Album of the Week: Cian Ciaran – ‘Outside In’

For nearly two decades Cian Ciaran has been brightening our lives as Super Furry Animals’ resident electronic wizard and keyboardist. Outside In sees Ciaran come to the fore with a debut solo record under his own name.

It will come as quite a surprise anyone expecting an electronica album, but Outside In is a record indebted to grandious orchestral pop of the ’60s and John Lennon’s ’70s output. The record is a mix of down-tempo orchestral ballads of beguiling beauty and that idiosyncratic Super Furry sparkle.

Centered around his piano and subtle drumbeats, it swoons and sweeps, dripping with melody and harmony, allowing his wonderful lilting croon to blossom. It is permeated too, by an air of elegant richness, comforting tranquility and a hint of melancholy.

Album opener ‘You & Me’ epitomizes the fabric of Outside In; a blend of truly beautiful textures, swooning strings, elegant sounds and whispering lyrical laments for lost ideals. It seldom deviates from it’s course say for ‘Martina Franca’, which wouldn’t be out of place on an SFA release and the album closers ‘What Will Be’ and ‘Upside Downers’. Two positively exuberant tracks, imbued with joy and filled an array of horns and strings.

Outside In is a charming album that will warm the heart of anyone willing to give it the time it thoroughly deserves.

Introducing: Stealing Sheep

Stealing Sheep are a three-piece girl group from Liverpool who, by all accounts, have been creating quite a stir on the other side of the Irish Sea.

On listening to the trio’s impeccable sweet voiced blend of folk and psychedelic infused pop, it easy to see why. A bit off-kilter, Stealing Sheep are far from purveyors of impregnable avant garde sounds, it is in fact, utterly contagious. A gentle eccentricity and surreal lyrics are matched and merged with a consonance of enhancements, as wonderfully dreamy three part harmonies and folk elements shine through a hazy mist of mystical electronic drones, hypnotic beats and effects.

The Liverpudlian girl-trio’s debut album Into The Diamond Sun is out September 3rd. With what we’ve got here already, it is certainly more than promising, the LP could be quite special. They also play Galway and Dublin on November 2nd and 3rd respectably.

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(Video) Trap Door – ‘Wake Up’

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There is no great secret of my feelings about Trap Door. The Dublin trio have been one of the shining lights to emerge in Ireland over the past 12 months.

Trap Door’s latest single ‘Wake Up’ takes their up-tempo combination of punk, folk, ska and hip-hop and douses it with lashings of energetic rebelliousness. The Finn Keenan produced video is great too and features two mischievous ol’ lads getting up to all kinds of, well, mischief. It is sure to put a wry smile on your face.

You can download Trap Door’s debut EP, Lata Town, for free from Bandcamp now.

Trojan Warriors Mixtape (Ska, Reggae, Dancehall & Rocksteady)

Trojan Records marked the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence with the release of Freedom Sounds, a collection of over 100 tracks spread across 5 CDs from influential Jamaican artists etc. that have influenced popular music across the past five decades.

That set me thinking, there’s never been much in the way of Ska, Reggae, Dancehall etc. on the blog. It’s quite strange seen as I’ve been a big fan since my Dad introduced to the genres when I was younger. This stuff, Ska in particular,  just struck a chord with me (no pun intended). It’s hard not to like, it is, for the most part upbeat, bright and fun. It is music with stories to tell, of love, life and struggles, but just as important, you can nod along and dance to it quite happily. It is probably only matched by Hip Hop in that regard. 

I have compiled some of my favourite from the various albums, compilations and box sets I have acquired throughout the years. Some are fairly well known, others less so. I can’t guarantee they all appeared on Trojan (but ‘Trojan Warriors’ has a nice ring to it), see it as an introduction if nothing else.

If you fancy delving a bit further, I suggest checking out BBC 4’s ‘Reggae Britannia‘ or getting your hands some of the many excellent Trojan Records Boxsets. Consequently this happens to be the 1,000 post on the blog, no better way to celebrate eh? Enjoy!

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(Video) Marika Hackman – ‘You Come Down’

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We were introduced to Marika Hackman and her beautiful potent folk songs earlier in the summer. Now, with the release of her debut double A-side ‘You Come Down’/’Mountain Spines’ fast approaching, September 3rd in fact, Marika Hackman has unveiled a bewitching video for the haunting single ‘You Come Down’. Filmed in an abandoned house in Dorset, complements the song’s eerie character perfectly.

No substandard happy-clappy folk pop nonsense on offer here, the double A-Side provides an excellent introduction to what Marika Hackman is all about