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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Playlist 430 - Jan 17 2017

New music from The Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble which is wonderful news and a joyous uplifting South American sound.

Wymond Miles was someone who caught me at the end of the year, a glorious cosmic soul cut.

The Nightjar are from Bristol and ostensibly deal in a folk style, although their haunted ambient atnospherics make it a whole lot more interesting than that might sound.

Brigid Mae Power plays Quarter Block Party in Cork soon. C Duncan on tour in UK. A marvellous Lift To Experience reissue/remix.

And the spellbinding coup de grace from Weyes Blood who is back in Europe this spring.

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 430
Tues Jan 17 2017
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
goo.gl/li7n0V


Playlist
Wymond Miles – Protection
The Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble – Undying love for humanity (playing Grand Social, Dublin, Apr 6)
Brigid Mae Power – It’s clearing now (playing Quarter Block Party, Cork, Feb 3-5)
Brokeback – Ursula
The Nightjar – Wardrobe (playing Jazz Café, Camden, Jan 24)
C Duncan – Last to leave (playing Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh, Jan 24)
Big Star – Holocaust
Lift To Experience – These are the days
Retoryka – Are you flexible
Fair Mothers – Blind
Kathryn Joseph – the want (playing The Hug & Pint, Glasgow, Jan 31, w/ Fair Mothers)
Richard Osborn – The king walks by
Nadia Reid – Arrow and the aim (playing Hoxton Hall, London, Feb 15)
VENN – Real blood
Weyes Blood – Used to be (playing Workman's Club, Dublin, Apr 15)

*next week's show features music from The Nightjar, Damien Jurado plus an Interview with Rozi Plain, 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, January 11, 2017

Best of 2016 – Part 4: Psych/Drone/Kosmische/Jangle/Wonky Pop



So here's the final instalment of this Best of 2016 loosely centring on Psych Pop and some offshoots. I must say it was great listening back to the tunes over the last few weeks. It seems I always say this, but it really was another great year for music. It’s also very interesting when compiling a list like this to spot trends over the year, or longer, some kind of pattern that might be developing, or on the other hand any glorious one offs.

I think I always say this too but no harm in repeating. These lists aren’t meant to be representative in any way. I know there are glaring omissions here out of the sum of music released last year but this list is made up of the music that struck a chord with me and in almost all cases was played (generally quite a bit) on the show.

So once more with feeling, these are in no particular order. Enjoy.

**************************************************************************

1. Weyes Blood – Front row seat to Earth (Mexican Summer)
Compelling work of art adorned with the sublime singing voice of Nathalie Mering (having just a hint of the husky magnificence of Karen Carpenter) which contains at least three all time classic relationship break up songs.



2. Cool Ghouls – When you were gone (Empty Cellar/Melodic)
Majestic Byrdsian jangle and swoon with existential undertones from the San Francisco band’s wonderful third album Animal races.



3. Cate Le Bon – Crab day (Drag City/Turnstile)
The latest Le Bon trades in a little of the psych for some endearingly wonky pop shapes.

Guitar lines cavort in giddy fashion, falling around the place good natured and wide eyed.

What’s striking amidst the loopiness of the arrangements is the unbeatable quality of the songwriting – short and sharp but giving the impression of taking its time and possessing a sweet almost childlike lyricism.

Adventurous, refreshing, meandering, dreamy, catchy as hell, it’s a beautiful album that just grows and grows.



4. Angel Olsen – My woman (Jagjaguwar)
Bracing garage rock statement of intent from the Chicago resident with a voice which is an extraordinary instrument – it can be tender and soft, harsh and berating, pleading, sometimes all in the same line, and always completely convincing.



5. Cavern of Anti-Matter feat. Bradford Cox – liquid gate (Duophonic Records)
A groovy fuzzy bassline, shakers, winsome vintage synths, the Deerhunter frontman’s unmistakeable drawl. There are ecstatic dreams of Stereolab here (COAM does include 'Lab founder Tim Gane) and it’s a wonderful thing from their first album void beats/invocation trex which is full of many other wonderful and varied drones.



6. Hilma Nikolaisen – Puzzler (Fysisk Format)
Gorgeous understated psych pop from the former bass player with Sereena Maneesh and the bass playing on the album is the icing on the cake for me, a delirious acid rock tumble of notes.



7. Nap Eyes – Lion in chains (Paradise of Bachelors)
Sublime late VU-esque atmosphere, taking its sweet time, with as many verses as it needs, chiming guitars over a gorgeous vocal burr, like a comatose ‘Sweet Jane’.



8. Real Numbers – Wordless wonder (Slumberland Records)
I’m a sucker for this rollicking wall of sound jangle, with a lovely wide eyed freshness which renders irrelevant the suspicion you might have heard it somewhere before.

With it the Minneapolis group have taken the baton from the great Crystal Stilts and that’s good enough for me.



9. The Altered Hours – Virgin’s sleeve (Art For Blind/Penske)
The second side of the Cork (based) band’s debut album In heat not sorry in particular got me last year. It featured mainly quieter, spookier songs giving more space for the musical elements to hit home, for the psych to bloom properly if you will, giving thrilling hints of the likes of Mazzy Star or more recently the likes of Death & Vanilla.

This album highlight points an exciting way forward, bowed and bent guitar notes and organ fills and floor toms washing around Elaine Howley’s plaintiff vocal, the whole thing soundly strangely reminscient of Irish folk music fed through a fascinating blender.



10. Whyte Horses – La couleur originelle (CRC Music)
And psych pop with a glorious French twist from the Manchester group, taking the best elements of The Go! Team and yé-yé to create something joyous and danceable.



11. The Chap – Student experience (Lo Recordings)
A refreshing gust of post punk art rock with a delicious take on the “business” of western European university education. “Make me ready to be market ready” is one of the lines of the year in pop music and all the better for being surrounded by edgy guitars and restless drums.



12. Rozi Plain – Marshes (Lost Map)
Sublime drifting kosmische from the English singer who continues to push folk music into fascinating psych pop territory. Having seen her play live for the first time last year (a wonderful show with the help of a few mad Frenchmen and one reasonably stable looking Englishman), I can also say that she’s the only singer songwriter I know who includes Sun Ra and Monks tunes in her set. Can’t wait for her next album already.



13. Todd Tobias feat. Chloe March – Pollen path (Hidden Shoal)
There's a lovely feel of ambient drift from this too, albeit set around a captivating Nick Drakeish guitar figure, taken from Tobias’ mostly instrumental album Gila man. The coup de grace is the wordless vocal of labelmate Chloe March, an intimate lullaby reaching out from a beautiful wispy sound fog.



14. Astronauts – End codes (Lo Recordings)
A second album from Dan Carney (and friends) full of his signature hushed motorik, that wonderful combination of soft but insistent backbeats and sotto voce vocals.

Another triumph of subtly insinuating, slightly melancholy yet ultimately strangely joyous pop music.



15. Giorgio Tuma feat Laetitia Sadier – Maude hope (Elefant Records)
Alluring dream pop with undertones of kosmische, shoegaze, library music and sublime orchestral soul, featuring arrangement genius akin to a Sean O’Hagan or a Van Dyke Parks and the swooning voice of ex-Stereolab singer Laetitia Sadier.



16. Lake Ruth – The inconsolable Jean-Claude
Mention of the great Gainsbourg collaborator (JC Vannier) is guaranteed to get the juices flowing around here and this gorgeous slice of baroque psych pop borrows his intoxicating palette of sharp and groovy plectrum bass with cooing keys and delicious chopped guitar.



17. The Fiction Aisle – Fuchsia days (The Chord Orchard)
A wonderful album of drifting orchestral pop from the former Electric Soft Parade man Thomas White of Brighton and friends.

It is a collection of pieces unhindered by percussion or rhythm in the conventional sense. Instead each song floats as if free of gravity and there is very much a sense of suspension above the earth in the bed of synth rumbles and drones.

I’m not sure if melancholy is the right word but there is a definite sombreness running through the record. However it is wrapped in such gorgeous and intriguing musical forms that it doesn’t seem to define the record.

Which makes this an uplifting and triumphant record.



18. Wymond Miles – Protection (from the album Call by night, Sacred Bones)
Especially gorgeous and soulful brand of psych folk from the Fresh & Onlys frontman. It glides mainly on a killer backing vocal, a high register shadow that casts a crucial half light over the sparse arrangement of piano and guitar.



19. The Moles – Artificial heart (Fire Records)
A storming return from the Australian 80s cult faves lead by Richard Davies with the album Tonight’s music. This tune cut straight to their Flying Nun roots with a winsome jangle and great no nonsense backing.

Track 15 in this playlist

20. Scott & Charlene’s Wedding – Maureen (Fire Records)
If for no other reason, just the chorus - “Whup Whup Whup Whup Whup Whup Whup Whup Whup Whup Whup Whup Whup Whup Maureen."



21. Man of Moon – Sign (Melodic)
This Edinburgh duo continue to crack out top drawer tunes, making like a northern hemisphere Jagwar Ma as they combine motorik, garage rock and dance beats to thrilling effect.



22. The Comet Is Coming – Channel the spirits (The Leaf Label)
And to finish two Leaf stalwarts, in many ways bands that are two sides of the same coin, sharing as they do the considerable talents of saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings. As the TCIC press blurb has it, “the sound of total planetary destruction, produced with laser-guided accuracy and aimed directly at the dancefloor.”



23. Melt Yourself Down – Last evenings on earth (The Leaf Label)
And another great twin sax assault in 2016 by MYD, a rumbling snaking dancefloor shaking screaming tornado of sound.

Playlist 429 - Jan 10 2017

Another set with a few more Best of 2016 picks and a share of new music.

New Entrance album next month, baroque but heartfelt folk shapes.
New Brian Eno, ambient majesty.
Mick Harvey with Vol 4 of his great Serge Gainsbourg translations/interpretations.
Mind Over Mirrors, antique drones.
The Last Sound, brooding industrial pop soundscapes.
And Rothko, bracing spoken word memoir over stark solo bass.

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 429
Tues Jan 10 2017
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
goo.gl/za8Ixn


Playlist
Cory Hanson – Replica
Entrance – Winter lady
Mind Over Mirrors – 600 miles around
Alasdair Roberts – The downward road (playing Café Oto, London, Feb 23)
Hilma Nikolaisen – Word
Mick Harvey feat Solomon Harvey - Baby teeth, wolfy teeth
Rothko – The mainline landscape of my youth remains seared in my mind
The Last Sound – Let soar
Brian Eno – Reflection (Extract)
A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Galerie (from the soundtrack of the film Iris)
ISAN – Leonardo’s formula
Howe Gelb feat Lonna Kelley – A book you’ve read before
Joe Sampson – Wealth
Switzerland – Starting out (playing Whelan's Upstairs, Dublin, Jan 27)
Benji Hughes – Magic summertime

*next week's show features music from The Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble, Weyes Blood & Big Star 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.




Friday, January 6, 2017

Best of 2016 - Part 3: Instrumental/Spoken Word/Electronic



Part 3 of this epic poem, again in no particular order. And as a companion piece, check also this Best of 2016 mix which includes many of these tunes, along with a few from the upcoming Psych section, the final instalment.



************************************************************

1. Tortoise – The Catastrophist (Thrill Jockey)
Another wonderful album from Chicago’s finest and apart from anything else (the glorious hooks, the minimalist chops, the thrilling musicianship etc) a reminder of just how fucking groovy they are.

Marvellous music for the brain and the feet.



2. Syrinx – Tumblers from the vault: 1970-1972 (RVNG Intl)
A bolt from the blue for me and a fantastic compilation of ecstatic kosmische/dream jazz from this Toronto 3-piece.

Also a thoroughly fascinating slice of the 70s underground (albeit unexpectedly accessible) and another great piece of archive work by RVNG Intl.



3. Fixity – Hungry clouds (Kantcope)
Tremendous cut from the very prolific Dan Walsh, a Cork cassette label release but sounding nothing like what you might expect from a Cork release...

...it being a murky, darkened spectrum of sound with stalking atmospheres and a haunted dreamy aftertaste.

*Incidentally, one of three separate Fixity releases last year, all of which are great. Go find.



4. Elias Krantz – Patchwork Part 1 (Control Freak Kitten)
Entrancing beat-driven minimalist instrumental from the Swedish artist with thrilling shades of dancefloor Tortoise, a hint of Battles, a brilliantly conducted extended jazz groove.

Track 3 in this playlist


5. Iggy Pop, Tarwater & Alva Noto – As Adam early in the morning/I am he that aches with love (Morr Music)
The poetry of Walt Whitman as you’ve never heard it before, a wonderful collab which recognises one key fact – the unending intrigue in Iggy Pop’s speaking voice – and highlights it with a dramatic lilting electronic bed.

*Plus check the knock out chemistry between it and the on fire Ukrainian dancers in this video.



6. Rothko – A young fist curled around a cinder for a wager (Trace Recordings)
An album that was sent to me towards the end of last year, a collaboration between Johny Brown (of Band of Holy Joy) and Mark Beazley, who has recorded under the Rothko moniker for many years now.

It consists of spoken word recitations, north of England childhood reminisciences, memoir style, over thick brooding ambient soundscapes where the bass end is dominant.

It is absolutely gripping stuff. Try the title track here, it’s only two minutes long or so, then proceed without delay to order the album. I glibly described it as Mark E Smith meets Ken Loach in the blurb on that playlist. Whatever about that, it is a wonderful heartfelt racket.

Track 11 in this playlist


7. Matthew Bourne – Keighley (The Leaf Label)
A gorgeous Moog meditation from the moogmemoryplus EP by the Leeds pianist/composer named after a village in Yorkshire.



8. The Notwist – Superheroes, Ghostvillains + Stuff (Alien Transistor)
Another effortlessly cool, fluid and (crucially) groovy chapter in the story of The Notwist.

Apart from notwisting, the Acher brothers have had their hands in all kinds of fascinating pies over the years. For the first time, here is a live set, recorded in Leipzig in front of a most appreciative audience and it sounds fantastic.

From the opening strains of ’They follow me’ – with its creeping meditative air – there’s a lovely organic mixture of analogue and digital sounds.

As remarked elsewhere, it is also a rare example of a live recording that might be better than the original.



9. Dieterich & Barnes – The coral casino (LM Duplication)
A brilliant, slightly delirious album full of genius twists and turns from John Dieterich of Deerhoof and Jeremy Barnes of Neutral Milk Hotel, A Hawk & A Hacksaw and others.

Improvisation is the order of the day across 11 instrumental tunes which veer somewhere between the poles of Tortoise and Can.



10. Alien Ensemble – Alien Ensemble 2 (Alien Transistor)
Beautiful combination of kosmische jazz, motorik and brass band shapes from Micha Acher (The Notwist) and friends.



11. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – Arthropoda (from the album EARS, Western Vinyl)
Genuinely transformative and inspiring electronic creations from another album put together using the whooshes and chugs of the magical Buchla Music Easel.



12. Nathan Bowles – Chiaroscuro (Paradise of Bachelors)
An absorbing intriguing puzzle, a phasing solo piano piece in an album of Appalachian banjo tunes (Whole and cloven), but a miniature minimalist beauty.

Track 8 in this playlist


13. Lambchop – FLOTUS (City Slang/Merge)
A triumph of an album that manages to do the unthinkable – rescue from absurdity the use of autotune on vocals – while pushing into progressive electronic territory, still maintaining a glorious thread from the country/soul DNA of the band.



14. William Tyler – Gone clear (Merge)
And one from the extended Lambchop family. Sublime, wistful, stoic American folk and country instrumentals informed by (back) road trips around the US with an appropriate motorik pulse and ambient hum at work.



15. Qluster – Glasperlenspiel (Bureau B)
A beautiful drifting kosmische tune from the album Echtzeitand worthy of sitting alongside earlier classic material of both Cluster and Harmonia.

Track 9 in this playlist


16. Holy Fuck – Xed eyes (Innovative Leisure)
Great rattling dance music with a punk funk chassis from the Toronto group’s fine 4th album.



17. Todd Terje & The Olsens – Firecracker (Olsen)
Wonderful loopy bleepy version of the Yellow Magic orchestra tune from the Norwegian’s 2016 covers album.



18. Marielle V Jakobsons – Star core (Thrill Jockey)
Taking the pace down a notch. Long extended drones from the woman you may know from the band Date Palms.

Sinewy bass rumbles.

Kosmische sparkles.

Violins shimmer like a mirage.

Desert music basically.

Find yourself in it.



19. Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler – Music inspired by Phillipe Garrel’s Le Révélateur (Thrill Jockey)
Wonderful instrumental music to finish, a harp and surround sound electronics, a putative soundtrack to the French black and white 1960’s film.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Playlist 428 - Jan 3 2017

For the first show of 2017 a mixture of some 2016 faves and some new music.

The former.
Weyes Blood, majestic break up music.
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, beguiling organic synth tunes.
Tortoise, a twisting groovebeast.
Lambchop, a subtly shifting pitter patter autotuned animal.

The latter.
Courtney Marie Andrews, sumptuous country regret.
Flo Morrissey & Matthew E. White, a lovely soulful flight of fancy.
Noveller, new year, same old epic soundscapes.

And a wonderful treasure from 1970, Lee Hazlewood with Suzi Jane Hokom in Sweden.

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 428
Tues Jan 3 2017
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
goo.gl/NhPIl9


Playlist
Courtney Marie Andrews – Rookie dreaming (playing Union Chapel, London, Mar 2)
Flo Morrissey & Matthew E. White – Look at what the light did now
Weyes Blood – Used to be
Damien Jurado & Richard Swift – Crazy like a fox (Damien Jurado playing Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire, Mar 17)
Virginia Wing – Permaboss (playing Rich Mix, London, Feb 28, w/ Jenny Hval)
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – Arthropoda
Noveller – Trails and trials
Jam Money – Bubbled other
Lambchop – Flotus
Tortoise – The catastrophist
Brokeback – The strollers’ memorial
Lee Hazlewood feat. Suzi Jane Hokom – For a day like today
C Duncan – Nothing more
Bert Jansch & John Renbourn – Downunder
Weird Dreams – Binary

*next week's show features music from Entrance, Cory Hanson & Alasdair Roberts 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.




Saturday, December 31, 2016

Best of 2016 Mix Part 3 - Instrumental/Electronic/Spoken Word/Psych Pop

One last post before New Year's. This one rounds up some tunes mostly from the second half of the year. It turns out there was a lot of great instrumental music in there. Plus some other material that I think fits with that.

Enjoy and see you on the other side.

Fixity – Hungry clouds
Tortoise – The catastrophist
Elias Krantz – Patchwork Pt 1
Syrinx – Aurora spinray
Marielle V Jakobsons – Rising light
Cavern of Anti-Matter feat. Bradford Cox – liquid gate
Melt Yourself Down – Dot to dot
The Comet Is Coming – Space carnival
Dieterich & Barnes – Parasol gigante
Alien Ensemble – Skeleton dance
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – Arthropoda
Matthew Bourne – Keighley
Qluster – Glasperlenspiel
Nathan Bowles – Chiaroscuro
Lambchop – Flotus
Iggy Pop, Tarwater & Alva Noto – As Adam early in the morning/I am he that aches with love
Rothko – A young fist curled around a cinder for a wager
Wymond Miles – Protection
C Duncan – Nothing more
Weyes Blood – Generation Why
Cool Ghouls – When you were gone
The Altered Hours – Virgin's sleeve
Hilma Nikolaisen – Hermitage

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Best of 2016 - Part 2: Pop/Soul/Indie



Part 2 of this list, out of four in total, the others to follow in January. There will be another Best of Mix also over the next week, stay tuned to Mixcloud.

*********************************************************************

1. Trashcan Sinatras – Let me inside (Or let me out)
A monumental year for fans of this treasured Scottish band. A new crowdfunded album, the wonderful Wild pendulum, possibly their best ever work, and tours in America and Europe.

And having seen them play live in November, the big insight (other than the obvious genius on show) was the sheer soulfulness of the songs. So yeah, top notch tunes and buckets of soul. I’ll take that any year.

http://theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.ie/2016/11/trashcan-sinatras-workmans-club-dublin.html

Track 14 in this playlist


2. Britta Phillips – One fine summer morning (from the album Luck or magic, Double Feature)
Another artist I saw play live in 2016. In these thoughts from last June, I was zoning in on the fact that we don’t get to hear enough of her in her own right, whether that’s because of a certain shyness or something else. Because she is a wonderful singer.

http://theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.ie/2016/06/britta-phillips-luck-or-magic-double.html

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.




3. Christine & The Queens – Tilted (Because)
It’s fitting that this should turn out to be one of the songs of the year in which David Bowie and Prince both died, although it first came out in 2015.

Gender bending. Adventurous. Progressive. That’s Héloise Letissier.

That warped bass intro is second nature by now.

And that great pitter patter secondary bass line.

This is one of those songs you probably need the video more than most. Her dancing is part of the expression. A partner to her singing. Characterful. Individual. A little bit defiant.

It does the heart good to see the mainstream subject to an intervention like this.



4. The Monkees – Me & Magdalena (from the album Good times, Rhino)
A sublime picking up of the baton 50 years on had several memorable moments but none more winsome than this gem, or more appropriate to being sung by guys 50 years older. Written by Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie, this song has the grace and dignity to match the verve and energy of the best 60s Monkees.



5. Robert Forster – Love is where it is (Tapete)
And we have to follow The Monkees with Mr Forster, who toured and published a book this year, the tremendous Grant & I memoir. This single from his 2015 album Songs to play had the great man going all bossa, although still retaining that familiar sense of style – “I’m walking down the street and I’m flash, a suit and tie and a pair of blacky pants” – while wife Karin shades in the vocal spaces sumptuously.

The gig in Whelan’s last May was one of those special nights that tends to dominate the memory, in which he was bolstered by a brilliant backing band.

http://theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.ie/2016/06/robert-forster-whelans-dublin-may-28th.html

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.

Track 5 in this playlist


6. Robert Rotifer – Calais (Gare du Nord)
Speaking of prolific, Robert Rotifer released an EP and an album in the last year. This is the song that became obligatory for me from the If we hadn’t had you EP, a woozy and surgically short jazz folk mood piece about the makeshift camp in Calais known as The Jungle. The song shuffles uneasily by, much like European popular opinion.

An essential piece of music for 2016 especially.

Track 6 in this playlist


7. The Chills – Pink frost (Flying Nun)
Flying Nun did a great thing this year. They reissued Kaleidoscope world 30 years on, a collection that almost bottles the genius of Martin Phillips. One of The Chills’ best loved songs, ‘Pink frost’ has the sweet and sad hush, the thrum and chime of guitars and the always reaching voice of Phillips. The word legend applies.



8. Emma Pollock – Parks and recreation (from the album In search of Harperfield, Chemikal Underground)
The Delgados co-founder released a beautiful album of probing chamber pop in the spring. This single has more of an indie stab off it, but all the better for that, with Pollock full of attitude, red ox blood docks and all.



9. Whitney – No woman (Secretly Canadian)
The downbeat perfectly appointed antidote to all those windy male singing buffoons. Like a white soul Midlake. A little bit stoned and all seeing for that.

Some kind of wisdom in these deceptively banal words -

“I left drinking on the city train
To spend some time on the road”

Whether you go with “feral indie bros” (The Guardian) or “Neil Young guesting with The Band” (that was me) or some other line, you’ll find it hard not to fall in love with. The dappled electric piano intro. The high tone male semi falsetto. The unbeatable twisting guitar part. The stoic banks of trumpets. The swooning fiddle. The general country soul swing and amiability.

A beguiling mix. And one of the sounds of the year.



10. Bat For Lashes – I do (Parlophone)
I haven’t gone every step of the way with Natasha Khan since her wonderful debut album.

Even on this, her fourth album The bride, there are moments where we part company – the more gratuitously overwrought ones mostly.

This opening track though, this is her thing.

It’s two minutes of high intrigue and suspense set against a beautiful baroque keyboard arrangement and a brilliantly restrained vocal performance.



11. C Duncan – Nothing more (Fat Cat Records)
Hard to pick just one song from Mr Christopher Duncan’s second album, another sublime set of tunes – again entirely self composed and arranged – from the Glaswegian.

There’s a compelling devotional quality to this (sharing some elusive DNA with fellow Glaswegians The Blue Nile) which tends to suggest there is something sacred in everything if we just care to notice.



12. The Avalanches – Subways (XL)
Another triumphant return in 2016, The Avalanches released a string of killer singles from the Wildflower album. This is simply deeply groovy and wide eyed dance music. Great fun + brilliantly conceived and constructed = class pop song.



13. Ex Reyes – Bad timing (Memphis Industries)
A sublime psych soul cut with deep roots coming from Prince and Curtis Mayfield and others.

Horns. Bending melodies. Ascending strings. Wonderful bass driven backbeats.

It’s 3 and a half minutes long but feels like a full blown symphony.

If you need any other reasons to be endeared, it seems to be a song about love and dancing.

Another one of the year’s essential sounds for me.



14. The Goon Sax – Sometimes accidentally (from the album Up to anything, Chapter Music)
Forster Jr (Louis, son of Robert) was also busy this year, releasing a debut album of fine promise with some fellow Brisbaners.

Here we have a pummelling floor tom drum. A circling acoustic guitar line. A defiantly chugging bass. Which all adds up to no nonsense.

But the vocal demurs. It’s a love song of sorts. But it dwells on feeling inferior to other suitors. It’s all refreshingly uncertain and hangdogish.

A bit like The Go Betweens in fact (the band also has a female drummer). Which might be a bit obvious but still no higher praise is possible.



15. Maria Usbeck – Moai y yo (from the album Amparo, Labrador Records)
A shimmering tropical journey inpsired by her home country of Ecuador. It sneaks up on you, loping along in deceptively casual fashion, somewhat like a Juana Molina song might, a seething undercurrent of ideas below the handsome top notes.

Beautiful stuff.



16. Benji Hughes – Magic summertime (from the album Songs in the key of animals, Merge)
Here’s one that might have flown under your radar this year, even under my own a bit even as I was playing it on the show.

There’s something hard to describe going on in the arrangement. A suspense, a drone stuck on one note, an irresistible thrum, a series of muted piano stabs...

...while the vocal drawls the simple secrets of love, the universe, everything.

There’s something avant garde hidden within the downbeat beauty of the melody. It’s a thing of mystery and intrigue. It’s a wonderful piece of pop music.

Track 6 in this playlist


17. August Wells – A little too real (FIFA Records)
From the band who released their first album, Madness is the mercy, in this part of the world this year.

A glowing soul burner, one of many towering tunes on Madness is the mercy, but the horn and wind arrangement on this is SO great, coupled with Ken Griffin’s lived in croon.

Majestic and moving.



18. Kevin Murphy – Don’t forget me
Another magnificent album this year from the Corkman abroad.

This, the title track, a heart wrenched recording of love and loss. With barbs intact, and banks of startling vocal harmonies giving voice to the pain.

It all adds up to the intriguing prospect of Irish folk music made to collide with post club soul melancholy.



19. The Monochrome Set – Cosmonaut (Tapete)
Brilliant burnished agit pop from Bid and friends. They get older but they just never get old.



20. Lail Arad – Milo (The Vinyl Factory)
The wonderful opening song from Arad’s album The onion, ‘Milo’ is like Arad’s manifesto – first tender and sultry, then cool and snappy (great rimshots) with a band of female allies (possibly multiple Lails) chipping in with morale boosting backing vocal support.

It’ll all charm the pants off you while you’re swinging your hips.



21. This Is The Kit – Les plus beaux (Brassland)
Sublime piece of French pop from the English group, a cover of a Francois & the Atlas Mountains song from the Rusty and got dusty EP early in the year.

French not just in language but in the shimmering organ, the brisk percussion, the children’s backing vocals.

Les plus beaux is right.



22. Howe Gelb – A book you’ve read before (from the album Future Standards, Fire Records)
And to finish, from late in the year, Howe Gelb in a glorious duet with Lonna Kelley, a pair of smoky world weary croons.

There’s a narcotic effect to this dual vocal, sleepy and late night. But though steeped in later years nostalgia, there’s a satisfying knottiness to the lyric that keeps pulling you back to wide awake.

Love was just a just reward
just not the thing that your heart could ill afford


A beautiful intimate late night experience.

Track 1 in this playlist