Four Dunedin bands to watch this year

Two Cartoons (Isaac McFarlane, left, and Brad Craig) are looking to build on last year's success. Photo supplied.
Two Cartoons (Isaac McFarlane, left, and Brad Craig) are looking to build on last year's success. Photo supplied.
Here at Suitable Alternative, the aim is simply to introduce you, the unsuspecting Dunedin public, to the wealth of quality music almost constantly available here in the city.

With that in mind, it seems appropriate to begin another year of writing about Dunedin music with a simple list. Here are four local acts you need to hear this year. Of course, this list is by no means anywhere near complete, Dunedin is teeming with incredible bands, and hopefully each Saturday this year you'll be able to turn to this page to find a suitable alternative for your Saturday night plans.

Kane Strang/Dinosaur Sanctuary

Set to leave Dunedin for Australia in late February, urgency puts Kane Strang at the top of this list.

Whether playing the beautiful, melancholic pop from his debut album Flower Before the Bulb is Blown accompanied only by his guitar, or leading Dunedin ''supergroup'' Dinosaur Sanctuary (which features members of Astro Children and Ostrander Aardvark), Strang stands as an incredible songwriter.

With twisting guitar melodies, ear-worm vocals, and jittery, unusual song structures, there's hints of Dunedin songwriters such as Paul Cathro (Alizarin Lizard) and Anthonie Tonnon here, but there's also a touch of heavier, groove elements such as Queens of the Stone Age, and even art-folk to be found.

Listen:kanestrang.bandcamp.com/

Brown

While not strictly Dunedin-based (frontman Michael Cathro now lives in Auckland), Brown can't help but feel like a Dunedin band. With Cathro's socially and philosophically aware songs on topics such as the nature of reality, cigarettes, and David Bain's jersey as a metaphor for love, delivered in his quivering, unmistakable Dunedin whine, the songs of Brown take Dunedin as the extent of their world. With a natural, unvarnished almost ''old'' production sound to accompany the stories, it's pop-folk music with a wry, intelligent edge.

Listen: browntrout.bandcamp.com/

Astro Children

The shoegaze pop duo of Millie Lovelock and Isaac Hickey were probably one of the most visible Dunedin bands of the past 12 months. Releasing debut EP Lick My Spaceship last September, their single The One We Start With remains one of the highest played tracks on New Zealand music website undertheradar.co.nz.

They also played near on 40 shows, gained the attention and praise of Die! Die! Die! frontman Andrew Wilson, managed to thrust a handmade copy of their EP into the hands of Morrissey during his New Zealand visit and are currently recording a follow-up EP with Attic resident Trick Mammoth. If the acoustic demo Gaze, released late last year, is any indication, their next EP will be a further step up in songwriting, with Lovelock singing more and screaming less. Charming, simple and otherworldly.

Listen: theatticrattle.bandcamp.com/track/gaze-acoustic

Two Cartoons

Rounding out the year with an 11-show New Zealand tour, half a dozen shows in Melbourne, and a spot at New Zealand's biggest New Year's party Rhythm and Vines, was a fitting end for pop-duo Two Cartoons.

After releasing a pair of hook-oriented, dreamy beach pop EPs only a few months apart in 2012, Isaac McFarlane and Brad Craig have big plans for the next 12 months. Currently writing an album to be recorded before the pair leaves for America in September, the Two Cartoons sound is slowly expanding from bare-bones guitar simplicity to more muscular tones and ornate, layered arrangements. Energetic, good-time, catchy pop.

Listen: twocartoons.bandcamp.com/