Showing posts from April, 2015

Marker Starling – Uphill battle (from the album Rosy maze, Tin Angel Records)

We mentioned the sublime ‘Husbands’ from Mr Chris Cummings some weeks ago, that’s Marker Starling under his nom de musique.

Next off the very sweet Rosy maze album is the nourishing sound of ‘Uphill battle’.

Coming in with a distinct Stevie Winwood feel – with that electric piano it’s inescapable – it preserves that tone through later deceptively smooth soul stylings.

Restrained brass swells, those electric piano stabs and a brilliantly offbeat chorus of backing vocals.

The backing is so sweet it takes a minute for the painful lyric reflections to register –

what’s at stake I can’t say but it’s more than just the vapours of unvarnished pride

That same verse has the icing on the cake of a host of comforting ooh-ooh-ooh backing vocals, bringing you right into the realm of classic 60s girl group glory.

It’s a low key pleasure this one but there’s a lovely slow burn quality to it that will get you through the rest of those April showers.

Tandem Felix – Comma EP (Trout Records)

An extremely accomplished new collection from this Dublin four piece plying various strands of Americana to superb effect.

‘Nothing I do will ever be good enough’ is a version of the self-pitying country staple but with several beautiful arrangement flourishes to distinguish it – the wandering synth break, the wonderfully restrained steel guitar, the shakers as uplift to the chorus, even the fleeting detail of the treatment on the word “smoke”.

‘Waiting in the wings’ brings a neat stop start structure to a deceptively vicious little lyric which is satisfyingly full of spite and driven by ingenious piano octaves.

‘Moon tingles’ has something of the stately grace of Lambchop to it, although perhaps if Sufjan Stevens sat in on vocals. Fiddle, steel guitar and a sublime harmonica cameo fill out the edges gorgeously.

‘Union St Blues’ takes on the Sufjan thread, a dark night of the soul ballad given great propulsion by a rhythmic banjo riff and a silky backbeat and topped off …

Playlist 353 - Apr 28 2015

A couple of great Thrill Jockey releases to kick off this week. Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler play Dublin soon when they'll presumably roll out some of these beautiful spiralling harp arpeggios (harpeggios?) with ambient electronic backing. And Circuit des Yeux is American Haley Fohr with a landmark singing voice.

Speaking of great singers, Daniel Knox would make your heart melt. Arborist with Kim Deal on guest backing is another beauty.

Virginia Wing with a wonderful post-Stereolab intervention, danceable. Lower Dens brilliantly smuggling unsettling observations into electro pop.

Jean Jacques Perrey & David Chazam, a superbly playful addition to the Moog library genre.

Colleen plays Cork next weekend, spacious dub explorations. And Rozi Plain (pic) with folk drones and kosmische synths which are glorious and uplifting.

More on these pages.

Apr 28 2015 w/ Circuit des Yeux,Arborist,Daniel Knox,Virginia Wing,Lower Dens,Polar Bear,Colleen++ by The Underground Of Hap…

Polar Bear – Don’t let the feeling go (Leaf)

Classy and unfussy jazz grooves carried by a lovely supple double bass and hi hat heavy dropped snare beat.

A pair of saxophones join in midway for extra propulsion entwining sensuously around the vocal refrain making a great accessible whole.

That refrain is practically a mantra and you do feel it amounts to another inspiring message of hope from this special group.

Lower Dens – To die in L.A. (from the album Escape from evil, Ribbon Music/Domino)

An edgy synth arpeggio, woolly pitter patter bass and a genuine female croon.

There’s a very 80s feel, presumably deliberate, perhaps to call up the paranoia and disenchantment of that decade.

And despite the singalong chorus with a wash of comforting harmonies to soften the blow, there’s plenty of that here.

Time will turn the tide

It’s a far cry from the motorik insistence of the last album but in its own way just as insidiously intriguing and catchy as fuck.

Playlist 352 - Apr 21 2015

We started this week with something wonderful from the new Tandem Felix EP, a Dublin band probing the space between Sufjan Stevens & Lambchop. Aldous Harding, also wondrous and touring Europe soon.

Noveller is one woman Sarah Lipstate with an electric guitar making epic soundscapes. And some classic Ryuichi Sakamoto is always welcome.

It's blubbery Burberry baby, big bottom swing big bottom, how much is the fish does the fish have chips - take your pick, a Stump refrain is the best refrain.

Death & Vanilla play an intriguing brand of psych pop, Bjork in intense hyperballad mode and Kathryn Williams with something great based on the work of Sylvia Plath.

Plus Robert Pollard x 2, any time's a good time for a double dose.

More on these pages.

Apr 21 2015 w/ Tandem Felix,Aldous HArding,Noveller,Ryuichi Sakamoto,Death & Vanilla,Bork,Stump++ by The Underground Of Happiness on Mixcloud

The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed


Smile Down Upon Us – Magical breath (from the album Smile Down Upon Us, wiaiwya)

Bright and breezy pop concoctions which we can call quirky and they rescue that word from oblivion by returning to the root, with a playful wide-eyed sense of adventure and a couldn’t give a fuck quality which is endearing all on its own.

Then add the sheer weight of hooks and ideas, musical and lyrical. Here’s some background.

The second album from UK/Japanese group Smile Down Upon Us is released by wiaiwya on deluxe vinyl, in a delightful gatefold sleeve designed by artist Yuji Maruyama, on Record Store Day, April 18 (a CD version is released in Japan soon after). It’s a delicate, intimate, playful record that’s equal parts Cibo Matte pop, Vernon Elliott soundtrack and animated Marc Chagall painting, its music a perfect navigation between childlike wonderment, impish eccentricity and sophisticated intricacy.

Smile Down Upon Us is the duo of London-based multi-instrumentalist Keiron Phelan (littlebow, Phelan-Sheppard, Silver Servants, etc.) and Tokyo-resident singer/electro…

Virginia Wing – Estuary (from the album Measures of joy, Fire Records)

An album of haunting shifting pop music from this London group which is equally at home with both swooning melodies and shuddering textures.

‘Estuary’ is a song which swings between both these poles. An ominous opening of circular bass and hissing ride cymbal give way to the height of dream pop with washes of organ and banks of filtered backing vocal aws.

Still it’s more dreamy dark than dreamy bright with a clipped Nico-esque quality to the vocal delivery of Alice Merida Richards (also plenty of top end on those esses) and a loping drumbeat which has a distinct post punk feel, in fact coming on like punk funk played at walking pace.

These strands are developed further over the course of the album – the disturbing dream haze of ‘A complex outline’, the fascinating kosmische/motorik exploration of ‘World contact’, the mesmerising synth spirals and post punk jolt of ‘Meshes’, the riveting Stereolab-esque stoic of 'Marnie'. (Plus in fairness you also have to love a ban…

Playlist 351 - Apr 14 2015

You may have noticed Easter happened the other week. We started this week's show with some devotional sounds, first Polar Bear from their new album (intense) then a quite odd effect from Ralph Carmichael courtesy of Trunk Records (always good for the oddness).

A few near duets around the middle of the show. The sublime Vic Chesnutt with Emmylou Harris & backed by Lambchop, new music from Arborist with Kim Deal guesting and the recent release from Elephant Micah, another stunning turn with Will Oldham helping out. All under the folk umbrella, all showing great vocal chemistry.

New music also from Jon DeRosa, another great duet with Carina Round from his new album; and Rozi Plain, more beautiful kosmische folk from her upcoming 3rd album.

Tender Prey (pic) doing great work in the pow wow punk genre. And in advance of Record Store Day 2015, when Fire Records reissue the first three Close Lobsters albums, 86-89. Always room on this show for superior misty-eyed jangle pop.

Playlist 350 - Apr 7 2015

We kicked off this week with some classic Luna who are reforming to play some shows this year. Especially beautiful about this song is the driving bassline by Britta Phillips. The new single from Swedish duo Death & Vanilla, another gorgeous wash of dreamy psych pop.

The new Aloa Input album has lovely shades of early Beck and the Beta Band a bit, the latter are in there too from 1997 sounding like Beck jamming with Can.

A couple of great Tropicalia cuts, Os Mutantes from 1968 and Gal Costa putting the cosmic soul back into acid rock.

Lower Dens not neglecting the motorik, Smile Down Upon Us with some wonderfully daft and breezy pop music.

Jean-Claude Vannier marshalling a female choir of chants and footstamps and fingerclicks. And August Wells feat. Ken Griffin ex Rollerskate Skinny channelling Scott Walker beautifully.

More on these pages.

Apr 7 2015 w/ Luna,Death & Vanilla,Beta Band,JC Vannier,Lower Dens,Os Mutantes,August Wells++ by The Underground Of Happiness