Monday 29 April 2019

Album: Larry - Larry

Larry - Larry - Album Review - Dundalk - Steve Albini

Larry is a three piece band from Dundalk. A combination of lofi alt-rock with raw emotive lyrics & pop sensibilities stems from the likes of Sparklehorse, Pixies and Wilco. Larry recorded their debut album with Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies, Shellac) in September 2018.

Having read an article recently by a medical professional in The Irish Times on how pointless vitamin supplements were (in relation to a new tax or something), I ceased taking my daily 1,000mg cod liver oil capsules which I have religiously consumed daily for the last 10 years. Whilst I feel liberated and have an extra 2 euro in my pocket every 2 months, some things are fading in my memory. Hence I cast myself back to a review of the first time I saw Dundalk trio Larry in The Bello Bar for the first time in May last year, supporting Just Mustard and Belfast's Hot Cops, Jesus, what a line-up that was. I'm glad I did, because the small number of lines I wrote at that time, which was also my first time hearing any of their music, are uncannily accurate to how I feel almost a year later with two singles, and a debut album now released.

"The first three songs were enjoyable slow-burners (29/04/19 - note: this is why I don't like reviewing live shows, Christ), and I found the sound particularly resonated very well with my inner love for old school US slacker-rock. I was enjoying my zoned-out slumber when they started to ratchet proceedings up in the second half and lead-singer Joey Edwards shifted from low tones to high to close out their set and leave you with a lovely rock-tinged finale. There are two sides to Larry's coin, and both are shiny."

With the new album well into the ear-drums, and the happenstance of having seen Larry on Friday night just gone at The Sound House in support of Third Smoke, the observation of both their sound and Edwards' vocal rising unexpectedly in their songs is fresh in the mind just as it was after seeing them perform for the first time.

I always love a gentle / rousing combination in lo-fi guitar-based music, the key for me is emphasis on the former, a roughly 80% / 20% split, and Larry do this so well. The two most influential albums on me since I was a teenager within this genre or style are Weezer's Blue Album and Pavement's Brighten the Corners which I reference a lot on these pages, particularly the latter. The great thing about Larry's sound is that they don't recall the sonic aesthetic of either, but more the platform DNA of both. The only track on the album that specifically reminded of Pavement is 'Liar' towards the end, and even then it's a stretch, reaching back for me to 'Old to Begin', the calm and the surprise raucousness of both vocal and percussion just when you are reaching peak-lull mood.

Edwards himself is a music producer whose name you will see in plentiful places in the production credits for other Irish acts, which undoubtedly was a contributing factor to Steve Albini wanting to cast his wand over proceedings last year. Having read a few interviews with Albini he always states that his modus operandi for working with bands is based on his gut feeling with that first listen, things like where you're from, what stage of your career you're at, or to be crass, economic benefits, are all irrelevant to him, it's purely based on his ear and nothing else, quite a ringing endorsement to say the least. Thankfully this process has been documented by KT Ball in an upcoming short which is due for release soon (trailer below). So, yeah, the album!

Opening with most recent single 'Cocker Spaniel', the track encapsulates the see-saw of understated energy and sleepiness of Larry's sound. There's plenty of thrash (not trash) early doors, jangly guitars and up and down drums, with the bass acting like a rope on a pier, holding a ship where it should be despite wanting to disembark. On a personal level it reminds me of one of the few hopeful passages from the gospels, Matthew 6:26:30 if memory serves me correctly; "Look at the birds in the sky! They don’t plant or harvest. They don’t even store grain in barns. Yet your Father in heaven takes care of them. Aren’t you worth more than birds?" Turns out god was a communist after all. Envy of the freedom and simple desires an animal enjoys (when they're not being hunted by a predator) vs. the complexity of meaningless anxieties humans experience as a result of our 'higher intelligence'.

'Wah' was the first track I heard from the album when Larry released the live video last year, and unusually for me I've found it hard to move on to a 'new favourite' as time has passed. It's perfect in a circular way, there are no rough edges, and everything is concise. Call it what you like, but it's prime lackadaisical slacker real estate, there are two sinkhole moments on the track, the guitar bend bang in the middle of 40 and 41 seconds, and that devilishly sleepy passage from 1:28 to 1:58, almost mathematical in its execution. 

'Sea of Ringo Starrs' comes next, this track sprung out as something that should be on an OST for a Tarantino film (induced by a recent podcast I was researching for to a degree), it's Pulp Fiction / Reservoir Dogs soundtrack incarnate with a bruising finale, Dick Dale vibes abound, but also Link Wray's classic 'Rumble', here's where the past merges with a contemporary guitar rock sound.

'Marco' is by far the sleepiest track on the LP, the moment you pass out. As much fun as we've had with Larry's sound so far, this is an important stop-gap to remind us of the subject matter behind the song-writing, it's a non-pretentious and casual examination of our most basic insecurities, desire to be lauded and accepted, basically a blunt observation of one of the evolutionary hard-wired weaknesses of the human condition. 

'Pushing' is a well-placed follow up, life is definitely not a miserable place on this album, overtly saying that insecurity and doubt is futile and you need to shake it off before it takes hold in a "you might be dead tomorrow" kind of way, so indulge yourself in the way you want to, not how you're told to. After the lament of 'Doggo', which may be an homage to a much-loved canine that is no longer trotting with us, comes 'Fako'. It's breezy, but in a different way to what we've heard thus far, that balance between light-heartedness and seriousness echoing from the drums and managed in a controlled way by Edwards' vocal.

Following the grunge-rock tone of 'Liar', the trio cast off from the pier with a whisper compared to what has come before on 'Deeper', a fitting swansong to bridge the gap between the next chapter. The tenderness of the song claws just enough at your innards to grab your focus without causing any emotional distress, the whistling somehow acting as the mascot for the entire collection of 9 tracks on Larry's debut album, if we can do this, you can do it too.

Larry's debut LP is now available on all good streaming platforms and a physical vinyl format can be ordered via Pizza Pizza Records' Bandcamp page here

Video: EHCO - Hunted (Live)

EHCO - Hunted - Live Video
Photo: Faye Bollard

REMY is particularly delighted to share the first look at Wicklow experimental electronic act EHCO's live video for their most recent single 'Hunted' which was shot in The Mermaid Café in Bray under the stewardship of director Rosie Barrett, with lighting by Conor Biddle. 

After starting out as a solo project for ex-Enemies musician Eoin Whitfield circa summer 2017, the project quickly evolved when he teamed up with vocalist Jessy Lord on their first release 'Raise it up'. The pair have since released two other singles in 'FIA' and 'Éiclips'. After establishing their live performance in local venues in their hometown and Dublin, numerous festival performances followed such as Other Voices and Castlepalooza, and more recently EHCO remixed DAITHÍ's latest single 'Orange'.

Patience has been one of the bedrocks of EHCO's growing success, a remarkably hard work ethic in fine-tuning their live set and recording new material has pushed them quickly to the forefront of the Irish music consciousness. The pace has quickened slightly in recent months as the momentum builds, and they are due to release their debut EP shortly which has just been completed, as well as the concept video for 'Hunted' premiering on Nialler9 last week (see below - DOP - Robert J. Kavanagh).

Of the single itself, in our recent review we wrote; "With their fourth single, EHCO, led by Eoin Whitfield and fronted by Jessy Lord move firmly into the heat zone, they have truly found their groove now and taken it to another level. 'Hunted' has a life of its own, the movement of sound is so chill and all-encompassing that it takes control of your mind and switches every other sense off for its entire duration, incidentally, Lord has also become my favourite Irish vocalist in recent times. Not many acts are able to deliver such well executed escapism and such a spiritual drift in their music. That's 4 out of 4 for EHCO now."

You can catch EHCO live on the following dates below;

May 18th - The Harbour Bar Bray
May 23rd - Future Proof at BelloBar

News: Hard Working Class Heroes re-brands to Ireland Music Week for 2019

Hard Working Class Heroes - Ireland Music Week - Ae Mak - Remy Connolly
Photo: Remy Connolly

Always placed perfectly in the annual calendar with a nice break after the mayhem of the summer festival schedule, one of our long-term favourite music festivals, Hard Working Class Heroes, is re-branding as Ireland Music Week for this coming October. The core elements of providing Irish music artists with an opportunity to network with a slew of local and international industry experts, plus showcasing 50 acts that are readying themselves for international exposure remain. 

For artists of all levels, the conference will give them a chance to learn and develop their craft and create new opportunities with agents, labels, bookers, music supervisors and services from all over the world.

Additions to this core programming will include a dedicated B 2 B day to facilitate the needs of the newly formed FMC-founded AIM Ireland, along with other offerings from new strategic partners introducing new audiences for Irish music around Europe as well as more networking and masterclasses to be announced closer to the dates.

"The new name will more accurately represent the strategic role of the festival in launching export-ready Irish artists to global prominence at our export supported events such as Eurosonic, SXSW, The Great Escape, and more" says Angela Dorgan, CEO of First Music Contact. "Ireland Music Week will also expand to develop the infrastructure of the Irish music industry as a whole".

On the announcement of the new name, Christine Sisk, Culture Ireland’s Director commented –

"Culture Ireland’s support for Ireland Music Week is based on the important role it plays in introducing the next generation of Irish talent to global audiences and strengthening the connections between Ireland’s independent music industry and international markets. Ireland’s music is known worldwide and it is important that we maintain and build on our already strong reputation. The creation of international opportunities for emerging talent is vital to help sustain careers in the music industry."

First Music Contact, who run Ireland Music Week, work with Irish acts from the very beginning.  This annual showcase is an opportunity to offer Irish acts some vital exposure provided by the stellar mix of influential Irish and international delegates who attend including avenues for agent, label, management deals and more. FMC also run Music From Ireland, the Irish music export office.

Artist applications for this year’s festival will open in May.

Some of last year’s big successes to progress from the festival include Just Mustard, The Wood Burning Savages, Wild Youth, Æ Mak, Flynn, Pillow Queens, ROE, Bad Bones, A. Smyth, Kitt Philippa, Laoise, THUMPER, Maria Kelly, Molly Sterling, Joshua Burnside and more.

Since its inception in 2003, the festival has showcased many of Ireland’s best-known acts including Fontaines DC, David Keenan, Soulé, Daithí, whenyoung, Bitch Falcon, Jafaris, Chasing Abbey, Saint Sister, Wyvern Lingo, Jealous of the Birds, Fangclub, Touts, The Academic, Choice Music Prize winners Rusangano Family, Villagers, 2013's breakthrough act Hozier, along with Girl Band, Jape, The Coronas, Talos, Le Boom, Loah, Soak, Ham Sandwich, All Tvvins, Otherkin and many more.

For more information on how to sign-up and keep tabs on announcements, head over to the new website here

Hard Working Class Heroes - Ireland Music Week 2019

Saturday 27 April 2019

The VidList #016: LE BOOM & Æ MAK, Paddy Hanna, Third Smoke, The Murder Capital & Laura Duff

Dancing Bug - LE BOOM & Æ MAK
Photo: Tim Shearwood

Our regular series of The VidList captures the best music videos (and tracks!) released over the past few weeks. Below we have new music videos across varied styles, from dance, indie, electronic, blues-rock and contemporary folk.

1) Æ MAK & Le Boom - 'Dancing Bug'

What a combo, Le Boom and Æ MAK, two of the most progressive and artistic acts of the last few years merge their talents on 'Dancing Bug' which they recorded and wrote together over the course of a mere few hours. The combination of Le Boom's trademark bubbling electronic dance beats and Aoife McCann's vocal are highly complimentary, to the point you'd hope this isn't a once off. On many moments during the track, even though it's just under 3 minutes long, each act shares the best of what they do. Fun fact: the video was shot on Carnew Street in Stoneybatter, Dublin 7 and is the same location where pop queens The Spice Girls made their own video for their single 'Stop' back in 1998!

2) Paddy Hanna - 'Frankly, I Mutate'

From what was easily one of the best Irish albums of last year, Paddy Hanna shares the title-track music video for 'Frankly, I Mutate', directed and produced by Niall McCann. It's a majestic visual that acts like a microcosm of his song-writing, theatrical drama, brevity, humour and awkwardness acting like a thinly layered bubble surrounding the deep themes of his music. As always the lyrics are poetic and provide huge scope for the listener's interpretation and imagine to run off with, and there's also a melancholy feeling of isolation which reveals itself right at the end.

3) Third Smoke - 'We Run in Bare Feet'

I haven't been able to stop listening to the latest (and best?) single from Third Smoke since its release a few weeks ago, and now there's a music video by Greg Corcoran to accompany it which captures their individual and collective live power. From our recent review of 'We Run in Bare Feet', feel the power.

"A much more intense indie-rock affair from Third Smoke compared to their previous singles, the quintet opt for rattling columns of sound on 'We Run in Bare Feet'. With multiple injections of joy coming from all angles, I'm tempted to say this is their best single to date, but it's a tough call as their sound varies enough across their tracks. A pounding drive of bass, percussion and electric guitar first push and then drive frontman Hugh Donlon's vocal to celestial heights. I love it."

4) The Murder Capital - 'Green & Blue'

It's a tough spot to find yourself in before you've even released your first single, The Murder Capital were already being piled on by a small but vocal number of cynics before they'd even released debut single 'Feeling Fades' earlier this year over the hype they were generating locally. This is the type of shithousery we've seen with fellow Dublin band Fontaines D.C., the classic Irish trope of "look at that fucker up there on the top of the hill, grrr". After seeing an arresting and kind of intimidating in a memorable way (this is what you want) performance of theirs last year I could see first hand that they deserved any success that was coming their way. You have to judge bands on their abilities and their music, and of course how that translates on stage. 

Latest single 'Green & Blue' is a doom-laden post-punk affair that doffs its cap to the gothic sounds of The Cure's 80's output such as Pornography and Disintegration. Rumbling hypnotic percussion and crisp yet thick bass-lines ensure the mood stays sombre, yet engaging through the entirety of the track, the sparseness of the instrumentation allows lead singer James McGovern's domineering vocal to provide the unsettling discomfort that is quickly becoming a hallmark of their sound.

5) Laura Duff - 'Up To You'

Singer-songwriter Laura Duff released her single 'Up To You' towards the end of 2018, and now shares the accompanying music video directed by Róisín Little. This is a wonderfully colourful and addictive slice of psychedelic indie-pop, which is given the most fitting visual companion between the mid-60's pop lighting, rhythmic movement of the contemporary dance and kaleidoscopic backdrops. Duff has that easily loveable escapist vocal style that produces a nonchalant and disarming effect on the listener, haute-chill. 'Up To You' is taken from Laura Duff's promising debut EP For Your Company which was released on the 27th of February, listen here.

Monday 22 April 2019

Single: Paj - Yemanja

Paj - Yemanja

"Yemanja is the Afro-Brazilian goddess of the sea, the mother Orisha. This song was written after her 3 day celebrations spent in North east Brazil, enjoying the carnival but at the same time trying to shed some personal baggage. It's the feeling of going out but your heart's not in it.. at first, here Yemanja calls you back to your true centre."

Dublin soul act Paj (aka Paddy Groenland) shares the follow-up single 'Yemanja' to debut 'Friends Confused' which was released in February. For an artist steeped in global sounds as a result of his passion for self-education beyond standard genres, the new single acts like a melting-pot of the best of soul and traditional world landscapes. 

The groove is over-flowing like a thick foam of sunshine beats and a slick rn'b vocal delivery filled with determination and passion. This throws me straight into classic OST's like Shaft and Superfly but with a massive dollop of super heavy funk. The tempo is aggressive in a manner that would recall George Clinton's Parliament, but the softness of a Shuggie Otis passage in those first 50 seconds. Interestingly it's in the percussion and loose rhythm that those earlier mentioned influences subtly lap in between the ravaging but fun-filled chaos. 

Paj plays his next show with full band and AV show on Saturday, April 27th in Whelan's.

'Yemanja' will also be live on Spotify and other major streaming platforms from the 9th of May.

Sunday 21 April 2019

Photos: MUNKY @ The Grand Social with The Family Dog & Skinner - 12th April

MUNKY - The Grand Social - Remy Connolly

Photos: Remy Connolly (click on 1st image to begin slideshow)

Last weekend on Friday, 12th of April, Dublin funk / blues / rock (take your pick) band MUNKY took to the main stage at The Grand Social to launch their excellent debut EP, Un, Deux, Trois, Cat. In front of a jam-packed house we were collectively blown away, with their live shows always different from the last, but always high-entertainment and a straight up boogie. Support on the night was equally impressive, Barnet psychedelic folk-funk four-piece The Family Dog were ablaze with energy, in no small part to 13-year-old frontman Isaac's ridiculously energetic performance. It was also my first time seeing post-punk act Skinner, and I was so impressed with his set, hearing single 'Headroom' live and subsequently playing it on loop since, and also what I recall may be the next single 'Slouch' brought much joy to my ears.

The Family Dog - The Grand Social - Remy Connolly

Skinner - The Grand Social - Remy Connolly

Saturday 20 April 2019

EP: Hatchlings - Gay Hymns

Hatchlings - Gay Hymns

Few would argue that Maynooth originated band Hatchlings are to the fore-front of Irish contemporary-folk, a genre description that is so limited in terms of their spread, and doesn't even begin to describe them. Their previous output confirms this and personally seeing them live, I was wooed. But they have verbally and aurally moved themselves into new spaces with latest EP Gay Hymns.


Opener 'Conduit' is a serene piano-laden beginning to Hatchling's sophomore EP, the follow-up to 2017's Montessori, which was a more punchy but no less emotive affair. Here the vocal is painfully authentic and moves far beyond merely relaying a story, it demands transference of feeling to the listener, tenderness and a smidgen of melancholy, the peaks and troughs are so easily mounted and descended. This doesn't come as any surprise as Jamie Bishop, Conor Cunningham, Peter Kelly, Eamon Travers, and Niall Quinn are all fully accomplished musicians individually and match up seamlessly in delivering this holistic sound.

'Sin É' is a humorous jaunt which also addresses a life less lived and a reluctance to express ones true feelings; "I was watching Fair City and the girls were quite pretty, I saw my old love as an extra on the show, she bought a box of Carrolls from a shop called Farrells..." Here the theme bluntly lists the futility of holding grudges, meaningless exercises in escapism, a gradual linear progression which ultimately ends up six-feet underground, you had your chance, but now it's too late.

Whilst both are excellent, I find myself enjoying the live version (above video) of third track 'Until the Cows Come Home', this is Hatchlings in full jazz-mood and blue-eyed soul, Julie London-era old world style. You'll struggle to hear a warmer and more soothing vocal than Cunninghams, and the harmonies are so beautifully understated from Bishop and Kelly. This is a slip off the Earth into a self-induced coma that clears away all mental clutter it's that absorbing.

In a review of the first single from the EP 'Choir in the Belly' we wrote; "Vocally echoing Kings of Convenience, 'Choir in the Belly' from Hatchlings is a gorgeous serenade to the self. Undoubtedly masters of the harmony, the band seamlessly tie in classic folk with a contemporary polish, it's wonderfully sleepy and balances pensive happy / sad feelings effortlessly giving it a very timeless feel."

A strong finish to the five tracks arrives on 'Gay Hymn', lyrically intriguing, a personal recollection of a relationship that brought great happiness at one point. Like all recanting of stories about characters, you're left wanting for more insights, what went wrong, how does the story end? Hatchlings are probably eager that you fill those gaps yourself. A sweeping final minute sees all instrumentation, harmonies and energy converge in the most robustly glorious manner. As a collection of tracks, Gay Hymns really does feel like a short album in the sense of how broad it is (yes, yes, that's generally what an EP is) and it feels a lot longer than its combined 20 minutes when taken as a whole. There is pretty much no room for improvement here on the EP, and it must be marked out as one of the best collection of song-writing to emerge so far this year.

Hatchlings' 'Gay Hymns' Tour begins tonight at St. Mary's Church in Maynooth, tickets are available at the door.

Hatchlings - Gay Hymns Tour

EP: Variant Sea - Selene

Variant Sea - Selene

In September 2015, pianist Luke Duffy and guitarist Shell Dooley combined to create an ambient post-rock and instrumental project with a trio of EP's as Variant Sea, the first release of which was Seasons of Mist, followed by Fable in 2016, and now Selene which was just released yesterday. Pianist Luke Duffy is based in Reykjavik, Iceland, whilst Dooley ploughs her musical trade as the lead-guitarist of Montauk Hotel in Dublin. Across the 1,500 kilometres between both capital cities, both musicians have dedicated themselves to their ongoing collaboration, when it would have been easy to ask "Why?" and call it a day.

It's (the music) beautiful, sad, classical, life-affirming and in some ways makes you, the listener, a little bit too aware of your own mortality. Beauty is a desperately fleeting thing, and it's all around us, but we are numb to noticing it. I've always felt that Variant Sea were there to remind us of that waste. 

Selene digs into places you want to and don't want to feel, the introduction to the EP conjures an image of an oak-wood panelled room filled with guests around the piano listening attentively. 'Winter Dance' is a sad beauty, there are so many tangents the listener can go off into here, an unhappy childhood, an optimistic life that just never worked out, the piano is the hopeful promise, the guitar is the reality. One of the great hoodwinks of life is that it should be filled with happiness and joy, it's not, and not in a pessimistic way, it just isn't.

A gentle breath is exhaled at the opening of 'Selene', a sigh of relief, a break from the world. Duffy's piano playing here is sadness, too real, and the gentle sway of the music is far more powerful than it asks for. A guttural choke expands on 'Khione' before what is a piano masterpiece in 'Ghosts', those nymph like keys at the intro grow into sublime beauty, the protagonist is lost, the grandeur emphatic, once again this collusion between both artists breaches musical standards. It's a relationship hued in beauty and feeling, and there are no gaps.

Irish Playlist #056: Lux Alma, Daniel John Paxton, Sprints, In Their Thousands, RUNAH & more

Lux Alma - The Visit

Above and below are a selection of Irish singles which were released in the last week or so that I have taken much enjoyment from. Familiar faces, debut singles, blasts from the past! I hope you enjoy too.

1) Lux Alma - 'The Visit'

Alma Kelliher, aka Lux Alma continues to experiment with varying soundscapes, with previous singles such as 'The Tomb' incorporating a deep electronic sound, now on 'The Visit' the focus is more on the ambient and mystical. Like an ancient Irish pagan incantation spoken in the dark forest, it's a celestial experience, culminating in the sky above opening to reveal the secrets of the universe.

2) Daniel John Paxton - 'Meadows'

I've been surprised at how quickly Daniel John Paxton has found his own groove since going solo, with 'Meadows' only the second release, it feels like he's settled in with great ease. The track is a very bright sliver of indietronica, the pensive beat and soaring sound effects accompanying his emotive vocal make for a most enjoyable and wholesome listening experience.

3) Sprints - 'Pathetic'

YAWSS!! I was real excited to hear that Sprints were emerging from the ashes of  Kevyn, and their debut single 'Pathetic' is a no holes barred scything rock blow out. Savage guitar riffage which harks back to the golden age of the 70's and assertive vox / lyrics are the perfect launch-pad back into the Irish music consciousness. Fans of Bitch Falcon will enjoy this very much. Their single launch party is tonight in The Sound House on Eden Quay.

Sprints - Pathetic
4) In Their Thousands - 'Sit and Breathe'

It's nice not to have to show personal bias towards a band from Donegal, In Their Thousands' new single 'Sit and Breathe' is a powerful statement of intent ahead of the release of their debut album ACRASIA which is released next month. A trundling indie-pop tunnel of muted guitars, slick percussion and wonderfully energising and impassioned vocals, with the briefest soft passages. Though stylistically very different, I would predict that their debut album will sit very favourably with music critics in the same was as We Cut Corners' Impostors LP did in 2018.  

5) RUNAH - 'Strange'

The final single to be released before the release of her album of the same name next month, 'Strange' is RUNAH's best to date. From that skulking soft bass intro to RUNAH's as always crisp vocal, the track breaks into a funky groover with buzzing electronic effects. I love how her vocal controls and directs the rhythm and motion of the song, there's a lot going on, throw in the bongo effect and lethargic pace and you have a track that mixes chilled-out passages with wonderful confidence.

RUNAH - Strange
RUNAH - Photo: The Rose Mill

6) Lady Landscape - 'Kitsilano'

Meath-based indie-pop quintet Lady Landscape released their debut single 'Kitsilano' (a neighbourhood in Vancouver, Canada where one of their founding members resided for some time). First off this tickles much of my indie-inklings from over the last 15 years, a warm indie glow shrouds everything that is accentuated by the inconsolable vocals. I love music that casually expresses an apathy with its subject matter (in this case an aversion to dating!), and here Lady Landscape nail that mood. The happy tempo of the music clashes with the vocal, and this conjures up pictures of a broken character lost in a crowded street who just wants everything to go way. 

7) The Late David Turpin - 'Unsolved Mystery'

Rest my weary head, and take away all my troubles. The music of The Late David Turpin thankfully came into my life recently with his last single 'Concubine' feat. Elephant. 'Unsolved Mystery' doesn't ask you to be, or feel any way, but without choice you experience beauty in its sheerest form, an embrace of the ears that is simply stunning, few people can write music and compositions such as this, and the vocal of jazz-singer Jaime Nanci wandering in the background just pushes it over into genius territory, an artist that must be cherished.

Unsolved Mystery - The Late David Turpin
The Late David Turpin - Photo: Ruth Medjber

8) A Scene From Jaws - 'Keep Calm and Carry On'

Cork natives and now Berlin-based, film graduate Declan Hyland and Kay Finan released third single 'Keep Calm and Carry On' this weekend. Lots of interesting things happening here, firstly their vocals strangely sound like a cross-over between choir and contemporary folk, secondly the gear shifts between twinkling tender music and (not too much) in your face bursts of energy are a tight and invigorating experience. I talk a lot about builds and crescendos in songs, but, here you go, this is the thing!

9) Skins F.C. - 'Flash Photography'

Over the last few years all the talk from Louth has been about Dundalk acts, you know who they are! But Drogheda, whilst not pumping out the volume of music just yet, can be overlooked. Local act Skins F.C. released their debut single 'Flash Photography' on the 5th of April and at just under two minutes in length, it achieves its objective of screaming for the attention of your ears. Rapid guitar riffs, chunky bass-lines, rapid-percussion, these are all fine, but need to be combined coherently, which Skins F.C. manage. It's punky, rollicking, angry and fluid, it's early doors, but it seems like they're getting their ducks in a row in the right way.

Skins FC - Flash Photography

10) Sarah Buckley - 'Wedding Bells'

Cork singer-songwriter, now Dublin-based, Sarah Buckley has taken the road less travelled of Robert Frost's poem. Starting out a number of years ago, life took hold as it often (always) does with independent artists, career stymies time to create art. Lately she has re-emerged, and is writing music that matches the desire to pursue it full-time. 'Wedding Bells' is emotion-heavy, filled with optimism and regret, and deeply personal. Hopes and dreams shattered in the most cruel manner, her vocal calmly tells the story without trying to influence the listener. It's a beautiful dirge steeped in the traditional folk story-telling of generations past, and her vocal at track's end is a haunting moment.

Friday 19 April 2019

New Irish Albums (April): Old Hannah, Jamie Adam, Arms That Fit Like Legs! & Deaf Joe

Old Hannah - Borealis - Album Review

One of my most eagerly anticipated Irish albums of 2019 has been Old Hannah's Borealis, singles to date 'Find You' and 'The Way Light Falls on the Water' did much more than whetting the appetite, the latter of which has been my foremost companion in transit since its recent release. Jamie Adam has enthralled with his singles over the last 12 months and his debut LP Melodic Electronic is stuffed with singles, ear-worms, and ultra-happy moments. Dublin post-rock quartet Arms That Fit Like Legs! have been together for over ten years, their latest album Legwork is an abrasive sonic assault which grips, tears and pleases in the most enjoyably haphazard manner. From the delicate ambience of 2018's Stuck (oh my god single 'Where's Your Loving Gone' still gives ultra-chills), Waterford's Deaf Joe flips the table over on new album Love Stories, the vocals are fully shed on an arresting sea of minimalist noise.

1) Old Hannah - Borealis

A shift in sound from the contemporary folk of their earlier output, Old Hannah spread their wings on Borealis, but without slicing out their musical DNA in the process. Much of the album, despite its calming nature, is intensely powerful, there are multiple instances of heightened and overwhelming euphoria. The opening title-track glides the back of its hand gently across your cheek before thrusting you way beyond the ether of the present at the 2:04 mark, sporadic but sharp drums and Lucie Crichlow's vocal are like an overdose of a potion.

'Follow' is like the sister-track to 'The Way Light Falls on the Water', almost an intro for what is to come. Then comes 'Find You', sleepy brushes and acoustic guitars are the pillow underneath Luke Mercer's desperately comforting vocal, melancholy rarely provides such solace to the listener, it's humbly beautiful in every way. 'On the Road' is the most bittersweet moment on the album, a lot of space for us to contemplate on the lyrics; "Tell my mother that I'm coming home, tell my wife that it's going to be alright, tell my father that I did no wrong". I often think about the final message I would like to give to those closest to me, that I love the most, what would I write or say to them? How could I succinctly articulate my feelings? 

'The Way Light Falls on Water' encapsulates that power I mentioned earlier, quite simply a stunning piece of song-writing, mood, pace, beauty, sadness. Every little and big piece is a critical combination, the flute, Jesus, the harmonies have never sounded better, and the rhythm and rise are the point where the heart, soul and mind all get scooped up at once. Borealis is the type of album I dream about coming out in the year ahead around December / January such is its effect on me, easy shoe-in for the top end of all those end of year lists.

Key tracks: 'The Way Light Falls on Water', 'Find You', 'Borealis', 'On the Road'

2) Jamie Adam - Melodic Electronic

An artist with a fire in his belly, electro-pop wizard Jamie Adam can't help but concoct the most joyful and colourful sounds - loads of touchpoints that you think you can hear but just won't fit those round songs into square holes. Lazily MGMT / Peter Bjorn & John / Panda Bear I suppose. On Melodic Electronic it's a smorgasbord which won't let you settle on any one style, and that contrast is immediately apparent in the first two tracks. 'Nocturnal' is one of my absolute favourite singles, this is effervescent smile-inducing guitar-pop at its most addictive, that droning fat synth and big fuck off beat at the intro are just the best. 

Then 'Last Ones Down' goes down into the 80's dark synth-wave lake with house beats, soundtrack-level dance music that is primed for a really aggressive techno remix. 'The House That I Built' is chaotic and sees Adam reef the lid off his barrel of sounds and kick it over, we'll take a moment to acknowledge how suited his vocal is to what he's creating here. After a rippling break the fire is lit at 2:26 and the finale becomes more and more claustrophobic as the space narrows into the final seconds. If you want kitsch and brazen fun 'The Power' is where it's at, this is the beauty of going with your gut and indulging yourself, more bulging retro synth atmospherics and generous dance-inducing bops.

Laid-back, breezy, summer pop, it's 'Cold Blood', the reverbed guitar is to die for and shortly into the track Adam gives a perfectly-time rock injection before reverting back to the mellow. Day-glo sounds and trippy psychedelic vibes proliferate across the track. 'Your Decision' displays the final string in the bow of the album, crunching electronic glitches and thick fuzz batter the ears, tempered by a vocal that provides calm amidst the milieu of noise. Care-free as they come, Melodic Electronic is a very, very strong debut album by any measure.

Key tracks: 'Nocturnal', 'Cold Blood', 'The House That I Built', 'The Power'

3) Arms That Fit Like Legs! - Legwork

At the end of March the genre-spanning Arms That Fit Like Legs! dropped new album Legwork, opening with the instantly gripping electro-pop banger that is 'You Will Go On My First Whistle',  a vigorous blending of high-tempo beats and coil-springed electronic effects that swerves into meandering downtempo passages. A calmer jam unfolds on second track 'Will You To Lunch?', doffing it's cap to one of their self-proclaimed influences, The Redneck Manifesto', it also recalls Mogwai on uppers. 

ATFLL's float further south on the twinkling stream that is 'At Arms Length', a smooth and mood-laced journey into the subconsciousness, a forelorn circular warped effect holds the mechanical percussion and keys together as you slip deeper under its spell. Yet energy awaits, and alien landscapes are revealed gradually from behind the theatre curtain. A big highlight that caught my attention on Legwork is 'My Mind is Going', like Four Tet in their more openly accessible moments, the trundling rhythm is again central to conveying the mood and sprite-like chimes add an unarming (no pun intended) element to what unfolds. 

Following the bubbly and bass-heavy 'For Good Measure' ATFLL show us just how broad their sound can be, and diverse, on the sweet down-beat 'Try the Window'. Acoustic beginnings make way to shimmering echoed guitars, pace is the key, and it's executed well as the band push us further and further away from reality. It's rare a band can direct your mood and thought-process in so many direction across the course of just one album, yet on Legwork that's just what Arms That Fit Like Legs! have achieved. 

Key tracks: 'You Will Go On My First Whistle', 'My Mind is Going', Try the Window'

4) Deaf Joe - Love Stories

Also released at the end of March is Love Stories from Deaf Joe, and as mentioned, the shift in sound from his last LP is noticeable and interesting, in his own words; "The tracks are themed after the places I've been with some of the most important people in my life." The strongest link between the two albums being his innate ability to foment a broad canvas for the listener to explore, and most importantly, to abscond to at will.

It's a metaphor I use often when describing ambient music (obsession with science fiction), opener 'Taal Lake' begins in space, not down here on Earth, a gliding mass rotating through deep space in a lifeless vacuum. The multitudinous layers of sound grating against each other like tectonic plates in ever-increasing frequency. Goodbye brain, hello dream-state.

'Havnegade' ushers in a mixture of impending danger and subsequent flight, rippling urgently alongside a tense electronic beat, both moving dizzyingly to the background and forefront in tandem like a dance-off that probably isn't going to end well for one or both, but our fears were unfounded and the danger suddenly passes. 'Reynisfjara' is a black-sand beach in Iceland which is best known for how powerful and unpredictable its waves are, an apt choice of title for a track on this album. That lapping sound is either a harbinger of something unwelcome or merely a warning of what it could become if the wrong choices are made. The swell of energy begins to reach its peak just before the 3-minute mark as the thudding beat gets so wound up it feels like it's going to blow everything in the vicinity to smithereens once it snaps. Alas, once again, Deaf Joe leads us to safety, the juxtaposition of fear and shelter are a unique listening experience for me, and I like it a lot.

From the more relaxed and free-flowing 'Ocean Beach' comes the wonderfully vivid and inspiring 'Cambodian Sirens', an incredible example of how sound without words can tell a story. When you hear the daily comings and going of life and muffled voices playing out underneath the music it feels like post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia learning to build a new future, but the screech of the 'sirens' are a potent warning and a dark cloud that dare you to forget the past. Which Deaf Joe is going to show up next? I love not knowing, but knowing I'll love it.

Key tracks: 'Taal Lake', 'Havnegade', 'Cambodian Sirens', 'Reynisfjara'

Deaf Joe - Love Stories - Album Review

The VidList #015: Jafaris, OTHERKIN & CFIT


Our regular series of The VidList captures the best music videos (and tracks!) released over the past few weeks. Below we have new music videos across varied styles, from rap, indie and alternative rock.

1) Jafaris - 'Invisible'

"Invisible is me entertaining my ego with no filter," explains Jafaris. "I’m shouting about my accolades, my gifts and my work ethic. I wanted this video to be the first time people see the darker side of me". Casting himself as the kingpin in an organised crime epic, the 'Invisible' video sees Jafaris on the wrong side of the law. Directed by Nathan Barlow, the cinematic visual follows Jafaris as he leads boxing matches, gambles and reconciles himself with therapy.

In the video for 'Invisible', the latest single from his excellent debut album Stride, Jafaris takes a satirical pop at both himself, and the tropes of music videos from the past decade or so by artists such as Sisqo and 50 cent for example (from my perspective). Bling, wannabe gangsters and amour propre. References to the screen may also be taken in the shape of the likes of Goodfellas (discarding of corpses), Carlito's Way (the club) and The Sopranos (therapy). It's a culturally interesting and entertaining synopsis of the glory that ultimately consumes in the end.

2) OTHERKIN - 'All That Remains Won't Be The Same'

Of the new song, front man Luke Reilly says: The lyrics to 'All That Remains Won't be the Same' were written at the end of 2017 as the horror stories emerged of everyday abuse and sexism perpetrated by men of power in all walks of life. The song is a rejection of anyone who feels they can behave that way and the title itself is a declaration for change, a statement that these vile actions have no place in society today."

On a micro-level there may be part-inspiration from an appalling incident that occurred at an OTHERKIN show in London in late 2017 where a young girl was sexually assaulted in the mosh-pit during their live show at Camden Assembly. OTHERKIN released an immediate and stern rebuke of that incident, heart-broken that the young victim was in tears and felt the need to apologise to the band for 'ruining' their show, the band fully aware these types of incidents are not infrequent in all walks of life.

3) CFIT - 'End This Year'

Noël Duplaa, aka CFIT releases the first single from forthcoming album CFIT vs. Gravity. In summary; "The track is a poppy upbeat number about how, upon review, having given it a few months, maybe we should just wrap up 2019 altogether." The global political and social turmoil that has been unravelling since 2016 is reaching peak-Black Mirror right now, infantile populist world leaders, mass movements based on untruths and hyper-paranoia, where facts are made out to be lies, and lies made out to be facts. 

Footage comes courtesy of director Cecile B. DeMilles' original silent version of The Ten Commandments (1923) which he later rebooted in technicolor in 1956 with a then whopping budget of $13m in 1956 with one Charlton Heston playing Moses. The colourful bop of the perky guitar riffs and upbeat percussion backdrop a despondent vocal, a self-reflective monologue to the self that has been shared with the rest of us, but it's not all doom and gloom, with the message placed in a spinning capsule that we could actually "end this year on a high", here's hoping! All you have to decide is whose team you're on, Rameses or Moses!