Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Limerick's 13th UnFringed Festival begins this Wednesday

THE 13th UnFringed Festival kicks off this Wednesday and sees a busy and innovative programme of fringe events taking place in the city over the following five days.
Fast establishing itself as one of the premier fringe theatre, comedy, music and dance events in the country, the newly streamlined five day programme boasts a number of Irish - and indeed world - premieres among its line-up.
The festival opens with an event that typifies the exciting nature of UnFringed, beginning with Cirque de Legume, a new piece of theatre about two performers who try to put on a Cirque du Soleil-type circus show using nothing but a chair and a box of old vegetables. The show was a winner at the Dublin Fringe Festival last year.

Site-specific theatre is very important to UnFringed, as seen in previous years with theatre performed in Leamy House and Stix pool hall on Nicholas Street - and this year is no exception, with Anu Productions’ Memory Deleted.
“Memory Deleted is a really interesting piece which has been specially commissioned for the festival, taking place in the Boutique Hotel in Denmark Street,” said Joanne Beirne, artistic director with the Belltable, who present UnFringed.
“You will get, when you go to the hotel, a room key, and you will see what unfolds. The hotel room holds the lives and experiences of people across a number of years - and that is what the play is about.”
One of the other noted plays to be performed is the exciting Elena Bolster’s Beast, plus Spinal Krapp by Darren Maher, well known to UnFringed audiences.
Another noted feature of UnFringed is the rehearsed readings which take place, allowing the audience to see a play in its early stages of development - an interesting and useful exercise for both audience and practitioners. Several will take place this year, including Ken Bourke’s Laetitia, fellow local playwright Helena Enright’s Aquero, and Amalgamotion’s Dos Palabras. Choke Comedy will perform a series of specially developed sketches under the amusing tagline of ‘Pure Sketchy’, while Daghdha Dance Company will present ‘Rolling’, developed in tandem with New York guest artist Chase Grandoff.
There will be plenty for children and all of the family, including the Irish Improv Orchestra accompanying Looney Tunes cartoons, and the Lords of Strut, who will perform their amusing acrobatics on Thomas Street on Friday at 1.30pm.
Finally, local musician Steve Ryan - formerly of Giveamanakick fame - will perform as Windings (pictured below) in Red Cross Hall, and has promised a few surprises and some new music from his forthcoming album, while Nick Carswell and the Elective Orchestra will perform at the UnFringed awards ceremony in Dolan's on Sunday night.
For full details on UnFringed 2010, see or Listings on page 46.

Choice Music Prize live acts announced

The acts set to play live at the Choice Music Prize live event, which takes place on Wednesday March 3 in Vicar Street, have been announced and are:

And So I Watch You From Afar
Adrian Crowley
Dark Room Notes
The Duckworth Lewis Method
Julie Feeney
Valerie Francis
The Swell Season (full band)

Due to prior live commitments in the United States, Bell X1 and Laura Izibor will be unable to attend.
The event will be broadcast live on Paul McLoone’s show on Today FM.

Tickets available here. For more see here.

The latest odds are available on Paddy Power. ASIWYFA and Valerie Francis are the current favourites - but you literally never know who it might be...

Album review - Beach House 'Teen Dream'

Beach House
‘Teen Dream’
(Sub Pop)
TEEN DREAM, the third album by quirky duo Beach House - French-born Victoria Legrand and Baltimore native Alex Scally - is a bizarrely titled one, given that it is in fact the album that sees the ‘dream-pop’ duo mature and graduate after two earlier offerings, which were both bursting with potential, but failed to make much in the way of an impact on these shores.
A woozy, atmospheric album that screams of diverse influences, but retains a unique feel, Teen Dream is, however, an early contender for ‘Best Of’ lists, just three weeks into the year.
An eclectic duo that like to experiment with spacey rhythms and haunting lyrics, Beach House have produced an immensely engaging and affecting album that will remain with you long after you hear it.
Containing the 2008 single Used to Be - which forms a strong central core of songs along with the superb Matter of Time and Lover of Mine - Teen Dream has been much anticipated among fans, who include Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear, for whom Legrand guested on the song Two Weeks on their excellent Veckatimest.
The gloriously uplifting Used to Be is a shiny, shimmering slice of gentle baroque-pop, a Brian Wilson meets Galaxy 500 offering that sees Legrand lay her soul and voice bare, her bare vocal quivering at the top of the melody’s height.
But Beach House have changed direction from their earlier offerings, which were a little too woozy and too opaque for these ears - Legrand, in particular, grabs the mic with both hands and clearly demonstrates her impressive vocal talents.
Opener Zebra is an undulating delight, a gentle yet throbbing beat propelling the song, while new single Norway - previously available as a free download - still retains its punch on the record and is the highlight of the album, deliciously diverse, boasting off-kilter melodies and Legrand’s breathy vocals.
Epic final song Take Care is impressive in its scope, a further example of the duo reaching heights others can only dream of.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Haiti fundraiser in Dolan's this Saturday

DOLAN’S and the family of Atlantic rower Sean McGowan have come together to host a fundraising night for Concern in aid of the Haiti Earthquake Appeal and the Soweto Connection, the charity the Limerick man is rowing for, this Saturday night.
Mick Dolan explained to the Limerick Chronicle that the venue were approached in the aftermath of the terrible tragedy in Haiti by Sean’s family to host a fundraiser, and as such, the venue are to throw open their doors this Saturday night for a full night’s entertainment.
“Sean’s brother contacted us after the earthquake and said they wanted to do something for Haiti and for Sean’s charity, the Soweto Connection,” explained Mick.
“A lot of the local bands were mad keen to be involved and had also approached us here about doing something, so we said we would open up the whole venue for the night,” added Mick.
The Warehouse venue will thus play host to well known trade band The O’ Malleys, the Brad Pitt Light Orchestra, Brendan Markham (pictured below) and Band, while the Upstairs venue will be graced by Mick’s own daughter Sarah (pictured above) with Dave and Band, and rockers Citizen. Other acts are set to play on the night, while the resurrected Termight’s Klub will continue after the music finishes.
Limerick rower McGowan is hoping to become the first Irish man to complete the Atlantic journey on his own, and is hoping to raise 80,000 for the Soweto Connection, a charity set up in Limerick to help families in South Africa.
Doors for the fundraiser in Dolan’s open at 8pm this Saturday night and tickets are a minimum donation of €5.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

And then it was twenty ten...... The Release Party returns

The Release Party returns tonight, and as a special treat, we have a guest post(rant) from those nice folks over at Eightball, who run the weekly club night and many other fine gigs around the city.
As we understand it, The Release started as exactly that - an opportunity to get away from the stresses and pressures of the doom and gloom of daily life and, chill out.. As you will see below, this is still the objective...

Right, well that’s 2009 done & dusted. it wasn’t that pretty, sure it wasn’t. still, nice to get the whole lot of it over with in a swift 12 months.
let’s see now, just to remind ourselves of the reason why the release party first kicked it heels back in february of last year………
..the most difficult economic conditions since the formation of our young state…….check. a swift & massive rise in unemployment……check. public & private sector, (ie ordinary people) set at each others’ throats by the political & media establishment…..check. a collapse in house prices rendering those same ordinary people in massive debt, negative equity, daily pressure & anxiety……check. the simultaneous collapse of and exposure of the banking system as a viciously irresponsible, corrupt & greedy community……check. the eventual dazzling exposure of a religious behemoth that puts power, money & the cloth in front of the lives of children……check. a government hellbent on politiking their way out of all of the above……lots, and lots, and lots of check. thierry henry…..yip, check. and a few other horrible things that weren’t horrible enough to make the list…….couple of checks.
still standing though, right?
thought so…….and the reason for that, of course, is the outpouring of joy, high-heels, and adventurous dancing that was the release party every friday.
well maybe not the full reason, but a good 60/70% of the reason, we’re in no doubt.
so, with our heads turning to one more dirty year before we can confidently say “well that’s the end of that then, think we can go on holiday again”, the release party turns on the decks again this friday, jan 22, to do that soul, funk, hip hop & house thing that we’re so fond of.
the idea was always to throw a little party to push against the grim, have a gentle light at the end of a generally dark week, pick yourself up off the floor & put yourself on the dancefloor, and other edging-towards-corny hippy-isms.
& that’s still the idea.
midnight this friday bears the fruits of some crate digging for new, unused release records, look out for our new art, get headphones at the ready for our first release mix, pick out something nice to wear to our first birthday on feb 12, keep an eye on our upcoming guests from across the water in both directions, and invest in some tidy drinks promos to boot, all in the surrounds of the deep red au bars basement.
how we doin…….?
& as always, thanks for listening. see you tonight bitches

Kiernan McMullan plays in Baker Place this Friday night

EXCITING young performer Kiernan McMullan takes to a Limerick stage this Friday night for the first time in many moons. It will also be the last gig for the foreseeable future for the Killaloe singer-songwriter, as he gears up to return to America, where he has spent the last year touring incessantly.
This might just be the hardest working young man around. Despite being signed to Brad Fischetti’s One Eleven (111) Records - an Orlando based record company with a Warner Music distribution deal - before he left these shores in November ‘08, McMullan grafted his way around the States, building his profile and playing whatever gigs he could get.
Forget glamour; Greyhound buses and hitch-hiking was the order of the day, before he eventually got himself a van and onto a couple of national tours.
“I did four national tours, two of which were package tours, which were good and meant I was getting on tours where the rooms were going to be full anyway, the other acts were drawing the people, was nice, because I was able to get a lot of CDs out,” explained Kiernan.
The graft was good for Kiernan it seems, no stranger to travelling, having spent time in various parts of the world before moving to Ireland about nine years ago, attending Villiers School in the city.
“It is amazing, you don't think you are able to do something until you have to do it. When I decided to go to America, at first the idea of hitch hiking and bussing seemed like a stupid idea. (But) I went and did it like that from the start and got the van and the tours - slowly but surely after the year and three months, my playing has got a whole better I think, more confident, and my ability to survive has improved,” he laughed.
The 23-year old first came to our attention several years ago with the release of his lo-fi debut ‘New Age Robin Hood’, before he upped his game on the Grouse Lodge recorded Perfect People Are Boring in 2008.
Now, he is set to release an acoustic EP, called The Best Part - the first of several changes for the young singer.
“I am still working with 111 Records, but I am leaving the label. I am starting my own label called About Sound Records, mainly as an outlet for my own stuff, but I would like to build it up over the next few years into a real label, one worth signing to.
“I wanted to have an acoustic EP so people could have the songs I have been playing live as well. There are six new songs. I am really happy with it.”
Before he goes again, catch Kiernan - along with David Hope and Adam Hourigan - in Baker Place this Friday night.

NoLand Folk - Ghosts Light The Scene

NoLand Folk
‘Ghosts Light The Scene’
(Brown Slipper Music)
CLARE based band - and regulars on the local Limerick scene, where some of their line-up have been based - recently released their second album, the follow-up to the well regarded 2007 debut, Never Going Home.
Where that record was a troubadour folk affair, following some changes in line-up, NoLand Folk have produced a much more rounded and deep offering on ‘Ghosts Light The Scene’ - primarily owing to their decision to mix-in the use of electric instruments in this case. This is a diverse offering - a ten-track album that regularly surprises on repeated listens, mixing elements of Nick Cave, the gloom of Tom Waits, torch vocals and delicate orchestration.
The upbeat but subversive Devil for Tea is the most vaudevillian offering on the album, set more in the realm of that more theatrical local band, The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra. The much darker Barefoot and Pregnant, with its weighty tone, shows the depth of this band, “the truth is not great / it is setting you free”, set against the simple tones of a violin and piano accordion, while a subtle electric guitar part builds as the songs grows - the first use of an electric guitar coming halfway through the album.
The jazzy swing of Looking Down The Barrel is in sharp contrast to this, the upbeat tone and sloping vocals reminiscent of something Tarantino might include on one of his soundtracks - it comes as no surprise to learn that it is Mick Harvey’s (of the Bad Seeds) tribute to Serge Gainsbourg. I Wanna See You Dancing is a jaunty, sultry affair with shimmering guitars but it is the titular tracks on this album that are the real highlights.
The album is bookended by the sister tracks of Ghosts Light The Scene - Ghosts End The Scene. The opening track is a dramatic one, complete with haunting violins, read from the pages of Nick Caves’ songbook, and the closing track on the album picks up where that ended. The first minute of the Ghosts Ends the Scene ends as the first began, but soon tapers off into a different song, beginning with just a guitar and vocal and violin - “she used to tug my heart strings with a mournful cello” - and progresses with back and forth male/female vocals, before ending with swelling four part harmonies, before ending suddenly and surprisingly.
Slight production notes aside, you will do well to find a more impressive modern folk album than this releasing in the near future. Keep an eye on this band. We will be.

Monday, January 18, 2010

O Emperor, Sons of Noel and Adrian in Dolan's

There is something very refreshing and rewarding about going to a gig without doing much in the way of research, having your socks blown off by a couple of bands that you really don't know much about; like, for example, the fact that Alessi's Ark is signed to EMI and Sons of Noel and Adrian are part of a massive, artistic group called the Wilkommen Collective, and boast a member of the now defunct Hope of the States among their ranks.
But knowing a band's background is not linked to their performance abilities - and in this case, knowing less was more.
This was Waterford band O Emperor's first national tour, and had invited Sons of Noel and Adrian and Alessi's Ark to tour with them - with the UK bands returning the favour by having the Irish quintet tour with them in the UK next week. Considering Sons of.. are ranked among some of the biggest upcoming bands in the UK - they have toured with fellow folkies Mumford and Sons and last year played with Efterklang and Laura Marling - this is nothing to be sneezed at.
The three bands played Upstairs in Dolan's last (Sunday) night - and boy was it heartwarming to see a decent crowd turn up to see them.
Hammersmith's Alessi Laurent-Marke was up first, her winsome girl with a guitar act turning out to be rather impressive. But it was for her last couple of songs, for which she was joined by some of Sons of Noel and Adrian, that her folksy with an edge songs filled out to their maximum potential.
The "folk-experimental" seven-piece Sons of.. followed - their quirky moniker explained simply - "his dad's name is Noel, mine's is Adrian, and they are both nice blokes, so we decided to name the band after them".
In between song banter is not a speciality of this band, but when the songs are this good, who cares? Unassuming, dapper - some were wearing vintage clothing, adding to the effect of the show - and clearly very musically talented, Sons of.. proceed to play 45 minutes of superb folk-rock, complete with whistles, foot-stomping and epic peaks and troughs in their music.
The performance was reminiscent of Arcade Fire but the music nothing similar; we had instead elements of Iron and Wine, Noah and the Whale and even Lemonjelly - filled with instrumental pauses, crescendo finishes and dark theatrical elements. 'The Wreck is Not A Boat' was a particular highlight.
As one visibly impressed attendee remarked afterward - "they were all playing instruments and singing and stomping their feet at the same time". Indeed.
The main act of the evening were hotly tipped Waterford band O Emperor, who read from a song book that includes Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes and Radiohead - but has more in common with The Band or Neil Young - a gritty and raw electric energy permeating their varied songs.
Their set began ever-so-slightly ragged, not helped by the fact that lead singer Paul Savage seemed to be nursing a bit of a sore throat, but by the third song "Ghosts of My Heart", we were hooked. Intertwining three part - at times five-part - vocal harmonies, Savage revealed that the song was only written "last week, for the tour", but burned bright with a Wilco-type energy, Savage boasting a bit of a Tweedy growl as he relaxed into the song.
Don't Mind Me was an early highlight, the entire band joining together to sing the refrain - a subdued, slow-burner of a song. The more energetic To The Sea was followed by the excellent Don Quixote, more upbeat but more in the Radiohead variety - off signature rhythms and brooding beats.
The superb single Po is in a similar vein and was the best song the set, but the band abruptly changed tack with their last song - 'Fat Lady' - a gritty, electric guitar groove that was different to everything that went before it. Looks like O Emperor have a nicely varied sound to go with their bags of potential. You will be seeing these guys on much, much bigger stages in the very near future, trust us.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I Always Find Art Galleries Hungry Work - Occupy Space art exhibition opens

Mmmm, looks good enough to eat.. I've been going to art exhibition openings quite a bit over the course of the last two years, some good, some bad - some bizarre, some yawn-inducing.. Went to the launch of "I Always Find Art Galleries Hungry Work" in the newly opened
Occupy Space (Thomas Street, see below) last night, and was well impressed.
Contemporary art can be such a baffling proposition, as if the artist makes it their sole intention simply to confuse the viewer/audience - art for art's sake, yet with a snooty underbelly..
This exhibition seeks to play with people's perceptions of art galleries and contemporary art, and have some fun in doing so. The paint burger above, accompanied with the birdshit on the floor, are two of the most imaginative pieces I have seen in this city for some time. And as for the wax-work man, well, it needs to be seen to be believed.
So go and look at this exhibition while it is open. It is simple in concept and content, yet richly diverse in material and tone - without being up its own arse, frankly.
See article below for more details..

ONE OF the more physically obvious downsides of any recession is the unfortunate presence of vacant buildings and retail units, a situation which Limerick city centre is suffering from at the moment to a growing degree.

Some prime retail space in the city is lying idle, but a relatively recently launched local authority led initiative, Creative Limerick: Connect to the Grid, is aiming to change that by encouraging creative industry university graduates to use these empty spaces to display their work.

One such building is the Thomas Street Retail Centre, which has remained vacant since it was built almost a year ago, and is hopefully on the cusp of being filled, pending planning permission. However, in the meantime, it has been taken over by Creative Limerick to offer local college graduates and creative industry workers a space to work in, albeit temporarily.

One corner of the retail unit has been taken over by a group of artists from the nearby Wickham Street Studios, who are calling their temporary home ‘Occupy Space’. One exhibition has been and gone, and a second has opened.

Unfortunately, while the opening exhibition saw a big crowd on opening night, visitors to the gallery tapered off soon after. The artists are now seeking to rectify that with their second exhibition, by presenting the quirkily titled “I Always Find Art Galleries Hungry Work”, in the space.

“The first exhibition went great, we had massive crowd on opening night, but it was a bit quiet after that. People aren't really aware there is a gallery there and it is open,” explained local artist Emmet Kierans.

“The title comes from the fact that our lease is dependent on whether someone takes over the space or not - so if we get moved, we will end up in another part of town, that is the reasoning.

“I think it is that image that we are looking at and that decided what pieces we would put into the show; a lot of people are almost afraid to come into the gallery, we found a lot of people were looking in the window, but wouldn't step through the door, so we are trying to express that idea that art is kind of tough-going. It is a light hearted look at that idea,” he laughed.

The group of five artists, including Kierans, Rory Prout, Donough McNamara, Alan Crowley and Ramon Kassam, have “a mutual connection that transcends beyond the visual”, states the blurb about the show. The exhibition aims to show how the artists experience and interpret their pluralistic environments through a variety of media, it also states.

“It is interpreting the way people look at contemporary art I think,” explained Emmet, whose own contribution to the exhibition is a life-sized wax sculpture of a man, “inhabiting the space”.

“Donough has done a massive painting onto the gallery wall itself and there are small oil and canvas pieces, and there are old-school block prints, so there is a nice mixture of styles,” he explained.

The concept of Creative Limerick is a simple one; use these spaces while they are not being used, and project manager Lise Ann Sheehan notes that not only are creative industries being supported in Limerick, property owners are also seeing their premises being kept active and in the public eye - a win-win situation if ever there was one.

Gordon Kearney, from Rooney Auctioneers, who is the estate agent for the retail centre, said at the launch of the scheme that “landlords are very supportive of the project and think it’s a very clever initiative which will bring a bit of life back to their premises”.

The exhibition will run until February 7, Wednesday to Saturday, 12-5pm and, as Emmet noted, “anyone can pop in”.

“There will always be someone there that can help people out if they don't really understand what it's all about,” he added.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Choice Music Prize shortlist for Irish Album of 2009 announced

The Choice Music Prize shortlist for Irish Album of the Year 2009 has been released - few surprises, both inclusions and non-inclusions. Kind of surprised to see Laura Izibor and Swell Season, and not to see Holy Roman Army and David Kitt (in particular), but overall it is a good list, indicative of another strong year for Irish music. Let's hope 2010 is as good..

In alphabetical order, the list is:

And So I Watch You From Afar “And So I Watch You From Afar” (Small Town America)
Bell X1 “Blue Lights On The Runway” (BellyUp)
Codes “Trees Dream in Algebra” (EMI)
Adrian Crowley “Season of the Sparks” (Chemikal Underground)
Dark Room Notes “We Love You Dark Matter” (Gonzo)
The Duckworth Lewis Method “The Duckworth Lewis Method” (1969/Divine ComedyRecords)Julie Feeney “Pages” (Mittens)
Valerie Francis “Slow Dynamo” (VF)
Laura Izibor “Let The Truth Be Told” (Atlantic)
The Swell Season “Strict Joy” (Plateau)

Five of these albums appeared in On The Beat's ten best Irish albums of 2009, which you can read here.
Big fan of Mr Crowley and Ms Francis, but have a feeling that Duckworth Lewis/ASIWYFA will win.. Bell X1 would not be undeserving of the accolade either, given that Blue Lights is (we feel) their strongest offering to date.
The Choice Music Prize takes place in Vicar Street on Wednesday March 3 and tickets will be available on Ticketmaster from Monday, January 18. On The Beat will be there to bring you a report from the night, as we were last year.

O Emperor this weekend in Dolan's

IT is early in the new year, new decade and it’s - excuse us - bloody freezing outside. January is generally a slow month in the gigs/arts/entertainment world, and this first half of the month is proving no different.
However, a trio of bands are touring Ireland this month and are set to make a quiet pit-stop into Dolan’s this Sunday night - one that could make you forget about that frozen vista outside. We particularly like Irish quintet O Emperor, who are set to have a very big year indeed in 2010 and are joined by new UK acts Alessi’s Ark and Sons of Noel and Adrian.
Pitched somewhere between the delicate baroque pop of Grizzly Bear - our favourite album of last year - with dashes of Radiohead’s oddness and The Cure’s erstwhile gloominess, Waterford’s finest O Emperor, along with the UK acts, are touring Ireland and the UK this month, thanks to promoters Word of Mouth and Brighton’s Wilkommen Collective.
You would be well advised to check out this interesting triage of acts in the intimate surroundings of Dolan’s Upstairs venue while you still can. O Emperor, whose multi-layered sound is far beyond their tender years, are being courted by the record industry and have the potential to make their mark further afield than these shores.
A new single is on the way, recently recorded in Wales, while the slightly obscure debut single ‘Po’ saw the band greeted with the sort of fawning admiration that is rare among the modern music press.
Based in Cork, the band have been together over three years, but came to wider attention following their impressive gig at last year’s Hard Working Class Heroes Festival.
Singer Paul Savage said recently that the band “love the harmonies and richness of a lot of American music, like the Beach Boys, Grizzly Bear or Beach House, but also like the eerie darker side to some British indie music, like Joy Division or Radiohead”.
Sounds good to us.
O Emperor, Alessi’s Ark and Sons of Noel and Adrian play Upstairs in Dolan’s this Sunday night at 8pm.

Vampire Weekend - 'Contra'

Vampire Weekend
(XL Recordings)

VAMPIRE Weekend’s 2008 self-titled debut album was a breath of fresh air to an ever-so-slightly arid music scene - particularly that emanating from uptown New York, where Ezra Koenig and co come from.
A bouncy, joyous infusion of Afrobeat and Caribbean rhythms, smothered in some delightfully juicy indie-pop tunes, with super-intelligent lyrics, VP felt like music’s equivalent to Wes Anderson, that eccentric film-maker who has done much to disassemble modern movies. Twisting genres, playing with beats and offering such delightful titles as Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, Vampire Weekend offered an erudite and genuinely innovative take on indie rock-pop music, and it is safe to say they have come up with the goods on the supposed difficult album number two.
‘Contra’ is a delight, the New Yorkers replacing the earlier, almost adolescent, urgency with a confident maturity; as their ability has expanded, so too has their musical depth and confidence. All of the same elements are here in abundance; Afrobeats? - check; funky, indie-pop? - check; witty lyricisms and word-play? - double-check.
Opening the album with Horchata is an inspired decision; using the illustration of a sweet, milky traditional Mexican drink, set against a jumble of xylophone melodies and soaring drums, is pure pop-genius. “In December drinking Horchata/I’d look psychotic in a balaclava,” sings Koenig. The delicate bass and muffled handclaps of White Sky can’t disguise the strong Paul Simon-influence, and likewise is the moment you know this is a band at the top of their game.
The bizarre mumble of California English is at odds with the soothing rhythms and cellos on Taxi Cab - an early standout track - while that first-album frenetic energy returns on Cousins.
But it is the areas where Vampire Weekend digress ever so-slightly from their winning formula that are the most appealing on this album; notably the electro-samples employed on ‘Run’ - filled with undulating, off-kilter melodies - and the hugely impressive Giving Up The Gun, which retains that iconic sound, yet is backed with an electro-drum beat.
Finally, the dreamy-floaty soundscapes of final track I Think You’re A Contra, sees Koenig's vocals at their most relaxed, and Vampire Weekend flexing an orchestral muscle previously unheard.
The news is good; these Vampires are alive and well, and the future looks promising for their further development.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Donal Dineen Presents :: Katie Kim :: Live

Not hard to see why this gig was in our top three of last year. The visuals and Katie Kim's performance were simply stunning. The potential of St. John's Church is clearly apparent also. Expect big things in 2010.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Best Albums 2009 (International)

INTERNATIONAL ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2009 (Irish excluded, see post below)

10 - The Juan Maclean - The Future Will Come
A release on James Murphy's DFA Records, this is the closest we came to an LCD Soundsystem release in 2009. John MacLean's offering was one of the dance-punk-electro records of the year.

9 - Bat for Lashes - Two Suns
Natasha Khan's second offering might not have the depth of first album Fur and Gold, but thanks to single 'Daniel', her star went bright, giving her the recognition she deserved.

8 - The XX - XX
A strange mix of electro-indie-pop and melancholic lyrics; should have been gloomy, but rather uplifting. Even better live.

7 - Florence and the Machine - Lungs
Poetry, fairytales and the bizarre from the recesses of Florence Welch's mind; plus some superb pop songs, made this a debut to be reckoned with. Better than the hype suggested.

6 - Wilco - Wilco
The self-titled eighth offering from Tweedy, Kline and co. After Sky Blue Sky, who would have believed they could keep the quality coming? They did.

5 - Fever Ray - Fever Ray
Dark, dark, dark offering from Karin Dreijer Andersson of The Knife. An electronic morass. Also gave rise to one of the strangest gigs we have ever seen at Oxegen '09. Affecting.

4 - Tinariwen - Imidiwan
Eight-piece electric guitar group, hailing from the bowels of the Southern Sahara Desert, release album of the year contender. Fabulously intoxicating.

3 - Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Swirling, LSD influenced psychedelica album from the ever-intriguing Avey Tare and Panda Bear, featuring Beach Boys-esque Baroque Pop and, well, a slew of other influences. Superb.

2 - Passion Pit - Manners
A joyous, bouncy, electro-pop delight from Michael Angelakos et al, released after the superb EP Chunk of Change. Tracks like Sleepy Head and The Reeling will never, ever leave your head/ears/consciousness after listening. The squeaky vocals were divisive, but the energy is terrific. Best gig of Electric Picnic '09 also, in our estimation.

1 - Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Best album of the year was a difficult call between Animal Collective/Passion Pit and this Warp Records classic, the follow-up to superb debut Yellow House. Fantastic. (Review below)

Grizzly Bear
(Warp Records)

IN 2004 Grizzly Bear - then largely the solo project of Ed Droste - released the hypnotic Horn Of Plenty, an atmospheric record dubbed "anti-folk" in some quarters.
Whatever about that baffling label, in 2006 Grizzly Bear released Yellow House, a more complete offering, featuring a full band for the first time.
The journey this quartet have come over the release of these albums is interesting, and relevant to the album. This third offering from Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest, was released earlier in the summer but is already shaping up to be one of the finest of the year.
Veckatimest is definitely the group’s most complete offering in their short career. The band have said they feel it is their most accessible, but that is a debatable point.
This is an album that will take weeks to sink in, but as it does, it will insert claws and refuse to be put to the back of the pile.
Opener Southern Point feels like a folk song, but is suffused with a polka beat, driving it forward. Interestingly the band are one of the few non-electronic outfits signed to Warp, but, for all their folk-indie leanings, there is an electro feel to some of the songs on this.
Fleet Foxes comparisons are inevitable, if a little lazy; although likely to be this year’s best release, as that self-titled debut was last year, there is more complexity here, an element of darkness that does not feature on Fleet Foxes pastoral folk offering.
However, the cheery, uplifting doo-wah of clear album highlight Two Weeks feels like it could have made it onto Fleet Foxes album, if not a Beach Boys one.
The epic All We Ask features an opening spine-tingling central guitar part that Jeff Buckley would have been proud of, while the song itself goes through at least three distinct phases, rising and falling through thumping bass, military drums and soaring vocals.
This is an example of the genre-mixing, experimental rock that Grizzly Bear excel at and shows why this band are Radiohead’s favourites.
Listen to While You Wait For The Others and fail to be impressed, the band coming together sporadically for glorious multi-vocal choruses.

Best Gigs of the Year in Limerick 2009


10 - Big Chillum with Horace Andy - Dolan’s Warehouse, June.
Horace Andy (of Massive Attack fame), Inntinn and Dom from Blood and Fire gave us a dub session extraordinaire in June

9 - Great Friday Festival - A field, Murroe. April
A wet, windy day in April saw the Great Friday Festival return to Murroe - but good spirits, a superb line-up of local bands and a heaving dance tent made up for the weather.

8 - The Wailers - Dolan’s Warehouse. February.
The first of two gigs in the Warehouse from The Wailers, fronted by sole surviving member Anton ‘Family Man’ Barrett, plus rising star Elias Atias, saw the group play the seminal ‘Exodus’ album in full.

7 - Franz Ferdinand - Dolan’s Warehouse. February.
Heavyweights Franz Ferdinand arrived in Limerick - one of only three gigs in Ireland to promote new album Tonight - and reminded us what a superb live band they are. An electric performance.

6 - Walter Mitty and the Realists album launch - Baker Place. August.
One of Limerick’s best up and coming bands launched their debut album Green Light Go in Baker Place in August, an adrenalin-fuelled energy rush of a gig that leave the audience sweaty and hugely entertained.

5 - Tweak - Sunken Foal - St. Munchin’s Church. September.
An electro-acoustic delight, as part of the week long Tweak Festival that saw several innovative performances. We look forward to next year.

4 - Elton John - Thomond Park. June.
The first concert in the newly developed €40m stadium. Rod was good, but Elton knocked our socks off.

3 - Donal Dineen - Fresh Air with Katie Kim and James Yorkston - Daghdha. December.
The final night of the Christmas Presence weekender featured Donal Dineen’s projections and Katie Kim’s heart-stopping post-rock rhythms.

2 - Hypnotic Brass Ensemble - Trinity Rooms. October.
A nine-piece brass band from Chicago that play fun, soulful superb jazz and R&B that was so good they got a slot as the house band for Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz’ project. Their second gig in the Trinity Rooms was a masterclass in exciting jazz-funk, which had the room on their feet for two hours. Fingers crossed they come this way again.

1 - Lisa Hannigan - Daghdha Space, St. John’s Church. August.
The beguiling Lisa Hannigan in the finest venue in the city was quite simply a recipe for gig of the year. The band still play with a smile on their faces, and the music is still superb, plus Hannigan’s new material screams of potential. We look forward to seeing Daghdha become more established on the gig scene in 2010.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Best Irish Albums of 2009

A bit late for a Best Of list, I know, but can't be helped.. Here it is, gigs/international albums to follow...

10 - 202s - 202s

Mike Glennon and Steve Melling appeared as if out of thin air with one of favourite albums of the year. Dark and brooding, with a nice dash of Primal Scream in places, and the best use of a harmonica we have heard in years. Melling is a Limerick man so we are claiming this band as one of our own.

9 - The Chapters - Perfect Stranger

An upbeat, poppy album that blew our socks off on first listen, boasting keyboard/synth-driven tones, the gruff vocals of Brian Fallon-esque singer Ross McNally, some foot-stomping acoustic-punk and four guys who can really sing.

8 - Bell X1 - Blue Lights on the Runway

Ireland’s premier indie band toured for most of the year in America, but also produced one of the best domestic albums of ‘09 - containing upbeat hits, tender, heart-breakers, an electro-beat and those classic lyrics - ‘picking the knickers from her arse, like a one-stringed harp”. Amelia was one of the songs of the year.

7 - Valerie Francis - Slow Dynamo Master

Un-heralded Valerie Francis produced a stunning album earlier in the year; an acoustic, slow-burning, multi-layered gem, suffused with harmoniums and chimes - and just the right amount of quirk. Kanye West is a fan; you should be too.

6 - Jerry Fish and the Mudbug Club - The Beautiful Untrue

An achingly gorgeous album that flitted between the atmospheric sound and feel of a Parisian cafe and rollicking sea-shanty type ditties. Superb - contender for Choice Prize.

5 - The Duckworth Lewis Method - The Duckworth Lewis Method

An album about cricket by Neil Hannon and Thomas Walsh of Pugwash. Should never have worked, but did gloriously. Best pop songs of the year.

4 - Adrian Crowley - Season of the Sparks

Crowley’s voice is so distinctive and his lyrics so profound that he should be the toast of the singer-songwriter circle; thankfully he’s not and listening to his latest album - his best - makes you revel in being one of but a few who know how good this guy is.

3 - ...And So I Watch You From Afar - And So I Watch You From Afar

Rage Against The Machine meets Mogwai? Fair or not, this Northern Irish band are the hottest tip for next year - their music and shows both mind-blowing and ear-bleeding. Superb.

2 - David Kitt - The Nightsaver

Kittser got his sixth album out early in the year, producing an early frontrunner for best of lists. Running a mile from the acoustic-singer songwriter genre in which he was (unfairly) pegged, Kitt tapped into his Spilly Walker project and produced an innovative synth-electro delight that will have you coming back for more every time. Brilliant.

1 - The Holy Roman Army - How The Light Gets In

The most surprising album of the year. Carlow natives and siblings Chris and Laura Coffey combined to record a deliberately affecting and atmospheric album, that crackles and hisses with bleeps, piano-driven beats and sweeping orchestral tracks, heavily influenced by Massive Attack by way of The Notwist. Get it now.

(Honourable mentions: Swell Season - Strict Joy, Julie Feeney - Pages, Super Extra Bonus Party - Night Horses, Delorentos - You Can Make Sound.)

Interview with the Rubberbandits

I've decided to post the interview I did with the Rubberbandits before Christmas, which was ostensibly to promote their mystery gig. That turned out to be held in a field in Birdhill and involved crucified Santas.. They are nothing if not original in fairness to the lads...

Plastic bag wearing rappers singing about bags of glue.

DJs in Willie O’Dea masks.

Prank phone calls.

Greyhounds called Lavender.

Welcome to the surreal world of The Rubberbandits.

Existing on a plane so far beyond the normal, rational world, are Blind Boy Boat Club and Mr. Chrome, aka The Rubberbandits - two rappers from Limerick who keep their real identities secret and never allow their increasingly bizarre act to drop.

Existing at first as prank phone call artists, whose tapes and CDs were passed from person to person, becoming the stuff of urban legend, the Rubberbandits took tentative steps into the world of ‘gangster’-comedy rap in 2008.

Little over a year later they have played triumphant gigs at Electric Picnic, the Bulmers Comedy Festival - selling out the Academy in Dublin - the Galway Comedy Festival, and they are to appear on Podge and Rodge’s Christmas Special next week. They are also to play a gig at a secret location; a “Magic Christmas Mystery Tour”, the price of admission to which will include “transport there and back, ticket and a slug of a can”.

The gig marks the release of the duo’s EP - “Drawing Pictures of Each Other Smoking Fags”.

In requesting an interview with the notoriously media wary ‘Bandits, I am called to enquire if I would be interested in a tour of Limerick city with the duo. I can interview them as they drive me around, I am told.

Forced to accept - with some trepidation - I leap into a blacked out jeep at the allotted time to be greeted by the Rubberbandits in the back-seat, in full plastic-bag wearing costume.

As it transpires, I can count myself lucky to be treated to such an expedition, seeing as a student journalist from Cork, who requested an interview, was picked up by four balaclava wearing heavies and was forced to face a wall while conducting an interview with the terrible twosome.

This is the Rubberbandits.

“How’s it going kid,” says Mr. Chrome, in that inimitable Limerick accent, emphasis held on the final syllable of ‘kidddd’. What follows is half an hour of hilarity, quick-fire responses to my questions, peppered with obscene language, wit and bizarre references that form a deliberate attempt to stymie any normal question I ask.

When asked about the mystery gig they are to play somewhere in Limerick, Mr Chrome says it will be “magical, its mysterious and it is christmassy”.

“We don't know much about it ourselves because we handed it over to other people, so we haven't a clue. There'll be loads of things there - there'll be fire, bouncers with dickie bows - music by us - music by not us,” adds Blind Boy Boat Club. Chrome interjects: “It is our gift for christmas. It will be unreal. If you like rollerblading, smoking fags, drawing pictures, there will be no better place”.

Reclining back into their seats, the ‘Bandits reflect on a year of “highs and lows”...

“It has had its highs and its lows.. Doing the songs were the highs - what would be the lows?” asks Blind Boy of his fellow ‘Bandit.

“We went to Galway and got threatened by a guy claiming to be Sean Connery, that was a low,” claims Mr Chrome.

“He told us not to leave the hotel, said it would be in our best interest. We crept around constantly with our backs against the wall - he is James Bond,” adds Blind Boy.

A much heralded impromptu stage appearance with Ice Cube in Dublin was clearly a high - with the Limerick duo spending time with the rapper afterward backstage. One wonders what he made of the Rubberbandits.

“Mad laugh. Ice Cube. That was the apex of our career. All downhill from there,” says Mr. Chrome.

Blind Boy interjects: “We went to Ice Cube and showed him how to swing a hurley, again. Honest to god, that was the apex. We could die now.”

His partner in crime laughs to himself: “I got to show Ice Cube how to swing a hurley, and he was sh*t at it. He thought it was a baseball bat, and he says - with those two plastic bags, ye look like the Klu Klux Klan.”

The ‘Bandits made their first ever public appearance in August of 2008 in Trinity Rooms, at a gig that will go down in Limerick lore as legendary - the lads managing a song and a half, but the effect of their appearance, lyrics and sheer brass neck, lit up the stage.

Asked why they moved from prank calls to rapping, they say it was “in our souls”.

“What actually happened was we were up in Dublin settling a bet about crocodiles and we realised that no-one knew who we were, so we decided the best way to do it was to become famous gangster rappers, so that everyone in Ireland would know what a Rubberbandit really is,” says Blind Boy.

For the record - a Rubberbandit is a “ghoul with a bag on his head, who sings songs about glue”.

“Our songs are anthems really, songs that people can relate to, everyone knows a greyhound called Lavender,” says Mr. Chrome. “We are bigger in Dublin than we are here. Dublin go mad for it. It is kind of like - I don't know what you would compare it to, it is like going to the zoo or something for them. They won't come to Limerick, but they are happy when it is contained on a stage.”

Blind Boy interrupts: “Dublin people are always asking me is Limerick like it is portrayed in the media? To be honest the only paper I read is the Daily Sport - and Limerick is nothing like the Daily Sport. Nothing.”

The duo laugh loudly about their time on Podge and Rodge, which will be screened on Stephen’s Day. It is hard not to imagine them all getting on like a house on fire.

Asked if they will ever reveal their true identity, the mood of the interview changes palpably.

“No, never,” whispers Blind Boy. “Not until Marty Whelan agrees that he is alright with the money we owe him. That's the reason. We owe him an awful lot of money, but we don't like talking about it,” he adds.

The Rubberbandits. Sit back, don’t ask questions, just be prepared to laugh. Loudly.

The "Drawing Pictures of Each Other Smoking Fags" EP is available now in Empire Music.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Back from the future

I'm back from the land Down Under, and back in the office tomorrow, whereupon On The Beat will resume in a beefed up format (i.e not just lazily sticking up printed pieces from the paper and making some effort to actually blog news/events/opinions etc, or whatever comes into my head at the time). Hopefully, this will be one resolution I can actually keep..

In other words, I've gone from this;

to this;

But, it's good to be home nonetheless...