Sunday, 30 November 2014

Album Review - Jack Jeffery, Enlightened Horizon

Jack Jeffery, 'Approaching the Starlight'

Info: When Virginian musician Jack Jeffery got in touch with his new album and cited The Alan Parsons Project, Pink Floyd and The Moody Blues as influences I was instantly curious, especially by The Alan Parsons mention. As a huge fan who has the first three amazing albums, Tales of Mystery & Imagination, I Robot and Pyramid on record I was really eager to hear what Jeffery had put together, and the results are pretty impressive. The opening track, 'Global Rise, Ancient Truth' starts off with an unmistakable APP bass-line and all the trappings of the science fiction landscape the London band created on their albums in the seventies. 'Melancholy Minstrel' also has a pretty British prog-rock feel about it, with Lennon-like vocals layered over Pink Floyd The Wall era guitars and drums. 'Memories of Tomorrow' (below) is the fourth track and it's psych sound is a real pleasure, along with some clean Dire Straits sounding guitar riffs (Brothers in Arms), it really could have made it's away onto any number of classic albums within the genre.

At the half-way point of the album we reach 'Approaching the Starlight' which is a truly impressive 6 minute long piece of music that slowly builds and to be honest, after only a listen or two, becomes very powerful. Like a mixed tribute to all of his influences the song goes through inter-linking phases, from it's initial 'scene from a cult sci-fi film', to the sinister drone of the electric guitar in the middle, before a breath-taking 80's rock climax, check it out for yourself up top. The following track 'Continuum' edges closer toward the modern era, it's an intense electronic ride, while 'Amazing Grace / Consequence of Love' enters the realms of a more grungy guitar-based sound. The album finishes strongly on 'Never Go Back To The Mountain', a folky orchestral ballad which, even at 8 minutes, doesn't get tired. Finally, 'Our Own Past' reaches back to the earlier decades once again, it's like a Bowie / Lennon collaboration, and maybe it's just the time of year, but feels very Christmas oriented for some reason, in a good way!

Jack Jeffery, 'Memories of Tomorrow'

Enlightened Horizon is undoubtedly the work of someone who is steeped in early progressive rock and experimental music, and, bar a few clues here and there, if someone had handed me this album without saying anything about it, I would have fully expected it to be a little-known gem from the mid to late 70's that had somehow passed me by. Jack Jeffery has made a stand-out psychedelic album and put every piece of it together immaculately, right, I'm off to check out his earlier stuff.

Additional Info: Enlightened Horizon is a follow-up to the critically-acclaimed 2012 release The Constant That Remains, and picks up where Constant left off to once again transport the listener on a journey through progressive and ambient soundscapes. 

Enlightened Horizon expands the musical palette and explores different styles and influences including progressive rock, electronica ("Global Rise, Ancient Truth," "Continuum," "Approaching the Starlight"), straight-ahead rock and roll ("Amazing Grace/The Consequence of Love"), classic progressive rock ("Our Own Past"), world music, and acoustic ("The Road That Never Ends"). Influences include Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons, The Moody Blues, The Beatles, Neil Young, and Kraftwerk.

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Irish Music - Tongue Bundle, 'Bungee Untold'

Info: Irish band Tongue Bundle are releasing their debut album on the 5th of December, called Bungee Untold, with the launch in Seomra Spraoi. They play an irreverent form of funk music, abrasive at times with an emphasis on humour and experimentation and are currently running a Fund:It campaign to raise money for a small European tour, with gigs planned in Berlin, Paris and London. We will also be doing an Irish tour mid December, playing in the Róisín Dubh in Galway, Caughlans in Cork, and also dates in Limerick and Belfast.

Bungee Untold is a manic album, like stepping inside the closed cell doors of a sanitorium and spending an evening with Franz Zappa, Madness and Parliament, you've been told you can leave whenever you want, but you're not sure if this is a lie or not. Massive amounts of 70's type funk abound with the wah-wahs and bass lines going into overdrive, not to mention the classic style backing vocals and there's a few hints of ska in there as well, such as the ninth track, 'Val Is Short for Val'. More contemporary influences might include Belle & Sebastian (see 'Legal Man' on the wonderfully endearing 'Tithead'!), Flaming Lips, Super Furry Animals. No less crazy, but a bit more mellow is the fourth track, 'Horsemeat Scandal' and 'That Is a Cheap Paste' toward the end of the album, on the latter the ska sound is quite strong, á la The Specials, and it's very enjoyable and merry. A favourite of mine is the fantastically named 'Docile Gimp', which reminds me of the opening theme to a 1970's cop tv show, or some scene with Steve McQueen in BullittBungee Untold is down-right cray-cray, feels very improvised and experimental, yet somehow in order, it's not too mental to put off the casual listener and the aforementioned musical styles it draws on will appeal greatly to lovers of 70's music as well as more modern oriented listeners. 

The album launches on the 5th of December, and you can support the band's Fund:It campaign by either clicking on the link in the opening paragraph, or below. If you want a taster of Tongue Bundle's sound, here's a really great track from their debut E.P., Salty Language called 'Schleepface', some motherfunky riffs in there.

Tongue Bundle, 'Schleepface'

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Saturday, 29 November 2014

Skeleton Farm, The Second Mouse Gets The Cheese, Album Review

Info: The debut album from Skeleton Farm, The Second Mouse Gets The Cheese is not for the feint-hearted, and the creeping intro on first track 'Where Have You Gone, Megabird?' sets an early tone for the ensuing chaos that is waiting to be unleashed on the listener. The cacophony of heavy guitars and doom-laden bass-lines, along with searing vocals continues into 'Shady Dealings', but we hear the first signs of what is coming up later on the album with a 2-second acoustic guitar progression. Respite is fully offered on the thoroughly enjoyable fifth track, 'Slow Boat to China', a laid back and easy going instrumental which morphs back into Skeleton Farm's trademark noise rock toward the final third of the song. Toward the end of the album we come across the punky, Sex Pistol-esque 'Ruysdelkaede', a reference to Amsterdam's Red Light District, which again explodes in sonic bursts, before being interrupted by another acoustic breakdown and finishing as it began. 

Along with 'Slow Boat to China' my favourite track on the album is the final one, 'Shegaze', the name gives obvious clues to what you can expect, and I really love the mix of distortion over sliding guitar riffs and the changes in tempo of the drumming, it's quite early Mogwai for me. The Second Mouse Gets The Cheese has a nice mix of short bursts of energy and longer instrumental numbers, the latter I prefer, but simply because I'm more accustomed to the type of sound on them than the heavier tracks, which others may enjoy more. Overall the band from Tulsa, Oklahoma, are tight and the record is a polished album which really benefits from their experimentation and free-form style throughout and you can also listen to the entire album below!

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Friday, 28 November 2014

Irish Music - Silverbacks, 'Fad 1995'

Silverbacks, 'Fad 1995'

Info: Dublin band Silverbacks are a few weeks away from releasing their second album, following 2013's Lotion (link to full album below), Hot Bath will be self-made by the as of now unsigned four piece, consisting of Dan (guitar, vocals), Kilian (guitar, vocals), Emma (bass, vocals) and Paul (drums, vocals). 'Fad 1995' is the first single from the new album and I found the 1995 part quite appropriate after listening to it for the first time it immediately reminded me of two great bands, who I still listen to a lot. First up, after the opening bars I came over a bit warm and fuzzy thinking of The American Analog Set (formed in '95), but not for long although there were little pieces here and there later in the song. 

There was also a strong feel of lo-fi indie gods Pavement and particularly around the time of their mid-90's (okay I'm pushing it a bit, 1997) album Brighten The Corners. Comparisons, as always, only tell you so much of the story, the thing I like about Silverbacks is that there is thought behind the lyrics, obviously I find the music itself most appealing given my tastes, and it's also nice to hear a band that, you would have to say when listening to a lot of the standard guitars and drums acts about, seem to be genuinely thinking of the music they're making and not what's going on around them. I'm quite keen on hearing the new album, and I have to add, that I'm quite fond of hearing certain accents coming through in songs, but that's me sharing too much, the rest all stands.

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Friday, 21 November 2014

Catmando, DROOL E.P.

Catmando, 'Recluse' (feat. Una Dunne)

Info: Catmando is the performance name of Derry native, Alexander Lindsay, who is getting ready to release his debut E.P., DROOL, with the first track, 'Recluse' available for free download (see below). The electronic artist lists some of his influences, which I personally find to be in very good taste, as Aphex Twin, Grimes, Mogwai and Beach House. The thing I liked most about the above track, well two things really, are the placing of guitar-playing to the forefront of the song, something you don't hear much on electronica lately, and it helps that it's a nice funky riff, the second thing is Una Dunne's vocals which add a welcome extra layer and could work well once again on a future album release down the road. 

Second track 'Neve' has a tinge of the Beach House's about it alright, but is also very chilled and spacey, you're drifting on your back to this one and I really liked the filtered vocal sample a lot. DROOL finishes up on 'Twinkle Toes' which has a very soundtrack feel to it in many ways, Twin Peaks or some little known 80's thriller gem. All in all a good release from Catmando, and it's encouraging to see such differentiation between songs on a 4-track recording, the spark is there, oh, and check out his great remix of Joanna Newsom's ''81'....

Catmando, 'Joanna Newsom '81 Remix'

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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

You Bred Raptors? - Album Release, Grant

You Bred Raptors? 'Ice Nine'

Info: Is string-rock a genre? Maybe it is now, New York band You Bred Raptors? mix alternative rock, heavy rock and classical music to wonderful effect, in some parts like Mogwai and in others like Dvorak with some dark thudding bass to give you something very unique. Their track 'Hazmat' (below, that fucking bass!) portrays a group of musicians who are able to think outside of the box and have been exposed to many different musical styles and influences. 'Boomerang' is also a fine example of the intensity that YBR bring to the table, very much a pace-setting track with rapid bass lines and feverish cello playing, and a quaint undercurrent of an old style traditional type of music. 

Later on the album 'Yad Vashem' is a contemplative and touching string and drum based song that is presumably an ode to Jerusalem's Holocaust Museum. Towards the very end 'Yukon' gets down and dirty and You Bred Raptors' inner rock takes over, guitars driven with intent interspersed with xylophonic jingle-jangles. Grant is very different to anything you might hear this year, and the protagonists involved seem to have a keen sense of how to make different great, intuitively. 

You Bred Raptors?, 'Hazmat', NYC Underground

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Oki's Wagon, New Single, Shake

Oki's Wagon, 'Shake'

Info: Dublin band Oki's Wagon combine blues, folk, country, jazz, and a bit of rockabilly to boot on their new single, 'Shake', which will be released tomorrow and will feature on their forthcoming album, A Curious Dose, which releases on the 10th of January. The band have already performed at Electric Picnic and one of my favourite events, The Jack of Diamonds Festival, and are regulars at Whelans, Sweeneys, The Workman's Club and The Mercantile. 

So to the music! Well, in addition to tomorrow's single I wanted to talk a bit about another track on Oki's Wagon's SoundCloud page, 'Bottom of the Stairs' as well, but first to 'Shake'. Singer Audrey Gleeson has a classic country rasp on this track and melded with the mandolin, piano and slide guitar you're quite taken back to the 70's and the likes of Patti Smith's 'Because The Night'. I was also really impressed by 'Bottom of the Stairs', it's very smooth and locks the band closer to contemporary artists such as Laura Marling, but to be honest, Marling doesn't bring the rockabilly quite like Oki's Wagon do, prime example, 'Horror Chord', a real rabble rouser, okay, that's three songs now....

Oki's Wagon, 'Bottom of the Stairs'

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Musique Française - Alf Moon, Automne

Alf Moon, 'Automne'

Info: I really, really want to get more French music sent to me, after my recent review of Normandy duo CHRISTINE, along comes another very interesting piece of Gallic electronica / experimental music from Parisian artist Alf Moon. The above track 'Automne' is also the name of the new E.P. he is working on, and it follows the first and equally good song, 'Hiver', below. Alf Moon gives his influences as DARKSIDE, Jamie XX, Trentemoller, Jon Hopkins and German act Moderat. 'Automne' is a breezy scene-setting tune and maybe it's just because it's a bit exotic to me but I really like the two small monologues toward the end of the track. In addition, 'Hiver' is a very enjoyable listen, and my favourite of the two, just about, little shades of Paul Kalkbrenner in there, it's very mellow and laid back, and leaves me very much looking forward to hearing the next two tracks from Monsieur Moon.

Alf Moon, 'Hiver'

'Alf Moon is a musical project of a young French producer, born and raised in Paris. I started a few years ago, trying to explore all the possibilities offered by electronic music. If music is becoming more and more visual, it's on the mental image that I wanted to work, trying to generate a sound in which everyone can get together and project themselves . The main source of inspiration is the idea of telling, through music, a story.'

Monday, 17 November 2014

Setline, These Thieving Streets

Setline, 'Speckled'

Info: Oh boy, this is so bloody good, Dubliner Setline's new E.P., These Thieving Streets has 5 solid solid tunes on it and at all too regular intervals listening to them I had hairs on the back of my neck. The intro, 'Getting Started' is a meandering and mellow track that puts you in a very calm tripped-out mood, just in time for you to be jolted by the above song, 'Speckled', which is just incredible. It's kind of like Tycho and Mogwai / Four Tet minus the mania, and the strings and harp in particular work so well with the electronic beats, at exactly 3:36 is when I had my first proper hair-raiser. Another zinger is 'Easter Parade' (below), punchy and great piano playing the track is like a shark frenzy, at the same time seeming almost effortless and delicately put together with it's orchestral undertones. 

'Are You Broken?' is definitely the most energy bursting track on These Thieving Streets, and has a bit of an early 90's house feel to it, before the E.P. comes to a close and let's you back down slowly with the piano-laden 'We're Not Happy Here'. I normally just post two tracks for a review and I really struggled to pick a second one out of the rest after 'Speckled', which for me is a good thing. This is an E.P. I can fully enjoy from start to finish and the fact that Setline is putting the finishing touches to a full-length album at the moment which will be out next year, is reason to be even more excited.

Setline, 'Easter Parade'

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Sunday, 16 November 2014

Zen Anton, E.P. Release

Zen Anton, 'Resemblance'

Info: From Queens, New York city, Zen Anton is a jazz, blues and classically trained musician who released his debut self-titled E.P. in September this year. Remarkably the opening track on the E.P., 'Longing to Touch', was written when Anton was only 13-years-old, a sweet little love song in the style of Finley Quaye or Counting Crows. Third track 'Sea Monkeys' is a spritely yet ponderous number which, as it with the rest of the E.P., chugs along with the rhythmic persistency of Anton's acoustic guitar. 'Angel' shows a more soulful and bluesy side to his music, dropping in and out of sombre tones and bursts of guitar with pained vocals, like a weird (and wonderful!) duet between Nick Cave and James Brown. The final track on the E.P. is also Zen Anton's latest work, 'Resemblance' (above) has a more old style folky vibe to it, reflected in the gentle guitar plucking and strumming, as well as highlighting his lyrical ability and thoughtfulness. I was also listening to some of Anton's earlier music on his SoundCloud page, and I hope he doesn't mind me putting the wildly contrasting track (written when he was 14) 'No, I Was Too Young To Be On Drugs', below, do listen!

In his own words, Anton describes his music as follows;

'For me, music is everything; "everything" in the sense that even though I may have not grown up in a musical family, I grew up part of the generation that had access to cull from any genre of music at the click of a button; “everything” in the sense that the people who inspire me most to write lyrics are the likes of Samuel Beckett and Outkast rather than the usual Singer-Songwriter’s inspiration; “everything” in the sense that myself being an ethnic mutt, music has given me the opportunity to get in touch with my various heritages in a way I would have never been given otherwise.'

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Zen Anton, 'No, I Was Too Young To Be On Drugs'

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Ríona Sally Hartman, Interview & New Album

Ríona Sally Hartman, 'Frida Kahlo's Delight'

Info: Ríona Sally Hartman is a gifted Dublin songwriter and singer who released her first solo work in 2009 with the E.P. Sealegs and is currently running a Fund:it campaign (details below) to launch her upcoming album, Big Starving Thing. In conjunction with a set of accomplished musicians in Cormac O'Brien, Julien Colarossi, Ailbhe Ní Oireachtaigh and Bonnie Stuart, Big Starving Thing will be the medium through which she tells us her many intriguing stories. Here we have a poet, singer, thinker all rolled into one and I really feel Hartman is currently one of our most unique and interesting artists. It's a cliché I always avoid using, but sometimes there is no other way of saying that we'll all be hearing a lot more about Ríona Sally Hartman in the very near future. I'm very happy to have interviewed Ríona and grateful to her for her thoughtful answers, without further ado....!

Remy: I watched your Vlogs which are part of your Fund:it campaign to get your upcoming album, Big Starving Thing, released and it’s clear we can expect a very character-driven set of songs, where did this concept come from?

Ríona: I never really made a conscious decision to write songs about characters I just got less and less interested in writing songs about myself or situations that were specific to me. I wanted to write about ideas that are true to everyone so the characters are each like little crystallisations of a concept, they let me write about something without making it about a specific person or place, it's just about the idea. Like with the character Tom Peeping I wanted to write about things that I think are universal to all romantic relationships like: can you ever really know someone or is getting to know someone just an act of projection, or about how you can lose your identity in a relationship and whether that's a good or bad thing.

But when you think about it isn't it odd that fictional, or character driven music is the exception rather than the norm? I mean in other art forms like literature or film I think fiction is usually the norm, if you told someone you were an author I don't think they'd assume you only wrote biographies! I'm not saying one is better or worse: biographical or fictional, it's just interesting to see how different mediums approach the same ideas so differently.

Remy: I can tell from some of your song descriptions that you have an interest in observing human behaviour, and quite a lot of the characters such as those mentioned in 'The Screamer' and 'Same But Better' seem to be quite vulnerable or socially inept, how close are the subjects of these songs to real life people?

Ríona: Ha, I never realised how socially inept they all are until you pointed it out! You're right: Tom is a voyeur, Sally is a suicidal introvert and 'The Screamer'...well I mean she just screams! The telepathic mother and newborn son are probably the only well adjusted characters but again they don't talk (mostly because they don't need to to be fair) and are quite vulnerable. Screamer is the only character based on a real person but I didn't really know that person very well so I'm not sure if it's really an accurate depiction of her personality. Really I fictionalised her situation for the purpose of the song rather than really telling her story. None of the others are based on real life people but we've all got a Tom Peeping and a Suicidal Sally in us. Half my family are, or have been, psychologist and psychiatrists so an interest in human behaviour is just in my blood I guess.

Remy: You mention Lauryn Hill’s music a part-inspiration for one of your tracks in one of your Vlogs, which other female artists have you found most influential on your song-writing over the years?

Ríona: I love how Imogen Heap documents her process and is so completely open about sharing it. Sometimes her process is more interesting to me than the final product but still watching how she works and builds a song, which songs work and which don't, has been a huge influence. I'm also a huge Becca Stevens fan. Her arrangements and song forms are really interesting and her band is unreal! I'm looking forward to hearing what she does with Tillery (Becca Stevens, Gretchen Parlato and Rebecca Martin). When it comes to performance and lyrical delivery Betty Carter's later work is what I look to, although it's stylistically completely different from my own music. Her interpretation of jazz standards is so masterful that it just transcends genre.

And of course there are a million incredible female singer songwriters making some absolutely beautiful music in Ireland. One of the millions, off the top of my head is Miriam Ingram. Trampoline is such an incredible, dark, twisty album.

Remy: I have to say you’re quite the story-teller and I really enjoyed your reading of Tove Jansson’s Tales from Moominvalley (I remember the cartoon well from my childhood!), it’s very philosophical for a children’s book, who were your favourite authors as a child?

Ríona: I only discovered the Moomins really recently, I wish I'd known about them when I was younger I would've eaten that up! For me it was Maurice Sendak all the way. I recently sorted through all my childhood books and found one that I'd forgotten about called Really Rosie by Maurice Sendak about a girl who wanted to be a singer with songs (music notation and lyrics) included as part of the story by Carol King. My parents had good taste!

Remy: Listening to the first track from Big Starving Thing ‘Frida Kahlo’s Delight’ I’m reminded of 50’s jazz singers like Julie London, did you grow up in a household with old music or was it something you came across later in life?

Ríona: Yep I grew up with lots of jazz and I've got a degree in jazz performance so I'm pretty saturated with the stuff. Ella and Sarah singing standards was pretty much the default soundtrack in my house growing up along with the great american songwriters like Paul Simon and Carole King, a splash of Prokofiev from my Dad's side and two older siblings who I'd steal Radiohead albums from. I couldn't really ask for a better songwriting education than that.

Remy: Last month I featured the other music project you’ve been working on with guitarist Mick Stuart, Monster Monster, musically it’s very different to your solo work, do you find working on projects like this that you feel less self-inflicted pressure than when writing your own music?

Ríona: I don't know if I ever really feel pressure self-inflicted or otherwise from song-writing, I just really enjoy it, but Mick does by far the lion's share of the song-writing in Monster Monster. I have more of a consultant / interpreter role there than a song-writing role. With the Ríona Sally Hartman group I do all the song-writing myself.

The two projects are so completely different and it's just so satisfying to be singing these big hot pop songs with Monster Monster one day and then a creepy acoustic song about Frankenstein the next. And even though my own music and Monster Monster's music are stylistically completely different, myself and Mick share a lot of common ground on what makes a good lyric. We've had lots of great big conversations about things like the minutest detail of a Paul Simon lyric, and it's just so enjoyable to have someone to bounce those ideas off from time to time. We have epic arguments (or 'debates'!) over wether we should leave the word 'and' or 'but' in a lyric or not which is maybe more fun than it sounds.

Remy: Where does Ríona Sally Hartman see herself in 10 years time?!

Ríona: I've had this ambition for years that I want to write a pop Opera for shadow puppets and tour with it with a live band. It just kills me staying up late at night thinking about how it would look and sound and work. I mean I don't really have a clue where I'll be in ten years but I just hope I'll have found a way to make my shadow puppet Opera a reality.

Remy: No doubt you’ll reach the funding target required for the album release, tell us a bit about what happens after that, i.e. launch night, future releases?

Ríona: Well, fingers crossed, first there'll be the listening party for the top funders so they'll be the first to hear the album. Then a Dublin launch in the new year followed by, I hope an Irish tour. Dates and venues are to be confirmed but if anyone wants to keep up to date they can sign up for the mailing list at or find me on Facebook or Twitter @RionaSally.

Note: Be sure to pop along to the album's Fund:it page here and help Ríona reach her goal!

Amalgamated Future Artists present - My Invisible Friend, part 1

Info: This is a very cool idea and the outcome is pretty amazing, some really great collaborations here, what am I babbling about?!

Over to you guys at Amalgamated Future Artists;

'14 artists from all around the world collaborated with
each other to make some music. The twist is they did it without
knowing who they were collaborating with. They just sent us (AFA)
their unfinished songs, and we assigned those songs to other artists
to finish it.

It has been challenging, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately unique
and exciting. Please, give it a try, because you haven't heard
anything like it.'

The opening track by CLOVES and Stolenmeltdown, 'My Invisible Friend' sets the scene and it's a superb track, from the acoustic guitar intro to the brass, drums and electro sounds, I've looped it a lot because the two and a half minutes go so quickly. Then there's the funky sounds of Os Caramboleiros with Nestor on 'La Mierda en la Boca' followed quickly by another favourite of mine, the fifth track, Playofone with Melöfo, 'Amiga Invisible', a dark Joy Division style number. Chill out with Blue States & The Coconut Monkeyrocket (what a name) on 'Field of View' or get your rock on with another Melöfo track featuring Voetbal, 'MIF Never Shows Up for Dates'. There's a lot of good stuff here spread over 14 tracks and Spanish label Amalgamated Future Artists have done a great job in drawing all of these acts together, here's to Part II.

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Dan Bradley, Gemini E.P.

Info: Originally from Greystones, folk-rock singer Dan Bradley now resides in Newcastle, Co.Wicklow, and has just completed his debut E.P., Gemini, which releases on the 8th of December. The new E.P. includes the above track, 'Better Days', that has been selected for a suicide awareness charity CD called Songs for Jay Kay, which will also feature artists such as The Frames, Mark Geary and Kim Hayden, and has a release date scheduled for March of next year. Bradley's heavily influenced Americana style derives from his upbringing surrounded by the music of his mother, a classically trained Top Soprano opera singer who had a particular love for the genre. 'Better Days' is a positive message song in the mould of Tom Petty and Jakob Dylan's, The Wallflowers. Gemini also features two other tracks, 'Movin' On', a classic country-influenced number, and 'Faith', a lo-fi, melancholic ballad, all of which Bradley will be performing on the 6th of December when he supports Luan Parle on her Irish Tour. 

You can now pre-order Gemini on iTunes in advance of the December release here and for further information on future gigs and releases be sure to Like Dan's Facebook page

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Phox Live at The Sugar Club & Interview

(Photo: Remy Connolly)

Info: Last Sunday night in The Sugar Club was one of the more special and most enjoyable live shows I've attended in quite a while. I was there to see Wisconsin band Phox, hot on the heels from their appearance on Conan O'Brien the previous week and at the starting point of their European tour. It wasn't the band's first time performing in Ireland, as they played at Electric Picnic in September, but in considerably different surroundings, they put on a superb show at the intimate venue. Singer Monica Martin opened and closed the night, and in between the band members played the vast majority of tracks from their self-titled debut album which was released at the end of August. Highlights included my favourite track of theirs 'Calico Man' at the beginning of the night, the gorgeous 'Noble Heart' above, as well as a pleasant surprise at the end when Martin performed a hair-raising version of, wait for it, The Thrills' 'Not For All The Love In The World' song (definitely better than the original!). In some ways the night couldn't have gone better for both audience and band, the atmosphere was so relaxed but it didn't take long for the crowd to be fully engaged in the performance, in no small part to Phox's interaction, witty, happy and infectious. There were no trappings, just friends playing for friends is how I would sum it up. 

On a personal note I had a great chat with all of the band members afterwards, Matt who took the time to do the interview which is below, the lovely Monica who left a wonderful signed message on a copy of their album for me, and of course Jason, Matteo and Davey for shooting the breeze while we were waiting to take a few photos, special mention goes to the multi-tasking Gareth as well! This could be the nicest collective of musicians in the world right now.

Phox, 'Slow Motion'


Remy: You recently played the Little Big Tent (on the same roster as the excellent FKA Twigs & Irish band The Academics) at Electric Picnic, Ireland’s most popular music festival, how did you find the experience and did you get to mingle with any of your heroes over the course of the weekend?

Matt: Electric Picnic was where we first saw Paolo (Nutini), with whom we went on tour in the US right after returning from Europe. That man puts on an amazing show, especially in front of 50,000 people. We unfortunately had to up and leave for the ferry on the south end of Ireland that night, so no mingling for us. That happens a lot, when there's relatively no time for sight-seeing or boogying. 

Remy: Your self-titled release traverses so many different genres on each track. For example, opener 'Calico Man' could easily be on Nico’s Chelsea Girl, current single 'Slow Motion' is very chamber-pop, 'Evil' is folk-country and 'Noble Heart' is a real throwback to soulful blues. Is this as a result of varied influences among yourselves or merely the result of combined creativity?

Matt: It's definitely not intentional. Well, I suppose it is inasmuch as we try to write around Monica's melodies. We aim to set the lights just right, and put out the right potpourri. It would be totally silly if 'Calico Man' was folk-country and 'Slow Motion' was Chelsea Girl. Or maybe not?

Remy: Monica, I have to ask, purely because I think your vocals are outstanding and incredibly easy on the ear, which vocalists past and / or present do you most admire?

Matt (not Monica!): Monica always cites the classic jazz singers as influences. Billie, Etta, Ella. But also some contemporary folk singers, like Brandi Carlile. She used to yodel around the house a lot. 

Remy: The track and video for 'Slow Motion' is anarchic and fun-filled form start to finish, bar perhaps one or two other tracks out of the 12 on Phox, from my view this is quite in contrast to the rest of the album, many tracks seem to start out with a small tinge of sadness before reaching a hopeful conclusion, is this an overall idea for the album or am I seeing something that isn’t actually there at all!! 

Matt: There isn't an overall theme. Perhaps the best summary is that these are deeply personal stories, like entries out of Monica's diary. She never expected most of her friends in Madison to hear them, let alone have the lyrics be read by music journalists in Ireland. My read is that these songs come across vulnerable with intention to emote, not to hand-hold listeners through a story. There's no narrator.

(Photo: Remy Connolly)

Remy: I’m an unashamed vinyl enthusiast, (and in the interest of being upfront, I also have a beard, but it’s a normal one, not a lumber-jack one) so I was delighted to see on your website that you are selling the Phox LP on vinyl as well as other formats, something that’s always refreshing to see. Do any of you yourselves have a soft spot for the big old record disc?

Matt: I too have a normal beard, so yeah, definitely. I mean, when buying physical music, it always seems worth it to spend the extra few bucks to get the big beautiful artwork. Plus, when you're making out with someone on the couch, listening to 45s, and you're ready to start shedding skin, you can drop this sexy line, "Baby, I'm about ready to put on a long play." (Thanks to Michael Doyle Olson for that line.)

Remy: You were on an intensive 13 city U.S. tour supporting the ridiculously good-looking, talented and well-dressed Paolo Nutini, before arriving back in Europe this month, did you need a translator to understand his Scottish accent? (also, he’ll be very impressed if you ask him when was the last time he had a battered Mars bar, a delicacy in his hometown Glasgow ;) )

Matt: Touring with Paolo was amazing, and the only time we might have needed a translator was after finishing a bottle of whisky. It was quite a special tour, and the man and his vipers put on a hell of a show, as I said. And damn! We deep fry candy bars in Wisconsin, too. Think we have more in common than you might guess. Oh! Guess what, we're outside of Glasgow tonight, going to Paolo's dad's fish and chips restaurant! We've heard nothing but good things. And you know Wisconsin has a Friday fish fry tradition as well! Gosh, aren't we learning so much about one another?

Remy: Well I'm just glad we swapped chip shop stories for Bon Iver Matt!

(Photo: Remy Connolly)

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Monday, 10 November 2014

Wacky Southern Current, 'Today's Embrace', Album Review

Wacky Southern Current, 'Your Aria'

Info: Wacky Southern Current is the performance name of Italian multi-instrumentalist Marco Cervellin, self-described as instrumental, post-rock, indie and cinematic in terms of style of music. Cervellin has produced a beautiful album of mellow sounds, Today's Embrace has a jazzy electronic feel throughout, from the Moon Safari-esque second track 'No Safe Harbour', to the wonderfully spacey 'Kogan Tribute Piece', which is probably my favourite track on the album, especially when it strays into Pink Floyd guitar riffs. 

I can definitely connect with the cinematic description, third track 'Trains Are Cool' has a traditional Italian waltz undercurrent that brings to mind 'The Wedding Waltz' from The Godfather, whereas 'In Fear of The Aztec Sun' has a western feel about it. From a post-rock perspective, the closing track 'House Wrapped In Vines' has some nice electric guitar playing and is quite the atmospheric tune. 

Finally, there's the above track 'Your Aria', a moody piano-led number that for some reason reminds me of Fiction Factory's 'Feels Like Heaven' in parts! Wacky Southern Current has produced a really enjoyable mood-based album in Today's Embrace and the experimental creativity makes each track a little world of it's own which the listener can disappear into, and I love that album cover by artist Angela Deane.

You can stream the entire album here: 

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Ryan Langlois, 'Bandit' E.P.

Ryan Langlois, 'You Never Know'

Info: From San Francisco but currently residing in Boston, songwriter Ryan Langlois has just recently released his second E.P., Bandit. In his bio he refers to American alt-country group Dawes and Nashville band The Wild Feathers as influences, and upon checking them both out there's an Allman Brothers thread going on and it's a distinctly traditional American style of rock that we've all benefited from.

I'm a big fan of American country-rock and I've mentioned it before, one of my favourite bands of all time are Creedence Clearwater Revival, the kings of the hybrid genre, along with Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues, The Louvain Brothers etc. and as Ryan himself says, he's immersed in The Rolling Stones, who we all know broke out of their early British rock sound and embraced Stateside blues, country and soul across multiple albums. 

When I first listened to the Bandit E.P. I was immediately reminded of a band that I was big into in school and then on the bounce later on in college, Nada Surf, and also a bit of namesake Ryan Adams' (Rock N'Roll), particularly on above track 'You Never Know'. Comparisons, comparisons, comparisons, all they are is a guide. Langlois' music is great honky-tonk electric rock, on 'Those Who Wait' the song is split in three parts, punchy electric guitar, followed by gospel, and back to roots in the final third. The title track 'Bandit' (below) is the Stones track on the E.P., at times Exile on Main Street and at other times well-structured contemporary folk-rock, and the guitar is delectable the whole way through. 

Ryan Langlois, 'Bandit'

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