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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Playlist 426 - Dec 6 2016

A mix and match this week, some Best of 2016, some new music (ahead of the Christmas Special next week).

The former.
Entrance, beautiful sweeping orch pop.
Weyes Blood, a monumental noise with a voice deceptively smooth.
North Sea Radio Orchestra, a wonderful album of shifting avant folk music.

The latter.
Nadia Reid, back with a new album in the new year, a lovely foretaste.
Whyte Horses, reinterpreting their album with a 400 strong children's choir.
A Winged Victory For The Sullen, soundtrack music with great propulsion.

And a classic from Super Furry Animals, currently on tour.

More on these pages.

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

Playlist 426
Tues Dec 6 2016
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at
*listen back to this show here

Peaking Lights – Amazing and wonderful
Whyte Horses – She owns the world
Flights of Helios – Embers
Super Furry Animals – (Drawing) Rings around the world (playing Roundhouse, London, Dec 8+9)
Entrance – Promises
Joe Sampson – Wealth
Weyes Blood – Seven words
Amiina – Paris
A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Retour au Champs de Mars (from the soundtrack of the film Iris)
North Sea Radio Orchestra – Arcade
Duds – No remark
Jam Money – Thimble theatre
Nadia Reid – Arrow & the aim
Piano Magic – Exile
Coldharbourstores – Genie
Mick Harvey – More and more, less and less

*next week's show is a Christmas Special and features music from Howe Gelb, Dylan Thomas, Low, Pony Poindexter & Can, 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, Cork, Ireland.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Playlist 425 - Nov 29 2016

Weyes Blood (pic) is Natalie Mering and you need to hear her. Dreamy psych pop that is stately, somewhat serene, and with a singing voice that will have you in the palm of its hand from the first note. Do it.

Also great new Howe Gelb, from his Future Standards album, which is piano trio jazz tunes and with to die for vocals also by Lonna Kelley.

Virginia Wing have some very interesting spooked electronic shapes on their new album, haunted you might say.

Cory Hanson's solo album is another beaut, subtly freaky folk songs with lush throbbing strings.

And Rothko have made something that's absolutely gripping, like some kind of cross between Mark E Smith and Ken Loach. Give it a go.

More on these pages.

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

Playlist 425
Tues Nov 29 2016
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at
*listen back to this show here

Howe Gelb – A book you’ve read before (playing Café Oto, London, Dec 10)
Kathryn Williams & Anthony Kerr – My funny valentine (playing Islington Assembly Hall, London, Dec 6)
Weyes Blood – Generation Why (playing Sidecar, Barcelona, Nov 30)
Hilma Nikolaisen – Cloud Nine rewind
Arborist – Dark stream
Cory Hanson – The unborn capitalist from limbo
The Comet Is Coming – Final eclipse (playing Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, Dec 15)
Ex Reyes – Bad timing
Soccer 96 – Up and down
Volta Jazz – Air Volta
Rothko – A young fist curled around a cinder for a wager
The Perennials – Miss Marionette
Virginia Wing – Sonia & Claudette
Yama Warashi – Moon egg (playing The Prince Albert, Stroud, Nov 30)
Angel Olsen – Shut up kiss me (playing Opera House, Cork, May 20)

*next week's show features more music from Amiina, Whyte Horses & Weyes Blood, 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, November 29, 2016

Mikael Tariverdiev – The irony of fate (Earth Recordings)

Last year Earth Recordings did a great thing. They released a retrospective of the film soundtrack work of Mikael Tariverdiev, a Russian composer who might have been to that country what Michel Legrand is to France. He was prolific in the 1960s and 1970s, a time when not much of Russian culture passed through the iron curtain to this side of the continent. That album was an absolute treasure and you can read more here.

This new release is another sublime collection from a 1975 film, sweeping orchestral passages brushing up against plaintiff Russian folk songs. My favourite moments are the sublimely soporific feel to the orchestral jazz theme of ‘Snow over Leningrad’ and its companion/variation ‘Melody’, where the strings come out from under the shadow of the vibraphone magnificently.

Another album to treasure from a treasure of a label.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Lambchop – FLOTUS (Merge/City Slang)

Autotune on vocals is about the last thing I would put on my wish list for the next Lambchop (or any) album but when dealing with a legend like Kurt Wagner (and pals) let’s say we can give him more leeway than most.

And it turns out autotune, which is appalling on all those strident belt it out vocal styles, produces a surprisingly delicate effect in the case of a subtle and restrained instrument like Wagner’s. It acts as a blink and you’ll miss it twist to his low key croon.

So it adds a level of intrigue to opening track ‘In care of 8675309’, something somehow punk rock among the gorgeous lounge soul stylings.

It plays up the funk on a track like ‘Old masters’, a slow and smooching dancefloor jam.

And it adds deep pathos on the title track, a song with an already sad nostalgic air and undercut by softly skittering electronic beats.

For the rest of the album you can drift or you can listen closely, treating it as a warm bath or an aural puzzle, a kind of shapeshifting quality I personally love in an album. It marks a change of direction for the band but there’s an amount of continuity to previous country and soul affairs.

It is a long distance slow burning triumph.

Jess Williamson – See you in a dream (from the album Heart song, Brutal Honest)

There’s a deceptive and devastating simplicity to this wracked blues from the Austin Texas singer.

Williamson’s voice is a wonderful instrument for starters, hovering on the edge of cracking, somewhere between a plea and Portuguese fado, a distant relation to Angel Olsen maybe, so little enough is needed in the musical arrangement to set it off.

Just some of the tastiest reverbed and tremolo-laced guitar since Chris Isaak and perfectly judged drumbeats, shading in between the lines with sensitivity and artistry so that the magnificent singing remains centre stage.

All in all it has the air of a David Lynch soundtrack cut, a shimmer of moonlight, a shiver, a dream, something from another world.

A memorable and intriguing piece of pop music.

*Opening album track ‘Say it’ is also a beautiful thing, a cousin to ‘See you in a dream’, another smouldering blues with a lovely reined in walking guitar line and a vocal to strap your soul to where every breath is a matter of life or death.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Playlist 424 - Nov 22 2016

A spate of great gigs coming up in Cork and we played several of these bands on the show this week.

Fixity, a new album conceived in Cork, recorded in Malmo and sounding like a pure beast, launches in Triskel Dec 3.

The Altered Hours, "hometown" show at the Kino Dec 10, it's been too long. Also Rozi Plain, same venue the following night, all part of the Sudden Club Weekender. Great.

A terrible clash but also on Dec 10 in Cobh at the Sirius Arts Centre, the return of the wonderful Slow Moving Clouds, strings and drones turned into gorgeous ambient hum.

Also great music from Cool Ghouls, channelling The Byrds from 1965/6; Rothko with vocals by Johny Brown, sterling bass and voice expositions from the north of England; The Sea Nymphs, a timeless treasure from 1992, just released.

And Lambchop, making autotuned vocals credible for the first time.

More on these pages.

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

Playlist 424
Tues Nov 22 2016
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at
*listen back to this show here

Slow Moving Clouds – The conquering hero (playing Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh, Dec 10, w/ Jonathan Pearson)
Sans Chateaux – Aspendale
The Altered Hours – Virgin’s sleeve (playing The Kino, Cork, Dec 10)
Cool Ghouls – Time capsule
William D Drake – Distant buzzing (playing The Forge, Camden, London, Dec 1)
The Sea Nymphs – Mirmaid’s purse
Fixity – Hungry clouds (playing TDC, Triskel Arts Centre, Cork, Dec 3, w/ Magic Pockets)
Lambchop – Flotus (playing The Roundhouse, London, Jan 26)
Rozi Plain – Actually (playing The Kino, Cork, Dec 11)
Fair Mothers – Disgrace
Rothko – The mainline landscape of my youth remains seared in my mind
Alien Ensemble – Sun
Sleaford Mods – TCR
Pascal Pinon – Fuglar
Sea + Air – Peave begins at home

*next week's show features more music from Angel Olsen, Hilma Nikolaisen & Weyes Blood, 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,

Friday, November 18, 2016

Trashcan Sinatras – The Workman’s Club, Dublin, Nov 12th 2016

At the end of my twenties I was standing in Waterloo Station in London. I was over for a long weekend with Songs to Learn and Sing. As he queued for food someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, “do you like the Trashcan Sinatras?” I was wearing my I Hate Music t-shirt, bright yellow text on blue, the one I bought at their gig in Nancy Spain’s in Cork a few years earlier, which had a series of anagrams of the band’s name on the back – Anarchist Has Ten and the like. I used to wear this t-shirt around town. It had an uncanny ability to draw comments from people as if it was the controversial opening salvo in an argument, a blatant provocation, a long straight middle finger – “Well I love it”, “You don’t mean that do you?”, and other things. People would approach me distraught, vexed, furious. This particular guy in Waterloo was none of those things. He was politely curious. I told him I did like them and he said, “would you like to meet them?”. Still in the dark, I told him I would yeah and he said, “they’re over there”. He lead me a short way through the crowds to where sat three of the band on the ground surrounded by guitar cases and luggage. I can’t remember if I said anything, I was pretty starstruck. I think one of them admired my t-shirt. They were waiting for a train to Brighton if I remember right. That was it. I waved goodbye and went back to the food queue. “Guess who I just met? The Trashcan Sinatras.” “Fuck off.” And we pondered the cosmic perfection of a world (it could ony be a Trashcan Sinatras world) where wearing a certain band t-shirt could conjure that band in front of your very eyes.

And so, in the middle of my forties, I saw Trashcan Sinatras play live again last weekend in Dublin (after Nancy Spain's there was also Cyprus Avenue in Cork in 2005, where I replaced the by then well fleabitten I Hate Music t-shirt with an updated Weightlifting equivalent). It was a joyous, slightly rowdy, occasion in a stuffed Workman’s Club, adorned by a string of glorious heart melting pop songs. I was again with Songs To Learn and Sing; if anything, we were both below the average age in the room.

The band may be perverse with their t-shirt slogans (I Hate Music was also the name of their own publishing company) but they are straight down the middle when it comes to their songs. I imagine them as a Venn diagram where one circle is The Smiths, one The Go Betweens, and one Camera Obscura. Their songs feature the poignant collision of guitars that jangle and words which are both literate and playful. Somehow there’s also some Burt Bacharach in there and a hint of the classic soul singers of the 60s and 70s. There is also, crucially, an openheartedness, a warmth to their music, despite (or maybe because of) the frequent wordplay. They have distilled the most wondrous chemistry between words and melodies. Furthermore, their new album Wild pendulum is up there with their best ever work and one of the albums of the year for me, so no need to call this a nostalgia trip.

Although I’ve spent a good part of my life swooning to their songs, they are also very much a rock n roll band, as evidenced by the veins soon popping out of singer Frank Reader’s neck once they were into their stride. The lush red curtains at either side of the stage seemed an appropriate frame for their music though, as they rolled out songs with irresistible singalong one liners, one after another – ‘Easy read’, “disco dancing in the morning”, ‘Hayfever’, “why can’t we take a couple of tablets”, ’Obscurity knocks’, “I like your poetry but I hate your poems”. At times the lyrics read a bit like Ivor Cutler trying his hand at haiku (that’s a good thing). The opening line of ‘Hayfever’ for example – Hello, I'm Harry, I've had women I've had germs, They're eerie, wild and wailing and seductive in small doses. What wild, unruly, hilarious genius is that.

Speaking of genius, the highpoint of the show for me was ‘Genius I was’, an undeniable perfectly formed thing only about 3 minutes long from their great A happy pocket album (the one with the kangaroo, as Frank referred to it). The tone self-deprecating, yearning, rushing and a strange giddy euphoria to it as the keychanges twist around your heart. A work of art no doubt and live that wonderful bassline was present in all its driving glory.

They were joined onstage by Carol Keogh (ex Plague Monkeys, Autamata and in her own right) to help out on vocals for a couple of numbers, great to see and hear her too. And for current single ‘All night’ a trumpet player joined the band on stage, Frank (or “Frank the mad bastard” as he was christened by one wag in the audience). After the lovely mariachi turn in that song – a Herb Alpert sample on the album – John Douglas was moved to offer, “ a star is born!”. Always a very funny band. (I mean Satan Catarrh Sins.) Frank stuck around for the sublime version of ‘I’ve seen everything’, the title track of the second album, a cascade of trumpet and backing vocals that could reduce hard men to tears.

And from the new record another string of beauties. ‘Let me inside (Or let me out)’ which is almost a Trashcans template, sweeping, swoonsome, an emotional rush of guitars and strings. ‘Best days on earth’, slower and with a suspended state of grace akin to The Beach Boys. ‘Ain’t that something’, like a slowed down Northern Soul stomper wrapped in a three chord trick with a certain poise and a weary eye.

Frank Reader’s voice has weathered the years very well, still a velvet croon here, a pleading earworm of a burr there. And the interlocking guitars of Douglas and Paul Livingston never sounded better.

Gripes, I had a few. No ‘Bloodrush ‘ or ‘Twisted and bent’ (to be able to play a knock out set without those two masterpieces says a lot about the quality of their back catalogue), plus not much at all from the one with the kangaroo. But it’s hard to bear a grudge against a band this great.

Buckets of tunes. Buckets of soul. Simply, one of the best ever.