Ben’s Imaginary Band – ‘Celebrity’

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Ben’s Imaginary Band is the work of Ben Romvari, a Canadian musician with a serious penchant for DIY and indie. Essentially a one-man band with Romvari looking after every role possible; he writes, records, and mixes his tracks in DIY studios based in Victoria, BC.

To date, Romvari has three albums to his name (or Ben’s Imaginary Band rather) Nocturnal Fables and Illusions (2007), Trust (2011) and The Apartment (2018); all characterised by intimate, deeply personal, melodic, somewhat melancholic and beautiful songs. Ben’s Imaginary Band’s latest single ‘Celebrity’, lifted from the latter record, is adorned with all the aforementioned attributes. ‘Celebrity’ is a charming, heartfelt and soft-centred piece of indie-pop balladry. Drifting along some gently tripping percussion and stripped back instrumentation, ‘Celebrity’ is dripping with melody and pitted with an idiosyncratic, kind of quirky sensibility as Romvari’s hushed, whispering vocals tug at the heartstrings.

Listen to ‘Celebrity’ below and The Apartment comes highly recommended also – listen to it here.

Tender Glue – ‘Dear Peri’

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New York City-based folk singer-songwriter Tom Gluewicki, aka Tender Glue, specialises in tender, rich and heartfelt lo-fi dream-pop – as evidenced by his debut record Closet Leftovers, released toward the back end of last year.

‘Dear Peri’ is the latest single to be lifted from his debut and is cut from a similar cloth to previous releases, ‘Lights Out’, ‘Rudy’ and ‘Back Home’. Recorded in the closet of his apartment, ‘Dear Peri’ is a wistful and melancholic guitar-driven ballad tempered with a heartfelt sense of loss and longing. The guitar strums amid a sombre, late-night sort of atmosphere that is eroded by a growing distorted sound that swells as Gluewicki’s voice clambers to be heard. ‘Dear Peri’ is yet another, in a long line of powerful, heartfelt and beautiful songs from the NYC-based artist.

Listen to ‘Dear Peri’ below and you can listen to the album Closet Leftovers here.

Introducing: Durty Mick

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Durty Mick is the musical moniker of Kildare musician Owen Murphy who from the confines of his bedroom, armed with an acoustic guitar, microphone and laptop, crafts a home brewed fervently DIY sound.

There is a decidedly mellow, late-night, nocturnal vibe to his sound as his ponderings delivered in a despondent world weary vocal tone accompanied by lyrics of everyday observations draped with a prowess for intuitive songwriting and storytelling. Latest release ‘Beige Slave’ captures all this perfectly – and more acutely than any written description. A gentle acoustic guitar-driven number, it revolves around some ruminating sounds, chilled out rhythm, acoustic plucks and strum while Murphy shares his flowing musings. Previous single ‘The Degenerate Manifesto’ is cut from the same cloth, expanding on the loungey, laid-back murmuring backdrop for Murphy to express his contemplative reflections. Both tracks have the right amount of home brewed, rough around the edges sound – a little hiss here and a touch of reverb there adds a distinctive character.

There is a touch of King Krule to Durty Mick but that is in no way a bad thing. An innovative, interesting and exquisitely crafted exploration that rewards again and again with repeated listens.

Tune into Durty Mick below – his debut album Damage Limitationist is out next week.

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.

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’.

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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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.

Loyal Lobos – ‘Burn’

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Colombia-born singer/songwriter Andrea Silva, otherwise known as Loyal Lobos, has finally released her debut EP under this moniker, The Fall.

Now based in Los Angeles, Silva crafts compelling, alt-pop songs – with more than a hint of folk/Americana – imbued with a hazy melancholy and rich melodic purr that makes you privy to every iota of emotion. ‘Burn’ is the latest single lifted from the aforementioned EP and captures heart-achingly beautiful and intimacy that runs through the record. ‘Burn’ is a dreamy journey through transfixing hazy textures and moody, dreamy and somewhat gloomy atmospheres as we’re treated to Silva’s intimate, poetic lyricism which are delivered with stirring and commanding craft. ‘Burn’ is all kinds of wonderful – it captivates, evokes emotion and thrills in equal measure.

Listen to ‘Burn’ below – and you can listen to the EP here.