The best of 2014




It’s time to look back and remember some of the highlights on the year just been. Here are some of the best concerts, albums and films I saw/heard in 2014.

The year went by so fast. I was pretty busy with university assignments so didn’t always have time to write reviews. I’m sure I’ve forgotten loads of things that deserve mentioning, but here is what I do remember.



Although it wasn’t technically 2014, it was a year ago that my friend Sam and I flew to Sydney to see The Roots play at the Horden Pavilion. I was disappointed that Questlove hid his glorious afro underneath a beanie, but the show was still awesome. “Captain” Kirk, the guitarist, threw his sweaty towel into the crowd. I caught it and gave it to Sam. He keeps it as a treasured memento to remind him of the gig. We also went to the Broadway show of the Lion King and it was too good for words. I bought a CD of the songs of the show. The Australian cast I saw live were better than the recorded version, but I still listen to the CD more than anything else.

I was fortunate enough to tick three bands off my bucket list this year. I saw Nine Inch Nails in Christchurch co-headlining with Queens of the Stoneage. They were incredible. I even got to chat to Trent Reznor at the airport the following day. It was also great to catch up with school friends in Christchurch that I don’t get to see often.

I finally got to see Biffy Clyro live at the Powerstation. I was buzzing for days afterwards. I managed to get a guitar pick and an annotated copy of the set list as well. I also saw Jimmy Eat World at the same venue. I was considering going to Soundwave in Australia to see these two bands at the beginning of the year but couldn’t afford it, so I was rapt when they each got announced to play in NZ.

The Beards were a comedy band that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was nice catching up with my friend Jason from Melbourne, who was working as their follically gifted merch guy. Another funny gig was internet sensation and rapper Ur Boy Bangs, with local hardcore band Declaration AD opening. It was pretty hilarious, but surprisingly fun.

Other live acts that stood out this year include post-rock masters Jakob, pop starlet Ellie Goulding, and modern hardcore band La Dispute.

I’m seeing Shihad in a few days and I’m sure that will also be worthy of this list. I’ve seen them at least ten times in the past and they’ve never disappointed. I’m looking forward to seeing them play material from the new album, FVEY

The gigs that I’m looking most forward to in 2015 so far include Frank Turner, Gary Clark Jr, and Foo Fighters.


Albums and EPs

There have been some great new music releases this year. Here’s some that stood out for me, categorised by genre but not in any particular order.


  • Run The Jewels – RTJ2

El-P and Killer Mike stole the show at the hip-hop triple bill at the beginning of the year, and then proceeded to release an even better second album less than a year after their first.

  • Sage Francis – Copper Gone

Sage Francis continues as a veteran wordsmith wizard. Copper Gone in entertaining and thought-provoking, with great music and clever lyrics. His Wellington show was great as well.

Keith Stanfield caught my attention as a talented actor, and proved himself as a capable rapper too. A dark, tormented début EP.


Of course this album was inevitably excellent. Composer Rhian Sheehan helped to add masterful extra touches to help the Napier trio surpass perfection.

The latest release from one of my fave post-rock bands shows a softer side with great results.


A new sound, new direction and new name for Solemn Sun helped them create an alt-rock EP that leaves me eagerly awaiting their next album.

I’ve listened to it at least once every day since it arrived in the post. Sublime electro-prog-rock  arisen from the ashes of Cog.

  • Biffy Clyro – Similarities (B-sides album)

It goes without saying that any release from my fave band will get a mention.


Queens of the Stoneage – … Like Clockwork and Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways were both major disappointments. Both bands are of high calibre and had lots of hype around the new albums, but the music just wasn’t good enough to make me want to listen to the albums more than once.



I only wrote two film reviews this year, but I saw plenty of great movies that deserve a mention

Housebound was by far the stand out film of the year for me. A Kiwi comedy/horror that strikes the perfect balance. The Dark Horse was another NZ film that impressed. Forget The Hobbit, New Zealand can produce some quality films without the need to sell out to Hollywood.

The follow-up to one of my fave movies came out in July. The Raid 2 was just as violent and intense as its predecessor, but with more varied and imaginative fight scenes. The sequel was pretty long, with a more complex plot. Fingers crossed for The Raid 3 in years to come!

The trailer was bad enough to put me off wanting to watch it, but Gone Girl was gripping, albeit unsettling. This was one that surpassed expectations. It also featured a soundtrack written by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, which earns it bonus marks in my book.

2013’s The Wolverine, was abysmal, but the X-Men franchise redeemed themselves with Days Of The Future Past. I was left with plenty of unanswered questions, but it was a clever way to tie in the two timelines.

Another sci-fi that I enjoyed was Snowpiercer, a futuristic dystopian film set on a train that contains the last of earth’s population. It was incredible right until the end, when it lost momentum in the last scene.

I enjoyed Frozen, although as a trainee early childhood teacher went a bit insane because of children singing “Let It Go” non-stop. Lego Movie was fun as well, but Big Hero 6 was my favourite children’s animated film.

The major let down was Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. It was long. It was grand. But it didn’t come together in a satisfying way. I fail to understand why people rated it so highly.

I’ve been blessed to have such a good year. Since launching Will Not Fade earlier this year I’ve had people from all over the world read my reviews. One review featured at I’ve had bands ask me to review their music and I’ve gained media passes to attend events. I really enjoy doing this and I plan to continue what I’m doing.

Please let me know what you think. What did you enjoy reading? Are there bands or films you want to see me write about? Did I inspire you to listen to a new band, or watch another film? Do you have any other suggestions?

Thanks for reading. All the best for 2015!


Joseph James

Live Review: Sage Francis at San Francisco Bathhouse, Wellington

Sage Francis Wellington poster San Fran Wellington

Sage Francis

w/ Alphabethead

San Francisco Bathhouse, Wellington

Thursday 11 December 2014


On his first world tour in four years, Sage Francis has come on a “Middle-earth excursion”, headed back to New Zealand to promote his latest album, Copper Gone.

I arrived late to the gig with hope of missing Andrew WK lookalike Alphabethead. Not late enough, it seems. I had to sit through almost an hour of his set. My friend pointed out that I looked miserable, staring at the floor. It was an accurate assessment. I would go out of my way to avoid seeing Alphabethead again.

Sage Francis arrived on stage wearing a large black habit, a white hood and a cape a made from a Strange Famous banner. The cape helped turn Francis into a wizard, a master magician who casts a spell over the audience, as suggested in his opening song, “Escape Artist”.

The reason Francis is so captivating is because he pours so much of himself into his performance. And it is a performance, not just some bearded white guy talking fast into a microphone. He sings, he dances, he pretends to play harmonica. There is a projector displaying some pictures and animations in the background, but they aren’t a focal point. Francis projects a persona that’s larger than life (you could say “EXTRA, EXTRA LAARGE!“)

There’s also a wide variety within the music. Some backing tracks are stereotypical hip-hop beats, but most are musical, and some songs are even a capella. He raps over the Nine Inch Nails song “Closer”, and an 8-bit adaptation of the Pixies song “Where is My Mind?”. The funniest is the theme song from the movie Team America: World Police, that he uses to introduce “Makeshift Patriot”, his critique of American patriotism in response to terrorist propaganda.

When I saw Immortal Technique at the same venue a few years ago the mix was too muddy and a lot vocals were hard to make out. Thankfully, this time the acoustics were good and I could actually tell what Francis was saying.

And this is important, especially with a rap music, where it all rides on what you say and how you deliver it. Francis injects so much feeling into his music. He shouts and he whispers. Songs like “Make Em Purr”, “Thank You” and “Best Of Times” expose him as open and vulnerable, offering up his secrets for show. He portrays real emotion, something that is vital for creating a true connection with the audience.

Francis ended his set with a group hug, before selling merch out of his backpack just in front of the stage, like a true an independent artist.

Sage Francis is 55 years old. He has a wealth of experience to draw from, both on stage and in real life. He may not be the best singer or have the flashiest setup, but he commands the stage like the veteran he is, armed with sharp rhymes and a microphone. His fans love him for his talent, his wit, his realness and enthusiasm. And last night in Wellington that’s exactly what they got.


Joseph James