BBC Radio Ulster’s Across The Line is the best radio show showcasing new Irish music from across the island. It’s a fine example of the exact thing that RTÉ is missing from its schedule – foundational support for emerging music in the Republic (shameful really). It’s currently presented by Rigsy and Stuart Bailie and I contribute to it every 4-6 weeks, as I did last Monday.
Across The Line started as The Bottom Line in September 1986 and 30 years later as Across The Line, it’s still championing Irish music and to mark the occasion, there will be a special gig on Monday September 5th at Ulster Hall, doubling as a broadcast that will feature live performances and interviews with SOAK, Therapy?, Villagers (acoustic), R51 and Saint Sister with more TBA.
The event will be broadcast live on BBC Radio Ulster from 8pm-10pm and streamed live on bbc.co.uk/radioulster
Rigsy says: “I was practically reared on ATL, with Mike Edgar introducing me to so much amazing Irish music throughout the 90s. So, it’s a real privilege to be presenting the show these days alongside Stu Bailie – and to be involved in this 30th anniversary celebration gig. As is always the case with ATL – we’ve a mix of huge success stories and exciting, box-fresh bands we’ve only recently discovered. It should make for another truly special and memorable night – which it would need to be in order to mark such a momentous milestone!”
Stuart Bailie says: “ATL and The Bottom Line have been a great source of my musical education. I remember the days of Davy Sims and Mike Edgar with fondness and it’s been an honour to have become part of that fearless story. So many excellent artists have been nurtured, supported and promoted to the wider world and the Ulster Hall gig will see some of that love being returned by the acts. I’m sure that will be reflected in the audience response also, while I’m looking forward to an ATL team reunion – a top collection of professionals, music devotees and mavericks.”
I stuck my neck out earlier yesterday but I wasn’t far off for the winner of the Choice Music Prize. The winner was my second Choice from my original prediction in fairness. SOAK ended up being the winner of the Choice Music Prize last night in Vicar Street for her album Before We Forgot How To Dream.
By my logic, SOAK was a deserved winner, yet an early in her career, also an early one. Bridie Monds Watson is a very talented young woman who is only going to get better from her already sweet perch. That still holds true, excitingly, the best of SOAK is yet to come. Adam Clayton from U2 presenting the award was a lovely touch that framed Irish music in its own history.
Also on the night, Gavin James took home the Choice Music Prize Irish Song of the Year prize once again. It was a public vote. Unfortunately for James, it doesn’t have the same return as an album prize, though the award looks nice.
SOAK meanwhile, won an award from RAAP along with s €10,000 fund for her efforts, as provided by Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) and the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA).
RTE 2 Television will broadcast a one-hour highlights programme of the Choice Music Prize on Saturday March 12th at 11pm.
Extended explorations into synth, noise, kraut, rock and ambience for the band’s first album in seven years.
Seven years on from album #3 and Master finds The Jimmy Cake, a band apart once again. Lineup changes (seven now: Paul G. Smyth, Lisa Carey, John Dermody, Dara Higgins, Vincent Dermody, Thomas Parke and Patrick Kelleher) and life has occurred since. The album is uncompromising in its delivery, making no concessions to convenience. There are three tracks with the shortest at just over 15 minutes and the longest just past the 32 minute mark. The individual tracks are elongated passages that segue into new movements.
The strongly-titled 32-minute ‘Death Can Fuck Off’ rings out with dangerous intent, building to a wall of galloping rhythm with synth vistas leading the pack of instruments before they are engulfed by a kraut-rock chug. A bassline changes and the track goes off in a different direction and a rhythmic pulse regains control as synth notes spiral above.
‘Observatory Destroyer’ is awash with horror-soundtrack style textures at its most minimal, building to a sonic heavy-rock dirge and piano release, while the final track ‘Teen Mist’ has a space-rock feel that gives way to a diptych of ambient and engulfing noise.
That’s just an overview. Master is about the journey, a multi-movement of a variation of styles and sounds. That’s about the only thing that The Jimmy Cake can be defined by.
Former Dublin rocker finds his sweet spot.
Three years on from the Dublin singer-songwriter’s second album Citizens, Owensie has followed it up with a sturdier and more elegant collection of layered folk music anchored by Michael Owens’ brittle falsetto and bright Spanish guitar playing. Conor O’Brien gives his seal of approval by supplying backing vocals and playing drums.
For their third album, the Belfast-based band have transitioned from expansive post-punk to a space between it and their former garage-rock jangle.
The band say they approached the album with a view that they had nothing to lose. “We’ve got nothing. We’ve never had anything. And we don’t expect to. The only person I ever wanted to impress was myself,” said frontman Cathal Cully.
In that regard, Arms Around A Vision is indulgent in the best way possible with the band soaking up the weight of their alternative retro influences and embracing their own visions in the process.
The Cork electronic duo embrace pop dynamics and grander emotion.
After two superb EPs, the Cork pair of Rachel Koeman and Ian Ring carved out their own niche in the electronic pop sphere. Where previous songs, great as they are, were maybe too close to influences like Purity Ring, Birth finds the band creating their own textured world and deepening their songwriting prowess.
Previously-released songs ‘To You’ and ‘Time’ were among the most heartfelt so they fit right in with the new tracks like the airy ‘Intergalactic’ linking the cosmos to the romantic (“feel the rocky planet move / just for us,”), the anthemic electro-pop of ‘Enchanted’ and their most unabashed pop song yet – ‘Sweet Dreaming’.
Ian Ring remains one of the best and most nimble producers in Ireland and Colm O’Herlihy adds live instrumentation with electric guitar work. As the title suggests, this is just the beginning.
The BBC aired a brilliant Julien Temple documentary about the Cavan kids who were thrust into a rock’n’roll major label lifestyle in their early teens. It left no doubt that The Strypes would be able to handle themselves into the future, marking themselves apart from the world of pop. They love retro rock and have no interest in the modern zeitgeist. What’s more they deplored any musician getting off their face over answering their craft. The lads just want to make music, wherever it takes them.
The answer to the question about where the Strypes would go next is contained in Little Victories from the off. Where as the first album Snapshot was exactly that, an account of a band in thrall to the bluesy rock’n’roll of the early ’60s and late ’50s, Little Victories finds the band (oldest member just turned 20) toughing up their sound by incorporating harder-edged rock sounds and rhythms. While they may not have brought their music up to date, they’ve taken a leaf out of the book of the Arctic Monkeys with an album that brandishes a distinct teenage indie/rock energy. Perhaps this is at the expense of what made them stand out in the first place but the band’s youthful vim still shines through.
Derry singer-songwriter releases her Mercury Prize-nominated debut.
It’s easy to forget how far Derry musician Bridie Monds-Watson has come in such a short time. Like the Strypes, the young singer-songwriter impressed from an early age with appearances on Other Voices with effective songs simply-constructed with an acoustic guitar and Bridie’s sweet colloquial voice.
Her Rough Trade debut, produced by Tommy McLaughlin, sheds the simplicity of those early EPs and settles for a multi-layered debut album that adds piano, strings and extra percussion to bolster the songs. Monds-Watson’s appealing simplicity is sacrificed for a more serious atmosphere but her personality and her rounded vocal style shines through on songs like ‘Blud’, ‘B A Nobody’, ‘Reckless Behaviour’ and ‘Shuvels’. Before We Forgot How To Dream bagged the young Derry musician a Mercury Music Prize for her efforts but it’s likely her best is yet to come.
The Dublin electro band have made an album of joyous bangers.
For their second full-length, Le Galaxie enlisted the help of producer Erik Brouchek to solidify what most Irish music-loving people know from seeing the band live, that Le Galaxie are the best band for delivering gigantic song-led bangers built on dance music dynamism with live instruments.
Le Club feels like a victory lap, the band’s retro neon-electro having found new sinewy rhythms and strident sounds. Songs like ‘Put The Chain On’, ‘Streetheart’, ‘Le Club’, ‘Lucy Is Here’ and “Carmen’ already feel like modern Irish classics, the soundtrack to many a great festival night and gig. The new version of the Le Galaxie essential, the uplifting ‘Love System’ adds a sax-solo for extra celebration. A trip to Le Club is always fun.
The third album from Conor O’Brien might just be his most important.
Stripped back to accompaniment that rarely goes beyond piano, mellotron, guitar and voice, Darling Arithmetic is a clear line in the sand for one of Ireland’s best living songwriters and as a result, there’s a sense of a songwriter really revealing and exploring his own self: his sexuality, his feelings, his pain and his love.
The 36 minute album’s opening song ‘Courage’ lays it all out. “Took a little time to get where I wanted / It took a little time to get free / It took a little time to be honest / It took a little time to be me,” O’Brien sings accompanied by guitar, light brushes, bass and some faraway blurry synths.
The stripped down nature of the album highlights what a great songwriter O’Brien is. These songs are captivating enough in their demo-style form because O’Brien is an elegant arranger and musician too; he has things to say we can relate to, and sentiments that comes from a heart, his heart, with an underlying confidence that comes from experience and learning from it.
Richie Egan’s fifth album is a collection of serene electronic songcraft.
For most of his creative endeavours as Jape, Richie Egan has been juxtaposing traditional guitar-based songwriting with electronic synth textures.
The fifth Jape album, This Chemical Sea, made with band member Glen Keating, is the first released since Egan uprooted his life and family to Malmö in Sweden and that distance has encouraged a clarity of vision that translates to these two sides being more suitable bedfellows than ever.
There’s soft transparency to the production helped greatly by David Wrench who mixed and mastered the album, and whose considered imprint can most recently be heard on top notch productions from Caribou, FKA Twigs and Jungle; three of the best sounding records of the last year. Those albums have a clear spaciousness that they share with This Chemical Sea.
This Chemical Sea often feels like its floating above the physical and unmoored from the sum of its parts, that give the songs a unique identity in the Jape discography. It is a collection of serene electronic songcraft: meditative, lucid and unbound.
The Dublin band have made the highly-strung album of the year.
There weren’t more uncompromising sonic albums made in 2015 than this one and while it took its toll on its creators, their efforts have not gone unappreciated.
Holding Hands With Jamie is a bare psychosis, the breakdown of Dara Kiely soundtracked by dissonant, piercing and pulsing noise. Kiely spends howling into the pressurised turbulent wall of noise, fending off life expectations and minutiae.
The band match his intensity spectacularly with guitars that whirr and buzz like nasty synthesizers, drums that engulf the room in a live fashion and low-end that wipes the floor and shits on it afterward for good measure. The harshness of it all is a suitably foil for the discombobulating frame of mind that Kiely displays throughout. It sounds like post-punk, it sounds like garage-rock, it sounds like no-wave, it sounds like dirty bleedin’ techno.
The coiled wrestle between confrontation and escapism, both in the music and in the lyrics, is what makes Holding Hands With Jamie such an uncomfortable yet singularly brilliant album. That it uses the familiar language of rock music to do so makes it one of the albums of the year.
The Northern Ireland Music Prize Shortlist for this year was just announced. There are 12 albums nominated and the winner will be announced at a live event on November 14 at Mandela Hall in Belfast. Malojian, Ciaran Lavery and Ryan Vail will play on the night and an Oh Yeah Legend Award will be presented to The Divine Comedy. Neil Hannon will play some songs from his catalogue. Tickets are £12.
The list was made from choices from more than 70 people in the NI music industry and music media. They are:
A Plastic Rose – ‘Flickering Light of an Inner War’
And So I Watch You From Afar – ‘Heirs’
Axis Of – ‘The Mid Brae Inn’
BeeMickSee – ‘Belfast Yank’
Ciaran Lavery and Ryan Vail – ‘Sea Legs’
Duke Special – ‘Look Out Machines’
The Lost Brothers – ‘New Songs Of Dawn And Dust’
Malojian – ‘Southlands’
Not Squares – ‘Bolts’
SOAK – ‘Before We Forgot How To Dream’
Therapy? – ‘Disquiet’
Tim Wheeler – ‘Lost Domain’
Mercury Rev, SOAK, Lucy Rose, Arca, Braids, JME + Aurora are among the names added to Iceland Airwaves in Reykjavík in November.
The line-up alreadyincludes Björk, John Grant, Beach House, Father John Misty, Battles, and loads more. 46 bands were added in total including a lot of local Icelandic bands too.
Iceland Airwaves additions
Arca dj set (VE)
Bernard & Edith (UK)
Beebee and the bluebirds
Emilie & Ogden (CA)
Curtis Harding (US)
In the Company of men
Markús & The Diversion Sessions
Mercury Rev (US)
Jón Ólafsson & Futuregrapher
Rozi Plain (UK)
Lucy Rose (UK)
Saun & Starr (US)
How to enter ticket comps – Email [email protected] with the gig above in the Subject line you’re entering for along with your full name and phone number (for late contact) in the body of the message. Full info on each show below. Draw closes at 6pm the day before the gig or Friday 1pm latest for weekend gigs.
Tuesday June 9
Sylvan Esso @ Whelan’s (€15)
[Electronic/pop] Triumphant return for the pair.
Ruby Sessions @ Doyle’s (9pm, €6)
[Acoustic club] Basciville, CC Brez and more.
With so many albums being released there is only so many that one man (me) can write about, so as another way of featuring some recommended albums beyond the reviews and album of the week posts, here is a list with links to the best albums of the last month with a regularly updated Spotify playlist you can subscribe to so you always have something long-playing to listen to.
Previously unmentioned albums include Irish producer Ebauche’s beautifully serene ambient album Adrift, the X-Files-influenced electronic of Palmbomben II, the teen duo Girlpool sharing their small worlds on the big stage and a potential classic in the Chance The Rapper / Donnie Trumpet all-star album (only released on US iTunes).
AH. Super Furry Animals couldn’t have picked a better place to come and play their first Irish show in years other than Body & Soul.
They’ve just been added to the lineup for the summer solstice weekend from June 19th to 21st in Ballinlough Castle, Co. Westmeath along with:
Super Furry Animals, Tiga, Kiasmos (as revealed at their gig), SOAK , Kuenta i Tambu (KiT), Vin Gordon and the Real Rock Band, Clu, Cloud Castle Lake, Bleeding Heart Pigeons, Planet Parade and a new 2000-capacity venue featuring Northern Soul, reggae, ska fun kand more with The Mouse Outfit, Chai Wallah, Stuff and more to play.
SFA have just started back playing live again to promote their Welsh language reissue Mwng. Here they are from this week:
Bridie Monds-Watson was asked by Rookie Magazine to cover St. Vincent which she did in her own inimitable way and they interviewed her about it and her music as part of it:
So much of that song, and what Annie Clark has said about it, is about her disdain for internet culture and people broadcasting their lives. What’s your relationship to the internet like as someone who’s never known a world without it?
I’m definitely the first generation that’s grown up with the internet in school, from like, primary, year one. I had a Facebook account when I was, like, 13. I wasn’t that interested until I was, like, 15. Now I use it tons—I kind of have to, because it’s an incredible form of promotion. But I think it’s fun, as well. I’m lucky because I’m with an independent label, so I’m in charge of my social media. If my label people post on it, it’s with my approval. I decide how much of myself I want to give away, and what I want to say as well.
The Derry musician’s debut Before We Forgot How to Dream comes out on Rough Trade next month.