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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Playlist 349 - Mar 31 2015

We had a number of great male crooners on this week's show (I feel a special coming on...), starting with Adrian Crowley, the slightly heartbroken variety, then Daniel Knox, a jauntier cabaret style, later Jon De Rosa, a classic 50s style with gravitas, and Marker Starling who comes under blue eyed soul more, with a great pathos under the smoothness.

Stewart Lee has not to my knowledge sung on record before but he has now, covering Shirley Collins with Stuart Estel for a tribute album to mark her 80th year coming out on Earth Recordings for Record Store Day.

Virginia Wing, making intriguing psych pop; Colleen making meditational dub sounds; Jessica Pratt, bending time with a sublime folk cut.

And Moondog, the man himself making oh so sweetly challenging "classical" music with daughter June on vocals from 1970, and then his influence on Kenny Graham from 1956, which comes out like some wonderful interplanetary exotica.

More on these pages.

*No podcast this week I'm afraid due to a technical glitch, apologies. In its place, try a couple of full album streams around this week's playlist. Two ace artists, two new releases, the world is a beautful place sometimes.

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

Playlist 349
Tues Mar 31 2015
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at
*no podcast this week due to technical glitch

Adrian Crowley – The stranger (playing Unitarian Church, Dublin, Apr 25)
Daniel Knox - 14 15 111 (playing Windmill, London, Mar 31)
Stewart Lee & Stuart Estell – Polly on the shore (Shirley Inspired Tribute Album)
Shirley & Dolly Collins - Fair maid of Islington
Jon DeRosa – When Daddy took the treehouse down
Marker Starling – Uphill battle (playing Shacklewell Arms, London, Apr 15)
Virginia Wing – A complex outline (playing Espace B, Paris, Apr 1)
Colleen – Eclipse (playing Opera House, Cork, May 2, w/ Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh)
Jessica Pratt – Jacquelyn in the background (playing Mono, Glasgow, Apr 6)
The Jean Paul Sartre Experience – I like rain
ESG – Moody (Record Store Day, Fire Records)
Moondog – Voices of spring
Kenny Graham & His Satellites – Lullaby
Bjork – Lion song (edit)
Paperchase – Amsterdam
Polar Bear – Don’t let the feeling go (playing Village Underground, London, Apr 8)

*the next show will feature music from Smile Down Upon Us, Death & Vanilla & Aloa Input, 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,

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Monochrome Set – Fantasy creatures (Tapete Records)

A band associated with Rough Trade and Cherry Red in their early years of the late 70s and early 80s and whose apocryphal presence in Morrissey’s record collection reportedly persuaded Johnny Marr to form a band with him.

That story alone gives an idea of the dandyish thread running through the band’s music and that particular element of their sound is strong on their new album Spaces everywhere. It’s a wonderful piece of work combining folk, soul and pop strands with an arch songwriting eye and a great characterful croon courtesy of Bid. The arrangements through the album include flutes and banjos but the enduring quality of the writing rises above any individual instrument choices.

Take ‘Fantasy creatures’. A twanging Strat, a busy restless observational lyric, then a Hammond organ and the vocal flowers out into a kind of pleading upper register, a brilliant switch – “don’t go away, come and stay forever”.

It connects in a line with ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ Ray Davies and ‘Common people’ Jarvis Cocker but with extra empathy and poignancy.

It tickles the heart and stirs the soul.

Track 6 in this playlist

Mar 10 2015 w/ Virginia Wing,Princess,Monochrome Set,Damon & Naomi,Dawn of Midi,Daniel Knox++ by The Underground Of Happiness on Mixcloud

*For a bit less poignancy and a lot more sharp satire, check their s/t classic from 1980.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Daniel Knox – By the venture (Carrot Top Records)

I was put on to Daniel Knox by a friend of mine recently and he’s been a wonderful discovery for me. His third album is self-titled and he’s been around the Chicago scene for a number of years. The best plan is to read this excellent interview and background piece which gives a vivid flavour of the man’s life and work to date, a career which is nothing short of inspiring.

One line from that piece stays with me -

"I actually never sang at all until I was 21 or 22. My favorite singers were Al Jolson and Judy Garland and, to some extent, Maurice Chevalier. So my voice was way over-the-top, with heavy vibrato. But to me, it sounded very natural."

So you might think this is someone not remotely interested in musical currents or trends and you’d be right. (Still, it’s good to know that his talents have not gone unnoticed by such luminaries as Jarvis Cocker and David Lynch.) He’s now in his mid 30s and his voice displays that great quality of unself-consciousness and having been lived in thoroughly. His songs, like all the best, clearly exist to fulfil their own inherent rationale, not for any external commercial purpose.

Piano is his other instrument (self-taught as you’ll read in the above piece) and ‘By the venture’ is the best example I can think of to show off his great feel for it.

It’s a jaunty tune - after the langurous intro – and has something I’m very partial to, a central thread of cabaret or even showtunes influence (perhaps in line with Garland, Jolson and Chevalier although not that you’d identify specifically) creating a real sense of drama, down to the restrained string quartet and later the lovely reed and harmonica interjections.

Lyrically, the song supports the arrangement (other way around possibly) with what might be dark wit – “your house is still there, it looks like garbage” – later transformed into something deeply poignant – “life is a gift, it keeps on giving, see what you’ve done, look where you’re living”.

It’s one of those story songs that will remain under your skin and intrigue you over days and weeks, each listen bringing to light some new inflection in the delivery which is full of pathos and humanity.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Noveller – Fantastic planet (Fire Records)

Epic compelling guitar soundscapes by Sarah Lipstate of Austin Texas (she originally defined herself as a guitar project although there are apparently some synths in here).

The tone can turn from brooding to meditative at the flick of a wrist and it makes sense to discover that Lipstate is also a filmmaker, so assured are the switches in mood.

Opener ‘Into the dunes’ creates a terrific sense of foreboding with low drones and crunching power chords edging into creeping John Carpenter territory. 'No unholy mountain' takes a prismatic psych approach to arpeggios and sound bleed which is pure gorgeousness.

There’s a distinct Reichian flavour to the opening cascade of notes in ‘Rubicon’ and a great hint of Orange Juice style new wave verve about the overlapping guitar lines in ‘Sisters’.

And check the lovely ambient Badalamenti haze of ‘Concrete dreams’.

Whatever the mood what I particularly like about this album is the restraint - the build is measured, never forced, never false, always organic.

Beautiful instrumental music and sterling stuff all round.

*This intimate performance film gives a very good idea of how she goes about her work, with an array of effect pedals, wah wah, violin bow and e-bow all pressed into service.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Playlist 348 - Mar 24 2015

Something of a psych run to kick off this wk starting with the great glitch-ridden new song from the upcoming 3rd Tame Impala album. From the upcoming 2nd album by The Great Balloon Race is the equally sublime 'Why meddle?'.

New music also from Twerps, a highly likeable ramshackle waltz, Kramies with a lovely line in somnolent dream pop, Noveller with another epic guitar instrumental.

40th anniversary of Kraftwerk's Radioactivity, new album from Smile Down Upon Us which is wonderful charming left field pop, The Monochrome Set with another brand of alt pop full of character.

And O Emperor, making soft pop safe for the masses.

Mar 24 2015 w/ Tame Impala,Sam Prekop,Noveller,Kraftwerk,Twerps,O Emperor,Natalie Prass++ by The Underground Of Happiness on Mixcloud

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

Playlist 348
Tues Mar 24 2015
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at
*listen back to this show here

Tame Impala – Let it happen (playing Electric Picnic, Stradbally, Sept 4-6)
The Great Balloon Race - Why meddle? (playing TDC, Triskel Arts Centre, Cork, Mar 28, w/ Princess)
Sam Prekop - Weather vane
Kramies – The fate that never favoured us
Twerps – Shoulders
Noveller – No unholy mountain
Smile Down Upon Us – Dragon song
Elstow - Evil dreams
Radioland - Radioactivity
Kraftwerk - Radioactivity
The Monochrome Set - Spaces everywhere
Natalie Prass – Bird of prey (radio edit) (playing Body & Soul, Ballinlough Castle, June 21)
O Emperor – Trash club (playing Cyprus Avenue, Cork, Apr 9)

*the next show will feature music from Daniel Knox, Adrian Crowley & Colleen, 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, March 19, 2015

The Great Balloon Race – Why meddle?

First hearing from this Cork band’s upcoming second album ( remember their first album, it was great).

There’s plenty to recognise from that album here, particularly the shimmering Tortoise-like guitars and delicious skittering drums. But the intervening couple of years have seen the addition of a fascinating new element to the sound, motorik rhythms in the form of a fantastic propulsive bassline on this track.

It turns what was a highly pleasurable, dreamy, kinda hazy creature into a highly pleasurable, dreamy, kinda hazy and absolutely thrilling creature. The motorik subsides at times over the 6 minutes, falling back into the gorgeous jazz stew, before crawling out of the swamp again and making a break for the horizon.

Based on this brilliant introduction, I’m looking forward even more to hearing the rest of the album. Previews are expected when they play with Princess in Cork at the end of this month, which is unmissable as they say.

Princess – Black window

New single from the Dublin band showing another intriguing string to their bow.

This one leaves previous shoegaze tendencies to one side (apart from a brief interlude midway through) going instead for a strand of post punk fed through a Stereolab filter.

The former you can hear in the great strident bass work, uncompromising drumbeat and insistent 2-chord structure. The latter in the second half playout with the love of a gorgeous melody and irresistible overlapping da-da-da vocal by Aoife.

2m39s. This band can go long, they can go short, shallow or deep, noisy or quiet. Whichever way they go, they go with beautiful envelope-pushing pop music.

You’re gonna love them long time.