Thursday, 19 December 2013


In the first year of the Lorde, it was hard to ignore her, especially living in New Zealand.  Hard to ignore her as she became the first solo New Zealand artist to top the US charts. Hard to ignore her as mass saturation of her every move, every lunch she shared, every comment she made was news. Mention of her youth, her canny sense of riding the wave of a backlash against capitalism. Everything she did was acknowledged to the point where I was bored of Lorde. I tried to not like her songs but Royals was something that I couldn’t shake so it made this list. 

Looking down the list, I noticed that there were quite a few songs by artists who I would describe as post-grunge-the likes of Coliseum and Roomrunner. Fitting in that this year saw both the 20th anniversary reissue of In Utero and Nirvana’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There’s also an appearance by Pearl Jam, who released another pretty underwhelming album with one decent  in Mind Your Manners. 

Kanye West and Vampire Weekend were the only two acts to have two songs to feature on the list. In Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend made my year’s favourite album. I’ve always been a Vampire Weekend fan-boy and I’ve been a bit bemused by some of the backlash directed against them. Modern Vampires of the City doesn’t have any immediate songs but it has a collection of great songs, signaling a more mature but not more boring album. Yeesus by Kanye West has left me divided-I like a number of songs on it but as a whole, I can’t say it’s a great album, certainly not in the league of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Kanye has never been a great lyricist or even a great rapper but he does make interesting compelling music. He might be impatient for croissants but he remains music’s most vital artist

Shabba- A$AP Ferg feat A$AP Rocky           
The Way We Fall-Alela Diane
Reflecktor- Arcade Fire
Do I Wanna Know?- Arctic Mondays
Control- Big Sean
You're Not Good Enough- Blood Orange
New Seeds- Boards of Canada
Fuzzbang- Coliseum                       
Avant Gardener- Courtney Barrett                                   
Get Lucky ft. Pharrell Williams-Daft Punk           
Lonely- Danny Brown           
Love is Lost-James Murphy remix- David Bowie                       
Sunday (ft Frank Ocean)- Earl Sweatshop                                               
No Religion (ft.The Underachievers)- Flatbush Zombies                                   
Primetime (feat. Miguel)- Janelle MonĂ¡e                       
Open Eye Signal- Jon Hopkins                                   
Black Skinhead- Kanye West           
New Slaves- Kanye West           
Banana Clipper feat. Big Boi- Killer Mike/El-P                                               
Full Of Fire- The Knife           
Wakin On A Pretty Day- Kurt Vile           
Royals- Lorde           
Weight- Mikal Cronin                                               
Only Tomorrow- My Bloody Valentine           
Graceless- The National                                                           
Higgs Boson Blues- Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds                                                
Tide Waits for No Man- Nikita the Spooky and a Circus of Men           
Stoned and Starving- Parquet Courts                                               
Mind Your Manners- Pearl Jam           
Entertainment- Phoenix                       
The Captain- The Phoenix Foundation           
Song for Zula- Phosphorescent           
Nosetalgia (ft. Kendrick Lamar)- Pusha T                                               
Cat & Mouse- Radkey                                               
Blurred Lines ft. T.I., Pharrell-Robin Thicke                                               
Weird- Roomrunner                                               
She Will- Savages           
Tiger Tank- Speedy Ortiz                                               
Toe Cutter-Thumb Buster- Thee Oh Sees                                               
Strandbar (Disko Version)- Todd Terje                                               
South Paw-Tomahawk           
Does It- Tricky           
Mercy- TV On The Radio                                               
So Good At Being In Trouble- Unknown Mortal Orchestra           
Diane Young- Vampire Weekend           
Ya Hey- Vampire Weekend           
Harlem Roses- Vinny Cha$e           
Byegone- Volcano Choir                                               
One- Yamantaka/Sonic Titan                                                

Monday, 3 June 2013


We passed in silence through the darkness, as our guide maneuvered our punt past smooth rocks that were only centimetres from our face. Our necks ached from looking up at the ceiling at the thousands of tiny luminous spheres that hung there. Some say that they look like haphazardly strung fairy lights, others say they remind them of the Northern lights. I preferred to think of them as a facsimile of the night sky, a place that you could bring someone to show them what the night sky used to look like if some catastrophe, man-made or otherwise, conspired to deprive us of a starry view. Of course, there’s none of the same constellations present. Nonetheless, looking up at the lights gave you the same sense of awe as a starry night in a suitably dim part of Earth. The ceiling of this natural Sistine Chapel is made up of lures, the result of the labour of a fungus gnat, more commonly known as a glow-worm.  The lures emit light that first tempt insects to them, then traps them, leaving a tasty little morsel for the glow-worm to digest at its leisure.

Punting in the caves.

 This spectacle took place in Te Anau's glow worm caves.To get to the glow worm caves, you have to take a boat from Te Anau, the gateway town to New Zealand’s largest and probably most spectacular national park, Fiordland and leave civilization behind (if a town of 2000 can be called civilization). The half hour boat heads across Lake Te Anau, New Zealand’s second biggest lake, taking you over to a lost world of tree terns and dense forest, a remnant of what the South Island used to look like before human settlement, before successive waves of settlers, first Maori and then European, burnt away much of the island’s vegetation. In places like this, things can easily get lost. Moose, liberated here in 1910, probably no longer survive but the possibility remains that they remain hidden in impenetrable bush. Romantics hold out hope that moas, New Zealand’s giant bird, may still hang on in the inhospitable and little explored mountains. The chances of moa and moose still living in Fiordland is probably fanciful but no more so than the assertion made in Gavin Menzies historical-fantasy book, “1421: The year China discovered the world”. In that book, Menzies, (which was released as a non-fiction book) said that Chinese explorers released giant sloths that they had captured in South America (despite the facts that giant sloths have probably been extinct for 10 millennia and that the Chinese have never been conclusively shown to have been to New Zealand pre-European colonization) and then released at least a pair of these beasts into Fiordland. Some hope for the megafauna believers was found in the Murchinson Mountains, the mountains above the caves, that are also the last stronghold of the takehe, a bird considered extinct until a small population was revealed to a very interested public in 1948. You know that a species is endangered if all the members of the species are given a name that is the case for the 200 or so takehe that are survived the extinction precipice. The caves themselves were lost, only known as part of Maori folklore, but remained undiscovered by Europeans until 1948 (1948 seemed to be a good year for rediscovery) when they were finally “re-discovered” after three years of searching

Mary and a takehe (Note: Not to scale)

The caves are accessed by walking down a short track from the visitor centre, before you head into the narrow opening that makes you appreciate why it took three years of searching before the caves were “re-found”. A small stream pushes its way out, twisting and coursing its way through the limestone, the main protagonist in forming the caves that are still being aggressively carved out, creating violent eddies and whirlpools in this young (in geological terms anyway) cave system. Water runs down the sculptured rock-walls and in places, congregates to form waterfalls. In pools under the largest one, we could see eels, hovering, perhaps waiting for food to fall down to them. It was here that the guides snapped at people for using their cameras (our party was not immune to criticism) and issued last warnings to not talk; light and sound seemingly being the natural and mortal enemies of glow-worms.

Heading out across Lake Te Anau

 From here on in, the caves were accessed by punt. This is not a trip that recommends itself to claustrophobics, as the boat, small by necessity, passes by walls so close that if you put your hands out, both sides could be touched simultaneously. Thankfully, for the nerves of any claustrophobes on the trip, just how tight the cave was, was largely obscured by the profound darkness. Just as you start to get accustomed to the dark, you see stabs of light that signal the glow-worm spectacle is just ahead. 

Close-up of  the glow worms.
You then reach the main cavern; you look up and out and take in this Milky Way of thousands of little lights that pierce the darkness, justifying the unofficial name used by the national caving association, Aurora. You spend five to ten minutes in the dark. The quiet is unnerving, only broken by excited murmuring and contented sighs before you head back from where you’ve came, back out into the sunshine, out of the quiet which is first broken by the sound of rushing water then by the sounds of native songbirds, that are reasonably prolific in this part of New Zealand. I had done this trip before as a child but I couldn’t remember much of it-couldn’t remember much at all in fact apart from the darkness of the cave. This time, I think I’ll remember much more of this magnificent natural spectacle.