Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Year. 20-16

20. Sunset Rubdown - Random Spirit Lover

Random Spirit Lover sees Spencer Krug split his time between being the demon ringmaster of some sort of keyboard-led musical circus noir and being the hilltop poet of both doom and everyday wisdom. I've seen reviews of this that haven't gotten any further than the vaguely kooky sounds that pop up occasionally and I've seen reviews that haven't got past the slightly bizarre lyrical tangents. More than both, I've seen ten legions of Sunset Rubdown reviews declare "when he's not with Wolf Parade, Swan Lake, Frog Eyes, Destroyer, blab". And I would like to congratulate those reviewers for knowing how to use Google. Sunset Rubdown does not deserve to be left as a part of the overall life and loves of a busy indie journeyman, because it's too good for that. It always seems like the place where Spencer can do exactly what he wants with songs, where he directs things rather than just taking part, where he gets the most personality into his lyrics, where the songs sound like they do in his head. Random Spirit Lover sat on my desktop for about 5 weeks too long this year, and I regret it daily.
Jagjaguwar provide the hook-up, song-wise, but Spencer does not know Jeff Mangum's name. You can be cool without trying. A revelation.

19. Holy Fuck - LP

When I reviewed this for Analogue's latest issue, I said at the end that it was a dark horse for album of the year. When the time came to actually compile my own personal totally overblown Album of the Year rundown, things turned out a little differently. That's more a testament to others than a sign of LP ageing badly in the six weeks or so since I passed judgement on it, because the things that made me put it on so loud that it shook shelves and made radiators resonate while I danced sadly alone one night not too long ago are still there today (do not tell anyone about that, blogosphere, I trust you). The beats are fortified, amped up and racing the keyboards to the finishing line. Holy Fuck make a sort of organised lo-fi amphetamine dance-rock chaos that you might find growing in a cave or somewhere. Or alternatively, live and improvised in a loft in Toronto. Or alternatively, on CD or mp3, recorded for your convenience in what proved to be a valiant though unsuccessful attempt at the best album of 2007.
A well-provisioned MySpace provides Bishop Gregory, Lovely Allen and other vital album tracks, while Coke Machine Glow lands a lower rating than I would've, but describes it well.

18. Handsome Furs - Plague Park
Sub Pop

Plague Park has all the hallmarks of a true side-project effort. Dan Boeckner is famous from collaborating with Spencer Krug in Wolf Parade. He decided to make an album with his wife. They wrote it at home. The only singing and real playing on it is Dan. If there was ever an album in danger of being a vanity project, this was it. It's not though. Or if it is, it still sounds great. Proof that minimalism can sound rich, with the help of a mid-90s drum machine, occasional keyboards and his guitar dosed in Canada-sized dollops of reverb, Dan lets his lyrics and particularly his vocal range spread much broader than he did with other projects. He takes wings. The lyrical conceits are idiosyncratic at this stage. Love, nothing and modernity, swimming in these strange metaphors. Like Sunset Rubdown, there's the feeling that this is how Dan would be doing things if every idea in his head came to full fruition. Every song in the album sounds like a constituent part of a whole scheme, and that whole is as dusty and spacious as the cover art. Marginally better than Spencer's effort this year. Not that it's a competition.
Here is what I said about Handsome Furs in Whelans in October, and here are two of the best tracks, What We Had and Handsome Furs Hate This City.

17. Patrick Wolf - The Magic Position

This album came out early in the year and quite possibly leaked in 2006, so it didn't appear on many end of year lists. That's the only possibly explanation. The very idea that all the top 50s of the Educated in the world could have ignored The Magic Position is so offensive to me, that I can't entertain it for a second. Especially seeing as they all hyped it when it was released. The album is a tapestry of swelling violin-led tracks, bouncing pop, fragile Antony-esque piano ballads and very slightly Depeche Mode tunes. There's even a taste of Xiu Xiu on The Stars. It's much, much better than anything Wolf has done before, and largely what establishes it are the singles. The Magic Position and Accident & Emergency as a combination make this album special alone. The rest of the salad bowl of sounds are tied together by Wolf's occasionally breathy semi-croon, and they create a quite captivating and undulating selection. Pity everyone forgot.
The NME article where Patrick had a bit of a sulk, and a hotlink to the video for Accident & Emergency on his website.

16. Gruff Rhys - Candylion
Rough Trade

Another salad bowl of an album is Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys' second solo album. Before we start talking about the music, if there were awards for best album art (and seeing as this is my blog, I may well invent one) Candylion would win hands down for its completely flawless cardboard rendering of what the combination "candylion" would look like. Not all of the album is as sweet as the cover, but the title track (which comes after an intro falsely declaring the album to be for voice and guitar) definitely is. It's a knowing sort of sweet though, more Bassetts All-Sorts than WKD Blue. It's mostly in English, with a handful of Welsh songs and one in basic Spanish for some reason. One of Welsh ones, Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru is the highlight, and one of the catchiest songs of the year. Many hours have I walked home from places sans mp3 player with a Welshman's voice saying "gurry gurry gurry gurry gurry gurry" over and over and over again. Superb stuff. Apart from sweetness and infectiousness, there are slightly less saccharine tunes floating around too. Cycle of Violence sounds a bit like Pinky and Skylor! is a 14 minute behemoth that sounds a small bit like the Velvet Underground. There aren't weak tracks. Wales is still a world power in music.
MySpace tells the story of Candylion, and YouTube has Gruff and Lisa show us how to make our own, ala Blue Peter.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Year. 25-21

25. Thinguma*jigsaw - (awakeinwhitechapel)
Deserted Village

awakeinwhitechapel (which possibly breaks down as "A Wake In Whitechapel") is a vibrantly original album made in Ireland by a duo from Oslo, Norway, keeling under its own heady atmospherics and resplendent in its lyrical charm. There is lyricism a lot greater that which than the sloganeering brigades of Ireland generally possess in evidence, possibly due to a love of modernist literature both Joycean and otherwise. It's great to hear. They get more atmosphere with a flute, a banjo and a musical saw than a lot of bands could manage with an orchestra. It's pointless to point to influences here, because it sounds so shockingly original. Not physically shocking obviously, but there is a definite feeling that only comes when you first hear a band who you cannot immediately place in the sort of tapestry of post-Beatles music, and thinguma*jigsaw evoke that feeling very strongly.
An explanation of the album, whose concept (there seems to be one) you might otherwise miss. Not for the formalists among you.
MySpace - Serpentsapple gets especial recommendation.

24. Interpol - Our Love To Admire


If we're judging by the overall feeling of an album and its lyrical themes, this is the third time Interpol have made this album and the only difference is that this is the first time they've openly admitted that they're looking for the widest audience possible, That's not really a surprise to anyone who has heard both Turn On The Bright Lights and Antics though, so the move to a major from Matador and the ridiculously blatant single can be fairly easily overlooked. Being popular - and trying to be even more popular - doesn't stop Our Love To Admire being a good album. Pioneer To The Falls shares an aesthetic with the two previous album openers, but it is easily the best as a song, and there are various Interpol melodies and tricks that are perfected here. The bass and drums are turned down a little, and there is slightly less urgency, but sounding lazy is no bad thing sometimes, and Interpol have managed to stay pretty safely within the confines of being on-form. I await the next album with interest and a critical ear though. Only Oasis have tried to make the same album more than three times, and it wouldn't be nice to see Interpol go that way.
MySpace has a few songs off this and they have a decent website too if you have time to kill.

23. The White Stripes - Icky Thump

White Stripes albums sit on roaring singles generally, that's why they're so big in the mainstream. There's a single on each album that announces the mood of the album as a whole: Dead Leaves... on White Blood Cells, Seven Nation Army on Elephant, Blue Orchid or arguably My Doorbell on Get Behind Me Satan. Icky Thump is no different. While some of the tracks could fit easily on any of their albums or any blues rock album since 1969, Icky Thump the song tears new arseholes left, right and centre, hates White America more effectively than Eminem ever managed beside a Zeppelin-esque riff and deservedly lends its name to the album. Elsewhere, new ground is only occasionally tread, but the uneasy personal lyrics that pop up now and then and the usual White Stripes dynamics make this a worthy listen.
MySpace doesn't really advertise the best of Icky Thump, but Jack White multitasking on Jools should make up for that.

22. So Cow - These Truly Are End Times

Covert Bear

Like Wilde, Shaw, Joyce and Beckett before him, Brian Kelly deserted his native land to seek fame and fortune in foreign climes. Not for him the bright lights of Manhattan, the avenues of Paris or the proud, cultured London streets. He went to Seoul. These Truly Are End Times is lo-fi partly due to circumstance and partly due to choice, and the hand-drawn cover will give a good idea of the kind of thing in question. There are some seriously catchy songs on it, the kind of thing that would have charted in an alternative universe, but either uncompromising indie principles or a frankly shocking lack of major label interest keeps These Truly Are End Times a well-kept secret. Only Hawaii, Arizona, certain bars in Korea, Deerhoof and Ireland seem to be aware of this album, so do not waste this opportunity. It's the best album by an Irish artist this year quite easily.
So Cow talks End Times on his site, and there are mp3s there too but go here for Moon Geun Young, Casablanca and some new tracks.

21. The Polyphonic Spree - The Fragile Army

If this album was a small, unrelated piece of cinematography, it would be the scene in Battle Royale in the classroom after they discover they've been drugged 'n' dragged, and Beat Takeshi plays them a video. The video has a ridiculously perky Japanese (duh) girl in a Battle Royale bodywarmer, if I recall, talking like an anime character about the brilliant adventure they're about to embark on. Takeshi claps enthusiastically. The class are fear-stricken. I don't know why The Fragile Army reminds me of that, but it does. Maybe Takeshi is Tim DeLaughter, ageing star rallying the troops from the front, and the class are the rest of the Spree. Or maybe some time earlier in the year I listened to TFA and watched Battle Royale on the same night. This is super-fidelity, super-sincere, super-twee, saccharine overdose stuff, like a mildly beefier version of previous Spree. There are some melodies borrowed from The Beginning Stages Of... and Together We're Heavy, but there are cracking new ones too and some heart-lifting pop music like no-one else can do.

Tim and his army keep a blog that could be worth reading, and their article-free MySpace has a mash-up of the album.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Jens Lekman

Google the name Jens. If your Google is the same as mine (and I assume it is), the first result will be this website. Nothing to do with Jens Lehmann, or any other Jens. Jens Lekman, Swedish indie crooner extraordinaire and sexiest man in Indie Rock according to my bro Scott's readers* takes that honour.

He probably deserves it too, not that Google is a meritocracy. Being the sexiest man in the credible world has not gone to his head, judging from his performance at Whelans. Comfortable and earnest, he took the stage with his "percussionist" (apparently Swedish for "occasional bongo tapper") Tammy after a decent performance from Fat Cat's Dakota farmboy Tom Brosseau, where he made his announcement. "I'm doing this show for the money. I'm broke."

Luckily, as my friend observed, Swedish people are generally equipped with better senses of humour than most Northern Europeans. It's probably true though. He didn't bring a full band because he couldn't afford it, so he played through most of Night Falls Over Kortedala with only his guitar, his bongoist and occasional looped oohs for support. He explained several songs rather charmingly, bringing a little humanity to what sometimes can seem polished or unambitious music. "Why don't you tell us a funny story, Jens?", Jens asked himself, and he obliged.

The backing track kicked in for the last two songs before the pretend-end of the set, including the highlight Opposite of Hallelujah, which is one of the singles of the year I reckon (because actual physical single release is irrelevant when you have the internet) but the encore songs were again endearingly stripped down, like the rest of the set. Seeing Jens Lekman stripped of band and samples is just a different way of experiencing the music I think. Not worse, anyway. Not that I have anything to compare with. I enjoyed myself a lot, and I'm definitely a bigger Jens fan now than I was before.

Oh, and some famous guy played a few songs with him on violin. Big clap to you Dublin for cheering the three-song special guest five times as much as the headline act. I'd take Jens any day, I'll be honest.


*Note: I do not actually know Scott Lapatine or any other Stereogum contributor, and they are certainly not my bros.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Blue Lights All Around!

Support band had a French name and sounded exactly the same as Daft Punk. They had a song called "We Don't Speak French" which would only have been funny if they weren't so clearly derivative.

Of Montreal came next. Straight out of Athens, GA, and fresh from a delicious sell-out to T-Mobile and various "commercials" in America, they indie-kids-can-dance'd their way across the Button Factory stage for their second Dublin date on the Hissing Fauna... tour. They played Crawdaddy earlier on in the year, and I thought it was brilliant. My friends didn't though. Maybe I was glazen-eyed with fanboydom. Because, as I've alluded to before on this blog, I came to the conclusion on the long walk from Stephen's Green corner to Tripod one day that Of Montreal are my favourite band.

After that gig I got my copy of Hissing Fauna... signed by everyone in the band, I talked to Kevin for a little while about his lyrics and I shook the glitter out of my hair. I definitely had one of those bleary experiences. TBMC had to live up to that.

To be honest, it was about equal, or maybe a little worse. They avoided the usual problem of bands who visit the same place twice on the one tour by playing a very different set, with a LOT of stuff off older albums than Hissing Fauna... and this was good. Four off Satanic Panic In The Attic, which was the first Of Montreal album I ever got way back in whatever year, 2003 or 4 or something. And four (I think) off Sunlandic Twins, which is almost the equal of Hissing Fauna...

He wore absurd clothes. BP Helium was dressed as Bowie instead of Eno. But the strange stage dance guys with the glitter weren't there, and the spectacle was a little lessened. It was a good gig, not a great gig, as Eamon Dunphy might say, and even the look on the pointless bouncer's face as Kevin danced in fishnets to Gronlandic Edit couldn't bring back the kind of furore I got at Crawdaddy.


Friday, December 7, 2007


I've spent a lot of the last 10 days or so finding out from WK Wimsatt and Cleanth Brooks about what exactly a successful criticism consists of. And I genuinely do feel more educated now. Unfortunately though, the whole point of blogging is to give personal accounts of stuff, so I will have to betray my new-found New Critical outlook and do this old-school.

Liars was one of my least cool gig experiences, which is ironic (but not very ironic) because they're on of the coolest bands I've been to see. Angus Andrew was wearing the lovely white suit you see above (even though I stole that picture from a New York online newspaper of some description), and they looked overall like a Brooklyn post-punk band. Which is apt, because they were. Are they still? Probably not. Doesn't matter, because they've added being accepted in haute music circles to looking cool. Which is good news.

Reasons it wasn't cool: I turned up at 8 because it said 8 on the tickets, none of my friends were at it so I was by myself for the first time in a while, gigs I'm not at should have no effect on the fucking gig I pay for, the third support missed a flight, the doors opened at around 9 and nothing happened for hours, I drank four pints of Paulaner by myself, I jerked and rocked out beside some Northern Irish guys for the entire Liars set.

Saving graces:

Bats are very good. They're like indie playing metalcore. Or metalcore playing indie. Or genre-ignoring playing genre-ignoring.

Liars were really cathartic, and generally great. The two guitarists (labelled thus for convenience) basically made noise for the entire night, the drummer went "bom bom bom" fairly insistently and Angus gave the thumbs down while Australianising some cavernous sounds from the microphone.

They played plenty off Drum's Not Dead, which surprised me. I assumed that because they shifted sound between Drum and the self-titled, that they would have sort of shifted ethos or something. But they didn't. I used to be really into Drum's Not Dead, so that was good news.

But even better news: they played lots off Liars too. And Liars is so much better than Drum's Not Dead. I didn't think so when I got it first, but in terms of scope, the breadth of sounds they get together on one album without losing their intensity, it's just a much better record. There are some TUNES on it too, in the sense that Noel Gallagher or someone would refer to FOOKIN' TUNES. Songs that make sense, that have hooks. But there's noise too.

Everything was fed through the live catharsis-machine though. And Plaster Casts fucking destroyed the place. I was waiting for it for the whole gig, and last song comes around. It tears holes in everything. I can't explain it better, or I don't want to. It's primal shit.

This was up there, for me. The "Of The Year" lists are on their way, don't worry. And this'll be there, high.


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Wonderful Counsellor

I saw this un-fucking-believable Canadian band the other night in Kennedys or the Boom Boom Room or some other underdog venue that you wouldn't have thought of checking the listings for. They played this really bizarre, incredibly inspired music... it was like a cross between twee and post-rock. And they had more members than the Polyphonic Spree. I am not shitting you.

Well no, I am shitting you. I was at Handel's Messiah, performed by the University of Dublin Choral Society with the Dublin Sinfonia in the Public Theatre in Trinity (a venue notable for its gigantic portrait of Queen Elizabeth staring down damning all Catholics). I did this mainly because my friend (who sounds normally like a suburban Ronnie Drew) was in the bass section of the choir.

I unfortunately do not have the required training to talk in an informed way about opera (is it even opera?), but I had a good time. Several of my friends left after the first half (which was an hour long). I can understand why. But I enjoyed it. The only thing I can do is draw parallels with things I know. Some bits did what those really shivery Radiohead bits do. Other times, there was too much harpsichord for my taste. Still. HALLELUJAH. What a song.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Fuck dancing all night.

Went to see Jape again in Crawdaddy last night. No fruit was flung, many songs were sung, some weren't sung at all but merely banged out with all the unselfconscious aplomb of Scooter covering lo-fi indie rock. I like Jape. He pulled a strange crowd too. Definitely older than the average Crawdaddy gig crowd, but it was Friday and I suppose the short-lived NME Ireland thing probably helped him in those quarters.

One person was clearly on ecstasy. She was blowing in the wind and making shapes in the air and generally raving it up for the whole gig, but scarily she smashed a pint glass and then didn't notice that she was dancing barefoot on broken glass. She seemed happy enough though.

Jape-wise, Phil Lynott the song is still ridiculous to anyone who doesn't worship the name of Phil Lynott, but At The Heart Of All This Strangeness (I think that's the title - the only other soft one) was really good, and had the Friday night crowd shushing each other. Haunting stuff, and a really unusual chord in there somewhere.

Floating was banging. It's just instant gratification, alternative pop at its best. He has a couple of those, not so good but on the way. And he has a couple of ones where the lyrics render the song unlikeable. That's the trade-off when you're working on that kind of level of honesty, that sort of conversational thing.

It can go terribly wrong, like when it's about Phil Lynott (sorry! Comedy song!), but the first lines of Floating are poetry.

We took our first pill when the music was shit.
We said "Fuck dancing all night", but then we did it.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

North Strand Klezmer Band

I've never seen a live klezmer band before. So on Tuesday when the Trinity Jewish Society put North Strand on in Cassidy's as some sort of e-mail getting event/opportunity for everybody to realise that Jewish culture sometimes comes in very intense, North Dublin-based, seven man packages. An appreciable effort, and a worthwhile one.

Downstairs in Cassidy's was empty. This was a clever deception, because upstairs was absolutely jammed and sweaty as fuck. I can't imagine how stubborn and dull someone would have to be to stay downstairs when they heard the klezmer vamp and and the manic dancing kick in. Absolute brilliance.

They played a variety of different Jewish songs with Yiddish names which I have no chance of being able to reproduce accurately, even if I remembered their sounds. They also played some songs with names in English, like Merchant's Arch. And some gypsy songs.

They played vamping, incredibly Eastern European sounding brilliance on incredibly Eastern European sounding instruments, with no hint of irony at all. The place was packed to capacity and pumping. It was the best gig in a while. If you haven't seen them, you have to. Really. Preferably in a very full upstairs bar.

Hit them up on MySpace. "Other/Ska/Other" doesn't even begin to describe it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

When he turned around and cried...

Fight Like Apes last Friday in Whelans, then. Suppose I better talk about that. I was hoping to get a photo from the man who spent THE ENTIRE GIG bumping his camera into me or standing completely rigid when everyone else in the place was dancing. I expect that they'd be pretty good, seeing as he took pictures of the same people from the same angle for nearly an hour. I kept planning to ask him to stop, but of course I never plucked up the courage. In my head, it went like this.

Me: "Hey, how much did you pay in to this?"
Him: Either "13 euro" or "I was on the guestlist"
Me: Either "Me too, please stop bumping your camera into me" or "I paid 13 euro, please stop bumping your camera into me."

Anyway, this is the kind of aside that used to annoy me about other blogs. But I had to say it, in case any prospective photographers are planning on getting all elbows around me in venues without photographer pits in future. Please somebody think of the punters.

Grand Pocket Orchestra were the support. They were pretty good on the whole. It was my first time seeing them with their new guitarist (and my second time seeing them ever) and they're pretty different. I mean, their songs are the same, but a lot of their tweeness gets lost under Mr. Second Guitarist's Marshall stack guitaring. They're still great though. Their "slow" song, Little Messy, is not actually slow. The whole thing is just breakneck twee rock (the rock bit is newish), and if the sound was A LITTLE better they would have killed it.

Then Fight Like Apes. This was the longest I've seen them play for, and most of the length consisted of SP-303 atmospherics and movie dialogue, and general messing around. I love messing around though. Fight Like Apes are in their groove at the moment. I remember reading some terrible music magazine like Q once, talking about the Rolling Stones going from strength to strength. I don't remember the context. But that's what it seems like for Fight Like Apes.

Phantom is all over them, even Herald AM are calling them gig of the week, anyone who cares about what's going on in Dublin knows that Fight Like Apes are what's going on in Dublin. They don't fuck around either. It doesn't matter where they are or who's there, they whack saucepans (which I assume Pockets now possibly known as Jamie also uses to cook his food, given the reasonable price of their gigs and CDs) and fall over and scream and pretend to be karate people and all kinds of things.

Do You Karate? has grown to rival Jake Summers as my favourite Fight Like Apes song, and though the new EP is marginally less good than the old EP, it's good to have more recorded stuff. The Mclusky cover fits so incredibly well into the rest of their stuff. It's good to be at a gig where a lot of other people are into it. I keep having premonitions that in twenty years saying"I saw Fight Like Apes in Dublin before their first album came out... three times and maybe more" will be like saying "I saw Joy Division in the Hacienda" or "I bought crack off Jay Z before he was a rapper".

Hopefully. It was a very good gig. I do hope they can write more great songs, and put out a fantastic album. Which I will buy, even though I have the first EP, the second EP, the first and second EP and the 7", because maybe if Jamie gets enough money to buy an SP404 he'll put his SP303 on eBay and I can buy it and pretend to be Panda Bear.

This review has been pretty flitty. There's another one from HWCH around as well though, so check out my more organised thoughts there. This one wasn't quite as good. Sorry. I hate being a cunt. But it wasn't. It was still very good though.


Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Songs That Saved Your Life 1

Breaking my own mental rules for this blog by making a non-review post.

This is a song I really like. It's from 'Spirit They've Gone, Spirit They've Vanished' by the proto-Animal Collective (originally released under the name Avey Tare and Panda Bear).

I know a lot of people are just listening to Strawberry Jam, and that as far as most people get in their lifetimes is Feels and Sung Tongs. So I wanted to share an earlier song.

It's not kooky, to use a ridiculous word people have used in relation to Animal Collective too often. It doesn't sound like it's from a campfire singalong. There aren't any tribal drums or vocals. It has great lyrics. And a sort of really carefully constructed fragile sound that reminds me of a spider-web with dew on it for some reason. AND it drops at 5.15 into one of those bits that makes me punch the air with happiness.

It's fantastic. Enjoy it.

Chocolate Girl

For real-life chocolate girl.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Animal Collective

There aren't very many bands who I've called my favourite since I reached the Age of Reason (which for musical taste occurs about six months after you realise that good music doesn't always need distortion) and Animal Collective are one. REM, Radiohead, The Smiths. Maybe Of Montreal, recently. But Animal Collective had it for a long period of time.

They played Tripod on Sunday night. I'm not going to go into the crazy detail I could go into because (a) I did it yesterday and then deleted the post because it was stupid, (b) other people have already talked about the gig probably better than I would in my fanboydom and (c) nobody reads this blog anyway.

In short, I thought the gig was pretty good for half a gig. They played 6 or 7 songs, which for Animal Collective means the guts of an hour because of segues, intros, outros and improvisation. They were all Panda though. Which was suspicious.

Avey had the flu. There's nothing that can be done about this. I can't complain, like. I've had the flu. It's shit.

So an Animal Collective set with Noah (Noah is Panda Bear, if you're new to this) singing seemed like the logical step for them I suppose. People have complained that they didn't tell the crowd up front, but in fairness they probably considered the songs they did to be good enough to stand by and be judged by. They've done obscure sets before, hundreds of times, and if they think a Noah-only set counts as an Animal Collective set, that's fine by me. I enjoyed it.

Loch Raven was great. Song For Ariel was great. Other new songs that I can't remember titles of were great (I won't check the set-list at Collected Animals because I don't want to) or sometimes not that great. The Strawberry Jam songs were fed through everything the rest of the material was fed through.

And to be honest, I think that's partly why people were unhappy (as well as the short set and the lack of singles, obviously). Strawberry Jam's production was really pristine. The vocals weren't treated, the melodies were up front and there weren't any meandering songs really, apart from #1. So people who got into Animal Collective very recently might not have been prepared for what they actually sound like. Which is nobody's fault.

Funnily enough, while #1 stands out on Strawberry Jam because it isn't really a song per se, I thought it was the best thing they played on Sunday. Hypnotic stuff. Conan may have thought so too.

When Avey could take no more, after however many songs, Noah played some Person Pitch stuff. I screamed like a girl, I'll admit it.

Good Girl/Carrots is one of my favourite songs (or song/songs), I'd have paid 20 euro to see him play that by itself. And the second Song For Ariel was pretty cool too. Ariel must be tickled pink (that was a poor pun).

I enjoyed the gig. Definitely. I've seen Grass and Purple Bottle and We Tigers live before, so I wasn't as let down as some people were. I'd like to see them come back though. And play Peacebone. So everyone can realise exactly how good they can be at pop, as well as sending people into dazes.

This turned out pretty long after all.

Oh well.


Monday, November 5, 2007

Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird is just cool. He inhabits an imaginary space in my musical world that no-one else comes near. It would have taken significant setbacks to stop me from enjoying this gig, even though I saw him in February or March in Crawdaddy. I came out of the Crawdaddy gig a little disappointed. It turned out I was just being stupid, because in my memory that gig was great. I wasn't too versed on Armchair Apocrypha back then though. And I was devastated that he didn't play A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left. I had a bit of an obsession with that song, similar to the obsessions I had with Jellybones by the Unicorns, The Rat by The Walkmen and I'm A Cuckoo by Belle and Sebastian. You know, where you keep skipping back to the start every time it ends on your mp3 player.

Guess what he played on Friday in Tripod? Can you guess? Can you?

Yeah, he played A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left.

But seeing as I spent a lot of time listening to Armchair Apocrypha in the meantime, I enjoyed the rest of the gig lots too. Him and Dosh have their loops very tight by now. It's a mix of consummate professionality (super-tight looping), abject unprofessionality (erasing an entire multi-layered loop), pointless bassists (Jeremy), anecdotes (the explanation to Spare-Ohs is rehearsed, because he used it at Crawdaddy, but it's still hilarious and insightful) and Willie Nelson-esque heterodox phrasing (in a good way - I just mean he doesn't sing the songs straight).

Andrew Bird seems like he'd be cool to hang out with as well as being a great songbuilder. And he doesn't really challenge my heterosexuality. He wasn't even wearing a scarf.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Stars are pretty much the epitome of a type of music I try to appreciate from the outside. Without listening to it. Like Metric, Tegan and Sara and various other Canadian or American bands who make music a little sweeter than my ears seem to be able to take, Stars seem a little too limp. However, I did love Stars for a while back when everyone used to love Stars, so I gave this gig a shot.

This actually happened about three weeks ago, so this summary will be so concise as to be pointless as a piece of pseudo-journalism. I'll give it in bullet-point form, because it's just for the record anyway.

  • The new songs are for the most part pretty fragile.
  • The crowd was big, and hoping for lots off Set Yourself On Fire.
  • Stars played plenty off Set Yourself On Fire.
  • They seemed really excited to play Dublin. Genuinely.
  • They stressed how amazing the gig was for them, and were very grateful.
  • If that's what amazing Stars gigs are like, I can only imagine how un-intense regular ones are.
All that said, they were tolerable. The hits were duly sung along to, and some of the new songs seem pretty good. I haven't been won back to the faith, but they're a decent enough band. I suppose. For the indie Will and Grace.


Saturday, October 6, 2007

Handsome Furs

Handsome Furs don't hate this city, fortunately. Back in Dublin for the first time since he spat all over me alongside Spencer Krug and the rest of Wolf Parade two years ago, Dan Boeckner seems to have positive opinions of Whelans. "This is probably my favourite bar to play", he said, likely being serious. Having been witness to Wolf Parade's first coming on a fake ID and more awe than I care to recall, I can safely say that Handsome Furs are a different experience.

They are comprised of the second most important member of Wolf Parade (and writer of Modern World, Shine A Light and others), Dan Boeckner and his wife Alexei. There is a vague feeling of "proving a point" about their show, which probably isn't intended at all. Alexei is pretty minimalist in her contributions - she presses play on the drum machine and plays fairly rudimentary chords on the Korg. It's really Dan's project though, and songs that probably could have been sung in harmony with Spencer end up here stripped down with distorted guitar and bare beats.

My perspective here is skewed because I've been really into Wolf Parade since 2005, but I've always felt that the charm of Spencer is in the closeness, how intimate and almost oppressive he can sound with Wolf Parade and especially with Sunset Rubdown. And conversely, Dan has always sounded like he dealt in space. He thrives with Handsome Furs, alone onstage providing the backing to his own songs of uncertainty with his wife's support. Maybe being from western Canada makes your songs sound like miles of forests, or maybe it's specific to Dan Boeckner, but he's loud and he means it, and it would be a mistake to ignore Handsome Furs just because they don't involve Spencer Krug. Get Plague Park.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

HWCR - A recap

Best of Friday: Ten Past Seven
Best of Saturday: Fight Like Apes
Best of Sunday: Grand Pocket Orchestra
Biggest Surprise: Ten Past Seven
Biggest Disappointment: Alphastates

HWC? - Didn't see enough to judge.

Loveninjas were Swedish and sounded Swedish.
Super Extra Bonus Party seemed like great fun, but I only saw the very end from the very back.
The Terribles should either tighten up and play with a bit more feeling, or change their name to make it harder for people to make jokes.
Tidal District were making the sort of cathartic outro sound I love when I saw them briefly.
Dali seemed pretty punk rock, but in a good way.
My Brother Woody had some Beach Boys vocals and some fluffy but solid songs. They also gave free CDs. Thanks!
Cathy Davey is alright but has Conor O'Brien chained down when he could be either reforming The Immediate or doing something better than Cathy Davey solo.
Soda Fountain Rag sound like they're probably into J-pop. It was entertaining enough while I was there, if a little vacuous.

HWCZ - Bands I didn't really like.

I didn't want to dedicate a full post to caning everything I didn't like, so I'm going to put them all into one. The picture is unrelated to anything.

The LKs were the first band I saw on Friday and I didn't like them because: they kept falling slightly out of time with their loops, they didn't really have any melodies, they seemed to take themselves more seriously than their sort of light-souled music should allow. They're Swedish, just so you know.

Alphastates had the mitigating circumstances of having their drummer being away delivering a baby "somewhere far away", but playing basically a full-on set just without drums doesn't really work. Also, I don't think I would've been into their "alt" thing very much anyway.

A Kid Hereafter is Danish and as a Swedish photographer said to myself and my friends "he is more about the entertainment than the music". So I committed the cardinal sin against politeness by leaving the barrier right in front of the stage at Tripod during his third song after he had waved at me. I'm sorry, A Kid Hereafter, I just wasn't into it.

Gavin Ryan was sort of a Nick Cave-lite. I saw the first half of his set but left after he said "this is a new song" and then played what is basically by this stage a template blues-jazz song about his baby or something like that. Did not capture my imagination at all.

The Radio weren't great either. I wouldn't have them in the minus category if I wasn't expecting them to be really good, but that was the information I had. Their last song was a post-rock epic which I actually really liked, but their music was a little bit too "rock" to be as credible as it seemed to think it was.



Jape was pretty bangin' as Sunday's headliner. I can say bangin' just this once, because Richie Egan spent the best part of his set pointing in the air or raising his fist in a way that would lead one to believe he wanted to be called bangin'. It was my first time hearing Jape, strangely enough, and I was seconds away from the last bus home before deciding to actually wait and see. I'll explain to you what I was expecting, and what I got. Jape has always been described to me as an "electronic" artist, and the closest I came to encountering him/them was at Whelans when I was in the bar and there was pounding bass coming from the venue. So I was expecting some techno, basically. I didn't get it. Jape is as much rock as it is electro. Not that that's a problem. The best thing about Jape anyway, all things and genres considered, is the lyrics. He has a rare frankness and an ability to make you go "haha" or "fuck" or "..." with every second line he sings. I'm not sure I'd pay 20 euro to see him alone because of the sort of vestiges of 90s-ness about it all, but I think he was worth the extra 2.20 the Nightlink cost me at least.


General Post Office.

Fun is the new black. Grand Pocket Orchestra sound like Danielson Famile, Go! Team, White Stripes, bluegrass, punk rock and a multi-pack of Skittles all in a blender, but most of all they sound like the sound of the blender. The band is idiosyncratic in hitherto unheard of ways (for an Irish band). If somebody drew them with crayons, you'd know immediately who it was, and if someone mentioned "tweeabilly" trying to be clever and stupid at the same time you could stand up and put on some Grand Pocket Orchestra to shut them up. Their songs are very short and most of the singing comes in the form of a super-sped-up Daniel Smith and even sometimes almost Jack White-like yelp-bark-squeals. It's very interesting stuff, and great fun to watch. Keep eyes peeled for a postulated EP.


Panda, Baby Panda

If you were to believe Panda Kopanda's panda propaganda, you'd turn up to their gig in Pod Sunday night expecting to hear some sort of Pavement derivative group of young men who spend all their time locked up in a room listening to superhip 90s indie. They press all the right doorbells when it comes to stating influences (Pavement, early Grandaddy and Postal Service in the HWCH booklet) and whether this is a cunning ploy to try and ensnare lost hipsters is anyone's guess. The main thing is that they don't actually sound like any of those bands at all.

Panda Kopanda sound like the picture above looks. They are shoegaze (not even nu-gaze) and pretty unapologetically so once they actually get onstage. The only similarity they bear to Pavement is that their singer looks a little bit like Stephen Malkmus. Not that there is anything wrong with their music. I quite liked it. They were immediate in parts, and when they went for wanders, it generally swirled in a pleasant rather than a boring way. If only they could get over whatever block it is that keeps them denying their fathers and refusing their names.

Now, Fight Like Apes

As Crawdaddy filled up for Fight Like Apes, there was a definite sense of anticipation. It felt weird, like on of the landmark shows people talk about - The Smiths in the Hacienda or Radiohead at Glastonbury 97 or whatever. The room was heaving. They played at the same time as the Concretes, but I can't imagine even having given half a thought to seeing that. It was like a big fight or something. Like when Bernard Dunne fought Kiko. It wasn't the title fight, but if he fucked it up (which he did) it was back to square one. Luckily, Fight Like Apes were not knocked out by a Spaniard in the first round. The opposite, really. Gig of the weekend.

There are three main things that I would note if I was seeing Fight Like Apes for the first time (rather than the second time). The first: they don't use guitars. Without hearing them, you'd immediately start to think of shit new rave bands or boring atmospherics. But it's not like that. It's definitely indie rock, it's Elephant 6 on punk rock tablets. The second thing: they're really loud. They use synths. Tech bit: synth synthesise sound. So they use the full wave instead of just whatever comes out, like in a guitar. So when you play a synth loud, it's like a wall. Which is the great thing about Fight Like Apes. They sound like a wall. The third thing about them is just that they look mad, which again is partly a result of not using guitars and being able to dance around in a visually different way.

All of that is pointless talk though, so ignore it. The reason Fight Like Apes blew away Hard Working Class Heroes is because they have really catchy songs which they play really loud. They have flippant songs like Canhead (which I nearly lost my voice screaming) and they have serious songs like Battlestations. They have Lend Me Your Face, "114 of Irish contemporary music's most celebrated seconds", universally recognised and easy to appreciate. But Jake Summers is the best. It just is. The way it's put together. The words. It's one of those golden apples of pop music. I hope Fight Like Apes become the next U2 and I can tell people I was in the front row for them twice and saw May Kay burp while introducing a song, and fall over while rocking out in heels. They were definitely better than most of the touring bands I've seen in the past year. They're probably better than we deserve.


Monday, October 1, 2007

Michael Knight

The last time I wrote anything about Michael Knight, it was a band that featured not only Richie Murphy but also two women (one of whom is Edel Coffey off Phantom now) who provided the washing backing vocals and the live backing. Nowadays, Richie is based out of Berlin and seems to be Michael Knight by himself. Which begs the question: is it now legitimate to refer to Michael Knight in the singular, or is this still not allowed because of Hasselhoff? Pointless semantics, really, but worth a thought.

I thought Youth Is Wasted On The Young was an excellent album two years ago if you hadn't noticed in the review, and I still listen to it occasionally so I was looking forward to seeing what Richie was going to lay on for the substantial enough crowd in the Lennon Lounge. As it turned out, the set consisted of Richie at the piano (or the keyboard which sounded like a piano) and the guitar playing to deceptively orchestral backing tracks. Most of the songs were new to me and will probably end up on the new album due "soon". A lot of the sweetness of the older songs seems to be lost but this is not necessarily a negative comment. Michael Knight now sounds like Michael Knight is writing songs on pianos in Berlin, which is most likely what is happening. The hooks weren't as obvious though, and that makes first-time listening hard work.

God forgive me, but my heart lifted when I heard Waves To The Shore second from the end. And I appreciated the sentiment if not the execution of the woman to my left's blurt: "Play Foals you bastard". Happily enough, though, the (new to me) set closer "Victory Is Mine" was great. Just about a good gig.


Tupelo Honeys

Sweden have an Arcade Fire. Which is nice. Instead of a husband and wife duo consisting of a Texan and a white Haitian though, Tupelo Honeys are the Edin twins Joel and Linn. They are visually fairly angelic, and when they took to the stage in Tripod on Saturday they were both wearing all white outfits and wings to complement their already fair Scandanavian ethereality. Their background people (four others) wore black, and were not quite so beautiful. But still beautiful, by Irish standards.

Anyway, all of that is completely beside the point. They sounded good to me. Joel took the lead role on songs that mostly sounded like either The Well or The Lighthouse but took in shades of Parenthetical Girls, Belle and Sebastian and Burt Bacharach at the same time. In a world where every Swedish band seems to sound at least 50% like 90s Cure (I don't know if I'm just listening to the wrong bands but that's what I hear), one Tupelo Honeys set has them vying with Shout Out Louds for the position of primary Swedes in my brain. Baffled disagreement on a postcard to the comments box.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ham Sandwich

Ham Sandwich's greatest seift so far in their brief but productive (four singles?) life has been to convince people that it's Niamh's show. She's the obvious candidate: she's attractive, she wears cool stuff, she doesn't sound like a culchie eejit and she is, lest we forget, a girl. So she gets the magazine specials on girls in Irish indie, the most camera time on the Late Late Show. People take Ham Sandwich the same way they take Yeah Yeah Yeahs - it is the singer, and then the band. They're wrong though. She's an excellent singer without doubt, and her pose striking is den scoth, but it really is all about Podge. The difference between a good Ham Sandwich gig and a bad Ham Sandwich gig is almost entirely down to Podge's behaviour. If he acts too much of a cock, tosses his guitar around too much, forgets to tune, grins when he should be singing or talks to his ubiquitous friends about matters concerning Meath-folk, the music can be ruined. And he drives the music too, he plays the key guitar parts and provides the unusual half of the vocal unison that seems to make Ham Sandwich stand out.

Luckily enough, he was on his best behaviour tonight. Ham Sandwich opened Tripod on Saturday for some reason, and even though I missed the beginning due to bookshop duties, I had a lot of fun. Smart money is on the early slot and the good behaviour being down to industry presence, and I would love to see a Ham Sandwich album on a good label. Their recordings to date have been great, but nailing down a live show has sometimes eluded them. Tonight they look polished though. They looked like they belonged in Tripod (due to the guitarist's slightly-less-endearing-than-Barra-Immediate rock and roll posing and to Niamh's inimitable presence even if it does seem a little affected when Podge is grinning at her and she's pretending to be serious), and they seemed like they could do it anywhere. It would be lovely to see England like Ham Sandwich. Thing is though, it's not just polish or even just catchy songs. There are those moments where something cracks and you realise that there really is something going on in Kells. The guitar crash bridge in Click Click Boom (played by Podge mostly from the ground but at least fully clothed and not grinning too heavily) sounded intense tonight, and the drop into the chorus in Sad Songs is proof in dark times (like, hypothetically, after an embarassingly bad Tower Records in-store) that Ham Sandwich are at the top of Irish indie on their own merits. They could make it, even, if they get a good bounce.


The Jimmy Cake

I had to go to the Jimmy Cake. They're on the front of the festival map along with The Concretes and Jape, so I suppose that makes them Friday's headliners. Whatever their HWCH status was, they're one of the bands that have been around Dublin for long enough that everyone paying any sort of attention knows they're worth an ear if you have one to spare. So I presented myself at The Jimmy Cake. I was just hoping they stayed on the right side of post rock (I have a bit of an allergy to epic rock) and they were satisfactory enough in this respect. The sheer volume of their set is as noticeable as the rich layering, with drums, two guitars, a bass, a keyboard, a saxophone, a trumpet, a clarinet and an accordion all floating in and out hypnotically. The beauty is in the repetition, I think, and despite the fact that they were all off having babies for a few months (paraphrased from the HWCH guide), they seemed very assured, very at home and almost dominant. Their music is lived in. Their swells are orchestral, and orchestral is the word I would use to describe their set in general. Musicians, not rock stars thankfully. No danger of breaking out in post-rock hives.


Ten Past Seven

Ten Past Seven are the kind of band I hadn't realised Ireland was capable of producing. They're from Kerry but they're based in Cork, and they sound like a million directions at a million speeds. I wandered in to see them at 10 o'clock in Crawdaddy after the disappointment of pretty much missing Super Extra Bonus Party through sloppy timekeeping. There was a respectable crowd, and once 7.10 got going, it got very difficult to imagine being anywhere else, seeing any other band at that particular time. They land somewhere between Battles and Lightning Bolt to my ear, though I don't have a lot of reference points when it comes to progressive time-signature bingo riffing, and they have a convenient knack of making everything else seem a bit normal. Feeling more adventurous and spurred on by a particularly fast and crashy bout of riffing in an absurd time signature, I ventured some head nodding. I regretted it quickly, as Ten Past Seven subconsciously sensed me trying to catch the beat and changed it completely to throw me and everyone else off. A resounding success, all in all, and the best act of the Friday.


Hard Working Class Heroes

There is no better reason to start a music blog than to organise the thoughts that come into and then fly out of your head on the bus home after gigs.

So that is my mission statement.

And I'm starting with the most notable extravaganza this weekend (no disrespect to other extravaganzas), Hard Working Class Heroes. Not only is HWCH a chance to see good bands from both home and away play relatively close together long after the festival tents have been sent to storage, it is also an opportunity to pretend we have all been supporting the scene all along.

So I will admit to begin with that the ratio of Irish bands:touring bands that I've seen in the last year has been fairly woeful. My quota of Irish indie has mostly derived from in-stores, support slots and MySpace and I think it's because while I would love to spend twelve euro to see Ham Sandwich play Whelans, it strikes me as more urgent to spend the twelve euro on Andrew Bird or Animal Collective because they don't live here and I'd feel more like I was missing out.

The exception are The Immediate, whom we still mourn in these parts, but that's another story.

So I'm a shit. But anyway, that's partly why I popped by. I got my mind open for some new music, and got my singing voice and pointing finger out for moral support for the few bands I do follow. It's only 2/3 done as I write this but I'm having fun. I'd recommend it. Here are some reviews.