Grant Robertson grew up in Dunedin in the 1980s as a tone deaf but committed music fan. With the Dunedin Sound in full flight many weekends were spent sneaking in and out of the Empire Tavern to hear his heroes on stage. Somewhere along the line he discovered politics and is now the Labour MP for Wellington Central, and Spokesperson on Employment, Skills and Training, Tertiary Education and Associate for Arts, Culture and Heritage and Security and Intelligence. Here are five albums he’s loving right now…
1 – The Great Unwashed, Collection: I have got this on high rotate at the moment after seeing Peter Gutteridge performing with The Clean recently. It was a reminder of what an explosive, legendary guitarist Peter is. Of course The Clean are the gold standard of NZ alternative music but for me The Great Unwashed produced some of the best songs of the so-called Dunedin Sound era. With only two tracks over three minutes this is a collection of glorious little nuggets of pop punk. Top Song: Born in the Wrong Time. Still think “his form of socialising is a bit too strong” is the best euphemism to come out of Dunedin.
2 – Maths and Physics Club, Our Hearts Beat Out Loud: Seattle-based jangle masters brought out their third album late last year. After a few listens I am calling it their best. Think Belle and Sebastian if they grew up drinking more coffee. Tales of love, confusion and clever linguistic devices. Top Track: That’s What Love Is. ( “another break-up mixed tape from a friend”– apparently).
3 – Trick Mammoth, Floristry: First of two releases from Fishrider Records that I have really got into in the last few months. Trick Mammoth is self described low-fi flowery pop (you will be starting to see a theme to my tastes). They only got together in Dunedin last year, but they sound like they have been doing this forever. It might be easy to write them off as derivative but there is enough here for me to say there is more good stuff to come from this three-piece. Millie Lovelock’s vocals are up there with Tracey-Anne Campbell from Camera Obscura for shear silkiness. Top Song: Baltimore.
4 – Prophet Hens, Popular People Do Popular People: Second Fishrider release from 2013, and this one shows that someone has put the indie tablets back in the water supply in Dunedin. More guitar-driven, a tad darker than their stable mates Trick Mammoth but feeling the same jangling groove. Some reviewers can hear The Bats or The Chills. Maybe, but I can hear a bit of Screaming Mee Mees or Abel Tasmans. Just out of the corner of my ear mind you. Darren Stedman’s (Verlaines) steady hands on the drums keep it all very tight, and Karl Bray has written some very catchy tunes. Top Song: Easy as the Sun.
5 – The National, Boxer: For some reason that I can’t quite remember the CD of Boxer that I have will not play in a hard drive, so I went and downloaded the album after seeing them play in Auckland in February. I think with bands like The National, it’s hard to go past the album you first hear. I missed Alligator, so Boxer was my introduction. Fake Empire and Mistaken For Strangers are still on their set-list but the rest of the tracks are so strong as well. Top Song: too tough to call, for consistency, one of the best albums I own.