Saturday, 24 March 2018

Irish Playlist #024: David Keenan, Candice Gordon, Brass Phantoms, Hmmingbyrd, SYLK & more

David Keenan - Altar Wine
Photo reproduced with kind permission from : Benson Portrait Studio

Info: With a flurry of single releases in the past few weeks (is it ever any different!?), and most notably yesterday which saw new material drop from Brass Phantoms, Bosco Ramos, Hvmmingbyrd and Janaj, I've strewn together 11 Irish singles and tracks that tickled my ears pink.

I could wax lyrical about David Keenan forever, but I'll let the man's music speak for itself. Keenan released a selection of what he calls various 'recordings, sketches, demos' called Strip Me Bare recently, with just two mics, a Gibson and a Steinway piano. I've picked 'Altar Wine' for this playlist as it resonates in a number of ways, the title itself casts me back to the rigid ceremonial witnessed every Sunday as a child, and the tone of the song matches the memory of poorly lit churches and ancient orations, a strange experience for a child. What makes Keenan's poetry even more magical is how he creates other memories in the listener's head, when he tells his story it is delivered with such sincerity that you feel like you were witness to an event that you never actually experienced.

I love the new single from Galway alternative-rock five-piece JANAJ, 'Badlands', a powerful rock burst with a spaghetti western undercurrent, primed for the soundtrack of a Sergio Leone reboot. Alice O'Donnell's vocal a perfect foil for the rising guitar and percussion as the track burns before its potassium explosion.

Candice Gordon - The Kids are Alt-Right
Candice Gordon - Photo: Maren Michaelis

Irish grunge-rock solo act Candice Gordon, who is currently based in Berlin, releases her new single, 'The Kids Are Alt-Right', a play on words of The Who's 'The Kids Are Alright', Gordon's message is, no, they're not. A pot-shot at the rising movement, particularly among young people, in her adopted country and beyond. She has witnessed first hand the tide of violence in Berlin and has herself faced abuse since the track's release, unsavoury, but that's when you know you are doing something right, and a little bit too close to the truth for some peoples comfort. It's a marauding Pixies-esque number with a healthy dollop of classic punk sounds and vox.

A new band member in Colleen Heavey, and a new level of impact, Brass Phantoms have stepped up to the top of the ladder with new single 'Disciples', all of the elements which made previous singles such as 'City of Wolves' and 'Indigo' so appealing, the punch and kick of the drum, anthemic punch the air vocal and sizzling guitars are woven into something that sounds slightly different from the Dublin post-punk quintet. It's no surprise, but they have arrived, an exciting time for a BP fan like myself, and no doubt themselves.

Although it was released at the end of February, Dublin electronic duo SYLK's latest single 'Girl' somehow slipped my radar until now. Having enjoyed last year's debut EP NWYR I was fully on board the SYLK train after catching them at Whelan's Ones To Watch in January (make sure you catch them live soon). The new single captures their thick bass and wonderfully blunt plodding drum-pad, the pop elements also work so well via the vocals, a little hint of 90's rave thrown into the mix to give it a euphoric pow-wow, class.

Hvmmingbyrd return with their latest single, 'Papillon', a reflection of the exhilarating ecstasy that creating music can bring forth, but at times it is not without a downside. Like all aspects of creativity, a striving artist will frequently be riddled with self-doubt, to the point where it gets claustrophobic and over-whelming. Unfortunately this self-doubt is a necessary evil which makes our creations get better, but it's a burden. The calmness eschewed from the electro-pop duo belies this theme, "I am giving you life, threads of silk, emerge slowly, from the chrysalis", the metamorphosis from mind to physical sound is captured poignantly in this opening line. The music also subtly creates the vision of walls closing in, denoting a landmark moment for a band who feel their music on a very deep level.

Bosco Ramos - Mayflies
Bosco Ramos - Photo: Carrie Davenport Photography

After digging the hell out of their debut EP Signs of Life last year, I was delighted to get some new Bosco Ramos sounds into me with the Belfast pair's newest single, 'Mayflies'. Undoubtedly a core part of the Northern hard-rock movement, the new single is a scintillating whallop of noise, Cobain-like choruses swing punches at guitar and percussion in equal measure, it's a head-bangers ball, fingers crossed there's more new tunes just around the corner.

Dublin folk-pop chanteuse Slow Skies (aka Karen Sheridan) has released her new single, 'Dancing' with accompanying video (below), timing is a nice thing, the merry and breezy vibe of the track matching the first glimpses of sunshine of spring, both externally and internally. Twinkling piano, brush on snare, tambourine and Sheridan's happy-sad voice all lend themselves to a feeling of self-assured nonchalance, living in the moment, care-free. 

I loved, and love, the debut EP This City's At War from Kerry alt-rock trio Deep Sky Objects, who released the title-track last week. Although it was only January when the EP came out, I've really enjoyed revisiting this single again, remarking back in January that; "Opener 'This City's At War' is probably the most overt British-sounding indie-rock number out of the five, it's melodic and I love that little baggie Manchester guitar break at the start, mixed with the treacle-dripping bass and crooning vocal refrain, it's a good start to an upward curve as the EP progresses."

Donegal's Wolves of Youth share a brand new video for single 'Start Again' (below), the indie-rock and pop outfit make a collage out of early Offspring, Blink182 and Weezer, and just like their very well-received previous single 'Say Something', they throw a grenade of energy and rattling guitar riffs into the barrel of sound they create.

We close with the first single 'Clean' from Dublin dream-pop solo act Tom Toner, for many years a session musician, Toner takes centre stage ahead of the release of his first EP, WAVES which is set for release on the 13th of April. With a heady mix of retro 80's synths and a smokey contemporary pop vocal, 'Clean' creates a slightly dark atmosphere alongside an escapist realm of neon electronica.

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