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As published in Sunday Business Post Magazine on December 1st 2013

My initial enthusiasm for 2013 lay with the prospect of three of my all-time favourite acts unleashing new albums within the year –  The National, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Arcade Fire.

If asked this time last year to predict my top three of 2013, suggesting that musical Holy Trinity would’ve been a no-brainer. Epic advance singles from all three respectively justified the fervour – yet, in hindsight, 2013 proved the year in which those staple long-time favourites ultimately came up short, while a new breed of internet darling wonder-kids flourished.

2013 has without doubt been a year of stellar debut albums. HAIM, CHVRCHES and MS MR have a lot more in common than just a penchant for capitalised monickers – each played their part in rejuvenating Planet Pop with their debut offerings, all jam-packed with irresistibly exciting hits-in-waiting.

Savages, Daughter and London Grammar all lived up to their indie buzz-band status with solid releases, most notably the latter’s atmospheric wonder If You Wait. AlunaGeorge and Disclosure joined forces to produce one of the singles of the year in ‘White Noise’, but also impressed separately with their respective career kick-starters.

On the home front, the opulent genre-bending stylings of Come On Live Long‘s Everything Fall impressed hugely, the complex sonic landscapes of Kool Thing‘s self-titled album proved an innovative slice of electronica, and Little Green Cars‘ long-awaited Absolute Zero surpassed even the loftiest of expectations.

The notion of the difficult second album was well and truly squashed by some - Local Natives, John Grant, Ghostpoet, Anna Calvi and in particular, purveyors of dark disco Austra all proved their mettle to firmly dispel any notions of one-album-wonder status. Follow-up fever also struck Irish output, with superb second offerings from O Emperor, Tieranniesaur and Halves, as well as Lisa O’Neill‘s stunning Same Cloth Or Not.

But the record that takes my own personal annual accolade is the very first one that I listened to back in early January – step forward Conor O’Brien and Villagers, with {Awayland}. This dynamic, evocative and mind-blowingly beautiful album proffered surprises at every juncture and captivated continually. A masterpiece for 2013 and beyond.

TheNational

As published on State.ie on November 11th 2013

The National’s sixth studio album Trouble Will Find Me undeniably cemented their ascension to the mainstream, a trajectory spearheaded by the breakout successes of Alligator and Boxer, and escalated by the commercial success of High Violet. A natural progression to larger venues has in turn ensued – hold dear the memories of seeing them perform in intimate spaces, for those days are gone. The National are a fully-fledged arena act now. Yet, in spite of selling out The Marquee in Cork within an hour earlier this year, there are plenty of empty seats in The O2 for the band’s first appearance in the capital since their three night stand at The Olympia back in December 2010. Not that it fazes them. “This is surreal – we’d have been happy in Whelans”, front-man Matt Berninger tells the thousands standing before him.

An epic 24 song set-list makes for an expansive treat for fans tonight, including 10 of the 13 tracks from Trouble Will Find Me, perhaps to the dismay of the “I prefer the early stuff” contingent – however, the unleashing of ‘Secret Meeting’, ‘Squalor Victoria’ and ‘Cardinal Song’ within the first half should’ve quashed complaints. Aaron and Bryce Dessner lead the charge of heralding the new, particularly impressive are the former’s commanding shift to piano for ‘Hard To Find’ and the latter’s dual-guitar adventures-in-feedback on ‘I Need My Girl’. Rhythmic siblings Bryan and Scott Devendorf bind it all together with precision on drums and bass respectively, and at the centre of it all is Berninger – the captivating, brooding, enigmatic leading man who pours every ounce of his soul into the microphone as he prowls around the stage. His enthusiasm to reach out to his adoring audience leads him to stumble over his monitor during ‘Sea of Love’, before clambering atop a speaker for the magnificent ‘England’, and eventually disembarking stage-left to traverse the barriers and join the crowd for encore performances of ‘Mr. November’ and ‘Terrible Love’. The excursion is at the expense of his vocal delivery, however we can forgive pitchiness during this exercise in extreme crowd interaction.

Berninger, the Dessner Brothers, and the Devendorf brothers are joined by trios of both strings and brass musicians throughout to great effect. The additional personnel were recruited with the expansive instrumentation of Trouble Will Find Me in mind, but the more striking result is their impact on the back-catalogue treasures – a simply stunning rendition of ‘Slow Show’ and a mystifyingly moving revamped arrangement of Cherry Tree EP favourite ‘About Today’ make for the standout moments of the set, elevated by exquisite trumpet and trombone flourishes that fill the might of The O2. Berninger himself even bows down before the brass section in reverence of their emphatic execution of the climax to ‘Fake Empire’.

The National have a rare power to incite nostalgia for events you weren’t present for, mourning for a demise you weren’t aware of, and lamenting of a love that wasn’t yours to lose. As the lights fall and an acoustic mass sing-along finale of ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’ ensues to close the show, it’s evident that however impersonal a venue may be, that emotive gravitas will continue to permeate every chord struck and lyric sung for as long as they wish to share them.

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I went to see ‘Drinking Buddies’ in the cinema on Sunday night. Besides the obvious lure of Anna Kendrick’s smile, Jake Johnson’s beard, Ron Livingston’s awkwardness and Olivia Wilde’s EVERYTHING, it’s actually a very well-executed movie – a really authentic, un-Hollywood take on relationships. Which in a world full of predictable rom-coms, is very refreshing. It seems to be on quite a limited cinematic release, so best get onto it ASAP.

The music used throughout complimented the story really well, and upon leaving the cinema it was straight home to procure the movie’s soundtrack. As it transpires, there isn’t an official one available… So, I’ve tracked down the songs used throughout and fashioned them into a handy Spotify playlist. Enjoy!

ArcadeFire

Sometimes, with all the hype surrounding a new album release, it’s easy to get caught up and forget just why you fell in love with a band in the first place. Arcade Fire are one of my favourite bands of all time – and it’s been a long-term relationship.

Funeral, my first love that I’ll never get over… Neon Bible, my controversial favourite that I’ll stand by through thick and thin… The Suburbs, which after a bad first impression became one of the biggest ‘growers’ of an album I’ve ever experienced… and of course EP, one of the main causes of my Arcade Fire addiction since I first listened to on my good friend Hugh‘s Creative Zen MP3 player many years ago.

In the run-up to the release of Reflektor - which, to be perfectly honest, I’m still warming to (minus the rip-roaring title track) – I found myself revisiting the treasures of the Arcade Fire back catalogue a lot. On a recent road-trip to Mayo, I delved into these treasures and set about deciding on a Top 10. It took me a while – but here it is…

Metric

Metric’s 2012 fifth studio album Synthetica may not have had the same impact as its formidable predecessor Fantasies, but there certainly were some killer tracks within. A brand new music video has just been unveiled for one of them, the albums title track ‘Synthetica’. 

The video’s director is Justin Broadbent, who directed previous Metric music videos for ‘Sick Muse’ and ‘Youth Without Youth’, and designed and photographed the Juno Award-winning album packaging for Synthetica. 

Check out the impressive video below, as a kaleidoscopic Emily Haines explores an art gallery collapsing in on itself…

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As published in Sunday Business Post Magazine on October 6th 2013

Haim

 

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First Music Contact have just announced the line-up for this year’s FMC Tour – gracing the stages of venues nationwide in early November will be 3 of Ireland’s finest live acts…

LE GALAXIE can do no wrong at the moment – just when you think you’ve witness them play the gig of their lives, they go right ahead and top it with the very next outing. They’ve been showcasing new material from their second album (which is coming our way in January) to a hero’s welcome, most notably at their sold-out 3D extravaganza at Meeting House Square last month – here’s their latest banger, ‘Lucy Is Here':





Dublin four-piece FUNERAL SUITS won me over big-time with their brilliant debut album Lily of the Valley  – it’s been a while since I’ve seen them perform live, save for a fleeting encounter at this year’s Longitude festival, so I can’t WAIT to catch them on the FMC Tour.  I’m very much looking forward to hearing some new Funeral Suits material – but in the meantime, one of my absolute favourite songs ‘Colour Fade’ does the job just fine:





DAITHÍ took the festival circuit by storm yet again this summer, and just keeps on going from strength to strength. Captivating to watch in live action, he produced one of THE anthems of summer in the form of ‘Chameleon Life’ – and based on the calibre of this tune, it’s exciting to think of what else he has up his sleeves…


If you want to catch these three stellar live acts, head along to these venues on these dates:

Thursday November 7th @ Roisin Dubh, Galway
Friday November 8th @ Dolans, Limerick
Saturday November 9th @ The Pavilion, Cork
Thursday November 14th @The Spirit Store, Dundalk
Friday November 15th @ TBC – Gigstarter Public Choice
Saturday November 16th@ The Workman’s Club, Dublin  

Tickets for all shows go on sale now on www.entertainment.ie  and www.tickets.ie as well as via individual venue websites. Priced at €10, you’d be MAD not to snap some up…

CHVRCHES

As published in Sunday Business Post Magazine on September 22nd 2013

AlbumReviewCHVRCHES

NakedFamous

As published in Sunday Business Post Magazine on September 8th 2013

AlbumReviewNakedFamous

As published in Sunday Business Post Magazine on July 7th 2013

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