200 years of the Modern Prometheus

Mary Shelley, by Richard Rothwell, 1840. Wikimedia Commons.
Mary Shelley, by Richard Rothwell, 1840. Wikimedia Commons.

Mary Shelley was just 18 years old when she began writing the English language’s most successful gothic horror tale, Frankenstein, which was first published  200 years ago. So after all these years what do we know about her, the story, and the circumstances that led to the creation of Frank Jnr.?

  • She did indeed write the story when she was 18, although it was not published until she was 21.
  • It was written as the result of a challenge laid down by Lord Byron (romantic poet extraodinaire), who along with young Mary, her husband Percy, and Byron’s “personal physician” John Polidori was staying in a spooky country house. On a stormy night telling ghost stories to each other, Byron thought it would be a good challenge for the group to see who could write the best ghost/horror story!
  • That session also led to Polidori writing the story ‘Vampyre’ which was influential on Bram Stoker for his work, ‘Dracula’.
  • ‘Frankenstein’ was first published anonymously on a short run of 500 using extremely budget materials by publisher Lackington’s, who are still operating today
  • In 1910 Thomas Edison created a 15min film based on the story – I love the music accompaniment on it!
  • The monster has no name but is referred to in the book by the names in my first sentence. For many years I believed the monster’s name was Adam, but I must’ve dreamed that!
  • The story was initially published anonymously with many readers assuming the author to be Mary’s husband Percy. Even after it’s reprinting in 1831 with Mary’s name on it many still thought Percy’s hand was involved. In truth it is now believed that Percy contributed a measly 6% of the text (4,000 of 72,000 words) with many readers considering that his contributions only detracted from the story, were over complicated and over described, making the whole thing harder to digest.
  • During her life Mary also wrote, seven novels, three books for kids, over a dozen short stories, and numerous biographies, articles, and poems.

The story of Frankenstein is now so embedded into our popular culture that there have been countless depictions and references all through the history of film and television; think Hermann Munster, the film Young Frankenstein, British tele series The Frankenstein Chronicles, and even with the fantastic kids film Tim Burton, Frankenweenie ,we see that this story of horror has even entered into the realms of children’s literature and culture.

But have we stayed true to Mary’s idea?? Does the monster still serve the same purpose as she intended; a lesson in mortality, human desire for control and intolerance for the different, perhaps even describing the perils of parental abandonment…? This series of charts from the Guardian suggests there have been some major deviation.

So how will you celebrate the outstanding achievement of Mary Shelley? Perhaps by reading some classic gothic/horror/monster literature, there’s plenty out there and I’ve created a short list of titles for you, all available through the Christchurch City Libraries catalogue and across many formats; books, audiobooks, ebooks, and graphic novels…

Classic Gothic/Horror/Monster stories

List created by DevilStateDan

Some spooky, dark, and unnerving tales, classic titles from famous names…

View Full List

Happy and spooky reading to you….

Reading many lives

With regards to the quote above, if one were of a sardonic frame of mind one might point out that at the rate at which Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin kills off his characters a thousand lives might be an understatement. Nevertheless the basic premise stands. Reading allows anyone the chance to “inhabit” a great many people and characters.

This is never more true than when you’re reading a book of short stories. Though you may become attached to a character, the next protagonist is probably only a few page turns away. Sometimes this is a relief. Sometimes it leaves you wanting more.

Recently I’ve found myself reading books that work with the theme of many lives but in very different ways.

Cover of deleted scenes for lovers by Tracey SlaughterDeleted scenes for lovers by Tracey Slaughter. I think her surname is appropriate because she killed parts of my soul with this book (in a good way). Her short stories are set in New Zealand, but a rather grimy, rundown one. The stories, with exception of the last one which is a novella, are short and sometimes brutal vignettes from the lives of damaged and lost people. You’ll want to set aside time between each one. This is not a book to rush through. The writing is incisive and brilliant and made me feel a lot of things, some of them against my will.

Cover of Meet cuteMeet cute is rather anodyne by comparison. It’s a collection of young adult short stories, all by different writers and all featuring the “how they met” story of two characters. As with any collection like this some authors and characters resonate more than others, and while the bulk of the stories have a contemporary romance kind of vibe there are a couple of sci-fi/fantasy genre tales too. Most, though not all, of the stories are about straight couples – one of the unexpected joys of the book is that you don’t know when you’re introduced to the main character whether their story will be a boy-meets-girl or a girl-meets-girl one – I found it was fun to try and guess in the first page or so.

He rau mahara: To remember the journey of our Ngāi Tahu soldiers: From the pā to the battlefields of the Great War is completely different again – a nonfiction title produced by Ngāi Tahu’s whakapapa unit about the iwi’s First World War soldiers. It’s a beautifully put together book, filled with photographs of soldiers with names you might recognise – Nortons, Pōhios and Skerretts. Nearly two thirds of the book is dedicated to a profile of every Ngāi Tahu soldier who took part in the Great War, with the first part of the book featuring a sample of stories of soldiers, war, and their families. A gorgeous and poignant memorial to South Island soldiers and their whānau, and the lives they lived.

“Lymond is back!”

Cover of The Game of KingsI come bearing glad tidings, for the Lymond Chronicles have finally been republished and the library now has a complete set available to borrow.

This means I can finally recommend them with a clear conscience, starting with The Game of Kings — first in a series featuring the sneaky and erudite 15th century Scottish Francis Crawford of Lymond and lots of humour, sheep-stealing, and a bunch of historical references I’m too uneducated to understand.

During the course of the series the reader is taken to England, France, Malta, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire, Dunnett’s writing and incredible depth of research transporting you with ease to each location. Her characters, too, are well-drawn and sympathetic, particularly my favourites Kate Somerville and her pragmatic daughter Philippa: 

“There are twenty thousand men, women and children in the bagnios of Algiers alone. I am not going to make it twenty thousand and one because your mother didn’t allow you to keep rabbits, or whatever is at the root of your unshakable fixation.”

“I had weasels instead,” said Philippa shortly.

“Good God,” said Lymond, looking at her. “That explains a lot.”

Lymond himself has been compared to other clever/ridiculous heroes such as Peter Wimsey and Athos, and I’d add Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle to that list. He has influenced writers from Marie Brennan, Guy Gavriel Kay, Ellen Kushner and Max Gladstone to Kim Stanley Robinson — all, now that I think about it, either fantasy or science fiction writers. Perhaps it’s the detailed sense of history and place that Dunnett evokes that makes it resonate with creators of other worlds.

Much as I love this series, its writing takes no prisoners and often leaves first-time readers baffled and confused within the first hundred pages. They’re not light reads by any means, although they are often fun, and going in you just have to accept that there is a lot going on that you won’t understand — unless you speak five languages and are deeply familiar with the literature and politics of the time period, in which case I salute you. (Or if you can’t but still want to understand, grab a copy of The Dorothy Dunnett Companion which attempts to explain the myriad references that the author drops carelessly every second paragraph.)

But if you do persevere (which I recommend you do), you’ll have six  ridiculous, funny, clever, heartbreaking books to read ahead of you. I mean, it has lines like this:

“And the English army, wheeling, started south at a gallop over the hill pass into Ettrick, followed by twenty men and eight hundred sheep in steel helmets.”

Who wouldn’t want to read that?

Cover of Queens' PlayCover of Disorderly KnightsCover of Pawn in FrankincenseCover of The Ringed CastleCover of Checkmate

Big may be beautiful, but small is seductive!

Spoiler Alert: I am talking about books here.

I love small squarish books. I like the feel of them in my hands, their unexpected heft, their solidity. Customers in libraries ask all sorts of questions, like  “Where are your Biographies? Do you have any Italian books? How do I log-on to the computers?” and “Where are the toilets?” to name but a few. But as of yet, no one has ever asked me to direct them to the Small Seductive Books section.

A Dog a DayBut just recently I have been spoilt for choice. Here are 5 small, but perfectly formed chunky little books: A Dog a Day by Sally Muir is a collection of Muir’s dog drawings – a different dog every day over 365 days. I am moved by this book in more ways than one: I love drawing (and I try to draw every day), I love dogs (though Muir has omitted Scottish Terriers – what was she thinking?), and it is small and  squarish. Win, Win, Win.

In the midst of the dreary grey winter weather that was such a feature of life in Christchurch a few weeks ago, a small jaunty book stood out from all the drabness and said “Pick Me!”, and that’s how Brolliology (A History of the Umbrella in Life and Literature) ended up in my book bag. What substances are these people imbibing to get such an off-the-wall idea as linking literature and umbrellas? Whatever it is – Give It To Me Now!

Everyone know’s that I love café culture, that I never take my meals at my workplace, but each day treat myself to a capuccino at a nearby café. Some libraries even have café’s on site – that works too. Lonely Planet’s Global Coffee Tour is a neat little book that I wish I’d had in my possession when we travelled to Italy. I checked out the New Zealand and  South African cafés and I am pleased to report and I am ahead of the pack in these two countries. If you are about to travel, have a flick through this muscular little number.

Now, let’s put it all to music. Donna Leon, well known crime novelist has brought out a beautiful little book on an intrinsic aspect of Venetian life: the Gondola, and it comes with its own CD of well known Gondolier renderings. This book is arguably one of the most beautiful books I have ever held. It is also informative and entertaining. One of the first chapters “I Think I Could Do This” tells of a dinner guest who was given the blueprints of a gondola as a gift. It took him over 5 years to build, and 32 men to lift its 350kg weight onto the truck that would take it to its launching place. That’d keep Greg busy in his retirement!

And finally, step aside Hygge, because Japonisme is about to knock you right off your perch. In an exploration of your Ikigai (purpose), Kintsugi (repairing broken ceramics with gold) and wabi-sabi (the transience of life) and more, you will be gently exposed to much wisdom, such as:

One who smiles rather than rages is always the stronger.

Japanese Proverb

And I am delighted to tell you that all the above-mentioned seductively small books did indeed make me smile.

Recommended Reading:

Curate Your Own Personal Film Festival (from the Library DVD Collection)

The Press reporter Charlie Gates wrote a fascinating article about the decline in DVD rental stores in Christchurch: Ghosts and survivors in fading DVD market. There may be fewer places to hire DVDs from, but you can still get ’em at your local library!

Because I am decidedly average at getting to the movies, the library DVD collection is there to rectify my movie fails. I watched The Last Jedi recently, re-watched the beautiful Japanese animated time-travel body swap movie Your Name, and am looking forward to watching Lady Bird and Phantom Thread.

DVDs - Matuku Takotako: Sumner Centre
DVDs at Matuku Takotako: Sumner Centre. Flickr Sumner-2017-08-18-DSC03137

This led me to make my own list of an imaginary Film Fest of recent(ish) NZ docos!

New Zealand Docos

No Ordinary Sheila

The story of this writer, illustrator, natural historian and outdoors adventurer Sheila Natusch.

Spookers

“Every weekend come rain, hail or shine, this diverse group of amateur performers unite to terrify punters at the southern hemisphere’s largest scream park, situated in a former psychiatric hospital. Director Florian Habicht reveals the transformative and paradoxically lifesaving power of belonging to a community that celebrates fear. “

Poi E

“With humour, energy and emotion, the movie Poi e is the story of how that iconic song gave pride to generations of New Zealanders.”

My Year With Helen

“With unique access to high-ranking candidate Helen Clark, award-winning filmmaker Gaylene Preston casts a wry eye on proceedings as the United Nations turns itself inside-out choosing a new Secretary-General.”

McLaren

The story of Formula One motor racing team originator Bruce McLaren “A fearless racing driver, a visionary and brilliant engineer”.

Pecking Order

“Join members of the Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon Club in the lead up to the NZ National Championships, as they battle history and each other in a quest for glory and for the love of their birds.”

Seven Rivers Walking

“With walkers, rafters, farmers and fishing folk, we journey the alpine to spring rivers of Canterbury. Exploring above and below the surfaces, uncovering ways through our current freshwater crisis. This lyrical documentary from New Zealand is an intimate portrait of the struggles around water – globally the most precious resource of our time. ”

Tickled

“After stumbling upon a bizarre “competitive endurance tickling” video online, wherein young men are paid to be tied up and tickled, reporter David Farrier reaches out to request a story from the company. “

The Art of Recovery

“As demolition gangs reduce ruins to rubble, a dynamic group of artists, innovators and entrepreneurs are bringing life back to the streets of post-quake Christchurch, empowering the people and creating a promising future for a dynamic new city. ”

Hip Hop-eration

“These Hip-hoppers may each be almost a century young, but for Kara (94), Maynie (95) and Terri (93), the journey to the Las Vegas World Hip Hop Dance Championships is just the beginning of a life’s journey. ”

Find New Zealand documentary films in our collection.

 

Online dating and book reviews

CoverWe all have at least one story in us. But very few of us will ever write a book. Even a blog may be a stretch too far. Which leaves us with the option of the book review.

The nay-sayers will be quick to question the value of book reviews, but let it be known: on any catalogue, a book displayed with a picture of its cover, a brief description of its contents and followed by a couple of short book reviews is far more likely to be read.

I’m not going to tell you how to do this – you’ve probably all read a gazillion reviews anyway, but here’s a few hints on maybe what not to do:

  • Saying: “I loved/hated this book/film” with a big fat full stop at the end of the sentence just isn’t enough. Not unless you’re Stephen Fry, and even then.
  • If you’re still talking after 3 minutes, you have gone on for too long. About 50 written words should do it. Just piqué our interest. That is all.
  • Don’t mislead – for example, if you didn’t actually read the whole book, say so and say why. That in itself is valuable for a reader to know.

If you’ve got a real block about reviewing anything, try reviewing yourself. There may come a time in your life when you want to meet more people. You want to date, or pursue a relationship and so far no-one’s come knocking on your door. It’s online dating time for you. In other words: You will have to book review yourself. Follow the same rules for writing book reviews (as above). But to get fully into the zone with it, I recommend reading the personal ads in the The Times Literary Supplement.

CoverI once shared a subscription to this behemoth of literary reviews with a friend. We tried, we really did. But the bulk of the reviews were on books we sheepishly admitted we would never read. But we both loved the Personal Ads column designed especially to cater for: “middle-class, well educated, intellectuals”. That’s us. You get just 30 words to convince someone to take a punt on you. They are succinct wee gems of the self. Have a look at these two compilations to get you started: They Call me Naughty Lola and Sexually I’m More of  a Switzerland. Here’s a couple of examples:

I celebrated my fortieth birthday by cataloguing my collection of bird feeders. Next year I am hoping for sexual intercourse. And a cake. Join my mailing list at box no. 6831. Man.

Or the brutally brief

I am not an Accountant. Box no. 7452

 

CoverThen just do it. I bash out my short book reviews fairly quickly, on desk, at work. After they’re done, mind not to stand between me and the Catalogue Computer. I like to elbow my way across the library to see the cover of the book I have just reviewed on that Recently Reviewed moving banner thingy. My pleasures are simple.

Writing reviews of books, or films or ourselves comes down to one’s own opinion. So let those babies out into an unsuspecting world. May they thrive.

Because best of all, here at last is something you cannot possibly do wrong.

Brighten up your life

Tomorrow, 21 June, is the winter solstice. The shortest day. The point at which the southern hemisphere of our little blue planet, with its jaunty, tilted axis, reaches “peak gloom”. The weather will continue to grow colder from this point*, hardening into winter, but the days themselves and potential daylight hours will increase. And not a moment too soon.

Cover of the album Sunshine by The Emotions.
The connection between sunshine and emotions is not limited to this Motown album from 1974.

If you’ve been feeling down recently, the lack of sunshine may have something to do with it. According the MetService, sunshine hours in Christchurch this June are well below average. I don’t mind a bit of cold myself but the lack of blue sky and sunlight is rather dampening to the spirit.

Short of leaving town, or literally heading for the hills what can we all do to feel better? Our friends at All Right? have a lot of great suggestions but here are some of my own:

Make the most of what we’ve got – I just ran outside and stood in the sunshine for about 20 seconds before the sun went away again. Make hay (and Vitamin D) while the sun shines, and all. If you’re in the position to be able to go for a walk or be outside for a bit during the all too brief appearances the sun is making then do. But take a brolly because it will probably start raining again…

Get out and socialise – It can be tempting to stay indoors and hibernate but sometimes forcing yourself to be social is worth the effort. At the library there are options for crafting with company or book groups, or our Matariki Whānau Fun Day on Saturday at Ōrauwhata: Bishopdale Library and Community Centre might be the ticket. Or make the most of the darkness by lighting it up on the winter solstice night light bike ride through Hagley Park. Alternatively, you could organise your own Matariki shared dinner with friends and whānau – whip up a batch of soup and hang out together moaning about how rubbish the weather is!

Now that I mention it… SOUP – I firmly believe a hearty soup can have healing and mood-altering properties. When combined with a comfy pair of slippers and a good book, soup is a veritable panacea for whatever ails you. Also, leeks and potatoes are inexpensive at the moment and if you make them into a soup you can say you’ve made vichyssoise which sounds really fancy.

Watch (or read) something funny – My go tos for funny reading are David Sedaris and Caitlin Moran (both of whom have new books coming out), and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. On telly I’ve been watching comedy show Taskmaster and that regularly gives me a full on belly laugh, same for The Good Place. Or maybe a movie comedy? Our recent comedy DVDs are worth a look. My favourite funny movies from the last year have included Thor: Ragnarok, Jumanji, and The Trip to Spain.

Wear bright clothing or something that makes you feel happy – It’s tempting to match the sombre grey of the sky with your outfits but don’t! Go the other way instead with vibrant warm colours or really anything that makes you feel great: jewellery, a flower in your hair, an eye-catching pair of socks, anything that brings a smile.

Be nice to people – Acts of kindness or generosity are actually mood-lifters for both the recipient and the giver. I’m trying to dish out more compliments (rather than just think them in my head). The All Right crew have some cute compliment gifs that might come in handy for this.

*If you’ve ever wondered why the weather doesn’t start to warm up after winter solstice it’s because of the time it takes to change the temperature of the large bodies of water that make up most of the surface of our planet. Seas and oceans warm throughout summer and are slow to cool – like giant hot water bottles keeping us warm through the night/autumn. It’s only when they’ve lost their heat that we’ll start to really feel winter’s bite.

More information

Parents, romance, and friendship drama: New contemporary teen fiction

Here are three romance-driven YA novels from different (American) perspectives, all recently published:

American Panda by Gloria Chao

Cover of American PandaGermaphobe Mei is a liar — lying about dropping dance, lying about being in contact with her disowned brother, and lying about dating someone who is Japanese. But most of all she’s lying about intending to become a doctor. As her secrets pile up, Mei has to find a way to confront her parents with her own needs instead of conforming to all of their strict Taiwanese traditions.

Overbearing Asian parents can be a bit of a trope in YA novels but Chao portrays Taiwanese families of varying levels of attachment to tradition, helping Mei to see that some rules might need to be broken. While Mei really struggles with her family there is also a lot of humour (especially in the phone messages left by relatives) and her developing relationship with Darren is very sweet. I’d recommend it to fans of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I Loved Before as it has a similar cosy hot chocolate vibe even when it’s dealing with serious issues.

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Cover of Let's Talk About LoveAfter being dumped by her girlfriend for being asexual, Alice throws all her energy into her part-time job at the library and ignoring parental pressure to study law — but when Takumi starts working there too she finds herself somewhat distracted by his good looks. With friendship drama, therapy, and a million missed phone calls from her family, will Alice ever get her act together enough to articulate her own feelings?

I have to confess that I found this a frustrating read — no one behaves well, but especially not Alice, who totally ignores anything that isn’t movies and crappy food and things that score highly on her Cute Chart. Half the time she complains about her wealthy family paying for her rent and education, and the other half she’s surprised and upset when they don’t. Having said that, asexual main characters are still rare enough for this book to be valuable, and others may enjoy Alice’s burgeoning romance with Takumi more than I did.

Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi

Cover of Emergency ContactPenny and Sam are both looking for escape — Penny fleeing her mother to go to university, and Sam fleeing pretty much everything. When Penny discovers Sam having what he thinks is a heart attack she rescues him and they exchange contact details, leading to a friendship via text as Penny pursues her dream of becoming a writer and Sam attempts to become a film-maker, with personal complications along the way.

Not a very compelling summary but this is probably my favourite of the three, similar in feel and content to Eleanor and Park. Penny and Sam are both awkward, creative individuals dealing with difficult backgrounds — Penny with her anger towards her flaky mother, Sam with his checked-out parents and newly pregnant ex-girlfriend — but despite this there is a lot of humour in their exchanges, with many funny moments. If you’re a fan of Rainbow Rowell then I’d add this one to your to-read pile.

Film and television – a mid-year review

Seen anything good on the tele lately…?!?!

Me neither. That’s why I borrow films and tele series’ from the library! It’s a much better way of being in control of what you’re actually watching during screen time, and you can tailor your viewing to perfectly suit your taste and your timetable, WIN-WIN and, no more infomercials!!

And it’s really just about good old-fashioned storytelling isn’t it!? For me, film and television is a coming-together of multiple artforms that, when it’s done well, has the ability to move you at a level many other artforms might not individually.

So here’s a list of the best films and series’ that I’ve had the pleasure of viewing this year, so far – many more to come!

2018 – The Best of Film and Television

List created by DevilStateDan

These are the best films and television series’ that I have explored throughout the year so far, all available to you through Christchurch City Libraries membership.

The fencer – Post WWII Estonia. The Germans are gone and the Russians are taking control. They’re especially interested in those Estonians that fought for the Germans and are systematically hunting them out. This story is about one such man, a world-class fencer who is concealing himself as a sports teacher for a country college. This is a stunning and heartfelt film about humanity, strength, and love.

Get Out – A gripping story of a young black man heading away for a weekend with his as-yet un-met in-laws… what comes after is a web of dark intrigue and something is definitely not right!

The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch – Ever wanted to know more about the mysterious Hieronymus Bosch?!? Then get a load of this – it’s a part of the ‘Exhibition on Screen’ series that takes viewers on a tour of the works and life of some of history’s great artists. This one is all about Hieronymus Bosch and is surprising in its revelations about who he was and where his inspirations were drawn, plus you get up close with some of his most amazing works!

Chasing Trane – The latest telling of the life, love, and music of the great jazz saxophonist, John Coltrane. Rare footage and loads of interviews with music legends that were close to him. He was truly a musical visionary and died at such a young age from liver cancer, it begs the questions of how much more impact could he have had on contemporary music!? A must-watch for all music fans!

Saint Amour – An old man and his adult son go on a wine-tasting road trip around France in order to reconnect. Sounds normal, but this is French comedy and things get strange! Good story.

The Limehouse Golem – I really liked this film – a Victorian Whodunnit! I loved the Victorian era look of it, the clever direction, the story was weaving and uncertain – as it should be for a classic whodunnit! And the acting was solid and dramatic without being over the top. It’s a small shame that I picked the killer in the first 20mins but I still liked the story and enjoyed it to the end!

The Dinner – A family of privileged white Americans meet for a very posh dinner to discuss an incident that involved their children. The details slowly emerge as the film unfolds and explores the issues of parenting, mental health, social navigations etc. Great performances from the four lead actors.

Detectorists – A short series about the engrossing world of metal detecting in rural Britain. Written and directed by Mackenzie Crook (from the Office, and Pirates of the Caribbean), it’s full of pathos and at once hilarious, cringey-embarrassing, and full of heart. It’s about how even small lives are big and important and that everyone deserves to be happy. Highly recommended if you like British comedy.

Rellik – A dark and twisted crime series with an uniusual device; the story is told in reverse. We begin with the outcome of a police investiagtion into a series of acid-burn murders, from there we go back in increments of hours/days as the foundations are explored and new light begins to show on reasons for behaviours evident earlier/later… it’s a little confusing to explain so just watch it, it’s quality crime drama!

Swinging Safari – A gloriously retro look at family life in 1970’s Australia. Try to think of every brand name, in-safe parenting practice, cliché, and add a bit of over-styling and you’ve got it. Loosely wrapped as a coming-of-age story, it centres around 3 Aussie families living, loving, and loafing. Very funny film, especially if you’ve lived through some of these circumstances.

For more view the full list

Library sounds – a mid-year review

I’ve been exploring the CD collection available through Christchurch City Libraries this year and I’ve found some absolute gems!

There’s a mix of styles and eras in this list and quite a representation of New Zealand music – and it just so happens to be New Zealand Music Month.

So sit back and get some sonic stimulation from some quality musicians from around the world of music…

2018 – The Best of Music

List created by DevilStateDan

Music highlights for the year. Some are brand new, some are decades old but new to me, all are great!

Versatile – Van Morrison doing jazz interpretations backed by a very slick big band. It’s really well produced and if you’re new to the American jazz standards then this is a great way in!

Utterance – I love this album! It’s a collaborative effort between three on NZ’s finest musicians; David Long (banjo w/effects), Natalia Mann (harp), and Richard Nunns (taonga puoro). These flavours blend beautifully to create haunting soundscapes that are textural and dynamic – truly beautiful sounds from Aotearoa!

The Jazz Messengers – The first album from the group that went on to be the band that every jazz player wanted to be in. They’ve had some huge names in jazz through their ranks over the years and this is a great way to start their 40+ album recording career!

The Kitchen Table Sessions – Beaut, home-cooked alt-country from NZ’s favourite adopted daughter, Tami Neilson. Great country grooves and a lady with a voice of gold – what’s not to love!?

Preservation – Some more beautiful, lyrical, melodic songwriting from NZ’s Nadia Reid.

Second Nature – This is just how I like the Blues; stripped back, acoustic, you can just imagine it on the porch on a hot summer day… This father and son team recorded this album in single takes with no overdubs whilst they were touring Finland in 1991, and it’s a timeless and solid an blues album as you’ll find.

Charlie Watts Meets the Danish Radio Big Band – Charlie Watts (drummer for the Rolling Stones) gives it his jazz side on this album, featuring the big band of Danish radio. Some great jazz music here particularly the ‘Elvin Suite’ numbers. After that you get the obligatory big band arrangements of some Stones songs, beautifully arranged and executed but nothing terribly exciting musically.

Dog – Stripped back acoustic blues doesn’t get much better than this album of what I like to call “porch music” from Charlie Parr. Solid songwriting and a very real connection with the blues makes this a great addition to the genre.

Don’t Let Them Lock You up – New Zealand music is in good shape these days and I really like the creativity and superb musicianship that is on display on this album. They usually perform as a duo but the recording process has allowed them to expand on their ideas and grooves, implement new harmonies and percussion lines, and get really solid and funky! Great album!

Black Notes From the Deep – A great jazz album from the British multi-instrumentalist jazz legend Courtney Pine. Brilliant small ensemble playing and solid musicianship on display. I really liked the instrumentals – not so much the vocal numbers – but that’s just my preference. It’s good compositions played really nicely without arrogance or naff-ness. Jazz fans should have a listen.

View full list