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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Jessica Pratt – Back, baby (Drag City, single)

This Los Angeles-based singer was a new name on me lately but this first taste from her upcoming album is absolutely intoxicating.

And it kinda shows up the limitations of writing down words about someone else producing sounds. Because this song is made up of such apparently simple raw materials. And describing them in words does no justice to the enduring atmosphere they create.

A Spanish guitar, strummed lightly and sunnily, although the lyrics undercut the breeziness with sombre reflections about love lost. In fact, repeated listens reveal a disapproving or even caustic tone wrapped in the soft, gentle musical skin.

And Pratt’s voice.

That’s it, apart from a few harmony vocals and some double tracked guitar here and there. Plus the swing, bordering on samba. And the major seventh chords.

Except her vocal delivery and phrasing are endlessly intriguing. The one word I find myself coming back to again and again is “time”, as in “if there was a time that you loved me”. She seems to pronounce it differently, as if she’s opening her mouth wider just for that word. As if the memory of time with her lover needs more air to admit the emotion attached. It’s a brilliant conjuring and adds a wonderful knotty quality to the carefree melody, evoking the joy of love but also its complications.

And so I seem to have written more than a few words about this song. Don’t let me detain you any longer from sampling its wonders yourself.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Playlist 333 - Nov 18 2014

We kicked off with psych pop this week in the shape of the new Liam Hayes (Plush) single, that's great, there's an album to follow called Slurrup. And 'Getting better', an outstanding Beatles classic and my favourite song from Sgt Pepper.

A couple of recent obsessions. Dan Michaelson, that deep cracking voice, the musical chemistry, gorgeous. And Jessica Pratt, that voice lilting over a swinging acoustic. Inspired.

Mid show, three jangly guitar pop gems from A Lazarus Soul, The Chills & Theatre Royal, it does the soul good.

Then a bit of a switch for the close. Lubomyr Melnyk with handsome piano melodies, Markus Mehr with a compellingly beautiful combination of found sounds, industrial rumbles and elegiac piano.

Something new from Silver Apples, bleeping bouncing, and something old and thrilling from Bruce Haack.

More on the blog.

Nov 18 2014 w/ Liam Hayes,Jessica Pratt,The Chills,Altered Hrs,Silver Apples,Bruce Haack,M Mehr++ by The Underground Of Happiness on Mixcloud

The Underground of Happiness uplifting pop music of every creed
Twitter: UndergroundOfHappy

Playlist 333
Tues Nov 18 2014
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at
*listen back to this show here

Liam Hayes – One way out
The Beatles – Getting better
Dan Michaelson & The Coastguards – Bones
Jessica Pratt – Back, baby
The Altered Hours – I’m on a high (playing De Barra’s, Clonakilty, Nov 21)
Gravenhurst – Damage II (playing Scala, London, Dec 9)
A Lazarus Soul – Mercury hit a high
The Chills – Rolling moon
Theatre Royal – What was that sound (playing The Tap ‘n Tin, Chatham, Dec 20)
Lubomyr Melnyk – Evertina
Markus Mehr – In the palm of your hand
Silver Apples – Missin you (playing Button Factory, Dublin, Dec 1)
Bruce Haack – Program me
Tennis – I’m callin

*next week’s show features music from Brian Casey, Elisa Luu & Sylvie Simmons, 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,

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Alien Ensemble – Modest farewell (from the s/t album on Alien Transistor)

You’ll know the name Micha Acher from his bands The Notwist and Tied & Tickled Trio. This Alien Ensemble sees him hook up with some old friends, including a couple of colleagues from The Notwist.

There’s nothing electronic here though. The instrumentation consists of double bass, drums, vibraphone, trumpet, saxophone, trombone.

It’s the sound of jazz alright but the key is the word ensemble, a wonderfully sympathetic band ambience, miles away from that awful “series of soloists” you sometimes get in the so-called upper reaches of the genre. It’s satisfyingly democratic, everyone working in service to the tune, not just holding a spotlight on the leader.

I particularly love the brass and reed build towards the end here, accompanied by a busying flurry of high hat.

Tasty, groovy and unassuming – three good things on a plate.

Dan Michaelson & The Coastguards – Bones (single, The State51 Conspiracy)

A completely gorgeous reflection on the ending of love.

Michaelson’s voice first. It’s so low it seems like it’s about to fall off the end of the register, on the verge of cracking apart any second.

Then the sumptuous arrangement. Keening cello, weeping pedal steel, subdued clean electric guitar, pitter-patter brushed drums.

It’s the orthopedic mattress memory foam of musical beds to wallow in and ranks up there with Lambchop in terms of musical chemistry made in heaven.

Truly memorable.

Mark Fry – Aeroplanes (from the album South wind, clear sky, Second Language Records)

I found it hard to get past this opening song on Fry’s new album, a welcome return from the veteran folk artist who has been pursuing a career as a painter when not playing music.

With those wonderful cello drones and flurries of fingerpicked acoustic guitar, allied with a pastoral, dreamlike atmosphere, it plays like a companion to the Bert Jansch song ‘The black swan’, itself a modern classic.

Where Jansch was describing a vaguely sci-fi future, Fry seems to be dreaming of a re-imagined, idyllic present.

You listen to this and find yourself drifting on a stratospheric current just like the silver bird in the song.

It’s uplifting and quite beautiful.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Benjamin Schoos feat. April March – J’ai essayé de t’aimer (Freaksville)

Sumptuous, string-laden pop gem from the Freaksville label founder Benjamin Schoos with the help of his accomplice April March, which summons the spirit of Serge & Jane as well as the sweep of Stereolab.

There’s a great bittersweet quality to the lyric obviously – “I tried to love you” bringing to mind Gainsbourg’s break-up classic ‘Je suis venu te dire que je m’en vais” (“I’ve come to tell you that I’m going”) – but it’s the marvellous arrangement that carries off the tune via a series of stirring contrasts.

The voices – March floating among the clouds, Schoos occupying a much earthier place – the soaring string parts against the bouncing backbeat, the smoothness of the synths against the bass pulses.

It all amounts to a marvellous, timeless piece of work and another Freaksville treasure.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Playlist 332 - Nov 11 2014

We opened this week's show with Dublin group Seti The First who play Cork this weekend as part of Cork Film Festival (apologies for the glitch during this piece, and premature ending). Their second album is on the way soon, I can't wait. As film is in the air this week, we also had some classic Henry Mancini, plus equally classic lyrics by Johnny Mercer.

Lambchop play their album Nixon at Dublin's National Concert Hall next February, any excuse to play the wonderful 'Up with people' from that album. East River Pipe are labelmates of The 'Chop, kindred spirits too, as is Ariel Pink I would say, even though musically not obviously related. All three are examples of truly great modern American songwriters.

Jessica Pratt making a simple folk song sound like the first time it's ever been sung on earth. The slow burn of the new José Gonzalez single. The masterful twist and bend of Caribou, the (off)beat and throb of Wildbirds & Peacedrums.

And Benjamin Schoos with April March, brilliantly channelling Serge & Jane through the prism of Stereolab.

More on these pages.

Nov 11 2014 w/ Seti The First,Jessica Pratt,Laetitia Sadier,W&P,Caribou,Lambchop,Ariel Pink++ by The Underground Of Happiness on Mixcloud

The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed
Twitter - UndergroundofHappy

Playlist 332
Tues Nov 11 2014
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at
*listen back to this show here

Seti The First – La bassinette noir (playing Resonant Frequencies, Triskel Christchurch, Cork as part of Cork Film Festival, Nov 14)
Henry Mancini – Moon river (from the soundtrack of the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s)
Laetitia Sadier – Release from the centre of your heart (playing L’Olympic Café, Paris, Nov 30)
Benjamin Schoos feat. April March – J’ai essayé de t’aimer
Wildbirds & Peacedrums – The offbeat (playing Village Underground, London, Nov 14)
Caribou – Dive (playing Brixton Academy, London, Mar 14)
Lambchop – Up with people (playing NCH, Dublin, Feb 1, w/ Adrian Crowley)
Ariel Pink – Put your number in my phone (playing Scala, London, Nov 17)
East River Pipe – Wholesale lies
Jessica Pratt – Back, baby
José Gonzalez – Every age
makee – bail
Rebecca Collins – This sensual pursuit
Obo – Svartur galdur
Cool Ghouls – New moon

*next week’s show features music from Silver Apples, Lubomyr Melnyk & Liam Hayes, 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,