Martha Ffion – ‘Kennedy Hair’

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Last year, Martha Ffion released my favourite record of 2018 with her long-awaited debut LP Sunday Best; a beautiful record filled with gleaming guitar-pop, wistful-ballads, swooning sixties inspired indie-pop and touches of folk & country.

The Irish-born, Glasgow-based singer-songwriter is back with a wonderful new single ‘Kennedy Hair’; a super catchy slice of bittersweet indie-pop. Working with the excellent Lost Map Records again, ‘Kennedy Hair’ the first release in the label’s brand new PostMap Club – a series of postcard releases and other exclusives – references It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia while critiquing post-Brexit politics. As evidenced throughout her debut, Ffion’s prowess for observation is second to none. Lyrically she is clever, witty, and often times a sharp tongued, while her ear for a melody is only rivalled by her powers for observation, making for an incredibly infectious, lush and beautiful song. A phenomenally catchy slice of swooning, bittersweet indie-pop, it will be bobbing around your head all day, and you will be all the better for it.

Listen to ‘Kennedy Hair’ below and find you more about PostMap Club here.

Martha Ffion also appeared on the latest episode of NPR’s ‘World Cafe’ for music and a chat, you listen to that here too.

Introducing: Stella Donnelly

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Wales-born, Australian singer-songwriter Stella Donnelly built a much warranted reputation on the back of her 2018 debut EP Thrush Metal – a stunning collection of deceptively simple, sparse but compelling acoustic tracks filled with witty, stark, honest and frustrated musings tackling subjects like sexual assault, victim blaming and misogyny.

Following on from last year’s EP, Donnelly has announced her debut album, Beware of the Dogs will be released on March 8 via esteemed indie label Secretly Canadian, and the 13-track LP is led by the single ‘Old Man’. Joined by a full band, on the surface ‘Old Man’ is a breezy, easygoing and sparkling piece of indie-pop but amid all the warm melodies, it’s a song that finds a perfect balance between dreamy and acerbic, with a sharp message aimed at taking exploitative men to task. Once again, Donnelly has proven herself to be a masterful voice of rage, wit, humour and compassion.

Check out ‘Old Man’ and the Fiona Jane Burgess directed video below and the debut LP, Beware of the Dogs is out on March 8 via Secretly Canadian. You can listen to debut EP Thrush Metal here too – it’s very, very good indeed.

Stella Donnelly plays The Grand Social, Dublin on April 29 – Tickets €15.

Phileas Fogg – ‘Will Never Be Played Again’

Phileas Fogg is the moniker of London-based artist Asi Binyamini, who like his namesake – the protagonist in Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days – Fogg spirits us away on an imaginative intrepid adventure.

Fogg introduced his decidedly catchy brand of reverb and fuzz-laden psych-rock with single ‘Ready or Not’ last year and he’s followed that with ‘Will Never Be Played Again’. It is an enthralling psych-rocker, tentatively building from a haunting and unsettling opening atmosphere it gradually grows in slowburning fashion, swelling as his vocals ascend rousingly above the dense competing layers of psych noise to add a topping of the anthemic. ‘Will Never Be Played Again’ serves as a timely reminder of Fogg’s knack for the hypnotic and captivating tunes – as evidenced by its predecessor ‘Ready or Not’.

Listen to ‘Will Never Be Played Again’ below now.

Simen Mitlid – ‘Saturdays’

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Simen Mitlid is a precociously talented singer-songwriter hailing from the woodlands of Os, Norway, crafting lush, Nordic indie-folk a la contemporaries like Sufjan Stevens, Broken Social Scene and Patrick Watson.

In 2017 Mitlid’s wonderful charming debut LP, Everything is the Same was one of the year’s finest and he is back with his first new material since. New single ‘Saturdays’ is the first taste of what Mitlid is cooking up for album number two, and the good news is his powers for fashioning beautifully charming and elegant indie-folk has not deserted him. Opening slowly with a delicate acoustic guitar and rich emotive vocal, ‘Saturdays’ is a tender ballad that feel both intimate and vast, set against a beautiful atmospheric soundscape. This is a beautiful folk song with an undercurrent of melancholy but marked by an optimism and warm inviting glow – ‘Saturdays’ is a delight.

Nothing concrete on the new album – title, release date etc. – but for now, sit tight and enjoy ‘Saturdays’.

TOLEDO – ‘Qué Pasa?’

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Revolving around the Brooklyn-based pairing of Dan Alvarez and Jordan Dunn, Toledo have have drip-feeding us charming delights from their forthcoming debut album over the past while, and bewitching us in the process.

The good news is Toledo will release their aforementioned debut, HotStuff in March and the latest single lifted from it, is without question the best yet. ‘Qué Pasa?’ is a heartfelt, lush and melodic slice of indie-folk delight. Dripping with melody as hushed, lilting vocals flow gently on by amid a sea of richness and warmth, flourishes of soft drums and state of tranquillity. ‘Qué Pasa?’ proves Toledo the masters of hook, harmony and heart. It is one of those songs, filled with such heartfelt beauty, glowing with warmth and marked by just the right amount of melancholy, that will leave you unable to resist its allure but all the better for it. An absolute joy!

Listen to ‘Qué Pasa?’ below and keep an eye out for the debut record come March.

Caoilfhionn Rose – ‘Awaken’

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Caoilfhionn Rose is a singer, songwriter and producer from Manchester.

Drawing from a deep well of folk, psychedelia and subtle electronica influences, ranging from The Mummers, to Rachel Sermanni, Melody’s Echo Chamber and Broadcast, she produces her own unique brand of beautiful, expansive, fragile and experimental psych-folk; something born out across her exquisite 13-track debut album Awaken, released back in October. As an introduction to both Rose and the LP, album opener and title-track ‘Awaken’ is perfect.

‘Awaken’ is a languid psych-folk daydreamer that whisks us away on a dreamy meditative journey. Swirling layers of vocal harmony gently unfurl an essence of pastoral warmth, as it meanders along a blissful groove and swirling, rhythmic psychedelia, and splashes of electronics complete the mesmeric backdrop for Rose’s bewitching atmospheric tones to entrance the listener completely. An elegant, awe-inspiring and charming blend of shimmering pastoral psych-folk – A hazy, soothing and altogether wonderful song.

Listen to ‘Awaken’ below and the album is just as beautiful an affair – listen to it here.

Albums of the Year 2018

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Yes, it’s that time of year again, lists, lists and well, more lists – and from every angle possible. That said, drawing up a list of my favourite records from throughout the year is one of the most enjoyable aspects to the blog.

There was lots of great music in 2018 (as is the case every year) but here are 18 of my favourite records from the year – 18 for 18 if you will.

Without further ado, here are my favourite records from 2018. Enjoy!

18: Conor Mason – ‘On The Surface’

Conceived, developed and rendered into life over eighteen months in his hometown of Derry, Conor Mason’s fourth album is a treasure trove of musicianship and songwriting craft and is very assured in his musical landscape, conjuring the wistful wonderment of Elliott Smith, Grandaddy, Villagers and Matthew Jay. In essence, it is an exploration living life with uncertainty; the highs and lows, curiosity and change, and significance, or insignificance, of humans in the universe. Flowing gently by, amid a sea of hushed lilting vocals, whispering lyrical poeticisms and subtle instrumentation, Mason reveals himself master of hook, harmony and heart. At times fragile, tender and touching, his songs are paradoxically permeated by an air of richness and comforting warmth, yet shrouded in melancholy, and draped in Mason’s intuitive song writing and storytelling abilities. A beautiful record.

Listen in full here.

17: The Coral – ‘Move Through The Dawn’

The Coral returned with their ninth studio album in 2018 and their prolific work rate and flair for psychedelic folk and classy pop songs shows no signs of abating. Move Through The Dawn glides along serenely, laden with seductive, sweet melodies and lush string arrangements, with the likes of ‘Reaching Out For a Friend’ and ‘Sweet Release’ bouncing around your head all day. While ‘Outside My Window’ and ‘Stormbreaker’ remind us on The Coral’s other side (and the closest relations to 2016’s Distance Inbetween); heavier riffs, jagged guitars and general air of menace. It is another wonderful and solid record from one of Britain’s most enduring and lovable bands.

Listen in full here.

16: Kneecap – ‘3CAG’

Comprised of Mo Chara, Móglaí Bap and DJ Provaí, Kneecap are a satirical hip-hop trio from Belfast who perform in Irish. The trio combine a fluency in Irish with an amazing delivery and a wry sense of humour to produce one of the most unique homegrown records of 2018. Over eight tracks, their mixtape 3CAG offers a satirical take on life for young people, with a particular west Belfast slant. If like me, your command of Irish leaves a lot to be desired, it doesn’t matter a jot. The beats are superb and so infectious, and the flow and lyrical skill on show is second to none, with plenty of laughs thrown in for good measure – anyone who might be sceptical to begin with will be easily won over, just press play.

Listen in full here.

15: Gwenno – ‘Le Kov’

Gwenno’s debut, 2015’s Y Dydd Olaf, was almost all in Welsh; Le Kov, sung in Cornish is just as stunning and serene a sonic dream. The music continues in a retro-futuristic psych-pop vein, but Le Kov is even more expansive sounding than Y Dydd Olaf. Gwenno’s calm, precise and often reverbed vocals navigate a whirlwind of electronic noise, intricately weaved mixture of moods, textures and pulsations, and soaring strings.The record feels alive, vital and organic, like a luminous dream, it is a place playfulness, shimmering beauty, mythology and modernity that are all interwoven with freeflowing ideas, synth-lines and electronic blips, and an undercurrent of poetical dissent. A stunning record – inviting and bubbling with creative ideas, energy and possibilities – from a unique talent.

Listen in full here.

14: Half Man Half Biscuit – ‘No One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut’

Album number 14 from Half Man Half Biscuit sees Nigel Blackwell and company in top form with a collection of great, cheerful, upbeat tunes combined with witty, sardonic lyrics. Musically it picks up where Urge for Offal left off, a rocky, brash and pretty loud post-punk indie backdrop for sardonic but never cynical takes on everyday life. In short, it’s got what a HMHB LP always has; the irresistible wordplay, varying cultural references, surreal and improbable surreal tales, and the most quotable lyrics in the world. A real treasure.

Listen in full here.

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Pi Ja Ma – ‘Family’

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You might remember Pi Ja Ma, the moniker of French artist and singer Pauline de Tarragon, who crafts rather addicting alt-pop, as evidenced by 2016 debut EP Radio Girl.

Anyway, Pi Ja Ma is back with a festive flavoured gem that is just as alluring a proposition as she attempts to combat Christmas loneliness with imagination. ‘Family’ is an elegant, melancholic electro-pop song that glides by with a dreamlike aura. It oscillates between graceful and playful moving along a bubbling bassline and twinkling synth, as ‘Family’ shimmers and glistens majestically. The dreamy instrumentation lays a perfect setting for de Tarragon’s crisp and beautiful vocals to flourish and delight. This is a beautiful, super catchy and playful piece of alluring electro-pop and the video compliments the song perfectly, the boredom and loneliness is beaten back by the power if her imagination, creating a wonderfully world of escapism where she is quickly joined by crazy characters: a ranger, a bear and a living tree in sitting around a campfire in a forest. Surely there is always room for some pitch perfect pop perfection in our lives?

‘Family’ is lifted from Pi Ja Ma’s debut album, Nice to meet U, which is expected on January 18 2019.

mxmtoon – ‘porcelain’

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We were introduced to the delectable talents of mxmtoon – the work of Oakland-based Maia – with charming, breezy and bewitching single ‘i feel like chet’ just last month.

The 18-year-old Oakland artist is back with ‘porcelain’ another beautiful single; a tender and moving piece of enchanting bedroom-folk. ‘Porcelain’ thrives and flourishes with its stripped-back approach, pairing a gentle ukulele with beautifully breezy vocal and heartfelt lyricism, all dripping in melody. It is a rich and heartfelt sound creating an atmosphere of real beauty, you cannot help but be captivated by her music or resist its powerful emotional pull.

Give mxmtoon’s ‘porcelain’ a spin below and if you like what you hear, it is lifted from the new Plum Blossom EP, which you can listen to here.

Jesse Jo Stark – ‘Mystery’

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We were introduced to Jesse Jo Stark‘s Gothic coated world of gently psychedelic 1960’s pop and garage, and spooky indie folk, earlier in the year with singles ‘Rot Away’ and ‘Wish I Was Dead’.

The LA-based artist is back with another brooding sliver of compelling, guitar-noir in the shape of new single ‘Mystery’. It offers us an introduction to the a different, softer and woozier side to Stark’s music. ‘Mystery’ combines her predilection for the spooky with a mellow but eerie country/bluesy tone, creating a beguiling waltz, perfectly polished off by Stark’s seductively smoky delivery. Another wonderfully compelling tune – also, the pick of recent releases too.

You can listen to ‘Mystery’ below now: