An incomplete roundup of the new Irish music released this week. What did I miss? What should I listen to? Tweet me your abuse and recommendations.
Land Lovers – ‘Springtime for the Mystics’
Clocking in at just under five minutes, ‘Springtime for the Mystics’ is the opening track of Dublin five-piece Land Lovers‘ new album, The Rooks Have Returned, released on Popical Island on May 13. I was late to the first taster of the album, ‘Angeline‘, but both tracks point to this being one of the albums of the year. ‘Springtime for the Mystics’ was premiered on Northern Transmissions, which gives us some insight into the heavy lyrics: “The lyrical milieu is an imagined future for one of the children in revolutionary Dublin between Volunteer positions at Easter 1916. Relocated to Liverpool, he succeeds in mainstream politics and attains some power but his background is a constant source of worry, and there is a scandal (personal? political?) waiting to break. Weaved into this are occult visions, false dawns, untrustworthy harbingers of spring and the paranoia of the self-made man.” A quick glance at the lyrics of the song – “Ten years ago I spoke at Llandudno, an entryist questioned my name and I grew indignant, making it clear where my loyalties lay” – suggest that this should really be filed in the trying-too-hard category. And yet it all sounds pretty effortless. It’s an indie-pop band with aspirations, who don’t want to be confined. I can’t wait to see what else they’ve come up with for The Rooks Have Returned.
Land Lovers tour dates:
May 13 – Connolly’s of Leap, Cork
May 14 – Pine Lodge, Myrtleville, Cork
May 20 – Central Arts, Waterford
May 21 – Workman’s Club, Dublin
August 17 – Roisin Dubh, Galway
John of Silence – ‘No Lie’
The guys from O Emperor are embarking on various sideprojects in between making albums. Philip Christie and Brendan Fennessy are dabbling in 60s psych-pop with the Bonk while Richie Walsh’s John of Silence is going all in on lush funk a la Jungle. ‘No Lie’ is the sound of the cool biker strutting to the bar of a saloon, its patrons, full of life beforehand, having fallen silent as they eye up this tattooed and dirty deity. You know how the rest of the scene goes: there’s a bar fight, the biker wins, never losing his cool, gets the girl and gets a bottle of tequila for his troubles. The visuals for ‘No Lie’ don’t quite pan out like this, featuring some NSFW things befalling a pineapple. This is the first single from John of Silence and oh boy does it whet the appetite – and kinda makes me want to buy some fruit too.
Skinny Downers – Kill Figures (EP)
It seems like Waterford band Skinny Downers have been around for a while, though, just like their sound, crafted “in a repourposed office block on the outskirts of Berlin”, according to the press release, they kind of exist on the outskirts of things. They’re the kind of band that makes you say, ‘Oh… yeah, I think I’ve heard of them before.” This EP, Kill Figures, is their first release as a duo – it’s Dean O’Sullivan, one part of the band Percolator and from Waterford, and Stella Sesto, from Sardinia – and they instantly sound more likely to stick in your mind. “Now we’ve got this alpha shit, I’ll have to lower my eyes,” O’Sullivan snarls on the angry ‘New Conservative’. It’s noisy, powerful and with shades of Suede and Altered Hours. There’s a groove there as well, but it’s one that’s played out in a pitch-black room. Closing track ‘Go Bigger’ has an irresistible bass groove and sounds like a distant cousin of Joy Division. It’s going to be much harder to let Skinny Downers slip from your memory now. They play Cork Community Printshop on July 2.
Shit Robot – ‘Lose Control’
There’s not really much to say about a new track from Shit Robot is there? You know Marcus Lambkin is going to bring the vibes, the perfect soundtrack to bring the night to its peak. ‘Lose Control’ is exactly that (says the person typing in his pyjamas at 11am on a Thursday, bleary eyed from tiredness rather than an immense night out). It features LCD Soundsystem’s Nancy Whang and that most essential of call to arms/dancefloors: “Get up, get up, get up”. “I can’t fight this feeling,” Whang says. Few Shit Robot listeners can. New album What Follows, featuring New Jackson (David Kitt), Alexis Taylor and more friends, is out on DFA, his third release there, on May 6.
Brigid Mae Power – ‘It’s Clearing Now’
A slight name change from Brigid Power Ryce, ‘It’s Clearing Now’ from Galway singer Brigid Mae Power was premiered on Pitchfork on Tuesday. Laura Snapes, one of the best writers around, said: “Strings spill over from mirage-like shimmer into an overpowering heatwave, and rugged winds and cavernous depths emerge.” It’s the kind of song, minimal but expanding over more than seven minutes, that really takes you away. There’s an assurance there – confidence is a must if you’re making a near-eight-minute track. Best listened to as you ponder the big things in life while lying in the middle of a field starting at the clouds. As Snapes points out, there’s quite the hint of Angel Olsen about, which is no bad thing. ‘It’s Clearing Now’ is taken from Brigid Mae Power’s forthcoming self-titled album recorded with Peter Broderick in Oregon. We interviewed Brigid back on episode 3 of the TPOE podcast.
Spook of the Thirteenth Lock – The Bullet In The Head
“Let it rise,” Spook of the Thirteenth Lock pronounce about a minute into this new piece, ‘The Bullet In The Brick’. Press release: “Featuring the same electric guitar orchestra used in ‘Lockout’, the band’s multi-movement work set for release later in 2016, ‘The Bullet in the Brick’ explores various aspects of the Easter Rising such as the bombing of Dublin by the British gunship The Helga, the murder and attempted cover-up of activist Francis Sheehy Skeffington, and finally the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. The piece consists of three parts: A Destroyer on the Liffey; The Bullet in the Brick; A Proclamation. It’s performed by The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock and Electric Guitar Orchestra: Albert Baker, Mark Balbirnie, Eamon Brady, Susan Callaghan, Mary Carton, Bill Coleman, Mark Jordan, Hugh McCabe, David McDonald, Colin J Morris, and Patrick Wall.” It was released on the calendar centenary of the Easter Rising. If you’ve seen Spook play the aforementioned ‘Lockout’, you’ll know what to expect. And even if you didn’t see that, ‘guitar orchestra’ should give away a lot of what this is about. There’s a romanticism here, but it’s mixed with anger, of course, and there’s something about the final piece, the self-explanatory A Proclamation, that will rouse something in every Irish citizen no matter how cursory your attention to the centenary celebrations were. The tracks below are, alas, just snippets of the full suite. You can hear it in full over at State and buy it here.
I Hava A Tribe – ‘Buddy Holly’
I go weak at the knees when I hear Patrick O’Laoghaire’s voice. Under the moniker I Have A Tribe, the Dubliner releases his debut album, Beneath A Yellow Moon, on May 27 via Groenland Records. The video for ‘Buddy Holly’, taken from the album, is wonderful: Directed by Myles O’Reilly, it features Donal Dineen, Mick Minogue and Steve O’Connor building a cardboard car for Patrick, who is watching grainy old footage of Dublin. I guess you could call ‘Buddy Holly’ a truthful love song. While he says that “any day you show up is a better day”, the chorus is mournfully honest: “You’re never off my mind, that’s not true, there is not always time to think of you, so I guess you cross my mind and when you do, I think it’s always kind, a kind of true.” Patrick told the Independent: “I think I wrote most of it in spring in 2008, and finished it then in 2015. I have this notion that sometimes, because humans have been writing songs and melodies for so many hundreds and thousands of years; when a song presents itself to you as an idea to write down – maybe you’re just making your own version of something that was already kind of done. And I don’t see it as a bad thing – more-so I take from this that the same sentiments and emotions have moved humans in the same manner always, and the attempt to write comes from the same source. With songs, then, maybe some musical templates become timeless, because a certain structure of chords or a certain movement of a melody will reveal itself again and again. When I played this song for a piano teacher of mine 7 or 8 years ago, I remember she started to sing Buddy Holly, It’s Raining In My Heart. So I went and I listened to that song, and it was a nice comfort to hear the same pattern at the start. So that’s where the name comes from. I left it alone for a few years then. and dug it back out when I thought I had something more to add to it. Lastly I brought it to my friend Paul, and he added a drumbeat to it that gave the song a sense of humour, and then it was done. For the video, I wrote to Myles O’Reilly. We had some tea in his kitchen one afternoon and I played him the song, and he marched around his kitchen shouting ideas at the walls. A few weeks later he brought us to a yoga studio and projected old footage of Dublin on the walls, and dreamed up a wooden box car for me to sit in. It was a joy to work with him, and Donal, Mick, and Steve.”
I am niamh – ‘Wait Until The Morning Comes’
This is one of those songs which, because it sounds so close to distinctive voices as Kate Bush and Fiona Apple that you want to resist it. But Niamh Parkinson aka i am niamh, early on in its 3.44-minute running time, manages to fit in the turn of phrase “What’s the rush? I’ll get some Factor 55 cause you burn like a black piece of toast”, and you realise actually this is too nice to resist. It’s a little (a lot) twee, but it’s got a lovely early morning (just as well, considering the name of the track), orchestral chorus that will get you chirping along with the birds outside. ‘Wait Until The Morning Comes’ is taken from i am niamh’s debut album, Wonderland.
RSAG – ‘Leave A Light On’
Jeremy Hickey is one of the most impressive musicians in the country, managing to put on the most idiosyncratic of live shows. The drummer/multi-instrumentalist/singer/accountant (probably, along with 17 other jobs) is Rarely Seen Above Ground, and returns with ‘Leave A Light On’, a taster of his third album. It seems like RSAG has been around forever – indeed, Organic Sampler came out in 2008 – and yet I find myself struggling to think of his songs. He’s probably one to file in the underappreciated category, and it’s more than likely my own ignorance. Despite those stellar live shows, I rarely reach for an RSAG album the following day, seemingly forgetting how much I enjoy it all until the next time he rolls into town. But ‘Leave A Light On’ instantly demands your attention. We open with a funky drum fill, lasting seven seconds, and it sets the tone for the following 3.39 minutes. The bassing synthy brass is damn sexy as Hickey proclaims that he’ll shield his love even on swelling tides. Just leave a light on or… “I disappear.” I can’t wait to hear this track live.
Windings – ‘Stray Dogs’/’Helicopters’
It’s been four years since Windings released I Am Not The Crow, which was nominated for the Choice Prize (Delorentos won that year), and two years since their split album with Land Lovers. And yet it feels reassuring to have Windings back with new music and details of their fourth album. It’s called Be Honest and Fear Not, and is out in the autumn via Out On A Limb. Recorded with Tommy McLaughlin, I would say you know what to expect: Mainly guitars and big riffs that would make J Mascis proud. But you kinda forget the Limerick five piece, headed by Steve Ryan who cut his teeth (Tooth? Ahem) with Givemanakick, are capable of more insular and sombre moments. See ‘Old Like J’, ‘Apologise’ and ‘Cleaner’, to name three. So ‘Stray Dogs’ really isn’t much of a surprise – maybe it’s just when a band returns with a new album in tow you expect them to waste no time in showing off their shiniest, loudest, brashest track. This isn’t that. Nialler9 called it dark, dank and foreboding. It’s wistful: “Every note is an apology but every word is a regret.” And Ryan clarifies that “the stray dogs are my mortality, tear at my ankles once again”. ‘Helicopters’, meanwhile, is not going to feature on Be Honest and Fear Not. They say it “is the result of a collaboration between windings and producer Naive Ted. It’s a one-off release without any ties to any album or such, and we very much hope you enjoy it.” It’s even slower than ‘Stray Dogs’ with Naive Ted (who supported GAMAK on their farewell tour last year so it’s no great surprise to see them collaborate) adding creaks, rushes and a general feeling of unease to what is already an anxious song, dealing with searches of the Shannon.
windings Live dates:
May 21: Kasbah Social Club, Limerick
May 26: Roisin Dubh, Galway
May 27: De Barras, Clonakilty
May 28: Crane Lane Theatre, Cork
June 10: Doolin Folk Festival, Clare
AboveDat – ‘Addicted’ (Feat. Christiana Underwood)
AboveDat are Cork DJ Stevie Grainger and Ian Ring, one third of Young Wonder, and ‘Addicted’, featuring Cork singer Christiana Underwood, is their first song. Christiana was a regular onstage as Stevie played the festival rounds, mixing a DJ set with some original tracks. This is the natural progression, it sets quite the benchmark. Summer is coming and ‘Addicted’ sounds like it’s going to be the perfect soundtrack to it.
This week’s TPOE podcast: Carried By Waves
After the release of second album Resolute, Carried By Waves aka Ronan McCann sits down to chat about creating that ‘difficult’ second album, how ideas can develop, playing live, and, since this is the first TPOE podcast since Prince has died, we talk about the influence that the Purple One has had on Ronan.