Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sega Mega Segway

The late great Mark Linkous

Two tunes that remind me of each other somehow, I always think they should be segway'd or mashed up. Or maybe I associate them because of the alphabetic nature of my iPod (R.I.P Steve Jobs). Who knows? Another mystery of the universe.

The Shins

Friday, August 26, 2011

Mo' Money Mo' Problems

Is this not the greatest reincarnation of Motown's hip-shaking essence? Ok, there's quite a dose of enthusiasm there, but it's healthy. LA indie-soul heads Fitz & The Tantrums have blown my mind, they're my new favourite band (The Hives never were, sorry Hives, good title though). The piano, the brass, the vocals, the groove... reminds me of what a great song can do - make you wish you were in the band. Oh how I do.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Lovey Dovey Stuff

Single Review: So In Love by Lilly Wright.

A catchy dance floor filler, So In Love's strength is that after one listen the chorus has planted itself firmly in your ear. Not a wholely original sound, Lilly Wright's vocals are effortless (see them showcased on her youtube channel) and with its slick beat and production the track sounds ready to be unleashed upon a Saturday night crowd looking for a chant and stomp. Bordering on repetitive, it would probably benefit from a chord variation in the middle, but will duly serve its purpose as a tune to groove to. 

Photograph courtesy of Sneaky Vermouth, seemed to fit the bill...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Surf's Up

In weather that'd put Marti Pellow and his cohorts to shame (and the name alone should've given that away) nobody at Sea Sessions was deterred from having anything but a damn good time. At three days and, especially by Irish standards, a pocket-friendly price, the Bundoran festival brought the intimate back in to a scene that seems to sprawl by the year. With only two major tents pitched opposite each other, catching a bit of everything was a cinch and made light work of ducking in for shelter when the rain teamed, which of course, was often. 

Ham Sandwich and the North Shore tent made fast friends, with easy banter and willing sing-a-longs kicking off the Friday evening. Japanese Popstars thumped the main tent in to oblivion, delighting fans and 'big fish little fish' shape-shifters as the evening drew to a close. Saturday was the day of the festival, with surf competitions and tag rugby on the beach and the hungover brigade taking in the sea air as a substitute for Alka Seltzer, the biggest throngs arrived despite the drizzle. The Riptide Movement got hips shaking and the first chants of the day going, not least due to their rather wired drummer with a snare perched helmet-like on his head. Ballyporeen's finest, Gemma Hayes, was the surprise of the day. Playing more tunes than most realised they could sing verbatim and livening up the afternoon with her delicate charms. 

Fresh from a stint in the States, Bell X1 revealed their latest offering Bloodless Coup in a tented sweatbox of sorts, and after a subdued start had an elated crowd take over the vocals and welcome them home. Their new Talking Heads-esque material stood as strong as its predecessors albeit with an extra helping of funk and some scuzzy bass. The inimitable (who'd even try?) Grandmaster Flash took those on cloud nine after Bell X1, up to eleven and left them there. Those with aching joints the next morning had his ninety pulsating minutes of moving and shaking to blame. Getting the laughs in early and making no apologies, Flash opened with mixes of Dexy's Midnight Runners and Matthew Wilder's naff-fest Break My Stride, proudly proclaiming "If it's a hit, I'll play it!", kicking off what could've been mistaken for the biggest wedding afters ever. Old school hits and hip hop anthems followed with healthy dollops of Bowie, AC/DC, Blondie and Eurythmics interspersed 21st century stalwarts Snoop Dogg and Jay Z. With the tent bursting to capacity and a triumphant Flash departing the stage, the over-spill of revellers went off in to the damp air in search of another party.

Over-used dancing shoes and even worse outdoor conditions saw Sunday get off to a slow start so lounging in the shelter of tents and the bar was the only thing for it for most. Fred did their best to wake up a waning crowd but succeeded in the end, after which a trip to the Eco Bus Cafe and a long journey home was on the cards. Stormy conditions and storming sets are, surely, the only way to spend a weekend in the wilds of Donegal. Well, asking for sun would just be greedy now, wouldn't it?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Right Royal Knees-Up

It's not often that a monarch visits our shores, much less that two should show up and spend an evening on the very same security tightened street. While Queen Elizabeth tried out her cúpla focal in Dublin Castle; Sufjan Stevens - the Prince of pageantry and epic song, held court just opposite in the Olympia.

With Stevens it's always a three for one deal; sweet rambling monologues, tensely built orchestration and of course his penchant for symbolic costume thrown in for good measure. Seeing Seven Swans hit its climax as the whole band revealed, out of the darkness, their enormous pairs of wings gracefully spread; set a precedent for the unexpected. Quipping that doses of philosophy, theosophy, anatomy and even some botany would feature; Stevens immersed himself and the audience in his latest album The Age of Adz. The style of which can only be described as slow electronica bursting in to jubilant chants of brass while, oddly enough, utilising some Kanye-esque vocoder. Most certainly a far cry from Come On Feel The Illinoise's strings and banjos. 

The royal theme was coincidentally upheld (not least by Prince Harry's face slapped on an amp) when he mused over the album's inspiration; his late friend, artist Royal Robertson, whose Yellow Submarine-like work provided the visual accompaniment on screen throughout. By way of some explanation it was noted that Royal's own obsessions were primarily outer space, the apocalypse and hot chicks. Resplendently resembling some sort of neon soldiers, with faces luminously painted, they played symphonies lasting fifteen minutes or more that took the audience down to hushed tender tones and back to sheer exuberance with choruses delivered with (actual) confetti. The joyous atmosphere was spurred on by backing singers dancing in synchronicity for the shows duration (à la futuristic Jane Fonda), so it was to rapturous applause that Sufjan himself took a dance break and joined in; shape-shifting without hesitation while explaining his new found love for movement and expression. Knowing that Stevens had suffered near fatal illness in the last year explains the euphoria that surrounds him, letting loose is most definitely the order of the day.

Bold beltings of brass, synths and even a little recorder, meant that the intimate Olympia showcased within touching distance what Stevens longs for the audience to experience. It also allowed one backing singer to make light work of climbing to the rafters. Does Stevens make you wish you were in a psychedelic orchestral-synth combo? Yes. Does he make you wish you had the guts to just dance for the hell of it? Yes. He also proudly proves that confetti, silly string and enormous balloons aren't just for kids' parties; they're for spectacular Wednesday evenings at the Olympia too.

This review was also published in

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cover Me

Inspired by Una Mullally's article in last week's Irish Times, a perusal of the decent recent album covers is in order. Given that the art of the LP cover is dying quite a death, let's hear it for the good 'uns.

The Manics' Journal For Plague Lovers is a sister piece to 1994's The Holy Bible in cover art and content. Its cover strikes as much of a chord as the heretofore lost Richey Edwards lyrics do in their unveiling throughout. Also sourcing Jenny Saville's art as they did in 1994, sees them put as much effort in to the visual as the audio experience.

Sweden's finest; Peter Bjorn and John's newest release - which by the by, offers the best jangling power pop and use of cowbell you'll hear all year - continues their nice little trio theme. Actually I could stick most of their covers in, and so I shall: tough.

This one is best examined up close, but the repetitious placement of words to make the objects they spell, is one to swoon over. I lust after it in a proper giant wall size.

And because three is the magic number and PBJ are upping the ante of album covers; here's 2006's Writer's Block. The detail of this is best appreciated when the fold out sleeve is revealed, they do like a theme.

Admired for its clumpy and purposely one-dimensional execution; Sufjan proudly displays Illinois' most famous sons. The unusual cover introduces an album of far flung and diverse tales with the dial set to 'sweepingly epic'. Kudos to whoever drew Al Capone, he looks like he belongs in an out-of-print primary school book. I'm pressing the imaginary 'like' button for that alone.

And finally, for the wonderfully random, Wilco come out on top. A parable for our times.

Although it's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot that you'd want proudly displayed on a t-shirt.

Here's hoping for a return to the consideration of an album's visual impact - if the good music buying folk are given something to invest in, they might just want to buy the whole package instead of download/ pilfer/ burn.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Get Up & Go!

The Go! Team, The Academy, Dublin, March 5 2011

Two drummers, three singers, guitar, bass, harmonica and a whole lot of energy are all you need to rock like the theme to a 70s car chase on a Saturday night. In a concise set that showcased new release Rolling Blackouts' infectious fist pumping tunes; all in attendance were suitably revved up for their beat and retro sampled charms. With instrumentals like Junior Kickstart getting as rapturous a reaction as the sing-a-longs, The Go! Team knew they had the crowd in the palm of their hands and so gave it a good shaking, just because they damn well could.

The Go! Team Ladyflash

They came here to rock the microphone, indeed they did.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rollin' & Scratchin'

GrandMaster Flash, The Village, Dublin.

Considered a pioneer of DJing and rightfully credited as the transformer of the turntable in to an actual instrument; these are achievements that GrandMaster Flash was never going to let us forget. With footage of him explaining the invention and evolution of his now ubiquitous techniques displayed on screen as he took to the stage to the strains of Queen's Flash blaring; hype is something he can afford considering he's adept at living up to it.

Following an accomplished opening from (I think) a Dublin DJ and vocalist; GrandMaster Flash upheld his innovative reputation with ease but enjoyed reminding the crowd whose presence they were in; the subtle message of "You're In The Room With A DJ Legend!!! Tell Your Friends Now!" constantly pulsated across the screen. Given the relentless floor-fillers mixed and the sheer electricity of his presence; those in The Village that night willingly indulged his amusing ego-boost antics.

Generously dishing out an eclectic variety of old and new mixed to perfection, his creativity couldn't fail to impress. Combining the best of 90s and 00s hip hop and rap, with old school standards from rock, pop and back to hip hop's 70s roots; everything from Jay Z to Bowie, Tupac to Blondie, Queen to Snoop Dogg and what felt like hundreds more snippets and samples of hooks, beats and riffs from crowd-pleasing favourites duly got a spin.

And all that was before he drove the crowd in to a frenzy with his best known Furious Five collaboration 1982's The Message; of which he only played a third (just enough for some chanting) before ploughing ahead to the next sample. So far, so swimmingly. Even the break down of his Mac in the last quarter of the set  failed to deter Flash or the audience. While waiting for the reboot, The Village were invited to shout their levels of appreciation for the gig, even the old standard of dividing the room in to three to out-scream each other saw the crowd happily oblige. With the computer back on track and the clock approaching 2.30am, all that was left to do was sign off with the thumping White Lines, bidding adieu and extending friendship invites to all, animatedly listing every social media site he's on.

The palpable elation of the audience reveling in the music, seeing them being 'taken back' in an instant by a scratch or a sample while injecting a dose of the contemporary, reveals the longevity of the master himself and of the style he inaugurated 30 years ago. It's evident that the music's evolution is something he has fervently accepted and amenably participated in, consistently and laudably creating hybrids of the old and new. "I don't care who's better, who's worse, my contribution is first, first is forever and that's the way it goes down in the history books". Lest we forget it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Surely Brassy

 Peter Bjorn & John - purveyors of wondrous brass.
There's no song that can't be improved by a dirty dollop of it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Flash Player

The social problems of 80's New York sound so damn cool...
Grandmaster Flash, The Village Feb 18th!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

North American Fun

Friday nights: best spent in a dance frenzy induced by copious doses of LCD Soundsystem. Yeah yeah yeah, yeah yeah yeah yeah, yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah - yeah. Tripod 19th November 2010, a band always acclaimed and never bettered.