Georgia Bradtke is an Adelaidian and ex-Wellingtonian who prefers Vegemite over Marmite, barracks for the All Blacks if forced to choose, and believes that pavlova is a dessert that has transcended origin. She is an Occupational Therapist by day and plays ukulele in the Wheatsheaf Ukulele Collective by night. Here are five albums she’s loving right now…
It has been challenging to describe the music I love because I realise that I don’t really identify with genres (when cataloguing our record collection, I wanted to divide it into ‘happy’, ‘party’, ‘sad’, and ‘contemplative’. My partner, a musician, was not impressed).
I’ve chosen my most loved and musically diverse albums to write about, but it was hard to narrow down. I have to add a few bonus albums to fulfil the cheesy quota. It would be remiss of me to not mention the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, and John Farnham’s Full House Live tape is the best for playing loud and proud and singing my heart out. I’m the voice, after all (sorry, I couldn’t let that one go). I think it’s important to embrace the cheesy, lame side of music, because it’s really quite remarkable how strongly those songs can evoke emotions, even if they use a tried and true method – it’s all about the key changes.
1 – Emily Davis, Undone: This Adelaide-based singer songwriter has been playing solo gigs around town since forever (well, since my forever of being able to get into gigs, which is about 15 years). This album was released in 2011, and she has since been through several different and interesting combinations of band members, including the wonderful Cal Williams Jnr as co-writing/singing credit. I digress. Emily is an incredible storyteller. She writes lyrics that are beautifully poetic and full of 19th Century American imagery. Lots of fire and death and sacrifice and strength and love. As a perfect vessel for her linguistic talents, her voice is deep, husky and whisky-soaked. Not the harsh, raspy, peaty kind, but the sweet, spicy kind. And I can’t go past an album that features a song that is entirely vocals and ukulele. This album makes me want to drink a good stout and sit by a fire with old friends.
2 – Professor Longhair, Crawfish Fiesta: Professor Longhair is pretty much the bee’s knees of New Orleans music. On this record, he has Dr John on guitar (instead of his usual keys/vocals vibe), who is one of the other joints of the bee. Maybe the elbows. It is an excellent example of the infectious groove of New Orleans Second Line music. It starts in your ears, then moves to your toes and ends up in your hips and suddenly you’re dancing. Welly’s own Richer City Rebels do an awesome, more horn-heavy homage of this style of music (incidentally, they have an album which is rad). Professor Longhair plays the best kind of party fun-time piano and has a bit of an Elvis-type quality to his voice, but he was doing it before Elvis was Elvis. There is also some fantastic whistling on the first track of the record, which unfortunately is not credited in the liner notes.
3 – Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway: This was the album that made me understand what soul is (the genre and the concept). It is an album of duets, mostly covers. That description sounds terrible now I think about it. Individually, their voices are pretty incredible. Together, their voices are perfectly matched in tone, energy and vibrato. The first song in particular I (who have nothing) starts as a moody, dramatic piece that Roberta Flack sings. It keeps building and then Donny Hathaway chimes in and it ends up with this intense angst and longing that would be the envy of every emo, before that was even a thing. The rest of the album continues in this way. I’ve never heard voices that communicate so directly to my emotional core, irrespective of the lyrical content. When I found out that Donny Hathaway had struggled with mental illness and committed suicide while recording their second album together, it made the album even more potent. His solo record called Live is also amazing, recorded during a gig in New York.
4 – Skull Snaps, Skull Snaps: The delightful and inimitable Wellingtonian Ed Zucollo introduced me to this record. It’s an excellent party starter – proper funk. It seems like most funk albums have 80% killer tunes, but there are a few songs that even Disney would say were too over the top saccharine (I’m talking to you, Commodores). This album has fewer of those than most and I don’t even have to skip them every time (it’s on vinyl, so that’s quite a mish). My favourite of the cheesy ones is called Having You Around. The lyrics are a weird contrast between the overly cheesy, soppy chords and verses, then the chorus culminates with the weirdly shy and oppressed lyric ‘I enjoy having you around’. As an extra activity when listening to this album, I like to try to count the number of harp flourishes. I usually lose track at about 40. On side one. Funk harp. Who’d have thought. I haven’t made this record sound particularly appealing. Other than the few cheesy songs and the omnipresent harp, the rest of the record is a solid, high energy collection that I can’t help having a little dance to. AND the drum intro to It’s A New Day is one of the most sampled beats in hip-hop.
5 – Fuyuko’s Fables, Everybody Is Weird: This record was released in 2013, featuring some of Wellington’s finest musicians from many different genres. It is a laidback album of slow, quiet solitude. The harmonies are incredibly lush and warming, and they are well complemented by the slightly-dirty rhythm section. I usually find myself drawn to lyrically diverse music, but the melodies in this band are so beautiful that I don’t think I’ve ever actually listened to what they’re saying! I recently learned that the opening song Slappy and Graham is about a pet turtle. I play this album most days, but it is perfect for Sunday mornings – either for slowly, tenderly cleaning up from the party the night before and contemplating whether food is a good idea, or sitting on the sofa as the sun streams through the window with a crossword and a cup of tea.