Hozier – Nina Cried Power EP | Review

Hozier’s EP “Nina Cried Power” was released last week on 6 September 2018.

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In an interview with Billboard, Hozier makes a stand for the soul and origin of blues – “There is no blues music without one of the most horrendous atrocities of human trafficking in the last few centuries.” Hozier Interview Billboard

The title track indeed evokes rebirth in the face of disaster and oppression. Mavis Staples’ vocals on the track bring force to the record’s sentiment. The opening lyrics “it’s not the waking, it’s the rising” establish the tone for Hozier’s new era as one of both delicacy and defiance. The Bray singer tweeted that working with Staples on the track was “nothing short of a dream come true” (Twitter).

The EP pays homage not only to the strength of grassroots civil rights movements, but also to tenderness and power within love. “NFWMB” is vulnerable but also powerful and a little sinister. Its celestial, acoustic, fingerpicked guitar melody is underpinned by the piano’s dulcet’s chords.

“If I was born as a blackthorn three

I’d wanna be felled by you, held by you”

“Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue)” continues this duality of a love-song and political statement. The lyrics dwell on the pleasures of physical love but also defiance against the Catholic church. Musically, it is almost an upbeat sister song to first album’s “To Be Alone”.

“Shrike”‘s confession, “I couldn’t utter my love when it counted”, is also politically charged. The imagery of the bird and the thorn is one of flight and return, and of the necessity of the unsightly. It is a song of both attachment and ambition, and of the desire for rebirth.


Hozier writes in the description of his new music video that, “Ireland has undergone a socio-cultural sea change, the results of which will benefit generations to come”. The video, released on 12 September 2018 is a subtle nod of admiration to Irish artists and activists. For information on those involved in the video can be found here: Music Video Cast

This EP is one of regeneration – for Hozier, for Ireland, for blues.

 

★★★★★

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Father John Misty – God’s Favourite Customer | Review

Josh Tillman, aka “Father John Misty” has produced another romantic yet satirical masterpiece. God’s Favourite Customer is a departure from sing-along acoustic ballads, and a move toward truly heartbreaking, but at times hilarious, folk.

The opening track to the album, “Hangout at the Gallows” demands the listeners’ self-awareness, with “What’s your politics/ What’s your religion?”. Father John wants us to know that they’ll let you drown if your answer is wrong. Yet, since the track is followed by the funny, bourgeois, self-deprecating Mr. Tillman, the album’s tone is not one of self-righteousness and pitying those following one path. It is instead one of confusion and the consciousness of failure.

“Just Dumb Enough To Try” is the first really vulnerable track on the album, reminiscent of “Nancy From Now On” from 2012’s Fear Fun. The track is confessional, personal and transparent, and divergent from Tillman’s usually acerbic tone.

Meanwhile, “Date Night” is a return to portraying the discomfort of arrogance and failure. Using a similar chord pattern to Mr. Tillman, the song perfectly portrays the self-accepted awkwardness of romantic endeavour:

Nothing impresses me much
I’ve got a great attitude
And a map to the stars

Tillman seems to utilise a different and vaguely dislikeable character in each song. In “The Palace” the character we are encouraged to mistrust is “my true love”, who seems to have our protagonist entangled in their snare. The discordant, melancholic bass notes in the background affirm this desolation.

Empire writes that “God’s Favorite Customer turns away from the human condition <https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/jun/03/father-john-misty-live-review-dublin-gods-favorite-customer&gt;. This is evident in the eponymous track “God’s Favourite Customer”, where the speaker employs angels to answer his prayers by speaking in an accusatory and desperate tone.
The album does not conclude, however, on a tone of desperation or arrogance, but one of guilt, with “The Songwriter” and “We’re Only People (And There’s Not Much Anyone Can Do About That)”. In “The Songwriter”, Tillman asks if his partner would make their living off of him, questioning his own status as a romantically struggling yet candid songwriter, and the morality of this; is loving Tillman an “unsung masterpiece” of dedication in itself?

Frances Wilde
franceswilde@hotmail.co.uk
+353 83 043 9326

Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino | Review

The new Arctic Monkeys album of May 2018 has shocked many, and disappointed others. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino has elements of jazz, soul, The Last Shadow Puppets, Bowie, The Beach Boys, LA, and Sheffield – undeniably a strange combination.


The album opens with “Star Treatment”, a lengthy track focusing on somewhat stream of consciousness lyrics. The opening, “I just wanted to be one of The Strokes/ Now look at the mess you made me make” is confessional, apologetic, honest, and hilarious. The honesty of this cynical sci-fi narrator establishes the tone of the album as otherworldly. The track lies somewhere between ethereal and futuristic. The standard AM writing method of jamming on guitars clearly didn’t work for the writing of this album:

We definitely had a great time, but it didn’t seem like that was the way to do [the new album], and I needed to find a way to trick myself into it.”
<http://www.nme.com/news/music/alex-turner-arctic-monkeys-new-album-tranquility-base-hotel-casino-writers-block-interview-2312690#XIzkiCMyKicYpJbe.99&gt;

The alternative jazz-like riff and the basis of each track as surrounding the piano’s melody give the album an originality which is established in “Star Treatment”.

A personal favourite track of mine is “One Point Perspective”. The focus on rhythm and minor chord progressions, yet light-hearted jading of middle-aged men who ramble on about film and music, creates a sense of playfulness yet sourness. This track is very reminiscent of almost any track on the Puppets’ 2016 album, Everything You’ve Come to Expect. 

“American Sports” and “Science Fiction” utilise a thick synth bass, affirming a new era for the band. Although the album is described as “not a concept album, “Science Fiction” confirms the alternate universe that each track and each character is set in. In this fictional “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino”, each bridge and chorus seems to introduce a new character to the world.

This is affirmed in the layering of “Four Out of Five”, evident in the bizarre music video, too. This track is arrogant; harmonious in the layers of “take it easy for a little while” in a way that is reminiscent of Pet Sounds; and somewhere between pastiching commerciality and discordance. This discordance is continued in “Golden Trunks”, probably the most politically charged song off the album.

In “The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip”, the lyric “you push the button and we’ll do the rest” is taken from an old Kodak commercial. Rather than critiquing this commerciality, consumerist promise, and a generation of social media, the track pays homage to inexplicability of this sci-fi world.

“She Looks Like Fun” is reminiscent of “Bad Habits” or even the older Puppets song “I Don’t Like You Anymore”. It is grungy but playful, a little dark, and a track that is made to perform. The performative quality of this song is opposite to that of “The Ultracheese”. “The Ultracheese”, in my mind, is easily partnered with “Sweet Dreams, TN”, from EYCTE. The album is not just a commentary on platonic relationships, romanticism, but more about accepting the death of something, allowing a phase and a version of yourself to pass. The imperfect cadence at the end of this track affirms the uncertainty.

This new album is a conscious move away from AM; it’s a necessary move away from the electric guitar, and maybe it’s a fatalistic departure from the indie-rock genre.


★★★★

Of course, Four Stars out of Five.


Frances Wilde
+353 83 043 9326
Business Inquiries: franceswilde@hotmail.co.uk

The Wombats – Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life | Review

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“There’s still life in these Liverpudlian marsupials” (Thomas Smith, NME)

 

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The Wombats are back… with possibly their best album to date.

The album opens with what is a personal favourite of mine: “Cheetah Tongue”. This song features Tame Impala-esque surrealist lyrics, coupled with Strokes-like rock drum, bass and fingers clicks. The change of pace for the bridge truly ramps up the rock nature of the chorus, and sets the tone of the album as one of homage to indie-rock but also one of experimentation, with regards to psychedelic sounds.

“Turn” is an extremely accessible song for anybody interested in the independent British rock genre – using recognisable tropes of a developing beat, a reckless love song narrative, and intertextuality mentioning “listening to Drake at your best friend’s pool”. “White Eyes” is a similar modern song about infatuation, and uses a combination of modern overtones in the backing track, and classic rock guitar riffs, plus a fantastic build up to the final chorus.

Songs like “Dip You In Honey” give off not only a youthful and cheeky tone, but feature a discordant electric guitar very reminiscent of The Beatles. “I Only Wear Black” adds another tone of rock to the album and develops this kind of of off- tone quirky and somewhat solemn form of rock. This song is one you’ll hear in a dark but fantastically friendly dive bar in the near future.

 

Record Label: Kobalt Music Recordings

Tour Dates: http://thewombats.co.uk/home/

Humingbird – Flatsound | Review

Mitch Welling, also known as “flatsound” released a new album last month, which is now available on his site, Bandcamp and Spotify. The relatively short, self-produced, ambient album speaks loudly, but in soft tones, about Gilmore Girls, love, depression, transience and the permeation of pain.

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Track one, “hummingbird” opens with an ambient, cyclical track, blending seamlessly into the following “even the stars can be hollow”. This track is more lyric-based, like some of flatsound’s past work, especially songs off of the album sleep. The lyrics and melody are based on softness and repetition, creating imagery of breaking, contrasted with imagery of allowing for light to be let in, reminiscent of Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”. The third track, “action scene”, is a song written about the pain of desire and disappointment. Flatsound’s lyrics are often centred around the theme of depleting mental health, and the debilitating aspects of this, and this song is no exception. “Action scene” is a song written about not only this but also the overwhelming pressure to “succeed” in human relationships: “you said that you wanted everything”. Following a similar theme, “when we met” focuses on this pressure, but past tense: “when we met, I was broken”. The synth-electro track added in the second half of the song encourages us to question if the fragmented sense of self and purpose has been resolved, or if wholeness is just a fantasy that relationships and “adult life” try to sell to us. This emotionally heavy song is followed by a synthy interlude, “oatberry”, quite reminiscent of the Stardew Valley soundtrack. The following track, “wash away” is a selfless one, focusing on recognising other’s pain and beauty, prefacing the track that is the album’s culmination, “you said remembering would feel too much like moving back home”. This closure to the album focuses on the attempt to move away from a place, in order to escape from a person and the emotional state attached to them, but instead, being unable to let go of their existence, and that connection to the past. Through rereading messages, and remediating memories, the protagonist of the song keeps the past close – perhaps too close.

In a recent blogpost, Mitch wrote, on his online interactions and presentation of his music, “I don’t want this all to feel so passive” (Welling,<https://www.flatsound.org/blog/2018/1/22/a-few-scattered-hours&gt; [accessed 8/2/18]). Mitch’s heartfelt, short, subtle and self-aware album, available for free download on his website, certainly achieves this reduction of fan-artist space, in the emotional transparency it creates. Yet, I argue that this album is the best quality of flatsound’s in terms of production. Each track is balanced perfectly and framed with ambient sound’s reminiscent to those created on his recent radio broadcasts.

The combination of high production quality and touching lucidity makes this both a classic flatsound album, and a work of art astutely crafted to be something delicate and new.

★★★★

Top 5 Albums of 2017

1. Crack Up – Fleet Foxes

For me, Fleet Foxes’ long awaited album, “Crack Up”, topped the year. The album maintained Fleet Foxes’ minimalist and hazy winter aesthetic, along with their well-known beautiful harmonies, but it offered something different to their previous work. Without a doubt, this album created a whole record more than anything else produced this year. Toward the beginning of the album, songs are fragmented and discordant before reaching a climax, and the listener is forced to persevere through ambient struggle. Toward the end, songs have more unity, and each track is filled with literary and mythological references. “On Another Ocean” and “I Should See Memphis” are personal favourite of mine off the album. I was waiting for them ever since 2011’s Helplessness Blues.

2. For A Moment, I Was Lost – Amber Run

Everything about Amber Run’s indie rock album oozed class in its production quality. Each track was well balanced, and while it maintained their sing-along indie following, songs like “Machine” revealed a sombre side to the bands’ songwriting process. Meanwhile, tunes like “No Answers” and “Fickle Game” have proved most excellent when performed, again and again. It was a relief to have so many stand alone tracks finally on one completed album from Amber Run.

3. Semper Femina – Laura Marling

Semper Femina is a beautiful celebration of femininity and transience. Stand out tracks were “Wild Fire”, “Next Time” and, of course, “Nothing, Not Nearly”. For me, it feels like just yesterday that Once I Was An Eagle came out, but this album revealed the change in tone and change in time between the two.

4. Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect – Sundara Karma

It’s hard to believe Sundara Karma’s album came out in 2017 – January feels like a long time ago. Tracks like “She Said”, “Happy Family” and “Flame” have been the soundtrack to UK festivals and independent bars throughout the year, particularly in summertime, matching the band’s energetic flare.

 

5. I See You – The xx

While this album maintains The xx’s sensual, drum-driven vibe, songs like “I Dare You” reveal a more romantic streak, and by now you’ve probably heard “On Hold” played, with its confessional opening of “I don’t blame you”.

Fujiya & Miyagi @ Roisin Dubh, Galway | 30th November | Review

Slow Place Like Home

This was my second time seeing Slow Place Like Home live at the Roisin. I have to admit, I was more impressed by them this time around, and I feel their set matched the “indie x electronic” sentiment behind the main act. Although the venue remained relatively subdued during the support act, the vibe for an electronic dance set was definitely established.

Fujiya & Miyagi

The band played older tunes such as “Ankle Injuries” from their earlier album “Transparent Things” near the beginning of their set, and it was evident from the beginning that their use of bass and synth captured the attention of the audience.

The band’s set developed to feature multiple songs off of their new eponymous album. Most popular appeared to be “Serotonin Rushes” which encouraged the small but attentive audience to reach the dance-floor.

The British band gave off an approachable vibe, taking requests from the audience and being attentive to each others’ musical flare.

I would highly recommend their most recent album for an energetic and unique buzz, coupled with thoughtful bass.

Slow Place Like Home @ Roisin Dubh 20/10/17 | Review

Support

Participant

Participant’s set was truly captivating. The small crowd was almost silencing by Stephen’s performance. What really captured attention was this musician’s mixture of sensitive and thoughtful lyrics, and his unafraid use of electronic/ synthetic elements to enhance the singer-songwriter stripped back set. Despite the sombre nature of the lyrics, and the minor chords, the crowd were nodding their heads along with the beat of each tune. This set was the perfect warm up for a crowd really involved in music loving.

Floor Staff

Floor Staff’s set was a bit more enhanced by drums and electro features. Yet, it still maintained the beauty of songwriting. As the crowd built in size, the more upbeat nature of this set was perhaps more suited to the tone of the evening.

Album Release Show: Slow Place Like Home

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The show marked the release of the band’s album When I See You… Ice Cream!. The band’s performance was unexpected and somewhat in discordance with the support acts. Yet, the music itself was an interesting arrangement blending features of electronic and rock genres.

The talent definitely lay in the music production rather than the writing itself. In fact, Stephen McCauley has called Keith Mannion (the man behind the band) “one of the finest producers in Ireland”.

However, this in some ways left the performance too reliant on elements of production perhaps best enjoyed through listening to the album in detail with headphones. As a live performance, details of the album were somewhat lost, and the audience was left longing for the simplicity of Participant’s opening act.

Hudson Taylor @ Roisin Dubh | 13/10/17 | Review

Hudson Taylor, once again, impressed, entertained and surprised the crowd at the Roisin Dubh in Galway on Friday 13th October.

The most surprising performance of the night was the upbeat version of “Open Up”. Fans are used to this song off being performed acoustically and emotionally. Instead, the band added rock-like drums and encouraged the energy of the crowd.

Old time favourites such as “Chasing Rubies” and “Battles” captured the attention of the crowd, with the crowd’s singing almost drowning the voices of the brothers.

Tadgh’s fiddle solo in “Don’t Know Why” was definitely the most beautiful moment of the show. Closely followed by Harry and Alfie’s sister, Holly, accompanying them in a short acoustic performance.

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New songs include a balance of folk ballads, love songs, and others in the style of “For the Last Time”/ “Off the Hook”- with defiant lyrics and powerful harmonies. The next album promises to carry this value of resilience through, but with a rockier vibe represented in “Feel it Again”, the band’s latest single.

The boys are back on 27th December, and promise another uplifting, yet festive, show.

Barn on the Farm || 2017 || Festival Highlights Review

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Saturday

Outdoor Stage: OUTLYA really dominated the outdoor stage in the mid stages of Saturday afternoon, encouraging the ever-growing crowd to sing along and dance. Their energy shone through in their performance of The Light. The classic indie-looking band pulled off some unique use of instruments and harmonies and are an exciting prospect.

Wooden Stage: Benjamin Francis Leftwich gathered a large crowd in the peaceful wooden barn stage on Saturday. Leftwich balanced a performance of old and new songs perfectly, pleasing the crowd with “Pictures” and, for some devout old fans, a beautiful performance of “1904”. However, newer songs actually received an incredibly eager reception, with a large proportion of the audience singing along at stages, especially to “Tikkium” and “Some Other Arms”. Leftwich’s tone and confidence have improved drastically over the past few years. I last saw Ben perform in a small venue in Nottingham in 2012 and his crowd growth, song writing ability, and personal development are all obvious to see.

Main Stage: Highlights for the main stage, for me, were Sundara Karma and James Vincent McMorrow. Sundara Karma, much like OUTLYA earlier in the day, proved to be immensely popular and energetic. The band has clearly grown massively in recent times and their unique image, along with summer ballads like “She Said” are one to watch.

James’ set clearly blew everybody away. His soft tones were projected across the entire farm, especially for tunes like “Higher Love”, “We Don’t Eat” and “Cavalier”. McMorrow’s Irish humour remained humble though.

Sunday

Outdoor Stage: A large crowd flocked to see The Howl & The Hum following Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s recommendation. The band did not disappoint with a powerful performance of “Godmanchester Chinese Bridge”. Their interesting and “relatable” lyrics coupled with resonant tones make them a low-key intriguing indie band to look out for.

Wooden Stage: LOWES, a small band from Lancaster beginning their music career, dominated the wooden stage. Their first single, Awake at Night, was performed with absolute confidence, and is now available on Spotify.

Main Stage: The two final acts on the main stage, Amber Run and Tom Odell, were the absolute pinnacle of the festival. Amber Run, of course, have played Barn on the Farm before, but their increase in audience and performance of songs off their most recent album really set them apart from previous years. The band gives their all to every performance, and this was evident particularly in “No Answers”. The audience got an extra treat when friend Lewis Watson joined the band for a performance of “I Found”.

Tom Odell’s final set certainly surprised me. The man is a performer who thrives on audience’s energy, that’s for sure. From the “Barn on the Farm song” to “I Know”, the variety of piano based songs sound relatively mundane on Odell’s albums, but in person the performance of Odell’s guitarists, his piano skills, and his astonishing vocals set him apart from every other performer at the festival. “Still Getting Used to Being on my Own” was a particular favourite of mine, along with the version of “Magnetised” which had the entire crowd dancing.

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Until next time, Barn on the Farm.