Sunday, 9 December 2018

REMY's Top 15 Irish EP's 2018

REMY - Best Irish EP's 2018

Info: The E.P. or extended play has always been the middle-child of the single and full-length album (I can so relate as a sufferer of MCS), it's a curio in some ways, originally brought out in 1952 by RCA Victor to compete with Columbia Records' revolutionary LP in 1948. With the demise of the CD, the E.P.'s position in the digital age has been an uncertain one, some people I've spoken to, in particular over the last 12 months, have wondered slightly (emphasis) about its practicality, personally I still see it definitely providing an important means of displaying an artist's music. A single can give a false impression for better or for worse in isolation, and it's hard to glean a full picture of an act's style or consistency, with an E.P. (like an album) there's nowhere to really hide. One good track out of four or five etc. doesn't carry enough weight. 

Over the last 12 months I've reviewed 34 E.P.'s, and the spread of genres has been pretty broad. There are 15 Irish E.P.'s below, which (and it's been just as hard as with the other end of year lists) are listed in order. Again as I mentioned in my Best Irish Singles list yesterday (which is here!), only releases which were submitted for review are included, and more importantly, I'd like to thank all of the bands and solo acts who shared their music with me in 2018, without y'all I'd probably have a knitting blog or something.

15) Elaine Malone - Land

"Although she may not feel it herself, Malone's choice of topic is brave and she handles it with great care, but doesn't let anyone off the hook in her sometimes scathing lyrics. As a whole of its parts, Land is an excellently crafted piece of story-telling through music, a story we would rather we never had to hear, but one she should be most proud of telling."

14) Tooka - Tooka

"Tooka have compiled three tracks here that compliment each other in a very caring and harmonious manner, I enjoyed the fact that they stuck to their vision of the type of mood they wanted to create and didn't deviate from that path, leaving us with a continuous mellow strain of sound from start to finish, what's also exciting is that they've left themselves a huge amount of room to shoot off on various experimental tangents here, the first small splashes of colour on a willing canvas."

13) RUNAH - Ghosts

"Each of RUNAH's four tracks on her new EP Ghosts begin with the sounds of the outside world; rainfall, the sea, birds signing and the crackling of fire, interestingly all ancient sounds older than human-kind itself. The title-track's opening guitar progression sets the mystical and haunting mood of the EP in motion, her vocal acting as a conduit in order to establish a channel of communication between the environment and the listener.

If 'Ghosts' was the summoning, 'Calling' is the subsequent incantation that pulls us under RUNAH's spell and carries us by the hand through the dark forest of her world. I love the use of real-life sounds, such as the treading on crisp leaves, distant avian calls and the rush of water, in a time where we are disconnected in so many different ways, it's a timely reminder of what truly matters."

12) Jane Willow - Onward Still

"Jane Willow's self-titled opener for Onward Still immediately springs forth with the warmest of traits you would expect from classic late 60's and 70's folk music. At it's very beginning, Love's 'Alone Again Or' from Forever Changes throws its shade from her acoustic guitar, and in a previous review I had felt a strong connection to Joni Mitchell's Court & Spark. The cello and lightly brushed percussion adding additional layers of warmth in their own right...on Onward Still Willow is honest with us, it comes from a genuine place, this is about the music, and how we feel listening to it, and it takes a gifted song-writer to let their craft alone carry their message in such a wonderfully enjoyable way."

11) Ghetto Amaretto - Oll Korrect

"Dance-pop space-station"

"Oll Korrect could be summarised as two day-to-day experimental electronic artists having a lot of fun with thick brush swipes of pop music, stopping to consider their next stroke, and then lathering it on, but not too thick, absorbing, different and bursting with care-free energy. (*plays 'Uncanny Valley' again*)."

10) Aural Air - The Torpor of Minds

*Released in December last year, Aural Air's The Torpor of Minds was reviewed after the 2017 Best Irish EP's list, and was too good not to make this list!

"The Torpor of Minds closes with 'Edinburgh' another delightful moment to lose yourself in, alongside 'The Heir of Indignation', this song flitted into my head for months after hearing it for the first time, those breaks between eruptive emotion and fading falling stars hurtling to the ground are at work again. A rawness and vulnerability streak across Aural Air's debut EP, but it's not the rawness of starting out or finding your way, it's a sense of working your way through the sounds of the music with a careful, delicate and loving treading. Her star may or may not rise to where it deserves to be in 2018, but it's going to happen sooner rather than later."

Femmepop - CYM
Cork's Femmepop (aka Margaret O'Sullivan)

9) Femmepop - CYM

"CYM closes with 'Suck it Up', this reminds me more of continental punk new-wave from the mid 70's to mid 80's, like French coldwave four-piece Charles de Goal, or Lille's Guerre Froide, with a bit of Kraftwerk in your side-dish. It's a wonderful conclusion to an impressively diverse collection of electronic songs, over a long period of time Femmepop has been arriving at this point through graft, passion, and a desire to blow apart the boundaries of her own musical horizons."

8) The Elephant Room - Music on the Bones

"Although the band have rightly managed to release 4 singles from this collection of 8 songs (including the excellent 'Brisco'), I think they probably have one more in the tank with closing track 'Well Wishers' which is a pretty ringing endorsement considering most bands might struggle to find 4 from an entire LP. That live show jack in the box I mentioned earlier rearing its head in the final minute of the song which goes from melodious jangles to skulking distorted whammy-bar outbursts. 

Music On The Bones is more a mini-album than an EP, and I think it's important that we weren't restricted to the standard four tracks as the full breadth of ideas and opportunity to sink sufficiently into The Elephant Room's world may have been lost. This is a companion piece to your summer and beyond."

7) Classic Yellow - Ophelia

"Ophelia wraps up with 'Ghosts' and we return to the expansive free-form guitar-rock of its opener, this is trippy AF. I'm arguing with myself, do I hear a studio version of a lo-fi Tame Impala track, or something else? I think it's something else, and that something else is Classic Yellow. What's evident across the entirety of the EP is that the band don't do formulaic, they don't sick to convention and follow the verse-chorus-verse, 'it should sound like this here' rules, they let it ride, and it sounds just wonderful. I hate being parochial, but I'm a little bit proud these guys are from Dublin (you should also listen to their debut Double A-Side 'His Master's Voice' / 'Cheese From Wisconsin')"

Deep Sky Objects - Desire (major heavy rotation of this song by Remy in 2018)

6) Deep Sky Objects - Deep Sky Objects

"I'm a big fan of first-listen winning, which is what I got from all of the tracks on Deep Sky Objects' debut self-titled EP when listened to straight through for the first time. I like all of their aforementioned influences, and something that is always pleasurable is when those bands only mildly ripple through, but enough so that you can get stuck into a set of tracks straight away...'Desire' is where it's at for me, like Beck and his two turntables and a microphone. Hard rock opening and smash and grab percussion, this is a song I need to see live, and I think Kevin O'Brien could be one of the most personable vocalists I've heard in an Irish band in an age, I love this guys voice. You can't play nasty bass and drums without a face-melter coming up at some point, and so it does on 2:11, zinger."


"'Gold' shows another side, a contrast that could lead part of the way to where TOUCAN may journey next. I enjoyed the solemnity here, the duo traverse more into alt-pop territory, there's a striking tenderness and feeling to the chorus and as the track gathers momentum it reaches grandiose and powerful heights that leave a notable mark. TOUCAN have certainly etched out a corner for themselves in a very busy local music scene, and this EP will undoubtedly give added impetus to the traction gained from the debut single, expect to see them everywhere over the next 12 months and beyond."

4) Sinéad Murphy - The Golden Book

"Taking its title from a book that Sinead Murphy began writing lyrics in in her early teens, The Golden Book is an intimate invite to share in memories both hopeful and sad which Murphy has put into song. Opener 'Final Night' is firmly cast in old world American folk with a country hue, with warm delicate harmonies Murphy guides us down a sleepy stream with sunlight twinkling on its surface...delving into soulful territory, it has a contemporary feel, but also on its high moments nods its head to the likes of Carole King's Tapestry. In some ways The Golden Book is a heavy listen emotionally, but this trait is what makes it a memorable and distinguished listen, accentuated by fine musicianship and vocals."

3) Pine The Pilcrow - Only Ghosts

"Latest single 'Only Ghosts' is devastating, its darkness still managing to be filled with a terrifying beauty, its sadness a necessity in order to feel human again. It is here that Pine the Pilcrow establish themselves, in my opinion, as the most accomplished modern folk act in the country. Their musicianship, delivery of feeling, and quality of song-writing is at the top level. From the first ghostly warble from singer Hannah Ryan, to the sheer delicateness of the piano and cello, where it feels like the bow is hesitant and almost afraid to bother the strings, you are sucked down the whirlpool willingly. Every band with a longevity has that moment, a first piece of magic that seems to have come from beyond their collective creativity and turned into something sentient and independent in itself, 'Only Ghosts' is Pine the Pilcrow's moment."

(I don't have a list of Irish music videos for the year but the below is my favourite!)

2) Auxiliary Phoenix - Power Cosmic

"In my book, there is always so much intrigue and pleasure in abundance to be found in every release by Auxiliary Phoenix aka James Strain, who never stands still. On latest EP Power Cosmic we are customarily overwhelmed on the first listen, there is so much going on, bouncing off the walls and in turn our ear drums. 

On my first scooch through Power Cosmic fourth track 'Neptune Horizon' really stood out for me, the bending sitar and acid jazz groove combining like something out of Alice Coltrane's back catalogue, or George Harrison's deepest, darkest nightmares.

Power Cosmic is such a layered collection of tracks and concepts that one or two listens would never suffice, littered with subtleties in sound and method there is so much to be uncovered. That said, there is an immediately gratifying experience to be had on your first whirl of the latest offering from Auxiliary Phoenix, it's a mesmeric voyage through everything you love about the past, but wanted to hear reimagined today, and no better individual to tie both together."

REMY's Irish EP of the Year for 2018 - This Is Doubt by Ghostking is Dead

Ghostking is Dead - This is Doubt
Ghostking Is Dead (aka Matt Corrigan)

"This Is Doubt, the latest EP from Ghostking Is Dead was released earlier this week, and before we get stuck into a track by track view, I must share from the get go that it's easily one of the best Irish EP's to be released this year. I shall explain why, and where the feels come from.

A week or two ago we reviewed the lead single, 'Tokyo', from the EP and had this to say; "There's a very soothing delicacy on 'Tokyo', with Ghostking Is Dead in contemplative mood courtesy of his spoken-word intro. As is his wont, it's not long before he throws soulful pop vocals into the mix alongside some seriously chill electronic sounds. The single also confirms what we have learned from previous singles such as the excellent 'Lucky Warrior' and 'Fool', Ghostking Is Dead doesn't do limitations, and is very comfortable at strafing across a multitude of styles and sounds with uncanny ease.

Finally from his bag of tricks 'How Did I Get Here?' gets yanked out, a new genre is born, cabaret-funk. In sequence, the list of artists it reminds me of, Nina Simone, Black Grape, George Harrison, The Specials, Connan Mockasin and Portishead. At this point I don't really have much left to say, other than to quote Jim Carrey's character Chip Douglas in The Cable Guy, "Cherish him, every hair on his head".

Saturday, 8 December 2018

REMY's Best Irish Singles of 2018

REMY Irish Music Blog - Remy Connolly - Spotify Playlist 2018

Info: I tried to do a 'Top 50', failed, spending way too much time procrastinating, so compromised at 60 singles which I personally felt set the bar each in their own way. During the course of 2018 between Playlist reviews, EP and album reviews I covered in excess of 700 Irish tracks this year, this is an insane figure for both me and the high quality output of Irish artists at the moment. I won't wax lyrical about how great the Irish scene is AGAIN just yet, I'll save that for another post soon. 

One thing I did notice in 2018 is that it was, in my opinion, a better year all round in terms of releases than 2017, at the end of which I started to wonder were we seeing the first small blip of the last 4-5 years, thankfully those fears are allayed by a stellar past 12 months. As usual, the music that features on the blog is music that was submitted for review, or in the very rare case, by acts I saw perform live during the year. I've picked a Top 10, what Spotify likes to call my 'heavy rotation'! The remainder of tracks are in no particular order.

One last point of note is that I have excluded singles that were released as parts of EP's and albums - these are to follow over the coming weeks in their respected formats...

I'd like to take the opportunity to thank all of the artists who have sent me their music in 2018, much joy and a myriad of (pleasant!) feelings have been the end result for me, and without your creativity this blog would be redundant. Without further ado etc.! I start with the Top 10, then the Playlist itself, and a full listing of the additional 50 tracks can be found below also.

10) The Redneck Manifesto - 'Djin Chin'

" I'm all over new single 'Djin Chin', it has two strands, up-beat percussion and mellow guitars, both knitted together perfectly with an electro twist. This track, in parts at least, wouldn't be amiss on St. Germain's Tourist album, but there are so many enjoyable switches throughout to enjoy, The Redneck Manifesto oozing creativity like never before."

9) Molly Sterling - 'Stripped Down'

"Sterling once again defies belief by emerging with another piece of music that immediately impresses despite such a short career for the 20-year-old from Tipperary. From the barest of intros, we hear her pained vocal accompanied by a lamenting and creaking old piano. This sombre mood, cast in rustic old-world surroundings, rises as the singer releases an emotive gift of insight to us, peaks arising with grand and monumental curtains of cello. But it's the parts of the song where Sterling says the least and the music is at its least present which hold the most blunt power and impact, this is the perfect next step from her debut single, a growing song-writing diamond in our midst." 

8) ROE - 'Wasted.Patient.Thinking'

"The hugely talented ROE from Derry, who describes her music as grumpy electro-pop, shares single 'Wasted.Patient.Thinking' which has all of the spunky attitude of an early Pink single, along with highly-strung synth zingers that fire up in the air like fireworks, it's a really funky and grooving pastiche of a single. Please stay grumpy."

7) EHCO - 'Éiclips'

"Dublin electronic act EHCO's third single sees their live show reflected more fully in their recorded music with 'éiclips'. Anyone who has seen them live thus far will know that as their set progresses it goes from full frontal impact at the beginning to an inescapable hypno-state by the end. On a personal note 'éiclips' captures both ends perfectly and a bar has already been set for other local electronic acts to ponder on and aspire to. Vocalist Jessy Lord hammers home the homage to 90's trance music like she invented it too. Bazinga."

6) David Keenan - 'Altar Wine'

"Keenan released a selection of what he calls various 'recordings, sketches, demos' called Strip Me Bare recently, with just two mics, a Gibson and a Steinway piano. I've picked 'Altar Wine' for this playlist as it resonates in a number of ways, the title itself casts me back to the rigid ceremonial witnessed every Sunday as a child, and the tone of the song matches the memory of poorly lit churches and ancient orations, a strange experience for a child. What makes Keenan's poetry even more magical is how he creates other memories in the listener's head, when he tells his story it is delivered with such sincerity that you feel like you were witness to an event that you never actually experienced."

5) The Felonies - 'Berlin Blues'

"With their latest single, The Felonies have just skipped a few hurdles, it feels and sounds like they've been around the block a number of times and are now rushing headlong into a chaotic brand of rock music that they are making their own. It's a blistering pipe-bomb of punk-rock anarchy, a race to the finish-line of noise between each of the band members from the very first second, vocals, guitar, bass and goddamn drums trying to smack each other out of the way toward that incendiary climax. Here's a band currently holding the candle for Irish rock fans, and importantly, there's a message behind the music, with 'Berlin Blues' relaying the experience of two of the band members witnessing a sexual assault and the anguish resulting from the perpetrators sense of entitlement which it brought forth."

4) Æ MAK - 'Glow'

"A disorientating blend of genres is the main course, by the time you've reached the end of 'Glow' you wonder how would anyone even begin to compose such a treat in its entirety. Slow, sparks, slow, sparks and then at 2:37 everything is dropped from a height into the blender, sliced to pieces that are so sharp they pierce your eardrums, magical."

Æ MAK - Glow - Spotify
Æ MAK - Photo: Eleanor Jameson

3) St. Bishop - 'Good Intentions'

"One of the best solo live performers in the country at the moment, Stephen Bishop releases the much anticipated follow-up to previous single 'Porcelain'. On 'Good Intentions' his smooth vocal intro leads us towards some nice grimey beats and his trademark high-pitched and dexterous range, you can never get enough of the 'slam' in his singles."

2) Silverbacks - 'Dunkirk'

""I hurt my soul, my soul is hurt, on a private beach in...Dunkirk..." follows the most lethargic and disinterested bass-line you've ever heard. From there everything gets better and better. Silverbacks kill me, lyrics, mood, music, they back me into a corner with every single, but apropos my intro, thisis my favourite single to date of theirs, it is, isn't it? Yes. Until the next one, pretty sure I said this about 'Dirty Money' too."

REMY's Irish Single of the Year 2018 - Happyalone. - 'bodybags'

Happyalone. - Bodybags - Spotify
Photo: Zach Cronin

My most listened to Irish track of 2018 since its release in April, Cork trio Happyalone. continue to confound with the seemingly limitless variations and experimentation in their music, their output has also been hefty in 2018, and all superb singles. For me though, I cannot break free from 'bodybags', never skipping to 'the next track', this one gets played from start to finish every time, at 3:13 in particular, my mind gets blown every time by the exasperation and chilling energy. By the time I do this list at the end of 2019 Happyalone. will have a record deal, a massive fanbase and if they're really, really lucky, verified social media accounts! That's my prediction anyway.

Not on Spotify! 

Full track-listing:

Artist Name Track Name
Happyalone. bodybags
Silverbacks Dunkirk
St. Bishop Good Intentions
Æ MAK Glow
The Felonies Berlin Blues
David Keenan Altar Wine
EHCO Eiclips
ROE Wasted.Patient.Thinking.
Molly Sterling Stripped Down
The Redneck Manifesto Djin Chin
Jamie Adam Cool Blood
Mount Alaska Asterisk
Bicurious Father
WASPS Here Comes Mothra
Krisdeberg Lies
Royal Yellow Hazeldene
Columbia Mills Close to You
Variant Sea Winter Dance
Bitch Falcon Prime Number
Montauk Hotel Hands
Third Smoke Maya
True Tides Automatic
Conor Thornton Heat
Deaf Joe Where's Your Loving Gone
Accidents in the Workplace Wake Up
Ailbhe Reddy Shame
Flecks Samurai
Dioscó na mbó We Got Love
FIELDS Get Worse
Pillow Queens Gay Girls
Hvmmingbyrd Papillon
Brass Phantoms Indigo
Nocturnes Confetti
Jon Dots Kamera
Sylk Girl
Aislinn Logan Spree
The Mannerly Hoods Heather
Alan Finan Slumber
Awkward Z. Wildin'
Ivy Bloom For All Who Dwell
Munky 7am
Alex Smyth Escort
Baba Land of the Damned
Orchid Collective Forces
A. Smyth Coming Back to You
James Vincent McMorrow Me and My Friends
Scally Get Ready for War
Galants Follow
Participant Coast
Somebody's Child Make You Alright
Sive Quietly
1000 Beasts, Marybeth Trust Me
Zapho Do Like I Do
TabloidTv Frobisher
Zola Daze, Molly B Sun Bleached
Flynn My Gold
Nnic 8th Wonder
A Ritual Sea Seasons (Like You)

Monday, 3 December 2018

EP: Ghetto Amaretto - Oll Korrect

Ghetto Amaretto - Oll Korrect

'Oll Korrect' is Ghetto's first new e.p. in 8 years, as the original four members of the band have scattered to various countries in the interim. 'Oll Korrect' was recorded over the internet by two of the band members, who now live 5,000 km apart – Waterford-native Conor 'Scew' Dalton (Ghetto's lead-instrumentalist, and producer, who now lives in New York, USA), and vocalist Chris Falconer (who is back based in Waterford, Ireland). 

The two band members have not been in the same room (or continent) as each other, for the entirety of the writing and recording processes of the five new songs – meaning that the songs slowly unfurled from back-and-forth demo and track sharing through emails and file transfers. The sound of the e.p. is symptomatic of this writing process - with the songs leaning more heavily into the electronic and production-driven arena than Ghetto’s previous dance-rock offerings.

A little Ibiza-dance sounding opening commences the new EP Oll Korrect from Ghetto Amaretto, 'Gyre', which is also the lead single on the collection of tracks. The track has 'club' written all over it's anthemic whip-lash pop moments and colourfully bubbles to overflow courtesy of some very entertaining indietronica back and forths.

'Plume' carves a slightly different atmosphere, whilst also retaining that high-energy drive, more emotionally-charged than its predecessor, the drops here are pretty fantastic, an off the cliff example being at 2:41. It was important I think at some point in the EP that Dalton and Facloner detached themselves from the dance-pop space-station, and allowed themselves a little float. Thankfully 'Mantle' steps in, a very clear insight into how well the two can collapse a number of levels down in a conscious and well executed way. I'm really enjoying the comfortable bracketing of indie, pop and electronic here, it's chill but a little sneaky intensity is peeping out from the shadows. 

Ghetto Amaretto - 'Uncanny Valley'

As much as I've enjoyed Oll Korrect so far, the beast is truly released mercilessly on 'Uncanny Valley', what a tune. Zoned-out electronic music is my go to for headspace and escapism, and 'Uncanny Valley' slides right into meeting all of my requirements. There's a titanic menace looking down on the duo here, who have made such an absorbent piece, that they probably didn't even notice. The chaos of sound is perfect, a rather crude metaphor would be the moment before jumping into a pool of water, all is calm, but as soon as you submerge yourself it's alien (despite our gestationary origins!). Somehow in the midst of this unfamiliar environment, without air, the discomfort quickly makes way for an experience that is even calmer than before we jumped in.

Final track 'Nevertheless' continues in the same vain, it's inviting and warm acoustic guitar pulls you further in where you're greeted by the groove. Combo of vocal, keys and background vox work a treat. I suppose Oll Korrect could be summarised as two day-to-day experimental electronic artists having a lot of fun with thick brush swipes of pop music, stopping to consider their next stroke, and then lathering it on, but not too thick, absorbing, different and bursting with care-free energy. (*plays 'Uncanny Valley' again*).

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