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Favourite music of 2012

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It was very remiss of me, but back in July – after picking my favourite music from the first half of the year for a playlist – I never posted the accompanying background as intended. So it sat there unfinished until now. On the bright side, I’m going to post it now, along with my picks from the second half of 2012, making for a neat two-hander (hopefully). As with all these things, a flick around the blog will usually unearth more info on the tunes, something I’d strongly recommend in all cases.

This week's show was a kind of round-up of my favourite music of the year so far (being that we're about halfway through the calender at this point). If you're a regular listener or check in on the blog regularly, you'll already know what my faves consist of. They're in these playlist posts. But to go with that playlist, I thought I'd gather together some info about the tunes from these pages over the last 6 months. So here they are, starting with that mix.

Podcast Ju…

Playlist 247 - Dec 11 2012

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Last show of the year, featuring a few more Christmas pieces and a few more of my Best of 2012 choices.

I was all set for a great segue, from ‘Cheer up Charlie’ (from the film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, which is of course de facto Christmas music), on into Mumblin Deaf Ro’s brilliant almost-riposte ‘Cheer up Charlie Brown’, but I almost fucked it up. I forgot to bring the former with me and just about managed to pull it off via a crackly youtube link.

We also had the incomparable Dylan Thomas reading his own ‘A child’s Christmas in Wales’, a peerless piece of writing and delivery, followed by John Cale’s song of the same name to finish the show.

The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock, Jherek Bischoff, AU, Hidden Highways and Sone Institute all helped to make 2012 great musically, for me. There’s also new music from (The) Caseworker, Cat Power and Seb Rochford & friends, in the latest of the Days & Nights at the Takeaway series.

And one of my favourite Cork band…

Playlist 246 - Dec 4 2012

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We’re not doing a Christmas special as such this year, but I will slip in a few songs of the season before we take a break for the holidays. So we had Johnny Cash singing a June Carter song, Darlene Love with an incomparable wall of sound and Dean & Britta with some gorgeous dream pop. In one way or another, all three songs are about a return to another time or place, some kind of home.

New music wise, The Great Balloon Race, a fantastic Cork band whose debut album is just out, also Adrian Crowley, Yo La Tengo, Sylvain Chauveau & FU. And from earlier in the year, Kyle Forester singing the wonderfully laconic songs of Joshua Stein, Dirty Projectors rocking out and the great cut up rhythms of Zammuto.

In the “My Highlights of 2012” category, David Byrne & St Vincent and Ariel Pink, both on 4AD but poles apart in most other ways.

And a pair of chamber pop beauties – Jon DeRosa from his great new album, and The Go-Betweens, from the 1986 classic album Liberty Belle &am…

Nils Frahm Interview

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Photo: Antje Taiga

A couple of weeks ago, I did a phone interview with Nils Frahm for WeAreNoise. He was in London, in the middle of a tour, which would take him on to Cork and Dublin later that week.

As with all the Erased Tapes artists, it seems, he came across as a thoroughly nice, rounded individual, genuinely concerned for and interested in the feedback and reaction of fans to his music. Interesting also to hear him talk about discovering something by accident (in rehearsal) but then running with it. I didn't get to see him play, unfortunately, but I believe it was pretty special.

First published at http://wearenoise.com/index.php/2012/11/nils-frahm-interview/.

Hi Nils, can I ask you first about your new EP, Screws, which you recorded while you had a broken thumb earlier in the year. How did you come to record an EP in that state?! It was against doctor’s advice to rest, wasn’t it?

Yeah that’s right. It wasn’t really planned to become an EP, I just thought I’d rather record…

Playlist 245 - Nov 27 2012

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I’m always interested to know where (geographically) music comes from – on this week’s show, it came from Canterbury, Liege, London, Brooklyn, Paris, Sheffield, Manchester, Swindon, Berlin and Cinncinatti. Where (philosophically, creatively) it comes from is another matter… More Sone Institute (A model life), XTC (Apple Venus), Wires Under Tension, Little Annie & Baby Dee, Wussy, Laetitia Sadier, Richard Hawley (Irish Tour next week) & Peter Broderick. Plus for the first time, The Loved Drones (drifting psych pop), Jacqueline Taleb (Beginner's Guide to French Pop compilation), Milk Maid (like a shoegazey Big Star), Eat Lights, Become Lights (furious krautrock backbeat), Syd Arthur (jazz folk feel) and Daphni, which is actually Caribou/Dan Snaith under a different name, with some lovely, loose and soulful house music. And Melody’s Echo Chamber to finish, a pop tune so perfect I think I’d rank it up there with Downtown, the Petula Clark version, in other words an all time …

Beach House in Berlin

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Photo: Bríd O'Donovan - showshotshare.tumblr.com

I went to see Beach House in Cork last month, at the Cork Opera House (review here, which was originally published on WeAreNoise). I’m a big fan of the band and I enjoyed the gig, but, disappointingly, I wasn’t blown away. That was my third time seeing them live, in fact, and each gig, for different reasons, fell short of the wow factor (Whelan’s 2010, some kind of onstage edginess; Primavera 2010, ropey sound).

At the time, I put this down to a combination of things – mainly, the festival weekend crowd in the Opera House, much of whom were more concentrated on the bar than the stage, and qualms about the suitability of the venue for the band. Now, the Opera House is a magnificent venue, but it occurred to me that somewhere less expansive, high-ceilinged, theatrical might be a better fit for Beach House.



Well, I was lucky enough to see the band again, in Berlin, a few weeks ago, at the Astra Kulturhaus in Kreuzberg. For older…

Jon DeRosa – A wolf in preacher’s clothes (Rocket Girl)

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As a companion piece to Little Annie & Baby Dee, try this, another type of New York lounge album, with loss and longing also at its heart. This one, though, draws on rock (post punk, drone - he used to front the drone rock band Aarktica) rather than cabaret for its core sound.

DeRosa has an irresistible croon which, allied with his lyrical observations of New York life (he also works as a bartender in the city), and the beautiful orchestral arrangements, all makes for a very visual effect. There’s also a cover of a Blue Nile song, and Julia Kent on cello is part of the musical cast, if you need any further persuading. Snow coffin is my favourite from the album (you can hear it below) - it's a beguiling mixture of insistent strummed bass and sweeping strings.

B. Fleischmann – Your bibles are printed on dollars (Morr Music, from the album I’m not ready for the grave yet)

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“Your bibles are printed on dollars
Your dollars are printed with blood
Oh God I’m in the corner of the ring
With Bono and Sting.”


Hilarious, but yet serious and strangely touching. The German veteran has smuggled a beguiling form of protest song into an album of cut-up guitar riffs, drifting electronica and motorik pulses. Protest songs seem to be in the air again finally – I feel a playlist coming on…

Nov 20 20123 Show w/ Serge & Jane, B Fleischmann, Little Annie/Baby Dee, Mice Parade, Sfumato++ by Theundergroundofhappiness on Mixcloud

Little Annie & Baby Dee – State of grace (Tin Angel Records)

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Some reviews now of the music that's been featured regularly on the show over the last few weeks, starting with Little Annie & Baby Dee. This is the label blurb for the album.

State Of Grace is a record that covers love, loss, leaving and the confusion of time. It features collaborations with such luminaries and modern mavericks as Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Eric Chenaux, Chris Cundy (Guillemots, Cold Specks) and Jordan Hunt (Irrepresibles, Hidden Cameras). Little Annie aka Annie Anxiety Bandez, is a smokey contralto, raconteur and restless spirit who has spent the last 30 years creating a body of work that would take much more space than available here to list. Baby Dee is an enchanting composer, performance artist, classically trained harpist, circus sideshow veteran, and transgender street legend.”

A thrilling, invigorating record bringing Baby Dee’s brilliantly fluid piano work together with Little Annie’s thoroughly lived-in (the definition of authentic) voice of exp…

Playlist 244 - Nov 20 2012

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I picked up a 60’s French Pop compilation recently, put together by Kid Loco, and I’ve been on a bit of a French buzz ever since. The Les Chats Sauvages track is from that, giving the 1st Psych Wave a run for its money. And before that, any excuse for the incomparable greatness of Serge & Jane. We also had two Front & Follow releases, a beautiful remix from the Sone Institute album (pictured, the remix EP is a free d'load through the label from Dec 3rd), and Kemper Norton with the latest in the Collision/Detection series. Great label, that. Another Little Annie/Baby Dee song from the getting better all the time State of grace album; Kyle Forester (Crystal Stilts keyboardist) singing the songs of his friend Joshua Stein; B Fleischmann brilliantly taking a pop at Bono & Sting; Sfumato with full gospel choir; some lovely flamenco from the upcoming Mice Parade album; and Snow Palms' (Ellis Island Sound's David Sheppard) beautiful instrumental exotica. Plus a lost…

Playlist 243 - Nov 13 2012

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We started the show this week with XTC from an album I only picked up again over the weekend, having "lost" it years ago, the great Apple Venus. River of orchids is such a strange but uplifting piece of music, Andy Partidge's vocal is brilliantly unhinged.

There's a new Hauschka remix album out in the new year, we had Michael Mayer's lovely, slow building house re-do of Radar. He's the head of the Kompakt label, based in Cologne, and with Hauschka/Volker Bertelmann from Dusseldorf, that's an axis of current German electronic music right there.

Jon DeRosa was back again with the gorgeous Snow coffin, the most moving anti-war song in a long time (at least I think I detect a war comment in it). Get Well Soon also in there, with another epic piece of orchestral, sweeping pop music, using Italian 60s/70s film music as his (Konstantin Gropper) drawing board, Rota, Argento, Morricone and the like.

Also TOPS' nice New Wave sound, Seti The First with an…

Ryan Francesconi & Mirabai Peart

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We had a track on the show a few weeks ago from Ryan Francesconi and Mirabai Peart, called Road to Palios. It's the title track of an album to be released on Bella Union on Dec 3rd.

It's a series of tunes, really, spun out over almost 9 minutes - sometimes meditative, sometimes urgent - consisting of guitar and violin instrumentals, and it's absolutely fantastic stuff.

For anyone in Cork, you might remember Ryan & Mirabai played in Triskel Christchurch last year, around the time of the Joanna Newsom show in Marlay Park in Dublin (they both play in her touring band). Here were my thoughts on that gig at the time - it was a stunning performance.

http://theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.ie/2011/07/ryan-francesconi-cian-nugent-in-cork.html

I can't be sure if they played Road to Palios that night, but there were certainly other tunes with similar trajectories, drawn from their travels around Greece and the Balkans.

Here's the blurb from the Bella Union website…

Playlist 242 - Nov 6 2012

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Lots of orchestral influences on the show this week, it goes like that sometimes. Jon DeRosa, with the brilliant drone-and-strings of Snow coffin; the great brass fanfare of Seti The First (playing Cork and Dublin this week - here's an interview I did with Kevin from the band for WeAreNoise, where he explains the title and thinking behind Victory Motel); previously unreleased film music from Sylvain Chauveau; more film music with signature and sublime vocals from Ennio Morricone; and either side of the master, two current artists certainly influenced by him - Laetitia Sadier and Get Well Soon. There's also two lovely pieces of "modern" English folk music, from North Sea Radio Orchestra and The Singing Loins; some beautiful, fuzzy dream pop from Dublin's September Girls; Nils Frahm and Jens Lekman (both playing Cork's Half Moon Theatre soon). And B. Fleischmann (pictured), with a track from a wonderfully laconic album called I'm not ready for the grave y…

Playlist 241 - Oct 30 2012

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Two pieces of clapping music to start the show this week, from Dirty Projectors and Pollens (who sound like they are influenced by the Projectors, and that's fine by me). Just from Chevron could be a modern form of the protest song. New music from two fine English bands, Dutch Uncles and Fossil Collective; two great slices of prog pop, from windings and Wires Under Tension, the latter with a great orchestral heft to it; the latest in both the Collision/Detection and Days & Nights at the Takeaway (pictured) series; Ariel Pink pondering international espionage, that Peter Broderick gospel mantra I can't get out of my head and two absolutely wonderful brass arrangements, from Myles Manley and David Byrne & St Vincent. You can't beat a bit of brass, in fairness.

The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed


www.theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.com
www.facebook.com/theundergroundofhappiness

Playlist 241
Tues Oct 30 2012
11.00am-12.00pm
(repeate…

Beach House w/ Holy Other - Cork Opera House, Oct 27th 2012

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Photo: Bríd O'Donovan

This weekend one of my favourite bands, Beach House, played at the Opera House in Cork, as part of the city's Guinness-sponsored Jazz Festival. The Jazz Festival is something of an institution in the city, taking place over the Irish October bank holiday weekend. Over recent years, the festival has broadened to take in both a wider definition of jazz, and also a greater variety of programme. So for example, the Opera House had Balkan big band Taraf de Haidouks, Beach House and De La Soul, while across town in The Pavilion you could find Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and Toby Kaar, among others.

This review originally appeared on We Are Noise, at this link, where you'll also find more great pics by Bríd O'Donovan - http://wearenoise.com/index.php/2012/10/beach-house-w-holy-other-cork-opera-house-27-10-12/

In passing through Ireland last weekend for three dates (Mandela Hall Belfast, Vicar Street Dublin and Cork Opera House), Beach House joined an…

The River Fane - EP 2

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We played a track on the show this week by an Irish band called The River Fane. I came across the band through one of its members, Johnny Fox, who is on something of a sabbatical in Sao Paolo at the moment. (I say sabbatical, although he's "churning" out his own solo material at a ferocious pace - http://johnnyfox.bandcamp.com/album/more-or-less.)

Johnny directed me to his band page, currently hosting EP 2 recorded in 2011 in Dublin, which opens with Kaleidoscope, the track we played on the show. It's an absolutely glorious broken-down piano ballad, with woozy double bass and reverb-soaked vocals. As Johnny himself commented in correspondence, it was written at a time of a major Beach Boys obsession (which is grand with me). It reflects the overall ethos of the EP, showing an endearing blue-eyed soul demeanour. The production is direct and in service to the songs, which are superb. It sounds like nothing Irish, and that, to me, is also a fine thing in itself.

Playlist 240 - Oct 23 2012

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A few new albums in this week and we featured a couple of tracks on the show. Wires Under Tension graced us with a brilliant, frantic, brass-laden instrumental - B. Fleischmann's album is called I'm not ready for the grave yet and he chipped in with Don't follow, a meaty, polyphonic backbeat boasting a wonderfully downbeat vocal. Mumblin' Deaf Ro was back with the heartbreak and absolute class of Little mite, Jon DeRosa's baritone made a welcome return too, Roll the Dice meets Pole, Sone Institute, Rozi Plain's compelling choral dynamics, and the irresistible dream pop of Melody's Echo Chamber. Richard Hawley and Susanna (she of the Magical Orchestra) both play Cork soon (I can't wait), and Dublin duo Thread Pulls show how much drama you can wring out of a drum set and a bass (some electronics too, in fairness). And The River Fane , the most sublime distillation of the best bits of The Beach Boys, which is no disservice to its gorgeousness.

The Unde…

Peter Broderick, new album track streaming

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Nestled in the middle of Peter Broderick's new album is an unassuming 2 minute track with the weighty title Proposed solution to the mystery of the soul.

Let me try to sum it up. It's like an evolving gospel refrain fed into a meditation mantra ("first you've got a soul that's awake while you're asleep"), complete with finger cymbals and the convex sound of a glass bottle of water being struck. That's all. Just a number of Peter Broderick vocals to fill it out, and rounding off with a second refrain - "I love when words ring out true". It's intoxicating, basically. I can't get enough of it.

Even embedded in an album that is full of surprises - Broderick delves into beatboxing and RnB rhythms, a capella recitals and semi-sound design style dual conversations - I'm finding I can't get past this song. The album began life as a series of home recordings some of which he offered to fans for free on his flickr page. The kind of…

Playlist 239 - Oct 16 2012

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A few new tunes this week, along with a few recent but enduring obsessions. Owensie and Laetitia Sadier paired together at the beginning, both with a certain bossa nova shuffle going on, both playing gigs in Ireland soon. There's a Big Star documentary coming out (called Nothing can hurt me) so any excuse to play Alex Chilton and friends, alongside a great fuzz pop tune from a Dublin girl band called after that Big Star song (I'm assuming anyway), September Girls. New music also from Myles Manley & the Little People (touring Ireland this week), The Sea & Cake, ex-Codeine & Come stalwart Chris Brokaw and a transcendant Balkan folk guitar instrumental from Ryan Francesconi & Mirabai Peart, new signings to Bella Union (they're part of Joanna Newsome's touring band). Plus the new free d'load single from Melt Yourself Down (pictured above), which involves people from Acoustic Ladyland. It's frenetic, infectious dance music, drawing on jazz, world a…

Owensie - Distance of her love (Out on a Limb, single)

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One thing I didn't expect to arrive in the post during the dark mornings and shortening evenings of October was a new bossa nova tune from an Irish singer-songwriter.

'Distance of her love' is the first single from Owensie's 2nd album, Citizens, which comes out at the end of this month. And it does indeed convey its message through the medium of bossa nova. Happily though, there's nothing tokenistic about the choice - the arrangement hangs on a comfortable array of classical guitar, murmuring saxophone, sympathetic, muted drums and Owensie's falsetto. It comes together brilliantly, all the more so because of the undertow of melancholy and loss in the lyric (a mother separated from her children, it seems through economic hardship and enforced migration) - the jaunty rhythm is particularly effective offset in this way. In fact, it tends to give the characters in the story extra depth. The best references I can find are Sam Prekop or José Gonzalez, pretty goo…

Playlist 238 - Oct 9 2012

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We opened the show with some great bossa nova from Dubliner Owensie, a brilliantly catchy tune from his new album Citizens. We also had more brass-ornamented skewed pop from David Byrne & St Vincent; two Galway bands playing live together this week, Yawning Chasm and Christian Bookshop; Japanese legends Shonen Knife (pictured, as usual, great costumes), also on tour at the moment, the wonderful croon of Jon DeRosa, a track from a re-issued album by the incomparable North Sea Radio Orchestra, Limerick's windings, the orchestral flourishes of Jherek Bischoff, the choral beauty of Ombre. And a superb dub rework of Roll the Dice by Berliner Pole. Calling dub workers? Now there's a marching slogan...

The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed


www.theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.com
www.facebook.com/theundergroundofhappiness

Playlist 238
Tues Oct 9 2012
11.00am-1.00pm
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at www.ucc.ie/983…