Spring is here – it must be, the Glenshane Pass is almost passable. In a few days I will be even older than I am now, and I feel sure that one of these days Rob (CB head honcho) will say ‘that’s enough aul han’, let someone take over who listens to the 1975 instead of someone who remembers 1975′.
But, you’re stuck with me for now and I will make hay while the sun shines with another crop of talent from these isles (I’ve sneaked in one from across the Irish Sea – cos I can).
►Joseph Rocks – ‘Girl, Before I Met You’
Recorded during the Oh Yeah Centre’s ‘Ready to Roll’ initiative, Joseph Rocks sure shows that he can lay down a decent track in a short space of time (acts were given an hour to do a track). The performances, both musically and vocally are strong. I’ve often said it, the one-man-band set up is handy economically, but it is very, very difficult to get your music to stand out. This was highlighted to me in our recent Kickstarter campaign, in which Joseph was included, with easily a third of the entrants being solo artists, singer-songwriters, whatever you want to call them. And once you’ve heard 5 or 6, it’s very, very difficult to remember who was who – only an unusual vocal tone, melody style, quirk of lyric etc can really help an artist stand out. But often this isn’t the case. To help in this regard, Joseph has put together a pretty cool video featuring pencil sketches by local artist Mark Connolly – it goes well with the music. Sometimes the right video doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Joseph Rocks is definitely a talent, whether he can be heard above the clamour of a hundred just like him is a question I can’t answer, but he gets the thumbs up from me.
►D Day – ‘Moving On’
D Day call themselves an Alternative Rock band, but I am old enough to remember when this style of Rock music was very much in vogue, not the alternative. This is 1980’s Stadium Rock a la U2, INXS, Simple Minds (not the Hair Metal kind). The guitars are strident but have have a clean sound – distortion pedal taking a back seat to a chorus/delay pedal. The most immediate comparison that came to my mind was a band called Then Jericho, who shot to brief fame having won the Rock School competition (look them up). Darragh Whyte’s vocals have a lovely pitch to them, lifting the verses and not just the chorus. This is definitely a band I hope gets a lot of attention and aren’t cast off as a band out of time, for the affrontery of not sounding like Bastille. Now, where is my Miami Vice jacket?
►Verminous Skumm – ‘H8 Rid’
When I read the name Verminous Skumm on the email, my heart dropped and the sun that was heretofore streaming through my window, seemed to dim. ‘More schoolboy Punk’ my inner voice groaned. But being the trooper I am, I clicked on the link only to find my preconception was all wrong. It wasn’t my nemesis – Punk! Hurray!! No. It was electronic naval gazing!! Oh dear. That’s my other nemesis. I am, and never will be a fan of this style of music. In fact, I am not even sure I am qualified to judge it against what is out there, because I listen to so little of it. There is something there; some decent (albeit naval gazing) lyrics, a semblance of melody and music combining. But, there is some clumsy stuff going on in there too – beats clashing, notes out of time here and there which, unless it is deliberate to heighten the alienation vibe of the lyric, just shouldn’t happen in electronic music, in which all such errors can be instantly fixed.
Listen, Mr Skumm, if I have missed the point, I apologise. Your music is now on here for others to judge. They will maybe decide I am wrong and you are right. Isn’t that music in a nutshell?
►John Hynes – ‘Caroline, I’m Yours’
So that’s that. I don’t like it. Can’t be helped. Hynes seems to have a bit of management behind him, pushing him and his music. Good for him. I believe others would be more deserving. Again, you, the audience can judge for yourselves.
I now await angry emails from his mum.
►Part Time Pilots – ‘Flashing Lights’
Omagh’s Part Time Pilots have been about since 2012, which is a decent stint for any band to hold itself together without implosion. Happily for them they are about to release their debut album on June 16th, with ‘Flashing Lights’ lighting its way so to speak. The wag in me would suggest that in 5 years they should have learnt a few more chords and added a bit more spit n polish to their music, but then that would be me totally misunderstanding who and what Part Time Pilots are and aspire to be. With influences like Band of Skulls, The Virginmarys and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, you know what you will be getting – dirty, grungy, garage-band riffage and masculine tales about masculine deeds. No pretensions at anything high brow.
You have to admire them for that, but I still think there is still room for a little bit more in there without them totally ditching their roots. I am still interested in hearing the album though.
►Maria Kelly – ‘Far Below’
Jostling for position as this month’s Al’s favourite track is ‘Far Below’ by Maria Kelly from Mayo. She has done my work for me by describing her music as ‘atmospheric Indie Folk’. Can’t put it any better than that. Yes, it’s not exactly anything we haven’t heard before, but not always done this well. Kelly is making waves, having secured UK-based management and a record deal with Veta Records. Her ‘The Things I Should’ E.P. is due out on May 19th and she has already embarked on a tour to support said release. Dates includes an appearance in Belfast at The Mac on 12th May. If Atmospheric Indie Folk is your idea of a good time, I suggest you join us there.
►Ciaran Lavery – ‘Bad Man’
Ciaran Lavery. He’s done it. He’s a singer-songwriter who’s risen out of that clamour I keep mentioning (only every month – Ed). Winner of the NI Music Prize and with his critically acclaimed ‘Live At The Mac’ album filling his sails, there seems no stopping him. In honour of Record Store Day, he has put together an E.P. – ‘A King At Night’ featuring five tracks by someone else – Bonnie Prince Billy (William Oldham) to be precise. Such a fan of his work is Lavery that he put this labour of love together. ‘Bad Man’ is the lead off track to the E.P. and there’s no doubting Oldham’s talents as a songwriter and Lavery’s ability to make someone else’s song his own. He’s spoiling us really.
►Matthew Bennett – ‘Home’
Like all music reviewers I am sent submissions every day – several a day in fact. If you let it, it could become overwhelming. You can’t possibly listen to them all. We have to have a cut off line. For us, this normally means it has to either be from someone from Ireland, or an act active in Ireland or coming to Ireland. So, usually I read the first line of an email and as soon as it says ‘The best new Death Accordian band (ok, I made that up) from Boise Idaho’, I can hit ‘delete’.
So, how did Matthew Bennett – a Brummie, with no connection to Ireland find himself a slot on my column? Well, firstly he sent me a really nice email. Secondly, he didn’t actually say he wasn’t from here until I had listened to ‘Home’ and by then, well, by then I figured we’d let him in on a ‘Cascarino’. He’s bound to have had a pint of Guinness at some point. Good enough.
Anyway, he’s done an album called ‘In Light’. ‘Home’ is the debut single and I think it is spellbinding and I want to hear more. I get the feeling, the album has been all he has thought about for the 4 years he spent making it and he has no clue about what to do with it now it’s done. He’s a music maker not a music seller – a problem many musicians face. Give him a listen, give him that thumbs up on Youtube to let him know his time was not spent in vain.