Tuesday, 30 December 2014

High Elders - Forest of Pencils, Debut Album

High Elders, 'Surrounded By Lights'

Info: A combination of Delaware hip-hop veteran Gentle Jones and Irish experimental producer Auxiliary Phoenix, High Elders bring forth an album that you'd never expect to come across on these shores. The debut album, Forest of Pencils is a supremely enjoyable modern hip-hop recording which is of the same ilk as hip-hop act CunninLynguists and more specifically CL's Kno's album Death Is Silent with short trips into LemonJelly strangeness. 

The short intro 'URL' gives an instant hint as to the type of experimental hip-hop you can expect on the album, leading to the house grooves of second track 'Churches' (feat Marchitect & Pooch), the track swoons from side to side and has an ambient feel, definitely one of the albums strong points. Next up is 'Surrounded By Lights' (above video), which takes on a darker mood, and while the lyrics are simple, the music packs a punch and has a swagger to it. The manic 'Ethernet' leads to another favourite track of mine, the almost funky soul 'Rappers Are Jerks', featuring some nostalgic record scrubbing, which you don't hear as much as you'd like these days. 

High Elders, 'Rappers Are Jerks'

From this point on the likes of 'Run Sinner Run' and 'Mean World' really see High Elders dive into experimental zones and it's very pleasing, it also provides a nice balance to the earlier part of the album giving the best of both worlds between orthodox and innovative styles. The album closes on the very enjoyable 'Top Cat' with it's almost 'Unfinished Sympathy' intro and the quirky and back to basics '21 Grams' (feat. Jimmy Quail). There's very little I could not like about this album, Forest of Pencils is a very worthy contemporary hip-hop album and proves what I've been saying for years, you put a guy from Delaware and a guy from Carlow together in a recording studio, you better watch out. Top marks.

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Bookface: https://www.facebook.com/highelders

Bandcamp: https://littlelrecords.bandcamp.com/album/forest-of-pencils

HOWQUA, Naked, Debut E.P.

Info: The first thing that struck me about Australian artist HOWQUA when I popped on his debut E.P. Naked, was how searingly emotional and powerful his voice was, right from the get go on the soaring 'Art Beat' there's an optimistic if pained tone to be found. Atmospheric and Sigur-Rós-type guitars lead into the above track, 'My Mindset', an introspective on personal shortcomings and self-doubt, which I found just as powerful and excellent as opening track 'Art Beat'. While the first two tracks I've mentioned are quite anthemic, fourth track 'Her' pulls things back a bit, it's very cool and mellow, rhythmic and basically a real pleasure to listen to. 

'Waiting...' is definitely what you might classify as a crowd-pleaser, it's upbeat, invigorating and a declaration of confidence and optimism. Naked finishes strongly on 'City Sounds' which goes for a more acoustic and folky sound and is an observation on surroundings, which nicely edges it's way towards an ethereal soundscape. To throw out a few loose comparisons it reminds me a bit of Elbow's Guy Garvey, Bon Iver, and at times, just a small bit, Chris Martin (purely vocally). I really liked this E.P. and the listener is quite spoilt with 6 great tracks compared to the standard 4, HOWQUA proves himself to be a reflective songwriter and lyricist who can also write some top range music.

Side note: Although no dates are confirmed, HOWQUA is planning a small Irish tour for 2015, will have updates during the year.

HOWQUA, 'Art Beat'

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Monday, 29 December 2014

Pink Feathers feat. SPEAK, The Feeling's Gone

Info: Pink Feather's is the performance name of songwriter Liz Anjos who hails from Portland, Oregon, with the above track, 'The Feeling's Gone' featuring Austin, Texas artist SPEAK. Anjos recently released her debut E.P., Invisible Lines which comprises of indie electronic elements and a definitively pop and up-tempo sound. The track itself has a tinge of 80's female pop complimented with some male / female vocal exchanges and harmonies and is produced by RAC (Remix Artist Collective). The track is a very easy listen and has all of the hallmarks of an appealing, contemporary electronic indie song.

Look / Like / Listen / Follow:

Website: http://pinkfeathers.co

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pinkfeatherspdx

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/pinkfeathers

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pinkfeathers

Photo by Jon Duenas

King Fantastic - Rad Racer, New Video

King Fantastic, 'Rad Racer'

Info: 'Rad Racer', the second video from King Fantastic's latest album, The Great Man Theory, is a breezy number, with a nice acoustic guitar intro and slick guitar riffs providing the background to Killer Reese's rhyming. Described by the men behind the music as being 'on some chill out southern California winter vibes', the song is an ode to the city of L.A. when the sun dips down in the evening and all is well with the world. Definitely one of my favourite tracks on the album, and as I mentioned in the album review earlier in the year, I'm really enjoying the addition of funky guitar riffs on this record.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Remy's Favourite International Tracks of 2014

Aside from the great Irish music featured on the blog I've been very lucky to have some really brilliant tunes sent to me over the year from around the world, with the bulk of it coming from the United States and France but also from some more exotic locations. In some ways it really does broaden your musical horizons to hear unsigned or up and coming artists from other countries, because we are only really ever exposed to acts who have 'made it' from abroad. And although the internet is rapidly changing that, as little as 5-6 years ago you wouldn't have had access to the number of platforms that are available today such as SoundCloud, Spotify, Deezer etc., (not to mention Apps on smartphones) you just had Youtube maybe and a few dedicated websites. I'd like to thank all of the bands, not just the ones featured here, for getting in touch and sharing their music, and hey England, send me something too, I won't bite! Without further ado, and in no particular order (not even alphabetical this time, life is too short!)......

1) Stereo Off - 'Bullet Time'

From: New York City, U.S.A.
Why? It was a tough call between 'Bullet Time' and 'Photographs' which is a great track too, but the above song edges it on two counts, the video homage to 70's / 80's New York film (one scene was shot in the same location as Serpico) is an entertaining trip to the underground, and also the half-way point where the funky guitar breaks down to a dancier disco sound. For more info check out this interview I did with Niall from Stereo Off back in August.

2) CHRISTINE - 'No Way'

From: Normandy, France
Why? CHRISTINE has a plethora of amazing tracks including remixes on his SoundCloud page and when I reviewed the 'Gonna Fear Now' video recently I couldn't help but include two more songs including 'No Way' above. This was one of the discoveries of the year for me, the track is slick, cool, ambient and gritty and sails along so nicely, there's nothing but enjoyment here.

3) Memory In Plant - 'This Love'

From: Tel Aviv, Israel
Why? Frank Zappa, psychedelic heaven from Memory In Plant. As a massive fan of 60's mind-trippers The Electric Prunes, Strawberry Alarm Clock and The 13th Floor Elevators to name a few, this track and their E.P. An Epic Triumph, was right up my street. 'This Love' was the stand out for me and it also incorporated contemporary weirdness and accessible avant-garde musicianship, a real doozy.

4) French Girls - 'Fifty Miles'

From: Northern California, U.S.A.
Why? Whoah, what happened here? French Girls E.P. Tablemanners has been getting serious airplay in my household the last two months. Like Memory In Plant above, these guys nailed a new take on another of my favourite old school types of rock, 60's garage á la The Monks Black Monk Time. Explosive energy, savagery at the drum-kit, rapid bass, nailed-on guitar and pained older than his years vocals from front man Charlie Foltz make this band an extremely tight unit. The fact that these guys are relatively young is quite frightening, considering they're making music that is incomprehensible to a lot of their peers.

5) Jack Jeffery - 'Approaching the Starlight'

From: Virginia, U.S.A.
Why? Well, I mentioned in my review of Jeffery's mind-blowing album, Enlightened Horizon, last month that it was laden with Alan Parsons Project and Pink Floyd nods, and as a massive sci-fi fan it felt like the soundtrack to every film I'd ever seen based in outer-space, from 2001 to Sunshine. 'Approaching the Starlight' is like a scene from Godfrey Reggio's epic documentary Koyaanisqatsi, it takes you far, far out of your brain on an extremely pleasant journey. If you like instrumental and experimental music that is different but accessible, here you are.

6) Alf Moon - 'Hiver'

From: Paris, France
Why? Along with Alf Moon's other track 'Automne' I was really reminded of good dance music from the late 90's but it also attaches itself to a long tradition of creative French electronic acts such as St.Germain and Air in parts but also contemporary artists such as Denmark's Trentemoller and Germany's Kalkbrenner. 'Hiver' is pointedly cool and melodic and although we only have two tracks at the moment to work from, I know I'll enjoy any future releases from this particular Parisian.

7) The Northern Lights - '1984'

From: Los Angeles, U.S.A.
Why? Pure unadulterated 80's electro-pop bliss is what '1984' is. Described by another reviewer "Like something playing in the background of an old VHS cassette you found in your attic from the 80's." and I couldn't put it better myself, the track is a nostalgia overload, some might say it's simple, but it captures a certain mood perfectly and has quite a euphoric feel to it as well, thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, much like the rest of their music.

8) You Bred Raptors? - 'Hazmat'

From: New York City, U.S.A.
Why? I could do this in one line by just saying watch the above video. It's hair-raising stuff, an incredible live performance busking in New York's underground, the You Bred Raptors? trio swing from strings to thudding bass-lines to rapid-fire percussion and how the hell is the guitarist playing lead guitar and bass at the same time? Unique musicianship aside there's also a great song to be found in 'Hazmat' and I really love the melodic riff at 3:20, the calm respite before the soaring lead-guitar and strings take off into the ether! Wow.

9) Night Club - 'Need You Tonight'

From: Los Angeles, U.S.A.
Why? 10% because Kick is one of my favourite 80's albums, 90% because I think this cover version by Night Club is way better than the original! Night Club have some great tracks across their two E.P.'s and I could have gone for an original but I listened to this a lot over the last few months, it's instant gratification, and Mark Brooks adds some pounding synths to compliment Emily Kavanaugh's vocals making an already naughty song that little bit naughtier. To hear more and find out more here's our interview from September.

10) King Fantastic - 'Spooky Spooks & The Trouble With Capitalism'

From: Los Angeles, U.S.A.
Why? I said this list was in no order and it is, but I deliberately finished with King Fantastic, ending on a high note, KF have been my favourite rap and hip-hop artists for the last 4 years now and 2014 saw one of my most anticipated album releases, The Great Man Theory, the follow up to 2010's Finger Snaps and Gun Claps. King Fantastic are also the most mentioned act in emails I receive with regard to people being introduced to new music through the blog. The track is a critique of fakery and delusions, and yes, that is supposed to be Lil' Wayne at the start of the video getting his ass handed to him by Killer Reese, how we'd love to see the real Lil' Wayne have that done to him! Reese's rhyming as always flows effortlessly and the milisecond pauses before DJ Troublemaker throws out his golden xylophone-esque 'dring' are a delightful anticipation. Sadly one of the two homeless actors in the video, Scotsman Robbie, passed away shortly after the shooting of it, and while it makes no difference and probably means nothing, this entire list is dedicated to him and all homeless people this winter.

The Journals, Mannequin & Habits and Recreations

The Journals, 'Habits & Recreations'

Info: Featured in Part One of my Best Irish Tracks of 2014, I ended my paragraph expressing a desire that The Journals would release new material soon and lo and behold less than a week later here it is. Two new tracks from the Dublin trio of Oliver Moyles, John McDowell and Alex Cummins, 'Mannequin' and 'Habits & Recreations' reveal two things, one is that the band have developed in a short space of time since their debut E.P. earlier this year, and the second is that their sound is becoming quite distinctive. 'Mannequin' is at first enjoyable and after a few listens quite sad, a song perhaps about isolation, suggested in the opening lyrics; 'And I used to sense myself, and I used to understand, that I used to have real skin, I'm now broken mannequin', it's a track that definitely shows a subtle lyrical progression which promises great things. 'Habits & Recreations' has a different feel, slightly heavier but distinctly sounding like alternative rock bands from the early to mid-90's, such as My Bloody Valentine and Alice In Chains, the track really benefits from the chunky guitar and short interludes followed by bursting snares and crashing distortion. 

The Journals stand out for me as a band that you know won't release a full album with 4 or 5 good tracks mixed with 4 or 5 fillers just to make up the numbers. Listening to their debut E.P. and these two tracks it's clear that song-writing comes naturally and so too should a very good debut album when the time is right. At a time when a lot of Irish bands are pursuing a particular sound and beholden to instant and fleeting fads in music, it's a delight to hear the trend being bucked with these three chaps (who are not alone by any means) who are quite simply writing good rock music which will appeal to new and slightly seasoned listeners of the genre alike.

The Journals, 'Mannequin'

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Houdini, Debut E.P.

Houdini, 'Hold Your Own'

Info: Dublin band Houdini release their first self-titled E.P. following regular airplay on the likes of 2FM and preceding their debut at Electric Picnic in September next year. The band are a four-piece from Tallaght comprising Aaron Cranley (lead vocals / guitar), Shane Cranley (bass / vocals), Ian Cullen (keyboards) and Ciaran Higgins on drums.

The E.P. kicks off with 'Friendly Fires' which get's you nice and comfortable and you're thinking not bad, you smugly nod and prepare yourself for what might be an electronic based E.P., you have just fooled yourself as you turn the corner into second track 'Colder'. Instantly appealing and dramatic, vocally it's a bit like Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet and then turns into some great late 80's / early 90's rock power ballad, think Queen (music) meets Kix (vocals), I really loved all of the elements and energy of this track.

'Hold Your Own' is also vocally powerful, unblemished by influences and very clean. Again it's 80's rock influenced but also draws on bands from the last few years such as Wild Beasts and Owen Pallett to name but two.

Finally, the E.P. closes with 'Nothing Here', (incidentally a track that would be ripe for a DJ to get their hands on and remix) which reminds me of bands like Europe and Def Leppard (Pyromania), but without the obvious silliness of either, and is also infused with a good dose of contemporary alternative rock.

Houdini are a curious thing, while my references may indicate a heavy rock group, they are actually nothing of the sort. Sure there's plenty of classic rock guitar-playing and drumming but there's also a strong layer of their own modern sound to be found as well, there's a lot to enjoy here, and remember to play it loud.

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Bookface: https://www.facebook.com/houdiniband

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/houdiniband-1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HoudiniBand

Colin Deady, Out of the Blue, Debut Album

Colin Deady, 'Season's Tide'

Info: Hailing from Skibbereen in the beautiful West Cork, folk-rock songwriter Colin Deady is releasing his debut album, Out of the Blue, on the 29th of January, early in the New Year. The new album crosses many genres from folk, to blues rock, country and gentle piano led ballads. Out of the Blue opens with a real foot-tapper, in 'Life Goes On', there's a country honky-tonk feel about the electric guitar on this one, it's very upbeat and has pockets of Dire Straits vibes about it too. Straight after is a really nice electric guitar driven track, 'Time On My Side', which has a very 90's pop rock sound, but also reminding me a tiny bit of Simply Red's 'Holding Back The Years'. The enjoyable and heartfelt 'Chapel Street' is up next, a piano ballad in the mould of Billy Joel's more serious moments, Deady's soothing vocals give a real soulful feel to the song. Another track I quite enjoyed was at the half-way point, 'Things I Love The Most', there's a real classic American folk-rock feel to it, hard to shake the vision of a band such as The Eagles or Eric Clapton on 461 Ocean Boulevard. The following track, 'Return To You' starts out in the same vein but becomes considerably rockier and has some more great blues guitar mixed with soulful backing vocals. The album finishes on it's title track, which slowly leads you by the hand to a fantastic guitar solo that would not be amiss on a Thin Lizzy album, and I could listen to all day on loop. 

A personal observation would be that there were one or two tracks I found a bit nondescript and I found the genre bounce a bit disorientating at times, but other than that, there were real strengths in the music throughout, especially the electric guitar which I alluded to in a few tracks and the sense that Colin Deady is a serious musician. There were some good country rock songs and ballads as well, and Deady possesses a strong soulful voice and wide vocal range. He certainly has enough in the bag to keep audiences entertained as he kicks of his Irish Tour with the launch for Out of the Blue in the famous De Barra's folk club in Clonakilty, Co Cork on the 29th January.

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Monday, 15 December 2014

Remy's Favourite Irish Tracks of 2014, Part Two

They were either earworms that lasted months on end, or songs that I enjoyed so much that I kept coming back to them after reviewing them, others were special as a result of live shows and others were musically, similar enough to my own wider taste in music that I found them most appealing. In no particular order (well, alphabetical), here's the second half of the best tracks from Irish bands that were reviewed on the blog in 2014. Enjoy.

11) Kevin Nolan - 'Drowning'

From: Dublin
Why? By far one of the most intriguing and creative albums I heard this year, Frederick & The Golden Dawn is dark, mysterious and theatrical, I enjoyed it so much I had to purchase the vinyl edition which I know already will be returned to again and again even in my twilight years. 'Drowning' features all of the descriptive terms above and when I first listened to it I genuinely had hairs stand on the back of my neck, Kevin Nolan's voice can be both menacing and soft and the track is filled with a dark atmosphere and the thundering piano close with strings is intense.

12) Mail Order Messiahs - 'Practical Man'

From: Dublin
Why? 'Practical Man' and indeed the entire Practical album stood out for me as a great example of the mixing of indie and electronica, a blend that is difficult at times to pull off without sounding like everyone else. The vocals are also quite distinctive and appealing and the track has a great punchy bass-line and drums to go with the sharp short bursts of synth, it's an ode to the zombie office worker which celebrates the banality of being a drone, 'please put in a good word for me, down at the IFSC....'.

13) Mark Buckeridge - 'I Can Talk To You'

From: Cork
Why? I found it hard to choose between 'I Can Talk To You' and Buckeridge's other track, 'O That Noise', I was very impressed and taken with his second E.P., Talking Is Good For You, when you listen to his music it's hard not to feel like your hearing a special musical talent. I also love the quirkiness of his singing and the enjoyable chaos of his music, not to mention how great the video is.

14) Monster Monster - 'Christmas In Liverpool' 

From: Dublin
Why? This could have easily been Monster Monster's 'Assassin', but when I heard this song live in The Bello Bar last month I got a bit emotional (mainly wondering how my boyhood football team had become so crap - again - so quickly). Incredibly yet deservedly, the following week the song became noticed in the city it was about and was eventually played at Anfield and the club announced it was going to be played at the ground for all of their matches over the Christmas period, what an achievement for the guitarist who wrote it, Mick Stuart, himself a fellow Pool fan. But forget all of that nostalgic stuff for a second, this song is great for the music, it's beautifully written, lyrics, piano, guitar and percussion all sound great and Ríona Sally Hartman's vocals are tear-inducing in a good way, filled with passion and emotion.

15) The Midnight Union Band - 'I'm Your Leader'

From: Kilkenny:
Why? There's something heart-warming about hearing a young band who are very steeped in the genre they perform, in the case of The Midnight Union band it's soulful Americana with gusto. This particular track, 'I'm Your Leader' reminded me very much of Elton John and Van Morrison mixed together at their 70's peaks. I suppose the theme of the song appealed to me as well, it's always nice to come across bands who let their consciences pour into their lyrics and aren't just trying to write a catchy tune.

16) Riona Sally Hartman - 'Frida Kahlo's Delight'

From: Dublin
Why? Acutely aware of the classical sound of jazz music and singing, Riona Sally Hartman's vocals and composition are like an echo coming back through time. I absolutely love the bass in this song and how you feel like your mind could just float off carefree along with the notes. As I prefer listening to female rather than male vocalists from the 40's / 50's, when it comes to blues, soul and jazz, this style of music is very enjoyable to me and 'Frida Kahlo's Delight' ticks all of the boxes with it's smoothness.

17) Setline - 'Speckled'

From: Dublin
Why? Hot diggity damn was what I first thought when I listened to 'Speckled' for the first time, it was a moment, on the bus, will check this out I thought and it was a real Remy song from the get go. Starting off with a 70's science fiction film, a retro designed spacecraft orbiting the Earth. The track also has a strangely enjoyable Oriental feel to the strings, and the electronics are simple yet massively enjoyable, as is the rest of Setline's These Thieving Streets E.P. debut.

18) Stephen Young & The Union Band - 'Duty Free 200'

Website: http://www.sytumusic.com/
Why? A gritty ballad if there's such a thing, a mix of country and classic rock guitar playing, lovely melodic piano playing and a general overall feeling of goodness. Not just because of the video, but it's hard not to imagine yourself in the bar in Road House, sawdust all over the floor and the neon beer signs glaring. 'Duty Free 200' was also part of a great set I had the pleasure of seeing live at the wonderful Abner Brown's a couple of months ago which finished off with a great version of Jimi Hendrix's version of 'All Along The Watchtower'.

19) Tell No Foxx - 'Boulevard'

From: Wicklow
Why? This song also got a lot of listens this year, haunting with really great vocal effects and all of the best elements of the gothic sounds of 80's bands such as The Cure and Sisters of Mercy but with a modern electro sound. 'Boulevard' is also accompanied by an excellent video with a nice twist at the end that your granny will be delighted with! Another band I'm genuinely eager to hear more material from which is hopefully on the way early in the new year. 

20) Tony Fitz - 'The Murder'

From: Kildare
Why? Tony Fitz's Just Another Day E.P. was easily one of the highlights of the year for me as well as being one of the most pleasant surprises. 'The Murder' is so vivid lyrically it's like watching a short film in your head while you're listening, the sinister lyrics, worth re-posting, capture a slow motion scene of young woman unaware of the grave danger in her midst;

'There's a girl lying out on the grass by the creek,
and she dangles her toes in the water beneath,
as the sun dances on the surface of the stream

But she doesn't notice the stranger approach or
The twist of his grin as he takes off his coat or the
The glint of the sun on the gun in his hand

Like Cormac O'Caoimh's 'Maze of Your Heart', the guitar riff in 'The Murder' was a ridiculous earworm that popped frequently into my head at random moments over the last 6 months.

21) Barry Tierney - 'Rosie Ale of England'

From: Cork
Website: http://www.barrytierney.com/
Why? Well, I somehow overlooked Barry Tierney between 'A' & 'C' on Saturday so while I don't finish on an even 20, so be it, there was no leaving 'Rosie Ale of England' off this list. A sad song with an impact, although a love song, it painted a picture of Irish emigrants in the cities of England in the early part of the last century in my mind, quite timely in man ways. The song itself is beautiful, delicate clinking piano, harmonies and Tierney's impassioned voice all make this a superb ballad.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Remy's Favourite Irish Tracks of 2014, Part One

They were either earworms that lasted months on end, or songs that I enjoyed so much that I kept coming back to them after reviewing them, others were special as a result of live shows and others were musically, similar enough to my own wider taste in music that I found them most appealing. In no particular order (well, alphabetical), here's the first 10 of the best tracks from Irish bands that were reviewed on the blog in 2014. Enjoy.

1) Abandcalledboy - 'Cliff Richard'

From: Belfast
Why? Aside from the best video of the year, Abandcalledboy's 'Cliff Richard' is an epic rock song, heavy music meets light humour, we need more bands like this urgently. These guys had a great year with the likes of Hot Press fawning over them, and rightly so.

2) Bold Things - 'Swallows End' (404 Version)

From: Dundalk
Why? One of the tracks I've listened to more than any other for almost 12 months now, Gavin Murray's vocals combined with the guitars and bass are haunting, the spoken interlude and the rising tempo are simply majestical and hair-raising. The fact that frontman Jim dedicated it to yours truly in Whelans during the summer has no bearing on it's inclusion, thanks Jim!

3) Cormac O'Caoimh - 'Maze of Your Heart'

From: Cork
Why? One of the biggest earworms, I've regularly been found spontaneously singing 'You've gotta lot of feelings, and meanings for stealing...' around the homestead. 'Maze of Your Heart' is the definition of happiness in a song and Cormac's guitar playing, as on the rest of his album, The Moon Looses It's Memory, is a joy to listen to, and it's coming on another road trip next week. 

4) The Daily Howl - 'Hang It On A Hook'

From: Wicklow
Why? 'Hang It On A Hook' is the type of song you want bands who claim to be folk pop musicians to write, it's like The Everly Brothers meets The Beach Boys with a modern twist, and it's seriously enjoyable. The Daily Howl should be on everyone's radar for 2015.

5) Danny G & The Major 7th's - 'Believin' In Something'

From: Dublin
Why? There are many great songs on Danny G & The Major 7th's debut album, Love Joints, but I just got bowled over by this video and song when I heard it earlier this year, everything, everything, drums, bass, keyboards, backing vocals, funk, soul, harmonies, and that flute solo, dayum.

6) Donal de Blacam - 'Wake Up Julie'

From: Dublin
Website: http://www.donaldeblacam.com/
Why? A late entry onto the pages of the blog, is the recently reviewed album Hypnagogia from Donal de Blacam. I mentioned in the review that parts of the album got me inside and none moreso than 'Wake Up Julie', an absolutely gorgeous ballad that's so easy on the ear with nice guitar plucking and duet.

7) Earthship - 'The Great Wheel'

From: Galway
Why? I mentioned above music that touched on my own tastes and Earthship's 'The Great Wheel' had an early 90's dance, funk, Portishead mashup washing around my ears in no time, it's like, groovy and mellow man! And how about those bass-lines?

8) Femmepop (& Timecop) - 'Our Time'

From: Cork
Why? Lush 80's synths and fantastic vocals, I thought this track in particular, along with much of the rest of Femmepop's album, From A Girl Who Never Sleeps, completely captured an eighties atmosphere that made me feel very, very nostalgic. This version of her track, 'Our Time', featuring Timecop is particularly satisfying.

9) Go Swim - 'Call Sign'

From: Belfast
Why? I said it in the prelude to a recent interview with Go Swim that 'Call Sign' would feature on any end of year list I did and the passage of time has only strengthened that. The most played track on my SoundCloud playlist and one of the best songs I've heard all year from any band, established, signed, unsigned or otherwise, it's exactly how I like modern guitar music to sound, it can't be compared to much else because it's unique, what a bloody tune.

10) The Journals - 'Part II'

From: Dublin
Website: http://thejournals.bandcamp.com/
Why? The Journals' entire debut E.P. was a solid listen from start to finish, unlike a lot of other bands in the indie genre from Ireland, the thing that I liked about their music, best exemplified on the opening track, 'Part II', was how natural and unforced it sounded. 'Part II' is a lovely track, musically it's a real treat, the guitars and vocal harmonies stick in the head and frontman Ollie Moyles' singing is earnest and moving, there's also a nice pace to the track. I hope these fellas release something new soon.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Bold Things, Colours To The Wall E.P. & Interview

Bold Things, 'The Eternal Artist'

Info: Many regulars to the blog will know that Dundalk band Bold Things have been a firm favourite of Remy's Music & Film Blog for quite a while now. I was delighted to hear that they finally released their debut E.P., Colours To The Wall, this week which features two previously released tracks and two brand new ones, 'Cadet' and 'The Eternal Artist' (above), both of which are excellent and in keeping with the bands consistently strong output of tracks. The E.P. also includes my own personal favourite song, 'Swallows End', and the very first track / video ever reviewed on the blog, 'Love The Bomb'. The band have always put a phenomenal amount of thought and passion into their music, and I think that's best expressed in the below interview. A big thanks to Ronan, Ian, Gavin and Jim for putting in the effort with the interview as well, it's not often you get such thoughtful responses, and they've introduced some great new music linked below too.

Bold Things @ Toales, Dundalk

Remy: It’s hard to believe it’s nearly a year since I reviewed 'Love The Bomb' and now here it is, laid down on your debut E.P., Colours To The Wall, as well as my favourite Bold Things track, 'Swallows End' and two brand new songs, how are you guys feeling right now, pretty chuffed I’d imagine?

Jim: Very chuffed Remy! The way we work, unwaveringly sticks to a democratic 4 man job. So our approach means taking time to make sure everything works and fits. These 4 songs truly represent the 4 boys involved; and I think that's a trump card in many ways. For us it is worth the wait. We are delighted to have it ready. Like you've said, it's been a year and a little bit less since we presented video versions of 'Love the Bomb' and 'Swallows End'. At the time we thought it would be cool to show live alternates to songs that were destined for the full EP treatment. We love when we see different versions of tracks; and for us it was a good way to document our progress. I'm sure they deliver on Colours to the Wall.

Ronan: Yeah we're very chuffed Remy. It's a relief to have it out. To be honest at times it has been a long arduous process but with our schedules it does feel like a great achievement just to say that it’s finished. For as long as we've been in a band we've never known things to be easy, certainly when releasing anything. This band is a democracy with each of us being strongly opinionated people this leads to a wonderfully interactive and open process. During the course of the recording of the EP we've released some acoustic and room versions of the songs which freshened things up and also gave us new outlooks on the tracks. So these did help with the development of 'Love the Bomb' and 'Swallows End'. These tracks have been knocking around for a while so releasing this to the public is a wonderful feeling for us. We're really delighted with it.

Remy: One of the things that I’ve always found appealing about Bold Things' music is the deliberate difference in timing between drums and vocals, (such as the intro for 'Cadet') and also the solemn mood of vocals vs. increasing tempo in the music on 'Swallows End' & 'The Eternal Artist', was there any other
artist or album that influenced these stylistic approaches or are they purely the natural outcome of the four of you playing together?

Gavin: Hhhmmm, I think it’s probably a combination of both us playing and what we were influenced by at the time. A desire to create gaps, space and
an interesting rhythmic landscape was something that was running through all our heads when making 'Cadet'. We felt it needed that treatment. That seductive quality of having seemingly disparate things working together. The
intro I guess sets this experimental buzz in motion. Personally, at the time I was listening to really interesting rhythmic stuff like 'Bloom' by Radiohead and 'Blush Mosaic' by Patten which definitely played into it for me. I think the combination of solemn vocals and increasing tempos you’ve pointed out again is an extension of this merging of contrasting elements but for more tonal ends. Offsetting weighty or pensive moments with overt physicality or increasing tempos kinda lifts things tonally. It creates greater intensity, greater possibilities. PJ Harvey does this masterfully on Let England Shake. She adds a sense of community and uplifts the heaviest subject matter you could imagine. So yeah I guess these stylistic approaches are a combination of convictions or ideas that we have influences and us playing together. 

Remy: The four of you are all good mates from Dundalk, for people who are unfamiliar with your background, how long have you been playing together and how did it all start?

Jim: Myself and Gav started making music together when we were 12. I had a bass and he had a drumkit. We did the formative stuff together; we reckoned we'd be good footballers when we were 11. But stuff clicked when we started buying those CD things. Years later Gav brought Patsy, and I invited Ro along to a practice, and then it started there. The band was another shade in the formative experience lads have growing up. We did demos and singles and weaved the band into our upbringing. The Spirit Store in Dundalk was our cornerstone. Fast forward and we decided to do the London thing. And here we are.

Remy: You did quite a bit of initial recording when you were all living together in London and in the last couple of months some of you had to leave the city for new adventures, how has that affected the band in terms of writing and recording, and more importantly, do you miss each other!?

Ian 'Patsy': Ah yeah, we definitely do miss each other but Manchester is just up the road so it doesn’t feel very far!! Still, it’s quite a strange thing to think about in some respects having lived out of each other’s pockets for quite some time and then not any more, but we did it before all of us moved to London as well. The great thing about being in a band with your mates is you can just pick up where you left off and know exactly who you are within that space. Distance is part of how these songs were formed and whether that’s reflected by lyrics or sounds, I feel it to be a constant theme. For example, the first demo of 'The Eternal Artist' was given to me a few days before Gav moved to London on his own in 2010 and has been worked on in stages since. For me there has always been a sense of transience in the work especially when we take such a considered approach to our music. There is always something else in the wings.

Bold Things, 'Love The Bomb'

Remy: You had a pretty busy first half of 2014 with the release of a couple of singles, plenty of local gigs in London such as Hackney Irish Social Club and the Yardlife Festival in Islington, and of course your homecoming during the summer, which gig was a stand out for you?

Jim:The gigs of 2014 have been very generous to us. Playing places like The Water Rats with its long history didn't go unnoticed to us. The Paddy’s day gig in Dalston was wonderful because it was built from the ground up, involving the Hackney Irish Social Club and ex-pats alike. People came together; a truly great day, and Ireland won the 6 nations! We were lucky to have great experiences in Whelans, and in Dalston, London. The best gig though was playing Toales in Dundalk. We hadn't played at home since 2010. We could finally showcase Bold Things music at home, and be able to go home afterwards!!! Between Ireland and the UK, 2014 has allowed us to meet our friends. 

Remy: Stepping back from Bold Things for a minute, it’s clear all four of you are very much into current music crossing a variety of genres, care to share some of your favourite albums that you’ve really enjoyed in 2014 (these can also be ones from previous years that were new discoveries)?

Ronan: My favourite album this year is St. Vincent: St. Vincent. What impressed me most with this album was that it bursts with amazing confidence and swagger. I recall first hearing it with my music on shuffle on a bus dosing off at some unearthly hour of the morning and 'Birth in Reverse' wastes absolutely no time in slapping you in the face, demanding your attention. "Take out the garbage, masturbate". Absolutely. I was struck with the brashness of it, especially her angular guitar playing. She has such a variety; her style clearly bears influence from jazz to prog rock to classic rock/heavy metal. This kind of makes it quite spontaneous and in effect liberating, which in previous albums was her heaviest criticism that each move seem to have been too pre-plotted, but I don't think this can be said about this album. The air of unpredictability is evident, she bursts on the scene with confidence but as you discover she counteracts this with extreme honest moments of lyrical self-deprecating vulnerability. Although she remains quite faithful to her earlier albums she brings so many new explosive elements to this. It's simply brilliant, for me this by far and away the best album of the year. A very brief mention for my second favourite release this year is Damon Albarn's Everyday Robots. This was my favourite album after St. Vincent's as he delves into his early life, discovering London in the early years of Blur. He always tells a story, but I haven't seen anything as biographical as this from him. It's Damon at his usual brilliant best. Deadly stuff. Other mentions this year for FKA Twigs, single 'Two Weeks' and Jessie Ware's Devotion.'

Ian 'Patsy': I’ve been listening to a lot of Mount Kimbie, Chelsea Wolfe and Julio Bashmore this year, but in terms of I reckon my favourite album this year is Todd Terje's It's Album Time or FKA Twiggs LP1…or Tim Hecker Virgins. I got lost in a pit of Sabbath, Stones and Zeppelin in May so I may have missed a bit! Haha!

Bold Things, 'Swallows End' *note, not the E.P. version

Remy: Irish people are hoors for slating their own musicians (I’ve been guilty of it myself), but I don’t think Bold Things are haters, are there any Irish acts from the last couple of years that really float your boat? 

Ian 'Patsy': I’m just a music hoor...haha. I’ve not been around much in terms of Irish music for a while now but every now and then I stumble across something I like. I’m a big Rejjie Snow fan, it’s great to see Ireland produce some genuinely good Hip Hop. He’s working with people like King Krule as well and creating some really interesting stuff, His Rejovich EP has been a mainstay on my iPod since last July. Personnel are an Irish electronic act that I like a lot, they’re on SoundCloud, really great tune! I’ve also been listening to Bleeding Heart Pigeons, the do really interesting ambient jazzy dancey loveliness. I believe they are from Limerick. Check out their performance on Other Voices on YouTube its really amazing stuff. Other than that I love And So I Watch You From Afar. They’re quality.

Ronan: Certainly are hoors for slating Remy! To be honest, same as Patsy, I haven't seen too many Irish acts in the last 2 years since making the move over the water, just been keeping track online. But there's one Irish act which stood out to me this year more than any other, I Am the Cosmos with their album Monochrome. Now anything with funk infused baselines and vibrant synth will probably do it for me but there's something wholesome about this album. It's full of sultry beats overlaid with melancholic synth as the vocals lay washed underneath some tracks drenched in reverb. The further you go into the album the more the vocals become prominent and give it another ambient layer. There’s an element of Animal Collective, CHVRCHES and little bit of Future Islands here but the album has a low-fi 80s synth production. As a whole the album kind of flows through rapidly with an exciting drive, it's a pretty comprehensive body of work. Doesn't feel like a collection of songs accumulated uncomfortably together, each one brilliantly compliments the next. I'm excited to see these folks live. Soon I hope.

Remy: Now that you’ve finished recording Colours To The Wall are you already thinking of more material for a second E.P. with a view to eventually making an album, or what’s the next step for the band?

Gavin: To be honest, we’re not thinking about albums or second EP’s at all at the moment. Colours to the Wall was a massive project for us, it demanded so much focus and we are just delighted to have it out 100% the way we wanted it. It feels like we've all done our leaving cert again kinda thing and we need to go sweat it out in Lanzorote, Ha Ha! The band is like a meeting point for our individual creativities. We’ve got a new geographical situation to navigate around now. We’ll see what those creativities amount to and what they point towards when we meet up for some sessions in early 2015 with our band hats on and sun kissed faces. 

Jim presses the 'Delete All Band' button at Whelans, June, 2014

Remy: Jim and Gavin, you both share the vocal responsibilities on a lot of tracks, have the two of you ever fallen out over a head to head on Singstar or in a karaoke club?

Jim: Ha. I don't think we've ever indulged in any Singstar activity. It's funny, we kind of started off singing at the same time and learned as we went. Gav was the first person I let rip vocally in front of. We've heard each other try a lot of different things. We inadvertently emulated the people we were listening to across the years. His deeper range and my higher range have grown together; we always work it out. The best ideas win out. Vocal intent and lyrical content mean a hell of a lot to the 2 of us, and I can safely say that we work.

Gav: Ha Ha, no not yet but there’s always time for that. The only thing we argue about is fluffy nonsense like what particular shade of blue we should paint my bass drum skin before a gig. But sure we’ll have that! We’ve been best friends since we were 8 and been making music together since we were 12. I can safely say that we know each other’s vocal strengths and weaknesses well by this stage. The sharing of vocal duties sorts itself out, it’s always very clear to us what voice suits what line.

Remy: Ronan, you seem to be far more refined than some of the other band members when it comes to social media, which of the others would you send to seek counselling for online addiction?

Ronan: I'm probably the most refined when it comes to Facebook anyway. My feed is usually taken up by suggestions more so than actual updates from my friends. Just things Facebook think I might like or a video that someone I haven't spoken to in about 6 years has liked from the LAD Bible. So I don't pay as much attention to it as I used to. I use the FB messenger mostly to keep in contact with friends. My posts are usually saved for good art, a Bold Things update, Dundalk winning the league or the occasionally hilarious cat video. 
I like Instagram but my photos usually aren't cool enough for it. I'm more a Twitter man, I feel I've marginally more control over my feed on this than others. I actually find it a brilliant source of news too. It's the future this tweeting thing.

Remy: Finally, Ian, as a fellow Liverpool fan that was some roller-coaster last season, what the hell is going on this year? How much longer would you give Big Brendan? 

Ian 'Patsy': Too many new players and not enough planning, Sturridge being out and Gerrard being past it...I think Rogers will survive, missing last season and losing Suarez has messed up their heads. And Mingolet is terrible. All I know is I’m not looking forward to next weekend...I work beside Old Trafford and they all know I’m a Pool fan!! 

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