After finding a surprising Nerdist interview with New Zealand folk godfather Neil Finn, I started thinking a little about songs I’d missed. NZ music was always a cultural touchstone of growing up down South, even with our ingrained sense of Tall Poppy Syndrome. There are songs that were an important part of my childhood, teenage years and wallpaper to nights of drunken revelry (more importantly, the inevitable backyard singalongs). So as my homesickness tour beckons, here’s some classic New Zealand music (as a sort of cheat sheet for non-Kiwis) to cram in your eardrums:
- Crowded House – “Private Universe“: Crowded House, most often known for their anthemic “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, have a career spanning over 30 years. This song has long been one of my favourites. Haunting and ethereal at times, but beautiful overall. I remember one Wednesday night in particular at a bar in Ponsonby, hearing the local acoustic performer doing a stunning rendition. It struck a chord (kind of intentional pun) with me and I’ve carried the song in my heart ever since.
- The Exponents – “Why Does Love Do This To Me?“: Jordan Luck could maybe be considered NZ’s Gord Downie. Ostentatious and energetic. This song is the backdrop to any number of backyard barbecues and ad campaigns. It’s jaunty and associated across the board with good memories. Especially the time we drove up north to see The Exponents’ “final performance” (they’ve since repeatedly come out of retirement) at the Mangawhai Tavern and stayed at the weird cow themed backpackers.
- Shihad – “Home Again“: It merely takes the first bar of the song to pull me back to the past. Having seen the band live an innumerable amount of times, they were a massive part of my teenage years. An iconic rock band, with this hit towering above a back catalogue of quality music.
- Bic Runga – “Sway“: A lovely ballad that I’m pretty sure was introduced to overseas audiences in American Pie. You’ve probably heard it before, but just in case, this should be on your cheat sheet.
- Salmonella Dub – “Love Your Ways“: This track for me is road trip central. Tiki Taane is the quintessential Kiwi MC and this song for me represents rolling hills with the window rolled down.
- Tiki Taane – “Tangaroa“: Fuck it, I’m throwing Tiki’s solo project in here too. Tangaroa is a fucking ripper of a track, incorporating traditional Maori elements into his familiar electronic frame. A Canadian parallel would be A Tribe Called Red.
- Shapeshifter – “Bring Change“: I’ve been in love with this track after a blistering Big Day Out Boiler Room set back in 2007. Soulstice was one of my first forays into electronic music and an album still on semi-regular rotation.
- Fat Freddy’s Drop – “Roady“: Like most of Freddy’s’ stuff, it’s a dub track that builds and builds on itself. A band to catch live at any and every opportunity. They’re dripping with talent and witnessing a set unfold in front of you is an experience to behold.
- Blerta – “Dance All Around the World“: Just a weird fucking 70s Kiwi band. It’s a bizarre fairy tale complete with gratuitous drum fills and a cute little monologue in the middle.
- Che Fu – “Waka“: Late 90s Hip Hop. Che Fu has a stunning voice, coupled with a simple beat and lovely harmonies.
- Supergroove – “Can’t Get Enough“: Catchy as hell. A true 90s classic of rap rock funk, complete with quazi ska elements. It’s a total blast. Irreverent lyrics with referential time capsule elements. Truly one of my favourites.
Hell, I could go on for years writing this list, but you’d run out of time in which to listen. More importantly, I’ve got a mere three days to catch up. I’m almost at the point of counting down the hours.