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Friday, June 24, 2016

Britta Phillips – Luck or magic (Double Feature Records)



It feels a bit strange to be talking about debuts almost 30 years into a music career but this is the debut solo album of Britta Phillips, of Dean & Britta and Luna fame.

The album contains five originals and five covers. A couple of the originals have appeared in some form elsewhere before, the driving thrumming New Order-ish ‘Million Dollar Doll’ on the soundtrack to the Noah Baumbach/Greta Gerwig film Frances Ha, and ‘Ingrid Superstar’ from the 13 Most Wanted/Andy Warhol Screen Test project soundtracked by Dean & Britta, with a lovely late night, mellow but slightly haunted, Velvet Underground feel.

In general, the album is pleasingly out of fashion, if you know what I mean. There’s a cover of a little known Abba song, also the very well known ‘Drive’ by The Cars, the reasonably familiar Fleetwood Mac song ‘Landslide’ and the sumptuous Dennis Wilson cut ‘Fallin’ in love’.

There are pillowy synths but also the signature and beautiful spidery guitar lines of Dean Wareham.

My favourite though is the gorgeous ‘One fine summer morning’, originally a 1969 hit for Evie Sands. It’s full of suspended strings over acoustic guitars, a knock out flute arrangement (not everyone’s cup of tea I know but perfect in this winsome bittersweet setting) and – most crucially for me – a series of indiscriminate semi-choral rushes under the main melody. These have the effect of lifting and lowering you like a wave and would remind you of those unbeatable Bob Lind songs from the mid 1960s.

Britta’s voice is also clear and upfront which isn’t always the case, maybe because she’s become a very good team player over the years, a reliable sidewoman, rarely centre stage. It’s great to hear her like this and it seems to me that the tempo and arrangement of the song fit her voice perfectly too.

It’s hazy beautiful dream pop and I hope she doesn’t wait another 30 years for the follow up.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Brigid Mae Power – It’s clearing now (from the s/t album, Tompkins Square)

A thoroughly spellbinding piece of somnolent meandering folk music from the Galway singer recorded with Peter Broderick in Oregon.

A simple guitar strum at walking pace, a chord and a half, a soaring reedy voice pure and bracing as a north wind (if the wind was a reedy thing).

Later bending violins making eyes at Bollywood (well if it was contemplative rather than frisky). Rushes of swirling backing vocals.

It’s a thousand yard drone that you realise was a waltz in another life before being replayed in slow motion with an ancient stoic voiceover.

The voice up close – insistent, deep, nonchalant somehow. Touched by something.

Gripping drama and texture.

A wonderful creation.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Playlist 407 - June 21 2016

Check out Moon Bros (pic), Matt Schneider from Chicago with some help from that city's finest under(over)ground musical talent, sublime stately country music.

Stay for William Tyler right after, clear eyed ruminations on the state of America today, in the form of gorgeous chiming guitar picked tunes.

The nasty groovy Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds are in Ireland this week playing shows, inc Pine Lodge by the sea in Cork June 26.

Morgan Delt is a new name on me but what a beautiful fuzzy psych pop noise he makes, from west coast US.

And finally summer music (if we play enough of it summer might actually come), two songs written by Andy Partridge, for XTC & The Monkees.

More on these pages.



The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed

www.theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.com
www.facebook.com/theundergroundofhappiness
Twitter: UndergroundOfHappy

Playlist 407
Tues June 21 2016
11.00am-12.00pm
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at www.ucc.ie/983fm
*listen back to this show here
https://goo.gl/r1EU2X


Playlist
XTC – Green man
The Monkees – You bring the summer
Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds - La arana (playing The Grand Social, Dublin, June 25; Pine Lodge, Cork, June 26)
King Khan & The Shrines – Children of the world
Lost Left – Ferdinand Cheval
Morgan Delt – I dont wanna know what’s happening outside (playing Moth Club, London, Aug 15)
Howe Gelb – Paradise here abouts (playing Larmer Tree Festival, July 16)
Moon Bros – These stars
William Tyler – Kingdom of Jones
Ralegh Long – Night (The river)
Nocturnes feat Adrian Crowley – Heikegani (playing Bello Bar, Dublin, July 29)
Whitney – No woman (playing Green Man Festival, Aug 18-21)
Stephen Steinbrink – Absent mind (playing The Lexington, London, Oct 4)
Mendrugo – Estrella fugaz
Maria Usbeck – Llamame
The Chills – When the poor can reach the moon

*next week's show features music from Stranded Horse, Robert Rotifer & Wye Oak, among others

e-mail the show on radio@ucc.ie
or text +353 (0)86-7839800
please mark messages “uoh”

Conor O'Toole,
c/o UCC 98.3FM,
Áras na Mac Léinn,
Student Centre,
University College Cork,
Cork,
Ireland.




Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Playlist 406 - June 14 2016

More from the new Jherek Bischoff album, an ominous churning beast partly recorded deep underground in an old water tank. The album's called Cistern, naturally.

Also new from Welsh artist Antonymes, more beautiful, vaguely ambient, orchestral instrumentals.

Hauschka plays Ireland soon, part of the Clonmel Junction Festival, always good to hear his smart progressive piano dance music.

New music from Cool Ghouls, another in a fine line of SF psych.

And Cate Le Bon with a pastoral love song rendered strange and wonderful.

More on these pages.



The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed


www.theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.com
www.facebook.com/theundergroundofhappiness
Twitter: UndergroundOfHappy

Playlist 406
Tues June 14 2016
11.00am-12.00pm
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at www.ucc.ie/983fm
*listen back to this show here
https://goo.gl/bB8cs9


Playlist
Nina Simone – Black is the colour
Brigid Mae Power – Let me hold you through this
Jherek Bischoff – Cas(s)iopeia (playing David Bowie Prom, Royal Albert Hall, London, July 29)
Antonymes – Delicate power
Hauschka – Cube (playing Old St Mary's Church, Clonmel, July 8)
SlowPlaceLikeHome – Tiger Lilly (playing Another Love Story Festival, Meath, Aug 19-21)
Hoofus – Twentythreeseven
Cate Le Bon – Love is not love (playing Green Man Festival, Aug 18-21)
Pedro Soler & Gaspar Claus – Vendaval (Por Buleria)
The Moles – Artificial heart
Cool Ghouls – Animal Races (playing Liverpool Psych Fest, Sept 23)
Os Noctambulos – Not everyone
13th Floor Elevators – You’re gonna miss me
windings – stray dogs (playing The Grand Social, Dublin, June 18)
We Show Up On Radar - Rockety rock

*next week's show features music from Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds, Howe Gelb & William Tyler, among others

e-mail the show on radio@ucc.ie
or text +353 (0)86-7839800
please mark messages “uoh”

Conor O'Toole,
c/o UCC 98.3FM,
Áras na Mac Léinn,
Student Centre,
University College Cork,
Cork,
Ireland.




Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Robert Forster - Whelan's, Dublin, May 28th 2016



I went to see Robert Forster a couple of weeks ago. It was the fifth time I’d seen him in the flesh.

There was the first time in The Mean Fiddler in Dublin in late 1996 around the time of the Warm nights album. I love that album and the gig was a great upbeat joyous occasion.

The next time was in the same venue about 9 months later, in June 1997. It was the same rhythm section from the 1996 solo gig (Adele Pickvance and Glenn Thompson) with Grant McLennan added, The Go Betweens reunion tour. There was a kind of gospel service atmosphere in the packed room. A palpable air of expectation. When they came on stage the emotion was hard to take. By the time they finished the first song (I can’t remember what it was now), I was in tears. In fact, I felt like I could leave satisfied at that point. Something in me had been fulfilled, already, within the space of a few minutes. You see, I became a fan of The Go Betweens after they broke up so I’d never seen them play live before. But I’d lived closely with their music since about 1991. Practically lived in it. Wore it like a vest. Their music was the immersive soundtrack to my twenties.

I saw them again a few days later at the Finsbury Fleadh in London in a half full tent. I enjoyed that gig too but it didn’t have the same air of special event about it. There was a lot of a certain kind of mature muso in the crowd – men obviously, you know the type – who conducted long private conversations with Robert and Grant between songs (or heckled them if you prefer), which had the effect of spoiling any chance of a communal atmosphere. The pair of them also seemed a bit uncomfortable with the dynamic. They certainly didn’t show the same openness and (maybe the word is) gratification that they had in Dublin earlier that week.

I saw Robert and Grant play again in Dublin in 2001, just the two of them, two acoustic guitars. It was at Vicar Street and that gig had a sense of a victory lap about it. More a chance for us to show appreciation than to experience something transformative.

At the end of May, Robert was back with a band at Whelan’s playing songs from his wonderful current album, Songs to play, as well as from his own solo and the Go Betweens back catalogues. His first time in Europe with a band in a good number of years. And the first time I’d seen him play since Grant died in 2006.

The news is he’s in good shape. He looks well for a man in his late 50s. Long and thin, he wears a suit well too (well he always did), an elegant three-piece brown number with tie in Whelan’s. He’s in perky, chipper form on the new album and he was in good voice on stage. There was a bit of hoarseness (cups of tea were delivered onstage at regular intervals by his wife Karin) and a few times he seemed to be battling with the pa. That might reflect lack of practice playing live with a band. In general he was at ease and in his element really.

And he’s clearly revitalised by the band dynamic. He made a point during the gig of saying that he could have done a solo tour but that he specifically wanted to come back to Europe this time with “an electric band”. And the band is the absolute ace card in this gig. Scott Bromiley and Luke McDonnell from the John Steel Singers sharing bass, guitar and keys (the drummer’s name I didn’t catch, he could well be another John Steeler) and Karin Baumler on violin and vocals. The backing was crisp, the drumming lovely and sharp and the guitars sweet and chiming. And the backing vocals – massed layers of harmonies at key points – were up there with the highest heights of Tallulah and 16 Lovers Lane.

The effect of this full electric band is to underscore the swagger of certain songs, particularly some of the best Go Betweens ones, a certain shake of the hips. Like that choppy pre-chorus section of ‘Spring rain’ (the closing song and one of three marvellous encore numbers) – “these people are excited, by their cars, I want surprises, just like spring rain”. Or the wonderfully louche offbeat rhythm of ‘Draining the pool for you’. Robert sings the words while the music fills in the meaning.

Unexpectedly, there were a couple of songs from his first solo album Danger in the past including the title track, a heartfelt and elegaic ballad to a struggling friend. This brought some bursts of laughter from the crowd but mostly still captivated moments - “your mother is a saint...she’s relieved we’re just friends” - as the gig swung between humour and deadly seriousness without missing a step (for the first time I wondered while listening to that song, released in 1992, if it was actually about Grant?). And an old favourite of mine, ‘Heart out to tender’ in which Robert became a cross between Nick Cave and Al Green, mike in hand leaning into the front row soul revue style, and showed that he can still do a good pout, to everyone’s sheer delight.

Of course they played several of the highlights from Songs to play - ‘Learn to burn’ (“I stop for petrol and I stop for Dylan”, a clue to the particular brand of “esoteric folk rock” on the album), the sweetly playful ‘Let me imagine you’ ("please don't twitter"), the brilliantly acerbic ‘A poet walks’ (“my soup stained vest, my critical eye”) and ‘I love myself and I always have’, the latter introduced as a song about self esteem. Cue hilarity. “No it is”, he insisted. “I think most songs are. You know you have singer songwriters who tell you, this song’s about a woman who left me, or it’s about something else that happened to me. No it’s not. It’s about self esteem.” All with a completely straight face. Cue complete uproar in the room.

There was so much heart and soul on show. From Robert for sure. Never more than at the first encore, when he arrived back on stage unaccompanied - “this is a song I didn’t write, I wish I had, hopefully I can do it justice”. There followed the opening bars of ‘Cattle and Cane’ and the roof almost lifted off the building. One of the best loved Go Betweens songs written by Grant McLennan whose 10th anniversary was only last month. Afterwards, no mention of Grant by name, no need, just a glance to the ceiling and a finger in the air and a meaningful look in the eye. Touch of class, that.

There was emotion elsewhere on stage too. A different kind to that running through the audience. More of a muted pride, a misty eyed gratification perhaps (that word again), some kind of heart swell. You could see it in the occasional supportive pats on the shoulder from Karin. Also in the bowled over easy grins of Scott and Luke, clearly having the time of their lives playing songs they no doubt grew up with.

A night full of emotion. There was a little nostalgia certainly, but not a wallowing kind, and these were songs and performances to stand up in their own right, fresh and vigorous as ever. A transformative show no doubt. No tears from me this time. More of a shiver and a thrill at the sight and sound of a loved artist reborn.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Playlist 405 - June 7 2016

Say hello to Whitney who sound a bit like Neil Young fronting The Band, that is to say a beautiful thing.

William Tyler has a new album out soon, more beautiful guitar (with band) instrumentals contemplating the state of America today.

August Wells are touring over here soon, another great song of bruised soul music from them, album coming later in the year.

And Rozi Plain, sublime kosmische folk, playing the Clonmel Junction Festival in July.

More on these pages as always.



The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed


www.theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.com
www.facebook.com/theundergroundofhappiness
Twitter: UndergroundOfHappy

Playlist 405
Tues June 7 2016
11.00am-12.00pm
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at www.ucc.ie/983fm
*listen back to this show here
https://goo.gl/95cWuc


Playlist
Rozi Plain – Marshes (playing Clonmel Junction Festival, July 10)
Nadia Reid – Runway
Stranded Horse – A qui dois-tu montrer les dents?
Whitney – No woman (playing Rough Trade East, London, June 16)
Emily Jane White – The ledge
August Wells – She was a question (playing Coughlan's, Cork, July 1, plus touring)
Bert Jansch – From the outside
Glenn Jones – June too soon, October all over
William Tyler – Albion moonlight
Marielle V Jakobsons – Rising light
Dieterich & Barnes – Parasol gigante
Theatre Royal – Standing in the land
The Bonk – Ancestor
A Giant Dog – King queen
Fujiya & Miyagi – Serotonin rushes

*next week's show features music from Cate Le Bon, Brigid Mae Power & Nina SImone, among others

e-mail the show on radio@ucc.ie
or text +353 (0)86-7839800
please mark messages “uoh”

Conor O'Toole,
c/o UCC 98.3FM,
Áras na Mac Léinn,
Student Centre,
University College Cork,
Cork,
Ireland.




Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Playlist 404 - May 31 2016

Galway singer Brigid Mae Power has hooked up with Peter Broderick on production for her new album, a lovely spacious set full of captivating vocals. It's out on Tompkins Square.

Robert Rotifer ploughs a line I like a lot - sombre measured songwriting with a political undercurrent.

Britta Phillips' debut solo album is out, it's full of sweet arrangements and dream pop gorgeousness.

And a trio of sumptuous orchestrations from the late 60s/early 70s - Lee Hazlewood invoking Morricone, Frank Sinatra invoking Jimmy Webb, The Beach Boys making vocal harmony orgasm.

More on these pages.



The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed


www.theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.com
www.facebook.com/theundergroundofhappiness
Twitter: UndergroundOfHappy

Playlist 404
Tues May 31 2016
11.00am-12.00pm
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at www.ucc.ie/983fm
*listen back to this show here
https://goo.gl/7CJHO6


Playlist
The Go Betweens – Spring rain
Robert Rotifer – The flapping of the wings
The Comet Is Coming – Space carnival (playing Lovebox Festival, London, July 16)
Jackie Lynn – Franklin, TN
Britta Phillips – Million dollar doll (from the soundtrack of the film Frances Ha)
Damien Jurado – November 20 (playing Royal Albert Hall, London, June 21)
Spain – In my hour (playing The Oslo, London, June 12)
Brigid Mae Power – Is it my low or is it yours?
Low – Into you (playing Caught by the River Thamas Festival, London, Aug 6)
Pedro Soler & Gaspar Claus – Roció y corrales (por Sevillanas)
Kevin Murphy – I am swimming
Lee Hazlewood – For one moment
Frank Sinatra – Goodbye (she quietly says)
The Beach Boys – All I wanna do
You + Your D. Metal Friend – Sonnier 6
The Chap – Student experience

*next week's show features music from Bert Jansch, Glenn Jones & Nadia Reid, among others

e-mail the show on radio@ucc.ie
or text +353 (0)86-7839800
please mark messages “uoh”

Conor O'Toole,
c/o UCC 98.3FM,
Áras na Mac Léinn,
Student Centre,
University College Cork,
Cork,
Ireland.