Album: The Phoenix Foundation, Happy Ending (Phoenix Foundation)

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The Independent Culture

Led by oddball singer/songwriter Samuel Flynn Scott, Wellington sextet the Phoenix Foundation are surely the most potent band to come out of New Zealand since the far-off days of the Chills.

Happy Ending has already secured glowing praise from such compatriots as Neil Finn and Flight of the Conchords, and it's easy to see why: this is a gorgeous, sustained series of blissful psychedelic pieces in which swoonsome melodies and tender harmonies are beautifully balanced with a sort of salty lysergic fizz, full of gentle echoes of classic hippy groups like Procol Harum and King Crimson, but with an affectionate outsider's ear for detail. It's akin to what you might get if an American psych-rock outfit like Wilco or Ween were trying to re-imagine the mood and music of a late-1960s London acid party – and thanks to Scott's cavalier way with words, just as engagingly confusing. Delivered in a voice midway between Jarvis Cocker and Damon Albarn, his songs sprout quotable lines like "I'm born of thunder, but stripped of my wonder", but prove mostly impervious to interpretation, their themes – creative stagnation, predatory partners, terrorism and soured romance – conveyed as much through tone and mood as meaning.

Download this Bright Grey; Slumber Party; Irrelevant Noise

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