It’s been a nice break from vacuous pop for Paula Yeoman

November has been good to the music nuts among us, with new releases from such varied artists as Foo Fighters to One Direction and AC/DC to David Guetta.

But here's a quick glimpse at what's on high rotate in my world this month. I will give anything a whirl once but if it doesn't grab me instantly, I rarely have the time to persevere, except in the case of Brooke Fraser's new album.

I'm a sucker for anything with acoustic guitar, or a tinge of piano, and I loved her last record, Flags. I was gutted when she started dropping hints that she'd taken a new direction with a more electronic vibe.

I wasn't ready to let go of Flags and I behaved like a child throwing a tantrum throughout my first listen of Brutal Romantic. But I knew it deserved a second chance. Skip to a few weeks on, and I can't get enough.


It is different from her earlier work and she probably will lose a few fans because of it. But this isn't the "reinvention" of Brooke Fraser, as so many are describing it.

This is a new chapter. Kings & Queens has a catchy chorus; elsewhere tunes like Thunder build to big and bold choruses, and my favourite, New Histories, harks back to the Fraser of old.

This is smart pop, so much better than the vacuous rubbish we have rammed down our throats on commercial radio.

• It's a bit of a cheat to include this next record in my favourite sounds of November, because it was out late last month but I have listened to Frazey Ford's new offering, Indian Ocean, non-stop since getting it for a mere ten bucks when I saw her live in New York last month.

I've been a massive fan of Ford since her days with The Be Good Tanyas and was obsessed with her 2010 solo debut, Obadiah. Now, I'm just as obsessed with this.

She has turned up the blues and soul a notch, with special mention going to Al Green's band, the Hi Rhythm Section. It's a heady, atmospheric mix of country-blues and soul, with sultry vocals like no other.

The entire album is a joy to listen to, over and over, but if I have to pick stand-out tracks, they're the opener, September Fields, the gorgeous title track and, surely one of the best break-up songs in recent times, Done. Undoubtedly one of my top albums of the year.

• I'm always stumbling across new names too and find I'm either the first to the party, or the last; which is probably the case with Curtis Harding, one-time back-up singer for Cee-Lo Green. His debut Soul Power isn't out in New Zealand until January but his single Keep on Shining is floating around. He is one of the latest to take advantage of the retro-soul movement, which no longer seems like a "movement" but rather just another soul spin-off that's getting tiring. But I like Harding's voice and his self-described "sloppin' soul" approach.


Brooke Fraser's Brutal Romantic and Frazey Ford's Indian Ocean are out now. Curtis Harding's Soul Power is out January 23.