You won’t get no April Fool’s from me, only great tunes like this one. London production duo Oh Wonder, Josephine and Anthony, dropped their eighth wonder ‘Midnight Moon’. The band have announced their first live shows in London, Paris, New York and LA later in the year. Would be nice to see them in Ireland huh?
If you want to make classic rock’n’roll, why not turn to someone who has a track record in that department?
That’s something that Dublin band The Mighty Stef did in the recording of Year Of The Horse, The Mighty Stef’s most consistent and thrilling work yet.
Alain Johannes, who has worked with Queens Of The Stone Age, No Doubt, Eagles Of Death Metal and Arctic Monkeys was at the boards for the recording of the album, the fourth as The Mighty Stef – Stef Murphy (vocals, guitar), Gary Lonergan (Bass, keys), Ken Mooney (drums, percussion) and Daniel Fitzpatrick (guitars / keyboards) in LA.
You can hear the difference in the album’s opening track – ‘Everybody Needs A Grave’, a song that takes on anthemic proportions the more it plays to a crescendo. “As you cross through the ceremony you’re reminded you’re no longer a young man / but you’re expected to play what is a young man’s game,” sings Stefan Murphy on ‘Ceremony’ perhaps about his own life in rock’n’roll. Murphy has experience and knowledge and that stands to his and his band’s credit on this record. There’s also a great sense of realism in the hard slog of being a rock’n’roller with a family on ‘Stella’.
Stef’s deep baritone voice has never sounded more commanding than on tracks like ‘Blind Girl’ which recalls Nick Cave and the hazy orchestral rock of ‘Capri Sun’. His penchant for writing earworm melodies are evident on the “gonna write a letter to you” hook on ‘Milk White Tears’.
A couple of previous tracks from theIveagh Flats 2013 EP are included. ‘The Nightwatchman of the Iveagh Flats’, the psychedelic punk-rock of ‘Vampire Hold Me Tight’ and once again, ‘The Hardship’, which is easily an album highlight. The song’s long running time giving the musicians and the song room to breathe as it extols the virtues of working your arse off to get to where you want to be.
Niia and Josef Salvat are two of the finest new vocalists to appear in the last few years so it’s good to hear them on the same track for Tourist’s new single.
‘Holding On’ is a smooth R&B electronic pop cut with a nod to garage lifted by the performances of two currently under-rated singers (though Salvat is on his way). Tourist releases the single on May 22th and it follows up his single with Years & Years earlier this year.
‘Defeated’ is your introduction to a Dublin four-piece called The Nightlife and by the sound of it, the band are aiming direct at the mainstream and your ears, and they want to stay there.
The song recorded with Joe Egan in Nutshed Studios, Offaly reaches for earworm status with its big drum hits and subtle synth line before cascading into an all-in chorus line underpinned by bright guitar notes that has the lyrics “give me something I need / just a little more / I can’t reach any further.”
Greg, Stephen, Andrew and Jeff are the band and chances are they’ll extend their music pretty far if they keep knocking out tracks like this.
This week was the first of 2015 which a tidal wave of new music washed over me in a big surge. With SXSW out of the way, many artists began to set out their stall for the coming year who hadn’t already.
SXSW was buzzing for Shamir who dropped his fun track ‘Call it Off’ and Tei Shi capitalised on her appearances there with ‘Go Slow’.
There’s also brand new Hudson Mohawke, Teleman and Florence + The Machine. It was at times, an overwhelming music week. Here’s my way of digesting the best of it – a playlist. That’s not all of it nor does it include albums.
The Sufjan Stevens that affected me the most was the one that revelled in the quiet, who kept things simple. Illinoise and The Age Of Adz are great records, sonically rich and ambitious. His stature grew, literally onstage with wings on a recent tour, where layers of sound were built up in impressive displays of song arrangements.
For his seventh album Carrie & Lowell, Stevens has put the wings back in the cupboard and returned to his folk roots. He’s also traded in the conceptual grandiosity for the devastatingly personal.
If there’s one thing you need to know about Sufjan and this album is that it is concerned with his absent mother Carrie (and by extension, his stepfather Lowell), who left his family in Michigan when he was a one year old and moved to Oregon. Carrie died in 2012 of stomach cancer and this visceral album is Sufjan addressing the monumental loss of his mother’s life and of her in his life.
Stevens spent a few summers with his mother as a child, who was troubled by depression and schizophrenia. Much of the album is drawn with that little amount of time he spent with Carrie. Interestingly, Lowell, his stepfather, stayed in touch after he divorced Carrie and went on to release music on Stevens’ label Asthmatic Kitty and is a director of the company. Losing a mother is unbearable but a mother estranged from her son has a profound effect.
The music is sparse, evocative, stripped-bare. Stevens’ doesn’t embellish much musically but he doesn’t compound the hurt and pain in his words with more aural clues. It’s actually a beautiful-sounding album on the surface. Seven Swans, his 2004 acoustic album inspired by Bible songs is the closest comparison. It is an album of grief (On that subject do read Niall Crumlish’s far superior review of this album for State.)
There are questions that go unanswered – “what could I have said to raise you from the dead?”. In both the album’s opening track ‘Death With Dignity’ and ‘Eugene’ Stevens longs to be near his mother. He sings of “this empty feeling” on ‘Should Have Known Better’ and asks “I wonder did you love me at all?” on ‘The Only Thing’. There is searing hurt. “Should I tear my eyes out now? Everything I see returns to you somehow,” he sings on the same track.
His mother, “Erebus on my back” gives an imagined reply on ‘Fourth Of July’ – “did you get enough love, my little dove?” There is much rumination of Stevens himself as a person in the reflection of Carrie through his relationships on ‘John My Beloved’ and ‘Drawn To The Blood’. “What’s left is only bittersweet / for the rest of my life, admitting the best is behind me,” he sings on ‘Eugene’.
There is no answer to grief or estrangement. There can be acceptance, reconciliation, mourning and forgiveness. “I forgive you mother I can hear you,” Stevens sings but there’s much pain to get through. Carrie & Lowell offers catharsis for Stevens and consolation for others in his difficult exploration.