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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Playlist 334 - Nov 25 2014

I'm big on The Chills lately (always really), their new Peel Sessions album is great and good to hear it in glorious stereo, from 1988 but sounding as fresh as a daisy.

Paul Smith & Peter Brewis have produced one of the albums of this year, sublime chamber pop accompanying superior travel musings.

Hiss Golden Messenger spreading their wings after a few years being a hidden treasure. Kevin Murphy with a new song that picks up where last year's wonderful LoveHate album left off.

Also briliant cuts from Silver Apples, Kemper Norton, Elisa Luu, and more. It's all good.

More on these pages.

Nov 25 2014 w/ The Chills,HGM,SIlver Apples,Elisa Luu,Paul Smith/Peter Brewis,Voix Bulgares++ by The Underground Of Happiness on Mixcloud

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

Playlist 334
Tues Nov 25 2014
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at
*listen back to this show here

Girls Names – Pittura infamante (playing The Joinery, Dublin, Nov 28)
Sleaford Mods – Routine Dean (playing Crane Lane Theatre, Cork, Dec 7)
Sylvie Simmons – You are in my arms (playing 12 Bar, London, Dec 2)
Hiss Golden Messenger – Saturday’s song (playing Olympia Theatre, Dublin, Dec 7, w/ Ben Howard)
Paul Smith & Peter Brewis – Exiting Hyde Park Towers (playing St Giles in the Fields, London, Dec 19)
Kevin Murphy – This is the end
The Chills – Part past, part fiction (BBC Sessions)
Brian Casey – Funerals (playing Cyprus Avenue, Cork, Nov 27)
Broderick & Barnes – Bright singing red
Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares – Pilentzee Pee
Elisa Luu – Shebeen
Silver Apples – Missin you (playing Button Factory, Dublin, Dec 1)
David Bowie – A new career in a new town
Kemper Norton – Requited
The Dodos - Competition

*next week’s show features music from The Haden Triplets, Cool Ghouls & Twerps, 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, November 23, 2014

Wildbirds & Peacedrums – Rhythm (Leaf)

The 4th album from Swedish husband & wife duo Mariam Wallentin and Andreas Werliin is all about the blues. Although not necessarily the blues as you know them.

There is the pain of the blues, the desire of the blues, the tension and release, the insistent rhythm of the blues.

That’s not to say that it’s miserable or depressing, far from it. It’s one of the most invigorating records you’ll hear. But all the songs revolve around that blues hub.

So the opener ‘Ghosts and pains’ sets a series of vocal sighs, gasps and gospel flourishes above a repeating drum tattoo. Knockout single ‘The offbeat’ takes a more strident tone, Werliin exploring the limits of the snare drum while Wallentin implores and pleads as if her life depends on it.

That’s the thing with Wildbirds & Peacedrums, you always get the feeling that they are committed, to the core. It makes listening to them a thrilling experience.

‘Mind blues’ mentions the genre explicitly but the scattergun of percussive ticks and vocal coos as intro is the last thing you expect. Wallentin proceeds to set the rhythm herself, a furious rap of grasping vulnerability dredged from deep down – “I would never know what’s the truth, I don’t even know what’s a lie”. Drums follow her lead, punctuating the words with gunshot cracks. It comes out sounding like a kissing cousin of the recent work of Dirty Projectors, breathing new life into the phrase "rhythm and blues".

Find yourself being hooked also by the footstamp and handclap of ‘The unreal vs the real’, after a tense, hissing ride cymbal prelude.

‘Who I was’ is possibly the closest to a conventional blues structure on the album, a Bo Diddley backbeat under another compelling vocal incantation.

The album arguably departs from the blues in a couple of places. ’Soft wind, soft death’ for example creates more of a hymnal, gospel atmosphere, fluttering hi-hat/cowbell breakbeats making a complex bed for the measured, layered vocal harmonies floating above.

With the exception of a few judicious electronic touches, it’s all just drums and voice. A husband and wife grappling with an existential and physical crisis, the agony and the ecstasy and the frenzy of life, that’s how this sounds. It makes for a compelling drama you can’t take your eyes or ears off.

The second single ‘Keep some hope’ seems to sum up their conclusion from this turmoil - “Let us keep some hope, to feel that we’re alive”.

This is an exceptional album, full of soulful, primal, vital elements. It has an ageless quality but still manages to sound completely fresh and modern. It is a powerful, magnificent piece of work and one of the albums of the year without a doubt. It goes without saying that you need it in your life.

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.