Mike McLeod is a Dunedin musician and venue owner. Mike plays guitar and sings in The Shifting Sands, who released their debut album Feel in 2012, and have their Sophomore album nearly in the can. Mike also drums in Bad Sav, a band that have released sporadic singles since 2009, and have an EP due for release this year. Mike has done a little session work, playing on David Kilgour’s Left by Soft, recording strings on The Guilty Office by The Bats, and recording and playing with Jay Clarkson on her contribution to the Chris Knox tribute album Stroke. Mike also runs Chicks Hotel, a music venue in Port Chalmers, 10km from Dunedin city, which is part of Dunedin’s burgeoning contemporary music scene. Here are five albums he’s loving right now…
1 – Sparklehorse, It’s A Wonderful Life: I pretty much love all of Sparklehorse’s, but this album takes the cake for me. The songs are typically melancholically beautiful, but John Parish’s production on this record is something special and really makes this album shine. Take your favourite underground artist and match them with a great hi-fi pop producer with sensitivity and respect – sounds a good idea to me! For an album made in 2001, it hasn’t dated one bit, and I’d be surprised if it ever sounded anything less than spectacular!
2 – The Gordons, The Gordons: The Gordons released their self-titled album in 1981, the year after their debut, Future Shock EP. I Love the simple dirgey drone pop (I don’t know if I should really call it pop – I call everything I like pop!) of The Gordons. I like the way they build songs sonically with simple ideas and lots of raw emotion. Songs like Spik and Span and Coalminer’s Song always make me want to dance around the house. I also like the fact that they have roots in Ashburton, a place where I grew up. I’m not sure if I’m reading too much into it, but I feel like I can (or at least my teenage-self can) relate to their sonic fury that is perhaps inspired by growing up in a small town where you feel like a bit of a social alien.
3 – The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Part One: I really got into this band, and particularly this record around the time I was working on The Shifting Sands debut record Feel, to the point that we named ourselves after the opening track on this record (David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights have since done a nice version of the song recently as a 7” B-side). I’m a sucker psychedelic pop done well, and this album has all the things I dig about the genre, washed out surfy-guitars, dreamy vocal melodies on top of layered vocal harmonies, slightly atypical song structures, psychedelic freakouts, but all loosely framed within a pop-context. Listening to this makes me wish I was at a party in California in the late-60s having a groovy time. At least I get to have groove times in the mid-10s in Dunedin instead.
4 – Coco Solid, The Radical Bad Attack: This 2008 double-album by NZ indie hip-hop artist Coco Solid is so great. I’m a big fan of Coco’s lyric writing, she’s the best kind of funny, touching on things that are actually serious and important, but making light of it all at the same time. Some things are serious, but it’s good not to take it all too seriously. In a reasonably ego-driven genre of lyric-based music, she remains totally humble and unpretentious, but kicks ass at every level. I would dread the idea of releasing a double album – it’s ambitious! – but there ain’t a dud on this record.
5 – Bob Dylan, Time Out of Mind: Some hailed this as Bob Dylan’s “comeback” album, but for me as a 14 or 15 year old when this came out, it was nearly my introduction to Dylan. I mean, my dad was a major Dylan fan, and I heard plenty o Dylan growing up as a kid – all the hits – but I don’t think I’d really got right into the heart and soul of a Dylan record until this one. Listening back to it 15 and some years later, after now being reasonably familiar with a lot of Dylan’s catalogue (this was his 30th studio record), it’s still so good. God I’d love to know what that woman did to him to make him write such great love songs. I mean, who was she?! From the uber-cynical, yet poignantly beautiful Love Sick, through the slow, dreamy, proud and triumphant Not Dark Yet, to the sixteen-minute Highlands, which – don’t ask me how – for a reasonably repetitive blues number, somehow manages to stay compelling through its entirety, this album is full of love songs that will make you never want to try to write a love song again – there’s just no point anymore.