Spotlight – Ríona Sally Hartman

I have an insatiable appetite for all things unconventional and all who embrace the ethos. Unconventional musings however, can quickly become commonplace. Just look at the current trend of beards and comb-overs sweeping across Ireland. One must find a way to remain unorthodox, uncommon and rare. That’s what stands out.

Que the ever-changing, whimsical and free-spirited Ríona Sally Hartman who has been delighting audiences for years under many different guises – The Ríona Sally Hartman Band, Monster Monster, Dig a Little Deeper, Sami Moukaddem, Live Jazz Duo, and Yo Teach! (more info on these here). And she’s fluent in Irish too!

It’s hard to place Sally in one specific genre – something she is agreeable with. Dependent on the project you’re listening to, there are elements of Regina Spektor in her voice, Florence and the Machine, Fiona Apple and Bat for Lashes. The one aspect that prevails however, is that lyrically, she remains unconventional throughout – reminding me somewhat of Joanna Newsom.

With song titles such as Frida Kahlo’s Delight and the Sealegs EP (which itself holds many delights), Ríona Sally Hartman showcases both her ability to weave an original story in to a song, and create the musical splendor that surrounds it. And there are many stories to be told indeed – check her Youtube channel here for more.

Ríona Sally Hartman -  Big Starving Thing
Ríona Sally Hartman – Big Starving Thing

Speaking of insatiable appetites – Her recent fund it campaign sees the release of Big Starving Thing under her own namesake May 18th, available for pre-order here. I can’t wait to tuck in.

Band Spotlight – MKAI

What’s in the water in Cork lately eh? There are so many great bands dawning my horizon lately – too many to even mention here. The bulk of the bands come from Dublin, but in recent weeks, Corkonians are gracing my ears more and more.

MKAI, the brethren duo (quartet when playing live), are the most recent Cork band to make me raise and eyebrow with their mix of Sigur Rós, Radiohead, early Coldplay (Parachutes), Muse, Editors and even the 80’s sensation Talk Talk, to name but a few. A mixed bag of talent there, but MKAI have managed to blend the mix in to a very edible cookie dough chock full of tasty tunes.

There’s no denying the power of their sound either as they gained significant publicity in November 2014 by knocking Taylor Swift’s 1989 from its comfy number three spot on the iTunes chart. No mean feat.

The EP that did the damage, with help from Rob Kirwan, was Waiting.

Moving down the genre of alternative, electro-rock, their latest single Loop sets darker tones in both melody and lyrics – it’s a clever name too as you will find yourself playing it on loop.

Having already played Hard Working Class Heroes, headlined Guinness Amplify live stages Cork, The Grand Social and Electric Picnic, things are moving fast for these guys. You can catch them at Indiependence later this year.

Impressive stuff, and one band I will certainly be watching in 2015.

 

 

 

 

Listen – Yes for Equality, The Perfect Song

‘Love might be a privilege, but marriage is a right’.

Like everyone I know, I will be voting a massive YES on May 22nd in the Marriage Referendum.

While watching Garfunkel and Oates last night, a series about two female comedians using music as a medium, episode two introduced me to a song that is perfect for the upcoming Referendum.

Garfunkel and Oates
Garfunkel and Oates

Called Rainbow Connection, it’s a great tune about same-sex marriage and love. Ireland should see fit that this song is the anthem for the 22nd.

Listen below and share. We should all know the lyrics.

Yuss! More acts announced for Electric Picnic 2015!

Nothing better than this kind of announcement to kick away the blues after a bank holiday weekend.

unnamed
Electric Picnic Line Up 2015

 

Feast your eyes and pack your tents.

Only 121 days to go!

Album Review – Le Galaxie, Le Club

I really like Le Galaxie. They have persistently been a dance remedy staple for me as long as I can remember. When all else fails at a party, pull out the Dayglo and facepaint and mash up the airwaves.

After a week and a half listening to their second album, Le Club, I can officially say it’s a bromance. It’s out there. I said it. What?!

The Dreamboats that are Le Galaxie!
The Dreamboats that are Le Galaxie!

I had an inkling I would like the new album – My various car journeys have been filled with the boom of the tunes Humanise, Lucy is Here and Love System for a number of months now. I’ve played them loud, and trust me, I really don’t drive the type of car that warrants attention.

Le Club is a diverse album with a loud 80’s and early 90’s tramp stamp across its sweaty lower back. If you’re an 80’s baby like me, you’ll instantly be reminded of Beverly Hills Cop, Running Man, Outrun, Terminator, Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, Knight Rider, Airwolf, Tron, Back to the Future……. and any other early childhood memories you can think of. It’s a mixed bag mash up of dirty electronic bass in pink leotards – this allows it to be played throughout from start to finish at a party without boredom or skipping tracks. Sweet.

About to dominate the dance/club scene worldwide, particularly since announcing signing to Universal Music Ireland in January, 2015 is going to be loud for Le Galaxie and their fans alike. I don’t think my car speakers can handle it!

 

EP Review – Hooligan, Criminal Damage

Not content with having a catchy name, an authentic punk sound, and a little controversy (queue ‘No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs’ EP in 2012; a throwback to the anti-Irish sentiment of the 1960’s), Hooligan are quickly setting the standard for Irish punk bands country-wide and abroad.

Hooligan In Odessa Courtesy of Hot Press
Hooligan In Odessa Courtesy of Hot Press

Their 4th EP, Criminal Damage, recorded in Trinity Heights Studio in Newcastle, sees their second release on Oi! The Boat Records and it effortlessly captures the era of 1970’s punk with its four ear melting tracks.

Oi! The Boat Records
Oi! The Boat Records

Simple but familiar head banging riffs, clever angst ridden anti-establishment lyrics, and stadium rock guitar solos are the hallmarks of all post punk pundits and Hooligan do not disappoint here.

For me though, they stand that little bit taller than the rest by grabbing elements of glam rock, hard rock and even grunge by the short and curly’s and stringing their guitar and bass with them – especially live.

Listen here now!

 

Album Review – Fiach Moriarty, The Revolution

Using his full name this time around for his sophomore album, The Revolution, Fiach Moriarty bravely takes on the current state of world disparity and unrest as the central theme.

Fiach The Revolution
Fiach Moriarty, The Revolution

I applaud any musician (or anyone) that has the balls to speak out about past and present events that could potentially cause friction or blast opinion from listeners. With titles such as Revolution (the current single) and Freedom and Resistance, emotion and opinion will most definitely stir listeners indeed, and the album is the better for it.

Sound wise, the production level is through the roof when comparing to his debut So I. His debut was great mind you, but now with a steady fan-base and a firm standing in the Irish music scene, you can hear he has put his all in to this record.

There’s no doubt that Fiach can pen a great tune too. This was evident with previous hits Every Single Day and You Dear lauded by the likes of Hot Press, Paul Brady and Eddi Reader, but I did not expect such passion, complexity or anger in this album I’ll admit. With songs like Confession, Freedom and Resistance and The Mother, I was drawn in by Fiachs passion for the Ireland we live in today, and the history that shaped it.

You’ll be reminded of The Cranberries, Paul Brady, Damien Dempsey, Sting, The Wallflowers and even the Doors.

Varied and eclectic, but utterly rewarding.

Album Review – And So I Watch You From Afar, Heirs

Mexican trumpets, haunting vocals, clashing cymbals, heavy bass lines, isolated, echoes, organs……. it would seem that locking yourself in a linen mill in West Belfast for 6 months is a great way to get the creative juices flowing.

Isolation is a scary place no doubt, but inspiration, creativity and courage can come from it. It can work for some bands when recording an album, and not for others. It depends on the group chemistry I suppose. But it can also depend on the ability to embrace oneself as a group – to look at what you know; what you can do, what is easy, and say fuck it, let’s try something a little different.

ASIWYFA has done just this. This album feels so ‘them’ but, erupting from their 6 month stint in the linen mill, they have created an album that has been summoned from the collective psyche of the group as a whole – from what they know, what works, and what they haven’t tried before.

The beast that is ASIWYFA
The beast that is ASIWYFA

Listening through the tracks, influences abound, but nothing you can pin to any one particular genre (unlike previous albums). These influences give rise to a fun, inspiring and eclectic album – from Snarky Puppy, The XX, to Steve Vai, and Passion Pit. Something I never thought I would write.

Run Home, the album opener,  is a stomper, and will sound great live. Wasps holds a persistent low drone bass line throughout while kicking out ethereal echoing harmonies.

Redesigned a Million Times has a surprising Brit rock/Arctic Monkeys intro which makes way for Passion Pit style electronica and vocals. I can see this being released as a single, and hope it make the radio waves this summer. It would be a nice one to rock out to in the car!

Track five  People not Sleeping  screams of Snarky Puppy in the guitar riffs, while the guitar takes a back seat to a thumping bass line and thunderous clanging drums in A Beacon, A Compass, An Anchor. Animal Ghosts is a personal favourite which has a great live anthem feel to it – it begins as if the lads only pressed record in the middle of the guitar solo only to be usurped by a Mexican trumpet sliding in from the left in the most unexpectedly fitting way I have event heard. Nice.

Heirs, the title and longest track is reminiscent of Steve Vai’s  1990 album Passion and Warfare . It has a timid and timely build up to heavy euphoric release, changing pace midway, only to absolutely kill it for the last minute and a half.

The final track Tryer, You is a nice emotive finale to the album. It sounds almost like a ‘thank you for listening to the album and being a fan’ tune. It reminds me of the brilliant self titled album by The XX, but with more tempo.

I don’t usually analyse tracks so closely on an album review. I like to let people make their own inspirational objective thoughts on what they are hearing, not just what I hear. The Belfast quartet have produced an album here that has been inspired by their life and all the music and sounds they have heard to date. I suppose that’s what I have done here too by listening to this album in isolation for the last few days.

This album is as inspiring as it is original. Its ‘central theme is about the inheritance of ideas’. I  hope in turn, it inspires others to be passionate and original too.

Heirs drops May 4th on Sargent House. Catch them live at the Olympia June 19th.

Festival Season 2015 – Get Prepared!

Excited? Well you should be! With the season being royally kicked off by Vantastival this bank holiday weekend, and  a stellar lineup to boot, get prepared before you head off!

In 2010 I was bulk buying essentials in preparation for Oxegen. I had a short list but kept on getting sidetracked by other things I thought I would need. In the baby wipe section (essential!!!!) I found a folded piece of paper. When I opened it my heart skipped a beat! Someone, a girl, had left behind a very detailed and list for her trip to Oxegen.

I looked at hers (back to back, and handwritten no less), looked at mine, then decided to mostly go with hers! For the most part anyway.

And it was a wet one – glad I was prepared!

JJ Bird at Oxegen 2010
JJ Bird at Oxegen 2010

So check the list below, print it out and get prepared for the ample amount of up coming music festivals. You can’t go wrong with it really, especially if you are a girl, or a guy who likes to wear girls clothes to a festival.

Share this to make sure everyone is prepared for music festivals and they don’t forget anything – particularly the ‘obvious’ section.

Enjoy.

Festival Necessities. All you need to know!
Festival Necessities. All you need to know!

 

Festival Alcohol and clothes. Wow.
Festival Alcohol and clothes. Wow.

Album Review, HamsandwicH, Stories from the Surface

Stories from the Surface has hit number 1 in the Irish charts (Friday 24th April 2015), and for good reason. It is most definitely their best work to date.

Stories from the Surface album cover
Stories from the Surface album cover

Their third studio album shows a wonderful leap forward lyrically, melodically, and creatively, and is a fitting follow on from 2010’s album White Fox which placed the indie band firmly in the spotlight. I can’t believe it has been 5 years since White Fox, an album which is still on occasional repeat in my house.

Having baked a cake with the right ingredients with songs like Ants and Models in 2010, HamsandwicH have continued this trend particularly with the first 6 songs on the new LP using a fantastic mixture of Willy Wonka-esque magic to keep listeners ears wanting more.  A great feat from an indie/alternative band and rewarding for new and old fans alike.

Load vocalist Niamh thankfully hasn’t changed her already uniquely soothing voice and the frequent, almost nonchalant, baritone harmonies from guitarist Podge seem second nature and effortless. It’s a great mix which worked perfectly on the last outing and I’m glad it hasn’t changed here. Damn you and your winning ingredients HamsandwicH!

2015 is already a landmark year for HamsandwicH – it’s hard to believe that we are only three studio albums in to their career. It feels like their summer sound has been around longer than their discography lends itself.

We have only begun to scratch the surface of a band with an already impressive career going from strength to strength and I haven’t even mentioned how crazy they are live! Vantastival 2012 anyone??

Podge from HansandwicH @ Vantastival 2012 - Courtesy of MauRamsPhoto
Podge from HamsandwicH @ Vantastival 2012 – Courtesy of MauRamsPhoto

 

Kudos HamsandwicH, kudos. Happy number 1!

Album Review – Villagers, Darling Arithmetic

I’m finding this album review really hard to write. This is the 7th draft. I generally listen to the album I am reviewing when writing about it and I can’t help but be brought to a different place when listening to Darling Arithmetic. In its stripped down and unambiguous offering, it is about love, love lost and learning to face your fears – I get totally swept away in thought from the moment I press play – it’s such a wonderful feeling.

Listening through the album, it tells a story from the beginning with ‘Courage’ which screams that Conor has been through a lot, but does it in a gallant, brave and honest way.  ‘Dawning on Me’ calmly weaves lyrics of infatuation in an amazingly poetic form. Conor then politely lets the listener know of his sexuality in ‘Hot Scary Summer’ and the relationship challenges he faced.

This album is not a coming out album. It’s an album that shows that love is universal. That breakups, lust, loathing, memories, and emotions are the same for both homosexuality and heterosexuality. This is so evident in songs three and four ‘Dawning on Me’ and ‘Hot Scary Summer’. Anybody who has loved, been loved or lost somebody can relate to these songs regardless.

Admirable this album is. I have always been a fan since the angry, yet haunting ‘Becoming a Jackal’ – this album saved me from severe injury (literally), to the loud statement that was ‘Awayland’, and the now frank, honest and mesmerising ‘Darling Arithmetic’.

This album is a triumph and will remain in my conscience for many moons to come.

 

All The Young Dudes – remembering Tony Fenton

Loads of you, just like myself, grew up listening to the dulcet velvety tones of Tony Fenton. His voice was instantly recognisable and always there in the background whether at work, at home, or in the car. I’ll never forget him anyway.

He was a great ambassador for Irish music and loved interviewing up and coming bands and singers. His interviews always brought a smile to my face because he had a great ability of making the interviewee feel at ease bur just having a chat. Radio gold.

All The Young Dudes
All The Young Dudes

In honour of his radio brilliance and Today FM’s Shave or Dye in support of the Irish Cancer Society, a charity gig is taking place in Vicar Street on the May 14th. The gig will feature bands and singers that Tony supported throughout the years.

More names have yet to be announced, but so far the likes of Mick Flannery, Aslan, Wallis Bird and The Minutes will hit the stage.

Tickets are on sale now through Ticketmaster and outlets priced at €26. It’s a great cause with great artists.

 

Review – Audible Joes, Medicine for Modern Living

Punk rock by its very nature is undoubtedly one of the hardest genres of music to gain significant recognition in. There are only a handful that stand out from the crowd.

I have thought long and hard about why it’s so difficult to rise above the crowd- the band needs to be confident, the lyrics clever, the melodies catchy, the songs short and epic, and the band members or front-man needs to likable and engaging.

Audible Joes Group Shot

For me, Audible Joes debut album Medicine for Modern Living ticks all of these boxes. All of the 13 tracks on the album have melodies that are somehow familiar enough to mosh along to from the moment you press play. The opener How to Build an Urban Soldier is an absolute banger of a tune sure to fill floors. It immediately tells you that these guys know what they are doing. It’s a textbook fan grabber – it was for me anyway!

Influences are obvious throughout; Green Day (the Dookie years), The Offspring, gritty/early Foo Fighters, Nirvana, The Sex Pistols…….. All reputable bands to sharpen your sword on, but it’s this variety of influences that sees Medicine for Modern Living carve its own niche while confidently standing in the corner shouting in your face.

The album is under 40 minutes, and it keeps the momentum and tempo throughout, only breaking this mold for the surprising stripped down acoustic Shame of Being Human. A nice simple tune full of angst ridden lyrics. To me, that’s where punk rock stands out from other genres – lyrics are always stripped back and honest, taking no prisoners.

I’m not going to lie – I wasn’t sure I would like this album – I have heard mountains of punk rock throughout the years that left me regretting pressing play. This album did the opposite.

Artwork by Sarah Mackey
Artwork by Sarah Mackey

I like these guys and I like their debut album. It made me feel like when I first heard Green Days Basket Case or the Foo Fighters debut album. Any album that does this is a winner for me and I look forward to seeing these guys live in Whelans in May- I have heard nothing but greatness.

Audible Joes Medicine for Modern Living – go get your fix!

Find them – Facebook (the bio alone has to be worth a like?!), Twitter, Soundcloud, Bandcamp

 

 

Canalaphonic Launch Party

Canalaphonic is holding the official launch party in the The Sugar Club on the 11th April. Clear your calendars for this one – I know I have.

With fellow Wexicans Corner Boy, Featuring X, Mother Mooch, and yet another fellow Wexican and old pal Johnny Stewart the night is shaping up to be a good one.

Canalaphonic Launch Party

 

I’m sure the Abner Browns Barbershop lads have something else up their sleeves for the night as this event takes on an organic life of its own. Well deserved too.

Imagine how good this actual festival will be, given that the launch party already rocks!

At only a fiver for entry, you’d be foolish to pass this up. Get ’em here.

Kevin Casey – Grand Social tonight!

Hard working Kevin Casey headlines The Grand Social tonight, celebrating the launch of his new single ‘I was wrong’ before grabbing a flight and heading off to Germany for a pit-stop tour.

Kevin Casey, I was wrong
Kevin Casey, I was wrong

Known for his expressive lyrics and strong vocals, ‘I was wrong’ doesn’t disappoint with it’s flowing melody. reminiscent of slower version of Kula Shaker’s Hush at times. Not a bad comparison, and sure to be a good night of quality live music.

Building up quite a following online and at gigs, grab a listen to some of his great songs here, you won’t be disappointed.

Supporting Kevin Casey and his band are Deco Greene and The Sex Beasts. The night is being curated by Radio Nova’s Pat Courtenay – Doors open @ 8pm – tickets are a great price of €5 each!

Spotlight – MINDRIOT, Low

I was 11 when I first set ears upon the Seattle sound I was about to fall in love with. My introduction was, and still is, one of my favourite albums to date – Pearl Jam, Ten. It has been a whirlwind romance with Pearl Jam for me throughout their album releases, but invariably, I always end up listening to ‘Ten’ as the fond memories of childhood flood back. Everyone has that kind of album I’m sure.

Imagine my amazement when I discovered an Irish band was able to evoke the same reaction in my sub-consciousness. Enter MINDRIOT and their recently released ‘Low’.

These guys have been around for a significant amount of time – two decades, this is enough time for any well-oiled machine to break down and stop working. Truth be told, these guys have been through their share of breakups and varying career breaks, anybody would after two decades, but their music has prevailed, just like many of their Seattle influenced bands still rocking our stages and arenas today.

The above mentioned influences are evident the moment you press play on any of their songs – Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Metallica, Alice in Chains and Mother Love Bone, to name but a few. It’s very easy to see why these bands are influential from great lyrics to melodies to soulful guitar solos, and MINDRIOT really have played homage to their forefathers here – Raw gritty vocals, a very catchy and radio friendly chorus, and well positioned guitar solos you can hum along to.

Perhaps we are seeing our very own Seattle bubble of rock in Ireland – I’d certainly like to think so. And if we are, MINDRIOT has not just kicked it off, but also set the standard.

MINDRIOT
MINDRIOT

Rocking Whelans on the 9th April, MINDRIOT will definitely put on a show worthy of you hard-earned cash. Tickets available here.

Sounds like: Seattle infused awesome rock

Find them: Reverbnation, Twitter, Facebook

Keeping it regular

If you have never seen or heard of Shamir before, you are in for a real treat with his new banger Call it Off’, a follow-up to last years hit ‘On the Regular’ which soared his unique androgynous countertenor voice in to the ears of many surprising listeners.

Shamir muppet 'Call it off'.

With a unique electronic pop feel, the trademark cowbell, phone calls, bright colours, dancing muppets, and a voice that is straight from the love child of Prince and Kelis, you can see why Shamir is doing quite well for himself.

His debut album Ratchet is due to drop mid May on XL. Nice.

What a big Hulla-palooza!

One of the most exciting new independent music festivals this year in Dublin was forced to change its name due to a court application for an injunction. Harsh.

Not to worry! The now named Canalaphonic, the brainchild of the quirkiest barbershop in town, Abner Browns, is set to take place in the Rathmines/Portobello area.

abner browns

 

The exciting new festival will be rock out 2 stages and 18 venues spread across the area – Interestingly, one of the stages will be a barge docked at Portobello Harbour, aptly called ‘The Making Waves Stage’ with local legends The Hot Sprockets and Mother Mooch kicking off proceedings.

The Hot Sprockets
The Hot Sprockets
Mother Mooch
Mother Mooch

 

Did we mention that the gigs will be free and that the acts are actually earning a buck? Abner Browns Barbershop are proving that this event will be a cut above the rest!

More acts have yet to be announced, but there’s plenty of time for that as the event doesn’t take place until 8th and 9th May.

With the level of interest this event has gathered in just over two weeks and even a little bit of controversy, we continue to watch this space very closely indeed. And so should you.

 

|Tune Tuesday| – One Horse Pony, Staring Blues

One Horse Pony

Tune of the day goes to ‘Staring Blues’ by One Horse Pony. We have been listening to it all day since it dropped by the inbox in the early hours. Nothing like a bit of Blues, and there is nothing like the Blues these guys introduce you to – cool, soft and understated, but with an obvious and unique European feel.

Staring Blues uses the old addage of love lost in a cool and fresh way; revamping what you thought you already knew about the genre.

With unique videos like the one below, and a collection of quirky handles that include a badger, a meerkat, a Reverend, a King and Germany (!), these guys are certainly enjoying making the music we enjoy listening to – seeing them currently top the iTunes Blues chart. Well deserved in my opinion.

You can get the single on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and Google Play, or catch them singing it live at their monthly slot in Whelans – free entry! I know where I’ll be this weekend……

 

|Music Monday| Hail the Ghost, Forsaken

Hail the Ghost’s debut album ‘Forsaken’ is a good album. It’s the type of album that comes along at the right time for people; you know the type that helps you through a breakup, a first date, or even a hangover. I have only had the burden of the hangover these days and welcome any album that helps me get through them.

The album contains 10 very strong songs full of melancholy and cushioned anger and plays very well in a single sitting without the need to have to adjust the volume for loud peaks or low troughs. This is a good thing.

hail-the-ghost

Obvious comparisons exist with The National in terms of sultry nonchalant vocals, but I would throw in Editors and even Nick Cave in terms of lyrics and melodies. The perfect mix of them all, but still unique enough in its own right to stand alongside them.

We can’t wait to catch them live in Whelans on April 2nd. Tickets available here at the nice price of €10 each. Sweet.

As debuts go, this is one for the collection. Get it.

Sounds like: The National, Editors, Nick Cave

Winning tracks: Nostalgia and Headstoned

Find them: Website, Twitter, Facebook

 

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