Saturday, 29 July 2017

Album of the Month: Alien She - Feeler

Photo: Fionn McCann

Info: Alien She are a Dublin punk/rock n' roll trio. The band has a wide range of influences, from 60s melodic girl bands such as The Ronettes, to 77 punk bands such as Penetration, along with the riot girl movement of the 90's and New York bands such as Vivian Girls.

Aoife, poet and writer, and Katie, artist and solo performer found something magical in playing music together. Darragh, writer, producer and musician who plays power pop under the solo moniker Jon Dots, ties their vision together. They write their songs together, some coming from poems, some from personal experiences. On the 15th of September they will officially release their debut album 'Feeler'.

Opening with a dark and twisted deep bass-line, Feeler kicks off like an out of control rocket, with Alien She instantly presenting us with their punk-rock credentials. The low intonation of the vocal harmonies and jerking shifts in the tempo of the percussion pull you forward and then back with a jolt just as the track reaches its finale, we're off to a very interesting start here.

Second track 'No Way Out' (above) sees the trio dip their toes in a classic surf-rock sound with some nice 50's-styled guitar riffs, its catchy upbeat tempo filling every second of its just shy of two minutes duration, Alien She do short and snappy very well, but as we'll soon find out, they are just as much at home with longer and more explorative tracks.

Alien She - Medicating

Back to their off-beat punk style, we reach the shoegaze sounds of 'Cover The Hole', a key highlight on the album, and again the vocals and harmonies are a source of intrigue. Fusing My Bloody Valentine meets Sonic Youth guitars, the rising crescendos throughout the track give it a sinister yet slow-burning energy that eventually becomes hypnotic and invigorating all at once. The band just about hold back from an all-out sound explosion and the addition of strings at the finale is perfectly in keeping with the overall mood of the song.

But behold, the blowout has arrived! The anarchic and chaotic raucousness of 'Feed Me' sees Alien She embrace all of the elements of hard-punk that so clearly inspires them in their song-writing and composition, once again their ability to lift you up and then drop you from a height without notice is executed nicely at the break at 1:37.

'Medicating' above tilts its cap to an undercurrent of Seattle grunge that peeps out from the punk shadows every now and again on Feeler. A rolling drum beat and rapid bass-lines contrast the nonchalant delivery of the vocals and visually you imagine an old tree trunk twisting slowly until it's on the verge of snapping. Next up is 'Solitary' which has a haunting 80's noir baroque pop energy, Blondie meets Depeche Mode in a sea of crashing sounds and jangle-pop guitars, and it's a thing of sheer and dark beauty.

Finishing with 'Death Sentence' which opens with a gorgeously bending echoed guitar riff, Alien She want to remind you why you're here, just in case you didn't get the memo by now. They save their ultimate moment of abandon for the curtain raiser, again, at the 2-minute mark the bass takes over from that opening riff, as thick as you'll hear, I could listen to that 13 second progression on loop for days. You're not a real punk band unless you know how to wield the anarchy within in an adept manner that transposes itself onto the listener, and bully me and you, Alien She have got it down on Feeler and then some.

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Listen: Chirpy - Real Life EP

Chirpy Real Life

Info: Introducing for the first time Dublin born female solo artist, Chirpy. An Irish folk, alt-pop, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Her debut 6 track taster EP 'Real Life' was released on the 27th June 2017.

Born Rebecca Shannon, she has been around Dublin on the Irish music scene for the past 10 years performing most notably with Anúna (where the likes of Julie Feeney and Hozier started). She has toured Ireland, the UK, Europe, the US and Asia as a singer and is featured on various recordings and television specials in the US and Australia. A former diamond grader, Chirpy recorded, produced and mixed all six tracks here in Dublin before sending the final finishes off to UK based Pete Maher (U2, The Rolling Stones, The Killers) for mastering.

The title track 'Real Life' is a classic lively summer tune with the potential to re-introduce much loved and familiar classical music elements into a fresh, raw, new sound, with the atmosphere of a live performance and a clear message. ‘The Sister’ paints a sharp image drawing on country and folk elements with text from the Irish poet Francis Ledwidge, whose centenary will take place on 31 July 2017. 'Heavy Hearted', 'Nowhere Land', 'I Wish It Was My Home' and 'Tomorrow' are perfect examples of maintaining the raw elements to any musical genre that make it human again. 

Chirpy cites many influences across popular, classical, heavy metal, blues and folk, yet manages to package each song into her own unique experience. Her style has more recently been compared to a broad range of artists including: Fleet Foxes, Sinead O’Connor, Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young. 

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Thursday, 27 July 2017

The VidList: Irish - Spudgun, Pat Dam Smyth, Frankenstein Bolts & Tim Chadwick

Spudgun - Crayons
Spudgun - Photo: Eoin Mulligan Photography

Spudgun - Crayons

Info: Last week we had our inaugural new feature The VidList with international acts Alt-J, Gordi, Blond Ambition and Jenn Grant. Now, it's time for the Full Irish, and we have four visually wonderful creations from the last couple of weeks courtesy of Dublin's Spudgun, London / Belfast act Pat Dam Smyth, Wexford pair Frankenstein Bolts, and Dublin pop supremo Tim Chadwick.

Woweezowee we start of with one of my favourite Irish music videos and tracks of the year from Spudgun with their new single 'Crayons'. With a sound self-describe as 'space goo', it's a tricky one to pin down, part math-rock, contemporary psych, dark matter, it doesn't really matter I suppose. There's so much going on, and it's a true cosmic delight, from grinding guitars, hypnotic percussion, buzzing synths and B-Movie violin snippets. What happens at the three-minute mark is what takes the track to the next level, everything grinds together sonically, melting in your head, before lifting off again into beautiful instrumental spaces. The video recalls Blur's 'There's No Other Way', except with a lot more insanity and unnerving facial expressions than Albarn and James could pull off, quality stuff.

Next up is 'Juliette' by Pat Dam Smyth, another dark opening beckons, musically we have Link Wray tremelo-led guitar riffs, a crossover of late 60's psychedelic-rock and modern sounds á la Father John Misty meets Spiritualized, it's a very interesting concoction. Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez colliding once again is the vibe I got from the video itself, which was directed by Keiran Perry and David James Watson and features some fine acting by it's central character on the run.

I was instantly endeared towards Frankenstein Bolts' new video for their single 'Anatomic Major', the first from forthcoming album Aglow & Spark. Both visually and musically it had a classic late 80's early 90's feel, an era when stop-motion videos were first coming to the fore. Soft musical textures whirl around the vocals with the dreampop duo infusing their sound with a hazy Californian summer vibe.

We wrap up with the latest single from Dublin pop act Tim Chadwick and his latest single 'Never Wanted You' which was released last month. Little strands of Bon Iver's sophomore album filter through in the percussion and vox in the opening minute and chorus. 'Never Wanted You' certainly feels like Chadwick's arrival to where he wants to be when put beside previous singles ,the production is pretty lush and it has that anthemic pop call-to-action energy.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Playlist: Snapshots in Time - Volume IV, 1965-1969

The Sonics

Info: Our fourth instalment of Snapshots in Time begins with the old world still strongly showing it's hand via the legendary Son House and his track 'Death Letter Blues' from the album Father of the Folk Blues, which is a must listen for anyone who has ever picked up a guitar. Not to emulate, but to appreciate the rolling sounds that can be made through fluid picking and slide techniques, an accompanying video can be found below of the Mississippi musician, born in 1902, executing the blues with ease on steel guitar.

Before the days of Shazam, which you can pop on quickly in a record shop if you're digging what's being played over the instore speakers (and hope another punter doesn't notice, it's an edgy game), you would have to casually float by the counter and squint at the 'currently playing' albums behind the staff at the checkout counter. If you had momentarily lost your senses, you might even ask them 'who's that band playing now?', but you'd lose a ton of dignity by doing that, and leave with a raw feeling that they were sneering at your ignorance. 

Anyway, pre-Shazam and on one of my many undercover rogue operations in Tower Records when they were based on Wicklow Street, I sneakily saw that the album I was being blown away by instore, and would subsequently leave with, was The Sonics' Here Are The Sonics, on CD at the time. It's a mix of covers (some of which they improve immeasurably on) and originals, and here 'Boss Hoss' was the one that killed it for me. The Washington garage-punk band were at the forefront of taking the 50's rock sound out of its box, having a look at it, and then reshaping it, and they were pretty darn good at it!

Son House - Death Letter Blues

In the summer of 2007 I was in New York, and found a treasure trove of records at Bleeker Street Records in Greenwich Village, one album I was on the hunt for, which is prohibitively expensive as a first press, was Black Monk Time by German punk rock (but really one of the godfathers of garage music), band The Monks, I failed, and settled for the CD, but I did score a massive success for 0.99c which we'll see later. It can't be understated the influence the band had on sounds we can even hear right up until now in 2017, though the origin has been filtered over the decades.

It's sometimes overlooked that in the mid to late 60's and early 70's, this side of the Atlantic Ocean began to adopt and sometimes surpass the blues music which originated in the North American Deep South. The prime example is Cheshire's John Mayall, a master of the blues himself, in 1966 he released the album Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton. That guitar you hear ripping through the Mono version of 'Hideaway' and the rest of the album belongs to a 21-year-old Eric Clapton before he left to found Cream. Due to self-imposed restrictions I was unable to include one of my other all-time favourite John Mayall albums, The Turning Point, but you might check it out on your ownsome here

The Monks - 'Monk Chant' (from the album Black Monk Time)

A long long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I used to spend every weekend (eventually) in The Mean Fiddler on Wexford Street, next door to Whelan's, when I went to see Arthur Lee and Love play the full album Forever Changes in 2003, it was called The Village, today, it's The Opium Rooms. Here's The Irish Times' review of the night by the wonderful Tony-Clayton Lea towards the bottom of their archived page. Opening with 'Alone Again Or' and the simple "Yeah!", Forever Changes is one of the all-time classic 1960's psychedelic rock albums, Lee's vocals, the echoed guitar-plucking, brass section and observational lyrics made it one of the most experimental albums of the mid-1960's, a classic.

Probably my favourite soul album of all time, James Carr's You Got My Mind Messed Up is considered one of the finest southern soul albums of all time. Sadly a crippling and severe battle with depression restricted Carr's ability to continue writing music and perform live, resulting in a minimal output after the late-60's. Tracks such as opener 'Pouring Water On A Drowning Man', 'These Ain't Raindrops' and the classic 'Dark End of the Street' find Carr in the deepest of deep soul moods.

Birmingham psychedelic pop troupe Traffic, led by Steve Winwood, who had previously founded The Spencer Davis Group at the age of 15 and scored 4 Top 10 singles and 3 Top 10 albums, had a pretty prolific output in the late sixties and early seventies, with hit albums such as debut Mr. Fantasy, 1970's John Barleycorn Must Die and a year later The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. Here we have their 1968 self-title LP and the chilled out prog-rock vibes of 'Feelin' Alright', which surprisingly upon release didn't even manage to chart in the UK (whilst reaching a lowly 123rd in the Billboard charts in the US). 

Chicago Transit Authority Vinyl 1969
CBS First Press of 'Chicago Transit Authority'

The stunning debut album from Chicago, Chicago Transit Authority, melded pop, jazz and rock together with aplomb. Led at the time by Peter Cetera, incredibly they are still going today, albeit with many line-up changes, Chicago still retain four of the original band members. They were at the forefront of creating the rock power-ballad, long before it was 'a thing'. Perfect examples of this would be the scorching and grandiose 'Questions 67 & 68'. Here I've gone for my favourite track on the album, the slick and dirty 'South California Purples', a fuzzed-out lead-guitar, funky hammond and Cetera's soulful vocal are all killer. 

At number 63 in Rolling Stone magazines 'Top 100 Guitarists of All Time' comes the legendary Johnny Winter, his firebrand electric blues-rock style captured perfectly on the amazing Second Winter album from 1969. Also heavily involved in music production, the Texan produced 3 Grammy-winning albums for a certain Muddy Waters. After being asked to perform by Mike Bloomfield with himself and Al Kooper at a concert at Filmore East in New York for one song, Winter raised the roof and got a standing ovation with a cover of B.B. King's "It's My Own Fault", incidentally in front of a number of representatives from Columbia Records. Within a matter of days he signed the largest advance in the history of the record industry at the time of $600,000, the rest as they say....

Johnny Winter Live in Copenhagen, 1970

We wrap up our latest Snapshots in Time with the wonderful soul sounds of Roberta Flack and her album First Take. This album was the aforementioned bargain I scored in Greenwich Village in 2007, I had never heard of Roberta Flack, but liked the look of the album cover, the vinyl was in good condition for a first press, and it cost me the princely sum of 0.99c! When you listen to her originals you quickly realise you've heard many of them before, such as her Number 1 hit, 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face', and a song which resurfaced in more recent times when covered by The Fugees, 'Killing Her Softly'. On this album it opens with a showstopper in the form of 'Compared To What', the jazzy tones of percussion and upright bass rumbling around Flack's beautiful soul vocal. Another highlight is her cover of Leonard Cohen's 'Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye', it's a stunning debut and a joyful listen.

To listen and read about REMY's last Snapshots in Time series from 1960-1964, go here

Recommended Documentaries:

Johnny Winter: 'Down and Dirty' (2016)

Track Listing:

1. Son House - 'Death Letter Blues' 
2. The Sonics - 'Boss Hoss'
3. The Monks - 'Monk Time'
4. John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers - 'Hideaway'
5. Love - 'Alone Again Or'
6. James Carr - 'The Dark End of the Street'
7. Traffic - 'Feelin' Alright'
8. Chicago - 'South California Purples'
9. Johnny Winter - 'Memory Pain'
10. Roberta Flack - 'Compared To What'

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

VidList: Alt-J, Blond Ambition, Gordi & Jenn Grant

Alt-J - Deadcrush

Alt-J - Deadcrush

Info: On our new feature, The VidList, REMY brings you your weekly dose of the best new video releases from outside of Ireland. This week we feature the latest visual delights from Alt-J, Blond Ambition, Gordi and Jenn Grant.

Alt-J released the video for their latest single 'Deadcrush' last week on the 12th of July, it's the fourth single from their third album Relaxer which came out earlier this summer, with the Leeds band currently in the middle of a US and European tour which will conclude on the 30th of August in Moscow. Describing the video itself the band profer that it's; "a collaboration between choreographer Darcy Wallace and director/dream weaver Young Replicant. Lee Miller, Anne Boleyn and Sylvia Plath - our three deadcrushes - are conjured up by a supercomputer in a post-apocalyptic world."

Blond Ambition - Stupid Boy / Girl

L.A.'s Blond Ambition features next, with single 'Stupid Boy / Girl' coming from the new solo project by Ex-Cops' Brian Harding. The single is taken from his debut solo album, the electro-pop treat Slow All Over. It's upbeat disco-pop intro belies the struggles that still face the LGBT community, both from outside and internally on an individual basis, yet is hopeful, as it also captures the vivacity, camaraderie and creativity to be found within.

Sydney's Gordi just dropped her video for single 'On My Side' from forthcoming debut LP Reservoir which will be released on the 25th of August. Sophie Payton grew up on a rural farm in Australia, her first foray into music came from sitting down at her mother's out of tune piano (a wedding gift) as a child and subsequently getting her first guitar aged 12. Beyond the drive-way of her childhood home is her 93-year-old grandmother's house, and past that she says; "is just beautiful space. And what else would you fill it with if not music?" 

Gordi - On My Side

Canada's Jenn Grant shares the latest video from her 2017 album Paradise, 'Sorry Doesn't Know'. We had the pleasure of attending an intimate performance upstairs in Whelan's a few months ago by Grant and fellow Canadian Hannah Georgas. The award-winning songstress pulls out all of the 1970's disco-funk glam with the video produced by Daniel Ledwell. 

Regarding the video itself, Grant explains; "I really wanted to have something visual that reflected the sense of freedom and power that I feel these songs are giving me. So we just did something free and playful with what we had at home. Dan played around with black lights and made filters out of different coloured tissue paper. We set up a big backdrop in our living room and experimented with creating something simple but beautiful."

Jenn Grant - Sorry Doesn't Know

Watch: OTHERKIN - React

Photo: Jake Haseldine


Info: Home and hosed after a frantic run of gigs supporting punk-rock legends the Dead Kennedys in the UK; grunge-pop four-piece Otherkin kick on with the release of the video for their new single 'React'.

The video was shot in London and was directed by Ciaran Lyons. Who says:

"In the video, a trivial, little joke-man ends up massive, and acts like a total plum with his new-found size. He is still, at core though, a fat, old human, and his reign of terror doesn't last long. It's a pretty simple analogy."

The band add: "The world is fucked, basically. It's not like you needed us to tell you that but it's probably more to fun to hear it shouted over clattering guitars than from Sky News or your boring mate Dave down the pub. What happened last November was impossible to ignore, even if you don't normally engage in politics. It's all over your screens, all over your feeds, a non-stop shit-flinging, media blitzkrieg being funneled down your mouth at every given opportunity. We had to have a response, a reaction. 'What can a poor boy do except to sing for a rock 'n' roll band?'"

In our review last month we observed that; "'React' kicks off with a full on rock riff opener, straight out of the blocks OTHERKIN go for the nuclear option, with an early-White Denim sounding percussion hanging around a pop-rock chorus and squealing lead-guitar. The pace and incessant energy is so frantic that the track feels half of the length of its three minutes." 

Full review here

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Sunday, 16 July 2017

Single: Marlon Brando Island - Circle of Throats / Drunk Driving

Marlon Brando Island Circle of Throats

Marlon Brando Island - Circle of Throats

Info: London post-punk / indie three-piece Marlon Brando Island released two new tracks last month, 'Circle of Throats' and 'Drunk Driving'. The former has a dark 80's post-punk intro, with prominent bass-lines and drums to the fore at its intro, as the track progresses it veers closer to more modern sounds, á la Interpol back in the good old days. The peaks are executed perfectly and the vocals have echoes of a certain Paul Hewson in a recording studio on Dublin's docklands when things were starting to gain momentum.

Marlon Brando Island - Drunk Driving

'Drunk Driving' recalls the theatrical kookiness of Jarvis Cocker's Pulp circa Disco 2000. It's a very nice blend of indie guitar rock from that era and a present day interpretation of the same style with a manic high tempo not a million miles apart from The War on Drugs musically. Guitars, percussion and vocals are combined in an incessant triumvirate which pushes the listener forward at high-speed as all three band members rip through the track. Both songs are refreshing and invigorating in all of the best ways, and are far more appealing than most of the offerings which fill large venues in the U.K. and Ireland at present.

*Also do yourself a favour and check out previous single 'A Troubled Past'

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Watch: Penrose - Let's Go Out

Penrose Let's Go Out

Penrose - Let's Go Out

Info: Dublin indie-pop five-piece Penrose recently released their latest single with accompanying video, 'Let's Go Out'. Whereas in the past the band wore their Britpop-era influences firmly on their sleeve, their newest release sees them build on that foundation with a more contemporary indie-rock presence. In very small pockets, particularly at the beginning of 'Let's Go Out', I hear slivers of York's The Seahorses, but these quickly dissipate as Penrose begin their forward march in a new direction with a solid ballad.

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Video: Waldorf & Cannon - Omit The Logic

Waldorf & Cannon Omit The Logic
Photo: Jay Doherty

Info: Waldorf & Cannon are an alternative multi-instrumentalist duo from Derry & Donegal.​ Philip Wallace aka Waldorf plays a Farmer Footdrum kit, Danelectro guitars, Hohner harmonicas and sings. Oisi​n Cannon plays a Danelectro 58 Longhorn bass and sings. Although there are only 2 members, they sound like a full 5/6 piece band​. ​Together they create a unique alt sound heavily laden with stirring harmonies and catchy hooks often sharing and swapping lead vocals during a single song. Influenced by many acts including Pixies, Nirvana, Devo, Fugazi, Link Wray, Little Walter and Beck.​

Northern hard rock duo Waldorf & Cannon recently released what is probably their most crunching single to date with 'Omit The Logic'. It's a disorientating and highly enjoyable mix of styles, like a trinity of Rage Against The Machine, early Wolfmother and vocally like Robert Plant with his balls in a vice, if you can imagine those heights. The mix of angst rock, hip-hop vox and psychedelic breakdowns is quite the experience, and there's an absolutely stonking face-melter of a 20-second guitar solo as we enter the final third. Yum.

You can find Waldorf & Cannon's debut LP, Old Dogs New Tricks at the below streaming links.

EP: Proper Micro NV - Colours

Proper Micro NV Colours

Info: Proper Micro NV is the alias of Limerick singer/songwriter/producer Rory Hall. The 22 year old has embraced electronic music of all kinds. At present Proper Micro NV specialises in down-tempo experimental electronic music, a move that has seen him being compared to James Blake and Mount Kimbie in recent months. Hall has also received recognition from Irish electronic songstress and former Moloko front-woman Roisin Murphy; who called his voice "Gorgeous" via social media. 

His debut EP titled 'EP1' was released in June 2016 to positive reviews. The Irish Times said that Proper Micro NV's vocal was "One of the most interesting new voices on the Irish scene in some time". They complimented the EP by saying that "it was a great showcase for Proper Micro NV's distinctive, soulful, bittersweet vocals and off-kilter electronica. On the 1st of July 2016, Hall was announced by RTÉ 2fm as one of 30 acts shortlisted by an expert judging panel to perform at Electric Picnic. 

On the 7th of December, Hall released his second EP 'It's always raining' via Plasmapool records. The first single 'Flaws' was released on the 3rd of November. In early 2017, music platform Spotify selected Flaws for their official Fresh Finds playlist, causing a large increase in listenership and popularity. 

Sometimes I get desperately sad when a discovery of wonderful music is made, only to find out that the artist has been in operation for a number of years, and I'm Johnny Come Lately, on the upside, thanks to the power of the Internet, this set of circumstances can be remedied. So it is with the gorgeously dark atmospheric soundscapes created by Limerick singer / producer Rory Hall, aka Proper Micro NV.

With an alarming immediacy, the opening track of his latest EP Colours, 'Do What You Do' stops you in your tracks. The droning synths bellow a thick cloud of black smoke everywhere, leaving you deprived of all senses bar your ears, the beat is incredibly simple but highly hypnotic, and Hall's vocals are more of an incantation than anything else, it's a powerful piece. 

Even despite how well that magic worked, the second track is decidedly different yet has no less of an impact. 'All About Me' is equally as mesmeric as its predecessor, it's a rare thing to find an electronic act so fully in control of how they manage the transference of their sound to the listener, you almost feel that Proper Micro NV isn't creating music for our enjoyment, but to control us, and we will happily submit. 

Final track 'Commotion' opens with a slight 80's OST vibe, and while many have remarked positively on his vocals before, I do feel it's necessary to commend them here once more, they are such an integral part of how the whole EP behaves and works so well. Colours is electronic composition at its absolute finest, it reminds me of a much much better version of London's Ghost Culture matched with the natural talent of Cork's Bantum, and it's easily one of the best Irish EP's to be released this year, in any genre.

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Single: The Academic - Bear Claws

The Academic Bear Claws

The Academic - Bear Claws

Info: Westmeath indie rockers The Academic have announced the release of 'Bear Claws', a vibrant, anthemic piece of alt-rock mastery. The track, which casts a nostalgic glance over its now more adult shoulder, was inspired by those early youthful days when the band, still teenagers themselves, were trying to navigate their way through the minefield that is 'youth socialising'.

Following their independently released Loose Friends EP in 2015 and last year’s equally successful single 'Mixtape 2003', the band scored opening spots with Noel Gallagher, Kodaline and Twenty One Pilots, in addition to supporting The Strokes at Hyde Park and recently completed a number of sold-out UK, European and Irish headline shows. 

Having already earned considerable critical praise from the online community as well as both The New York Times and The Irish Times, the band have also enjoyed considerable support at radio in Ireland and across the UK and Europe. With BBC Radio 1’s Annie Mac picking the band as one of her ‘New Names’ for 2017 while Phil Taggart has earmarked the quartet as one of Ireland’s biggest emerging acts, drawing welcome comparisons to Two Door Cinema Club amongst others.

Alternative pop-rock four-piece The Academic released their latest single 'Bear Claws' just last week. Trundling guitar-riffs roll wistfully underneath the upbeat percussion and bass-lines of the track, with lead singer Craig Fitzgerald's vocal giving the song their trademark call-to-action energy, as well as carefully guiding the track's mood across verse and chorus. The Mullingar act continue to make music with strong pop elements with great ease, but also tracks that suit their high energy live shows and have helped them garner a large following and popular online reception from further afield.

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Playlist: Snapshots in Time - Volume III, 1960-1964

Same Cooke Bring It On Home To Me

Info: As we embark from a starting point of 1960, the spread of genres becomes more even, we still have some classic and famous jazz albums from the likes of the Bill Evans Trio and Stan Getz & João Gilberto, with the latters daughter Astrud chiming in on 'The Girl From Ipanema'. We also see two of my favourite genres, soul and blues move from the outside into the mainstream musical consciousness, my all-time favourite soul act Sam Cooke for example, and the rock n' roll we visited via Buddy Holly and Little Richard in our previous Snapshots go to the next level with the supremo Jerry Lee Lewis, who was by no means a spring chicken in 1964 when he recorded his live album in The Star Club in Hamburg (it wasn't released until '65 so we cheat a little here!).

We kick off with one of the masters of mixing jazz with blues guitar, Wes Montgomery and his track 'D-Natural Blues' from the album The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, an appropriate title for an album which consistently features in the top albums released in 1960. The free-form movement up and down his fret-board coupled with some of the laziest (in terms of the listeners mood upon hearing it) snare and bass action make it an absolute treat that must be heard. 

Excellent blues guitar and it's accompanying traits of pained story-telling can be, but are difficult to, replicate in any style of music. On 'Country Boy' by Otis Spann from his album Otis Spann Is The Blues, he is the blues, trickling piano playing, the lackadaisical flow of guitar and the Chicago artist's throwaway delivery of his tremolo vocals encapsulate the blues and what it stands for so well. There is no getting to know the blues without engaging with Spann's music, and with the below video we can see how he was starting to influence a new kind of music and star which we will visit later in this post.

16 years Spann's senior, Robert Pete Williams exemplifies the dirt blues that 
Spann had polished a little, although I'm equally it home with both, perhaps a bit keener on Pete Williams' particular brand. On his 1961 album, Free Again, he gave us a peep through the keyhole to where the blues began, one man, one story, one guitar, Louisiana swamp blues at its finest, keeping old world stories alive through music.

Otis Spann - Spann's Blues

There's no passing this period of the 60's by without including one of the 60's & 70's greatest pianinst, Bill Evans. Starting his career in the late 50's, Evans went on to become one of the most influential musicians via his trumpet playing on Miles Davis' most famous album Kind of Blue. Highlights from the Sunday At The Village Vanguard album include the featured 'Gloria's Step' and 'Alice In Wonderland'. 

It was by complete accident I stumbled across Slim Harpo, and his track 'King Bee', wow, what a number it is. It gives me the same joy that a track like 'Green Onions' by Booker T. & The MG's does, remarkably simple, but a track that will lodge itself in your head forever. Harpo's trembling but acute vocal is sharp and delivered with a subtle humour, the locomotive groove of the percussion and humming bass, hear that escalated v-voom tone (intended I'm sure) is pure magic.

I could write a single post about Sam Cooke and only scratch the surface, one of the prime voices of soul music, it seemingly poured out of every ounce of him. Restricted to pop covers on his studio albums, Cooke found the ultimate release on his 1963 album Live At The Harlem Square Club, no one was going to tell him how he should sing or perform here. When Cooke proffers; 'I said I could feel alright now...' at the songs opening, and rattles the world with his dialogue on a phonecall conversation; "I said who is this? Somebody says, this is the operator, I said I don't want no operator, I want MY BABY!!!!". Bang. It all takes off from there and scorches everything before it. Sadly within 12 months Cooke would be shot dead in a motel room in Los Angeles following a show, by the manager of the establishment with the coroner at the time judging it as a justifiable homicide. Cooke was only 33-years-old at the time.

There's also no slicing your way through the late 50's and 60's without acknowledging the impact of South American music, and in articular the bossa nova / jazz of Stan Getz and João Gilberto (and later on the Brazilian psychedelic rock of Os Mutantes). 'The Girl From Ipanema', originally written in 1962 by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, became a hit for Getz and Gilberto. 

In the studio their producer supposedly insisted the entire track be sung in English, but with Getz and Gilberto unable to speak the language, the latter's daughter Astrud was brought in to deliver the lines; "Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking and when she passes, each one she passes goes "ah", when she walks, she's like a samba, that swings so cool and sways so gentle that, when she passes, each one she passes goes..." After that the saxophone is nailed right on. 

Astrud Gilberto - 'Corcovado' - from Getz / Gilberto

The soul returns with one of the most powerful and sadly least recognised albums of the decade, Irma Thomas' magical Wish Someone Would Care. At the age of 25 Thomas recorded one of the finest homages to her genre, including a glorious cover of 'Time Is On My Side' which Thomas released as a B-Side a few months prior to the Rolling Stones' famous version. There isn't a single track on this rarity that won't leave its mark on soul fans, it's a must listen.

You may have come across the vocal style known as chanson, which translates to English as song, not singer! It's a powerhouse medium that might not be for everyone, but in this instance is provided via the mastery of Belgian Jacques Brel and his famous 1964 album Olympia '64. Here we have the opening track 'Amsterdam', Brel's vocal bellowing animatedly from the get go, his crude and cynical take on love and relationships in dramatic full flow, Scott Walker would become obsessed with Brel in the late 1960's and his influence on song-writers was widespread, The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon summing Brel's impact in a nutshell as; "a wonderful example of the absolute need to be yourself and say exactly what you think, regardless of what the public seem to want"

Jacques Brel Olympia 64

Finally we come to the great Jerry Lee Lewis and another live album, the third to feature on this playlist, this time Live At The Star Club, Hamburg. After making his first recording in 1956 at the famous Sun Records studio in Memphis, following the success of 'Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On' in '57 Lewis' career stalled after he married his first cousin, Myra Gale Brown, who at the time was only 13 years old (Lewis was 22), they would remain married for 13 years, but the controversy led to cancelled shows in the UK and US and forced Lewis to go underground for many years. 

It was during this period that he focused primarily on developing his wild antics away from the public gaze. In 1964 Lewis joined Liverpudlian act The Nashville Teens for one night in Hamburg's Star Club and ended up recording one of the most brazen live rock n' roll albums ever made. The set was chaotic and the band were unable to keep up with Lewis for the first 20 minutes of his set so frenetic was the pace of his piano playing. He managed to recover his career and was still making hit albums up until the late 1970's, the 81 year-old is currently living in Louisiana. 

To listen and read about REMY's first Snapshots in Time series from 1950-1954, go here

Recommended Documentaries:

Bill Evans - The Universal Mind of Bill Evans (1966)
Sam Cooke: Legend (2003) 
Interview with Jerry Lee Lewis for the documentary I Am What I Am (1987)

Track Listing:

1. Wes Montgomery - 'D-Natural Blues'
2. Otis Spann - 'Country Boy'
3. Robert Pete Williams - 'Free Again'
4. Bill Evans Trio - 'Gloria's Step (Take 2)'
5. Slim Harpo - 'I'm A King Bee'
6. Sam Cooke - 'Bring It On Home To Me' (Live)
7. Stan Getz & João Gilberto - 'The Girl From Ipanema'
8. Irma Thomas - 'I Need Your Love So Bad'
9. Jacques Brel - 'Amsterdam' (Live)
10. Jerry Lee Lewis - 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On' (Live)

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Single: Bodies - I'm Waiting

Bodies I'm Waiting

Bodies - I'm Waiting

Info: Following the release of their debut single 'Nightmoves', Bodies release 'I'm Waiting', a flowing atmospheric track which slowly builds to a towering crescendo before crashing to a surprising finish. The track is complimented by the original and entertaining video from Crooked Gentleman, best known for their work with Hozier, Bastille and Funeral Suits. 'I'm Waiting' formed as part of recording sessions with members of Overhead the Albatross, Squarehead, Kid Karate, BLOOMS and Lethal Dialect.

Bodies have spent time cultivating their sound; drawing influence from the likes of Radiohead, Brand New & Sigur Rós. Originally the solo project of David Anthony McGeown and now expanded to a 4 piece live band, Bodies recently headlined showcase nights for Gigonometry and The Playlist Presents as well as the Main Stage at Whelans Ones to Watch 2017. 

Bodies will play a headline show in Dublin's Sin É on Saturday July 29th to celebrate the release. Support TBC.

Bodies latest single 'I'm Waiting' takes a wry look at our non-acceptance of the self. Visually covered off by the video courtesy of Crooked Gentleman, we see fear, despondency, joy and frustration from a myriad of characters who know what is coming, yet still react with shock and surprise when faced with the outcome of their various endeavours, all of which seem rather mundane to the outsider, but are borne from a great inner-battle within the individual.

Musically 'I'm Waiting' commences with a morose opening harmony, perhaps signalling early on the despairing nature of human behaviour when we become obsessed with things we cannot change. Bouncing bass-lines and light-touch percussion belie the thematic message, with McGeown's hitherto calming vocal rising sharply to a roar in the track's final 20 seconds, allowing some of his alternative indie influences shine through at the very death, excuse the pun! 

Aside from making great music, Bodies' strength comes from a well-thought out ability to clearly delivery his observations on the darker side of human behaviour to the listener, the satirical side to the lyrics is perhaps supposed to lighten the load, but in fact makes it even more unnerving, which is even better.

'I'm Waiting' was released on the 10th of July by Minor Fall Records and is now available to stream on all major platforms. 

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Photos: Gigonometry - Montauk Hotel, The Clockworks & Silent Interlude

Montauk Hotel

All photos: Remy Connolly

Info: The monthly Gigonometry sessions run by Dave Conway at The Workman's Club have been going for a number of years now and showcase the best up and coming Irish acts with a perfect balance of quality and quantity. Selected through a myriad of sources, first-hand attendance at live shows, online research and a knack of capturing acts just as they're about to take off on the upward trajectory in their music career, Gigonometry consistently manage to provide a full four-band roster which is all killer and no filler. Punters can leave after being wooed by the opening act just as much as the headliner, making the monthly event a must see for those with a love of live music and even just a passing interest in the current state of independent music in Ireland.

Dave Conway Gigonometry
Dave Conway, Gigonometry founder

Thursday night was no exception on Wellington Quay in Dublin city centre, the roster featuring Davie Furey (with accompaniment from EllyD), Silent Interlude, The Clockworks and Montauk Hotel. Unfortunately we arrived just at the very end of Furey's set, and were then straight into ambient indie four-piece Silent Interlude who were a brand new experience, and unsurprisingly a highly enjoyable one given standard on display. Silent Interlude moved with ease between instrumental build-ups and crashing peaks across their set, their were some zinging solo guitar moments as they reached the end of their setlist and bassist Seán Walsh pulled some gorgeous vocals and harmonies with lead singer Niamh Walsh out of his top hat.

I've seen Galway rock / indie / ska quartet The Clockworks twice before, but only in the pokey and restrictive environs of the front bar in Whelan's, so was really looking forward to seeing them on a proper stage finally for what was their first appearance at The Workman's. Swagger galore and pumping bass and percussion drove guitarists and vocalists Connelly and McGregor the whole way through their performance. Their snappy vigour and abrupt closing to songs were on display across a high-energy set that included all of their singles to date, 'You Are The Problem', 'Mazda' (wowza - still one of our favourite singles from last year), and latest release 'The World Owes Me A Favour' as well as the more restrained 'Girls Like You' which appeared earlier.

The Clockworks

Finally we had the intimidatingly cool Montauk Hotel who are set to release their next single in the middle of next month. Their sound provided a nice contrast as the night came to a close, and even though I never really thought about it much before, when it was remarked at how tight and natural their performance has become, on the night I really started to take more notice as their set went on. It did feel very self-assured, like they had been doing this for many years rather than just over one. 

As with their EP launch earlier this year upstairs in Whelan's, I once again got absorbed into the set by the second song, you kind of become unaware of your surroundings with this band, in an enchanting and other-worldly kind of way. Of course we were treated to their entire EP during the set, with single 'Black Dress', the emotive 'Dust' and also '1984' to close proceedings, a track that has become my favourite of theirs due to the fact that I feel it captures all of their elements in one place.

It was another great night at The Workman's and I have it on good authority that the August Gigonometry is going to have one of their most insanely talented line-ups to date, I may even be cutting my holidays short to get back for it, keep an eye on their Facebook page for the line-up announcement.