Tuesday 31 January 2017

Gig Guide: MUNKY, The Last Mixed Tape, Junior Brother, The Clockworks & more

MUNKY Whelan's
Photo: Julie O'Brien

MUNKY - Hunter Gatherer Blues

Info: There are some top of the range music happenings around Dublin city over the next few nights, I'll be hoping to get to as much of it as possible myself, below are some of the top picks to keep you jiving until Sunday morning!

Wednesday, 1st of February:

MUNKY - Whelan's Main Stage from 8pm, moved from Upstairs due to selling out rapidly following their CrAzY set at Whelan's Ones To Watch earlier this month, for fans of good old dirty blues rock, look no further. Support on the night comes via Sub Motion and The Optimists. Ticket and event info can be found right here https://www.facebook.com/events/223423451447059/

Thursday, 2nd of Februay: 

The Last Mixed Tape's 3rd Birthday Bash - The Sound House, 28 Eden Quay, Dublin 1

Don't call him a champion of music, the man is just doing his job, and that's consistently bringing you the best ear candy the Irish music circuit has to offer over the past three years. To celebrate, Mr. White brings us an eye-watering line-up with headliners Montauk Hotel who have just released their debut single, 'Black Dress' (below), the post-punk soundings of the excellent Slow Riot, and the psych-rock musings of Beach. Did I mention it's free entry? Event info here https://www.facebook.com/events/1091334464311022/

The Last Mixed Tape Montauk Hotel Slow Riot Beach The Sound House
Designed by: Kelly Levacher

Montauk Hotel - Black Dress

Nix Moon - Upstairs Whelan's Midnight Hour

Another act that slayed the Front Bar at Whelan's Ones To Watch, Dundalk's finest Nix Moon bring the soul, funk and flute upstairs this time, and anyone who sees these chaps live will already be hankering after their next show, guaranteed. Info here https://www.facebook.com/events/1344903992207980/

Friday, 3rd of February:

Junior Brother - Anseo, Camden Street

The inimitable Kerryman Junior Brother holds the official launch night of his joyous latest EP, Fuck Off I Love You, a balladeer with a style and humour that is most rare. and a vocal style that you're not likely to hear anywhere else on this island. Support comes from, Shane Clifford, fellow Kingdom native Kieran Mulvihill, and the wild folk sounds of Native Oak, a special night awaits. Info here https://www.facebook.com/events/341463456209630/

Junior Brother - Hungover At Mass

Saturday, 4th of February:

Dreaming of Jupiter - Sin É, 8pm

Just back from their second trip to Poland shooting another music video following last years release of their debut single 'Light of My Life', Dublin electro-pop trio Dreaming of Jupiter play a headline show with support from fellow purveyors of dream-pop soundz Hvmmingbyrd in the wonderful environs of Sin É on the north city quays. 

Dreaming of Jupiter - Light of My Life

Katie Laffan - The Workman's Club

As part of the ongoing contribution toward the Syrias Vibes campaign, which is collecting funding for emergency services in Syria, Gardiner Music present rising star Katie Laffan, with support courtesy of No Hot Ashes, from 8pm in The Workman's Club, tickets for this worthy cause are only €10. 

Event info here: https://www.facebook.com/events/586394958227932/

Katie Laffan - Monsters

The Clockworks - Whelan's Upstairs, The Midnight Hour

Last but not least it's The bloody Clockworks, ah lads, if you haven't heard or seen these young bucks live yet now is your chance, six months from now they'll be throwing television sets (flat-screens float down at that altitude so I'm told) off the balcony of the Mexico Suite at Trump Tower in New York so do yourselves a favour. Mixing delicious indie-pop with post-punk and a glimmer of reggae funk, the Galway band are riding high on the crest of a magical song-writing wave at the moment, they even make their own music videos! They have support on the night from Dublin band Young Earth who have also transitioned into something special over the last 12 months. 

The Clockworks - Mazda

Monday 30 January 2017

Live: Inni-K / Ríona Sally Hartman / SELK @ Whelan's, 10th Feb.

Inni-K Riona Sally Hartman SELK Whelan's

Inni-K - Hold Tight

Info: Musical forces Inni-K, Ríona Sally Hartman and SELK come together to perform an exciting night of bold, beautiful & original music on 10th Feb in Whelan’s.

These three unique voices are highly regarded in their respective fields for their inventive approach to songwriting, as well as their distinctive performing styles. Expect original, fresh music with three bands led by innovative artists under one roof.

Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/229130124193963/

Tickets: http://www.whelanslive.com/index.php/ban-bam-ft-inni-k-riona-sally-hartman-selk/


Inni-K (Eithne Ní Chatháin) has received consistent praise for her distinct, fresh style of indie-folk since the release of her acclaimed debut album The King has Two Horse’s Ears in 2015. She is also a member of trad group Ré.

“Inni-K is a force to watch. She is more than a singer, more than a musician, and she is both in great measure” - Liam Ó Maonlaí

Ríona Sally Hartman 

Ríona Sally Hartman’s music is known for its lush vocal harmonies, acoustic softness and the surrealist stories behind the songs. Her debut album Big Starving Thing was released in May 2015. 

“Dubliner Ríona Sally Hartman is capable of using her voice like an instrument, but she is a writer too, interested in the observations and speculations of the poet.” - The Irish Times

Ríona Sally Hartman - Show Me


SELK have been garnering much attention on the back of their live performances, but with the release of debut album Beast in 2016, a creative identity to be reckoned with has been copper-fastened. 

“Drawing from a broad sonic palette, SELK’s raw unshackled songs possess an inherent power which prove mesmerising in a live environment.”  

- HotPress 

SELK - Beast

Album: Tim Carr - The Last Day of Fighting

Tim Carr - The Last Day of Fighting

Tim Carr - Whirling Girl

Info: Tim Carr is a singer/composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist.  His music is a mix of instrumental interludes, and minimal folkesque songs inspired by African rhythms, melodies of the French Romantics and 60s pop.

He has worked, as a drummer and collaborator, with the bands HAIM, The Americans and Fell Runner, performing with artists such as Devendra Banhart, Gaby Moreno, Ryan Bingham, Edward Sharpe, Julian Casablancas, Dr. John, Lucinda Williams, Broken Social Scene and Nick Cave.  In addition he’s recorded with T Bone Burnett, performed on Letterman and is featured in the upcoming documentary, American Epic, produced by T Bone Burnett, Jack White and Robert Redford.

Tim’s first home recordings were released in the fall of 2014 under the Moorworks label in Japan. His song, 'The Last Day of Fighting', was included on the soundtrack to Watershed, directed and produced by Robert Redford, featuring other artists including Beck, Múm, and Thom Yorke. His debut album, The Last Day of Fighting, which includes some of his early recordings, was released in December, 2016. Tim recorded and self-produced all the songs, and plays all the instruments.

Raised in Marin County, surrounded by a family of musicians, Tim took up piano, guitar, and drums by eight years old.  He continued to study drums and polyrhythms with Peter Magadini and, as a teenager, performed in numerous workshops, including The Brubeck Jazz Colony, Stanford Jazz Workshop, and SF Jazz Combos. Tim received a BFA from California Institute of the Arts and was featured on their Capitol Records CD for three consecutive years.

From opening track 'Whirling Girl' you are immediately aware that you are going to be listening to an album with authenticity as it's bedrock in Tim Carr's debut The Last Day of Fighting. Whilst in can be difficult to wade through the number of folk-leaning artists here in Ireland to find something that shines outstandingly in a sea of talent, it can be naturally far more arduous when it comes to those based across the Atlantic due to sheer volume. Yet here is an absolute diamond of great beauty. 'Whirling Girl' is soft, moving, and unobtrusive, it's obvious why he's had his music selected for soundtracks, it paints a scene in addition to creating ambient and thought-provoking moods.

'Now Now' is achingly stripped back, warm acoustic bass strings and Carr's vocals are more than enough on their own to fully draw the listener in at it's opening. As the track progresses the harmonies and gentle tingling electric guitar notes are like a wisping breeze through an open window. It's impossible not to visualise the musician in complete isolation in a small country house way out in the rural singing to no one but the landscape on all four sides. 'Easy For Me' rolls sweetly through it's bars, Carr's gentle vocal simultaneously forelorn and abject yet eschewing warmth and comfort at the same time, it's slightly mystical and incredibly easy to get completely lost in.

Tim Carr - The Last Day of Fighting

After the equally calming delights of 'Beyond You', Carr swaps acoustic for electric, here we reach peak beauty, the power of his sound is so understated here in particular; 'you're not around anymore, but somehow I can hear you better, better than before', a lovely line that shows how much more attentive we can become when those close to us are not at hand. 'Kindred One' sounds like a mix of Alt-J and Animal Collective if they'd just had all their electronic gear stolen from the back of their tour bus an hour before a show. It's melodic and uplifting, again perhaps reflecting rural landscapes through music, shakers and bass drum bringing a tribal Native American ceremony to our ears and imaginations. 

The Last Day of Fighting ends with it's title-track (above), little hints of Sufjan Stevens' For Carrie & Lowell, it contains the heart-wrenching feel of that album, but is by no means a song intended to make one feel sad, far from it, hope abounds. Rhythmically and vocally Carr is pushing positivity, and in some ways this closing track summarises both the deep emotional charges of the album, and the overall sense that Carr is a truly gifted and original song-writer. Bearing in mind he is a musician of vast experience already, for a debut album this is still most impressive and quite simply put deserves a very wide international audience.

Look / Like / Listen & Follow:

Single: Montauk Hotel - Black Dress

Montauk Hotel Black Dress

Info: Dublin based shimmer-pop band Montauk Hotel are proud to unveil their debut single 'Black Dress', today, 26th of January. Taken from the group’s forthcoming self-titled E.P., ‘Black Dress’ is a glimpse into Montauk Hotel’s unique take on the indie pop genre.

Formed late last year, Montauk Hotel (Claudia, Shell, Aoife and Karima) made an impressive impact on the Dublin live music scene with shows including The Last Mixed Tape’s Lost Tapes series, The Bowery, Whelan’s and Sin É supporting acts such as Paddy Hanna, Beauty Sleep, Jem Mitchell and Odu.

Montauk Hotel's debut single 'Black Dress' slices through our nostalgia and current unfulfilled desires in equal measure. On the one (or two) hand(s) we have the inventors of jangle-pop, The Soft Boys, and the less abrasive The Las, and on the other hand, there was this miracle mix of The Cure incarnate and Whipping Boy's rare, quieter moments on Heartworm towards the track's end, but how?

'Black Dress' instantly embraces 80's jangle-pop, and the vocals are without apology steeped in that decade. Yet it's not an homage, it's a contemporary reinvention. This creative reworking of a popular but initially underground sound is going to draw a lot of people towards Montauk Hotel. Another interesting point to note is that, based on 'Black Dress' alone, you can tell that on future tracks Montauk Hotel will be able to move between slower and slightly darker moods and more upbeat rockier moments with ease. This is what is particularly exciting, the possibilities for forthcoming releases are quite tantalising, if you want to be unquestionably cool, you need to get on the Montauk Hotel train now.

Montauk Hotel headline The Last Mixed Tape's 3rd Birthday Show at The Sound House this Thursday, 2nd of February with support from Slow Riot and Beach, details here https://www.facebook.com/events/1091334464311022/

Like / Listen & Follow: 

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

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/montaukhotel

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MontaukHotel

Friday 27 January 2017

Album: 5th Element & DoubleScreen - State of Mind 2.0

5th Element and DoubleScreen 2.0 Album

5th Element & DoubleScreen - 2.0

Info: Hailing from Ballymun, Dublin, 5th Element are Ger Kellett and Ryan Lincoln, they are joined by DoubleScreen from neighbouring Glasnevin, on the trios debut album State of Mind 2.0, which is officially released today with an album launch at The Academy on Middle Abbey Street on the 11th of February with support from This Side Up. The album itself hasn't just come out of nowhere, with singles and videos dropping at regular intervals over the past 12 months, including the above single which shares the album's title on these pages almost a year ago.

I was instantly drawn to the hum and frequency of '2.0''s opening 25 seconds back then, and the more I've listened to the track, the more it has resonated with me, it's one of those pieces of music that you know at the very beginning appeals to you, but as time and listens progress, it hits you right in the feels. It's incredibly visual, and Kellett and Lincoln are assertive with the confidence imparted genuinely lifting you inside. When listening to it recently on a bitter cold walk through Dublin city centre early in the morning, it strangely felt like a mini soundtrack to the first moments of the day, still dark, it made perfect sense to me at that point.

5th Element & DoubleScreen - Faces (Trench Road)

Second track 'Faces (Trench Road)' (above) provides a slightly different feel, and while you don't know it just yet, it's a very early hint on the album that you're about to get wide-ranging variety from 5th Element and DoubleScreen by album's end. The overall mellow vibe courtesy of DS is tempered by spurts of controlled anguish from Kellett; 'I'm not trying to play your stupid games, people like you they always talk too much....I'm past the point where I could barely give a fuck, let me explain what I'm trying to convey, this world is like a jungle, have to keep an eye out for the snakes, and those who try to make everything great around them fall and break, cos they're insecure about what they do, constant complaints about the shit they went through, instead of getting up and fighting, they sat down and made a decision to give up and lose'.

On 'False Mercury (Feat. Joni)' we are whisked away to somewhere entirely different, a solid drum and bass number where Lincoln & Kellett excel, slotting perfectly into this 90's inspired throwback that sounds entirely made for them, in full flow and it feels cathartic and hypnotic in equal measure. After the completely out of left field and immensely enjoyable deep house spark of 'Relentless Scutter' we come to another trajectory, the magical 'Heroes (Lame Heart)', it's ethereal and cosmic, a big highlight on the album, you could say this is the point where 5th Element and DoubleScreen absolutely cut their chops, if this track appeared on any international rap album it would be a standout, it's nothing short of perfection.

'Walk With Me' (feat. Bitter Rocc & Zeinab) is a timely reminder of how good the production is on this album, are we already in the midst of one of the best Irish hip-hop albums ever made? Yes, no doubt about it, and this is a debut remember. '00's' sees 5th Element at their most exposed, a justified diary entry on any debut album to the origins of admittedly a pair of young men with much before them still in their twenties. In some ways also, it's worth noting that the video for the track is a welcome snapshot to understanding parts of the rest of the album, shot in biographical style, it summarises their own youth through the youth of today.

5th Element & DoubleScreen - 00's

Their latest video outing which was only released last week comes on top of track 'The Illest (feat. Mango)', a hyper-paced piece that ripples dizzingly courtesy of DoubleScreen, it's pace is rapid and there's a determination to drive home what the trio are all about here as the plonky beats escalate and hammer down. There's no let up in the quality of State of Mind 2.0 as it reaches it's end, 'Dogs' feat. Tebi Rex is arresting and shows there is no let down in the energy no matter how close we get to it's conclusion. A firm personal favourite comes in the shape of 'Veins' (feat. Trom), whilst I'm obviously at this point a big fan of this album, I'm also an admirer of Trom's vocals, a very astute choice to feature on the album, he is a perfect fit who fittingly gives 'Veins' the emotion and feeling it deserves, and lest we forget, DoubleScreen who destroys it in the most gratuitously enjoyable way to wrap up proceedings courtesy of yet another drum and bass extravaganza.

Despite the singles I'd heard over the last year, and how much I'd enjoyed them I was still not prepared for this album in it's entirety. This is Irish hip-hop at it's youthful zenith in terms of early creativity unleashed without giving a single thought about what other people will think of it, and the results are spell-binding on many levels.

Like / Listen & Follow: 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/5th-Element-156705564478427

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ie/artist/5th-element/id5902828

Twitter: https://twitter.com/5thElementEire

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Single: Franklyn - Friends / Tongue Tied

Franklyn Friends
Photo: Declan Gallen

Franklyn - Friends

Info: Franklyn is Owen, Enda, Stephen and Paul. Having played in various projects in recent years (Owen, Enda and Stephen were in General Fiasco, Paul the Jane Bradfords), the Belfast, N.Ireland based 4 piece got together in late 2015 to see what would happen. After a few sparse writing sessions, they played their first gig in February 2016. Various recording sessions throughout the year and shows with the likes of Idlewild and Twin Atlantic followed.

I can't remember the people, I can probably guess who they might have been...but when you're farting about between acts at live gigs which I tend to do, sometimes names of certain bands come up repeatedly, 'Have you heard of Franklyn' was definitely uttered to me at different venues, on different dates, repeatedly, either I heard it said a lot or my 1000mg cod liver oil tablets are starting to work a treat, I'll go for the former.

Joking aside, Belfast four-piece Franklyn have released a pitch-perfect double-A in 'Friends' / 'Tongue Tied', the almost lethargic vocals provide a very laidback balance to the more anthemic moments on 'Friends', some deliciously searing lead-guitar at 2:21 get you right down inside their groove. A very careful listen also unveils some wonderful minimal bass-runs, all in all a classic indie-rock single. 

 Franklyn - Tongue Tied

Trying to decide between 'Friends' and 'Tongue Tied' as a favourite is difficult, as both are quite difference, but on first listen, the latter very much appeals to my personal tastes, it's laced with bone fide late 60's / early 70's rock tones, with a dash of The Strokes, the olive in your Martini. And it's here that I'm seeing what the hot fuss is all about, it's always rewarding to hear a band know what a great and solid rock piece should sound like, but in addition be able to pull it off too. Based on these two tracks I would very happily listen to an entire album of similar sounds, the key for Franklyn might be to stick adherently to their current course but maintain the abandon which clearly exists in between both tracks, be bold and focused at the same time, basically.

Like & Listen:

Single: Ailbhe Reddy - Relent

Ailbhe Reddy Relent
Photo: Ciarán O'Brien / Design: Niamh Claffey

Ailbhe Reddy - Relent

Info: Dublin musician Ailbhe Reddy is a singer-songwriter who first began to attract attention when a homemade demo of her song 'Cover Me' which was used in a Today FM radio advert in 2014. Later that year her first single, 'Flesh & Blood' garnered excellent reviews from Irish blogs, and was featured as Song of the Day on the UK blog Folk Radio UK. Reddy has gone on to feature on every major Irish festival line up, such as Electric Picnic, Body & Soul, Other Voices, Hard Working Class Heroes, Knockanstockan and Spirit of Folk.

Since the independent release of Reddy's hugely successful debut EP 'Hollowed Out Sea', it has received excellent reviews and extensive radio play on TXFM, Today FM, 98FM and Dublin City FM. It has also been streamed over 1 MILLION times on Spotify. The first single, 'Distrust' received glowing reviews and lead to Ailbhe being named as Artist of the Week in The Irish Times. Influential UK industry newsletter Record of the Day recently featured the song stating ‘prepare to be floored….it’s wonderful’.

By the end of Ailbhe Reddy's latest single 'Relent', the tempo and impact of both music and vocals are well, unrelenting, in a highly energetic way. Beginning with a swooning intro, the power in Reddy's voice is instant and from this early point, to the forefront of the listener's ears. Whereas previous singles such as 'Distrust' and 'Keepsake' were shorn from an indie folk-rock hue, 'Relent' experiments a lot more with deep and dark soundscapes and subtle electronic layers. Reddy's strengths are all on display here, ease moving between vocal ranges, seamlessly allowing the movement of the music to wander into different spaces and styles and ultimately unleashing force with memorable aplomb. Early forays into the UK music consciousness with her last EP will easily be built upon noticeably with the release of 'Relent' as her momentum and ambition show no signs of being halted whatsoever.

Ailbhe Reddy plays The Servant Jazz Quarters, Dalston, London on Wednesday the 15th of February, and The Sugar Club, 8 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2, exactly a week later, on the 22nd of February.

Look / Like / Listen & Follow:

Website: http://www.ailbhereddy.com/

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

Spotify: https://play.spotify.com/artist/1YQiMR5M12HJ28hkJz7qnn

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alvyred

Single: Emer Maguire - Belfast

Emer Maguire Belfast

Emer Maguire - Belfast

Info: Emer Maguire is an Irish multi instrumentalist and singer songwriter who is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with. Her music is a welcome blend of soulful indie folk mixed with enough intelligent pop to propel her into the mainstream. This inimitable style, coupled with a live performance fuelled by looped vocals, driving guitar rhythms, quirky samples and live drums, sets
Emer apart in the world of singer songwriters.

Emer has just released her first commercial single ‘Belfast’ which promises to cause a wave of excitement and intrigue across the UK and Ireland. Already having performed the track live on stations such as BBC Radio Ulster and Belfast 89fm, ‘Belfast’ is garnering media momentum at a rate unheard of for new artists. Upon its release, ‘Belfast’ was immediately picked up by BBC’s Across The Line as 'Track for the Day'.

It's not easy writing an ode of sorts to your home city without it coming across as a bit cheesy, but Emer Maguire has managed to avoid clichés and provided a nonchalant observation of her daily personal experiences in a most enjoyable and relatable way. From it's opening snappy electronic drum beat and humming bass-line, 'Belfast' is instantly catchy, and if you'll excuse the pun, it loops delightfully from verse to chorus and back again. Her vocals and guitar playing are the epicentre of her sound, but the added minimalistic electronic surroundings raise the single up to another level to create an addictive and most pleasing debut single from an act you suspect is awash with ideas.

Like / Listen & Follow:

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

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/scratchmyprogress/emer-maguire-belfast

Twitter: https://twitter.com/emermofficial

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Review: Whelan's Ones To Watch 2017

The Fontaines
The Fontaines

Maria Kelly

All photos: Remy Connolly

Info: In terms of how indoor city centre festivals are run, you won't come across better than the bi-annual Whelan's Ones To Watch event, spread over four nights for the paltry fee of €10 plus a free pint. From the perspective of the punter or musician, the standard is exceptional in terms of organisation, the event is run like clockwork, and the timetable is rigidly adhered to, meaning those attending needn't panic when relocating between main stage, the upstairs venue or the wild happenings at the front bar.

From Thursday through to Sunday night everything went smoothly, of the just over 60 acts that played I managed to catch 28, and whilst I'm happy with that innings, I would have liked to have seen many more, them all even! There were many positive comments from the people it's all about at the end of the day as well, the artists, ranging from being impressed by how smoothly sets went between time-keeping and sound engineers, to how respectful and observant audiences were, this I noticed myself, and the unfortunate trend of people talking loudly at live shows was virtually non-existent over the four nights. It was a huge success, I didn't expect it to surpass my previous Ones To Watch experiences because of how great they were, but it did, I was tired but overcome with joy by the time I slunk off to bed on Sunday night. 

Pillow Queens

Personal highlights for me off the top my head include, but are not restricted to, Maria Kelly, Pillow Queens and Brass Phantoms (third and best time seeing them) on a brief trip on Thursday. Friday was crazy, crazy ill, I'm happy to go as far as to say it was one of the best nights of live music I've witnessed in years. It was a whirlwind, and a mad mix of genres from the acts. Finally getting to see Sun.Set.Ships live was fantastic, RUTH was her effervescent alt-pop self, and Farah Elle, whom I'd heard so much about, was just incredible, an amazing vocalist. Galants then set the tone for the raucousness that was to follow with a very impressive set on the main stage, the start of what was to be my world turning upside down in a very, very good way. 

MUNKY - Bazinga!!!!!!

Down at the Front Bar, Nix Moon were in incredible form, they might as well have been on the stage at the Hollywood Bowl for all they cared, they funked us up and spat us out, and left us scratching our heads, did that just happen? It was a glorious performance from the Dundalk band. Cap doff to Brass Phantom's guitarist Greg for knowingly putting his hand on my shoulder the previous evening, like a concerned father giving his son advice, and recommending Dublin rock act MUNKY. They were amazing, I'd never heard them before and they instantly blew me away, I was brought back in time, to a time I wasn't even alive in, and a time I wish I'd been alive in. It was a full blues and rock blow-out, everything was on the table, seeing them at the smaller area of the venue seemed fitting in some way, it being Friday night you get a lot of footfall from folks just coming in for a pint or whatevs, but everyone was captivated and it was wedged as they blew us all away, memorable stuff and then some.

Nix Moon

Exasperated in a wonderful way following Nix Moon and MUNKY, there was still a lot more to come, as I spent the remainder of the night at the main stage. Another band I hadn't come across previously (and that's what it's all about really) were The Fontaines, who hit the stage at midnight. After being catapulted back to the 70's for the previous hour, I was now divided between a world of 1950's skiffle rock and 1979, to be precise, punk. Definitely moreso the former, but it was as intoxicating as it was unexpected, I hold my hand up and say I expected some alternative indie rock, purely based on the band's name, how silly of me. The front man was a complete natural, as were the rest of the band, a performance of the kind I have not witnessed previously, there was chest baring and microphone stands were thrust manically throughout, and most importantly, the songs were fabulous. The Fontaines are the type of band you want to keep to yourself, but you know (and are happy about it too) that they will be huge and now, or very soon, is the time to catch them in the smaller sized venues, it'll be Vicar Street, The Olympia and who knows where next before long. 

Finally I saw WOLFF, from Wexford, a county synonymous with Vikings in both name and our memories of primary school history, this isn't a reference to the bearded musicians, and frontman Johnny Stewart, but more their tribal and hypnotic style of blues rock, steeped not in European music, but that of the deep south delta blues, and given the mid-70's rock treatment and then some. WOLFF is an act you could go and see live 10 times and leave 100% satisfied every time, and if on the line-up, there's just no missing them.


Truth be told by the time Saturday came around I wasn't feeling the most enthusiastic, having returned to the hum drum of office life following the New Year, and possibly being slightly over enthusiastic on the Friday! the tiredness took hold a bit, and I ended up not staying out for long, missing some acts I really wanted to see such as 5th Element & Doublescreen, I was a bit dead on my feet. That said, I was delighted to see Motions at the start of the night, and had a bizarre moment to myself seeing them perform their debut single on the main stage at the start of the night which premiered on these very pages. Continuing the electro vibe upstairs immediately afterward were another relatively new to the scene act Exiles.

Exiles released their debut EP last year, Red Lights, and the title track was a Top 5 earworm of the year for me, all three musicians were on top form, never have drum pads sounded so rock n' roll, lead singer Jack Flaherty has a set of pipes on him that would make many blush, and guitarist / keyboardist Darragh O'Connor multi-tasked ably between both, plus vocals and some very luverly guitar solos. Although I'd seen them at last years festival, I was not, not, going to see Belfast's Hot Cops, to miss them would be to deliberately engage in regret. Needless to say they were in fine fettle, their mastery of the slow build from nonchalance to all encompassing distortion was executed without thinking, and in drummer Conor Ellison they have a show in itself, the man is an enigma, who needs to be seen to be believed, easily one of the finest on this floating piece of rock.

The final piece of the jigsaw on Saturday came from a band very close to my heart, Galway's The Clockworks, who are currently churning out highly addictive 80's-laced indie-swagger singles, making song-writing look as easy as brushing your teeth. If their songs were very good and highly enjoyable, they'd still get a mention here, but they are far beyond that. The Clockworks are in a zone at the moment that most bands fantasise about when they start out, they're seriously enjoying themselves, they're touring the UK, and they're writing beyond ridiculous singles, all in the space of 12 months. Needless to say, anyone who walked through the main door of the front bar stopped, stayed, and listened. Then there was 'Mazda' performed live, and their latest single, which is yet to be released.....

Hot Cops
Hot Cops' Conor Ellison

Sunday came, and it was incredible. Temptation at this stage of a four night festival would make you think about turning up a bit later than usual, but I couldn't miss Niamh Crowther, who had impressed me so much almost 12 months earlier, and who was opening at 8.15 on the main stage. An artist with an incredible voice, who performed a stunning version of a song she had recently written...that morning (below). From there was a quick boot upstairs to see Pine The Pilcrow, another Dublin act whose string and keys-induced charm and wonder make such a big impact, they were food for a weary soul, and probably played a big part in making me feel emotionally raw ahead of what was to come.

Niamh Crowther

Sonnets and Sisters, a (yeah, you guessed it, Dundalk) band whose debut single 'Silence' gripped me after only 20 seconds of my first listen, then took to the main stage, the masters of harmonies see-sawed between heartfelt bone fide country-folk and full-blown folk-rock hoe-downs. A massively enjoyable moment came when they did a Beyoncé cover, taking a good pop song and making it new, as if their own, the audience were completely down with it and it resulted in one of the biggest reactions of the night from the punters. Again, like The Fontaines, I feel Sonnets and Sisters have a massive year ahead of them, one that may take even them by surprise, it's more a case of will happen than I want it to happen.

From there I was back at the front bar to see Kerry solo act Junior Brother, a man quietly writing brilliant tales of woe and joy, ones that will mostly make you smile and laugh, but sometimes bring a strange sadness to your soul, a unique, original, and enchanting mix. For someone who is so in tune with human behaviour and our unorthodox nuances, Junior Brother is an incredibly comfortable performer, there's a story to be told, with heart, and he's there to tell it. On top of the delightful lyricism is a truly wonderful sound that drags you toward it, a one man band who even the most casual listener or music fan is naturally drawn toward. 

Junior Brother

Sunday turned out to be a very enjoyable night for me, and easily challenged Friday night for impact, but in a very different way. I caught Emma Lou & The Agenda on the main stage, as someone who was never really a fan of contemporary soul-jazz, thinking it was too much imitation and not enough innovation of one of my favourite types of music, again, I was humbled with regards to my preconceptions. Yes there was an undoubted Amy Winehouse strain, but even moreso, there was a powerful and smokey soul sound to Emma Lou, one that wrapped itself around the venue while she was on stage, I could even hear her bellowing out perfect notes from the door of the front bar. 

And yet, there was one more particularly lasting moment for the weekend, and it was the best one. Dundalk's David Keenan took to the main stage, in front of a pretty full house for his opening song, to an audience eating out of the palm of his hand by the time hed gotten half-way through his set, to the most rapturous applause I'd seen over 4 nights before he'd even finished playing. Keenan was nothing short of immense, he poured his lyrics into our hearts and souls, and we didn't even know it until it was far too late. Whilst the delivery of his story-telling was passive, it's impact was aggressive, yet with absolute consent, it grabbed you and shook you, a highly charged emotional experience, that could only be delivered by an artist who resides in a sphere way beyond the norm. In my own opinion he is the most gifted musical artist in Ireland at the moment, usually I'd preface such a statement with a benign apology of some sorts, but I won't on this occasion. 

Last but not least, a huge thanks to Whelan's for organising and selecting such great acts, the bar staff, door staff and everyone else for making Whelan's One's To Watch 2017 such an enjoyable experience XX.

Sunday 15 January 2017

Track: Elevation Falls - What Will Be

Elevation Falls - What Will Be

Elevation Falls - What Will Be

Info: Elevation Falls are Classic Rock / Blues Band based in Ireland. Recent winners of Hard Rock Cafe's 'Hard Rock Rising' in Ireland for 2016.

Fronted by the powerful and unique vocal talents of 20 year old singer / songwriter Hazel Jade, EF's Warrior Queen! She formed the band at the start of 2013 and although she has been likened in ability to many great female singers such as Ann Wilson (Heart), you will not mistake her vocal for any other artist. They're currently working on their next album 'Armies Rising' due for release in early 2017.

In advance of the release of their next album release, Dublin's Elevation Falls decided to share the raw and uncooked acoustic version of their track 'What Will Be'. The plaudits for vocalist Hazel Jade are undeniably appropriate and justified, in a rock sense, few would be able to match her power and range right now. The song recalls classic 90's rock, think an acoustic Eddie Vedder on Pearl Jam's MTV Unplugged and you'll start to garner a picture and idea of what to expect. It's a track that's as equally tender as it is forceful, hitting you with great force at times, Armies Rising will be a most interesting listen when it is released, with it being clear that the band are steeped in some very fine rock traditions.

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Website: http://www.elevationfalls.com/

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

Spotify: https://play.spotify.com/album/2TxJa7nBzQ4RATL2KsMF4x

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ElevationFalls

EP: Dahlia - XII

Dahlia XII

Info: Dahlia are a brand new alternative rock four-piece from Downpatrick, comprising of Gareth Douglas (lead guitar, vox), David Douglas (rhythm guitar, vox), Jake Crane (bass) & Luke Papenfus (drums). The band have just recently released their debut EP, XII, a blend of contemporary alt-rock, hard rock and indie with a spatter of blues. 

The three track debut release is certainly a blend of many rock sub-genres, with opener 'Change' kicking proceedings off very nicely, a whirling in your face and crunching piece of powerhouse rock, with guitar solos and chord progressions echoing late 70's and early 80's styles. 'Love Me' is a more tender affair in comparison, with a slight folk hue, exhibiting the band's ability to switch tempo and sound with ease. Final track 'Flowers' is the most contemporary sounding song on XII, with a solid grounding in indie-rock, there's that blues strain again at the four-minute mark and as it reaches a hectic finale. A most competent debut from the Ulster band, from a part of the country that is brimming with high quality acts over the last few years.

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Single: o.ccult - Free

O.ccult - Free

O.ccult - Free

Info: o.ccult is a collaboration between electronic design and lo-fi songwriting.
Chen Firsel & AMO collaborated first as part of Memory in Plant back in 2014.
at the beginning of 2016 the two have started this new and minimalistic project. This is their child.

Israeli act Memory in Plant always laid the basis of their sound in minimalistic instrumentalism, incorparating psychedelia and ambient escapism to good effect, with the first single from their debut EP as o.ccult, Same, they have reached for a richer and more frontal electronic vibe, displayed without fuss here on the first single, 'Free'. The lyrics are also both poetic and very visual; 'Up, in the air, pulled apart by ghosts, pulled apart by ghosts, There in heaven, or hell, or whatever, or whatever, who wants to plant, a little red flower?' The synth progressions are also dark and wholesome, adding to an already enjoyably mellow and haunting track from the duo, top stuff.


Saturday 14 January 2017

EP: Alex Smyth - The Utopian Dream

Alex Smyth The Utopian Dream
Photo: Lucas Garvey

Alex Smyth - Weathered

Info: 'The concept of the EP is of a '3 fold Utopian Dream' which means - ''Utopia is loosely defined as a place where everything is perfect, so a 3-fold utopian dream would probably be a dream where everything is 3 times as perfect as in reality or  a really really really good dream''

The layout of the EP is reflection of this dream with each song being different structure and time of the dream - finalising the dream/ep with the title track would render coming out of the dream/waking up.'

One thing you can say for sure about Alex Smyth and The Utopian Dream EP is that he is totally at ease melding different sub genres into the instrumental electronic aesthetic of his music. This is succinctly tied together in the opening track, 'Weathered' (above), where Smyth blends differing types of guitar riffs with both contemporary and 80's sythpop and electronica, and here they all make perfect sense together.

On the EP's title track we have rolling guitar plucking followed by mellow synth and drum beats, quite reminiscent of Tycho and as the track progresses God Is An Astronaut to my ear, and that feeling of finely balanced happy / sad moods. There's a deliberate and more focused shift in mood on the 7 plus minutes of 'Control', it's a more contemplative piece of instrumentalism, a cross breed between Eno and Mike Oldfield, again Tycho vibes hit you at the 5 minute mark, with some beautifully arching guitar and a rising energy.

Alex Smyth - CXCVII

Final track and single 'CXCVII' which featured here previously brings a highly enjoyable collection of tracks to a strong finish. The lo-fi Mogwai-esque percussion sits comfortably along the see-saw pace of the electronic guitar and rippling bass-line. This is an excellent debut and opening salvo for Smyth, and one he should be as happy with as we are.

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