Music, Opinions

New Irish artists for your Spotify playlist

Taking a departure from my “This Week In New Music” blog post this week. One, because I haven’t really been enjoying any new releases this week (ouch..) and two, because I’ve got some new Irish artists popping up on my monthly playlists recently and I thought it would be nice to share their names.

First up is Tim Chadwick. I only discovered Tim last week and since then I’ve had his Early Days EP playing on a loop. Never Wanted You is a smashing tune with a great music video to go along with it while Belong was the beautiful tune behind that heartbreaking/heartwarming Aer Lingus ad last Christmas. I can’t wait to hear more from this lad!

 

Next up is Catherine McGrath. This Northern Irish girl has got me seriously nostalgic for early Taylor Swift. It’s that easy-going, sweet pop-country that made everyone fall in love with curly-haired sixteen year old Swift, and while there’s plenty of it out there, it’s a bit more unusual to find it on this side of the pond. Cinderella is my personal favourite from the two EP’s.

 

Proving that the town really is a gem for music, Sion Hill is another Mullingar man to keep an eye on. He’s been signed by a German label and is releasing his debut album at the end of this month – I am expecting it to make an appearance on “This Week In New Music” that week! He’s also got great style and is very easy on the eyes, what’s not to love?

 

Finally, Ailbhe Reddy. I’ve been singing “I am just fucking paralyzed” (Fingertips) all day. Distrust is a dark indie track while Relent is poignant and powerful. I’ve no doubt the Dublin singer-songwriter has much, much more to show us.

 

Let me know if you liked this post and would like to see more recommendations of home-grown talent in the future!

Check out my Spotify playlist for August here

Standard
Music, Opinions

This Week In New Music: Declan McKenna, Foster The People & Nothing But Thieves

What Do You Think About The Car? – Declan McKenna (Album)

71iNqPforHL._SL1400_

Two weeks ago Declan McKenna featured on my “This Week In New Music” feature with his single Humongous, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting his debut album ever since. Luckily, I only had two weeks to wait, and it didn’t disappoint! McKenna has everything you could look for in a new artist, he’s a young artist at the start of his career with interesting lyrics and brilliant hooks. Politically charged songs like Brazil, Isombard & The Kids Don’t Want To Come Home are examples of how McKenna is much more than his catchy choruses and eye make-up, there’s grit beneath the glitter. If you’re lucky enough to have tickets to Electric Picnic make sure he’s on your timetable for the weekend.

Sacred Heart Club – Foster The People (Album)

300

Aside from ‘Pumped Up Kicks,’ a lot of people won’t be familiar with the music of Foster The People. This is a real shame because Pumped Up Kicks is a watered down version of the trio. On the debut album in which the massive single featured, it was accompanied by infectious tracks like Don’t Stop (Colour On The Walls) & Houdini. On their sophomore album Supermodel the energy was kicked up another notch with Are You What You Want To Be, Coming Of Age & Best Friend. With their third release Sacred Heart Clubs, the energy is still there but it’s definitely more muted.  They’ve swapped screaming summer indie-pop bangers for a more cool & collected, groovy vibe… I guess. There’s plenty of songs I love on SHC (Sit Next To Me, SHC, I Love My Friends, Lotus Eater) but it’s sad to see the band leave behind their roots because they were so good at what they were doing, while being just distinct enough from their peers to be special. Unfortunately, there’s nothing particularly special about this record, hopefully they return to what they do best on their next.

Sorry – Nothing But Thieves (Single)

916aozMzLoL._SL1500_

After two years, the British band Nothing But Thieves have returned with “Sorry,” the first single from sophomore album Broken Machine. The bridge has a distinctive The Killers sound (the synth instrumental is a bit too much Smile Like You Mean It if we’re honest here) and is followed by the repetition of “I’ve waited for this, I am ready for it” which pretty much sums up how I am feeling about their forthcoming album.

Standard
Music, Opinions

This Week in New Music: Lucy Rose, Jade Bird & Declan McKenna

Something’s Changing – Lucy Rose (Album)

916aozMzLoL._SL1500_

I’ve done a full review of this album which you can read here. It’s a simply beautiful record which reflects her growth as both a person and a musician in the last few years, much of which she credits to her independently organised tour in Latin America last year. Left with no manager, no booking agent and no label, Lucy Rose took the reins for Something’s Changing and created her best work to date.

Something American – Jade Bird (EP)

71iNqPforHL._SL1400_

This is the one of the best finds I’ve come across this week. Jade Bird is a young lady with a powerful voice and a brilliant collection of songs to go with it on her first ep “Something American.” ‘Cathedral’ is a smasher. I can’t wait to see where this girl is going.

Humongous – Declan McKenna (Single)

300

Another new find for me this week was Declan McKenna, and wow am I glad I did.  This track has a marvelous hook and the kind of chorus you could yell out at a gig or a festival. After one listen to Humongous I hastily listened to the rest of the tracks on his Spotify, which are all fantastic too. Once I got passed how great his voice & the sound was, I started listening to the lyrics.. the content of the lyrics are something particularly unusual from a 18-year-old singer-songwriter. He’s written about the likes of FIFA scandals, the issue with religion and youth involvement in politics. I haven’t been this excited about an artist in a long time, I’ll be counting down the days till his debut album “What Do You Think About the Car?” is released on July 21st!

Standard
Music

Album Review: Something’s Changing by Lucy Rose


Last year, British singer-songwriter Lucy Rose embarked on the trip of a lifetime. In the space of two months she played 33 gigs in eight countries. The challenge set in this case was that the dates were in Latin America, a place where you would be hard pressed to find her music in shops and where her promoters did not believe she could fill a venue. In a move that was deemed crazy by both her label and loved ones, Rose promised her Latin American fans she would bring her music to them if they could book her venues and find her places to stay. This led to a tour independently organised by and for the 28-year-old’s fans who transported, fed and housed her throughout. Along with the release of her third studio album,  Rose has released a 20-minute film that documents the trip which provides a touching embellishment and context to the release.

Something’s Changing opens a with a fitting invitation from Rose for us to join her on her personal journey embroiled with “all the good, the bad, the happy, the sad.” This journey begins with ‘No Good At All,’ one of only two tracks written before the Warwickshire native set off on her transatlantic trip. It gives us an insight into Rose’s lack of confidence in her musical capabilities before the Latin American tour, the influence of which permeates the album. The insecurity is noted on the piano-based track which sees her trademark airy vocal floating above the hum of gentle orchestral instrumentation (“I’m not the oil painting you once bought” “I’m nothing like the vision you once formed” “A flower of fallen seed”). This lack of confidence in her own music changed over the course of her trip as the songwriter met fans who shared stories of how her music has touched them personally and for whom music was more than just “background music when you’re cooking”. As the album progresses, we start to hear the chains of insecurity fall away.

In a livestream earlier this week the singer talked about a particularly touching moment on the trip when she was messing about on an old Spanish guitar which belonged to one of the fans she was staying with. “I thought it was just nonsense that I was playing,” Rose explained, but it had touched the fan she was staying with who asked her to promise to finish it. This resulted in ‘Love Song,’ a slow, lilting track that, despite being one of the album’s least exciting moments, flourishes in its final 40 seconds when the melody transitions to something assertive, up-beat and catchy. There’s something altogether more heart-warming in the knowledge that this song exists almost solely because one person believed in it.  It is in moments like these that we get a first hand example of Rose’s renewed confidence in her own music.  She now believes a song is worth it even if it only means something to one person – it’s hard to find fault with a mantra like that. Rose seems to now understand that a song need not make everyone happy, and in that knowledge there is liberation.

Elsewhere there’s a number of impressive collaborations including Elena Tonra of Daughter (‘Soak It Up’) and alt-folk trio The Staves (‘Is This Called Home’, ‘Floral Dresses’). The Stavely-Taylor sister’s vocals blend beautifully with Rose’s, adding an extra dimension to both tracks. ‘Is This Called Home,’ is an affecting cut confronting the global refugee crisis that is lifted by their contribution, reaching its emotional peak when they come in to harmonise on the closing refrain – “Let me hold your hand.” Lead single ‘Floral Dresses,’ is a raw, Joni Mitchell nodding folk tune that sees Rose rejecting absurd gender expectations, (“I don’t wanna wear your floral dresses / And my lips won’t be coloured”). A stunning flurry of swirling harmonies, it is accompanied simply by an acoustic guitar and stands as the album’s true high- point.

Much of the best material has been used to promote the album, save for the third track ‘Strangest of Ways’. The song was originally written for a film about “a girl who’s allergic to everything,” but after becoming so attached to it Rose decided to keep it for her own album instead – and it’s not hard to see why. It’s the only track that is reminiscent of the likes of ‘Our Eyes’ and ‘Like An Arrow’ from Work It Out. ‘Find Myself’, one of the tracks most heavily inspired by the people she met in Latin America (“Cause I find myself, I find myself in new company / Now I find myself, I find myself within your dreams”), meanwhile, has a great hook and some sweet harmonies but falls slightly short of being quite the chart ready number it seems to strive to be.

The lack of sweet indie-pop “hit” doesn’t hinder the album however. If anything, it’s another example of how Rose has evolved and matured into a more self-assured person and artist. The lyrical maturity is evident throughout the rlease with a number of subjects broached for our inability to recognise the beauty in ourselves on ‘Second Chance’ to fate and destiny on ‘Moirai.’ Following the theme of growing confidence, Rose challenges the greek god Moirai and asserts: “I won’t settle for the theory you’re not made for me / This fate and fortune misery / Let’s go against the grain / Let them think we’re both insane / Rewrite our own history.”

Lucy Rose has come a long way from the days of simply providing backing vocals for Bombay Bicycle Club, and her second album’s uncomfortably forced drive to be a scrapbook of chart-worthy indie-pop only served as a disservice to the singer. Left with no manager, no booking agent and no label, Lucy Rose took the reins for Something’s Changing and in the process found a profound resilience and honest determination, the sound of which is ready and waiting now to be heard and embraced.

3.5/5 stars

Published on The Thin Air

Standard
Music, Opinions

This Week In New Music: A Blaze of Feather, Calvin Harris & Bedouine

Here’s my pick of the albums you need to hear that dropped last Friday, plus one that dropped the week before. Between going down hard with the flu  & starting a new job, I didn’t get to do a list for last week, forgive me!

A Blaze of Feather – A Blaze of Feather

71iNqPforHL._SL1400_

Alternative 

For anyone pining Ben Howard’s absence from the music scene as of late, I’ve got good news! A Blaze of Feather are a new band led by Micky Smith made up of six musicians who’ve toured with Ben Howard, including the man himself. Their debut is a swirling soundscape of synths and soothing harmonies, an hour of medicine for the soul. If it means a longer wait for solo work from Howard, it’s worth it. It’s one of the best albums of the year.

 

Bedouine – Bedouine

bedouine

Singer/Songwriter

This was actually released over a week ago, but I had to include it today seeing as I missed last weeks blog. Bedouine is the debut from Aleppo-born singer-songwriter Azniv Korkejian. It’s a nostalgic offering of Americana, folk and soul, perfect for a summer drive. Reminiscent of Norah Jones, Joni Mitchell & Laura Marling, a beautiful record that’s well worth a spin.

 

Funk Wav Bounces Vol 1 – Calvin Harris

71iNqPforHL._SL1400_

Dance/Electronic

How many calls did Harris have to make to create this album? Practically every song features massive stars in their own right. However, despite the big names gracing the album, I can’t distinguish many “radio-hits” on the record. It’s a nice listen but it’s a deviation from the Scottish DJs usual style, less club anthem more summer chill.

Standard
Music

Album Review: “hopeless fountain kingdom” by Halsey

“hopeless fountain kingdom,” the sophomore album from Halsey, opens with the American songstress reciting the prologue of Romeo and Juliet before she dives into her own modern-day story of star-crossed lovers. This begins with 100 Letters, a track in which she shakes off a past lover, assuring us “I don’t let him touch me anymore.” It’s a decent opener that feels familiar, but follow-up track Eyes Closed deviates from the usual. The melody for this song was crafted by The Weeknd and though he doesn’t sing a word on the track, his presence can be felt throughout. Devil In Me, written by Sia, is another moment on the album where Halsey feels more like an impersonator than her own thing, but these are only two moments on the record and for the most part, the Halsey we fell in love with on Badlands is very much present.

That Halsey was the epitome of the modern day, social media “cool girl.” Most young female artists are trying to speak to and for a specific group, but Halsey may be the most genuine. First gaining a following through the internet, Tumblr specifically, Halsey embodies so much of this new generation of young women who are desperately trying to have their voices heard. The 22-year-old is opinionated online and very vocal about social issues such as destigmatizing mental health and politics (she was an outspoken Bernie Sanders supporter). She isn’t afraid to talk about her mental illness (bipolar) or her sexuality (bisexual) and will call out her own fans on Twitter if she has a problem with what they’re saying. She’s brave and brash and beautiful, and all about female sexual empowerment.

Heaven In Hiding is a great example of this and one of the stand-out tracks of the record (it’s also Halsey’s favourite track). The music scene at the moment is, perhaps, over saturated with overtly sexual songs delivered by females in scantily clad attire, and everyone has their own opinion on whether these female artists are truly empowered or being exploited by those higher up in the industry. When it comes to Halsey and a track like Heaven In Hiding, I don’t think anyone can question that Halsey is empowering herself rather than having her sexuality exploited. This track has the songstress flipping “the script” in a sexual encounter, with Halsey confidently taking the lead (“And you thought that you were the boss tonight / but I can put up one good fight”) as she teases the subject. Later, on the current single Strangers, Halsey collaborates with Lauren Jauregui of Fifth Harmony to sing about the relationship between two women. We’re well used to hearing women sing about getting with other women, but it’s usually experimental and purely sexual (female pop singers out there I am looking at you, you know who you are!). It’s refreshing to hear two openly bisexual women sing about a female/female relationship with real depth, and on a track that is destined to be a hit.

The other collaborations on the album include one with Quavo (Lie) and another with Cashmere Cat (Hopeless). Listening to Lie for the first few times, I thought it was trying too hard to be an anthem and missing the mark. After watching Halsey perform it live however, I think this track does have the potential to be grand and atmospheric. For me, the addition of Quavo on the studio track is a hindrance rather than a help and the song has a far bigger impact with Halsey alone. Indeed, most of the strongest tracks on the album are those that allow Halsey to be Halsey, and are free from heavy outside interference. Whether it was pressure from the label to include some big names or the singers own self-doubt, the singer is at her best when the track has that classic, signature Halsey sound.

One of the most common themes on the record is, interestingly, the singers self-doubt, especially when it comes to relationships. This is most poignant on Sorry, the only ballad on the album and one of the records strongest offerings. The mellow moment has Halsey apologising to her “unknown lover.” It’s the most vulnerable moment on the album with emotional lyrics like, “Sorry that I can’t believe, that anybody ever really starts to fall in love with me.” The song really shows off her stunning vocals with the only accompaniment being sparse piano chords.

On Bad Love she self-asses herself to be, well, ‘bad at love.’ But as outsiders, the string of lovers she mentions seem like they could well be the problem rather than Halsey herself. It’s also another moment on the record where we see Halsey’s staunch feminism causing issues for her in relationships. One male ex-lover is “calling [her] a bitch again” due to her honesty / outspokenness while another is bothered by her quest to pursue music, instead wanting her “in the kitchen with a dinner plate.” She delivers the lines in such a way that you get the feeling she’s rolling her eyes rather than genuinely bothered by what these guys thought of her, and you just know that her fans are rolling their eyes right along with her.

Alone explores the 22-year-old’s sense of isolation amidst this new found fame. She feels “alone in [her] mind” despite the millions of people coming to see her. In the chorus she seems to address her fans singing, “I know you’re dying to meet me, but I can just tell you this / Baby, as soon as you meet me, you’ll wish that you never did.” However, this is contrasted on Don’t Play where she radiates confidence and empowerment. “Can’t fuck with my vibes, double cuppin’ in my ride, motherfucker don’t play with me” she sings over an infectious beat as she sings about making her own money, “drinks on me.” And this is really what makes a Halsey album so great – the contrast, the colours, the complicated nature of it all. Yes, Halsey is a badass feminist icon, but she also has moments of doubt, depression and despair, and that’s what makes her truly empowering. Because the real “cool girl” has vulnerabilities and insecurities too, and by Halsey revealing hers to us it allows us to embrace our own and realize that we can feel confident and empowered in spite of them. Overall, “hopeless fountain kingdom” is a good, well-rounded album and should succeed in pleasing old fans as well as drawing in some new ones.

Standard
Music

Album Review: Not to Disappear by Daughter

{Not To Disappear is number one on my favourite albums of 2016}

Started at the bottom now we’re here… my favourite album of the year; Not to Disappear by Daughter. Elena Tonra & co’s follow up to their stunning debut If You Leave was my most-anticipated album for 2016 and they didn’t disappoint.

This album is dipping your toes in to someone’s darkest, bleakest moments. Infamous for her gloomy, at times nihilistic lyrics, the album explores self- loathing, loneliness, love and loss. It’s mellow and melancholy, and at times so grim it’s hard not to be consumed by it, but there’s also something so inviting, so compelling about Tonra’s gentle vocals, as though she is enticing you into a darker world. The accompaniment of Igor Haefeli on guitar and Remi Aguilella on drums combines to create something truly special and gloriously atmospheric.

The opener, New Ways, is a perfect example of this. It starts off wonderfully calm, with delicate, dreamy vocals from Tonra with a beautiful build up as she sings, “I’ve been trying to stay out / But there’s something in you / I can’t be without / I just need it here” before there’s a wonderful cathartic kind of sonical release. The theme of numbness, or even depersonalisation, that pervaded If You Leave is also evident on the new album. On the chorus of Numbers Tonra sings out “I feel numb in this kingdom..” The frantic, incessant drums match the rising anxiety apparent in the lyrics as she begs for someone to “make [her] better.”

It’s the third track, Doing The Right Thing, that’s one of the most heartbreaking on the album, an album which Tonra herself has described as “a little ball of sad.” The leading single was released prior to the album (accompanied by a heartbreaking video I’ve embedded above for your viewing pleasure…) and inspired by her grandmothers Alzheimers. It describes her eroding mind and the terror she must feel at moments when she is aware, “I’m just fearing one day soon / I’ll lose my mind.” Mothers is equally disconcerting as Tonra attempts to describe motherhood. “You will drain all you need to drain out of me” she sings softly through the synth, as though ‘drain’ is the most common way to describe the relationship between mother and child.

As usual, the English trio also explore love on the record. And as usual, it’s not “happy shit” (Tonra’s words, not mine). How marks the end of a relationship, the line “How come he’s the one / to let me down?” painfully drawn out. On Alone/With You she struggles with both loathing and craving companionship, “I hate sleeping alone” is countered with “I hate sleeping with you.” Meanwhile on To Belong, Tonra seems to ascertain her independence (“I don’t want to belong / to you / to anyone”)  and questions love’s futility, “Don’t you think we’ll be better off / without temptation to regress, to fake tenderness / waiting to see someone we won’t know for long  / in cities we’ll only leave.

So, Not to Disappear may be similar to its predecessor in terms of theme, but sonically it’s more adventurous. No Care is the clear outlier of the LP. It’s a frenzy of percussion, guitar riffs and a steady, banging beat that feels a bit like a headache that just won’t let you go. It’s brash and blunt, “There has only been one time where we fucked / And I felt like a bad memory / Like my spine was a reminder of her / And you said that you felt sick” she sings before repeating over and over “No care, no care / I don’t care, I don’t care anymore / I don’t care / I don’t care,” something she’s clearly trying to convince herself of (and failing).

But they go back to their roots on concluding track Made of Stone, the song perhaps most reminiscent of their earlier releases. It’s simple and beautiful. Tonra’s insecurities are laid out bare here, “What if I am made of stone?” she wonders, noting that “feeling is not a system.” It’s the bleakness that turns many off Daughter, the brutally honest lyrics that recount the most painful moments between family, lovers and often one’s self, but when they do it so well, it’s hard not to fall into their trap. Made of Stone seems destined to be a tragically depressing end to the record, (“Love / it’s just face-painting / Love / it’s just easing the waiting / before dying without company”) but, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, if you will, as it ends on a touching moment as Tonra whispers, “You’ll find love kid, it exists.” Although, it is Elena Tonra, so perhaps that’s a warning rather than a reassurance.

Rating: 5/5

Standard