Sisters – ‘February’

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It’s been quite some time since we’ve heard from London-based, Irish trio Sisters.They were in Ireland for Hard Working Class Heroes before heading to New York for a string of shows at CMJ Festival, but in terms of new music however, there has been nothing since ‘Hush Hush‘ this time last year.

To coincide with their trip to New York, Sisters thankfully break their self-imposed vow of silence with the release of brand new single, ‘February’, available as a free download. It is another sweet (but not too sweet) and catchy three minutes of heavenly dream-pop with a grungy edge, as Bassist Aoife takes full charge of vocal duties with aplomb. Her sublime vocals soar above the fuzzed up distortion to leave us with another irresistible earworm of tune. A triumphant return to form from Sisters and hopefully they don’t leave us waiting another 12 months for some new material.

You can check ‘February’/video below and if you head on over to their SoundCloud page, you can grab a free download of their single right now.

 

CMJ Tour Dates:

Baby’s All Right 22/10/14

Standard Hotel 23/10/14

The Delancey 24/10/14

Irish Arts Centre 25/10/14

Coco 66 25/10/14

 

Watch a short documentary about the Belfast godfather of punk Terri Hooley

If you haven’t seen Good Vibrations, the film about Terri Hooley, music mad idealist, Belfast’s godfather of punk and “terrible businessman”, you are missing out.

Both charming and impassioned, it charts how Hooley defied the grim reality and misery of the Troubles by opening a record shop in the middle of Belfast, before going on to champion punk bands like The Undertones, The Outcasts and Rudi. An inspiring, funny and utterly loveable film, next time your looking for something to watch, look no further, you will not regret it. Anyway, last week Nialler9 shared this short video documentary, shot during the recent Red Bull Music Academy weekender, it features the man himself taking a tour of a much-changed city. Hooley is now 65 and still runs that shop (which has closed and re-opened 11 times now) and it’s still open (just about).

The world would be an awfully bland, grey and banal place without mavericks, idealists and dreamers, and the same can be said of music, and Hooley’s a fully fledged member of that club.

 

Albums Roundup: By The Sea, Second Storey & The #1s

 

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Back again with a few more albums that have been keeping me occupied over the past while.

Second Storey – ‘Double Divide’

Formerly going by the name Al Tourettes, London-based Alec Storey began life as Second Storey in 2013 with his Margosa Heights EP. Released but a few weeks ago, his debut LP, Double Divide, is a revelation. Both rich and complex in equal measure, it is steeped in electronic experimentation. Double Divide is a hybrid of styles and influences, shifting from a dreamy ambient side, while others clearly leaning towards the dancefloor, and back again. It success lies in finding a balance, a sweet one at that, between atmospheric soundscapes and ones more at home at a hedonistic club. An album of contrasts, it’s in its infectious, often unusual rhythms too, that binds the entire LP together. A finely crafted debut and an absolutely thrilling listening experience from start to finish.

By The Sea – ‘Endless Days, Crystal Sky’

With their second LP, we find By The Sea sounding bigger and fuller than ever before, as they expanded and refined their wistful yet driven psych-pop undulations. ‘Endless Days, Crystal Sky’ is a magnificent collection of melodic guitar pop songs, illuminated by drifting, dreamlike atmospherics, jangling guitars and bubbly bass. This is an album which should sit proudly with many of the greatest records to emerge from the banks of the Mersey. While the influences are worm well, the understated and shimmering synth work adds a more modern veneer to this retro fitted piece of dreamy indie-pop. This scintillating dreamy indie-pop is sometimes propulsive while punctuated by world-weary vocals, imbued with an aching sense of melancholy, creating a great sense of both depth and warmth. While unquestionably excellent, By The Sea’s debut managed a cult success, released back in August, the Wirral 5-piece’s follow-up deserves far greater acclaim and attention.

The #1s – The #1s

This foursome have been knocking around Dublin for a couple of years now, as The #1s and their various other groups like Cheap Freaks, the Pacifics, and Cian Nugent & the Cosmos. Their seasoned status shines through spectacularly on their self-titled debut, a short and snappy blend of racy punk, power-pop and lo-fi that owes a certain debt to Northern punk bands of the mid-to-late ’70s, like Rudi, The Outcasts and The Undertones. The #1s wear their influences well and openers, ‘I Wish I Was Lonely’, ‘Sixteen’ and ‘Heartsmash’, leave you in no doubt that were headed to a bouncy punk scene from 35 years ago. Frantic and fast paced, it’s all over before you know it, in under 20 minutes in fact but no sooner has it finished and you’ll be hitting play once again. Combing all the finest ingredients, it’s bratty and fun, raw yet tender and simultaneously sugary sweet and sour, they’ve come up trumps with a master class in power-pop punk, and a thrilling debut.

 

 

Velvet Morning – ‘Green Whale’

Velvet Morning 'Green Whale' 2014

Velvet Morning and their self-coined ‘smooth psychedelia’ sound captured our attention this year, with a series of gently contagious, wistful, swirling and seductive bouts of psychedelia.

Having recently signed to RIP Records (good to know it’s not just me they’ve impressed), the Leigh-on-Sea quartet have shared their wonderful new single ‘Green Whale’. In doing so they continue to proliferate their dreamy slumbering wonderland as they conjure something hypnotically alluring, effortlessly cool and vaguely shoegaze on ‘Green Whale’. Washed-out, whispery vocals and a distorted melody line grapple for space amidst oceans of fuzz,as it bobs and bounds in and out of focus, in a woozy free-floating, undulating manner. Melodic, atmospheric and utterly brilliant – Velvet Morning continue to go from strength to strength.

Check out ‘Green Whale’ and its visual companion below.

Marika Hackman – ‘Drown’

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Folk songstress Marika Hackman has shared the first single from her forthcoming album, We Slept At Last, a much anticipated follow-up to her splendid 2013 mini-album, The Iron Taste.

Her latest offering, ‘Drown’, is a stunning reminder of her remarkable songwriting prowess, naturally intertwined with her captivating vocals. Characteristically eerie, ‘Drown’ sort of rustles and flickers in the darkness, muffled drums and delicate strum create a suitably haunting ambience for Hackman’s whispering soft vocals to beguile us. For someone still in the early days of her career, Marika Hackman has already amassed quite a tasty back catalogue, of which ‘Drown’ is as good as any that have preceded it. It goes without saying but her forthcoming debut full length is one to keep your eyes peeled for come February next year.

We Slept At Last will be released on February 16th 2015 with ‘Drown’ on December 8th (2014). You can stream it below now.

 

(Video) By The Sea – ‘You’re The Only One’

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Wirral five-piece By The Sea return with ‘You’re The Only One’, the second single from their latest album Endless Days, Crystal Sky.

Released back in August, we found By The Sea sounding bigger and fuller than ever before, as they expanded and refined their wistful yet driven psych-pop undulations. It is a magnificent collection of melodic guitar pop songs, of which none are a finer example than ‘You’re The Only One’. Illuminated by drifting, dreamlike atmospherics, understated shimmering synth work, jangling guitars and bubbly bass, this scintillating piece of dreamy indie-pop is punctuated by world-weary vocals, imbued with an aching sense of melancholy, creating a great sense of both depth and warmth, a combination which characterises their LP. A simply gorgeous track, one of many from an equally magnificent album.

You can check out the video for ‘You’re The Only One’ below (it’s a rather lovely homage to the Merseyside coast).

Also, coinciding with the release of is news that they’ll play their biggest show yet, on November 29th at Liverpool’s historic Epstein Theatre (details/tickets here).

Springtime Carnivore – ‘Name On A Matchbook’

Springtime Carnivore, the creation of LA musician Greta Morgan, will release her self-titled debut album next month. Produced by Richard Swift (Foxygen, The Black Keys, The Shins) it is penned in for release on November 4th.

First out of the traps we had the dazzling ‘Sun Went Black’, a buzzing, giddy burst of psychedelic tinged indie-pop, and now we have her second single from the forthcoming record, ‘Name On A Matchbook’, a dreamy, feel-good tune, that’s as breezy as it is infectious. It’s slightly fuzzy but ebullient pop with a soft psychedelic undercurrent that crackles, glows and swells amid off-kilter grooves, plucky piano and her beautiful smooth vocals, well they are just that, beautiful and smooth. It is yet another wonderful, slick and sauve pop gem from Morgan, whose forthcoming debut LP increasingly looks like it will be a rather exciting proposition.

Stream the brand new track from her forthcoming album below, also one for the diaries, Springtime Carnivore plays Vancouver’s Biltmore Cabaret on November 17th.

Review: Hard Working Class Heroes 2014

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Obviously unable to attend Hard Working Class Heroes this year, having relocated to Vancouver. In my absence there was a more than capable replacement in Johnny Feeney, who was there to sample the sights and sounds (along with the wind and rain) of HWCH 14, now in it’s very respectable 12th year. Thanks to Johnny as always for his time and insight, with that I leave you in his ever capable hands. 

Now in its 12th year, Hard Working Class Heroes shows no signs of slowing down and is deservedly recognised as a top-rate music festival showcasing a mixture of the best established and emerging bands plying their trade in the country today. Spread out over seven separate venues in and around Temple Bar in Dublin, there is certainly a wide variety of quality music on offer.

Weather conditions on Friday night were miserable. Constant, torrential rain and a cold evening meant getting from venue to venue was treacherous, leaving Meeting House Square feeling under attended as the crowds aimed for the warmth of indoors. Dublin five-piece Cfit played a rousing set on the Meeting House Square stage early on Friday evening. They carve out long, epic, grandiose indie-rock with further layers of violin and electronics added on top. Vocalist Noël Duplaa has a deep tone similar to Paul Banks of Interpol but the music surrounding him is a much more uplifting affair. Their closing song tonight, Plausible Deniability, is staggeringly beautiful and euphoric live.

Next up in Meeting House Square are VANN MUSIC – a band well established on the festival scene now having performed at the likes of Electric Picnic, Castlepalooza and Forbidden Fruit. The Dublin synth-rockers perform with a confident swagger and have highly danceable tunes, while front man Aaron Smyth is a magnetic presence on stage as he busts out serious dance moves. These feel like a band destined for bigger things.

Cork shoegaze/post-rockers Elastic Sleep deliver a blistering set in the Mercantile. Bruising, chaotic rock surrounds the minute Muireann Levis whose dreamy, otherworldly vocals are in stark contrast with what’s going on around her. Dreamy and captivating, these were the standout act of Friday night despite having some technical difficulties meaning they had to cut their set short.

Later on Friday in Bad Bob’s, Dott were a very interesting new discovery for me. The Dublin four-piece play dreamy garage-pop which reminded me somewhat of Veronica Falls. Bad Bob’s didn’t feel like the best venue to be seeing live music as there were restricted views and a layout not designed for this kind of event. This became even more apparent as a bigger crowd filtered in for Ghost Estates, the last act to perform on Friday across the seven venues. The four-piece Dublin indie-rockers delivered an accomplished set as usual and tried, with some success, to get some of the crowd out towards the back to fill out the front. Not at all the band’s fault, the issue with the venue made this feel more muted than it might have been.

London-based, Galway band HAWK were the first band I caught on Saturday evening in the Button Factory. The four-piece are a very interesting mixture. On one hand you have a pretty standard alternative-rock set up playing loud, pounding rock while on the other hand front woman Julie Hawk is a more eccentric, mysterious character with her acoustic guitar and haunting vocals.

Cloud Castle Lake were up next in the Button Factory. Playing with the lights way down, the Dublin trio play understated electronic rock. It all feels a bit low key and I can see lead singer Daniel McAuley’s falsetto vocals being tough going for people. With just a single EP to their name to date this may be a band still trying to find their feet.

A delay in the schedule meant Carried by Waves came on half an hour late on to the Workman’s Club stage as Metlybrains? were due to be on. This came as a lucky break to catch these guys playing a lovely brand of breezy, tuneful electro-pop, reminding me in parts of a stripped down Hot Chip. Lovely stuff and a band worth exploring further.

The aptly named Meltybrains? have been on my radar for a while as news of their explosive live shows piqued my interest but I’d never managed to catch them live. Thankfully I wasn’t disappointed with their pulsating live show – what I envisage And So I Watch You From Afar might sound like if they made electronica. Frantic, pounding beats with the band going wild on stage. Trademark freaky Meltybrains? masks are thrown into the crowd for revellers to cover their faces and join them in wild abandon. So exhilarating, so exciting. The perfect finish to a very enjoyable weekend.

Objekt – ‘Ganzfeld’

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Last month Berlin-based producer Objekt released ‘Ganzfeld’ as part of a split release with Dopplereffekt through Leisure System.

Objekt has been afforded a rep for an economical output, following a philosophy of quality over quantity and making it count by the sheer quality of his studiously crafted electronic tracks. Not only is ‘Ganzfeld’ testament to this afforementioned reputation, it is hands down, one of the most compelling tracks all year. There is a rather beautiful yet eerily sinister aura that consumes ‘Ganzfeld’, dominated initially by restrained percussion and a hollowed out, murky spaciousness. It does however, afford room for space, space that’s filled with glimmering atmospherics, moments of glitched confusion, occasional synth chimes and spacey background sounds, accompanied with breakneck hi-hat snare combos which builds to an ultimately cracking crescendo. The versatility and detail afforded to the sound over close to 6 mins is simply astounding. ‘Ganzfeld’ is masterfully executed and prepped to prompt euphoria or eerie chills of fear, depending on the state of mind perhaps.

‘Ganzfeld’ is out now, along with ‘Delta Wave’ from Dopplereffekt via Leisure System. Listen below and you can buy it from all the usual haunts – more info here.

Junior Bill & The Scallies – ‘It All Goes Downhill From Here’

Junior Bill & The Scallies

It was about this time last year that Cardiff four-piece Junior Bill & The Scallies introduced themselves to us, with their breathtakingly excellent ska-tinged pop.

Junior Bill (aka Rob Nichols) and his cohorts are back with a brand new EP, It All Goes Downhill From Here, and the good news is, they’ve picked up where they left off last time out. Their eclectic blend of Punky Reggae, Soul and Rock ‘n’ Roll is delivered with an irrepressible exuberance, so much so that even the streetwise, socially aware and gritty realism of the lyrical content is tempered with a sunny carnival of energy. ‘Defieto’ in particular plays that old-school ska and reggae dynamic off with perfection, whereby they manage to make politically-charged content go down easier with a spoonful of the steady rhythms and sunny guitars. The likes of ‘Five a day’, ‘Blood Stained Collars’ and the title track use much the same trick, while veering toward a [The] Specials kind of vibe of ska meets punk in a rather British way. Whether it’s depicting tales of cuts and closures in the community or a lack of opportunities facing a generation, the stark content is disguised amid the jaunty keys, upbeat rhythms and generally jovial tunes. Nichols’ prowess for interpreting and digesting what he sees around him in Cardiff and beyond is second to none, and It All Goes Downhill From Here witnesses a further honing of his craft for tale telling. It All Goes Downhill From Here is another superb ska-tinged collection of pop meets punk, in a peculiarly Cardiffian style. Young they may be but Junior Bill & The Scallies are starting to really carve out a rather special discography.

You can check out a few choice cuts below or pop on over here to stream it in full. You know it makes sense.