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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rachael Dadd – Strike our scythes / Rozi Plain – Jogalong (Split Single, Lost Map Records)

A brilliant declaration of progressive folk values from two of Britain’s most distinctive contemporary voices, and regulars on the show's playlists over the last few years.

Rachael Dadd brings ukulele strums, shakers (in fact a box of matches apparently) and a loping drumbeat with a charm-the-pants-off-you chorus vocal line from the Kate Bush school (“ca-ca-co-co-yup”) to an uplifting worksong.

In Rozi Plain’s case, her signature syncopated guitar, softly insistent backbeat, a glorious kosmische synth line and a bank of celestial harmonies develop an eminently danceable groove, perfect for the stoic nostalgia of the lyric.

One sprightly and bouncy, the other a sort of motorik murmuring. Put together, they make an intriguing yin and yang.

It’s all most beguiling and joyous and, in short, very classy pop music.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Playlist 328 - Oct 14 2014

Been enjoying the new Mark Fry album very much lately, reminding me of Bert Jansch a bit with its low acoustic drone and keening string parts. So, good to hear those two together at the start of this week's show.

Also, Laetitia Sadier doing lush Philly soul; Ariel Pink doing swoonsome jangle pop; Tennis doing sweet blue-eyed soul.

Mid-show, another mini-folk run with the bounce of Rachael Dadd, plaintive tones of Olof Arnalds and spare instrumental piano of Soley.

And two FM Cornog songs, one covered by Lambchop from 1998, the other from Cornog's own East River Pipe, from the reissued 1999 album The gasoline age. Songs as good as those are a treasure for humanity.

More on these pages.

Oct 14 2014 w/ Ariel Pink,Laetitia Sadier,Olof Arnalds,Polar Bear,Lambchop,East River Pipe++ by The Underground Of Happiness on Mixcloud

The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed
Twitter: @Conat1

Playlist 328
Tues Oct 14 2014
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at
*listen back to this show here

Mark Fry – Aeroplanes
Bert Jansch – The black swan
Laetitia Sadier – Release from the centre of your heart (playing Café Oto, London, Dec 5)
Tune-Yards – Real thing (playing Pitchfork Festival, Paris, Nov 1)
Tennis – Never work for free
Ariel Pink – Put your number in my phone (playing Scala, London, Nov 17)
Olof Arnalds - Patience (playing Point Ephemere, Paris, Oct 21)
Rachael Dadd – Bounce the ball (playing Daylight Music, Union Chapel, London, Nov 1)
Soley – Kromantik
Polar Bear w/ Jin Jin – Cuckoo
Markus Mehr – Blackbox
Lambchop – Life #2
East River Pipe – Wholesale lies
Kryshe - Lullaby
Rozi Plain - Jogalong (playing Colston Hall, Bristol, Oct 23 w/ Rachael Dadd & Emma Gatrill)

*next week’s show features music from Kemper Norton, Chloe March & East River Pipe, among others

e-mail the show on
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,

Monday, October 13, 2014

East River Pipe – The Gasoline Age (reissued, Merge Records)

Another in the most welcome series of reissues from Merge Records to celebrate its 25th birthday.

East River Pipe is the recording moniker of FM Cornog of New York and he would be the definition of cult – highly regarded by other musicians, critically acclaimed over but unknown to the majority of the population.

I came across the name first, I think, through Stewart Lee’s album reviews sometime in the 1990s, and through the advocacy and cover versions of labelmate Kurt Wagner of Lambchop (Cornog’s songs have also been covered by David Byrne, The Mountain Goats, Okkervil River and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, among many others).

This album was originally released in 1999 and features a host of unbeatable pop songs, unforgettable melodies and vignettes at every turn. It is also a concept album of sorts, about the automobile and its iconic place in the hearts of Americans, offering a chance of love, prestige, freedom, redemption and all sorts.

These are home recordings dressed in simple 3-chord guitar patterns for the most part, with rudimentary (although often cavernous and sinister) drum machines and some choice synth support. If anything, the plain and unfussy arrangements add an extra layer of emotion to the songs about strivers, drifters and losers. There are so many great moments, there’s no way around making a list.

The deadpan brilliance of opener ‘Shiny shiny pimpmobile’ shows genius immediately, an airy, high tone synth carrying the sense of delusions of grandeur.

The haunting ballad ‘Cybercar’, with a terrific 2-note guitar part and Philip K Dick-esque storyline.

‘Wholesale lies’ is like some fabulous Big Star outtake, all thrilling trebly acoustics and strident vocals.

There’s the gorgeous ‘My little rainbow’, a lovely, loose country lead at the centre.

And the wonderfully evocative ‘Party drive’ with these lines, the epitome of street poetry -

“a joint for me, pills for you
summer nights, no cops in sight
it’s a party drive”

‘King of nothing never’ (covered by Lambchop on the album What another man spills) is another gorgeous fuzzy guitar jangle serenading loss and over too soon.

The glorious ‘All you little suckers’ even has a touch of AM radio to it, harmonies from The Beach Boys and a chord sequence from Bread.

The sublime guitar uplift on ‘Astrofarm’.

The heartbreak of ‘Atlantic City (Gonna make a million tonight)’, it’ll get you right in the ribs.

That’s not the half of it. The songs are special, from start to finish. Throughout, Cornog’s voice has more than a shade of the wry world weariness of Dean Wareham about it, such a poignant instrument. And the songs have a distinct and enduring literary quality, conjuring vivid imagery in every line.

It’s a tremendous album, for filing between Lambchop and Silver Jews, and deserving of a place in every record collection.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Playlist 327 - Oct 7 2014

The great new Caribou album loomed large over this week's show - from it we played the gorgeous 'All I ever need'. I find I'm pairing it with the new Wildbirds & Peacedrums material, they have a second thrilling single of drumbeat soul (let's call it) from their upcoming new album.

I've been reading the 4AD biography of late so I thought it'd be nice to pull out some Tarnation from 1997, an old No Disco staple in the Donal Dineen days. You could file that sound next to Calexico, so as luck would have it we also had the writer Sylvie Simmons with her debut album produced by that other Tucson legend Howe Gelb.

Sean Nicholas Savage plays in Ireland this week, Paul Smith & Peter Brewis with beautiful, lyrical chamber pop.

A Lazarus Soul and Women's Christmas, two fine Irish bands with new albums out around now.

Jennifer Castle and A Winged Victory For The Sullen, you'll find more on the blog on those; Circus Devils and GBV, connected by Robert Pollard.

And the brilliantly lugubrious voice of Dan Michaelson, like Lambchop in a lower register. Enjoy.

Oct 7 2014 w/ Caribou,Wildbirds & Peacedrums,Jennifer Castle,AWVFTS,GBV, Circus Devils++ by The Underground Of Happiness on Mixcloud

The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed
Twitter - @Conat1

Playlist 327
Tues Oct 7 2014
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at
*listen back to this show here

Tarnation – Your thoughts and mine
Sylvie Simmons – You are in my arms
Caribou – All I ever need (playing Vicar Street, Dublin, Nov 5)
Wildbirds & Peacedrums – Keep some hope (playing Village Underground, London, Nov 14)
Sean Nicholas Savage - Heartless (playing Triskel Arts Centre, Cork, Oct 11, w/ Myles Manley & Cal Folger Day)
Paul Smith & Peter Brewis – Mount Wellington rises (playing St Giles in the Fields, London, Dec 19)
A Lazarus Soul – We know where you live (playing The Grand Social, Dublin, Nov 9)
Women’s Christmas – Chalklines (playing Crane Lane Theatre, Cork, Oct 18 w/ Laurie Shaw)
Suzi Jane Hokom – Need all the help I can get
Dan Michaelson & The Coastguards – Bones
Jonny Greenwood – Open spaces (from the soundtrack of the film There will be blood – Jonny Greenwood playing Albert Hall, Manchester, Oct 10 w/ London Symphony Orchestra)
A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Atomos II
Circus Devils – Eye mask of leaves
Guided By Voices – The Official Ironmen Rally Song
Jennifer Castle – Working for the man

*next week’s show features music from Ariel Pink, Polar Bear & East River Pipe, among others

e-mail the show on
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,

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Laetitia Sadier – Something shines (Drag City) & Little Tornados – We are divine (Rio Bogota)

And now for a double whammy of Laetitia-flavoured the NME might say.

Laetitia Sadier’s third solo album sees her take another short step away from the beat-driven glory of Stereolab, in the direction of something more meditative, you might say taking a cosmic view, although as much as ever there is a distinct social, or even sociological, undercurrent to the music.

In fairness, it’s not as if drums (and particularly bass – the second half of ‘Butter side up’ has a driving ‘Lab-ish backbeat over the refrain “we need answers”) play no part on Something shines, but the overriding impression from these songs is of someone taking stock of the world, probing, questioning, rather than making any overt, bold statements.

The epitome of this is the middle track, ‘Release from the centre of your heart’, which comes across very much as the centrepiece of the album. It has shades of Stereolab in the vocal layers, but these are outweighed by thoughts of the orchestral cosmic soul of Curtis Mayfield, or the lush uplift of Burt Bacharach. It’ll be hard to find a pop song more stirring and beautiful this year. I also think it’s significant that she’s using her native language now, as if challenging listeners to meet her on her terms, as if to say “come and engage with these ideas”, something which could also hold true for Little Tornados.

The Little Tornados project was formed by Laetitia with film-maker and activist David Thayer along with a bunch of other close collaborators. There’s a distinct political edge to the songs, albeit that they are wrapped in beautiful dream pop arrangements, with drunken steel guitars, woozy brass and even some very sleepy harmonica.

It all seems to be further evidence of the rise and rise of the protest song in underground circles. That form seemed to be in hibernation until at least the mid-point of what we will continue to refer to as the recession but there’s been a resurgence in the last couple of years. It’s still unusual to find (broadly) dream pop used as the vehicle - tales of chicanery and corruption have tended to lend themselves to folk or perhaps hardcore punk traditionally.

Overall it’s wonderful to hear Laetitia back in prolific form and in great voice.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Atomos (Erased Tapes)

One of the most spellbinding shows I’ve been to in the last few years was the Irish debut in January 2012 of A Winged Victory For The Sullen in support of the release of their self-titled first album. I wrote some words on the gig at the time, it really was pretty monumental. In fact, hearing that music live in the presence of another 100 people or so was bordering on emotional.

So the second album by Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Wiltzie is quite an event for me. And it doesn’t disappoint. I’m afraid words like grandeur and majesty will have to do once again to describe this slowly shifting maelstrom of strings, piano and ambient hum.

And as with the first album, despite (maybe because of?) the poise of the music, the restraint, there’s still something deeply romantic about it. What does that mean? Well, it seems to connote some vague sense of human yearning, something primal. Maybe for love, contact, a search for identity even, in this universe of ours.

The melodies are simple and direct mostly, lead by O’Halloran’s piano or strings, unshowy but massed and layered for maximum impact. Those melody lines are like the miniature details close at hand, while Wiltzie’s industrial interventions act like premonitions of infinity. The skittering samples of distant radio voices on ‘Atomos IX’ and ‘Atomos X’ for example, filtered and distorted so as to be out of reach of understanding.

That directness makes me think of other classically-trained musicians who have “dialled down” their technique to great effect to escape the strictures of classicism - perhaps also in search of a more authentic form of expression - people like Julia Kent and Matthew Bourne. As with those, the tone and bearing of this album is one of unstrained gravitas, a dignified air in no danger of earnestness.

It’s particularly vivid music too, bringing to mind specific imagery. For example, you could imagine some of those evolution scenes from 2001: A Space Odyssey over the early, tentative notes of ‘Atomos VII’. The suspense, the slow release of tension into a machine drone as the strings submerge.

And as you’d expect from any meditation on the human condition – for that is exactly what this album feels like – there is heartrending, sumptuous melancholy at every turn.

Let yourself get lost in it, it’s another wonderful piece of work.

*The genesis of the album by the way was an invitation from dance choreographer Wayne McGregor. Listen to Dustin and Adam speak about that below.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Playlist 326 - Sept 30 2014

A kind of a core of folk music running through this week's show, with a particularly nice centrepiece of new music from Olof Arnalds, Lutine & Vashti Bunyan. All female artists, all with their own intriguing versions of a delicate folk strand, from domestic idyll to murder ballad, unique all three. Of course, to that group we can also add the classy Bobbie Gentry, with a beaut from her debut album in 1967.

And even the show openers, XTC and Paul Giovanni from The Wicker Man soundtrack, continued that theme with pastoral and psych-folk takes on the harvest time of year (that's now city dwellers).

Groovy, beaty sounds from Red Snapper, reminds me a bit of Lalo Schifrin in places; Dustin Wong & Takako Minekawa being brilliantly weird and wonderful.

The Altered Hours have a new EP of beautiful short pieces (it's pay-what-you-can on bandcamp), this track has a shade of the great Mazzy Star about it. And Merchandise (pic), with one of the songs of the year, the brooding, intoxicating 'Enemy'.

More on these pages as always.

Sept 30 2014 w/ Olof Arnalds,Lutine,Vashti Bunyan,Silver Servants,Mark Fry,Altered Hours,Twinkranes+ by The Underground Of Happiness on Mixcloud

The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed

Playlist 326
Tues Sept 30 2014
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at
*listen back to this show here

XTC – Harvest Festival
Paul Giovanni & Magnet – Corn rigs (from the soundtrack of the film The Wicker Man)
Peter Broderick – With the notes in my ears (playing Half Moon Theatre, Cork, Oct 19, w/ Loch Lomond)
Olof Arnalds - Turtledove (playing Cornerhouse, Manchester, Oct 2)
Dustin Wong & Takako Minekawa - Dimension Dive Part 3: Deep sea dance
Red Snapper - Traffic
Lutine – Died of love (playing Daylight Music, Union Chapel, London, Oct 8)
Bobbie Gentry – I saw an angel die
Vashti Bunyan - Jellyfish (playing St Pancras Church, London, Oct 8)
Esquivel – La raspa
Edmundo Ros – The Sound of Music
Silver Servants – Lopsided
Mark Fry – Long way down
Merchandise - Enemy
The Altered Hours – I’m on a high (playing The Black Box, Belfast, Oct 16) Twinkranes - High tekk train wreck Cluster - Tristan in der Bar

*next week’s show features music from Tarnation, Circus Devils & Women’s Christmas, among others

e-mail the show on
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,