Sunday, 19 May 2019

Playlist 2014 - 2019: Thank You! From REMY

REMY's Music Blog Ireland Independent Music

I was quite sad a few weeks ago when I decided to call time on what began in July 2012 as mostly a film review blog with a few pieces here and there on bands I love from the 60's and 70's. But I am very, very happy with how the last 6 years in particular turned out, and even moreso, incredibly lucky to have ended up meeting so many amazing and inspiring people, seeing god knows how many bands live who blew my mind, and in a nutshell, living a dream. 

The over-riding reason I've decided to wrap up is purely time, in this game you are either all-in and 100% committed, or you're better off out, in my own view there's no in-between. The last thing I would want is for me to stop enjoying this, finding it a burden, and worst of all (which I had noticed on occasion over the last number of months) to start writing reviews devoid of passion and which are rushed, it's not fair on anyone, particularly the artist.

Music is my number one passion, and to somehow find myself witnessing the best period of Irish music, well, for wont of a better turn of phrase, doing this blog has been the best thing I've ever done on a personal level. A joy-filled adventure I will never forget, and which never would have happened unless there was an avalanche of incredible music flowing out from all over the island of Ireland.

So, enough of the sop, and I know this isn't the Oscars, but I do have a few people I'd like to be on the record thanking and yes...*CLICHÉ KLAXON!* sorry if I forgot anyone! Briefly though, the above Playlist contains 150 songs by Irish artists from 2014 - 2019 which have featured on these pages in the past, each track holding a specific and happy memory for me, it's in chronological order of when they were reviewed, a little archive for me to revisit when I'm feeling nostalgic! Thankfully I got to see 93 of the 150 live, #blessed.

Huge thanks go to the following people who provided massive support to me;

Irish musicians (all of them!), David Judge of Abner Brown's Barber Shop for too many opportunities over the years, Jim O'Donoghue Martin (VIDEO BLUE - for sending me my very first review request and inadvertently turning this blog on its head as a result!), the boys at Oh Joy! (once The Journals - the first time I brought a camera to a show was at one of their gigs and I used flash photography - didn't do it ever again after!).

The Dundalk family - a ridiculous amount of support and good-will came from people I now consider friends, Jim (already mentioned!), Gavin Murray (Trick Mist), Just Mustard (my favourite Irish band), the beautiful human that is Shane Clarke (Elephant), Aoife McCann (AE Mak), Nix Moon, Third Smoke, Larry & wordsmith deluxe David Keenan.

Takes breath....

Stef Edwards and Jenny Headen who facilitated some amazing live music memories (WeAreRedHead), likewise Emma Harney of Orchestrate PR who helped me hone my interview skills long ago! Jawdropper crew (John & Maya et al!) My absolute bae Dwayne Woods (Butter Wouldn't Melt PR), Liza Geddes & Linda Coogan Byrne, Naoise Roo, James McGregor (The Clockworks) and Noël Duplaa (CFIT and 20 other bands) for contributing amazing reviews to these pages in the past, my best buds in photography and beer Sarah Ryan and Niall O'Kelly, Margaret O'Sullivan (Femmepop), THUMPER, Dave Conway (Gigonometry), Tim Clifford (K-Fest), Andrea Keogh (The Sound House, DQF), Callum Browne, James Strain (Auxiliary Phoenix), Greg Whelan, Ryan Cashell, EllyD and Emma (Xx), James Geraghty & Adam McCabe (Brass Phantoms), Montauk Hotel (keep shimmering!), MUNKY (Xx), David Anthony McGeown (BODIES), Alien She, Brendan Miller (Zombie Picnic), Molly Sterling (heart-breaker), Laura McCabe (cello lady), Joey (Heroes in Hiding), Darragh O'Connor & Jack O'Flaherty (Exiles), Sick Love, Kevin Nolan, Herb Magee (Arvo Party), Ronan Kealy (Junior Brother), The Felonies, Classic Yellow, Silverbacks, Sean O'Brien (FIELDS), Chris Ryan (Robocobra Quartet), EHCO, and anyone who invited me to their shows, sent me their music.

All of the amazing photographers I met and who contributed to the last two end of year photography galleries, Zoe Holman, Ciara Brennan (SheBopImagery), Glen Bollard, Moira Reilly, Dara Munnis, Ruth Medjber (for also fixing my camera at HWCH 2017!), Nicholas O'Donnell, Jack Farrell, Aaron Corr,  Kieran Frost, Billy Cahill, Faye Bollard, to name a few. 

A very special thank you to Stephen White of The Last Mixed Tape, a man who understands the lonesome but happy life of the solo music blogger and gave me a lot of sage advice over the years, someone whom I have endless respect for, and a perfect companion at so many gigs and festivals. Also Nialler9 and The Thin Air for the shout outs and support, it meant a lot.

Last but not least, my wife Anna, who educated me on music from the 60's / 70's and 80's, she's the Skynet of music databases and trivia. She never once complained about the amount of time I spent out and about at shows, or at home blogging, and her support was the most valuable of all. I look forward to getting to know her again ;)

Go to local shows, buy local music, and be happy!

Grá mór,


Single: Montauk Hotel - White Billboards

Montauk Hotel - White Billboards
Photo: Declan Kelly

'White Billboards' is a reflection on the power of advertising on in our society and how models and standards influence our choices, happiness and feeling of adequacy. The song pictures an imaginary future where as an result of over-saturation, people have become indifferent to commercial models. Advertisers and brands have run out of slogans and have lost their impact on people and society.

There is a question left open, which whether a society with empty billboards would indeed set us free to be happy or whether it would leave us lost and unable to regain a personal identity.

I love this premise for the latest single 'White Billboards', from Dublin jangle-pop outfit Montauk Hotel, it is the dystopian futures of Huxley and Orwell in reverse, where instead of humanity becoming more imprisoned, it is liberated.

With the intro you know that Montauk Hotel's sound has now become irrevocably noticeable over the last few years, even before the vocal joins in. Guitar and percussion are, just like the theme, upbeat, positive and of a sunny, hopeful disposition. 

The band could easily have stayed within the structure of the track for its entirety and the listener would have been more than happy, but lo and behold Montauk surprise us with a moving break at the 2:22 mark, lead-singer Claudia Verdecchia briefly pauses while a wonderfully deep bass-line pops up and is joined almost immediately by thundering bass-drum and stirring harmonies before closing. Consistently good and thoughtful song-writing, plus an ever-expanding musical landscape are what have seen Montauk Hotel's arc continue to rise upwards, long may that continue.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

New Irish Albums (May): Mongoose, RUNAH & The Man Whom

Mongoose - Suck the Wound - Album Review

In our latest round-up of new Irish album releases which have come out over the past month, we feature the sophomore albums Suck the Wound from Dublin contemporary folk quartet Mongoose, and The Dancer From the Dance by Wexford's The Man Whom. We also have a wonderful debut LP via Dublin-based atmospheric art-folk artist RUNAH, titled Strange.

1) Mongoose - Suck the Wound

Few Irish bands carve apart modern folk and put it back together again with so many different layers for the listener to explore in the manner that Mongoose do. Following on from their hugely successful self-titled debut in 2015, the four-piece open plenty of new doors for us to peep into on Suck the Wound

The opening title track is an empowering behemoth that sweeps away any feelings of anxiety or doubt right from the start, the dark tones and their seamless harmonies catch you in their trap in the most willing way early on on the LP. 'Hard Ground' shifts key in an instant, a confident jazzy strut which bursts apart at the 1:16 point, again that inspiring and assertive tone is so energising, there is sass everywhere.

More melancholic moods unfurl on the sad but beautiful 'Draw the Line', a slow rhythm and tempo ease themselves across the track, and her the lead vocal and harmonies take on an almost medieval ballad hue, hearts are broken, but new chapters open. A very warm highlight arrives on the wistful dirge of 'Sister', steeped in bare classical folk á la Pentangle, the deep hum of the cello is brief but impacting, there is a lot of room for your ears to breathe here and soak it all up. 'While Away' picked me up and dropped me unceremoniously off at a dimly lit club in 1970's Greenwich Village, Joni vibes abound and every note trickles effortlessly off their instruments.

Lead single 'Body & Soul (For Cara)' arrives near the album's end, like what has come before, they execute the build expertly, but with more restraint, the melodies are enchantingly colourful as the percussion alternates between trundling passages and a slow metronome beat, it's a strangely beautiful and other-worldly experience. And that for me sums up in many ways Suck the Wound, it's a sprawling canvas of sounds, moods and themes, like one of those massive paintings you see taking up an entire wall in a French museum, you have to stand fully back to appreciate it (and attempt to) take it all in.

Key tracks: 'While Away', 'Suck the Wound', 'Body & Soul (For Cara)', 'Sisters', 'Draw the Line'

RUNAH - Strange

2) RUNAH - Strange

Another act that excels at arranging mysterious landscapes is Tara May, aka RUNAH, her sophomore EP Ghosts which was released towards the end of last year came from a place you'd never tire of wandering around. Strange is markedly different in many ways, from the jazz-tinged opener 'Winter' whose bass recalls Sneaker Pimps and early Massive Attack vibes, RUNAH tears up her own songbook on these 10 tracks.

Gently trembling strings vibrate in the background on second track 'Shame', the bass rumbles and those early shy strings push themselves into a position of prominence giving added energy and power to her vocal, not that it was needed. There is so much to delight in on 'Ground', like a modern day Connie Francis, we're in spaghetti-Western soundtrack territory here, the music ambles in a lethargic yet purposeful manner as the vocal stares deep into our eyes and souls.

The tenderness and alluring beauty of 'Something Like a Prayer' is nothing short of heart-breaking, the enchantress possesses our entire being, a potion of deep and heavy piano keys, almost inaudible strings and ominous bass that kicks in at 2:32 take the listener hostage and the Stockholm syndrome is strong and cannot be unbound. Majestic. Closing with its title-track (above video) a rare moment of brevity which provides both a release of tension and also a platform for the artist to show another hand in her musical deck. This is utterly contemporary sonically, bordering on electronic, one last imprint on the listener's brain that won't be erased anytime soon. Escapist, hypnotic, mystique, power and a harrowing beauty, RUNAH's debut album has an individuality and uniqueness whose abstract creativity must be celebrated.

Key tracks; 'Ground', 'Winter', 'Shame', 'Something Like a Prayer', 'Strange', 

3) The Man Whom - The Dancer From The Dance

Wexford's Ian Doyle, The Man Whom, released his much-lauded debut album The Greatest Event back in 2011, a mixture of melancholic and upbeat folk tracks with an alt-country hue, during which time the artist also made an appearance at Other Voices. Old man time has been nothing but kind to his song-writing in that 8 year intervening period, a glorious string-led introduction on the fittingly titled 'Time Reprise' makes a powerful opening impact, this is how you get back in the game.

'Saturdays She Plays Her Piano' is a thematically heavy and very real affair, opening with the line; "Once she was a singer in a jazz band, but that all ended when the kids came along, her piano now sits silent in the corner, locked key lost, buried in a drawer, and she says 'evidently I'm afraid of failure....'" Observance of the less happy twists and turns in life are a key feature in Doyle's lyrics, respectfully delivered with a benevolent vocal and moving musical passages.

'Pennies for the Poor Basket' is an interesting moment on the LP, a fulsome introduction makes way suddenly to the barest of bones, a delicate vocal and sparse acoustic guitar lead towards a meandering bass and piano sequence. A recollection of childhood memories seen through the prism of adulthood, and importantly leaving aside rose-tinted glasses.

For an album which regularly gravitates around a focal point of minimalism, The Man Whom is equally adept at producing grandiose orchestral flourishes, which are best captured on the captivating crescendos of 'Time', a track which initially disarms before pulling you out of your slumber to great heights. Towards album's end comes a key highlight in the form of 'Two Voices', an unusually morose warmth with a rich acoustic glow, again Doyle embraces simplicity in sound and rhythm because sometimes that just works far better than over-cooking. For a genre that I would probably not normally run to for gratification, The Man Whom has created an album which has far more depth than is initially noticeable on the surface, and more importantly, The Dancer From The Dance provides more than enough diversity to ensure longevity and repeated listens.

Key tracks; 'Time Reprise', 'Saturday She Plays Her Piano', 'Time', 'Pennies for the Poor Basket', 'Two Voices'

Monday, 13 May 2019

Tipp Classical 2019 - Therapy? Interview

Therapy - Tipp Classical - Féile - Remy Connolly - Interview

Ahead of their main-stage performance at the inaugural Tipp Classical Festival, which rebooted last year to huge success as Féile Classical in Semple Stadium, Thurles, Co. Tipperary (music fans of the same vintage as myself may recall the origins as The Day Trip to Tipp in the 1990's, where the Buckfast flowed like wine), REMY had the privilege of chatting to Michael McKeegan, founding member of Belfast alternative-rock icons Therapy?

In Irish Times journalist Tony Clayton-Lea's must-have book, 101 Irish Records You Must Hear Before You Die (2011, Liberties Press), referring to Therapy?'s 1994 sophomore album Troublegum, Clayton-Lea wrote; "From the cover to the music, an unsettling, provocative, desolate yet highly individual atmosphere abounds - it's metal, it's punk, innately melodic and lyrically incisive" He went on to note that Therapy? resisted pressure from their label to re-enact Nirvana, or become the European Metallica, and the band "stuck to their guns and clung to their hero worship of Hüsker Dü and Steve Albini".

Therapy - Troublegum - Remy Connolly - Interview

REMY: Things happened quite quickly for Therapy? from the beginning, following the release of your debut single 'Meat Abstract' in 1990, you had support slots with now cult acts such as Inspiral Carpets, Ride, Teenage Fanclub and Fugazi to name a few. Can you recall your ambitions at that time, i.e., was the subsequent success of shifting over 2 million album copies across the course of your career beyond your early expectations?

MICHAEL: Absolutely! We had no real game plan at the start other than we would hopefully do some gigs and the biggest ambition was to have a 7" single on the racks in our local record store (Caroline Records off Cornmarket). There was no real music scene or infrastructure at that time, the Good Vibes/Belfast punk scene had gone quiet and everyone in NI wanted to sound either like U2 or Guns N' Roses. For a band like us that had an 'outsider' musical approach we just did things ourselves, booking gigs and self-releasing.

REMY: Fans of Therapy? Will probably have a particularly misty-eyed nostalgia (I do!) for the 5 albums you released in the 1990’s, Nurse (1992), Troublegum (1994), and Infernal Love (1995) being a few examples. As a band were you able to fully enjoy that early success, or was it fraught with stress and over-bearing expectation?

Michael: In retrospect a lot of the stress came from ourselves in that we wanted things to be better...each album had to sound and look better and that was a period of great creative growth for us. If I listen to Baby Teeth and then Infernal Love, its a mad old leap in ability over those 5 short years. Of course we had a brilliant time, getting to travel the world and play our music to appreciate audiences was incredible and we met so many great folk along the way. I think when Troublegum became such a bit hit (unexpected by the record label it has to be said!) then we sort of fell under the scrutiny of the ‘big wigs’ at the label. And along with that came a lot of outside opinions on how to band should sound and look, that was hard to deflect when we were burnt out from all the touring.

REMY: In a peculiar way the chronology of Therapy? mirrors the beginning of a time of great hope in Northern Ireland in the lead up to the Good Friday Agreement, to the current day (your last album Cleave is just shy of 6 months old) plunged into the greatest uncertainty the Six Counties has faced in decades with Brexit. You've previously stated that the political landscape was never really to the forefront of your lyrics and song-writing, but do you think that on some level, the decades of upheaval for youth in Northern Ireland has led to such a level of despondency and disillusionment that it inevitably permeates the music of local artists, including yourselves?

Michael: Yes, looking back there are a lot of elements of the bands outlook and approach that could only come from an upbringing in NI. Obviously there's a lot of dark humour and a cynicism in there as well as a resilience and a "never give up" attitude, which has served us well over the years. I can't really speak for other bands and their experience but knowing quite a few of them personally I can see a similar mindset there.

REMY: Speaking of upheaval, drummer and vocalist Fyfe left the band in 1996, shortly after the experimental Infernal Love which you made with DJ David Holmes. Was it an easy decision to continue on with the band from that point, and what are your reflections on an album that some quarters viewed as a curve-ball?

Michael: As harsh as it might sound, it wasn't that big a surprise when Fyfe left, we all knew he hadn't been happy for a while and both myself and Andy felt we had a lot more to do / say with the band. Infernal Love at the time was a very divisive album when it was released but to this day we get tons of people saying they didn't ‘get it’ at the time but now a bit further down the line they absolutely love it. I think there were quite a few elements on there that took people by surprise (cellos/slower songs/ambient interludes) but i’m really glad we did it and by not making Troublegum Part 2 (which would have been dead easy and probably the right ‘career move’ to do) we gave ourselves a longevity and a wider creative palette to which we enjoy to this day. In all honesty I think most people were more put off by the image we adopted for the album, it was meant to be a bit of fun but a lot of people wanted us top to toe in black, not smiling, as opposed to red frilly shirts and stick on moustaches! You live and learn.

REMY: Your lyrics have always been both arresting and thought-provoking, and laced with dark humour. The first time I heard Nurse, opener 'Nausea' caught me disarmed with the unforgettable line; "Here I am motherfucker!". The opening verse of 'Gone' on the same album is also a major blow to the head; "I know about the scars on your arms, I know your baby wasn’t born, I know that your mum hates your dad, I know that it fucked up your head". Then on 'Trigger Inside' from Troublegum there's the timeless line that every young person must wince at because it’s true; "Here comes a girl with perfect teeth, I bet she won’t be smiling at me, I know how Jeffrey Dahmer feels, (lonely, lonely)". Are your lyrics reflective of imagined characters and scenarios, or do they stem from personal experience to a degree?

Michael: I’m not 100% the man to ask as Andy writes all the lyrics and rightly so as I think he’s written some incredible stuff over the years. From what I gather a lot of the initial ideas/concepts come from personal experiences and then they are framed using different characters (sometimes highly exaggerated/ hyper-real) to make the text come to life and become a bit more open to interpretation.

REMY: When you started out playing gigs, and I recall this myself from my teens, albums, EP's and singles were prohibitively expensive to record, and the avenues for recouping money were very limited unless a breakthrough happened with a label, maybe selling CD's at shows etc., with attendance at gigs mostly down to word of mouth. Today acts can record music at home in their bedroom to a pretty high standard with the right equipment, and advertise live shows and releases on social media for free, the downside of which is trying to stand out in an environment that is saturated. Do you think that overall bands have it easier getting noticed nowadays, or do the same difficulties ultimately apply regardless for independent musicians trying to break through?

Michael: Again, i’m only going from our experience and I think there now are quite a few different ways of getting your music heard right across the world. 

Of course what that means is there is tons of stuff to sift through to find that 'gold' so it can be a bit overwhelming for the listeners and confusing for the artist as to which route to take. Thankfully the playing field has levelled quite a bit so bands can make pro-sounding records cheaply and promote them in a way they feel comfortable with without having to rely on tradition label formats or distribution networks. I don't subscribe to the old mindset of there being 'taste makers' or 'gatekeepers', that's either like it yourself or you don’t. These days i’m much more likely to check out a band if someone recommends them to me personally as opposed to getting caught up in hype. The good thing now is I can get a listen straight away on my phone! 

Therapy - Tipp Classical - Féile - Remy Connolly - Interview Mass
Féile Festival in the early 1990's

REMY: Often with the passage of time bands such as yourselves who inspired people through grim and cutting observations mellow. When I listen to your latest album Cleave, thankfully that is something that doesn’t seem to have come to pass. Examples would be 'Kakistocracy', and the lines; "Is this the end of empathy? Turn away from the poor, pulling up the drawbridge, and bolting the door" – these lines instantly resonate with me in terms of the platform every single individual, regardless of their prejudices now have, empathy is becoming rarefied. 

We are numb to tragedy and misfortune, both of which seem to be becoming a form of warped entertainment, guilt easily addressed through sharing virtuous thoughts online instead of taking action. 'Dumbdown' also seems to allude to the 'State of the Nation', the glacial political inertia in Northern Ireland over the last 2 years. Is it fair to say that the focus on the individual’s malaise has expanded to a broader malaise in Therapy?’s song-writing with the passage of time?

Michael: Yes, I think we've broadened that out a bit. I mean it'd take a special kind of arrogance not to feel angry and disappointed with a lot of things that are going on in the world right now. We've always wanted our music to be inclusive and for everybody and being from NI and seeing the nonsense that's gone on here over the years I find it mind-boggling that in 2019 people want to become less-inclusive and build walls, either literally or figuratively.

REMY: Tipp Classical will take place in September, a throwback to the heady days of both Féile and The Trip to Tipp. Therapy? performed in 1992 and 1993 sharing the stage with the likes of David Byrne, Iggy Pop, and budding acts Manic Street Preachers & Spiritualized! What are your stand-out memories of those festivals, and who are you most looking forward to sharing the stage with in 2019?

Michael: Those shows were fantastic experiences, great line-ups and lots of madness on and offstage. The crowd made it of course, I think every band that played the shows were taken aback by the atmosphere, people going for it, drinking and rocking out despite the weather. We knew quite a few of the bands at the shows so backstage was a lot of fun, we’d known the Manics for a while and one surreal highlight was when Iggy Pop bounded up to our dressing room to say hello. He was shirtless and had that classic manic air about him...we exchanged small talk and the whole time inside my head i’m going "Fuck me its Iggy Pop, be cool, be cool, be cool, BE COOL!"

This year I'm looking forward to seeing The Frank & Walters, Sultans of Ping and Mundy. I also see there's a set of Thin Lizzy songs which I'm excited about as I'm a huge Lizzy fan, Live And Dangerous is as iconic an album as you’ll get.

REMY: Finally, who do you think are the most promising Northern Irish bands at the moment in your opinion?

Michael: Noisy rock types Duellists get my vote and on a more electronic tip the Arvo Party stuff is fantastic. Also Robyn G Shiels' new stuff is well worth checking out.

Therapy? will be playing the main stage at Tipp Classical which takes place over the weekend of 20th / 21st of September, tickets are available to purchase via Eventbrite at the following link

For further information and line-up updates head over to the Tipp Classical website here

Tipp Classical - Féile - Therapy - Interview - Thurles - Remy Connolly

Irish Playlist #057: Nix Moon, Cinema, Nealo w. God Knows, Trick Mist, Patricia Lalor & more

Nix Moon - Ceremony
Nix Moon - Photo: Curtis Morris

I've been away from home the last three weekends in a row, this is when I usually have time to catch up on reviews, so the latest Irish playlist is a bit of a bumper affair featuring 21 tracks which were released over the last few weeks, plenty to dip your wee ears into, lots of wonderful variety and then some! I recommend shuffle play, because there is no hierarchy of talent on this playlist.

1) Nix Moon - 'Ceremony'

One of the finest acts to emerge from Dundalk over the last number of years, Nix Moon share their latest single 'Ceremony' which will feature on their debut LP which is due for release later this year. Drawing on the best elements of 60's psychedelic folk-rock, trippy kaleidoscopic vibes wash over everything like a golden summer stream, a gorgeous aural balm.

2) Cinema - 'Temptation'

Peter Fleming aka Cinema released new single 'Temptation' with an accompanying video on the 2nd of May which he shot himself. A huge success on streaming platform SoundCloud over the last four years, his individualistic brand of lush ambient electronic music has amassed tens of thousands of streams. 'Temptation' is, to my ears, absolute heaven, disarmingly chill and subtly upbeat, Fleming masterfully melds old-school trip-hop with a contemporary flourish.

3) Nealo feat. God Knows - 'Questions'

I'm a late-comer to the music of Nealo who I caught live for the first time a number of weeks ago at Molly Sterling's headline show in Whelan's. The jazzy backdrop glistens with retro 70's funk and keys, Nealo's vocal is smooth and the best kind of nonchalant and despondent, and when Rusangano Family's God Knows joins the fray he balances that mood with more assertive tones, it's a doozy of a track from the pair.

4) Trick Mist - 'Scribble'

Cork-based experimental electronic artist Trick Mist has been such a musical gift to me over the last number of years, few acts have progressed their sound with such rapid pace, I'm still getting my head around last year's debut LP Both Ends. 'Scribble' is another leap forward, Gavin Murray's imagination and desire to dig deeper into his creative well and push himself is admirable. The track is dark, textbook hypnotic, and powerfully pushes the listener to expand their own boundaries.

5) Patricia Lalor - 'Anymore'

It's astounding to me that Wexford indie-pop / jazz tinged act Patricia Lalor is a mere 13 years of age, her single 'Anymore' was released last month, and it's so easy on the ear, with its greatest strength emanating from her smooth and endearing vocal delivery. She has already received high-praise from Hozier for her cover of his track 'Cherry Wine' and amassed over 100k views of another cover of Mac DeMarco's 'My Kind of Woman'. This is a classic but rare case of a huge talent that can go anywhere over the next number of years is she is already writing songs of this quality.

Patricial Lalor - Anymore
Patricia Lalor

6) Adam Garrett - 'On / Off'

Kildare act (now Dublin-based) Adam Garrett's debut single 'On / Off' can be summed up in two words, disco chic. Sultry keys, bass and an amorous beat wrap their arms around this retro 70's zinger.

7) Caleb & Walshy - 'Terminal 27' 

South East London and Dublin hip-hop producers Caleb & Walshy shared latest single 'Terminal 27' a few weeks ago. The musical canvas reminds me of the jazzy movements of St. Germain's Tourist album, but with a heavy dollop of enjoyable retro disco glimmer.

8) BODIES - 'Roses'

David Anthony McGeown, aka BODIES released a compilation album of covers and new original material titled Glue a few weeks ago, and it's quite different to the wonderful debut album Drench he released last year. 'Roses' is far more upbeat and groove-laden to what we have become accustomed to from BODIES to date. Sleepy bass-lines and percussion set the scene on what is a very disarming and at times haunting piece of beauty that arches into bright and hopeful territories in its latter stages.

BODIES - Roses - Glue

9) VIDEO BLUE - 'Guts'

The third Dundalk act to feature on our playlist, U.K.-based Jim O'Donoghue Martin is another act who seems to be effortlessly able to blow apart boundaries in his song-writing. A master at connecting indie-pop with the most colourful and uplifting electronic palette, 'Guts' tempers its brevity with a calmly emotive and morose vocal by VIDEO BLUE.

10) The Vercettis - 'Cradula'

Cork-based The Vercettis have dropped their third single, 'Cradula' recently, from their forthcoming EP (due 17th May), based on the pov of vampire Cradula, and self-described as a sleazy alt-rock number with hip-hop influences, it has one of the most surprisingly and brilliant twists at its half-way point. A ska-heavy affair that bursts from it's lumbering tempo into an all-out blues-funk guitar jam, I am in love with every second of this track.

11) In Their Thousands - 'Water'

Donegal indie-rock outfit In Their Thousands are set to share their debut album Arcasia with a launch at The Grand Social this coming Friday. The most recent single 'Water' confirms their well-earned praise from the likes of Hot Press and The Last Mixed Tape. Their control of mood and emotion in their song-writing coupled with the broad atmospheric horizons they paint on this single indicate we could be sitting on an Irish album of the year.

'Arcasia', the title-track from In Their Thousands' forthcoming debut album

12) THUMPER - 'In My Room'

My favourite noise-makers of the last number of years, THUMPER released latest single 'In My Room' last month, a delightful slice of thrashing guitar-pop with little strands of Weezer-esque be-bops and rhythm. Retaining their trademark caustic distortion, the group do shed just the slightest amount of the dizzying wall of sonic mayhem as they proffer a more pop-focused sound. Their best single in my opinion from the last 12 months.

13) Ghostking is Dead - 'Deflector'

The freshest sound-maker to emerge from Cork recently, Ghostking is Dead's sound is already becoming recognisable as his very own. 'Deflector' is a devilishly entertaining hybrid of electro-funk and dark-wave electronica, bubbling with a vibrancy that is notably different to his immense 2018 EP This is Doubt. It's a word I have used extremely sparsely over the years, but there's a definitive genius to the music Matt Corrigan is making right now.

14) A. Smyth - 'She Kicks'

Ahead of the release of his debut album later this year, alt-pop act A. Smyth shared latest single 'She Kicks' on the 1st of May. His metamorphosis from indie-rock band member at the beginning of his musical journey to solo act continues apace, an homage to the women who continue to break down barriers, the Bruce Springsteen-inspired track grows rapidly on you after only a few listens.

15) ELKAE - 'I Feel'

'I Feel' is only the second single from Dublin electro-pop artist ELKAE, but she is already making a big name for herself among her peers. Her debut single 'Sold' received airplay on all of the major Irish radio stations, and she was in the Top 10 of IMRO's 2018 Songwriting Competition, and now a slew of major Irish festival performances await. The track is a fusion of classic 80's synth with modern escapist downtempo dance notes littered throughout, this is a really nice and addictive little pop pill from Laura Keane.

ELKAE - I Feel

16) Ferals - 'TwentySevenOne'

Continuing the line of brash and hard-rock that Ulster has gratefully flown the flag of over the last few years in Ireland, Belfast post-rock outfit Ferals released latest single 'TwentySevenOne' at the end of April. A really fine homage to the golden 90's era of the genre (a little bit Idlewild 100 Broken Windows album) there is a very endearing bedroom-DIY rock feel to the crunching guitars, bad-ass bass and drums. Stop-start motion and rhythm abounds and a superb vocal from Shane acts like the anchor in the storm, this is by far their best single that they have shared to date.

17) Rêves - 'Short Dress'

Dublin indie-pop band Rêves (dreams) fucking kill it on new single 'Short Dress', this is like a synth version of an Old Hannah track, you can take it two ways, float away with the fun vibes, or slip underneath and let the deeply understated and almost unnoticeable melancholy of the vocal and lyrics grip you in another manner. An emotional dance-floor filler with great depth on a number of levels.

18) Shrug Life - '2009'

If I may blow my own trumpet a little here, one of my favourite song descriptors that I ever wrote was about Shrug Life's 2016 single 'Marvin Gaye' which went; "This is how I'd imagine Weezer and Morrissey combining after the The Smiths frontman finally found his bag of Xanax which he misplaced back in '83." '2009' drops Weezer but still has that Morrissey tint courtesy of lead singer Danny Carroll's personality-filled vocal. A joyous swarm of anarchic drums and guitar riffage, if you don't like this song, even if Dua Lipa or Michael Bublé are your normal bag, I think you are going to live a very unfulfilled life.

19) Paj - 'Yemanja'

Following debut single 'Friends Confused' shooting its way onto the 'Breath of Fresh Éire' Spotify playlist, Paj drops the outrageously funk-laden follow-up 'Yemanja' without delay. Dubliner Paddy Groenland is immersed in world music, which soaks into every pore of this track, an ode to the Afro-Brazilian sea goddess of the song's title. Loosely it reminds me of The Isley Brothers, The Meters and a lil bit of Sly & The Family Stone, but lathered with a culturally diverse veneer. One of the most heart-wrenching soul vocals in Ireland obviously adds infinitely to the supreme pleasure of his music.

20) Tanjier - 'Days'

Tanjier push themselves further into well-produced haute-pop commercial enclaves with latest track 'Days'. It's a bone-fide top-down sunshine state three-minutes plus road trip that hits our ears just in time for (the Irish) summer. Whilst my inner-hipster tells me "I preferred their earlier stuff, maaaaan" one of the hardest-working Dublin-based bands are so deserving of a wider audience and bigger stages.

21) Danny G & The Major 7ths - 'Believing'

Danny Groenland, yes, you guessed it! Brother of above soul-brother Paj (side note: I envy how handsome those two dudes are), was one of the first Irish acts I saw live when I started the blog, and I'm pretty sure the first musician to invite me to a live show back in October 2014 in The Grand Social. Anyway, the music, 'Believing' literally sings to me, if in an alternative universe I could only listen to three genres of music for the rest of my life they'd be rock, blues and soul. Danny G has an almost scientific ability to deliver the smoothest and most velvetine soul sound, this man knows his shit when it comes to honouring the genre in the most respectful and brilliant way. 

At 1:16 when the flute and singer Gráinne McCarthy enters proceedings the banger starts to bang bang bang. The track is an antidote to sadness, melancholy and dark personal times, music is a drug that remedies so many ailments, and you'll spend days, weeks and months trying to find a better prescription than 'Believing'.

Danny G & The Major 7ths - Believing
One night in 2014, Danny G & The Major 7ths @ The Grand Social.

Monday, 6 May 2019

SelfMade - Mind YourSelf: Maria Kelly Interview

Maria Kelly Interview - SelfMade - Remy Connolly

On Saturday May 25th, SelfMade will run a two-part event, Mind YourSelf: Mental Health and Music, sponsored by IMRO, looking at mental health in the Irish music scene and in particular the challenges affecting developing musicians in their professional and personal lives. There has been a huge step-up in the level of conversation on mental health in recent years and we’re proud to use our next event to encourage conversation, break the stigma, and facilitate a route to a healthier music industry. 

In advance of the event REMY chats to Mayo alternative folk artist Maria Kelly about her musical journey; early successes, re-locating to Berlin, and the importance of learning to listen to both your head and body when they're trying to get you to hit the pause button and slow down.

REMY: Can you indulge us a little as to when it dawned on you that music was a source of wonder whose path you wanted to wander above all others?

Maria: I don’t think I had a defining moment of ‘this is what I want to do’. It was always something I had been involved in since I was about ten, and it was what I had always been drawn to throughout my school years. I did consider studying languages in my final year, but it felt quite natural to just keep pursing music for as long as I could, as it excited me more than anything else.

REMY: You've always been very upfront that one of the deepest wells of inspiration for your songs has come from anxiety; over-thought interactions with other people, finding yourself in a place of darkness or strain over over-expectation. Has dealing with these topics in your songwriting brought much relief and enlightenment over the past 4 years?

Maria: I think it definitely has. Enlightenment for sure, as I think songwriting has been a way for me to learn about my own mental health, it allows me to take a closer look at what I am actually thinking and feeling. But it has also been very relieving, as sharing very personal experiences in a tangible way has created an external connection for me, to other people who are experiencing similar things.

REMY: Things moved quite suddenly after the release of your debut EP The Things I Should, multiple festival slots, being included in The Irish Times '50 Best Tracks of 2016', and a support slot with KT Tunstall in London. In retrospect, did it all feel a bit out of control and overwhelming at this point?

Maria: On reflection, yes it feels a little overwhelming to think about. I was actually quite out of touch with myself through a lot of that, just kind of floating along. That gave way to bouts of depression and anxiety for sure. I don’t feel like it felt out of control though – I was very lucky to have a great group of people around me (my lovely fam at Veta Records) from the beginning of the project, and they really helped to guide me through any difficult or overwhelming patches. I think having a strong team around you is pretty vital in the music industry as it gives you people to lean on. You don’t have to do everything yourself! 

Maria Kelly - 'June' (Live at Other Voices 2018)

REMY: In June of last year you moved to Berlin, and were also back and forth to Ireland for festivals such as Other Voices, whilst also recording your second EP, notes to self. How did that change in environment affect you most musically, i.e. in terms of conjuring up the songs for the EP?

Maria: I didn’t expect to write a whole lot when I first moved, I made a decision to just put a pin in music and live a bit, try other things. I had just studied music for four years, and I felt a bit tired of certain aspects of it to be honest. But I spent a lot of time alone when I first got to Berlin and had a lot to mull over, and songs sort of fell out of me – it’s a thing I always come back to I realise, to connect to myself again, even when I try to escape it! And having that time and space to concentrate on this new flow of songs, I think it added to them sounding a bit more honed and polished than what I’d released before. I had time to think about it in a more conceptual way, and to test out new ideas. 

REMY: Speaking of Berlin, there’s a very strong Irish music community in the city who help each other out, what has the feedback been like from the indigenous music-goers in Berlin to Irish talent?

Maria: Yes, there is, it’s been great – a home away from home of sorts. In general, I’ve only had a positive experience with music-goers. People are very willing to actively listen here, and will make a point of coming up to you after the show to thank you for your music. They also are very supportive in buying merch/staying in touch – it’s a nice place to grow an authentic community I feel. We’ve seen that a lot through shows that I run with Veta Sessions – a branch off of our label, where we host house concerts every month. It’s been a fantastic way to get familiar with the scene here, and to discover new music in our own living rooms. 

REMY: In February this year you shared that you were going to have to cancel your Irish tour dates, you mentioned creative burnout as a factor in this tough decision, and that you were looking to delve back into the 'song-writing cave' as you put it. Did this feel like a very low point for you, or was it a bit liberating to finally be able to say to yourself that your health, physical and mental well-being were going to take number one priority for the first time with no preconditions attached? It must have been incredibly difficult in the weeks preceding that decision?

Maria: It felt like a low point at first. I hadn't cancelled anything before, and it felt AWFUL to feel like I couldn’t do something that I had planned to do. Since the beginning of the project, I had just hopped from thing to thing, full steam ahead. And when I initially booked the tour, I had the same mind set – 'ok so what’s the next thing'. But the closer it got to the date, the more I realised how detrimental the shows would be to me. Not just the shows themselves, but the months of promo, ticket pushes, rehearsals, costs, keeping the buzz up, there was so much to do and I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to do it successfully. 

I hated posting that update, but in the end I thought about the fact that I wouldn’t want to go see a musician play who didn’t want to be there, or felt like they couldn’t give their best performance. That would be so disheartening to watch! The response online was nothing but lovely, supportive and completely understanding. Kind of like a "well duh…why would you do a tour if you are not in the right mind set to do it?" 

It was a relief, as I instantly knew I had made the right decision, and had been putting a lot of pressure on myself to do otherwise. It made me think about our tendency to overlook emotional / mental signs of exhaustion. Or not even exhaustion, just overlooking the fact that you're not feeling the way that you know you should. I completely overlooked my own needs in favour of just not 'giving up' or 'trying hard enough'. It made me reevaluate my own mind set when it came to how I approach my mental health. 

Maria Kelly - Remy Connolly
Photo: Remy Connolly

REMY: How does the ideal 2019 end for Maria Kelly? What do you hope to achieve most in life and music between now and December?

Maria: I'd like to have a big bulk of unreleased material behind me by the end of this year. I’ve been spending more time writing and honing in on what I’d like a body of work to sound like. But honestly, I have more personal goals this year than musical ones – I’m trying to learn how to look after myself at the minute, all the boring stuff like healthy eating and exercise! And I want to look after my head in a more productive way – I think good work will naturally follow that. 

REMY: You’ll be joining a really great panel for Mind YourSelf: Mental Health and Music on the 25th of May organised by SelfMade, joined by fellow-musicians Paddy Hanna, members of Wyvern Lingo and LeGalaxie among others! Despite great strides being made to make the public more aware, and remove the stigma of the past attached to people who suffer from mental health issues, what would you identify as the biggest obstacle that we still have to overcome here in Ireland?

Maria: Long-term, more available and more affordable resources. Getting to a place where it doesn’t cost a bomb to go to your GP, then to a psychiatrist of psychologist, a therapist, a councillor – whatever you need. That it isn’t this massive, impossible, privileged mountain to climb, whether your problem is big or small. 

And short term, talking. I know it’s almost cliché at the stage, but continuing an uncomfortable conversation is effective. Asking your friends how their head is, no matter how much you think they have their shit together. Just opening up a conversation, not aiming to solve it, but aiming to lend an ear is a very powerful thing to do. 

For more information and to book tickets to SelfMade's upcoming event, Mind YourSelf: Mental Health and Music, head over to the event page here

Mind Yourlself - SelfMade - IMRO

Saturday, 4 May 2019

SelfMade - Mind YourSelf: Paddy Hanna Interview

Paddy Hanna Interview - Remy Connolly - SelfMade
Photo: Stephen White (The Last Mixed Tape)

On Saturday May 25th, SelfMade will run a two-part event, Mind YourSelf: Mental Health and Music, sponsored by IMRO, looking at mental health in the Irish music scene and in particular the challenges affecting developing musicians in their professional and personal lives. There has been a huge step-up in the level of conversation on mental health in recent years and we’re proud to use our next event to encourage conversation, break the stigma, and facilitate a route to a healthier music industry. 

In advance of the event REMY chats to Dublin troubadour Paddy Hanna about his musical journey, his sophomore album Frankly, I Mutate, and the existing gaps in supports for those suffering with mental health.

REMY: Can you recall the moment you decided you wanted to wade into the world of making music? Was it as a result of a live show you were attending for example or a less spontaneous happenstance?

Paddy: I wanted to perform from a very early age but was a cripplingly shy child. I used to hide in a moulding playhouse at the back of our garden with a crappy tape recorder and sing in to it, just to see how I sounded, but I could only do that in secret. I didn’t perform publicly till I was 15, at a school talent show. 

REMY: Your early days on the Irish music 'scene' saw you as one of the collaborators in the Popical Island collective circa 2010, was that a period you have care-free memories of?

Paddy: For the most part. It was a great time for drinking cans, playing sweaty venues that hold about 20 people and churning albums out in a weekend. 

REMY: With the release of Frankly, I Mutate last year you were quite open about a core theme of the album, and if I may quote at length because I feel it’s important; "I allude to mental illness in my work. It’s considered by many to be a neurosis that spurs on creative work, however it is nothing but a crutch on my own creativity. My time in a depressive haze is spent in complete emptiness, weeks will go by, my beard will have grown out, my pen dried up. So when indeed I allude to mental illness it would usually be during a happy period where I can function. One of the most important days in my life came when I finally opened up about depression and was not met with jeers but rather acceptance and understanding."

To jump back to your debut 4 years earlier, Leafy Stiletto, it seems in lyric and song-titles even, that you were already on a path to exploring expressing those feelings, take for example tracks like 'Mind’s Wearing Make-Up' and the escapism of 'Heaven of Heavens', would that be an okay assumption to make?

Paddy: It surely would be. I make a point of not dwelling on the meaning of my tracks, I like to leave them open to interpretation, that said it's usually easy to spot the central themes. 

REMY: There was a four-year period in between Leafy Stiletto and Frankly, I Mutate (you were still active in this time with the likes of Autre Monde). What would you say was the most notable difference in how you approached your song-writing for each LP?

Paddy: I listen to loads of music and make a composite in the ole head of how the album should sound, then I fit the songs around that sonic theme. When discussing Frankly with Daniel we knew immediately what kind of album we were going to make, our chemistry was such that I’ve basically kidnapped him for the next record we're making.

REMY: Frankly, I Mutate was across the board one of the most well-received Irish albums of 2018, if you could pick one track of the 12 which would you say pleases you the most in terms of how it turned out on the album?

Paddy: 'Bad Boys', we nailed that one.

REMY: On the 25th May you’ll be a member of the panel discussing mental health titled Mind YourSelf: Mental Health and Music run by the great folks and music lovers SelfMade. Mental health has thankfully had a strong spotlight shone on it in recent years, that said, where do you feel the biggest gaps regarding awareness and resources remain?

Paddy: It's very difficult for someone to campaign for elections on a mental health platform, it’s not a short term solution and therefore many folks are inclined to vote for the more quick fix policies, but we need to lay the seeds now, I for one would be happy to know that kids 15 years from now won't feel broken or lost as I did, and that their mental health was treated with the same regularity as treating the common cold. That's where we need to be. 

For more information and to book tickets to SelfMade's upcoming event, Mind YourSelf: Mental Health and Music, head over to the event page here

Mind Yourlself - SelfMade - IMRO