Beautiful stuff. Vinyl release through Genjing and Tenzenmen, or you can stream it on Bandcamp.
Favourite track: New Day
Elixir by Totems(Auckland, NZ)
Elixir is certainly the most mature and cohesive Totems release to date, with nine tracks that flow seamlessly from start to finish. Jungle/drum & bass/echoes of his old trap sound that are equally suited to both chilling and raving. Released in December with Cosmic Compositions, Elixir has already had several plays at Kiwese HQ, also known as my lounge. Chur chur!
Favourite track: Echolocate
And one more…
Multi-Love by Unknown Mortal Orchestra
(Portland, OR via Auckland)
With only one kiwi member, UMO are arguably not even a NZ act. But they get nominated at the NZ Music Awards and also get funding from NZ On Air so whatever. Multi-Love is the follow up to 2013’s II and it is just really fcking awesome!! More groovy and melodic than their previous two albums, with the addition of a keyboardist/back up vocalist.
Favourite Song 2015: Can’t Keep Checking My Phone
…Where it at?
Mirror in Mirror by Skip Skip Ben Ben
(Taipei / Beijing)
Ben Ben’s new album has been released in Taiwan on Re:Public Records, and I’m eagerly/impatiently waiting for it to come out in the Mainland on Maybe Mars… Check out the preview below. NEED.
Many of these artists have released their music on Bandcamp for the criminally low price of ZERO DOLLARS. Koha where you can! Support independent music!