Wednesday, 30 April 2014

New Irish Music - Debut Album from Big September

Big September, 'The Righteous Way'

Info: I'll keep this brief as I think the interview provided gives a great insight to who Big September are and where they're coming from, a few keywords from the interview that regulars to the blog will identify with through myself are vinyl, Rory Gallagher and Britpop, if I hadn't heard their music yet I'd like these guys already!

Who are they? Big September are 5 school friends from Wicklow whose passion for music helped them focus on a single goal of aspiring to create great songs that would be capable of sweeping a live audience into their trance, and are on track to succeed in this venture. They have previously supported SoCoDu's finest, The Republic of Loose, Paddy Casey and Royseven among others, and have also caught the attention of the Irish music bible Hot Press. 

What's Happening? In a nutshell, Big September's debut album, 'Ballroom Addicts' will be released next month on the 9th of May and followed up with an album launch in The Academy on Saturday the 17th of May. 

What's their sound? A starting point would be indie rock, however, having listened to the album a few times now there are significant elements of their sound that pre-date the term. There are also moments of folk, which makes sense when the band explain all of their songs were initially written from acoustic guitar. It's very difficult to not see Big September becoming hugely successful, the album is infectiously catchy and from my own point of view many tracks meld 80's / 90's and noughties rock with great results. It's a cliché but sometimes clichés are appropriate, you will be hearing more and more about Big September. 

So, on we go to the interview, and a special thanks to the band for taking the time to respond to the questions, in particular Naylor, and it would be negligent of me not to mention Claire for coming up with the idea, thanks Claire! Finally, I have to agree with the band that there are a lot of extremely gifted Irish musicians and acts out there that don't get the exposure they deserve, there is at least one Irish band that each of us haven't heard of that's better than some of what we're listening to at the moment, worth bearing in mind.

Big September are, frontman Scotty O'Neill, Dave Butler on guitar / vocals, Cillian Duane (lead guitar - Rory Gallagher link explained), Dan Smith on drums and bass-player / media rep. Graham 'Naylor' O'Neill and song-writing.

(Note: Click on images to enlarge)

For more info and tour dates / latest news, click here

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Monday, 28 April 2014

Style Wars (1983)

Style Wars, trailer

Year: 1983
Director: Tony Silver
Runtime: 69 mins

Synopsis: Rock the mic, rock your body, rock the city. Style Wars is not, as one might assume from the title, a documentary on high-end catwalk fashion, in fact, it couldn't be further from that world. The film explores New York street culture in the early 1980's through three mediums, primarily graffiti art, break-dancing, and to a lesser extent, hip-hop and rap music. It also covers the ongoing battle between it's main protagonists, working class New York teens from the various boroughs, and the combined efforts of the mayor's office and the New York City Transit Police Department to stop what is known on the street as 'bombing', putting up your art quickly, and getting out without being noticed. 

Style Wars has all of the elements of a great documentary. Director Tony Silver sheds light on an untold story, with interesting real-life characters, gritty cinematography and a superbly mixed soundtrack of rap and foreboding classical music. The young graffiti artists and break-dancers defy stereotypes, explaining articulately why they do what they do and detailing their various styles and their evolution over the years. Interviews with the public and authorities leave you with no doubt the majority of people in New York view the graffiti itself as unsightly and there is an appetite to punish these 'offenders' accordingly. You very much feel drawn to the young people in this story, and it's hard not to admire their thoughtfulness and organisation when observing how they channel their creative talents into each of the mediums previously mentioned. 

There is definitely a distinct difference in watching Style Wars today as opposed to when it was released back in 1983. There's obviously a bit of 80's nostalgia, the music, the scenery (evoking memories of countless movies based in the city during the era) and the clothing, but you also feel a certain sense of loss. This period, as described on the specially set up website (to get funding for a restoration of the documentary), ' regarded as the indispensable document of NY street culture and subway graffiti art of the early '80s, the filmic record of a golden age of youthful creativity that exploded into the world from a city in crisis.' It is in some ways sad that this culture was so fleeting and no longer exists, and indeed, specifically with regard to graffiti art, possibly never can again when you think of the level of security and swathe of CCTV in modern cities today. It brings to mind the old adage, 'You don't know what you have until it's gone', and this brings me to the final part of why this documentary was so important, we now at least have a record of that brief moment in time, something that should always be to the forefront of the documentary film-makers mind when seeking out a unique subject matter.

Style Wars is an engrossing and superbly made documentary which I highly recommend, it's one of the most enjoyable ones I've seen in quite a while, good news is that you can watch it for free on Youtube below, so get out your sweatbands and Adidas gear and get watching! 

Style Wars, Full Documentary

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Late 80's / Early 90's Rap & Hip-Hop, A Playlist

Below is a quick list of 10 tracks by artists from the late 1980's and early 1990's you may not have heard of, one thing I can guarantee you is that these tracks are all doooooooope. Be sure to add them to your Spotify, Deezer, or whatever music App you use, check it:

1) Geto Boys - 'Mind Playin' Tricks On Me'

Album: We Can't Be Stopped (1991)
From: Houston, Texas, USA

2) Main Source - 'Watch Roger Do His Thing'

Album: Breaking Atoms (1991)
From: Queens, New York, USA

3) Lords of the Underground - 'Chief Rocka'

Album: Here Comes The Lords (1993)
From: Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

4) The Pharcyde - 'Passin' Me By'

Album: Bizarre Ride II (1992)
From: Los Angeles, USA

5) Boogie Down Productions - 'My Philosophy'

Album: By All Means Necessary (1988)
From: Bronx, New York, USA

6) Black Moon - 'Buck Em Down'

Album: Enta Da Stage (1993)
From: Brooklyn, New York, USA

7) Ultramagnetic MCs - 'Ease Back'

Album: Critical Breakdown (1988)
From: Bronx, New York, USA

8) Kool G Rap and DJ Polo - 'Streets of New York'

Album: Wanted: Dead or Alive (1990)
From: Queens, New York, USA

9) Marley Marl - 'The Symphony'

Album: In Control (Vol.I) (1988)
From: Queens, New York, USA

10) Big Daddy Kane - 'Ain't No Half Steppin''

Album: Long Live The Kane (1988)
From: Brooklyn, New York, USA

Monday, 21 April 2014

Cormac O'Caoimh - 'The Moon Loses It's Memory'

Cormac O'Caoimh, 'Basement'

Info: Cormac O'Caoimh is a classical guitarist from Cork who released his debut album, Stark A Spark in 2007, and his music has been widely described as acoustic indie-pop, but I would deem that too narrow a description after listening to his upcoming new album, The Moon Loses It's Memory. O'Caoimh's dexterity on his Godin acoustic guitars certainly exhibit his classical background and often beautifully drift into high-tempo Spanish guitar reminiscent of Andalucian maestro Pepe Romero, in particular on the track 'Burning Coal' which will appear toward the end of the new album.

One of the most appealing things I found about O'Caoimh's music was the broad styles that somehow manage to fit together. At times the songs, such as the catchy 'Yellow Crumbs', sound like a mix of Belle & Sebastian and Bert Jansch, yet on other tracks such as 'Basement' (above) it sounds like the product of Genesis duo Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel collaborating on a duet. At other times you can picture O'Caoimh in a smoky jazz club, add into that his soulful and warm vocals and you end up with plenty to keep you interested. 

Cormac O'Caoimh, 'Maze of Your Heart'

Having supported the likes of Damien's Rice & Dempsey, Declan O'Rourke and Mark Geary, O'Caoimh is no stranger to the Irish music scene, he also counts among his fans Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith and Hothouse Flowers guitarist, Fiachtna Ó Braonáin. The Moon Loses It's Memory is due for release this summer around June / July and I get the impression it is an album that will accompany me on my travels in the future, given it's uplifitng and strong pop-folk vibe. Check out more of Cormac's music on his Bandcamp page below and as I always ask, if you can, give a brother a Like or a Follow on the usual social media platforms!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Record Store Day 2014

Vinyl hunter frenzy, 40% off all records
 in the newly opened HMV on Grafton Street today

I'm not long back from my first Record Store Day experience and I'm very pleased with my purchases, most record shops opened at 8am, with Tower Records even providing espressos and finger-food for punters queuing for the shop to open. My diligence didn't stretch that far though and I made my way in just after 10am, slightly worried there would be nothing decent left, but thankfully I wasn't disappointed.

In a nutshell, Record Store Day is on the third Saturday of April each year and began in 2007 to celebrate the culture of the independent music store. It's popularity has grown rapidly and the main staple of the day is limited edition releases on both vinyl and CD, there were 10 limited releases in it's first year but this has grown into the hundreds now. Each year has a different ambassador for the occasion which have included Metallica, Ozzy Osborne, Josh Homme from Queens of The Stone Age, Iggy Pop, Jack White, and this year, Chuck D from Public Enemy. Another great feature of the day is the live acts performing in the record shops, with Conor O'Brien from Villagers due in Tower later this afternoon, at 4pm

Tower Records, Dawson St., my lovely assistant in pink,
it was elbows out & survival of the quickest in there

One of the slightly disappointing sides of Record Store Day is people deliberately buying up extra copies of records with the sole intention of going straight home and charging multiple times the price on eBay or I suppose they are being entrepreneurial in one sense and that's the nature of the beast when you're dealing with limited quantities, but vinyl can be expensive enough as it is, I've even seen some of the records I bought this morning on eBay already for 4 times what I paid for it. 

This has been a growing concern around RSD, that it's becoming an opportunity for both record labels and the aforementioned sneaks to take advantage of the average punter. It's almost inevitable and unavoidable though, anything which grows with success and time will be subject to such drawbacks, having said that, for the time being it's still nice to see a very busy day in the smaller record shops once a year and to go home with a bag full of good records.

Some of today's purchases, Pixies, John Grant, 
Sam Cooke, The Yardbirds & Richard Hawley

Well, that's pretty much it, I spent enough time waffling about records in my previous post so I'll just leave you with a video of one of the above spinning on the record player and a photo or two, in the meantime, I'm off to sell one of my kidneys.

Sam Cooke, 'A Change Is Gonna Come'

Meself havin' an auld browse in Tower Records

Spindizzy Records in George's Arcade this morning

Outisde Spindizzy Records

Friday, 18 April 2014

What's The Deal With Vinyl Anyway?

Tomorrow is Record Store Day, April 19th, so what? I’ll get to that, but first of all it’s pointless without background, and I’ll bring it to the most basic level, and keep it brief.

It all started with the gramophone record, an analog medium of recording music, which begins from the periphery of the disc, and finishes at the centre with three different widths, 12” which is normally an entire album or LP (long play) (but can be an elongated single), a 10” which is generally an E.P. (extended play) and finally a 7”, a single, or a 45 (which relates to it’s revolutions per minute). 

Thomas Edison, Washington, D.C., April, 1878

How is it made? You may have heard of Thomas Edison, who invented the first motion picture camera, and developed the light-bulb in it’s present glory, well he also invented the phonograph, or the recording of sound on a lacquer (wax) vinyl. According to the Gramophone Guild website ‘A vinyl gramophone or phonograph record consists of a disc of polyvinyl chloride plastic, engraved on both sides with a single concentric spiral groove in which a sapphire or diamond needle, stylus, is intended to run, from the outside edge towards the centre’.

A modern example of vinyl being engraved, Beck's 'Morning Phase', 2014

Let’s cut to the chase, with digital music and CD’s, what’s the point in vinyl? Isn’t it impractical and just for hipsters who will gravitate towards anything that is old or ‘different’ just so they can be, ‘different’?  The answer to this question is Yes, and No.

Yes, because you will always have hipsters in any decade, any century, and any millennium, they have been around since Roman times probably, they were the guys who were wearing sarongs when everyone else was wearing togas, or baseball caps when everyone else was wearing laurels. No because, despite hipsters, there are people who enjoy vinyl records more than their modern counterparts for purely practical reasons, and yes, one of the overriding reasons is nostalgic, but let’s deal with them one by one.

The vinyl record is the oldest medium of recording music, it was followed by 8-tracks, cassettes, CD’s, mini-discs, and eventually digital mp3’/ flac’s. Out of the older mediums, 8-tracks, cassettes & mini-discs are all dead, and if you left a bunch of 20 of your least favourite CD’s on the side of the road, nobody would pick them up, CD’s get scratched easily, skip, and look like office stationary. Digital music is a wonder, it’s portable, transferable over multiple devices and you can send your favourite song to a friend within seconds, for free. So why is the oldest medium, still relevant, where later ones, but not all, have failed? 

1) Possibly the most callous reason, is that vinyl records, purely because of the old economic adage, supply and demand, appreciate in value & remain popular, yet hard to obtain. For example, in the 1990’s, when the CD first came out, it was heralded as the new dawn of music listening, high quality stereo audio on a, well, compact disc. As a result, for the first time ever, vinyl production dropped dramatically in comparison to the 50’s / 60’s / 70’s and 80’s. As a result, you could be paying €100 plus for an Oasis album on vinyl, which you could get for a fiver on CD, or, for some other artists, well over €200.

Oasis, What's The Story Morning Glory, currently selling for £89.99 sterling on the 18th of April, 2014 on eBay

2) Vinyl doesn’t have a remote control, what does that mean? With CD’s and .mp3’s etc. on laptops, we can skip songs in an instant on albums, ‘I love the opening 3 tracks, but I could care less for tracks 4-7, and then there’s a strong finish, apart from track 11’, sometimes this attitude is justified, but sometimes are we being impatient? We do live in a world of instant gratification, we have no patience, maybe amongst the tracks we skip so readily, there could have been a favourite song, we’ll never know. With a vinyl record you are, and it sounds like the wrong word, but, ‘forced’ to listen to an album in it’s entirety, how it was meant to be listened to by the band or artist, of course you can get up off your arse and move the needle to the next track, but, as a downside, it’s a bit laborious. 

3) Finally there is aesthetics, if you are lucky enough to get a reasonably priced first press (that’s a record that is the original from the year it was released) you are going to be able to hear the album as it was heard by say, a teenager in the 1960’s etc.). I’m very lucky to have first press copies of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan and many others. For me, this is a unique experience. A teenager or an adult originally bought the album, a week after it was released, and went to their bedroom, and played it, in the 60’s, 70’s and so forth, and I’m hearing the album just as they heard it. Not on CD or .mp3, but I have in my hands the record that some kid bought back then, there’s an authenticity about that, a snapshot of the past, an original piece of music history, that I now possess, romantic? Yes, rewarding, most definitely.

Tower Records, April, 2014

There has been a massive revival in vinyl over the last 10 years, for the first time, teenagers who did not grow up with record players in their homesteads are buying records, and almost the entire upstairs of the newly opened Tower Records on Dawson Street is dedicated to vinyl alone, the Stairway To Heaven. If you have a pair of speakers at home, you can buy a record-player with radio for only €80

But let’s be honest, at the end of the day, is a vinyl record better than a CD, 320kpbs, .mp3 or similar Flac file? We often hear vinyl junkies claiming that vinyl sounds better than any other format, but where’s the evidence? There are conflicting results. I always go with the science bit, and here it generally agrees with me, but, having said that, I also think a high-quality digital version of a song or album through decent headphones is better, and that’s hard for me to admit! Either way, ask your parents what records they might have laying around in their living-room or attic, you could be sitting on a fortune, musically. Here's Pitchfork (No) vs. Science (Maybe / Yes) in the links below, make up your own minds!

*Record Store Day article to follow in 24 hours!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

New Irish Music - Join Me In The Pines (w.Dave Geraghty, Bell X-1)

Join Me In The Pines, 'Golden Guilt'

Info: As a big fan of Bell X-1 over the years, and indeed Juniper before them, it's exciting to see guitarist Dave Geraghty embark on his new solo project, performing as Join Me In The Pines. Geraghty had two previous solo albums, 2007's Kill Your Darlings and in 2009, The Victory Dance, the name change comes about as Geraghty seeks to evoke a place for his music to rest as he explains, 'instead of it being anchored to reality by a person's name'.

The two tracks I have heard so far, 'Golden Guilt' (above) and 'Joy Is A Lion' have a beautiful country folk feel to them, with a recurring theme of optimism and ponderous lyrics, it's hard not to imagine Geraghty sitting on a porch in the American countryside penning his songs on a banjo!

Join Me In The Pines' first ever Dublin performance is tomorrow night, Friday 11th of April, in the Unitarian Church on Stephen's Green, a wonderful venue which promises an intriguing occasion for all who will be in attendance. 
Doors are at 8.30pm, and tickets are only €15, but move fast as the Cork show sold out last Friday, available at Thanks to my favourite people in the world at I will be heading along to the show myself and I'm really looking forward to a completely different live experience from Dave and his band. For more information on Join Me In The Pines head over to the website, in the meantime, just for old times sake, let's see where it all started!

Juniper, 'Weatherman'

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Under The Skin (2014)

Under The Skin - Scarlett Johansson

Under The Skin, trailer

Genre: Sci-fi of sorts
Starring: Scarlett Johansson
Director: Jonathan Glazer
IMDB Rating: 7.2/10
My Rating: 8.5/10
Runtime: 108 mins

Synopsis: An alien temptress seduces men into her nest, making their skin slip off as easily as their clothes.

Under the Skin is one of those films which will have people divided. It answers questions with more questions and doesn’t leave you feeling gratified. It does however offer you a sensory experience like no other. 

Reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey, the film opens with unusual imagery of another dimension accompanied by a remarkably unsettling score. We move from outer space to what could be the inside of a human eye and find ourselves in a blank canvass with two naked Scarlett Johansson’s... From there the story follows Scarlett as she drives around Glasgow picking men up in her van and luring them into her hive. The alien’s lair is a dark void and Scarlett is like a praying mantis, holding her victims in a trance as she removes her clothes and leads them into a mysterious goo. The master-plan isn’t clear and we’re left counting up the possibilities. Answers are seldom gratifying in the sci-fi genre and Under the Skin isn’t afraid to wander. One could tear the film apart and say that nothing happens and that the film doesn’t mean anything but that would be cynical. Why not allow yourself into its charm and formulate your own theories on where or what it could be?

The cinematography in the film is diverse. Peculiar patterns layer into shapes as the lens draws closer and closer. We often stray into the otherworld before arriving back at Scarlett’s side. Mixed with this beautiful artistry is a documentary aesthetic showing the gritty side of Glasgow. Shots of the main street, Celtic supporters and hen parties give the city a sprawling effect, like insects multiplying. The supporting cast are all unknown local actors that could be easily passed by on the street. There’s nothing sugar-coated about them and even Scarlett’s attire is inelegant and transparent.    

I have to congratulate the production team for not straying into a Hollywood aesthetic and making Scarlett look better than ever. Under the Skin is an unusual film that will linger in my thoughts for a long long time.

- by Gavin Fitzgerald

Friday, 4 April 2014

New Irish Music - The Journals E.P. Release

(photo courtesy of Dom Marceleno Photography**)

 The Journals, 'Part II'

Info: Dublin band The Journals describe their sound as an indie / shoe gaze hybrid, this is a good starting point when listening to their music for the first time, but what struck me after multiple listens was how the tracks sprawl out across even more genres, strong elements of folk and an undertone of hard rock get thrown into the mix with beautiful results. Usually a band will have some obvious reference points, ones you might identify straight away, and initially tracks can become hard to distinguish, but with The Journals I'm getting a more rewarding experience. 

Last night I listened to the 5 tracks on the E.P. straight through, and then straight through again and struggled to pin down who they sound like. On their BreakingTunes page (see link below) they outline their influences as Bon Iver, Beach House, Elliott Smith, Pixies, Warpaint and Jeff Buckley, in addition I would be adding fellow Dubliners Future Kings of Spain, Danish alt-rockers Mew and at times Band of Horses. There is definitely a strong early 90's rock feel to many of the songs as well, complimented by the energetic drumming of Alex Cummins, guitarist John McDowell's powerful riffs and Niall Thornton's crisp bass lines keeping each track centred. 

The Journals, 'Move Away'

The first track on the E.P., 'Part II', is instantly attention grabbing, the morose guitar and bass introduction provide the backing to at first sad vocals from front man, Ollie Moyles which elevate to an uplifting finale. Second track 'Creatures' is probably the closest nod to Jeff Buckley, reminiscent of 'Nightmares By The Sea' & 'Yard of Blonde Girls' from Sketches... while retaining an original feel. 'Evil Man' & 'Blankets' are where the folk attributes come in and approach a softer sound with some wonderful guitar-picking, and great vocal harmonies across both songs, there's a hint of Fleet Foxes in the latter track especially. Finally probably the catchiest tune of the lot is fourth track 'Moving Away', funky riffs and bass with a euphoric chorus this is a serious head bopper.

In conclusion, yet another very talented Irish act, both musically and lyrically, The Journals are well polished and have combined all of their influences and then some into this audio treat, and I'm not saying that because I personally find their sound particularly appealing, the quality is there to be heard. You can listen to the entire E.P. above in the SoundCloud segment, or even better, check them out at the venues below, starting with next Friday, 11th of April downstairs in Whelans on Wexford Street, you won't be disappointed.

Live shows:

Friday, 11th April, Whelans, Wexford Street, Dublin 2.
Sunday, 27th April, Sweeney's (upstairs), Dame Street, Dublin 2.
Friday, 13th June, The Grand Social (with Heroes in Hiding), Lwr. Liffey St., Dublin 1.

Further info:
Follow on Twitter @The_Journals

** Photos courtesy of Dom Marceleno Photography. Check out the following link to see more great photos of Dublin’s music scene

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Mac DeMarco - Salad Days (2014)

Mac DeMarco, 'Blue Boy'

Info: Canadian and Brooklyn resident Mac DeMarco releases his second album, Salad Days as a follow up to his 2012, critically acclaimed debut 2. DeMarco is the son of an opera singing mother and grandson of a jazz playing grandfather, but it wasn't until the age of 14 that he took a keen interest in music, and quickly realised he had a talent and love for song-writing. Whilst he seemed to revel in the bemusement that greeted his bizarre live shows, at which the audience came to expect flashes of nudity and other strange behaviour, his second album sees him facing increased attention from the music world and a shuffle toward seriousness is reflected as a result. Whilst NME and Pitchfork both poured praise on his first album (Pitchfork put it in their Top 50 for 2013) others, including The Guardian acknowledged his undoubted talent but felt there were certain elements missing. 

DeMarco is certainly a playful eccentric, his devil may care physical appearance and lifestyle (he lives in a small box-room apartment on the periphery of Brooklyn, one bemused journalist described lit scented candles on a visit desperately trying to hide the stench of cigarette smoke) are well known at this stage and it will be interesting to see how he copes with international recognition that is sure to follow the release of Salad Days. Hopefully his persona will be enough to avoid him deviating from what has so far been a winning formula, in the words of the man himself; "Knowing that people are expecting something is just going to drive you insane. That was part of the record, finding a way to have fun with it again, pushing all that bullshit to the side, because if you go into it thinking, 'I've got to make something better than my last one', or, 'I've got to please these people' – fuck that, what's the point of doing it in the first place?"

How to describe his music? Well, it's certainly in the jangle pop genre, reminiscent of 80's & 90's acts such as The Cure, The Smiths, The Lemonheads and the first one that struck me, the brilliant Birmingham band, Felt. One distinct difference however is while the aforementioned mostly had a serious tone and dry humour, DeMarco's music is more relaxed and upbeat, that's not to say it's entirely positive in tone, it does have some more serious themes. On the first single, 'Passing Out Pieces' he seems to question his past and the consequences his actions might have had, but ultimately concludes that that's life; 

Watching my life, passing right in front of my eyes
Hell of a story, oh is it boring?
Can’t claim to care, never been reluctant to share
Passing out pieces of me, don’t you know nothing comes free?

What mom don’t know has taken its toll on me
It’s all I’ve seen that can’t be wiped clean
It’s hard to believe what it’s made of me


In addition to 'Passing Out Pieces' the two openers are wonderful, 'Salad Days' and second track 'Blue Boy' (above video) get lodged in your head after one listen. 'Chamber of Reflection', the ninth track is also a stand out, all in all it's difficult to not see Salad Days doing well, and it's hazy, summery vibe has come along just in the nick of time. If I was to give it a rating I'd go for 3.5/5, but it smells like a grower. At present there appears to be no Dublin tour dates, only U.K. and Western Europe, but if you like the above tracks, I highly recommend checking out 'Ode To Viceroy' and 'My Kind of Lady' from his first album.

Salad Days is out today, 1st of April (no, really, it is)