2017 was my third visit to Barcelona’s Primavera Sound festival and my first since 2011. What has changed in that time is an increase of punters (around 35,000 each night) but also an expanded festival site at Parc del Forum. That meant more room for dance music and more room for the larger stages. And more, room for surprises.

2017’s lineup was also one of the best in a long time. Sure, Frank Ocean cancelled his headline set with two weeks to go but the addition of surprise sets announced on the day were a new thing which hopefully the organisers will commit to in 2018. It meant that for many the first surprise was Arcade Fire playing a gig on the festival’s first night, two days before they were due on stage. Haim played a late-night set on the last night and Mogwai debuted their new album in full under the Barcelona evening sun.

The city is a great setting for a festival getaway, hang out on the beach day or night at Barceloneta, eat and drink in the Gothic Quarter or Gracia, solicit late-night cans from the abundant hawking men on the streets, bump into friends late into the night while wandering. Primavera Sound’s late starting time (for most about 7pm or 8pm) and late end time (6am is not uncommon) means there’s always time to explore the city in good weather before the music starts.

That doesn’t mean that you don’t miss things though. Aldous Harding, Glass Animals, Joy Orbison, Weyes Blood and Badbadnotgood were not seen, and I decided to give Arcade Fire a miss in favour of seeing something else (and was rewarded by John Talabot’s disco set). Ditto: Sinkane, Skepta and Grace Jones. Sets from the xx, Angel Olsen and King Krule didn’t do it for me despite wanting them to but there was plenty to love. Primavera Sound pulls you in so many directions that sometimes you just have to not focus too much on the timetable and go with the flow. That’s easier to do in the Catalan city atmosphere than a soggy field in Ireland. I’d definitely come back for a fourth visit.

Here are my highlight sets of the festival.


1.

Mac Demarco

There’s no way that such subtle sweet jams should work on the second biggest stage on the festival, , but that’s Mac Demarco for you. The Canadian has developed as a cult curio personality, an indie-kid weirdo but as his latest album This Old Dog (fast becoming one of my favourites of the year) has shown, his songs seep into your skin. At Primavera, there was a big crowd ready to lap up both his tunes and his vibe. When the camera panned over the stage to reveal his naked drummer on the drum stool, it was clear it was going to be one of those kinds of sets. While the stage antics got increasingly more attention as Demarco stripped down to his underpants and singed his butt and underarm hair while standing on a guitar amp, the tunes never faltered from some sweet vibes (other than a closing guitar solo). Don’t underestimate how hard it is to write delicate songs this good, the stage show with added “Whitney crowd surf experience” and goofball antics only added to the sense of occasion. As did, Demarco ending the night crowdsurfing sans music stage right after his set.

2.

John Talabot Disco set

I decided to give Arcade Fire a miss this time to go see something different. The Catalan man John Talabot has always had a close association to Primavera as they asked him to debut his first ever live show at the festival so he always does something at it. This time around, it was two shows, one with Axel Boman as Talaboman and one DJ set billed as a disco set (after a great Young Marco set) which ended up being a set that featured crowdpleasing and disco-tinged music from classics like ‘Spacer’ to Aphex Twin ‘Windowlicker’ edit, Red Dragon Band’s ‘Let Me Be Your Radio’ to his own Teengirl Fantasy ‘Cheaters’ remix and my tune discovery of the festival – Akiyo’s Deboule. An edit of the Carribean Zouk tune from 1996 was played in the Talaboman set on the first night and immediately wired itself into my brain. Watch out for that (and let me know if you see one going). Talabot’s disco set was filled with the one thing that many modern DJs forget to pack on their USBS – fun.


3.

Flying Lotus

Flying Lotus reaffirmed my opinion of him as a visionary producer with his live cube A/V set on the Ray Bans stage on Friday night. At 3am, the combination of Strangeloop and Timeboy’s mindbending visuals and Fly Lo’s mind-altering music productions hit with force and bass so hard that in the middle of the crowd, near the front, the bass made the hair on the top of my head vibrate. It was that good. Musically, we had some of the new stuff, like the Kuso theme (the reviews have said it’s garbage), his Freddie Mercury remix, his Twin Peaks rework, his To Pimp A Butterfly production, his Kendrick feature ‘Never Catch Me’, a Captain Murphy joint and his Los Angeles material. It was a reminder of how great a Fly Lo set can be.


4.

Bon Iver

This took me by surprise. 22 A Million is a hard album to love and it didn’t really impact my listening habits last year very much. It was easier to admire and harder to love. But fair play to Justin and his band who have managed to translate this obfuscated object of coded language into a main stage extravaganza that pitched these songs with a larger stature, accompanied by superb sound and a stage show that featured the album’s hieroglyphics in cascading form. The album’s second half – songs like ‘666’ and the Springsteen-esque ‘8’ were late show highlights and four songs from 2011’s self-titled album. He might have spent much of the gig with giant headphones and a baseball cap on behind a bank of gear but a solo a capella version of ‘Skinny Love’ as encore nodded to the the journey Vernon has been on since 2008. It’s a significant one.


5.

Solange

The classiest stage show of the weekend went to Solange Knowles. A simple circle backdrop bathed in red with blue lights on the band and singers pitched things minimally. Translating a weighty but delicately produced album such as A Seat At The Table is a tough thing to do but Solange kept things focused and wisely brought in the energetic ‘Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work’, ‘T.O.N.Y’ (from her 2008 Sol-Angel and the Hadley Dreams album) and career highlight jam ‘Losing You’. Occasional choreographed moves benefitted the show in subtle ways too. It was more a swaying side-to-side experience but it suited her.


6.

Aphex Twin

There was a run of abrasive shows on the opening night of Primavera Sound in 2017 that featured sets from Slayer, Converge, Death Grips (always excellent) and Aphex Twin. A Richard D James show is like no other and he really took advantage of playing the biggest stage at the festival to deliver an uncompromising two hour set filled with diversions into ten minutes of industrial white noise, acid techno, ambient noise, gyrating IDM , jungle breakbeats and electro weirdness. There wasn’t much to recognise unless you were an uber-Aphex nerd but he did play ‘Roy Of The Ravers’ at one point and one tune that sounded like MIA mashed up, smashed into a reggaeton beat and spat out. Visually, the show was crammed with small screens working in unison, and lights and lasers that extended beyond the festival site. His trick of using the faces in the crowd to project AFX imagery and faces makes the audience an integral part of the show, playing on the discomfort of lingering on someone in the front row’s self-conscious face for far too long to create some truly odd art. In fact, it was so intense I couldn’t last the whole show. How many artists can you say that about? No-one delivers a disorientating experience quite like Aphex Twin.


7.

Bicep

At 4:30am on the first night, Belfast duo Bicep played their live show which served as a slighty beefier version of their live sets naturally all focused on their own material and delivered with the precision and percussive panache that have made Andy Ferguson and Matt McBriar house stalwarts. A run of songs including ‘Just’ , ‘Higher Level’ , ‘In Yer Face’ , ‘Dahlia’ sent us home with grins on night one, eager for more from evening two.


8.

Sampha

Sampha’s piano torch songs don’t feel like a natural fit for a large festival stage but the dude’s been preparing. With three band members helping him build the beats, Sampha Sisay brought some dynamic energy to his set. There was a circle of a drum-off at one point and songs like ‘Blood On Me’, his Drake-feature ‘4422’ and ‘Reverse Faults’ stood out until he was left to deliver the heartbreaking ode to his mother – ‘(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano’.



9.

Run the Jewels


You know the drill by now. We Are the Champions. Two Best Friends. Fists and chains in the air. A Blockbuster Night. El-P and Killer Mike’s on-stage camaraderie isn’t even punctured or affected when the entire soundsystem goes dead for 10 minutes, as they mug to each other and run on the spot. A RTJ show is one of the best in rap and it hasn’t dissipated as the size of the stage has increased.



10.

!!!


What encapsulates the differentiation between Primavera and many other festivals is that the closing set of the festival on the only large stage left open went to !!! (Chk Chk Chk). The band encapsulate the festival’s early beginnings as a punk-funk rock band into their current guise as a strutting electronic disco act. Primavera know all you need to do is give !!! the stage and they’ll slay and that’s what they do close to 5am bolstered by the presence of Wnglish vocalist Lea Lea on co-vocals and ass-shaking along with Nic Offer upfront. With their seventh album Shake The Shudder just out, much of the set was drawn from that but two personal favourites ‘Freedom 15’ and ‘Syld’ closed out the show.

Posted on June 7th, 2017

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Emily Eavis today tweeted out the first big lineup for Glastonbury’s Worthy Farm this year and it includes names we already know (Radiohead, Foo Fighters, Ed Sheeran) and names we don’t: the xx, Katy Perry, The National, Chic, Barry Gibb (Bee Gees), Stormzy, Lorde, Alt-J, Solange, Boy Better Know, The Jacksons, Run The Jewels, Anderson .Paak, HAIM, Dizzee Rascal, The Avalanches, Lisa Hannigan, Angel Olsen, Ride and eh, Shaggy among them.

Posted on March 30th, 2017

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The Song Exploder podcast is one of the best music podcasts out there. The simple idea asks musicians to break down how they made, created and constructed one of their most well-known songs.

Recent episodes include DJ Shadow’s ‘Mutual Slump’, Angel Olsen’s ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’, Jóhann Jóhannson’s ‘Arrival score’ and James Vincent McMorrow’s ‘Get Low’.

This week’s episode features Solange Knowles talking about A Seat At The Table cut ‘Cranes In The Sky’ and its long gestation process, where you hear a cappella vocals from the song, learn that the cranes were inspired by the Miami skyline and how producer Raphael Saadiq lost the stems:

Subscribe on iTunes.

Posted on January 16th, 2017

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Primavera Sound has just announced its lineup for the  festival in 2017 in Barcelona from 31 May to June 4th next year and it’s ridiculous.

Headliners on the lineup include

  • Arcade Fire
  • Frank Ocean
  • Bon Iver
  • Solange
  • Skepta
  • the xx
  • Aphex Twin
  • Slayer
  • Grace Jones
  • Van Morrison
  • Run The Jewels

Also present and correct:

Flying Lotus, Mac Demarco, The Magnetic Fields, Angel Olsen, Teenage Fanclub, Seu  George plays the Life Aquatic: A Tribute to Bowie, Grandaddy, Tycho, Swans, Bicep, !!!, Badbadnotgood, King Krule, Glass Animals, John Talabot, Fatima Yamaha, Henrik Schwarz, Joy Orbison, Julia Jacklin, Sinkane, Skinny Puppy, Operators, Weyes Blood and Tuff City Kids.

Tickets start at €175 + fees.

Here it is in full:

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Posted on November 30th, 2016

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Sterogum’s 40 best new bands of 2016.


The xx have been sharing short snippets of tracks on Spotify in the past week. The first one is gone but there’s another on Young Turks now.


With the news of Fight Like Apes’ disbanding, Una Mullally looks back at the times she had with the band.


The seven-year stand off between GEMA and Youtube is over. Germans will finally be able to watch music videos in their own country on the platform.


DJ Shadow talks to The Quietus about the weight of Endtroducing’s legacy on his career


Boiler Room Weekender shut down by police


Solange was on Saturday Night Live over the weekend where she performed ‘Cranes In The Sky’ and ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’. Proxy needed for NBC version.


Space Dimension Controller is the latest DJ to participate in The Guardian’s Harangue The DJ series.


Mano Le Tough debuted on the Essential Mix a week back. Here’s his mix.


Twitter bots of note?

Lyrics from Thin Lizzy’s ‘Boys Are Back In Town’ tweeted regularly.

Once In A Lifetime Bot – the lyrics of Talking Heads’ ‘Once In A Lifetime’ reimagined.

Posted on November 7th, 2016

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My favourite songs of the past month. Get the majority of them as a continuous playlists below on Spotify and Soundcloud.

Listen on Spotify

The top songs of the month

  1. Bon Iver – ‘8 Circle’
  2. Young Marco – ‘Dreamless’
  3. 808 State – ‘In Your Face’ (Bicep remix)
  4. Solange – ‘Cranes In The Sky’ (Kaytranada edit)
  5. NxWorries – Anderson Paak & Knxwledge – ‘Lyk Dis’
  6. Banks – ‘Mind Games’

  7. D.D. Dumbo – ‘Walrus’
  8. Solar Bears – ‘Across Yesteryear’
  9. Enemies – ‘itsallwaves’
  10. Midnight Magic – ‘I Gotta Feeling’
  11. Mura Masa – Love$ick (Four Tet Remix)
  12. Basciville – ‘Sweetheart Rodeo’
  13. Nicolas Jaar – ‘Three Sides Of Nazareth’
  14. Beesmunt Soundsystem – ‘Sensual Work’
  15. Bantum feat. Rusangano Family & Senita – ‘Feel Your Rhythm’
  16. Katie Kim – ‘Ghosts’
  17. D.R.A.M. feat Erykah Badu – ‘WiFi’
  18. Run The Jewels – ‘Talk To Me’
  19. Polica – ‘Kind’ (Boys Noize remix)
  20. Austra – ‘Utopia’
  21. Jens Kuross – ‘We Will Run’
  22. Christine & The Queens – ‘Intraquilité’
  23. Danny Brown – ‘Ain’t It Funny’
  24. Ekkah – ‘Can’t Give It Up’
  25. Grace Lightman – ‘Repair Repair’

Posted on November 2nd, 2016

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Solange Knowles’ new album A Seat At The Table, which was surprise released at the end of September arrived at a bitter time in the U.S. where race relations are at boiling point. Where in the election to lead the country, hate, misogyny and racism are spouted all too frequently (and accepted and tolerated). Where people are shouting opinions at each other without listening to responses across political, class and racial divides. Where black people continue to suffer.

In the past, Solange has railed against white music writers writing about R&B or penned an essay about the aggression she’s felt as a black woman, prompted by an experience at a Kraftwerk concert.

“I’ve got a lot to be mad about,” she sings on the Lil Wayne-featuring ‘Mad’. So you wouldn’t be a surprise if her music had some elements of anger in it.

“When they go low, we go high,” Michelle Obama said. Solange Knowles may have already decided to do that earlier this year on her new album. Where her sister Beyoncé makes flashy statements, Solangé is much more understated. Living in a divisive country bellowing at each other, Solange takes the softer, more restrained approach on an album which demands repeated listens.

A self-described “project on identity, empowerment, independence, grief and healing,” A Seat At The Table is an album about race and being black in America. It’s personal and political. It’s informed by black culture, family and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Musically, A Seat At The Table is made of soul, R&B, pop and funk. Its gossamer style is delicate and rich. Spoken word interludes frame the album: encouraging words from Master P of No Limit about how he got to where he is, Solange’s father talks about racial threats and her mother about how being pro-black doesn’t mean anti-white. These statements allow Solange to write less directly from a black woman’s perspective for others like her.

Production is by Raphael Saadiq. Guests include Sampha, Lil Wayne, Kelela, Andre 3000, The Dream, Sean Nicholas Savage, Q-Tip and the likes of Kwes, Kindness, Chairlift’s Patrick Wimberly, Nia Andrews and Dirty Projectors Dave Longstreth contribute. There are multiple highlights from the Andre 3000-featuring synth funk of ‘Junie’, the synth drawl of ‘Don’t Wish Me Well’, the woozy R&B of ‘Weary’, the piano soul of ‘Mad’, the vulnerable vista of ‘Cranes In The Sky’ and the subtle power of ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’.

“Be leery ’bout your place in the world,” she sings on ‘Weary’, yet Solange keeps it serene in defiance of what seems right and wrong around her. A Seat At The Table isn’t something to be unpacked in a week, or even two. It’s an album of defiance, empowerment and beauty.

Posted on October 13th, 2016

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Loose Joints is new podcast hosted by Nialler9 and Sally Cinnamon talking to people about the music they love: old and new.

In our second episode (see episode one), we are joined by booze enthusiast Oisin Davis of Great Irish Beverages (incorporating Irish Cocktail Fest, Irish Whiskey Fest and Irish Gin & Tonic Fest) and the creator of Poacher’s Tonic.

We talk about Oisin’s New Jersey upbringing, grown men crying over beautiful songs stuck in traffic, what it’s like to support Grandmaster Flash, the beauty of a basso profundo voice – the lowest you can get, a Hard Working Class Heroes highlight, the tune Oisin would like his kids to associate with him and a couple of Belfast bangers.

Subscribe in iTunes.

Also available in Stitcher, Pocket Casts and TuneIn.

Download: Loose Joints Podcast #2: Oisin Davis (103MB, 1hr 46mins)

Tracklisting

  1. Yves Tumor – Role in Creation (Sally)
  2. James Vincent McMorrow – Rising Water (Oisin)
  3. Solange – Junie (Niall)
  4. What tune or band takes you back to your youth the most?
    Grandmaster Flash – The Message (Oisin)
  5. A tune that inspires you most?
    St Petersburg Male Choir – A prayer For The Dead (Oisin)
  6. Paul Robeson – Danny Boy (Oisin)
  7. Pional feat Empress Of – The Way That You Like (Sally)
  8. Favourite Irish song:
    Breda Mayock – If Your Heart Belonged To Me by (Oisin)
  9. Favourite Irish album:
    Headgear – Singing In The Drain, Headgear (Oisin)
  10. Le Boom – What They Do (Niall)
  11. Tune you’d like your kids to associate with you:
    The Ink Spots and Ella Fitzgerald – Making Believe (Oisin)
  12. 808 State – In Your Face (Bicep remix) (Niall)
  13. LOR – Moon (Sally)
  14. Bat for Lashes – Joe’s Dream (Oisin)

Special thanks to Sean Corcoran for facilitating recording.

Posted on October 12th, 2016

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Every Thursday night at 10pm, I get two hours of the airwaves on TXFM to play two hours of my favourite new and a bit of old music.

Listen back to the show.

Listen: Hour One

Listen: Hour Two

Here’s what I played:

Hour 1

Fryars – ‘Cool Like Me’
Phantogram – ‘Fall In Love’
Wye Oak –  ‘Glory’
Future Islands –  ‘Doves’
tUnE-yArDs –  ‘Time of Dark’
Talos  – ‘Tethered Bones’
JUCE!  – ‘Call You Out’
Hoodlem –  ‘IGotU’
IYES –  ‘Toys’
ZHU – ‘Paradise Awaits’
The Horrors –  ‘So Now You Know’
#throwbackthursday: Primal Scream  – ‘Autobahn 66’

Hour 2

Little Dragon  – ‘Paris’
Ships –  ‘Space Inside’
Chromeo feat. Solange – ‘Lost On The Way Home’
Girl Band – ‘Lawman’
Eagulls – ‘Hollow Visions’
Ghost Estates – ‘In Your Dreams’
Spies – ‘Distant Shorelines’
Angel Olsen –  ‘Forgiven/Forgotten’
Annie Eve –  ‘Bodyweight’
Ghosts – ‘WLVS’
Akouo – ‘Last Time’
Daphni & Owen Pallett – ‘Julia’

Posted on May 12th, 2014

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I’ve seen Solange play two different shows/festivals this year – South By South West in Texas and Glastonbury in the UK and while she’s a great performer and ‘Losing You’ is an absolute JAM, I don’t think she’s quite ready for the big-time, or what she’s aiming for at least, yet. A lot of her sets were lacking in songs to match that track. Fortunately Solange’s new single ‘Lovers In The Parking Lot’ was one of the couple that did match it. It’s still a very understated track but it’s a memorable one from last year’s True EP. The video was shot in her hometown of Houston by Solange, Peter J. Brant and Emily Kai Bock.

(more…)

Posted on September 18th, 2013

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Photo by James Goulden.

Photo by James Goulden.

…and some not so good ones ones.

When I’m asked why I go to Austin for South By Southwest, the answer is basically: to see as many new bands as possible. The festival features over 2000 bands playing over 10 days so I try take in as much as I can. You can see/read myself, Una Mullally, Finian Murphy and 45 Sound’s SXSW coverage over at Red Bull Ireland including some video interviews and sessions.And pick up Day & Night on Friday for an interview from SXSW with Little Green Cars from myself. On with the good stuff…

The 20 best bands I saw at SXSW 2013 →

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Posted on March 21st, 2013

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bs
The Body & Soul Festival has announced its first lineup for June 21st-23rd, 2013 Ballinlough Castle in Co.Westmeath today and it’s really starting to feel like Electric Picnic is not going ahead now. The lineup is:

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Public Image Ltd (PiL), Solange (more on her later), Kurt Vile and the Violators, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Breton, Willy Mason, Pantha Du Prince, Iron Curtis, Jon Hopkins, Almighty Sion, George FitzGerald, ADULTROCK, Monto, RSAG, Ryan Vail, Fish Go Deep with more TBA.

Tickets for three-day camping for Body & Soul are €139 (up from last year but a full extra day’s programming is included FYI) with bus for €168. Sunday day tickets are €55 with bus for €84. Family campsite tickets are €139 includes 1 adult and two children under 12. Campervan tickets are €50. All the above plus fees of course.

Posted on March 21st, 2013

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Solange

Solange
Beyoncé’s little sister Solange sure knows how to sing a catchy hook as she proved on Chromeo’s ‘When The Night Falls’ & Theo London’s ‘Flying Overseas’. Here she pops up on former-Chairlift member Aaron Pfenning’s brilliant new single as Rewards on DFA Records.

Rewards – Equal Dreams (Feat. Solange Knowles)

Pfenning takes the lead on the B-Side ‘Asleep With the Lights On,’ which feature guitar from Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange. An instrumental of the A-side is here.
Rewards – Asleep With The Lights On

Here’s a Rewards DFA Radiomix:

Rewards – dfa radiomix #17

Posted on July 27th, 2011

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