Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Album Review: Suzanne Savage - Jellymould

'Jellymould' by Suzanne Savage is another album to test my ability for finding as many different adjectives to describe how brilliant this album is. 


I'll be honest and say it's not easy for a solo female artist to grab my attention. It's very difficult for a solo female artist to stand out and be original while at the same time having good vocals and the ability to write a good song. On 'Jellymould', Suzanne Savage has perfected the songwriting art form and released an album of pure listening joy which reminds me the music Paula Cole was releasing over a decade ago. 


The album, recorded in 2011 in Karslruhe, Germany is in the main a pop album with flashes of jazzy keys, effective string sections and rockabilly throughout. Standout tracks include the first single 'Dart', the title track and the jazzy pop sound of 'Just Fine'. For me the best song is the folk love song 'Somewhere in Between' which showcases' Suzanne's soothing and effective vocals. 


What makes 'Jellymould' standout for me is those excellent vocals from Suzanne which I could listen to all day long. Her lyrics are meaningful and thoughtful with more than one song about the end of a relationship and moving on. I love this song 'Don't You Wanna Know' in particular for the positive lyrics.


When all's said there isn't a thing I'd change on this album. 'Jellymould' is another album that's impressed me big time this year. 

Suzanne Savage - Jellymould [12 out of 12]

Sunday, 23 September 2012

EP Review: Entheos - Where Creatures Meet

'Where Creatures Meet' is the new EP from Irish band Entheos and it's a really good representation of the band's energy, musicianship and songwriting skills.


Where do you begin to describe the sounds of Entheos? In the main the band is a folk band with buckets of energy and grunge-like vocals. The six piece band are excellent musicians with their energetic live performances in evidence on 'Where Creatures Meet'. Listening to the EP, it feels more of a live recording than a studio recording.


The EP contains four gripping trad-rock tracks and finishes with a fine balled 'For You'. My favourite track is 'Hotel Bar' with it's interesting lyrics and musicianship; especially the violin which elevates the track above the ordinary. The opening track 'Tend The Dark Flames' with it's fabulous backing vocals bringing depth and charm to Brian's gravel-like vocals.



 Unfortunately the vocals are a possible let down for some people. I really enjoy the contrast between the enriched Irish folk and the grunge vocals but it might not suit all ears.

Entheos - Where Creatures Meet [8 out of 12]

http://www.facebook.com/entheosIRL

The EP launch is in the Workman's Club next Sunday with support from The Radioactive Grandma.



Check out 'Wild & Enchanted' off the EP at the King Kong Club

Album Review: The Lost Brothers - The Passing of the Night

This is the second album review for 'The Lost Brothers' I've written on the blog in the space of 10 months and it's more of the same lovely charming tales which ignites nostalgia and warmth throughout. 


After extensively touring Ireland and the UK this year as well as touching base in the US as special guests of Glen Hansard on his current tour it should be the case that The Lost Brothers style of charming vocal harmonies and old time melodies are well known to you. 'The Passing of the Night' follows swiftly from their 2011 album 'So Long, John Fante' where the band keep to the same format and style. I would recommend you check out 'So Long, John Fante' before moving to 'The Passing of the Night' as it contains more songs that stand-out.

On 'The Passing of the Night' the charm offensive is up to the max. 'Tumbling Line' is my favourite track on the album with it's jazzy piano and whistling melody. The album begins in fine style with 'Not Now Warden' which is a prison song of loss. The folkier side of 'The Lost Brothers' come to the fore on the song 'Widowmaker' while the single 'Now That The Night Has Come' is a great song with a wonderful lead acoustic solo over rhythm guitar.



My big problem with 'The Passing of the Night' is that I'm not sure if I like the album for it's musical and lyrical attributes of because the sound is full of old time nostalgia. If nostalgia is something you long for then 'The Lost Brothers' is the perfect band. If the tracks on 'The Passing of the Night' were more meaningful then I'd be shouting it's praises from the blog. As it stands, if you want to pass the night I'd suggest you go to 'So Long, John Fante' instead.

The Lost Brothers - The Passing of the Night [9 out of 12]

Oh and 'The Passing of the Night' was produced by Brendan Benson!



http://thelostbrothersband.com/


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

EP Review: Wicker Bones - Concatenation

'Concatenation' is the intense second EP from a serious Trad/Rock band 'Wicker Bones'. The band have stated: "It represents our strongest expression of the musical material closest to our heart and also aims to broaden the scope of what a traditional band, where three out of five members cannot read music, can do."



There's lots to admire in the band Wicker Bones. Firstly they want you to listen to their music and have their two EPs for free to download from http://wickerbones.com/ . Secondly they have excellent liner notes on that page explaining their decisions and inspirations for the EP. Finally they've produced a concept EP of three short instrumental arrangements followed by epic songs containing the intense vocals of lead singer Brian Dunphy. Listen to this 'Love Song' for an example of intense vocals towards the middle part of this excellent love song.



The most remarkable aspect of Concatenation is the new arrangement of the much loved 'Rocky Road to Dublin' which as explained by the band; "attempts to breathe new life into a very well known tune. The first verse is treated as a recitative over a pedal bass note which is suddenly cut off when the second verse kicks in." The Ep finishes with an old Traditional American Folk Balled 'Red Iron Ore' which expands the range of the band with fine vocal harmonies. 


Wicker Bones has something very special indeed and I hope they'll be able to carve out a fine career with music and vocals as rich as this. 

Wicker Bones - Concatenation [11 out of 12]



Saturday, 15 September 2012

Album Review[s] - Peter Doran - Overhead The Stars [and Robert Delaney - Rising Tide]

Two albums hit me recently from two Irish singer-songwriters and there's enough similarities as well as contrasting attributes to make this an interesting first attempt at a parallel 'Album Review'.


Peter Doran - Overhead The Stars

On his third album, 'Overhead The Stars' Peter Doran has an apatite for real success from this collection of songs. Out goes the subtle accompaniment of the Cello and in comes a full band, edgy soundtrack to his very personal collection of songs. The big question is simply does the full band sound work for Peter?

 For me the best songs are the ones where Peter's vocals are front and centre. In particular the love song 'Little Room' is a beautifully written delicate tune. Listen here:


The album kicks off with an epic sounding 'Perfumed Letter' which is arguably the best song on the album. Other impressive tunes include the jazzy 'Thread' about missing friends and loved ones far away, the eighties contemporary rock sounding closer 'Falling Tree's as well as this fine track 'Knife Thrower's Eyes':


The problem with the third album from an artist is that the album is comparable to the two earlier pieces of work from the artist as well as to everything else. I much preferred 2010's 'Sleepless Street' because there were better songs on it that showcased Peter's fine vocals and poignant lyrics. These attributes get lost among the full band sound on the album. In comparison to the rest of the healthy Irish music scene; 'Overhead the Stars' is a solid album which relating to an old proverb "hits the treetops", not the stars. 

Peter Doran - Overhead The Stars [8 out of 12]

For a limited time the album is available on a 'Name your price' deal through bandcamp. 




-----------------------------------------

Robert Delaney - Rising Tide

'Rising Tide' is the debut album from Dubliner Robert Delaney who appeared from nowhere with a debut album. The album's a foot stomping bluesy rock album which hits the right spots on a number of tracks. Robert's vocals remind me of the vocal style of 'Roesy' and 'Mark Geary' which means that his vocals are instantly like-able. 

The first quality song on the album is the catchy radio-friendly 'New Wave'. 


Other quality songs include the moody title track, the delightful love song 'If I Had You' and the wonderful album closer 'Home'. 


In the main 'Rising Tide' has too many tracks which are skip-able [Between the Canals] or contain lyrics which are a tad cringing [When Beauty Hit The Street]. This is a real shame because of the quality of the songs mentioned above and the fact that Robert has superb vocals. 

Robert Delaney - Rising Tide [7 out of 12]



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Mullingar's Peter Doran is as persistent as they come with his career mirroring that of David Gray. Peter's first two albums contained many good songs but like David Gray didn't make a big impact commercially. Then David Gray adds an edge to his sound with third album 'Sell Sell Sell' which while it had some great songs didn't make the impact he was looking for. Sadly I don't see Peter progressing too far with 'Overhead The Stars' but i do feel that there's a 'White Ladder' in him in the not too distant future. 

I can't believe how similar Robert Delaney's album is to Peter's. In a crowded scene where people struggle to find money to spend on music an album has to be packed full of great songs with more than a hint of originality to them. I wish Robert & Peter all the best with their albums but it'll be a tough task getting people to part with their cash for either album. 


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Mix: The Spirit of Folk 2012

I'm really looking forward to this year's Spirit of Folk. Last year's curtain raiser was special and I've no doubt that the second year will be even better.


Here's the line-up and a mix of bands playing the festival:



John Spilane
Lisa O'Neill,
The Henry Girls
The Cujo Family

The Hot Sprockets



Aoife Scott
Tir Na Nog
Treetop Flyers

The Young Folk



Tucan
The Bonny Men
Bunoscionn

The Man Whom



Traz
The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock

Miriam Donohue



Wookilily
Little Xs for Eyes

Hidden Highways





Gypsy Rebel Rabble
TAC

The Alpaca Jamboree



Joy Booth
The Eskies

Cry Monster Cry




JP Trio & Niamh
Pete Cummins
Jig Away The Donkey

Gordon Reeves



Lynched
Coscan
Corner Boy

Wicker Bones



Ross Breen
Valentine Black
Michael O'Neill

Polly Barrett




Mark Maxwell
No Bread
Easy Buoy
Wyvern Lingo

John Blek & The Rats


The Greasy Coat String Band
David Hope
Twin Headed Wolf

Mossy Nolan





Monday, 10 September 2012

Album Review: Heritage Centre - Alright, Check It Out

'Alright, Check It Out' is the long awaited debut album from alternative pop band Heritage Centre. I had high hopes for this album and it doesn't disappoint. Potential album of 2012 here!


I've always given Heritage Centre huge praise on the blog over the years and I'm so delighted at being able to finally review their debut album. 'Alright, Check It Out' is a superb set of indie anthems that works on so many levels. The songs are meaningful with biting reflective lyrics and the choruses are catchy while at it's heart has a fuzzy guitar driven sound.

Every track on the album is quality with my favourite track changing on every listen. Recent single 'Oldest Friend', 'You Are Something' and 'All in the Way' stand out for me on this listen but frankly I can skip to any track and I'm going to hit a quality track like this one;



The key aspect of the album for me is the meaningful lyrics throughout such as the positive opening track 'Don't You Give Up on Yourself' to the delicious love story of 'Satellites'. Check out the video for current single 'The Pros and Cons of Cowardice'.



Comparisons can be made to bands like Weezer and Pavement and they are fully justified on evidence from 'Alright, Check it Out'. Heritage Centre are a band who have got an international sound to rival no one else in Ireland at the moment. 

Heritage Centre - Alright, Check It Out [12 out of 12]

Buy The Album: http://heritagecentre.bandcamp.com/

Album launch is in The Grand Social on September 22nd with the excellent 'Master & Dog' in support.


Sunday, 9 September 2012

Album Review: Alan Marshall - Suliven Heights

After many years in the Irish Music circuit, Scotsman Alan Marshall finally released his debut album this year entitled 'Suliven Heights' and it's well worth the listen.


Alan's been part of the Irish music scene for many years leading a double life where he plays to thousands as frontman to an adoring covers band while busily making good original music. 'Suliven Heights' is a decent album which flirts with many genres but swaggers along with pride in a very distinct original way. The lyrics are flirty and fun at times yet there are songs of real depth lyrically.

The best songs on the album are them fun funky tunes that includes the opener 'Good-time Girl', 'High Five' and this biting track 'The Comedian'.




The anti-war track 'Winter Sun' is so well written while 'More Fool You' is a straight up singer-songwriter tune of real heart and reminds me of the solo material from Chris Cornell. 'More Fool You' is for me the best track on 'Suliven Heights'.



'Suliven Heights' is an honest album of decent tunes which I'm delighted has finally been released as an album.

Alan Marshall - Suliven Heights [8 out of 12]

Facebook

Buy The Album: http://alanmarshall.bandcamp.com/album/suilven-heights

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Album Review: Joey Ryan - Morning Will Come Soon

'Morning Will Come Soon' is the new album from Joey Ryan. It's an album of mature contemporary songs that has it's fair share of fine moments. 


Recorded by Gavin Ralston, 'Morning Will Come Soon' will be released on September 14th and supported by a full Irish tour this Autumn. Joey Ryan is well known and respected on the singer-songwriter intimate venue circuit and this album showcases his ability to writer smart, clever, acoustic rock songs.

The songs to impress me most are the Americana sounding tracks with fantastic backing vocals from Clodagh Kearney. 'Sleep Tonight' has a Swell Season style sound to it while the delicate 'Under The Moon' is enhanced greatly by the introduction of Clodagh's vocals towards the end of the track. The love song 'Be Near' is my favourite track on the album for it's delicate and understated charm. 

The album has an edge to it too on tracks like the Bluesy free single 'Nothing To Show', the Mick Flannery sounding 'This Time I'm Leaving Town' and the catchy rock song 'Where Are You'.


What the album lacks in real originality it adequately makes up for in well written songs, outstanding musicianship and fantastic vocals. 'Morning Will Come Soon' is a decent hard working album that'll appeal to fans of bands like The Saw Doctors or artists such as John Spillane. 

Joey Ryan - 'Morning Will Come Soon' [9 out of 12]

Get a free download of the track 'Nothing To Show' here:








EP Review: The Thomas Donoghue Band - In The Meantime

Excellent debut EP from Kilkenny band 'The Thomas Donoghue Band'. They managed to effectively make music that's relevant, edgy, meaningful while still being radio friendly.


'In The Meantime' is a fantastic debut EP from a band that's compared to The Dave Matthews Band and the John Butler trio. The songs are well written mature pop rock tunes. The title track is atmospheric and edgy while 'Solice' was rightly chosen as the main track with this excellent video made for it.



The third track called 'The Sea' is for me most impressive. It peaks and troughs it's way through six minutes and it highlights the superb vocals of Thomas Donoghue. I'm looking forward to see how this band progesses over the years.

The Thomas Donoghue Band - In The Meantime [11 out of 12]

http://www.facebook.com/TheThomasDonoghueBand

See The Thomas Donoghue Band next weekend at the John Martyn Tribute Festival. 


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Album Review: Reverend JM's Panic Worship - Cast Iron Dentures

Murder Ballads come alive on this dark, atmospheric, black comedy album which for the last two days has suited my post Electric Picnic mood from Reverend JM's Panic Worship. 



For artists like Nick Cave or Tom Waits I personally have to be in a place where I'll be able to take the brutality of the song themes and musicianship. I definitely think that's the case with 'Cast Iron Dentures', the second album from the Dublin based three piece  'Reverend JM's Panic Worship'. Fronted by New Yorker JM Burr the band make the most of everyday instruments like spoons, pots and woks to create a unique sound to compliment the murder ballads and dark love songs on the album.

There's some fine humour on the album. The amazing 'secret' track at the end is a charming ghost tale with a difference. 'Split My Heart' is a bone chilling letter of heartache which is full of dark humour while it's hard not to like this 'Devil Lullabye'.



There are some very well written songs on this album. 'Jail Cell' is a very heartwarming prison song of loss and loneliness while 'Wrongs to Right' is a  standard charming folk song as is 'Cold Tonight'. These moments of real quality stand out from the intertwined middle eastern Gothic tales made with instruments as diverse as banjo ukelele, tin cans, washbords, oven dishes, etc.



I've really enjoyed listening to 'Cast Iron Dentures'. It has charm, humour, dark atmospheric overtones and some great tunes as well.

Reverend JM's Panic Worship - Cast Iron Dentures [10 out of 12]

http://www.reverendjm.com/home.html

The album launch is this Friday with a FREE gig in The Grand Social.


Monday, 3 September 2012

Electric Picnic: Reviews, Lists & Mix

There's much love in the air after that Electric Picnic weekend. And deservedly so. It's the best festival we have and justifies people describing EP as the 'Glastonbury' of Ireland. I learned lots from the weekend. I found new musical loves while I confirmed opinions about others. I think I developed a sense of musical ADHD due to running from band to band in the quest of finding the music to fall in love to. Here's a review with lists to break up the text and songs from the acts which impressed me most.

Friday

I spent the early Friday evening seeing the excellent young Irish bands Ana Gog in the Body & Soul area, and bands Huey & the Hobgoblins and Shannon & the Shortcuts on the impressive Salty Dog stage. Each band proving their worth to me again with solid sets. There's good albums in all three bands with Ana Gog just a month away from releasing their debut album.

Late Friday found me going from the Mark Lanagan Band to Sigur Rós to Ed Sheeran to Christy Moore to one of the most entertaining characters in Ireland on the Salty Dog Stage; Jerry Fish. The highlight was this aptly named song to play on an old pirate ship:






Top 5 acts on Friday:

1. Sigur Rós
2. Jerry Fish
3. Mark Lanagan Band
4. Ana Gog
5. Shannon & The Shortcuts






--------------------------------------------------------------

Saturday - Early Afternoon

Saturday began in fine style with one of the bands of the weekend. Maud in Cahoots on the main stage of Body & Soul were fantastic. The performance highlighted the quality of songs like this highlight from the short set called 'Make Me Right'.



I really like the alternative sounds of A Plastic Rose. Their dual harmonies give a contrasting element to the tracks. Some of the songs from their set sounded too similar for me and may hinder their ability to raise their appeal. Moscow Metro were very poor on the Cosby Stage where I struggled to find any redeeming attributes. I left the few dozen spectators to check out Heathers who drew a massive early audience. Out went the quirky charm of early Heathers songs and in came confusing full band set-up which came across to me as bland at best. Confusion continued on the Body & Soul main stage with the hard to get sounds of Ocho. The Portishead rip off didn't make any sense to me what so ever. I needed to find good music quickly  and then I found the band of the weekend for me in the Electric Arena. Dry The River were just awesome. The choir boy vocals and the folk rock sounds are a match made in heaven.



There's only about 3 or 4 bands over the whole weekend that I got to see whole sets from. One of those was Roisin O on the Bamboo Stage in the Body & Soul area. The band performed a superb set to a decent crowd on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The quality of the performance could be judged by seeing all the people who were stopped in their tracks as they sauntered past the stage.



---------------------------------

Top 5 WTF Moments!

1. Scheduling of bands with no following in prominent places.

I understand how an international act be parachuted into prominent places to satisfy business dealings with big labels but to place Michael Kimanuka on the main stage on Sunday was a mistake while even The Ticket made a snide remark about the amount of ears by the main stage on Friday to listen to Gavin Friday. There were many instances where critically acclaimed artists played to Whelans sized audiences in massive tents which didn't make sense. Also what were Turn doing on the bill? The Cosby Stage was full for Ham Sandwich and then empty for Turn after them. The same with Of Monster & Men whose tent was so full they had at least a few hundred people outside the tent looking in before The Fat Lady Sings played to a fraction of the crowd after them. [Aside: The Fat Lady Sings were brilliant with Drunkard Logic being a firm favourite of mine from the whole weekend.]

2. Bands performing on multiple stages.

I'm not talking here about bands playing cafes, small tents and shacks but bands like The Strypes or Ham Sandwich who got to play multiple stages is an insult to all them bands desperate for a chance to play EP. It's not the fault of these bands in this case but it doesn't seem right that bands can have multiple prominent slots on various days.

3. The no cans in the main arena thing.

How ridiculous would it be if EP did a deal with two leading fast food chains and told the public it can only have that food for the weekend? How is it acceptable to do this with beer? The one way the recession effected EP has to have been with beer sales as it looked like there was little business for them.

4. Body & Soul

Apart from a couple of well constructed stage areas I thought the whole area was a confusing mess. In particular the sound invasion from the loud dance music at the top of the hill during Seamus Fogarty's set was an insult to the artist.

5. 'The Ticket' Magazine Freebies

Useful as they were to me why was there boxes of 'The Ticket' left all over the campsites unread by the EP punters on Saturday & Sunday? How relevant is The Ticket these days? Just asking!

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Saturday Late Afternoon & Evening

I loved the folk sounds of Bellowhead who looked a little lost on the main stage. More on them later. A Cast of Cheers were very polished but they don't make music that impresses me much. On the other hand Delorentos looked and sounded like real festival stars in their mid afternoon slot to a near full tent. 'Bullet in a Gun' was a real highlight.



Youth Mass on the Bamboo Stage were amazing and deserved a better setting for their indie anthems. Ham Sandwich filled The Cosby Stage and were on top form. I was critical of their Vantastival performance but this EP performance was stylish and tight. One of the moments of the festival was Podge asking the crowd to hug nearby strangers. To his surprise everyone did this. David Kitt performing 'The Big Romance' was also a special moment for me. David and his band looked like they were having a ball onstage and the sound was perfect.




The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock were their usual great self on the main stage of Body & Soul before I take a well earned break from music until it was time to be amazing by Hat Fitz & Cara on the Salty Dog stage. Hat is a modern day Crocodile Dundee while the beautiful multi-instrumentalist Cara plays everything from drums, tin whistle and wash board to compliment Hat's vocals. Amazing talent.


A few minutes of the impressive Villagers followed by The Cure isn't a bad way to spend a Saturday night. Like many people I thought three hours of Mr. Smith is too much so I caught a few minutes of The Roots as well as some of Bell X1's set before seeing another amazing band on the Salty Dog stage. Mentioned earlier I seen Bellowhead out of place on the Main Stage while the Salty Dog was the perfect place for sea shantys. The eleven piece band were remarkably entertaining with a highlight being the guy playing a saxophone and a clarinet at the same time. 


Roisin O




Top 5 bands on Saturday

1. Dry The River
2. Bellowhead
3. The Cure
4. Delorentos
5. Roisin O








-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Top 5 International Acts at Electric Picnic

1. Dry The River
2. Jonathan Wilson
3. Bellowhead
4. The Cure
5. Sigur Ros

--------------------------------------------------------------------------


Sunday

Sunday's early acts were in the main very disappointing. Land Lovers were pretty good to be fair but lacked any atmosphere in a massive tent playing to a hundred or so people. Cloud Castle Lake was another band I failed to see many positives in. The Riptide Movement's popularity beggars belief. When I seen Squarehead two years ago they were an edgy indie band in the style of Bleach-era Nirvana. Yesterday they sounded very polished, unoriginal and dull in comparison to their former self. Katie Kim was wonderful during the first song I heard but then after having the crowd in the palms of her hand brings them to the depths of despair with a dire song. There's a real Kristen Hersh like charm about Katie on some songs which I like but the package on a whole is just too damn depressing. To escape mediocre bands I head to the Comedy tent for a laugh or two. When I finally dragged myself back to the music tents it was another International Act which made my day. Jonathan Wilson performed to only a few hundred people but his performance was flawless. The dreamy seventies revival folk sounds of Jonathan Wilson and his incredibly talented band was a real highlight of the festival.


I caught a few tunes from Iceland's chart topping 'Of Monsters & Men' who were pretty good. I am amazed at their popularity as there are better bands out there in their genre. Seamus Fogarty was brilliant as usual with his fine bunch of quirky folk songs on the Body & Soul main stage. The last band I seen before hitting the road was the return of The Fat Lady Sings to an audience on the Crawdaddy Stage. Singer Nick Kelly was humbled and emotional at the reaction of the crowd to the performance of hits. Drunkard Logik and Arclight proved to me that they belonged to a festival arena. 

Top 5 Acts on Sunday

1. Jonathan Wilson
2. The Fat Lady Sings
3. Seamus Fogarty
4. Land Lovers
5. Of Monster & Men



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Top 5 Irish Acts

1. Jerry Fish
2. Roisin O
3. The Fat Lady Sings
4. Delorentos
5. David Kitt

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I began by saying as a music fan I loved every minute of Electric Picnic and while I've been at times negative above I still loved the festival. I found some great bands among the line-up while the quality of Irish acts on the main stages/tents was in the main generally poor and contrasted greatly with some of the fine young international acts on the line-up. Bring on next year!