The Graceless Age

SIMON SWEETMAN
Last updated 12:08 28/05/2013

My favourite way to hear new music - still, always - is to be (pleasantly) surprised by something that arrives in the letterbox. I'll take recommendations and since writing this blog and starting my own website I've been given a lot of recommendations. Many of them just the two words - and not actually relating to any band or album, but hey...it's the internet.

So I still get a few CDs in the mail - from time to time. Sometimes I ask nicely for them via email and never get a reply, or I get a reply (similar in nature/meaning to those two-word requests I just mentioned). So I've decided to find albums myself to review - I'll get them where I can, buy them, borrow them, download them, use streaming sites, go to the library. I'll do what I can to review a range of music.

But the best way for a music reviewer - in my opinion - to receive/discover music is for the person releasing it (artist/manager/label) to send it. I like the surprise of not knowing what I'm about to get into, whether I will even get into it...

I loved the new Daft Punk album - got a nice email from the record company thanking me for the review. They never actually sent me the album. It's getting pretty comical out here in the freelance writing world. It's a full-time job offering a busker's salary. And you have to squeeze it in around your other job and whatever is left of your life trimmed to fit around the sides.

But sometimes you can't complain. Seeing Kraftwerk this weekend just been...no complaints there.

Reading a great new book about Prince... no complaints there.

Interviewing Sylvie Simmons live on stage as part of an evening celebrating the words and world of Leonard Cohen... no complaints there.

Not being allowed to attend the gigs put on in New Zealand by one of the main promoters to bring out international acts... well, there's a fair bit to complain about there. But we can maybe get into that another time.

As I say, it's beyond comical. And you have to find and make your own luck and decide why you're in it and what you're in it for.

I'm in it for the music. Always have been. I've never tried to offend anyone (I'm just naturally gifted in that department, it seems). I never want these things to get all personal, but I understand that is exactly what happens.The internet told me just recently that I'm "responsible for the sleepless nights of thousands of sensitive creatives and sooky bubbas across New Zealand".

That is most likely the nicest thing anyone has ever said about what I do.

It was nice being in Sydney for a weekend going to gigs anonymously. Chatting to music people who promised to send albums over for review and really didn't care about positive/negative. They wanted, I'm sure, good reviews - but would take them along with the bad because, well, how does that chestnut go? It's just your opinion! That's always what it is. That's all it'll ever be.

I caught up with friends and family in Sydney. I saw some events from the Writers Festival and was covering the Vivid Festival. More on that - again - later on in the week. But without wanting to make too much of a big deal about it I found it refreshing to talk about music in a big city in a bigger country; to see music there, to chat with music people. None of them looking over their shoulder for a way out halfway through when they realise I'm not going to agree with their hip new pick, none of them bugging me when I was there watching and listening...to the music...

Why don't you go there more often then? Why don't you just go to gigs in Sydney from now on? Someone will, no doubt, be itching to say. The itching part due, most likely, to all that internet addiction.

I would love to go to more gigs in Sydney. And I'm going to. As soon as Destination NSW sends me there (again). That's a thanks by the way. The obligatory shout-out. They showed me a very good time in Sydney and I'm really grateful for the opportunity. So what if Bobby Womack shouldn't have been allowed on the stage. Seeing and hearing Autobahn live was a Top Five Gigs moment for me. It's in the All Time Top Five Gigs. Easily. Along with just 37 others concerts.

The other best thing that happened in Sydney - and it just happened to happen there, it could have (and would have) happened in Wellington if I had stayed home for the weekend, was hearing The Graceless Age by John Murry. And then hearing it again and again. And again.

It arrived in the mailbox before I left and I knew nothing about him. I played it once and kinda liked it. Enough to go back to.

And then I just got hooked on it; hooked into it. Pulled in. And it's kept me.

A staggeringly good album. A must-hear I say. In fact I said something like that just last night; it'll be in my Top Five Albums of 2013 - along with 17 others. Hang on, I realise I've already picked the best album of 2013 (in a bid to save some time at the end of the year). That'll make it a Top Four Albums Left list. The Graceless Age is definitely going to be on that list. Along with a few others. No doubt a few more than five. The Graceless Age

Seriously though, you have to hear this record. And then - if you want - you can get sucked in by the back-story. But do it in that order. Hear the album first. That's what I did. I guess I'd have loved it still with knowing all about him first. I think that's very likely. But I love the surprise of music just creeping in one day; just arriving.

That's always been my favourite thing about doing this.

That and the lovely comments I get. Obviously.

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