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Showing posts from 2014

Best of 2014 - Part 2: Soul/Pop/Jangle/Electro/Sunshine

And so Part 2 of this end of year series. There seems to have been less up tempo electronic music on my radar this year, hence a few crop up in this mostly-guitar set. (There are some ambient and other electronic cuts to come in the final part of the round-up.)

Let's not get hung up on that. Enjoy.

1. Future Islands – Seasons (Waiting on you) (4AD)

With all due respect to Hozier (who owed a lot in turn to the work of Feel Good Lost, plus maybe ‘Take me to church’ was more of a 2013 thing in any case?) and Kim Kardashian’s buttocks, here was the true thing that broke the internet this year. It showed the power to light up the world of sheer chutzpah – a short, barrel-chested man who can sing his heart out all night and dances like he doesn’t give a fuck who’s watching. On paper those are not the most promising ingredients, perhaps, but Sam Herring turns them into gold, when combined with the thrumming, soaring melodies of Will Cashion and Gerrit Welmers.

Funnily enough, the…

Best of 2014 - Part 1: Folk/Roots/Country

I gave in to list culture a few years back, so here's my contribution. In fairness, I find looking back over the year a good way of rediscovering musical highlights, refreshing the mucial memory. Plus I've tried to add a bit of depth by describing why these musical moments, albums, songs, phrases, whatever, have stayed with me.

This first instalment I'm calling Folk/Roots/Country, as usual a somewhat arbitrary set of tags but broadly representative. Enjoy, the rest of the series will follow over the next couple of weeks or so (in total there will be three or four).

1. Olof Arnalds – Patience (One Little Indian)

Another superb album from the Icelandic singer this year, Palme. As with all her work, there’s an endearing quirkiness to the songs but through ingenious arrangements she manages to avoid the stultifying cul de sac which is the home of many of the twee-inclined.

This song has her quivering tones (not unlike Bjork in her quieter moments, in terms of phrasin…

East River Pipe - Q&A with FM Cornog

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Photo: Barbara Powers

"When I listen to East River Pipe I not only hear beautiful melodies and words, but I also hear the personification of pure, unfettered musical thought, brought about by a commitment to concentrate solely on his craft and his art. This is the sound of a man completely focused on the task at hand, not sidetracked or swayed by any outside forces, be they record labels or any other aspect of the music industry. This is the sound of a man whose only musical relationship is that of sound to tape recorder. Because he chooses not to perform live, he further reinforces the significance of this relationship between a man’s ideas and the form in which we are able to perceive these ideas. He knows that when he makes a record that “THIS IS IT, this is all there is.” Pure. Simple. Perfect."
Kurt Wagner, 1999

It must have been on the inside cover of Lambchop's 1997 album Thriller that I first saw the name FM Cornog. It was there three times. I was a bit obsessed w…

Playlist 337 - Dec 16 2014

This week's show was dominated by a look back at some of my favourite music of 2014. (There'll be more on this in the next few weeks by the way, stay tuned for details.)

So plenty of album of the year candidates in Caribou and Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Future Islands and East River Pipe (albeit reissued), Adrian Crowley and Aldous Harding.

There was also some new music from Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Slow Dancing Society, more from both of those in the new year.

And a Hawaiian Christmas treatment from Arthur Lyman (thanks Trunk Records), just to keep things seasonal.

As I said, more on the blog over the next few weeks on my fave music of 2014. And the next show is on Jan 6th. Happy holidays.

Dec 16 2014 w/ Caribou,W&P,Adrian Crowley,Jessica Pratt,Aldous Harding,Cool Ghouls,East River Pipe++ by The Underground Of Happiness on Mixcloud

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Future Islands at Vicar Street, Dublin, Nov 2 2014

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Photo: Debi Del Grande

It’s been over a month since I had the great great pleasure to see Future Islands in the flesh. I deliberately wanted to wait a while before writing down some thoughts about the gig. This is a band I’ve been loving on record for over 4 years but who I’d never seen play live before. So I wanted to be sure I was processing the experience fully.

You’ll know all about Sam Herring’s dancing by now, courtesy of that Letterman performance. The Sam Herring Limbo. I feel like it’d be worth going to see Future Islands just to admire the man’s style. And stamina. I don’t know where he gets it. It’s bordering on superhuman. (Side note: the internet is waiting for a gif of the sweat map that progresses across Herring’s shirt over the course of a gig. In Vicar Street, full coverage and colour change were complete in time for the encore.)



You’ll know all about the top drawer tunes, taking a whisper of New Order and lighting a rocket under it. In 2010, they called it pos…

Playlist 336 - Dec 9 2014

A couple of blinding folk records I've been enjoying in the past week or so. Aldous Harding is a young woman from Christchurch in New Zealand who sings ghostly, gripping folk songs, murder ballads and such, using not much more than an acoustic guitar and her unique voice. She may be young but the songs have an ancient quality. Stunning.

Also great is the new Elephant Micah, plangent tales of the world at large feat. forests, 4-legged creatures and the unmistakeable backing vocals of Will Oldham.

A couple of token Christmas tunes, but a little off the beam. Gruff Rhys imagining Christmas post apocalypse, a la Cormac McCarthy but as heard through T-Rex, sort of. And Tex Ritter, combining western swing with some social sensibility, a surprisingly apt combination it turns out.

Some furious Krautrock from Faust and also their Austrian friends Villalog. New Alasdair Roberts, glorious, some old This is the Kit, who play Ireland this week, lovely trancelike folk.

And the abso…

Paul Smith & Peter Brewis – Frozen by sight (Memphis Industries)

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A sublime and intriguing album of chamber pop from the Maximo Park frontman and one of the Field Music brothers, which interestingly draws on their previous work in both bands.

Paul Smith’s lyrics are derived from writings done on tour with Maximo Park (locations include Barcelona, L.A. & Budapest) and they contain wonderfully off-kilter and side-on perspectives of daily life in a foreign place.

Like the picture of two people digging in the sand in ‘Santa Monica’. Or the deceptively plain image of the guy “flipping his mobile phone” and the “girl in pink flip flops” from ‘Exiting Hyde Park Towers’.

All the while, the perfectly sympathetic arrangements of Peter Brewis probe and tug at the outer edges of meaning and tone, with swaying strings, plangent piano, pinging guitars and brilliantly wrong-footing percussion (the other Field Music brother David Brewis was involved on drums and production).

‘Perth to Bunbury’ is a great example, a rolling tom pattern with rattling…

Playlist 335 - Dec 2 2014

An album I'm loving a lot lately is the new Cool Ghouls, a San Fran band with a great line in fresh-faced psych pop (find a review of the album under December 2014 posts). And Twerps are another very endearing group from Melbourne - in another age they might have been called twee pop, although they give off a bit more gusto than that tag usually implies.

The new Adrian Crowley album is another superb set of songs adorned with his velvet croon. Olof Arnalds' latest is another triumph, putting the likeable back into quirky, and ageless folk music to boot. And the drifting dream music of Chloe March, another wonderful magic carpet ride.

Benjamin Schoos w/ April March channels Serge & Jane, both some kind of lovelorn adult romance with heart-leaping string sections.

The new Elastic Sleep single, a thundering bass and other nice things, Brother Earth & Circus Devils, two lovely psych weirdness miniatures.

And Silver Apples, bringing a great bounce to pillowy kosmi…

Cool Ghouls – A swirling fire burning through the rye (Empty Cellar Records)

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There’s a great freshness about this brand of psych pop from San Francisco band Cool Ghouls.

Unlike many of today’s psych purveyors, they come at it from more of a roots than a shoegaze perspective. Think Creedence Clearwater Revival, for example, a phalanx of clean, jangly but strident guitars with buzzing riffs aplenty.

That’s not to say there aren’t some lovely fuzzy interludes - album opener and single ‘And it grows’ unleashes a great one just 2 minutes in, before reverting to thrilling core values.

But for the most part, the swingingly insistent tunes are carried by sharp sounds and banks of glorious Byrdsian harmonies, with the fuzz pedal being reserved for extra emphasis. The wonderful ‘What a dream I had’ is the perfect example, a hazy medium pacer that produces a guitar solo with a kick like a chilli pepper.

‘Orange light’ takes on the theme, uncoiling an Eastern European-sounding riff, before wrapping it in head-bopping 60s power pop.

After this blistering o…

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

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uplifting pop music of every creed


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Twitter: UndergroundOfHappy

Playlist 334
Tues Nov 25 2014
11.00am-12.00pm
(repeated on …

Wildbirds & Peacedrums – Rhythm (Leaf)

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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 perc…

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”.…

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 …