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Showing posts from January, 2015

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – Euclid (Western Vinyl)

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A most endearing album of electronic compositions created on something called a Buchla Music Easel by the Bay Area resident. That’s a kind of synth, basically (I’d never heard of it before), but with a seemingly much wider range of filters, patches and effects. Here’s a demonstration by Smith of the instrument at work – you’ll notice that there’s just as much of a visual appeal to it, perhaps living up to its “Easel” moniker.



Smith’s Twitter profile has her as a “Modular Synth Sound Sculptress and Orchestral Composer” and the scope and ambition implied by that description doesn’t seem far-fetched when you hear the remarkable sounds she creates. The description might prepare you, though, for something slightly dry or academic although nothing could be further from the truth. There is no warning in it of the kind of playful skitter and bounce you meet on the album, particularly over the first 6 songs. ‘Sundry’ or ‘Glide’ for example, with their frantic energy and impossible to pin …

Playlist 341 - Jan 27 2015

It's just gone 50 years since The Byrds recorded their groundbreaking version of 'Mr Tambourine Man' (thanks J Comic), so time, I thought, for some Gene Clark from 1968, providing the ultimate antidote to the Summer of Love - "Los Angeles, City of Doom".

There's a great new single from Myles Manley, top drawer beat-pop and get a load of that keyboard solo which kinda upstages the rest of the song. Twerps also play brilliant off kilter guitar pop.

The new Rozi Plain single has a lovely kosmische drift to it. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith also has a cosmic feel, very much in keeping with the title 'Glide' - she plays a Buchla Music Easel, more on that soon.

O Emperor's new single takes up where their last album Vitreous left off (tasty psych/prog pop) & Roslyn Steer with some very nice cut up dream pop - both play the Quarter Block Party in Cork next month.

And a wonderful long languid psych jam from Dublin band Princess who are out on tour ac…

Elephant Micah – No underground (from the album Where in our woods, Western Vinyl)

Folklorist-by-day Joseph O’Connell weaves an album around realist tales of local southern Indiana wildlife.

It might sound unlikely on paper but the results are compelling.

Particularly on this gem. Stately picked Spanish guitar sets the tone, as the lyrics brilliantly evoke a living breathing tumult of colour -

“sequined shoes, golden robes, all of them embroidered with roses”.

Long time admirer Will Oldham joins on backing vocals later to produce a quiet crescendo of emotion.

Timeless and very moving.

Where in Our Woods by Elephant Micah

Myles Manley – Pay me what I’m worth (Trout Records)

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Another genius turn from the Sligoman, taking his acerbic, literate pop up a few gears to “fast pace” for a change.

The result is a brilliantly snarky commentary on audience expectation which retains just the faintest suspicion of self-deprecation. Recently, you might recognise the energised soulfulness of Ezra Furman in it. At under 2 minutes it’s over way too soon (always a good thing).

The lead vocal is smooth, the drumming satisfyingly blunt, the backing vocals suitably strident but the crowning glory of this mini-masterpiece is the inspired keyboard solo to finish (credit to Cal Folger Day, I’m told). It contains some frantic Devo DNA and reminds me also of Steve Naive’s finest agitated moments for Elvis Costello & The Attractions. I’ll wager you’ll find yourself humming and head-bopping along to it all day in an only-you Silent Disco.

On any level it's a triumph and is worth paying for handsomely.

Aldous Harding – Aldous Harding (Spunk Records)

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This debut album by a young woman from Christchurch in New Zealand (or possibly nearby Lyttleton, depending on your reading of the bio) came out towards the end of last year and is one of the releases of 2014 without any doubt in my mind. In fact, I’d go so far as to say this album will be up there for best of the decade come 2019.

http://www.theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.ie/2014/12/best-of-2014-part-1-folkrootscountry.html

And talk about setting the bar high from the word go. The opening song ‘Stop your tears’ is one of those spellbinding musical moments, so memorable you might remember where you were and what you were doing when you first heard it. It has a slightly gothic, debauched feel to it - ”I keep the pills inside an urn”, “Baudelaire in the afternoon” – in among the haunting, ghostly atmosphere of some of the most memorable backing vocals ever committed to tape.

‘Hunter’ follows and lifts the tone, a hearty strummed singalong with rousing fiddle, sounding a bit l…

Playlist 340 - Jan 20 2015

There was a mini-binge of orchestral music in this week's show (I might spread that out over a whole show some time) consisting of some classic 70s despairing Harry Nilsson, with something new from Natalie Prass, a gorgeous white soul orchestral from her debut album.

At a stretch, you might even add Adrian Crowley into that set, more on the chamber folk side perhaps, and Stephen Steinbrink with some kind of cosmic lounge hybrid, beautiful.

Also this week, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith with lovely playful synth patterns from her new album which features the Buchla Music Easel instrument (look that up), glorious 70s kosmische from Harmonia, the haunting/uplifting Voix Bulgares, and widescreen sounds from Michael Price & Roll the Dice.

Plus The Drink, with another off-kilter guitar gem, this one with a little flavour of African hi-life.

More on these pages as ever.

Jan 20 2015 w/ Adrian Crowley,Joan Shelley,Natalie Prass,Kaitlyn Smith,Harmonia,Roll The Dice++ by The Undergro…

Playlist 339 - Jan 13 2015

A few more of the Best of 2014 bunch this week. A Lazarus Soul, Sean Nicholas Savage, Twerps, AWVFTS & Golden Retriever, all great music, find the full 4-part round up elsewhere on these pages.

We also had new music from Nathalie Prass whose upcoming debut album is receiving much critical love, and rightly so - she also plays Whelan's in Dublin at the end of January.

And Myles Manley, continuing his ongoing conversation with his public quite brilliantly with 'Pay me what I'm worth'.

Robert Pollard (GBV) is going under Ricked Wicky for a new album on Fire Records, going back to his Who rots which sounds great. Lubomyr Melnyk plays two Irish shows this month.

And The Go Betweens, the subject of a major new Domino box set reissue this month, with their lost treasure of a classic 'Karen' from 1978.

Jan 13 2015 w/ Best of 2014 AWVFTS,Sean NIcholas Savage,Twerps + Nathalie Prass,Myles Manley++ by The Underground Of Happiness on Mixcloud

The Undergrou…

Best of 2014 - Part 4: Jazz/Chamber/Orchestral/Wonky/Ambient/Minimalist

And so the final part of this journey back through 2014.

I've titled this bunch in favour of the Orchestral/Jazz end of the pop spectrum but there are certainly a few refugees from Dream Pop, Folk, maybe even Soul (and one showtune). Who's counting though.

There are also a good number of Electronic pieces in here as promised, but more of minimalist, downtempo and/or industrial leanings. Mood wise, I think this set hangs together pretty well. Whatever, there's a lot of great music in here for sure.

Just as a reminder, here are the other three parts of my 2014 Review.

http://www.theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.ie/2014/12/best-of-2014-part-1-folkrootscountry.html

http://www.theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.ie/2014/12/best-of-2014-part-2-soulpopjangleelectr.html

http://www.theundergroundofhappiness.blogspot.ie/2015/01/best-of-2014-part-3-psychkrautrockpunkb.html

1. Polar Bear – Two storms (Leaf)

A wonderfully spacious late night saxophone elegy from last year’s M…

Playlist 338 - Jan 6 2015

Happy New Year all. First off, a bit of a glitch at the start of this wk's show so apologies, we lost a few minutes of Aldous Harding, plus my intro (which is no loss). Check the full audio for that song down the page or better yet buy her awesome s/t album.

A selection of Best of 2014 tracks dominated proceedings - aswell as Aldous, we had Benjamin Schoos, Jennifer Castle, Paul Smith & Peter Brewis, Silver Apples. Check the blog (down the right hand side under posts) for a full review of 2014 in 4 parts (4th part to be added this week).

Also new music from Wildbirds & Peacedrums (a bonus track from the Rhythm sessions), Katelyn Aurelia Smith (more beautiful & minimalist analogue synths), Elephant Micah (plangent folk songs) and the great new single from Astronauts (hushed psych pop).

In this brand new year of love and death, let's face the music and dance. More on these pages.

Jan 6 2015 w/ Best of 2014 Aldous Harding,Silver Apples,W&P,The Drink,Jenn…

Best of 2014 - Part 3: Psych/Krautrock/Punk/Blues/Glam/Tropical

Another hodge podge of generally loud fast music often featuring loud guitars and sometimes even loud keyboards.

There are also some hushed varieties (to make up for the lack of volume those have a spooky air) and at least a few with no guitars at all.

That's the beauty of pop music and 2014 was another vintage year.

1. Ezra Furman – My zero (Bar None)

Let’s start with an album not technically released last year (towards the end of 2013), but it sank home with me in the early weeks of last January. The day of the dog is a bracing blast of beat rock n roll from an age before The Beatles, never mind the internet...committed, passionate and filled with buzzing guitar hooks and, inspiringly, saxophones. This song was my anthem from it.

It’s a class tune all over. Shades of The Modern Lovers and even Violent Femmes here and there but Furman's voice in particular is all his own - brilliantly strained, reaching. There's not enough of that in pop music.

The whole alb…