Monday 31 December 2018

REMY's International Album of the Year 2018: Natalie Prass, Screaming Females, Kraków Loves Adana, Connan Mockasin & more

Natalie Prass - The Future and The Past - Album of the Year - Vinyl

Info: Such is the flood of high quality local acts, I find it hard to keep up to date with 'happenings' outside of Ireland sometimes. So I made a deliberate decision to scour the web for new releases this year, and share my favourites on a monthly basis, I managed to do this up until the month of October, I'll take it!

Above (Playlist) and below (list) are a collection of albums that I listened to quite a bit in 2018, I was even lucky to see 4 of these 10 acts live in Dublin over the last 6 months. Two of those performances, from Natalie Prass and Screaming Females in particular, were a dream come true.

1) Natalie Prass - The Future and the Past

Jeez Louise, it's the best soul n' rn'b album to be released since, well, a long, long time. Natalie Prass' The Future and The Past is simply delicious. The album was released on the 1st of June. I went to a number of gigs in The Workman's Club, and from March onwards they had the poster up for her show on 6th of November, no way in hell was I missing it! Prass was arresting, towards the end of her set the band left the stage and she dropped guitar and sat at the keyboard, sang, the world slotted into place, just for a minute.

Key tracks: 'Oh My', 'Sisters', 'Short Cut Style', 'Ain't Nobody'

2) Screaming Females - All at Once

I was just as lucky to see New Jersey's Screaming Females on their tour for their latest studio album, All at Once, on the night, local Dublin trio Alien She were supporting. It was distilled anarchy, and this stretches across the album, the brimming and the overt, I listened the shit out of opener 'Glass House' this year too, such a powerful and alarming track from a rare album.

Key tracks: 'Glass House', 'I'll Make You Sorry', 'Agnes Martin', 'Fantasy Lane'

3) Krakow Lóves Adana - Songs From the Blue

At least one of my album's of the year comes about by chance, of sorts, do you believe in chance?! A recommendation from a friend or stranger, a fluke of streaming algorithms, a support act at a show. In the case of Hamburg's Krakow Lóves Adana it was a single, and then another one, and then another one. Another of my biggest regrets of 2018 was not reviewing Songs From the Blue, it got away from me with all that was happening here locally in Dublin at the time. It is littered with singles, even ones that haven't been released, and I adore the chill groove of the duos music and Deniz Cicek's vocal, so cool, but not trying to be, just is. This album accompanied me on cold, warm, and darkening seasons, it is so, so good. "First you lose control, then you lose yourself".

Key tracks: 'Rapture', 'American Boy', 'Heather', 'Bloom'

Krakow Loves Adana - Songs After The Blue -  Album of the Year - Vinyl

4) Snail Mail - Lush

Album title = appropriate. Baltimore's Lindsey Jordan and band deliver a ridiculously casual collection of songs on album Lush which mixes slacker rock and light grunge with aplomb. DIY vibes abound on 'Speaking Terms' with an 'in the room' feel, and yes, latest single 'Let's Find Out' draws lines around the beauty of hopelessness like few others this year, gorgeous.

Key tracks: 'Speaking Terms', 'Pristine', 'Let's Find Out', 'Golden Dream'

Snail Mail - Lush -  Album of the Year - Vinyl

5) Anna Calvi - Hunter

Guitar, rock, I love it. Got a resonant message? Even better. I've loved Anna Calvi's modus operandi ever since she released her self-titled debut in 2011, and on it, one of my favourite songs of the 21st century, 'Suzanne & I', I'm sure I'm not alone in that. From Hunter, single 'Don't Beat the Girl Out of My Boy' felt like an anthem for much of the wonderful societal upheaval that has happened here in Ireland over the past few years, and in spite of how great the music is, the message and lyrics gripped me most. Calvi's vocal rocket at 2:37/8 is inspiring. Interestingly, the other 9 songs on this album are amazing!

Key Tracks: 'As a Man', 'Don't Beat the Girl Out of My Boy', 'Chain', 'Eden'

Anna Calvi - Hunter -  Album of the Year - Vinyl

6) Connan Mockasin - Jassbusters

From a small town on the north island of New Zealand, Te Awanga, Connan Mockasin has proven himself to be one of the most musically diverse artists of the 21st century. A grand attribution! But true. His sophomore album Forever Dolphin Love was a trip through Hades and Paradise, warped, gleeful, insane and unsettling. His third LP, Jassbusters, is mostly unrecognisable from there, it's a modern masterpiece of soul-jazz with a strong flavour of baroque pop. In tone it summarises that 60's counterculture phrase, "turn on, tune in, drop out". Heaven.

Key Tracks: 'Charlotte's Thong', 'Les Be Honest', 'Last Night', 'B'nd',

Post script: I went into Freebird Records in Dublin the other day to buy Jassbusters, and sadly it wasn't there, but! Forever Dolphin Love was, so I bought it and Blood Orange's Negro Swan. I asked the shop owner at the counter did they have Jassbusters, he told me they sold their last copy earlier that day. Then he muttered; "No one is buying new albums on vinyl any more", I was bemused and said "Really? I thought there was an ongoing revival?" He laughed, and said, "Sure, people are buying vinyl again, but they're only buying Fleetwood Mac, you're the first person to buy the new Blood Orange for example". Weird.

No vids from the new album, so one from the old album!

7) Kamasi Washington - Heaven and Earth

Jazz is DEAD! Lol! Kamasi Washington churns another masterpiece out with enviable ease in Heaven and Earth, surpassing in my opinion 2015's The Epic. Gospel tones, soulful vibes and a fluid brass romp spit there way unceremoniously through his fourth album. Toe to toe with Coltrane, Davis, Brubeck et al, Washington lathers his new album with high-end free-form pulsations, it's accessible too, but more importantly, musically spiritual.

Key tracks: 'Street Fighter Mas', 'Fists of Fury', 'Hub-Tones', 'The Psalmist'

8) Young Fathers - Cocoa Sugar

Edinburgh's Young Fathers have released three ground-breaking albums on the bounce Dead (2014), White Men Are Black Men Too (2015) and now Cocoa Sugar, plus, two epic EP's in Tape One and Tape Two (2011 / 2013). Cocoa Sugar sees them get proper no holes barred dirty, balmy (hear opener 'See How') and care-free like never before. This is U.K. prima facie U.K. hip-hop at its most exquisite.

Key tracks: 'Toy', 'Wow', 'In My View', 'Fee Fi'

Young Fathers - Toy -  Album of the Year - Vinyl

AND Holy Shit, with Massive Attack, one of my favourite music videos of all time starring Rosamund Pike - 'Voodoo In My Blood'

9) Blood Orange - Negro Swan

London's Devonté Hynes has blow apart preconceptions about not only U.K., but worldwide alternative rn'b. The genre was predominantly trapped in popular chart music in the late 90's and early 00's. Through Blood Orange he has turned what was initially fun, then stale, then non-existent, into a multi-coloured kaleidoscope of soul, rn'b, pop and chill electro sounds. 2016's Freetown Sound was outrageously brilliant, Negro Swan seamlessly continues the trend, but instead of being a 'Part Deux', Hynes observes the 'right now' (again), best encapsulated in third track 'Take Your Time'. The chaotic world as it is, as he (we) sees it, making Negro Swan an updated diary-like reflection, just like Freetown Sound was. 

Key Tracks: 'Saint', 'Charcoal Baby', 'Jewelry', 'Chewing Gum'

Blood Orange - Negro Swan -  Album of the Year - Vinyl

10) Andy Cooper - The Layered Effect

Outlier, such a dirty word! Hailing from Long Beach, California, West-Coast hop-hop act Andy Cooper dominated my January and February headphones with his sophomore album The Layered Effect. This is all of your Beastie Boys, House of Pain, N.W.A.'s, Public Enemy ét al rolled into one jam-joint. It is laden with absolute hip-hop bangers from start to finish, there was only one track I didn't like, 'Do The Andy Puppet', and I couldn't stop listening to it. Cooper's second solo album flies off the book shelf with opener 'Here Comes Another One', in an age where sampling ist verboten, Cooper makes the most of sounding like he has sampled forebears. This is a Goodfellas-esque club joint, hip-hop, extravaganza. This is beast-level 2018 hip-hop and rap, get ready.

REMY's Music Diary of the Year 2018 - Part Two

Roisin Murphy - Metropolis - Niall O'Kelly Photography
Photo: Roisin Murphy @ Metropolis Festival - by Niall O'Kelly Photography

Info: Picking up where I left off in Part One, the month of July saw festival season gathering pace, locally I had the pleasure of attending the Dublin Quays Festival. Only in its second year, it has very quickly become one of my favourite festivals in the capital. With great venues such as The Sound House, The Grand Social, The Workman's Club and Sin-É, and more importantly, the organisers clearly have their ear to the ground regarding new acts that are causing a stir, it feels fresh.

Stand-out sets came from Gabriel Paschal Blake, Gemma Bradley, Megan Nic Ruairi, Girlfriend, The Stasi, PowPig, and a bone-rattling first look at The Murder Capital. There had been much hype in the lead up to the festival about The Murder Capital, who had not yet released any music, my inner hipster teenager suspicion was niggling over it, but the hype turned out to be justified. It was an awesome and jaw-dropping set from the Dublin band, a performance which seared itself into the memory, a chill from the controlled aggression on stage, 2019 will be an eventful year for them I'm sure. Also, a quick word on Limerick's PowPig who I caught in The Workman's Club, still only in their teens, the four-piece's enthusiasm on stage was sprinkled with a well-hidden nervousness, they were enjoying themselves, and we really enjoyed ourselves. From the outside looking in since that show, they are growing in confidence, and have had plenty of small successes in end of year lists as ones to watch for 2019, and their addition to big line-ups as a support act.

Photos of Girlfriend, Gabriel Paschal Blake, Gemma Bradley, PowPig, Silverbaks, The Stasi by Remy Connolly & The Murder Capital by Sarah Ryan).

Girlfriend - Dublin Quays Festival - Remy Connolly

Gabriel Paschal Blake - Dublin Quays Festival

Gemma Bradley - Dublin Quays Festival 2018 - Remy Connolly

PowPig - Dublin Quays Festival - Remy Connolly

PowPig - Dublin Quays Festival - Remy Connolly


The Stasi - Remy Connolly - Dublin Quays Festival

The Stasi - Dublin Quays Festival - Remy Connolly

The Murder Capital - Sarah Ryan Photography

The Murder Capital - Sarah Ryan Photography

A truly seminal live moment and big highlight of 2018 was A Ritual Sea's headline show in Drop Dead Twice on Francis Street with support from Hostess and Father! It's the nearest venue to home, and one I've been to a few times, but would like to frequent more. This was a night for shoe-gazers, escapists, pop dreamers. I'm a huge fan of A Ritual Sea's sound and music, with single 'Seasons (Like You)' easily one of my tracks of the year. It was a pleasure to see Father! aka Sean Brunswick perform his album Beach Cloud Daze live too. I had never heard Hostess' music before this night, but I was instantly converted, the debut album A Simple Life followed shortly after, received endless play on my end, and comfortably slotting into my Top 10 Irish albums of 2018. Only yesterday I walked by the venue and I think this night will always attach itself as my overriding memory of the venue.

A Ritual Sea - Remy Connolly

Hostess - A Simple Life - Remy Connolly

Father! - Drop Dead Twice - Beach Cloud Daze - Remy Connolly
Father! - *Kate Bush t-shirt tho

Another great night in August was only around the corner courtesy of the amazing Elizabeth Moen who was touring latest album A Million Miles Away. The Iowan's band for this particular leg of the tour comprising of members of Wyvern Lingo and THUMPER. Support on the night came from Dubh Lee and the inimitable soul that is Joey Gavin, just before he relocated to Berlin. A flavour of the night below, a damn soulful jam...(thank you Laura btw!).

Elizabeth Moen - A Million Miles Away - Whelans

Joey Gavin - Remy Connolly

Dubh Lee - Niamh Dooley - Remy Connolly

Wrapping up August and there was no way in hell I was missing the Dublin leg of Dundalk supremo Elephant's album tour for sophomore (double-LP, 180g heeeavy) album 88 with support from Montauk Hotel at The Grand Social. I think Montauk Hotel may be the band I've seen live most over the last 3 years, but on this night they were next level, admittedly it had been a while since I last saw them, but it was beyond immersive, their set works as a whole rather than individual experiences for each song. There is nothing better than attending an album launch when you are knee-deep in the record yourself, so it was with Elephant's 88, Shane Clarke's second critically acclaimed album, and again, plaudits coming from all stratosphere's of the music media, deservedly so. This was a night to detach from everything and just be in the moment, soak up a performance of one of my legit albums of the year, legit.

Photos: Sarah Ryan

Elephant - The Grand Social - Photo by Sarah Ryan

Montauk Hotel - Sarah Ryan Photography

I made a conscious effort at the beginning of 2018 to make time researching international releases, hard to do with the wonderful volume of local music! So a monthly new album release feature on the blog ensured I would collate what I felt were the best albums from around the globe. 

The big silver-lining to this for me personally was being able to keep an eye on any of these acts playing in Dublin during their tour, and it led to some of the most amazing live performances for me not only this year, but in a long, long time. First up was New Jersey punk-rock band Screaming Females in The Grand Social with support from Dublin's Alien She, what a line-up. Screaming Females were promoting their seventh studio album, All at Once, which dropped in February. It was an astounding performance, aggressive, blues rock blowouts, and very little gap between songs, all rolling in to one almost for the entire set. The punk anarchy of Alien She beforehand threw the gauntlet down, it prepared us, but SF went beyond expectations.

Screaming Females - The Grand Social - Remy Connolly - Photographs

Screaming Females - 'Glass House'

A few nights later Sarah was at The Harbour Bar in Bray to snap one of my favourite bands of 2018 who I got to catch twice over the previous 12 months at this point of the year, EHCO, with support from Caoimhe de Barra and Digg Deep. The Harbour Bar is a venue I want to see a live show in in 2019 having been there for the first time a few months ago, what a joint!

EHCO The Harbour Bar Sarah Ryan Photography

Caoimhe De Barra - Wyvern Lingo - The Harbour Bar - Sarah Ryan Photography

I finally got to hit up a show curated by the amazing Irish music blog MNÁSOME run by Sinéad Furlong at The Workman's Club on Thursday, 13th September, featuring ELKAE, Baba and Dreaming of Jupiter. It was haute-entertainment! With the night rounded off with a wildly high-energy set by DoJ. Do keep an eye out for MNÁSOME gigs in 2019, I can't wait to catch another one.

Dreaming of Jupiter - MNASOME - Remy Connolly - The Workmans Club

BABA - MNASOME - Remy Connolly - The Workmans Club


The end of September brought the 15th year of Hard Working Class Heroes, it was a big improvement on 2017's festival for me, I had so many internal shellackings from the stage, and I can't adequately express how imperious Dundalk's Aoife McCann, aka Æ MAK was in The Grand Social, or how my emotions were gutted like a fish by Molly Sterling at the same venue. Other big, big highlights came from Kitt Philippa, New Pagans, The Wood Burning Savages and yes, Just Mustard. 

Æ MAK - Hard Working Class Heroes - Remy Connolly

Kitt Philippa - Hard Working Class Heroes - Remy Connolly

New Pagans -  Hard Working Class Heroes - Remy Connolly

Just Mustard - Hard Working Class Heroes - Remy Connolly

Molly Sterling - Hard Working Class Heroes - Remy

The Wood Burning Savages - Hard Working Class Heroes - Remy Connolly

At the beginning of October I found myself back at the main stage in Whelan's for the first time in a while, catching local act KARMS supporting Glasgow's Fatherson, a band who had been covered earlier in the year on the blog for their indie-rock tour de force single 'Charm School' (below video, and one of my most played Spotify tracks of the year, the indie dye runs deep still it seems!). Also in support were Belfast's Blue Americans. Yes, Fatherson were class, a good ole' night of clunky, crunchy indie guitar-rock in front of a packed house.

Fatherson - Whelans - Remy Connolly

Blue Americans


A quick trip to the Irish Blog Awards in Tramline as a Finalist in the Music category, thanks to my ever patient, ever supportive, ever maligned better half, Anna, thank you!

Blog Awards Ireland - REMY - Remy Connolly - Music

Our final festival of 2018 was Metropolis at the RDS, line-up was fab, Young Fathers, Blood Orange, Roisin Murphy, Villagers, Mac DeMarco, David Keenan and Junior Brother to name but a few! It was also the first time that Sarah, Niall and myself would all be covering the same event, better late than never, we had a great time, and in some fine company over the two nights with The Last Mixed Tape. Although we were on time for their set, we were unable to photograph Young Fathers due to what I will call an administrative error! A big regret of mine for 2018, but these things happen. Of the main stage acts I have to say Roisin Murphy was the biggest highlight, followed very closely by Villagers and Blood Orange, also props to Welsh act Gwenno for a grabbing performance.

All photos: Sarah Ryan & Niall O'Kelly

David Keenan - Sarah Ryan Photography - Metropolis Festival

Junior Brother - Metropolis - Sarah Ryan

Gwenno - Sarah Ryan Photography - Metropolis Festival

Villagers - Sarah Ryan Photography - Metropolis Festival

Blood Orange - MEtropolis - Niall O'Kelly Photography

Mac DeMarco - Sarah Ryan Photography - Metropolis

Roisin Murphy - Metropolis - Sarah Ryan Photography

Somehow, somehow, with post-Metropolis adrenaline waning and fatigue kicking in, Niall made sure we got ourselves to The Grand Social on the Monday night of the October Bank Holiday weekend to see Bristol's Elder Island perform with support from Favela. I was reviewing, Niall taking photos, but I found it difficult as I always do with a live show to mentally note markers of the night. Elder Island were phenomenal, dreamscapes ahoy, from the review of the night...;

"With the room packed, Elder Island shortly took to the stage, and within minutes we were gone, the nonchalant delivery of beyond mellow dreamy guitars and vocals drifted out from the stage like an invisible potion, settling in all of our ears, and taking command of our senses....Close to zero outside, reaching boiling point inside, it was sweaty as a MF in the packed venue already."

Elder Island - The Grand Social - REMY - Niall O'Kelly Photography

A few nights pass, and I'm back at The Grand Social for the launch of BODIES' debut album, Drench! Another absorbing performance from one of my favourite Irish bands of the last number of years. 

BODIES - The Grand Social - Remy Connolly - Dublin

Three live shows stood out for me above all others for various reasons in 2018. The first being Bicurious upstairs in Whelan's which featured in Part One of y 2018 review, the second being my own curated show with Gigonometry featuring The Felonies, Just Mustard and Robocobra Quartet, and finally, the third, and enigmatic and almost surreal experience, was Richmond, Viriginia artist Natalie Prass at The Workman's Club on the 6th of November. Her latest album The Future and The Past had solidified itself in head and heart since its release earlier in the year, yet seeing her live was out of this world. Sometimes you imagine what it must have been like to see one of the iconic rock, soul, blues, folk artists of the 50's, 60's 70's etc. live at their peak, this night felt like witnessing that past, but in 2018. She was incredible, and even more so when the band left the stage at one point and she played the piano and sang to the most silent audience I've ever been surrounded by. A bonus on the night was witnessing it with old friend and drumming virtuoso Dennis Cassidy, fans of a feather!

Natalie Prass - Remy Connolly - The Workman's Club - Dublin

November brought a serious cram of great gigs, especially towards the end of the month, not going to lie, I was nearly dead on my feet and in my head at this stage, but it was all worth it! A highly gratifying headline show from FIELDS on the main stage at Whelan's with support from one of my favourite song-writers Ivan Nicolas took place on the 16th of November.

FIELDS - Whelan's - Remy Connolly

Ivan Nicolas - Whelan's - Remy Connolly

A couple of nights later and back to The Bello Bar for the first time since June for German / Irish pair Lambert & Deckker's album tour run by the good folks at Home Beat, admittedly I was more eager to see support act Gareth Quinn Redmond who released two mind-blowing albums in 2018, Laistigh den Ghleo and Gluaiseacht. It was an intimate set up, and this lent to the impact of both performances, a short video of GQR lies below, wowza.

Gareth Quinn Redmond - Remy Connolly

The night after Lambert & Dekker in The Bello Bar I made my way to The Sound House for Dutch singer-songwrtier Jane Willow's Onward Still EP launch, a straight from the Southern delta hootenanny from Leila Jane & The Healers in support kicked the night off with old world pizzazz. Willow was joined on stage by Dave Hingerty on drums (The Frames) and Vyvienne Long on cello (Damien Rice). Have moved to Ireland from The Netherlands at the age of 21, Willow had her eyes solely set on a career in music, to be part of this creative maelstrom, channelling many classic and contemporary folk artists along the way, 2019 should see her enter the collective consciousness in a big way.

Jane Willow - Onward Still - Remy Connolly - The Sound House

Leila Jane - Remy Connolly - The Sound House

There was still time for one last gig in 2018, and this one was for pure pleasure (it always is, but minus blogging hat), coinciding with a mini Christmas Party for myself, Sarah and Niall, we indulged our addiction for live music and after a few jars in Underdog on Dame Street, made our way to The Button Factory to wrap up 2018. The gig was Spies Constancy album launch, a doozy of a record, and support came from Royal Yellow who, along with his band, really, and truly blew me away. As if that weren't enough, opener People Club who are Berlin-based, were so, so good, three amazing sets to round up a beautiful 2018. See you on the boards in 2019.

Photos: Sarah Ryan

SPIES - The Button Factory - Sarah Ryan

Royal Yellow - The Button Factory - Sarah Ryan