Spank: Slap-Up And Noblest EP

Hailing from the Wairarapa but laced with an indie Brit-pop influence, Spank have a re-jigged line up since the 2014 EP ‘In Their Natural Habitat’. With plenty of clean guitar jangle and an abundance of verve this engages from the outset. The band’s point of difference is trumpet-playing vocalist Nikki King, who leads the group with conviction and confidence. The rhythm section’s (drummer David Heath and Pete King on bass) synergy is demonstrated nowhere better than on opener Crowd Mentality, which oozes urgency despite being a mid-tempo pop track. King’s mellow trumpet lines lead in I Quit before the band deliver a manic strum fest. With a wide range of influences imbedded in their sound Spank manage to retain a characteristic element of Kiwi pop which serves them well. Between the horn and guitar melodies there’s also a regular hint of Mexicana, adding a unique flavour to the songs. Recorded in one sitting at Tsunami Sound Studios in Levin, these five tracks are full of energy. • Stu Edwards

Man From Atlanta: Flood Of Tears

Ex-Sushi Lovers Allan Innes-Walker (guitar/vocals) and Ilmar Taimre (bass/keyboards) team up for the fifth time as Man From Atlanta. Opener Sweet Crying Baby buzzes into the eardrums riding atop a wave of distortion, reminiscent of ’80s R.E.M, before mellowing into a southern rock Radiohead.  Nowhere Fast brings us back to Man From Atlanta of old – Old Timey folk tunes with a contemporary sensibility and accessibility.  ‘Flood Of Tears’ closer Shut Me Down seems to be the culmination of Man From Atlanta’s sound to date, pulling together their knack for dramatic, moody textures, unsettling build-ups like something Tom Waits might have cooked up, minus the dumpster diving. Laden with pop hooks and blues guitar freak outs, its five tracks run seamlessly yet cover a vast array of moods, quite the feat for 18 minutes run time. Sadly one does await another track that, never really comes… It all feels a bit too brief, and that’s little to do with the runtime. ‘Flood Of Tears’ constantly feels as though it’s building to something that never quite shows up. Perhaps that’s part of the appeal, the constant drama with no resolution could be a deliberate assessment of our modern culture – but we’re probably just overthinking things. Just as an answer seems within grasp ‘Floods Of Tears’ takes a left turn, which is more often than not a good thing. And although the record begs for repeated listens, one can’t help but shake the thought of what Man From Atlanta could achieve in a 30 minute run time. • Sammy Jay Dawson

Gareth Thomas: Fizzy Milk

Former Goodshirt keyboardist Gareth Thomas is known as the co-writer of that band’s prevalent NZ #1 song Sophie in 2001, and for his lovely, delicate 2010 album ‘Lady Alien’. This second solo album brings with it the incredibly catchy All Eyes In The Room – an effervescent and quirky ode to seeing a former partner again for the first time. ‘Fizzy Milk’ is a glorious pop album, packed with intelligent, hook-filled, infectious songs. Some started life as potential Goodshirt tracks while others were written solely for this, but all creep into the brain. Particularly guilty of this is second track I’d Like with its seductive Bowie-esque vocal melody and simple, but memorable, guitar riff, and Girlfriend On My Hofner (co-written with Amelia Murray, aka Fazerdaze), a bluesy garage-rock (true) story of Thomas’s partner becoming attached to his new guitar. While the underlying style here is pop in all its guises, traces of spaghetti western guitars, funky beats, electronica and reggae are woven within the overarching sound to create something unified, diverse and arresting. A mix of sincere, often playful lyrics and inventive melodic hooks sung with warmth and charm. ‘Fizzy Milk’ is a gem. • Amanda Mills

Callum Gentleman: Self-titled EP

Self-contained and slowly creeping into the dark thoughts of the subconscious, Callum Gentleman (real name Stembridge) takes his Bob Dylan-stylised writing and makes an exception in delivery as he slightly twists each song to hold a moment of optimism. It wouldn’t be wrong to be mildly confused by the direction of this self-titled EP, and this helps draw the listener to journey along as he explores the idiosyncrasies of the modern day, eager to see the arc in his story. Beresford Street is a good starter, the lyrical cynicism offset by the jaunty optimism of the musical backing. Final track Joseph bears a different tone to the rest. His saloon-echoed guitaring, with influences of Chris Isaak, themed in the theatrics of the tune and back-up singing from Alayna Powley, give the impression of a typical hero and damsel situation. Several other quality musicians pitched in, while Ryan Green recorded and mixed. Overall, Gentleman writes with a true sense of blues/folk noir and then takes that to the old country saloon bar to have a jam, saluting to the fact that life is hard. You can either moan about it, have a reminder of the dark soldiers from the night before – or combine both and write an EP out of it. • Holly McGeorge

Lichtbeuger: Pizoelectric EP

Lichtbeuger (which translates as ‘light bender’) is the collaboration between Auckland lads Adam Colgrove and Drew Lyon. They make no pretense of trying to sound anything other than what inspired their 2011 formation in the first place – the last two decades or so of EBM (electronic body music – or danceable industrial music), along the lines of Front Line Assembly, Skinny Puppy, Velvet Acid Christ et al. On that level they totally hit the brief with this 6-track EP, which came out via Albuquerque’s DSBP Records. Angry synths, rasped/hissed/spat cynical and criticising vocals. For a two-piece they fill a lot of space with thumping beats, synthetic melodies and just the right amount of attitude. Not trying to be new, or spectacularly different, they nonetheless put their own stamp on the scene in an authentic way, albeit with their self-professed retro style. This is a great release, exploring and showcasing their sound. The vocal effects are particularly cool. The punchy production kicks butt. I want to see the gear list. “The beau-ty of de-cay” (Cobalt) indeed! • Ania Glowacz