Sunday 19 May 2019

Playlist 2014 - 2019: Thank You! From REMY

REMY's Music Blog Ireland Independent Music

I was quite sad a few weeks ago when I decided to call time on what began in July 2012 as mostly a film review blog with a few pieces here and there on bands I love from the 60's and 70's. But I am very, very happy with how the last 6 years in particular turned out, and even moreso, incredibly lucky to have ended up meeting so many amazing and inspiring people, seeing god knows how many bands live who blew my mind, and in a nutshell, living a dream. 

The over-riding reason I've decided to wrap up is purely time, in this game you are either all-in and 100% committed, or you're better off out, in my own view there's no in-between. The last thing I would want is for me to stop enjoying this, finding it a burden, and worst of all (which I had noticed on occasion over the last number of months) to start writing reviews devoid of passion and which are rushed, it's not fair on anyone, particularly the artist.

Music is my number one passion, and to somehow find myself witnessing the best period of Irish music, well, for wont of a better turn of phrase, doing this blog has been the best thing I've ever done on a personal level. A joy-filled adventure I will never forget, and which never would have happened unless there was an avalanche of incredible music flowing out from all over the island of Ireland.

So, enough of the sop, and I know this isn't the Oscars, but I do have a few people I'd like to be on the record thanking and yes...*CLICHÉ KLAXON!* sorry if I forgot anyone! Briefly though, the above Playlist contains 150 songs by Irish artists from 2014 - 2019 which have featured on these pages in the past, each track holding a specific and happy memory for me, it's in chronological order of when they were reviewed, a little archive for me to revisit when I'm feeling nostalgic! Thankfully I got to see 93 of the 150 live, #blessed.

Huge thanks go to the following people who provided massive support to me;

Irish musicians (all of them!), David Judge of Abner Brown's Barber Shop for too many opportunities over the years, Jim O'Donoghue Martin (VIDEO BLUE - for sending me my very first review request and inadvertently turning this blog on its head as a result!), the boys at Oh Joy! (once The Journals - the first time I brought a camera to a show was at one of their gigs and I used flash photography - didn't do it ever again after!).

The Dundalk family - a ridiculous amount of support and good-will came from people I now consider friends, Jim (already mentioned!), Gavin Murray (Trick Mist), Just Mustard (my favourite Irish band), the beautiful human that is Shane Clarke (Elephant), Aoife McCann (AE Mak), Nix Moon, Third Smoke, Larry & wordsmith deluxe David Keenan.

Takes breath....

Stef Edwards and Jenny Headen who facilitated some amazing live music memories (WeAreRedHead), likewise Emma Harney of Orchestrate PR who helped me hone my interview skills long ago! Jawdropper crew (John & Maya et al!) My absolute bae Dwayne Woods (Butter Wouldn't Melt PR), Liza Geddes & Linda Coogan Byrne, Naoise Roo, James McGregor (The Clockworks) and Noël Duplaa (CFIT and 20 other bands) for contributing amazing reviews to these pages in the past, my best buds in photography and beer Sarah Ryan and Niall O'Kelly, Margaret O'Sullivan (Femmepop), THUMPER, Dave Conway (Gigonometry), Tim Clifford (K-Fest), Andrea Keogh (The Sound House, DQF), Callum Browne, James Strain (Auxiliary Phoenix), Greg Whelan, Ryan Cashell, EllyD and Emma (Xx), James Geraghty & Adam McCabe (Brass Phantoms), Montauk Hotel (keep shimmering!), MUNKY (Xx), David Anthony McGeown (BODIES), Alien She, Brendan Miller (Zombie Picnic), Molly Sterling (heart-breaker), Laura McCabe (cello lady), Joey (Heroes in Hiding), Darragh O'Connor & Jack O'Flaherty (Exiles), Sick Love, Kevin Nolan, Herb Magee (Arvo Party), Ronan Kealy (Junior Brother), The Felonies, Classic Yellow, Silverbacks, Sean O'Brien (FIELDS), Chris Ryan (Robocobra Quartet), EHCO, and anyone who invited me to their shows, sent me their music.

All of the amazing photographers I met and who contributed to the last two end of year photography galleries, Zoe Holman, Ciara Brennan (SheBopImagery), Glen Bollard, Moira Reilly, Dara Munnis, Ruth Medjber (for also fixing my camera at HWCH 2017!), Nicholas O'Donnell, Jack Farrell, Aaron Corr,  Kieran Frost, Billy Cahill, Faye Bollard, to name a few. 

A very special thank you to Stephen White of The Last Mixed Tape, a man who understands the lonesome but happy life of the solo music blogger and gave me a lot of sage advice over the years, someone whom I have endless respect for, and a perfect companion at so many gigs and festivals. Also Nialler9 and The Thin Air for the shout outs and support, it meant a lot.

Last but not least, my wife Anna, who educated me on music from the 60's / 70's and 80's, she's the Skynet of music databases and trivia. She never once complained about the amount of time I spent out and about at shows, or at home blogging, and her support was the most valuable of all. I look forward to getting to know her again ;)

Go to local shows, buy local music, and be happy!

Grá mór,


Single: Montauk Hotel - White Billboards

Montauk Hotel - White Billboards
Photo: Declan Kelly

'White Billboards' is a reflection on the power of advertising on in our society and how models and standards influence our choices, happiness and feeling of adequacy. The song pictures an imaginary future where as an result of over-saturation, people have become indifferent to commercial models. Advertisers and brands have run out of slogans and have lost their impact on people and society.

There is a question left open, which whether a society with empty billboards would indeed set us free to be happy or whether it would leave us lost and unable to regain a personal identity.

I love this premise for the latest single 'White Billboards', from Dublin jangle-pop outfit Montauk Hotel, it is the dystopian futures of Huxley and Orwell in reverse, where instead of humanity becoming more imprisoned, it is liberated.

With the intro you know that Montauk Hotel's sound has now become irrevocably noticeable over the last few years, even before the vocal joins in. Guitar and percussion are, just like the theme, upbeat, positive and of a sunny, hopeful disposition. 

The band could easily have stayed within the structure of the track for its entirety and the listener would have been more than happy, but lo and behold Montauk surprise us with a moving break at the 2:22 mark, lead-singer Claudia Verdecchia briefly pauses while a wonderfully deep bass-line pops up and is joined almost immediately by thundering bass-drum and stirring harmonies before closing. Consistently good and thoughtful song-writing, plus an ever-expanding musical landscape are what have seen Montauk Hotel's arc continue to rise upwards, long may that continue.

Saturday 18 May 2019

New Irish Albums (May): Mongoose, RUNAH & The Man Whom

Mongoose - Suck the Wound - Album Review

In our latest round-up of new Irish album releases which have come out over the past month, we feature the sophomore albums Suck the Wound from Dublin contemporary folk quartet Mongoose, and The Dancer From the Dance by Wexford's The Man Whom. We also have a wonderful debut LP via Dublin-based atmospheric art-folk artist RUNAH, titled Strange.

1) Mongoose - Suck the Wound

Few Irish bands carve apart modern folk and put it back together again with so many different layers for the listener to explore in the manner that Mongoose do. Following on from their hugely successful self-titled debut in 2015, the four-piece open plenty of new doors for us to peep into on Suck the Wound

The opening title track is an empowering behemoth that sweeps away any feelings of anxiety or doubt right from the start, the dark tones and their seamless harmonies catch you in their trap in the most willing way early on on the LP. 'Hard Ground' shifts key in an instant, a confident jazzy strut which bursts apart at the 1:16 point, again that inspiring and assertive tone is so energising, there is sass everywhere.

More melancholic moods unfurl on the sad but beautiful 'Draw the Line', a slow rhythm and tempo ease themselves across the track, and her the lead vocal and harmonies take on an almost medieval ballad hue, hearts are broken, but new chapters open. A very warm highlight arrives on the wistful dirge of 'Sister', steeped in bare classical folk á la Pentangle, the deep hum of the cello is brief but impacting, there is a lot of room for your ears to breathe here and soak it all up. 'While Away' picked me up and dropped me unceremoniously off at a dimly lit club in 1970's Greenwich Village, Joni vibes abound and every note trickles effortlessly off their instruments.

Lead single 'Body & Soul (For Cara)' arrives near the album's end, like what has come before, they execute the build expertly, but with more restraint, the melodies are enchantingly colourful as the percussion alternates between trundling passages and a slow metronome beat, it's a strangely beautiful and other-worldly experience. And that for me sums up in many ways Suck the Wound, it's a sprawling canvas of sounds, moods and themes, like one of those massive paintings you see taking up an entire wall in a French museum, you have to stand fully back to appreciate it (and attempt to) take it all in.

Key tracks: 'While Away', 'Suck the Wound', 'Body & Soul (For Cara)', 'Sisters', 'Draw the Line'

RUNAH - Strange

2) RUNAH - Strange

Another act that excels at arranging mysterious landscapes is Tara May, aka RUNAH, her sophomore EP Ghosts which was released towards the end of last year came from a place you'd never tire of wandering around. Strange is markedly different in many ways, from the jazz-tinged opener 'Winter' whose bass recalls Sneaker Pimps and early Massive Attack vibes, RUNAH tears up her own songbook on these 10 tracks.

Gently trembling strings vibrate in the background on second track 'Shame', the bass rumbles and those early shy strings push themselves into a position of prominence giving added energy and power to her vocal, not that it was needed. There is so much to delight in on 'Ground', like a modern day Connie Francis, we're in spaghetti-Western soundtrack territory here, the music ambles in a lethargic yet purposeful manner as the vocal stares deep into our eyes and souls.

The tenderness and alluring beauty of 'Something Like a Prayer' is nothing short of heart-breaking, the enchantress possesses our entire being, a potion of deep and heavy piano keys, almost inaudible strings and ominous bass that kicks in at 2:32 take the listener hostage and the Stockholm syndrome is strong and cannot be unbound. Majestic. Closing with its title-track (above video) a rare moment of brevity which provides both a release of tension and also a platform for the artist to show another hand in her musical deck. This is utterly contemporary sonically, bordering on electronic, one last imprint on the listener's brain that won't be erased anytime soon. Escapist, hypnotic, mystique, power and a harrowing beauty, RUNAH's debut album has an individuality and uniqueness whose abstract creativity must be celebrated.

Key tracks; 'Ground', 'Winter', 'Shame', 'Something Like a Prayer', 'Strange', 

3) The Man Whom - The Dancer From The Dance

Wexford's Ian Doyle, The Man Whom, released his much-lauded debut album The Greatest Event back in 2011, a mixture of melancholic and upbeat folk tracks with an alt-country hue, during which time the artist also made an appearance at Other Voices. Old man time has been nothing but kind to his song-writing in that 8 year intervening period, a glorious string-led introduction on the fittingly titled 'Time Reprise' makes a powerful opening impact, this is how you get back in the game.

'Saturdays She Plays Her Piano' is a thematically heavy and very real affair, opening with the line; "Once she was a singer in a jazz band, but that all ended when the kids came along, her piano now sits silent in the corner, locked key lost, buried in a drawer, and she says 'evidently I'm afraid of failure....'" Observance of the less happy twists and turns in life are a key feature in Doyle's lyrics, respectfully delivered with a benevolent vocal and moving musical passages.

'Pennies for the Poor Basket' is an interesting moment on the LP, a fulsome introduction makes way suddenly to the barest of bones, a delicate vocal and sparse acoustic guitar lead towards a meandering bass and piano sequence. A recollection of childhood memories seen through the prism of adulthood, and importantly leaving aside rose-tinted glasses.

For an album which regularly gravitates around a focal point of minimalism, The Man Whom is equally adept at producing grandiose orchestral flourishes, which are best captured on the captivating crescendos of 'Time', a track which initially disarms before pulling you out of your slumber to great heights. Towards album's end comes a key highlight in the form of 'Two Voices', an unusually morose warmth with a rich acoustic glow, again Doyle embraces simplicity in sound and rhythm because sometimes that just works far better than over-cooking. For a genre that I would probably not normally run to for gratification, The Man Whom has created an album which has far more depth than is initially noticeable on the surface, and more importantly, The Dancer From The Dance provides more than enough diversity to ensure longevity and repeated listens.

Key tracks; 'Time Reprise', 'Saturday She Plays Her Piano', 'Time', 'Pennies for the Poor Basket', 'Two Voices'