Album anything but

Auckland singer Oscar Dowling. PHOTO: Supplied
Auckland singer Oscar Dowling. PHOTO: Supplied
Former New Gum Sarn vocalist Oscar Dowling is on national tour this month celebrating the release of his debut solo album, Free and Easy.

In stark contrast with its title, the album is a difficult listen, the 10 songs within malevolent and difficultly twisted pieces of dark indie rock.

Opening track and first single The Life, which was released through Pitchfork late last year, relies on slack, scratchy guitars and simple drums, over which Dowling's deadpan vocals groan and creak about having ``enough time to kill [himself]''.

It's a menacing place to kick off an album, and the mood never really lifts.

Sally Free and Easy features a great guitar riff topped with sombre and moving vocal performance from Dowling, while piano ballad New Moon has a beautiful gradually building sense of Radiohead-ish melancholia.

It should all be a hit for fans of Jeff Buckley, Bill Callahan's Smog and Mark Lanegan.

Dowling and band play at Re:Fuel on Friday.


Dunedin post-punk/noise rock quartet The Rothmans has finally released its long-awaited debut EP, after putting on some of the city's most talked about and explosive live performances over the past few years.

Recorded by Nick Graham (Opposite Sex's Hamlet) in the Attic, the five-song EP A.S.L. is just as noisy and energetic as those live shows, driven by pummelling drums and roaming, churning guitar riffs; the band raging through each song with an almost physical recklessness and abandon.

The circling guitar picking of Holstenvall is straight out of the Unwound handbook, while the titular A.S.L. gives off a McLusky vibe with the high-hat play, and guitarist Rob Wilkinson's expressive sing-scream.

The EP is currently available digitally through Bandcamp, and will be released on cassette soon via trace/untrace records.


Dunedin songwriter Brad McDonald, who has of late been working on a new project called Pearl Hotel, offered a taste of his work this week.

Best known as the vocalist of sweet and sour surf band Hermann Doose, McDonald goes for something more restrained and down tempo as Pearl Hotel.

In Your Car Under The Moonlight is late-night homespun electronica sharing a mood with Aaron Maine's Porches project and featuring a couple of stoic vocal turns that could have been pulled from a Majical Cloudz album. It's mopey pop music, perfect for the high school slow dance.

Second track Darling Grin & Bear It is driven by a plucky and relaxed bass line, with less focus on the synths and more on overdriven guitar. It's a sweet little ditty of a song.

Hopefully there's an album on the way soon, as it would be great to hear these moody tracks given the full album context.


See it, hear it

• Oscar Dowling Free and Easy album release tour, Friday, April 28, at Re:Fuel, Dunedin. Doors from 9pm. Free and Easy is out now via Spunk/Banished Music and on cassette via Prison Tapes.

• The Rothmans’ A.S.L. EP is available digitally through Bandcamp, and will be released on cassette soon via trace/untrace records.

• Pearl Hotel’s debut double A-side is available now via the name your price scheme on Bandcamp.



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