It’s a cold November evening and Julien Baker is getting ready backstage to go on for her show in Whelan’s.

The Memphis, Tennessee native is experiencing her first winter in Ireland so she politely asks me if she can sit on the floor right next to the pull out heater, setting a humble tone to our conversation.

The 22 year-old singer-songwriter is touring Europe for the second time this year having sold out shows on both trips, including tonight’s show which is her first time playing in Ireland.

“I like not to know the size of the rooms we’re playing in advance on tour,” she tells me. “I don’t know the size until I arrive, that way I anticipate putting on the same show if three people show up or if 3000 people show up.”

That such a young artist is dealing in four-digit figures when she talks of audiences is unusual, but Baker has found an instant audience with her songs.

Baker’s second album Turn on the Lights, released last month, is a poignant follow up of her debut album Sprained Ankle which was re-released on Matador Records this year after its original release in 2015. Both albums have open narratives that deals with issues such as addiction, depression, anxiety and inner demons.

Baker portrays these issues with uncharacteristically soul-baring maturity for her age.

“All these songs that I write are grappling with the ugly and difficult parts of myself. Every time I look out in the audience, I think about how much there is to gain when we’re honest and we don’t hide. Maybe I would not have had this opportunity if I had continued to press everything down?”

She tells me how she grew up engaged in the punk and post-hardcore scene, a genre that originated in the ’80s which uses aggression, intensity and creative expression. Going to see bands such as Defeater, Touché Amoré and Paramore, with whom she got to play with in Montana earlier this year, Julien has taken inspiration in her own performances, from the rawness expressed at these artists’ shows.

“I’ve seen Jeremy who is the vocalist from Touché Amoré perform and it’s always so raw and emotive. Whether he’s beaming because people are crowdsurfing or they are affected by the lyrics. Both of those things can happen within a single set but he’s putting it all on stage and leaving it there, literally screaming.”

At her own gig in Dublin she approaches the stage in Whelan’s to an already attentive crowd and starts into ‘Appointments’, a song about isolation and dealing with emotions and commitment in relationships. The first strum on the electric guitar, looped, strikes emotion instantly in room hushed capacity of 450 people. “I’m staying in tonight / I won’t stop you from leaving / I know that I’m not what you wanted / Am I?,” she sings.

Emotional guards have been removed. A conflux of people sing along to the repeated lyrics “The harder I swim the faster I sink,” from ‘Rejoice’ from the first album, evoking emotional power and expression to the room.

“I wont say I don’t intend to take people on an emotional journey because I guess I don’t intend not to,” Baker tells me backstage. “It’s really more that allow myself to be transparent about what I feel on stage. I try to just be honest and represent that and I think that makes the material of the songs more accessible.”

In her music and performance, Julien opens herself up in an honest and emotionally expressive way. Everything that she gives on stage and through her music is transmitted and reciprocated by her audience. The way in which she expresses her experiences with challenging situations and emotions, resonating with others. Julien Baker is connecting.

Photos: Grayce Leonard.

Posted on November 15th, 2017

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With so many releases flying at you, here are recommended vetted listens from Nialler9 for you this week, as collated in the Nialler9 New Releases Spotify playlist, updated weekly.


1.

Julien Baker – Turn Off The Lights

21 year-old songwriter signed to Matador Records who was my new artist of the week for the Irish Times last week, hits some big highs on her second album, and the first that people are already paying attention to and she’s nailed it with big songs that burn with atmosphere and a voice that commands the release. The gig on November 9th is sold out.

Listen on Spotify


2.

Lankum – Between The Earth & The Sky

The band formerly known as Lynched release their first album (second in total) on Rough Trade Records. The phrase they coined about themselves still feels like the truest to apply to the band – folk miscreants. There are traditional tunes here but original ones too like the 8-minute ‘Deanta in Eireann’ that could be about nearly any time in Irish history but are applicable to the now – migration, a government who doesn’t care about the little people and using your Irish charm abroad but it turns the song’s gaze back on the homeland – if the Dáil are the pimps, then we are the whores” and in the end, you’ll want to stand up and declare the song our new antagonistic national anthem.

Listen on Spotify.


3.

Martin Hayes Quartet – The Blue Room

The Gloaming fiddle players’ latest project saw him convene in an 18th century house in Bantry with frequent collaborator Dennis Cahill (guitars) and New Yorkers Doug Wieselman (bass clarinet, Anthony & The Johnsons and Laurie Anderson) and Liz Knowles (hardanger d’amore), with a fire going at both sides of The Blue Room (the album is called after it) and the quartet’s recording process involved playing each traditional piece repeatedly and allowing something different to emerge in the process. The quartet are playing the album at NCH this Saturday night.

Listen on Spotify


4.

Fever Ray – Plunge

For her first Fever Rat album in 8 years, Karin Dreijer returns to the sound that made the now defunct band The Knife that she formed with her brother a going concern – that means it’s more dynamic electro pop with an edge than a haunted atmospheric album like LP1. More on the background of the album, the release of which was only announced yesterday.

Listen on Spotify


5.

Adrian Crowley – The Dark-Eyed Messenger

The Galway/Dublin singer-songwriter has been following a path of elegaic music making in recent years and his eighth album eschews his trusty guitar completely, thanks to encouragement from producer Thomas Bartlett (The Gloaming again). That makes for music that has new tones and colour to it. The only constant is Crowley’s barrelling baritone.

Listen on Spotify


Posted on October 27th, 2017

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This is only a selection of new music – dig into more or follow the Spotify playlists.


Nialler9 Weekly playlist


1.

LCD Soundsystem – Tonite

This is it. This is the excitement we’ve been waiting for. Ok, it’s a jaded excitement but it’s LCD sonically and lyrically encapsulating their whole deal in one track. Ever the ageing outsider, Murphy ruminates on the current pop landscape’s monoculture that peddles limited edition sneakers before turning it back on himself “And what’s it you do again?
Oh I’m a reminder / The hobbled veteran of the disk shop inquisition”. He’s still losing his edge and recognises he sounds like his mother. The generation gap is stark.

“You’ve lost your internet and we’ve lost our memories / We had a paper trail that led to our secrets / But embarrassing pictures have now all been deleted / By versions of selves that we thought were the best ones
‘Till versions of versions of others repeating / Come laughing at everything you thought was important / While still making mistakes that you thought you had learned from.”

In the end, Murphy suggests the culture prioritises the youthful superstars is a false narrative but offers a hopeful alternative narrative for living.

“You’re missing a party that you’ll never get over / You hate the idea that you’re wasting your youth / That you stood in the background oh until you got older / But that’s all lies.”

It’s not over and Murphy’s own “late era middle-aged ramblings” is proof.


2.

Alex Cameron & Angel Olsen – Stranger’s Kiss

A classic-sounding collaboration that has a curtain-closer feel. Olsen is the real star once she appears giving the tune a lift beyond the norm. Nice video featuring Girls actress Jemima Kirke too.


3.

James Holden & The Animal Spirits – Pass Through The Fire

It’s been a while since anything from Mr Holden has grabbed my ears. ‘ Pass Through The Fire’ is a discombobulating building track recorded with his new band The Animal Spirits. Holden will no longer be DJing so this is the new phase of his career and it’s a nu-jazz brass and wind modular synth folk /trance workout constructed live with the band Tom Page (RocketNumberNine), Etienne Jaumet, Marcus Hamblett, Liza Bec and Lascelle Gordon – have shared lead single ‘Pass Through The Fire’.


4.

Confidence Man – Boyfriend (Repeat)

One of those novelty-lite talky songs that would have gone down well at the indie-disco, ‘Boyfriend Repeat’ is a fun and funky pop song from an Australian four-piece.


5.

Julien Baker – Appointments

21 year-old Memphis songwriter Julien Baker’s debut was reissued on Matador earlier this year and now we had news of her newest Turn Out The Lights on October 27th. ‘Appointments’ is a torch-burning hopeful highlight. Baker plays Dublin in November.


6.

Four Tet – the one with a load of random symbols

I’m not sure where I’ve heard this before but it was posted under a load of random symbols on Spotify this week. It’s not the other track on the new limited 12″ release with ‘Planet’ on it, that’s ‘SW9 SSL’ Just don’t ask me what it’s called.


7.

Daughter – Burn It Down

Surprise! Daughter are doing the score for a video game. Not totally expected perhaps but their music is ambient-leaning and Florence And The Machine worked with Square Enix and Final Fantasy before so it’s has precedence. The band’s soundtrack for Life Is Strange: Before The Storm will be released as Music from Before the Storm will be released on September 1.


8.

The Horrors – Something To Remember Me By

The Horrors are at their best when they bring rock textures with more hypnotic elements and this new song from their fifth album V (Sept 22) does just that. It’s a bit New Order, a bit Caribou.


9.

Ardyn – Throwing Stones

After this Gloucestershire duo’s last song had a Fleetwood Mac vibe, their newest continues the trend of sounding like classic artist with Kate Bush being the most obvious touchstone. It was produced by Tourist (they feature on his new single) and the sense of foreboding common from watching Hitchcock’s The Birds.


10.

Anna Of The North – Money

From the new album from the Norwegian-Kiwi duo of Anna Lotterud and Brady Daniell-Smith out September 8, ‘Money’ is a warning to a friend, or ex about a coin-sucking lover.


3 New Music flavours:

All song added in the past week: Nialler9 Weekly.

The larger three-month New Music Playlist.

New Irish Music Playlist

Check out the regularly updated Spotify playlists.

Posted on August 17th, 2017

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The creator of a Nialler9-recommended album Julien Baker, the 21 year-old Memphis songwriter signed to Matador, will perform at Whelan’s in Dublin on November 9th as part of a European tour.

Tickets priced €16 go on sale Wednesday 19th July at 9am through Ticketmaster.ie & usual outlets nationwide.

Julien has been recording her second album in her native Memphis, due to be released later in 2017 on Matador. Check out all the dates below.

Posted on July 18th, 2017

Artists:

With so many releases flying at you, here are recommended vetted listens from Nialler9 for you this week, as collated in the Nialler9 New Albums Spotify playlist, updated weekly.



1.

Sampha – Process

The long-awaited debut album from the English singer and musician. Is there a debut-releasing artist in recent years who his audience are more intimately familiar with his voice than Sampha? Thanks to collaborations with Jessie Ware, SBTRKT, Drake, Kanye and Solange, Sampha’s voice has been everywhere else and how he’s brought it back into focus on a fine solo debut of substance.

Sampha has suffered with anxiety in recent years, his mother passed away of cancer in September 2015 after a few years of fighting the disease and Process manifests those experiences on the paranoid ‘Blood On Me’ and the piano ballad to the instrument and his mother ‘No-One Knows Me (Like The Piano)’. Sampha worries about family, his health, his mortality and explores his grief.

There are moments of SBTRKT-style sonics so it’s if you were expect an album of all piano ballads, this isn’t it. Sampha’s soft voice is the kind that warms the soul and the main reason why Process is such a pleasure despite any heaviness under the surface.

Favourite tracks: ‘No-One Knows Me (Like The Piano)’ , ‘Kora Sings’.

Listen on Spotify


2.

Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle

This reissued album on Matador from the 21 year-old Memphis songwriter Baker is reminiscent of SOAK in its folky finger-plucked youthful vulnerability. The album was originally released in 2015 but is now getting a new lease of life on a larger label and a physical release on March 17th.

Favourite tracks: ‘Blacktop’, ‘Brittle Boned’.

Listen on Spotify


3.

Syd – Fin

The debut album from The Internet’s Syd. It feels like a long time since she was behind the decks at Odd Future gigs. Continuing the intimate sensual modern R&B feel of The Internet, Fin is the beginning as opposed to a logical end. Syd steps out in front and while she’s been downplaying the album’s status in her career already (“This album is not that deep, but I feel like this is my descent into the depth I want the band to get to.”), there are few people making tender close-up R&B that swings low and stays high as this.

Favourite tracks: ‘Know’, ‘All About Me’

Listen on Spotify


4.

Sheer Mag – Compilation (I, II & III)

The first three EPs from Philadelphia independent punk rockers is rough and ready rock music that sounds like it was only slightly primed for modern ears. Refreshingly retro and a lot of fun – like Alabama Shakes letting loose and getting gritty.

Favourite tracks: ‘Nobody’s Baby’, Sit And Cry’.

Listen on Bandcamp


Posted on February 3rd, 2017

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