Wednesday, 30 July 2014

New Irish Music - Here To Help You Out, Single 'Lullaby'

Photo by: Laura Ní Dhubhghaill

Info: Sometimes I wish I had a lot more time to listen to, and discover, breaking Irish music, because, as I've stated previously, and I can't emphasise it enough, there is so much out there that is worthy of far greater attention than it receives, and that includes Dublin 5-piece, Here To Help You Out. Musically they remind me a lot of instrumentalists The Bambi Molesters but the whole package reminds me of a more rustic and brighter Speck Mountain. Here To Help You Out's debut single 'Lullaby' does exactly what it says on the tin, balmy vocals and harmonies, light percussion and a solid rhythm put you on your back and floating slowly downstream. I'm also a sucker for strings and we get some lovely violin on b-side 'Nowhere To Be' which, combined with lead-singer Louise O'Hanlon's crisp and eerie vocals stop just short of crossing over to the dark side of the mood. Here To Help You Out have all the tools at their disposal, and song-writing ability, to make you impatient for a full album release in the future, but in a strange way have me looking further beyond that to see how they would progress, I can certainly imagine the existing format and sound evolving into something even more enchanting and special. In the meantime, I'm off on holiday next week, and these two tracks will be accompanying me.

Here To Help You Out, 'Lullaby'

Bio: Here To Help You Out began its life as a recording project for fun between singer Louise O’Hanlon and Guitarist/recording enthusiast Shane O’Neill. After a few writing and recording sessions, the pair realised they had enough material to put together an EP, originally just intended for friends and family. Upon hearing the EP, said friends and family encouraged the pair to play some gigs. Bolstered by said encouragement, they set about recruiting some friends to fill out the full five-piece line-up and thus the band was born.

They have since gone on to write new material, record and release their first single and play their first full-band headline gig. The band's sound has been described as hauntingly atmospheric pop songs with a strong melodic centre that are occasionally punctuated with outbursts of ugliness.

Here To Help You Out, 'Nowhere To Be'

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Sunday, 27 July 2014

10 Acts To Catch At Electric Picnic, 2014, Part 1

Yes, it's still over a month away, but now is the time to do some audio homework and check out some of the slightly lesser known acts, to the pure obscure before heading off to Electric Picnic, 2014. I'll skip over the main head-liners such as Beck, Portishead, Outkast, Chic etc. and start with 5 pretty well-known acts in Part 1 and then some more obscure ones in Part 2, the type of bands you could feasibly wind up in front of when you've been separated from the herd and had one too many, but may end up being pleasantly surprised at.

1) Mogwai - Probably the best known of this first tranche of bands. Having seen the Glaswegian post-rockers on numerous occasions, including live at Witness in 2003, I can vouch for their unique performances and they're also a group who play a great spread of tracks from their discography. The fact that they've recently re-released 1999's excellent Come On Die Young will also hopefully influence their playlist.

Mogwai - 'Hunted By A Freak'

Albums to check out: Mogwai Young Team (1997), Come On Die Young (1999), EP+6 (1999), Happy Songs For Happy People (2003)

2) White Denim - Upon first listen to a White Denim album the initial feeling is, these guys are doing something tried and tested with a little added quirkiness, why should I bother? Their debut album, Workout Holiday, was probably one of the last gambles I took when buying a cd, nowadays you have your SoundCloud and your YouTube to have a little dabble before making a commitment. I was not disappointed, in fact I'm fairly sure I murdered that album to death, it was a hectic, crazy and addictive 36-odd minutes of garage-rock in some ways Weezer and Pavement inspired, and in other ways, inexplicable. I do wonder how their music might sound live so it could be a little bit risky, but you could also probably do worse, having said that, their 6 studio albums have all been generally well received.

White Denim, 'Let's Talk About It'

Albums to check out: Workout Holiday (2008), Fits (2009), D (2011) 

3) Twin Shadow - real name George Lewis Jr., born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Florida, he has the whole package, velvet vocals, rock icon look and he is blatantly talented. Another one I've seen live, this time at Crawdaddy in 2011 following the release of his debut, Forget, and it was an excellent performance. Twin Shadow will be an act you'll definitely get away with not having heard any of his music, and can just turn up and enjoy the show and songs, put this one down as a dead cert. Funky, Prince-esque with a dash of Morrissey.

Zead's Dead & Twin Shadow, 'Lost You'

Albums to check out: Forget (2010), Confess (2012)

4) SBTRKT - Aaron Jerome smashed it with his self-titled debut album in 2011, following on from remixes of music by the likes of M.I.A., Radiohead, Basement Jaxx and Underworld. The dub-step maestro prefers to remain anonymous and let his music do the talking, but who cares why he does it, it's all great, personally I'm dying for his second album, Wonder Where We Land, to come out on the 22nd September, no doubt there'll be a good dose of it played at the Picnic. Of all the acts in this list, I would be prioritising seeing SBTRKT. 

SBTRKT, 'Kyoto' from Transitions II E.P.

Albums to check out:  Fact Magazine Mix 66 (2009) & SBTRKT (2011)

5) Temples - Kettering band Temples are essentially a 60's psychedelic rock band, think Electric Prunes or Strawberry Alarm Clock with the latest version of Pledge polish and you'll get the idea. Temples have become something of a curio since they released their debut single, 'Shelter Song' back in 2012. Since then and up until the release of their first album Sun Structures, they've had plaudits from Johnny Marr and Noel Gallagher and supported Suede and The Rolling Stones, and their tiny vinyl catalogue is already going for insane amounts of money online for some reason. Temples will either live up to the hype or fail spectacularly, worth going to see more for the strangeness that surrounds them and their inoffensive jangly-guitar songs which are actually very catchy. These guys could be your 'Let's sit down here on the grass and have a beer and a catch-up' band. I would certainly go along for a couple of songs at least, personally, just to find out if they're actually trolling us.

Temples, 'Shelter Song'

Albums to check out: Sun Structures (2014)

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

10 Scandinavian Artists From The Last 15 Years

The following list contains well known acts and some you may not have heard of, and I'm pretty sure I may have overlooked a good few as nationality isn't something I dwell on with regard to bands and solo artists, besides, their English (when used) is usually better than our own so it can be hard to distinguish them from American / UK and Oceanic artists at the best of times! One common theme they all have though is that they're pretty bloody good, which isn't surprising as the Nordic countries have a proud tradition of creating great music, remember Ace of Base? 

*I'd love it if anyone could recommend any other albums in the comments below, or on the Facebook page as well.

1) Sigur Rós - Reykjavik, Iceland

My own personal favourite, hearing 1999's Ágætis byrjun for the first time was a mind-blowing experience, it was like an acid trip in Middle Earth, never has the word ethereal been more suited to an album, haunting vocals in Hopelandic, an amalgamation of Icelandic and an invented pseudo-language by lead singer Jonsi (Volenska in Icelandic) combined with beautiful strings and haunting guitars, it's undoubtedly a masterpiece that has an assured place in the music history books. The below video for 'Svefn-g-englar' ('Sleeping Angels') featuring actors with Down's Syndrome is also very touching.

Sigur Rós - Agaetis Byrjun, 1999


Key Album(s) - Agaetis Byrjun (1999), ( ) (2002), Takk (2005), Kveikur (2013)

2) Röyksopp - Bergen, Norway

2001's Melody A.M. was an electro-pop delight and while subsequent albums never reached the same heights, they are still worth a listen, especially 2005's The Understanding. The album was loaded with hits such as 'Eple', 'Sparks', 'Remind Me' and 'Poor Leno', some of which heavily featured in advertising after the album's release, such as a UK T-Mobile ad featuring 'So Easy' and the experimental videos for the singles also received considerable airplay on MTV, boosting the albums popularity. The below video for 'Remind Me' is still intriguing 13 years later, I first saw it on a barge in Amsterdam, which made it extra special....

Röyksopp, Melody A.M., 2001

'Remind Me'

Key Album(s) - Melody A.M. (2001)

3) Kings of Convenience - Bergen, Norway

From the same neck of the woods as Röyksopp, and whilst officially still together, it's been 5 years sings Kings of Convenience released their last album, Declaration of Dependence. The folk pop duo of Eirik Glambek Boe and Erlend Oye are very reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel, soft, calming vocals and soothing acoustic guitar, a perfect example of which is the opening track, 'Homesick'. The  lyrics of the second track, 'Misread' are a fine example of Scandinavian dexterity of a language which is not their mother-tongue;

'How come no-one told me
All throughout history
The loneliest people
Were the ones who always spoke the truth
The ones who made a difference
By withstanding the indifference
I guess it's up to me now
Should I take that risk or just smile?'

Kings of Convenience, Riot On An Empty Street, 2004

'Cayman Islands'

Key Album(s) - Riot On An Empty Street (2004)

4) The Radio Dept., Malmo, Sweden

Inspired would be too strong a word, but The Radio Dept. are the band that got me thinking about how many good bands there are from the (European) northern hemisphere. I first came across them when going through lists of 'the best albums...' a few years ago and was very pleasantly surprised to find that they had two excellent albums, their debut, Lesser Matters (which just arrived in the post today from the States, hence the train of thought for this list, and 2010 release, Clinging to a Scheme, 23 songs across two albums and no duds, pretty impressive stuff. Once again, ridiculous mastery of the English language, writing better lyrics than most bands which are native speakers, we really need to start copying their educational system!

The Radio Dept., Clinging To A Scheme, 2010

'Heaven's On Fire'

Key Album(s) - Lesser Matters (2003), Clinging To A Scheme (2010)

5) Kent, Eskilstuna, Sweden

Shout out to Brian Healy for these guys, who had two remarkable albums in the late 90's, Isola and Hagnesta Hill. Best summed up as camp and kitsch indie-pop with more than a hint of punk, they remarkably released both albums bilingually with no difference between the tracks on each album other than the language. Still going, but no longer releasing English versions of their albums, the band's forte was their catchy sound and excellent lyrics, as comfortable with high-speed guitars as they are with lo-fi ballads.

Kent, Isola, 1997


Key Album(s) - Isola (1997), Hagnesta Hill (1999)

6) Peter, Bjorn & John - Stockholm, Sweden

Sell-outs! Sell-outs! Yes, P, B & J or their record company or both whored themselves out to advertisers following the release of Writer's Block in 2006, and they have never matched their song-writing since, on pretty non-descript follow-up albums, but Writer's Block was an album that went from 'These guys are kind of good' to mainstream popularity at a stellar pace, and it all comes down to the album's pop bliss at the end of the day. Funnily enough, considering the saturation of the well-known 'Young Folks', the other singles on the album were not that popular, and it was tracks that weren't released as singles such as the excellent and timeless 'Amsterdam' and 'Start To Melt' that grabbed fans.

Peter, Bjorn & John, Writer's Block, 2006


Key Album(s) - Um, the one above.

7) Todd Terje - Oslo, Norway

Look, Todd's just the man, from his excellent 80's remixes, collaboration with Bryan Ferry, this years piece of delectable audio that was It's Album Time, to his hair-raising set in The Button Factory a few months ago. I've praised him enough on Facebook and here so I'll leave it at that.

Todd Terje, It's Album Time, 2014

'Delorean Dynamite'

Key Album(s) - It's Album Time (2014), An Anthology: Weighed & Measured (2010)

8) Lykke Li - Ystad, Sweden

Lykke Li, excuse the pun, 'exploded on the scene', with 2008's Youth Novels and has since released two acclaimed albums which have seen her become an assured artist who is also one of my favourite female soloists of the last few years. She is a remix DJ's wet dream with her sultry vocals and fist-thumping choruses. Not that it matters, but she has managed to inhabit the side of the fence of respected musicians, whilst at the same time seeing her popularity transcend all branches of music fans from snobs, hipsters, casual listeners to chart fans, and she keeps nailing it with each record, up to and including this year's I Never Learn.

Lykke Li, Youth Novels, 2008

'I'm Good, I'm Gone'

Key Album(s) - Youth Novels (2008), Wounded Rhymes (2011)

9) Fever Ray - Stockholm, Sweden

Gothic electropop from Karin Dreijer who is also a member of The Knife, unfortunately in one sense, most well-known for the theme tune of the wonderful History Channel's Vikings TV series. Fever Ray's one and only self-titled album from 2009 is a haunting and very dark piece of music, tracks 'If I Had A Heart' and 'When I Grow Up' are easily the highlights of the album.

Fever Ray, Fever Ray, 2009

'If I Had A Heart'

Key Album(s) - Only one! So, Fever Ray (2009)

10) Trentemoller - Copenhagen, Denmark

Multi-instrumentalist DJ Anders Trentemoller's ambient techno sound is quite similar to Todd Terje at times but far more focused on a contemporary sound as opposed to Terje's mix of same and 80's synth electropop. Swinging from contemplative soft soundscapes to more beat driven remixes such as his collaboration with fellow Danes, Efterklang on 'Raincoats', his growing reputation has seen him work with the likes of Moby, Royksopp and the previously mentioned The Knife. 

 Trentemoller, 'The Last Resort', 2006

'Miss You'

Key Album(s) - The Last Resort (2006), Into The Great Wide Yonder (2011)

Friday, 4 July 2014

New Irish Music - The Daily Howl, Self-Titled E.P.

The Daily Howl, 'Hang It On A Hook'

Info: The Daily Howl are a roots / rock / pop group who are heavily influenced by Americana and blues, which is something incredibly refreshing with regard to the Irish music scene at the moment. There is a wealth of new talent and gifted bands at the minute, more than I can ever remember over the last twenty years, we are spoilt for choice. At times though there is over-reliance on indie / electronica and emulating British bands who have achieved great success, and that's to be expected, and not a bad thing, but it's nice to be able to dip into something that's grounded in genres which are not only a rarity at the moment, but always have been in Ireland, particularly blues.

The Daily Howl's debut E.P. opens with the catchy and melodic 'Hang It On A Hook' (above) which is reminiscent to my mind of a Bluetones / Belle & Sebastian country mash-up. The second track's intro and harmonies are a wonderful throw-back to The Dubliners' or Luke Kelly in a strange way, 'Haulin'' by name and nature has a pop / country feel, with it's marching band drumming and feel good guitar riff throughout. My personal favourite is the final track 'I Will Let You Down' which really captures what I think is the band's strength, fast-paced rhythm with nailed on harmonies, and toward the end of the track some excellent lead guitar which will hopefully feature more on future tracks, but that's just me being selfish. As I mentioned earlier it's great to see a new band inspired by genres that aren't commonly explored, as a big fan of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Marty Robbins, Neil Young and The Everley Brothers and contemporary bands like Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses, it will be interesting to see how The Daily Howl evolve, there's already plenty to suggest that they are on course to gain much wider public recognition.

The Daily Howl, 'I Will Let You Down'

Who are they? The Daily Howl are an energetic 5-piece Roots/Rock/Pop band from Wicklow with a passion for vocal harmony, a catchy chorus and infectious rhythm. A distinctive Americana & Blues influence is also evident in their sound and style. Having just recorded their debut EP, the band look forward to it's release on July 4th. They are, however, also writing and road testing material for their debut album which will be recorded in October/November in Serra Vista Studios, Portugal, with Morrissey's Musical Director, Boz Boorer. 

Where Can I See Them? After treading on the edges of the festival circuit last summer, playing a number of Arts Festivals, The Greystones Americana & Roots festival and the Jack of Diamonds Americana & Roots festival, this summer looks to be a breakthrough one for the band. Having so far been confirmed for a number of festivals including Castlepalooza and Light Colour Sound Kilkenny, more festival dates will be announced soon along with a nationwide tour surrounding the release of their debut EP.

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