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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ezra Furman – Restless year (from the album Perpetual motion people, Bella Union)

Fantastic opening gambit from the lipsticked one which picks up from where his last album left off.

That is to say, rollicking between the eyes Violet Femmesesque rock and roll complete with fuzz bass, doo wop vocals and pots and pans percussion.

These lines, roared in gravelly tones, are as good a way as any to sum up Furman’s manifesto -

Making the rounds in my five dollar dress
I can’t go home though I’m not homeless
I’m just another savage in the wilderness
And if you can’t come down you can listen to this

There’s also pencil thin garage rock organ, Dostoyevsky and meditations on death.

It’s thrilling hip-shaking brain-tickling stuff.

Paperface – Amsterdam (from the album Out of time, Daydream Records)

A few other short cuts before the end of the month.

Wonderfully wry orchestral pop from a slightly mysterious figure who works out of a studio in an abandoned lighthouse apparently.

There’s a hint of the majesty of Blur’s heyday, kitchen sink drama in sweeping cinemascope but rooted in the vernacular.

And delighted to be free
Ordered two more large whiskeys
Thanked our hostess very much
And descended on the Dutch

In this case a lads’ trip to Amsterdam provides the plot. And more than a touch of The Beach Boys in the glorious swooping backing vocals.

It’s got a real touch of class, this.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

August Wells – Here in the wild (FIFA Records)

Back to the Best of 2015 Mid Year Review. Here’s a tune that featured in that set from a group playing in Ireland soon and released on local Cork stalwarts FIFA Records.

August Wells is Ken Griffin (the creative mind behind the groups Rollerskate Skinny, Kid Silver and Favourite Sons) and John Rauchenberger (New York pianist who has played with The Favourite Sons, Maggie Estep and Daniel Carter among others). Their music has just begun to make its mark, but already has been described as “strange other worldly chamber music”, “Sinatra singing Lou Reed songs” and “a secret marriage of Willy Nelson and Lee Hazlewood”. It could also be described as songs to walk across your troubled heart.”

Interesting reference points, says you. On this song, that core duo of piano and voice is augmented by a gorgeous sympathetic arrangement of strings, flute and saxophone. Sympathetic to the song. Enhancing it.

It’s kinda louche, a bit sad and very lovely and in a certain light it’s almost like a flip to the above Mr Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’. A slower, looking back rather than forward version. A paean to ageing not youth version. An older and none the wiser version maybe.

Griffin’s voice is a great croon. I’m not normally a fan of vibrato but he makes that work too. Mind you, singing lines as good as these it might not matter whether you sway or not.

Take your brother
Take your sister
Walk them across their troubled hearts

It is quite wonderful.

They tour Ireland in September and sound like a can’t miss.

*Second single ‘Come on in out of that night’ is another soulful beauty, with the air of a Stax classic about it in the yearning vocal and soothing horns.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Blank Realm – River of longing (Fire Records)

I did a Best of 2015 Mid Year round up last month, about 1 hour of my favourite music of the year so far. Obviously there was no way I could fit everything I liked into 1 hour – I could easily have filled another hour or two.

This song would certainly have made the 2nd hour, the lead track from the new album by Brisbane band Blank Realm, Illegals in heaven, amazingly their 10th by my count. I say amazingly because I only heard of the band for the first time last year. It’s not every day a “new” band with an 8/9 album back catalogue comes on your radar. And for that thanks to Fire Records who are bringing them out this side of the world, following previous outings on other esteemed labels Not Not Fun and Bedroom Suck.

Anyway, Blank Realm explore various strands of psych rock - motorik rhythms, jagged thrashing or chiming heart-piercing guitars and compelling semi-tuneful vocals by brother and sister Sarah and Daniel Spencer (Everett True calls the vocals no wave and I can’t do better than that – Tom Verlaine of Television, for example, wouldn’t be a bad reference point).

This tune sits on the brighter psych pop end of that spectrum, a headrush of gorgeous prismatic guitars (a chorus of Fender Jags if I’m not mistaken, which would remind you of ‘Friday I’m in love’ by The Cure), those reaching vocals and a lyric full of teenage longing, as the title suggests.

It rattles along at a headlong pace for 4 glorious minutes and then collapses beautifully in a welter of fuzz. It’s a little bit freaky and frazzled and pushes pop to the limit.

I’m currently thoroughly enjoying the album of which more anon.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Robert Forster – Let me imagine you (Tapete Records)

1996 and ex-Go Between Robert Forster releases his fourth solo album recorded with old friend and recently crowned king of the world Edwyn Collins. (Famously beer drinkers in a Cork bar danced to his monster smash ‘A girl like you’ while the man himself played virtually unnoticed with his band in the venue at the back.)

Warm nights is my own personal favourite from his solo output, another killer combination of wry songcraft and rock n roll stance with a beautiful warm sound palette.

A first listen to the upcoming new album Songs to play suggests a return to this palette and how welcome it is.

First single ‘Let me imagine you’ has a familiar up front acoustic guitar figure with lovely supple backing from Scott Bromley and Luke McDonald of The John Steel Singers and Forster’s touring drummer Matt Piele, including a beautiful Blonde on Blonde-ish organ.

In fact, there might be more in that Blonde on Blonde hint in terms of the album as a whole. Songs which feature the singer’s persona or versions of. Songwriting adorned with deception and playfulness and enduring tunes.

Please don’t twitter
Let me imagine you

A compelling return to form.

*This album trailer gives a good indication of the serious/hilarious high wire act that Forster pulls off in his songwriting. Effortlessly and every day of his life it seems. (And appropriately, among the potential album titles mentioned in the trailer is Warm nights 2.)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Joanna Newsom – Sapokanikan (Drag City)

After a gap of five years, a return of supreme newsomness from the milk-eyed honey-voiced one. From the upcoming album Divers out in October.

That’s to say a restlessly upbeat piano tune – some folk, some jazz, all Newsom – which seems to chart a history of Greenwich Village (or the area where that village now stands). This from -

“Sapokanikan was the name of one of several Lenape villages that archaeologists have identified as existing on Manhattan Island prior to the coming of Europeans. It was located in the southwest portion of the island, on the shores of a trout stream the Indians called Minetta. Stretching things just a bit, one might say the members of this seasonal community were the first residents of Greenwich Village.”

Apart from Newsom’s soaring and thrilling vocals – sounding more Kate Bush quixotic here than at any time – there’s a wonderful trombone and recorder section arranged by her regular sideman Ryan Francesconi, thick earthy drumming and some great twinkling celeste by the woman herself.

Having started with an upbeat modern and metropolitan flavour the song ends with a decidedly medieval and pastoral comedown.

Fittingly, the video has Newsom cavorting - well walking but with a certain sprightly pupose let’s say - around New York (looks like) while filmed by Paul Thomas Anderson.

History lessons, unclassifiable hummable pop music, intriguingly out of reach musical arrangements. Is there no end to this woman’s awesomeness/newsomness?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Playlist 366 - July 28 2015 - Best of 2015 (Jan to July)

A round up of my favourite music of the year to date, a show which went out a couple of weeks ago before the summer break.

Another belting set of tunes I must say and there was another whole bunch that didn't fit into the hour. So another great year for music, basically.

I'll keep the preamble short here as you'll find plenty more around these pages on the artists listed below.


July 28 2015 - Best of 2015 (Jan - July) by The Underground Of Happiness on Mixcloud

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

Playlist 366
Tues July 28 2015
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at
*listen back to this show here

Kathryn Joseph - The want (playing Summerhall, Edinburgh, Aug 12, w/ Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat)
Qluster - Traum vom Fliegen
Circuit des Yeux - Do the dishes (playing Incubate Festival, Tilburg, Sept 20)
Deradoorian - A beautful woman
Rozi Plain - Actually (playing Green Man Festival, Aug 20-23)
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - Careen
Noveller - Concrete dreams (playing Liverpool Psych Fest, Sept 26)
Tandem Felix - Nothing I do will ever be good enough
Jon DeRosa - When Daddy took the treehouse down
Natalie Prass - It is you
C Duncan - For (playing Green Man Festival, Aug 20-23)
Marker Starling - Husbands
Giant Sand - Pen to paper (playing End of the Road Festival, Sept 4+5)
Daniel Knox - By the venture
William D Drake - Distant buzzing
Death & Vanilla - Follow the light (playing Liverpool Psych Fest, Sept 26)
Virginia Wing - Donna's gift (playing Liverpool Psych Fest, Sept 25+26)
August Wells - Here in the wild (playing Coughlan's, Cork, Sept 11)

*the next show is on Sept 1 following the summer break

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,