Sunday, 29 May 2016

Track: Rainbrother - East African Dream

Rainbrother East African Dream

Rainbrother - East African Dream

Info: Copenhagen-based act Rainbrother (formerly The Migrant) has just released his first track under a new moniker, 'East African Dream' (above) which was recorded in Tanzania. The Migrant had previously released four albums between 2010-2015, including a firm favourite of mine, Amerika, so it will be exciting to see and hear what is to come next. 'East African Dream' is a bluesy and woozy piece of escapism, incorporating effects to reflect the local wildlife in the surrounding environment where the track was produced.

(For old times sake!);

The Migrant - 2811 California Street

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Single: Keith O'Connell - At The End of The Day

Keith O'Connell At The End of the Day

Keith O'Connell - At The End of The Day

Info: Dublin based singer-songwriter Keith O'Connell recently completed recording his debut album, Genetic Lottery which is due for release this coming September. This week he has released the first single and video from the album, 'At The End of The Day' (above). 

Firmly in the pop-rock mould, O'Connell's new single is a throwback to 90's acoustic rock, both from the US and Ireland. 'At The End of the Day' is a breezy and easy to listen to piece of balladry which should see this solo act gain plenty of airplay and momentum ahead of the full album release later in the year. 

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Single: Saramai - Hanging Around

Saramai Hanging Around

Saramai - Hanging Around

Info: The latest single from Meath act Saramai, 'Hanging Around' was recorded live in one take in Attica Studios with Tommy McLaughlin at the helm (S.O.A.K, Villagers, Bell X1). Aimie Mallon is on drums, Cormac O'Keeffe on guitar and Saramai on keys and vocals. A video is set to follow over the summer and Saramai will also be playing at Vantastival on the 4th of June with other tour dates to be announced soon.

Saramai retains the powerful emotion of last years stunning debut EP Red Moon on new single 'Hanging Around'. A notable difference this time round however is the energy and thrust provided by bringing both drums and guitar more to the forefront. Saramai's unique vocals, at times reminiscent of a 1920's jazz club chanteuse, and at others power-pop, are cripplingly heartfelt and moving. 

The songs softer moments are delicate and calming, but merely leading you toward the tempest that comes on the robust pre-chorus; "And I've seen the devil / Looking at you / Better that you know he's there / Otherwise he's everywhere / Hiding in plain view." 'Hanging Around' is strong evidence once again that Saramai is currently one of Ireland's most talented solo acts and song-writers whom I hope will reach a far greater audience in 2016.

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EP: The Straw Gods - Carnivore

Straw Gods Carnivore
Photo: Thomas Martin McGauran

Info: Hailing from Dublin’s Northside, The Straw Gods deliver their own brand of smokey, brooding Alt Rock cut with Eclectic PseudoPop. With their unique take on Blues, Rock, and Jazz, emphasising the darker, soulful elements of each, The Straw Gods have been garnering comparisons ranging from modern rock groups such as Radiohead and PJ Harvey to Trip Hop Artists such as Portishead. 

Originally Formed by Daniel Soro (composer/guitarist) and Pia Dunne (Vocalist) in 2013, the Duo soon expanded to include Barry Rycraft (Bass), Tommy Gray (Drums), and Glen Brady (Guitar). 2015 saw therelease of their acclaimed Debut EP 'Under a Sun' and the group will release their second EP 'Carnivore' in early 2016.

Carnivore opens with current single 'Iron Lung', an upbeat and pop-laden piece of alternative rock, Dunne's smoldering vocals rolling over a tight bass-run and rhythmic guitars and percussion, it's a wise choice for the new single. 'My Love Is All' is a different beast, much darker and moody than its predecessor, again Dunne's voice is key to transferring this mood to the listener, chord progressions are pleasing to the ear and there are some really nice blues riffs scattered throughout. 

The Straw Gods back up their collective genre influences ably as we come to the EP's title track, a really sweet piece of contemporary blues country but with strong classic nods, such as Fleetwood Mac. The bonus track is so in more ways than one, opening with a blues riff worthy of Albert Collins' Ice Pickin' album, it's a smooth and laid back jam which has a blistering and delicious finale with some crazy good lead guitar going down. Carnivore is a strong collection of tracks that treats each of the genres it touches with respect, and at the same time melding them together to successfully create their own unique sound.

The Straw Gods launch the Carnivore EP at The Grand Social on the 4th June

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Saturday, 28 May 2016

EP: Ealadha - Limit Of Our Sight

Ealadha Limit of Our Sight
Photo: P.J. Rankin

Info: On 'Limit of Our Sight' Ealadha’s explosive live sound is tempered with an appreciation for space and atmosphere, as on perfectly named opener ‘Hurricanes’. Crudge and Shanley’s stately rhythm section carry waves of ambient, melodic guitar lines. Piano and drum machine flourishes dance around Murphy’s forlorn vocals, all of which builds to an emotive climax, the band’s mastery of the delicate and the aggressive wrapped up in one song.

This is a collection of songs I've had to impatiently sit on for a while, eager to share, Ealadha from Cork have produced an intensely enjoyable post-rock and ambient EP in Limit of Our Sight. Opener 'Hurricanes' is such a good introduction to the trio, an amalgamation of moody instrumental and lightly distorted guitars coupled with unobtrusive thrashing drums and passion-driven vocals. 

From that opening salvo Ealadha very pleasantly surprise you on next track 'Heart of Mercury', the vocal filter somehow reflecting a visual of the dripping, melting chemical in its title, and as much as I try to avoid the reference, Mogwai's 'Stanley Kubrick' rears its head. 'Dive' is the third track to come in at over 5 minutes, but it's not for the sake of it, telling us that the band understand timings in terms of fully expressing what they wish to deliver, nothing will be rushed or condensed here, the music will be allowed to breathe naturally, and at it's own pace. 

As proficient as they have been up until this point creating original sounding ambient and experimental rock music, Ealadha seek to reach inside you and drag you off to somewhere else on closer 'Souls', beauty in simplicity, cathartic piano and distant vocals painting a grey but breathtaking coastal image in my head for some reason. And to think these guys had me at 'Hurricanes'.

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Album: Crystal Shipsss - Holly

Crystal Shipss Holly

Info: On Crystal Shipsss’ 4th album Holly bubblegum pop and lo-fi weirdness collides with noisy outbursts! Holly is the first Crystal Shipsss album recorded in Faurholt’s native country Denmark, where he moved to after five years in Berlin. He more or less recorded the album solely in his home studio. The only outside contributions came in form of backing vocals from his girlfriend Nadia Sharpe and long-time Crystal Shipsss collaborator Jens Christian Madsen who co-mixed the album. As with the other CS albums Holly was mastered by James Plotkin (ISIS, Nadja, Khanate). Faurholt recorded the album in a spontaneous burst of creativity after quitting his full time teaching job. 

Holly opens with a heart-breaking and honest title-track; 'Holly don't leave your heart in between the grass and the leaves, you lost your baby, and now, now you have to grieve', musically beautiful, and while the album is fully focused on pop sounds, they shouldn't belie it's thematic undercurrent. The following track 'Flowers' opens with an 80's electro bass chug, Faurholt's vocals attaching an emotion to it's care-free mood. 

'Love' is a lo-fi and hauntingly sparse piece, staid percussion and off-tune vocals providing a curious and almost uneasy listen until the static fuzz of guitars launches itself upon the track, that same percussion gently resonating deep in the background. The care-free atmosphere continues strongly on 'World', guitars are quite post-punk on this, there's also an attractiveness to the simplicity, which seems to be an aim of Crystal Shipsss all across Holly, you can engage with the music without having to overly strain your investment, making the experience all the more enjoyable.

'Robots' is probably the most contemplative song on the album, there's a seriousness to it, but it's completely spacial, a drift away and disappear into the music track which works very well. On 'Captain' we're plugged into indie-rock territory, but with the band's electro imprint, tiny spurts of Air trickle over the guitar-driven motion. The 8-track album closes with 'Eerie', a blissful finale, and to be honest I'm not sure what kind of journey I've been on having listened to Holly a number of times, it's certainly different, it's experimental, and I always love a piece of music that challenges me, as is the case here. I think the biggest plus of the album is that on a basic level you can enjoy it, but it demands that the listener spend time with it in order to fully appreciate it, not in an inaccessible way, but with a promise of reward.

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Video: Not Monsters - On Tilt

Not Monsters On Tilt

Not Monsters - On Tilt

Info: The new video to accompany Not Monsters' 'On Tilt' single, which was released earlier this month, was just made public this week. the track itself has been stuck firmly in my head since and is fast becoming one of my favourite releases of 2016. Tonight they play in The Grand Social with support from two excellent bands, SPINES and Race The Flux with doors at 8pm.

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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Video: That Snaake - Go Bricker!

That Snaake Go Bricker!

That Snaake - Go Bricker!

Info: Dublin four-piece punk-carnage rockers That Snaake have released a video for last years stomping and dirty single, 'Go Bricker!'. Somewhat curiously described in these parts as; 'pulling on varying degrees of 1970's New York and New Jersey punk bands New York DollsThe Cramps and Misfits, like a Five Boroughs melting pot with modern sensibilities. Opener and title-track 'Go Bricker!' gets straight down to business, like a gun pressed against your forehead, bang. It's infectiously cool and the heavy bass, manic drumming and vocals create a slick and filthy mood.'

That Snaake are also set to release a 4-way split release with Oh Boland, Shrug Life and Junk Drawer coming out on Little L on June 7th with an Irish tour, dates below;

8th June – McHughs, Belfast
9th June – Sweeney’s, Dublin
10th June -The Print Shop, Cork (TBC)

11th June – Roisin Dubh, Galway

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Single: Minden - Real Sugar

Minden Real Sugar
Photo: Jaclyn Campanaro

Minden - Real Sugar

Info: Portland, Oregon indiepop five-piece Minden today released the first single, 'Real Sugar', from their forthcoming album, Sweet, Simple Things, which is due out later this summer on independent label Hit City USA.

'Real Singer' conjures up all of the descriptive words you can associate with a lovely slice of indiepop wellbeing, candy, bubblegum, sunshine, and that's despite the tracks name. It's a real case of 'this is what you really want, and we're going to give it to you', lyrically proceedings are kept basic, but it has a David Bowie-esque nonchalant pop swagger about it, think 'Let's Dance' or 'China Girl'. Added into the mix is that 'so wrong it's right', naff in a really cool way, late 70's keyboard progression, and an intro that will snap your neck off if you're not careful, it's all fun and it's all good.

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Track: Silences - Breathless (Keian Remix)

Silences Breathless Keian Remix

Silences - Breathless (Keian Remix)

Info: With a distinct aesthetic that integrates disparate influences and displaced elements, Keian is an Irish-Iranian producer who crafts his work as a statement of intent. Following on from his warmly received debut EP, Keian has remixed Silences' heartbreaking new track 'Breathless', creating a confluence of dissonance and harmony, coarse ambience and shimmering synths. 

Describing the rationale behind his arrangement, Keian had this to say:

" 'Breathless' was unashamedly my favourite track from the Luna EP, and the way the band managed to capture that certain combination of fragile vulnerability and raw defiance really struck a chord with me. In my remix, I wanted to bring some of the more understated rhythms and subtle details of the track to the forefront - things you might miss on your first or second listen - while taking away none of the emotional impact, and making sure Conchur's unmistakeable vocals remained at the very heart of the music."

Conchúr (Silences) notes the contrast between the original and remix: 

''Keian has highlighted certain nuances that evaded me in the original track. I wanted to be surprised and I wanted to discover something new which I have. There's a subtle, ethereal quality to a lot of Keian's music and this is no different. I'm so humbled that he has lent his talent to this song and I'm excited to for others to hear it."

Single: Leopard Skin Jasper - Orsic Poppy / Akka

Leopard Skin Jasper Orsic Poppy Akka

Leopard Skin Jasper - Orsic Poppy / Akka

Info: Leopard Skin Jasper are an instrumental four-piece, experimental outfit formed in Cork in 2014. After spending much of last summer playing the festival circuit, including a standout performance at Body & Soul’s Pagoda stage, they recorded their first collection of tracks late last year and from these sessions has come their debut release, double A-Side 'Orsic Poppy' / 'Akka'. Their music is a blend of progressive post-fusion sensibilities and ambient atmospherics, the two tracks serve as a taster of the group's wider oeuvre.

The first thing that strikes you when you listen to these two tracks, 'Orsic Poppy' and 'Akka', by Leopard Skin Jasper is that the four-piece know exactly what they are doing. This is a pair of songs that have been very carefully constructed, but in true artistic expression, without over-thinking, allowing the sounds the band have felt naturally convey themselves in the music. 

On 'Orsic Poppy' itself you have the perfect mixture of mellow and restrained opening, leading to a controlled gradual up tempo rhythm and force, if this was my introduction to an established and signed act I'd somehow not heard until now I would be instantly hooked, and I am. It falls somewhere deep between the bass and drums you'd expect from Mogwai and the keys and guitar from a more electronic-leaning group such as Death In Vegas or God Is An Astronaut, without really sounding like any of those when you take it as a whole.

Leopard Skin Jasper Orsic Poppy Akka

Then comes 'Akka', distinct from its predecessor but no less interesting, there were a couple of things that struck me from underneath its surface. It begins with an almost bossa nova and jazz vibe, with intermittent 70's psych and prog-rock sequences, a bit of funk via the guitar, before finally going a bit math-rock towards its powerful conclusion. I don't think I've quite come across anything like it before to be honest, and this is something to be much celebrated, musicians melding traditionally unassociated genres together and making them work. Leopard Skin Jasper's originality, as displayed on both of these tracks, is something exciting indeed, one of those moments where I want to hear a full album right now.

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Video: Motions - Back To Where I Begun

Motions Back To Where I Begun

Motions - Back To Where I Begun

Info: Dublin alternative pop-rock act Motions have just released their new video today for debut single 'Back To Where I Begun' which was released at the end of March and premiered on these pages. The video was written and directed by the film-makers at Crooked Gentlemen.

For more info on Motions head to the links below;

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Single: Heroes in Hiding - No, You're A Rabbit

Heroes in Hiding No, You're A Rabbit

Heroes in Hiding - No, You're A Rabbit

Info: Dublin rock four-piece Heroes in Hiding have just finished work on their third EP, recorded in Windmill Lane Studios, with the help of Jack Dunne and Martin Quinn, which is due for an autumn release date, ahead of which they have shared their latest single 'No, You're A Rabbit'.

Long-term favourites in these parts, Heroes in Hiding have certainly upped the ante on latest single 'No, You're A Rabbit', a bristling hunk of guitar-driven indie-pop. Over the past two years the progression of HIH's sound has been a source of great interest, the band have consistently released strong singles such as 'Today, I Mean It' and 'Casanova' from last year. The latest release cranks up the rock and is overflowing with high energy accentuated by their trademark dueling harmonies and a searing guitar solo at the mid-way point. As with EP's 1 & 2, I eagerly await No.3.

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Single: Tanukichan - Bitter Medicine

Tanukichan Bitter Medicine
Photo: Anya Kamenskaya

Tanukichan - Bitter Medicine

Info: After four years as guitarist in Californian band Trails & Ways, Tanukichan (Hannah van Loon) has struck out on her own, the San Francisco musician has just released her debut solo single, 'Bitter Medicine' (above). 

When you look at 'Bitter Medicine' from a distance it looks like a pretty and straight-up piece of guitar pop. Closer inspection and another couple of listens however and you are truly taken in by all of its charm and little intricacies. From the opening Sergio Leone soundtrack style guitar intro, to Tanukichan's strikingly late 60's / early 70's vocal, it has the softness of Astrud Gilberto and the earnestness of Dusty Springfield, a very unusual mix for me to hear, but so, so easy on the ear. With a EP en route it's going to be really interesting to see what else van Loon produces.

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Single: Trails and Ways - My Things

Trails and Ways My Things

Trails and Ways - My Things

Info: Right after we toured Brazil last December, two of our founding members decided they wanted out of the crazy touring life and left the band. Ian and I kept on, quit our day jobs, & went all in on making a new album. There was no turning back; these songs felt crucial to me, like my best chance to wrestle with the selfishness and capitalism inside me. 

"My Things" was the first song I wrote for the record, and it feels like the bridge to the rock n roll sound & spirit we're heading towards. We recorded the album on the cheap and fast as we could, and went for a rawer, hotter dreampop sound; with live drums on every song, overdriven guitars, rippin melodic bass, and the open chords of bossanova.

In advance of the release of their new album, Oakland, California band Trails and Ways release their new single, 'My Things'. A short and uplifting guitar pop single with a more than jovial demeanour, 'My Things' features multi-layered vocal harmonies and a driving drum beat. A humorous look at materialism perhaps, the song speeds along at high pace before treating us to a smouldering guitar solo to back up the new direction the band are aiming for, it already sounds like they've hit the target.

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EP: The Southern Fold - A True Ascension from the Wayward Path

The Southern Fold A True Ascension from the Wayward Path

Info: The Southern Fold was formed by Kilkenny native Emlyn Holden in 2014 to record and perform a number of self penned songs in the alt folk / blues vein. After performing around the country at a number of open mics, festivals and support slots as various incarnations throughout 2014 and the early part of 2015, Laura Hand joined as permanent co-lead vocalist in the Autumn of '15 and the duo settled down to work on a batch of new songs and perform a handful of gigs in the Kilkenny and Dublin areas. With thier debut EP, A True Ascension from the Wayward Path, just released on April 28th, 2016, the band are currently working with Frieda Freytag (Fox Owl Crow, Dave Couse) on cello and piano and Joe Maher (The Mariannes) on guitar to help broaden their sound and introduce more dynamics to the songs and hope to be busy on the gig circuit for 2016.

Opening with a straight up Americana number in the form of 'Death Country', The Southern Fold paste contemporary folk onto a classical harmonica-based old time sound. 'Romance in Morphine' sees the lead duo at their strongest, a wispy and sweet allegorical ballad that floats pleasingly around your ears, with tiny shades of Simon & Garfunkel song-writing. 'Brand New Day' sweeps back across the American countryside, Johnny Cash could easily break in to join Holden and Hand on the chorus here. 

On 'Home From the War' The Southern Fold push strongly into the contemporary alternative folk domain, marching alongside the likes of Damien Jurado and Andrew Bird, and alongside 'Romance in Morphine', this may be a clue as to wher their sound will settle on future releases. The EP closes with what is easily one of my top five Nirvana songs, a cover of the delectable 'Where Did You Sleep Last Night', and vocally Hand exceeds, not to take away from Holden! It's a very worthy homage to the original and a nice close to a competent debut from TSF.

The Southern Fold play Whelans on the 5th of June in support of The Mariannes, details here

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EP: Wastefellow - Amazed, A Maze!

Wastefellow Amazed, A Maze

Info: Wastefellow is the moniker of Dublin based producer Diolmhain Ingram-Roche and "Amazed, A Maze!" is his sophomore release. 

Wastefellow crafts forward thinking left-field electronic tracks, with beats stitched together from a grab bag of influences (Fly Lo to Tim Hecker, Teklife to Sunn O))) ), and topped off with delicate vocals and introspective lyricism. His new EP "Amazed, A Maze!" is about feeling trapped in a loop, repeating the same journeys and conversations, and the experiences which break that cycle; moments of clarity that seem to hint at something more lying just out of reach. 

This concept forms the backbone of the record, lyrically and sonically. Tracks are formed from distorting familiar sounds and samples until they take on entirely new shapes and dimensions.

Amazed, A Maze! is available on CD, cassette & digital download here;

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Album: Max Gowan - Mass Transit

Max Gowan Mass Transit

Max Gowan - Mass Transit

Info: Max Gowan is a Raleigh, NC based musician and Mass Transit is the latest release in his impressive back catalogue, this album being penned at the tender age of 19. Mass Transit is a heady reverb drenched trip, a melting pot of dreamy guitar pop melodies, introspective lyrics, delicate vocals and lush instrumentation. All these aspects culminate beautifully to form something which contrasts starkly with Gowan's contemporaries, setting him apart as one to really watch for the future.

Mass Transit is an album that someone 10 or even 15 years Max Gowan's senior would be rightfully proud of. It is awash with mellow calm, straight from the opening of 'Sun Sleep', watery guitar effects giving a pleasant feeling of being submerged in a haze of slow-paced well-being. Second track 'Avent Ferry' shifts the focus to more lo-fi indie territory á la one of Gowan's self-confessed influences, Elliott Smith, and while many acts reference Smith nowadays, Gowan's imprint is all over the track, from the subtle trickling electric guitar motif which appears throughout the song.

A personal favourite comes in the form of 'Saturday Afternoon', a blissful concoction of Mac DeMarco meets Conan Mockasin guitars, jangle-pop effects and bending riffs, delightful. Equally uplifting is 'Mr.Turnaround', acoustic guitar as it should sound on a breezy dream-pop album, leading the rhythm rather than complimenting it, as with other tracks on Mass Transit, the sparse percussion adds greatly to the restrained rocking mood of the song.

'You Should' interestingly recalls Jeff Buckley's posthumous Sketches album, pointed and sharp guitars and vocals that show Gowan isn't samey when it comes to his voice. Following the instrumental title-track comes a solid single in the making with 'Devil Kid' (below), deep tones and melodies to beat the band are all executed wonderfully as the song reaches its peak, this is mellow alternative indie at its finest. 

Max Gowan - Devil Kid

Next up is 'Lot's of Fun', a grungey 90's vibe appears out of nowhere at the beginning, riffs echoing a Nirvana or Pearl Jam Unplugged session, before we climb into pop harmonies and sounds, another highlight. As if he hadn't led us by the hand enough, Max Gowan pushes us one step closer to escapist ecstasy on 'Pony', lyrical simplicity allows us to focus on the beauty of this tracks final minute and a half. In truth I could have shared my observations on all 14 of the tracks on Mass Transit but leave the rest to you on what is a pretty damn fine album and astounding given that is entirely home-recorded by a musician who is yet to enter their twenties.

Mass Transit is available on CD, cassette or free digital download (contributions are nice!) over at Little L Records Bandcamp page here;

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Video: The New Social - Smile (Live @ The Bello Bar)

The New Social Live At The Bello Bar Smile

The New Social - Smile (Live @ The Bello Bar)

Info: Up and coming Mayo band, The New Social, recently played their first headline show in Dublin's Bello Bar, the band comprising of Niall P Fahey (vocals), Darren Moran (guitar), Mike McDermott (bass), Cathal Ward (guitar/vox) and Sean O'Donnell (drums) can be seen here performing their song, 'Smile', rock, funk and fun times.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Single: My Fellow Sponges - The Cold Hand

My Fellow Sponges The Cold Hand

My Fellow Sponges - The Cold Hand

Info: Up and coming Irish band My Fellow Sponges are developing a new electro acoustic sound with their latest single "The Cold Hand", written by Anna Mullarkey. The song explores the drive towards addiction and the pain of wanting something you know is not good for you. Analogue synthesisers give a dark undertone to the track while the drums add a jazzy contemporary feel. The minimalist nature of the song gives space for the lyrics to take the foreground. 

Anna's sister, Mia Mullarkey of Ishka Films, wrote and directed the music video for 'The Cold Hand'. Seductive yet vulnerable, the protagonist pours his heart out on an empty stage to a drunken audience of misfits. Turning gender roles around with the man becoming vulnerable and the women becoming the predator, heartbreak and addiction belongs to everyone in this gender fluid video. The mood and images are reminiscent of a  David Lynch film. The video stars The Lipsinkers’ talented James Riordan whose performance is both subtle and evocative. 

The video and song for 'The Cold Hand' are about as complimentary as you can get between the visual and the audio in musical terms, the anthemic and triumphant stride of the vocals and percussion in particular marry so well with both director and chief player Riordan's performance. The passage of My Fellow Sponges musical journey sees them move further into the electronic space hinted at in last years single 'Air', and almost a world away from the folk sounds of earlier single 'Floating'. They're feeling their way through it all, but seem to instinctively know what their calling is, and having such a broad background of styles will be nothing but a strength when writing new material in the future.

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