Spotlight – Ríona Sally Hartman

I have an insatiable appetite for all things unconventional and all who embrace the ethos. Unconventional musings however, can quickly become commonplace. Just look at the current trend of beards and comb-overs sweeping across Ireland. One must find a way to remain unorthodox, uncommon and rare. That’s what stands out.

Que the ever-changing, whimsical and free-spirited Ríona Sally Hartman who has been delighting audiences for years under many different guises – The Ríona Sally Hartman Band, Monster Monster, Dig a Little Deeper, Sami Moukaddem, Live Jazz Duo, and Yo Teach! (more info on these here). And she’s fluent in Irish too!

It’s hard to place Sally in one specific genre – something she is agreeable with. Dependent on the project you’re listening to, there are elements of Regina Spektor in her voice, Florence and the Machine, Fiona Apple and Bat for Lashes. The one aspect that prevails however, is that lyrically, she remains unconventional throughout – reminding me somewhat of Joanna Newsom.

With song titles such as Frida Kahlo’s Delight and the Sealegs EP (which itself holds many delights), Ríona Sally Hartman showcases both her ability to weave an original story in to a song, and create the musical splendor that surrounds it. And there are many stories to be told indeed – check her Youtube channel here for more.

Ríona Sally Hartman -  Big Starving Thing
Ríona Sally Hartman – Big Starving Thing

Speaking of insatiable appetites – Her recent fund it campaign sees the release of Big Starving Thing under her own namesake May 18th, available for pre-order here. I can’t wait to tuck in.

Band Spotlight – MKAI

What’s in the water in Cork lately eh? There are so many great bands dawning my horizon lately – too many to even mention here. The bulk of the bands come from Dublin, but in recent weeks, Corkonians are gracing my ears more and more.

MKAI, the brethren duo (quartet when playing live), are the most recent Cork band to make me raise and eyebrow with their mix of Sigur Rós, Radiohead, early Coldplay (Parachutes), Muse, Editors and even the 80’s sensation Talk Talk, to name but a few. A mixed bag of talent there, but MKAI have managed to blend the mix in to a very edible cookie dough chock full of tasty tunes.

There’s no denying the power of their sound either as they gained significant publicity in November 2014 by knocking Taylor Swift’s 1989 from its comfy number three spot on the iTunes chart. No mean feat.

The EP that did the damage, with help from Rob Kirwan, was Waiting.

Moving down the genre of alternative, electro-rock, their latest single Loop sets darker tones in both melody and lyrics – it’s a clever name too as you will find yourself playing it on loop.

Having already played Hard Working Class Heroes, headlined Guinness Amplify live stages Cork, The Grand Social and Electric Picnic, things are moving fast for these guys. You can catch them at Indiependence later this year.

Impressive stuff, and one band I will certainly be watching in 2015.

 

 

 

 

Listen – Yes for Equality, The Perfect Song

‘Love might be a privilege, but marriage is a right’.

Like everyone I know, I will be voting a massive YES on May 22nd in the Marriage Referendum.

While watching Garfunkel and Oates last night, a series about two female comedians using music as a medium, episode two introduced me to a song that is perfect for the upcoming Referendum.

Garfunkel and Oates
Garfunkel and Oates

Called Rainbow Connection, it’s a great tune about same-sex marriage and love. Ireland should see fit that this song is the anthem for the 22nd.

Listen below and share. We should all know the lyrics.

Yuss! More acts announced for Electric Picnic 2015!

Nothing better than this kind of announcement to kick away the blues after a bank holiday weekend.

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Electric Picnic Line Up 2015

 

Feast your eyes and pack your tents.

Only 121 days to go!

Album Review – Le Galaxie, Le Club

I really like Le Galaxie. They have persistently been a dance remedy staple for me as long as I can remember. When all else fails at a party, pull out the Dayglo and facepaint and mash up the airwaves.

After a week and a half listening to their second album, Le Club, I can officially say it’s a bromance. It’s out there. I said it. What?!

The Dreamboats that are Le Galaxie!
The Dreamboats that are Le Galaxie!

I had an inkling I would like the new album – My various car journeys have been filled with the boom of the tunes Humanise, Lucy is Here and Love System for a number of months now. I’ve played them loud, and trust me, I really don’t drive the type of car that warrants attention.

Le Club is a diverse album with a loud 80’s and early 90’s tramp stamp across its sweaty lower back. If you’re an 80’s baby like me, you’ll instantly be reminded of Beverly Hills Cop, Running Man, Outrun, Terminator, Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, Knight Rider, Airwolf, Tron, Back to the Future……. and any other early childhood memories you can think of. It’s a mixed bag mash up of dirty electronic bass in pink leotards – this allows it to be played throughout from start to finish at a party without boredom or skipping tracks. Sweet.

About to dominate the dance/club scene worldwide, particularly since announcing signing to Universal Music Ireland in January, 2015 is going to be loud for Le Galaxie and their fans alike. I don’t think my car speakers can handle it!

 

EP Review – Hooligan, Criminal Damage

Not content with having a catchy name, an authentic punk sound, and a little controversy (queue ‘No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs’ EP in 2012; a throwback to the anti-Irish sentiment of the 1960’s), Hooligan are quickly setting the standard for Irish punk bands country-wide and abroad.

Hooligan In Odessa Courtesy of Hot Press
Hooligan In Odessa Courtesy of Hot Press

Their 4th EP, Criminal Damage, recorded in Trinity Heights Studio in Newcastle, sees their second release on Oi! The Boat Records and it effortlessly captures the era of 1970’s punk with its four ear melting tracks.

Oi! The Boat Records
Oi! The Boat Records

Simple but familiar head banging riffs, clever angst ridden anti-establishment lyrics, and stadium rock guitar solos are the hallmarks of all post punk pundits and Hooligan do not disappoint here.

For me though, they stand that little bit taller than the rest by grabbing elements of glam rock, hard rock and even grunge by the short and curly’s and stringing their guitar and bass with them – especially live.

Listen here now!

 

Album Review – Fiach Moriarty, The Revolution

Using his full name this time around for his sophomore album, The Revolution, Fiach Moriarty bravely takes on the current state of world disparity and unrest as the central theme.

Fiach The Revolution
Fiach Moriarty, The Revolution

I applaud any musician (or anyone) that has the balls to speak out about past and present events that could potentially cause friction or blast opinion from listeners. With titles such as Revolution (the current single) and Freedom and Resistance, emotion and opinion will most definitely stir listeners indeed, and the album is the better for it.

Sound wise, the production level is through the roof when comparing to his debut So I. His debut was great mind you, but now with a steady fan-base and a firm standing in the Irish music scene, you can hear he has put his all in to this record.

There’s no doubt that Fiach can pen a great tune too. This was evident with previous hits Every Single Day and You Dear lauded by the likes of Hot Press, Paul Brady and Eddi Reader, but I did not expect such passion, complexity or anger in this album I’ll admit. With songs like Confession, Freedom and Resistance and The Mother, I was drawn in by Fiachs passion for the Ireland we live in today, and the history that shaped it.

You’ll be reminded of The Cranberries, Paul Brady, Damien Dempsey, Sting, The Wallflowers and even the Doors.

Varied and eclectic, but utterly rewarding.

Album Review – And So I Watch You From Afar, Heirs

Mexican trumpets, haunting vocals, clashing cymbals, heavy bass lines, isolated, echoes, organs……. it would seem that locking yourself in a linen mill in West Belfast for 6 months is a great way to get the creative juices flowing.

Isolation is a scary place no doubt, but inspiration, creativity and courage can come from it. It can work for some bands when recording an album, and not for others. It depends on the group chemistry I suppose. But it can also depend on the ability to embrace oneself as a group – to look at what you know; what you can do, what is easy, and say fuck it, let’s try something a little different.

ASIWYFA has done just this. This album feels so ‘them’ but, erupting from their 6 month stint in the linen mill, they have created an album that has been summoned from the collective psyche of the group as a whole – from what they know, what works, and what they haven’t tried before.

The beast that is ASIWYFA
The beast that is ASIWYFA

Listening through the tracks, influences abound, but nothing you can pin to any one particular genre (unlike previous albums). These influences give rise to a fun, inspiring and eclectic album – from Snarky Puppy, The XX, to Steve Vai, and Passion Pit. Something I never thought I would write.

Run Home, the album opener,  is a stomper, and will sound great live. Wasps holds a persistent low drone bass line throughout while kicking out ethereal echoing harmonies.

Redesigned a Million Times has a surprising Brit rock/Arctic Monkeys intro which makes way for Passion Pit style electronica and vocals. I can see this being released as a single, and hope it make the radio waves this summer. It would be a nice one to rock out to in the car!

Track five  People not Sleeping  screams of Snarky Puppy in the guitar riffs, while the guitar takes a back seat to a thumping bass line and thunderous clanging drums in A Beacon, A Compass, An Anchor. Animal Ghosts is a personal favourite which has a great live anthem feel to it – it begins as if the lads only pressed record in the middle of the guitar solo only to be usurped by a Mexican trumpet sliding in from the left in the most unexpectedly fitting way I have event heard. Nice.

Heirs, the title and longest track is reminiscent of Steve Vai’s  1990 album Passion and Warfare . It has a timid and timely build up to heavy euphoric release, changing pace midway, only to absolutely kill it for the last minute and a half.

The final track Tryer, You is a nice emotive finale to the album. It sounds almost like a ‘thank you for listening to the album and being a fan’ tune. It reminds me of the brilliant self titled album by The XX, but with more tempo.

I don’t usually analyse tracks so closely on an album review. I like to let people make their own inspirational objective thoughts on what they are hearing, not just what I hear. The Belfast quartet have produced an album here that has been inspired by their life and all the music and sounds they have heard to date. I suppose that’s what I have done here too by listening to this album in isolation for the last few days.

This album is as inspiring as it is original. Its ‘central theme is about the inheritance of ideas’. I  hope in turn, it inspires others to be passionate and original too.

Heirs drops May 4th on Sargent House. Catch them live at the Olympia June 19th.