Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Mos Def - ‘The Ecstatic’
IN the past ten years, the mainstream has chewed away at the edges of some of hip hop’s finest craftsmen, and the genre has suffered because of it.
In 2006, when he released the utterly uninspiring ‘True Magic’, Mos Def forced many purists to gasp a sharp breath and avert their eyes. Once the finest exponent of the cut-and-paste sample with the hard political question, Dante Smith seemed to be on a greasy slide to the middle.
Thankfully, ‘The Ecstatic’ has tethered the thinking man’s hip hop leviathan back to his base. Mos Def’s fourth solo album is a masterful return to form, and one that has come not a moment too soon.
The overlapping production of Madlib, Oh No and Mr Flash (plus another posthumous appearance from J Dilla on ‘History’) pulls the sound of the record in different angles, with Bollywood samples in ‘The Embassy’ contrasting with the bombastic synth in ‘Life in Marvellous Times’.
But throughout ‘The Ecstatic’ there is a simmering energy that is driven by some of Mos Def’s finest lyrical flow in years. He, like Q Tip before him in 2008’s opus ‘The Renaissance’, seems invigorated by the pragmatic joy of the world view of Obama’s America - ‘And we are alive in amazing times/delicate hearts, diabolical minds’.
‘The Ecstatic’ may not reach the stratospheric heights touched by ‘The Renaissance’, but it takes a admirable shot nonetheless. It is, however, a tad unsettling to think that the skill required to execute such a polished hip hop record today lies in the hands of probably less than two dozen men, many of whom are scraping 40.
Still, if Mos Def can continue to summon this sort of prolificacy, we will not have to wrestle with the death of hip hop just yet.
Wallis Bird - New Boots’
IT CAN’T be easy to be Wallis Bird; acoustic guitar-toting dynamo, a whirlwind of energy and whitticisms - leading the way for the new batch of Irish singer songwriters in her inimitable style.
It can’t be easy because of her very obvious independent streak; this is the type of girl who would likely tell some big-wig record company exec to go and jump if she was asked to bend her music to some mainstream bent.
Bird, from Wexford, surfed into 2008 on the back of some gushing reviews for her debut album Spoons and strong word of mouth on her exuberant live performances, before playing sold out tours of Ireland, the UK and Europe, and supporting acts as diverse as Gabrielle and Billy Bragg.
Spoons was a triumph to her individuality; a superbly crafted acoustic pop album that was often whimsical but also capable of erupting with a harder edge, and there was plenty of bite to her lyrics.
Bird had already recorded Spoons when she signed with Island Records - a deal that fell apart last year, a marriage destined not to work, the spiky singer reckoning that they did “f*ck all with it”.
Now, after much soul searching, Bird is back with excellent follow-up New Boots. An album that is at times overwhelming due to it’s incredible energy, it nonetheless firmly underlines the potential displayed on her debut.
The theme running through this 13-track offering is of a performer living on the edge, one searching for love, that may be just beyond her reach. Capable of running the gamut of memorable female front women from Joni Mitchell to Chrissie Hynde in the blink of an eye, there is affection and anger here in equal measure.
Unsurprisingly there is a harder edge to this second album; see the bassy-funk of La La Land and the visceral energy of opening track Can Opener, which features a spine-tingling yelp from Bird. The jazzy Travelling Bird has plenty of bite, while first single To My Bones screams of radioplay potential.
By contrast the whimsical acoustic groove of An Idea About Mary, the emotional When We Kissed and soaring Measuring Cities showcase a singer and songwriter capable of combining the sweet with the sour.
This Bird is too wild to be caged up - and more power to her.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Since then she has garnered platinum sales of the excellent Sea Sew in Ireland; completed that tour and another of the UK and had music reviewers and critics eating out of the palm of her rather gorgeous hand; appeared on Jay Leno, Stephen Colbert and Jools Holland’s shows and racked up award nominations and plaudits.
Seems that the rest of the world is waking up to how brilliant this softly-spoken singer really is. “We have just been gigging the whole time really - that's how we have spent the year and it has been great, we are very lucky to have been able to do it, we have just played and played and played - it has been amazing,” says Hannigan when the Limerick Leader catch up with her in Galway.
“The American tour with Jason was brilliant, it was more gigs than we had ever done up to that point. We just said yes and went and did it and had the craic, toured properly together as a band and had an absolute ball.”
A chance viewing of the video for I Don’t Know - filmed by Today FM DJ Donal Dineen in the snug in Dick Mac’s pub in Dingle - on You Tube by Stephen Colbert saw Hannigan and her band receive an invite to perform on his show, The Colbert Report, which is regularly watched by millions of viewers.
Musicians are not regularly invited to appear on the show with the comedian.
“Yeah, the Colbert thing was amazing, very unexpected. It was nice - he had just spotted us on You Tube and asked his producers who we were and to find out if we wanted to do the show, so that was nice how natural it was,” whispers Hannigan.
“Normally you would need someone plugging you and bigging you up, but he just saw the video and asked us.”
Colbert, who portrays himself as a hardline conservative on the show, regularly tearing guests to pieces, even broke character and urged his viewers to buy Hannigan’s album.
Just one more to fall under her spell then.
Up until the release of her album, Lisa was better known as Damien Rice’s backing singer. Over time, it became apparent that she was the shining light in his group, the spine-tingling ying to his often more dirgeful yang, if you will.
He let her go and she went out on her own, with most of his former band. His loss has been our gain, her soulful, restrained and warm debut one of the Irish releases of last year.
Previously she has expressed discomfort at being in the spotlight, often a bundle of nerves before appearing onstage. A year of almost incessant gigging seems to have soothed those tendencies.
“I feel more comfortable on stage definitely. I hadn't really played on stage much at that stage - I had done a bit, but I definitely feel much more comfortable now,” says Lisa.
“I am almost enjoying it more now. The terror of the album coming out, while I was so excited, you do worry as well and you hope it goes well, but you never know. I am really looking forward to doing the next one now and touring more - it has been such a fun year of playing music, I couldn't ask for anything more.”
She says she is working on new songs, some are written, some will be in time. A handful of lucky Limerick Hannigan fans - of which there are many - will get the double benefit of hearing these new songs in the delightful surroundings of St. John’s Church.
“I've heard the church is amazing, my nice uncoordinated dancing should be at home in the dance space,” she laughs, adding with a nice flourish that she is “a big fan of Limerick”.
Expect an almost spiritual experience.
Lisa Hannigan plays in St. John’s Church on Thursday, August 6.
Tickets are available in Empire Music.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
FAIR PLAY to Noel Hogan; the former Cranberries’ guitarist is using his considerable clout to help Limerick bands get a leg up by releasing a 14 track collection of the best in up and coming local bands.
The selection process employed here is varied, giving us the best in rock and roll (local noisenik duo Giveamanakick, frenetic rockers Walter Mitty and the Realists), indie (Supermodel Twins), electro-ambient (Drumming Room, Headgear), pop (We Should Be Dead) and more.
It is a testament to the local scene that there is such variety on display here - a sign of strength if ever there was one.
The LCD Soundsystem-esque synth sounds of Drumming Room open proceedings, with the very fine Good Riddance.
The whispering, dulcet tones of Steve Ryan open Giveamanakick’s offering, the excellent Brittle Bones - one of the highlights of their outstanding recent album Welcome to the Cusp. The duo showcase their softer side with this track, a subtle and menacing offering with a delightful sting in the tail.
One of the heavyweight offerings comes from Headgear, Daragh Dukes contributing the superb Where is Home, all twinkling glasses and slightly countrified guitars and violins, a stand-out track.
The poptastic two girl-boy quartet We Should Be Dead demonstrate some depth with Disaster - ‘don’t come lying to me/telling me I’m all you’ve got/you can’t live without me’ - Tara Nix’s lead vocal mixing beautifully with Anna Murphy’s backing, the quartet showing why their brand of bubblegum-pop is going a storm in the US.
A quick burst from Supermodel Twins and Vesta Varro follows - two of the more well-known bands from the local scene; the Twins currently recording their debut album, with Footprints an early sign of their upbeat, pop-rock potential and Vesta Varro showing why they have garnered praise in Canada and Germany, where they currently have a booking agent. In fact, this a rather more melodic offering from the local band - full of harmonies and soaring vocals.
Hogan’s latest project, Arkitekt, follows quickly with Pacing, seeing him teaming up again with Oxford singer songwriter Richard Walters, formed from the ashes of the Monoband project. Leaping like a phoenix from the flames is this soaring track, bearing Hogan’s stamp - curt strings and military style guitars and drums. A real eye-opener.
The album literally leaps from strength to strength as it reaches a conclusion - the superb Grace Jones from the devilishly theatrical ensemble Brad Pitt Light Orchestra, in our estimation one of the most exciting of all local outfits.
Shannon artist Alan Fitzgerald - operating under the moniker of Alkali Flat - offers one of the more textured offerings, Preferred Vision cutting a dash between acoustica and heavier rock. There is a raw element here, one that screams of potential.
The laid back acoustic nature of Seneca is apparent on Playing Fair; exhibiting their flair for anthemic melodies that will stick in your head long after you hear them. The quartet embrace their Irishness in a confident way not heard since the last big thing to emerge from Limerick, Mr Hogan’s former group.
Nestled around one of the best things to emerge from the Limerick rock scene in years - the frenetic, Talking Heads-esque Sucker Punch by Walter Mitty and the Realists - are two local singer songwriters with a difference.
Brendan Markham, once of Drive fame, gives us the balled False Witness, one evocative of a young Jagger as Markham howls with his bluesy timbre.
Finally, veteran local musician Mark O’Connor offers us the Bells of St. Mary’s as a final track, a delightful shoe-gazer of a track, with a distinct Limerick-edge, all brooding guitars and tongue-in-cheek lyrics.
A superb slice of the local scene, bundled into one package. We know there is enough material for a follow-up - Tonelist 2 - so let’s have it.
FROM THE chugging opening moment on the new Wilco album, as Jeff Tweedy opens his mouth - set against Nels Cline distorted guitar - the listener feels assured that this is another high-quality offering from the American outfit.
It takes a brave and comfortable band to not only mark their eighth studio album as a self-titled effort, but also to begin with an eponymous track, Wilco (the song).
"Are you under the impression/this isn’t your life?" growls Tweedy.
The chorus speaks for itself: "Wilco, Wilco, Wilco will love you baby".
Well, the feeling is mutual on this staggeringly consistent effort, following hot on the heels of 2007’s Sky Blue Sky.
In fact, on closer inspection, Wilco - in all their various forms, revolving around frontman and focal point Tweedy and bassist John Stirratt - are a staggeringly consistent band, producing an album nearly every other year.
After a 15 year career, Tweedy and co have finally settled on a line-up that feels solid and settled; and in guitarist Nels Cline, he has found the perfect foil for his off-centre lyrics and unorthodox voice.
Oft defined as alt-rock, or even, embarrassingly, alt-country - these definitions feel tremendously ill-defined for a band that has a myriad of influences, yet sounds fresh and inspired.
The release of this record was threatened with being overshadowed by the death of former member Jay Bennet, with whom Tweedy parted ways in 2001.
But, in reality, Wilco after Bennett have long been a different proposition, this incarnation of the band producing some of the finest and most cohesive music of the band’s career.
There are some staggering moments on this album; the frenzied, tubular distortion of Bull Black Nova is gripping, while in contrast, the Tweedy and Feist duet on You and I is a tender moment.
It seems the band have mined elements of 70s rock in You Never Know, while Country Disappeared is among Tweedy’s finest work, Stirratt’s bass lines a particular stand out, while the jazzy-countrified I’ll Fight will stick in your head long after listening.
An astonishingly solid effort from one of the finest bands around at this moment.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
The Australian troubadour was joined by Shane MacGowan for a masterful encore, but really impressed with tracks Midnight Man and Red Right Hand.
Previously, on a bone dry and balmy Friday night, headliners Blur predictably drew one of the biggest crowds of the weekend.
Elsewhere, the post-rock stylings of Mogwai seriously impressed, as did the mash-up skills of Swedish House Mafia and the heavy beat of Pendulum’s set. Even Snow Patrol weren’t too bad, enjoying a massive crowd for a large sing-along.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
By the way, we here in Leader towers have a new city paper out - a bumper edition of the Limerick Chronicle - the new weekly city paper for your delectation. Check it out, it's the biz..
Anyway, here's an Oxegen preview, from a fairly local perspective...
THOUSANDS of local music fans are expected to make the annual pilgrimage to the Oxegen festival in Punchestown this weekend.
Local sources have said that the demand for tickets, both to the festival and to bus services travelling to Naas, has ramped up over the last few weeks.
Dave Jackson, owner of Empire Music on O’Connell Street, said ticket sales have been “very busy” in the last few weeks.
“Sales have been very busy in the last two weeks - it has really taken off,” said Dave.
“We had a near constant queue at the ticket desk last week and as many people were buying Oxegen tickets as were getting them for Rod Stewart - we sold a load today even. It is going to be busy right up until the weekend because the weather forecast is so good.”
Similarly, Pallasgreen based Kelly Travel - who will run shuttle buses to Punchestown from 7am this Thursday morning, said demand was unprecedented for the service. The company are the only the only officially licensed bus service in the area.
“We have been providing this service for years and it is definitely the busiest year - we can hardly handle the phones, it is an unprecedented level of demand,” said Tim Kelly.
“We have services going from 7am Thursday, every hour until 5pm and from 7am until lunchtime on Friday. The return buses will run every hour from midnight on Sunday night until the last bus at 9am on Monday morning,” added Tim.
The campsites in the Punchestown racecourse open this Thursday at 12 noon, with a packed three night schedule of live music beginning from 2pm on Friday afternoon.
Spin South West FM will be broadcasting on site from 9.45am on Friday morning until Sunday evening, airing over 30 hours of interviews, reports, tips and updates. Live 95FM’s Eleanor Fitzgerald will also be on site in Punchestown, providing plenty of coverage for local audiences. This year’s line-up is a contender for one of the strongest since the festival’s inception in 2004, before which it was previously known as Witnness.
A newly reformed Blur are set to attract a huge crowd when they headline on Friday night, as are heavyweights Snow Patrol, Kings of Leon and The Killers. Lily Allen, Bloc Party, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Specials and Pet Shop Boys are also set to play over the weekend.
For tickets contact Empire Music on 061-317211 or log onto www.ticketmaster.ie. Bus tickets are available from Kelly Travel on 061-384422.
Don’t miss: Blur (Main Stage, Friday, 23.10): David Holmes (Heineken Green Spheres, Friday 22.20): Elbow (Main Stage, Saturday 20.25): Doves (O2 Stage, Saturday 22.05): Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Main Stage, Saturday 18.55): The Specials (Main Stage, Sunday 19.05): Friendly Fires (Heineken Green Spheres, Sunday 17.15)
Avoid at all costs: The Script (Main Stage, Friday 19.35): Keane (O2 Stage, Friday 23.35): Razorlight (Main Stage, Sunday 20.35): Paolo Nutini (Main Stage, Sunday 17.45)
Friday, July 3, 2009
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Kid Creole & The Coconuts
Dan Deacon Ensemble
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
The Temper Trap
Buraka Som Sistema (live)
First Aid Kit
One Day International
Boy 8 Bit
The Lost Brothers
(Hypnotic Brass Ensemble on Cruises Street)
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
The new venue will feature ‘Jachoozi’ - an electronic three piece from Berlin, who, as Dan explains, “have consistently managed to deliver their very own mongrel style of electronic pop music”.
“They have an avant-dub-glitch-step-based sound that combines honest, communicative pop sensibilities with warm sub-basses and a crunchy, precise yet organic sound texture,” says Dan, somewhat perplexingly.
Jahcoozi have released music on various international labels such as Kitty-Yo, Asound and Playhouse and have collaborated with a wide range of artists including Modeselektor and Asian Dub Foundation. “They are a bit like a cross between MIA and Modeslektor, really energetic music, check them out on youtube, it really should be a great night, possibly one of the gigs of the summer so far,” adds Dan, who runs Viva Music Studios in O’Connell Street.
We have two double passes to give away for the gig which takes place Upstairs in Dolan’s this Saturday from 10.30pm.
To win simply email alan(dot)owens(@)limerickleader.ie with ‘Jachoozi’ in the subject line.