Saturday, 19 April 2014

Record Store Day 2014

Vinyl hunter frenzy, 40% off all records
 in the newly opened HMV on Grafton Street today

I'm not long back from my first Record Store Day experience and I'm very pleased with my purchases, most record shops opened at 8am, with Tower Records even providing espressos and finger-food for punters queuing for the shop to open. My diligence didn't stretch that far though and I made my way in just after 10am, slightly worried there would be nothing decent left, but thankfully I wasn't disappointed.

In a nutshell, Record Store Day is on the third Saturday of April each year and began in 2007 to celebrate the culture of the independent music store. It's popularity has grown rapidly and the main staple of the day is limited edition releases on both vinyl and CD, there were 10 limited releases in it's first year but this has grown into the hundreds now. Each year has a different ambassador for the occasion which have included Metallica, Ozzy Osborne, Josh Homme from Queens of The Stone Age, Iggy Pop, Jack White, and this year, Chuck D from Public Enemy. Another great feature of the day is the live acts performing in the record shops, with Conor O'Brien from Villagers due in Tower later this afternoon, at 4pm

Tower Records, Dawson St., my lovely assistant in pink,
it was elbows out & survival of the quickest in there

One of the slightly disappointing sides of Record Store Day is people deliberately buying up extra copies of records with the sole intention of going straight home and charging multiple times the price on eBay or discogs.com. I suppose they are being entrepreneurial in one sense and that's the nature of the beast when you're dealing with limited quantities, but vinyl can be expensive enough as it is, I've even seen some of the records I bought this morning on eBay already for 4 times what I paid for it. 

This has been a growing concern around RSD, that it's becoming an opportunity for both record labels and the aforementioned sneaks to take advantage of the average punter. It's almost inevitable and unavoidable though, anything which grows with success and time will be subject to such drawbacks, having said that, for the time being it's still nice to see a very busy day in the smaller record shops once a year and to go home with a bag full of good records.

Some of today's purchases, Pixies, John Grant, 
Sam Cooke, The Yardbirds & Richard Hawley

Well, that's pretty much it, I spent enough time waffling about records in my previous post so I'll just leave you with a video of one of the above spinning on the record player and a photo or two, in the meantime, I'm off to sell one of my kidneys.


Sam Cooke, 'A Change Is Gonna Come'


Meself havin' an auld browse in Tower Records

Spindizzy Records in George's Arcade this morning

Outisde Spindizzy Records

Friday, 18 April 2014

What's The Deal With Vinyl Anyway?


Tomorrow is Record Store Day, April 19th, so what? I’ll get to that, but first of all it’s pointless without background, and I’ll bring it to the most basic level, and keep it brief.

It all started with the gramophone record, an analog medium of recording music, which begins from the periphery of the disc, and finishes at the centre with three different widths, 12” which is normally an entire album or LP (long play) (but can be an elongated single), a 10” which is generally an E.P. (extended play) and finally a 7”, a single, or a 45 (which relates to it’s revolutions per minute). 


Thomas Edison, Washington, D.C., April, 1878

How is it made? You may have heard of Thomas Edison, who invented the first motion picture camera, and developed the light-bulb in it’s present glory, well he also invented the phonograph, or the recording of sound on a lacquer (wax) vinyl. According to the Gramophone Guild website ‘A vinyl gramophone or phonograph record consists of a disc of polyvinyl chloride plastic, engraved on both sides with a single concentric spiral groove in which a sapphire or diamond needle, stylus, is intended to run, from the outside edge towards the centre’.


A modern example of vinyl being engraved, Beck's 'Morning Phase', 2014

Let’s cut to the chase, with digital music and CD’s, what’s the point in vinyl? Isn’t it impractical and just for hipsters who will gravitate towards anything that is old or ‘different’ just so they can be, ‘different’?  The answer to this question is Yes, and No.

Yes, because you will always have hipsters in any decade, any century, and any millennium, they have been around since Roman times probably, they were the guys who were wearing sarongs when everyone else was wearing togas, or baseball caps when everyone else was wearing laurels. No because, despite hipsters, there are people who enjoy vinyl records more than their modern counterparts for purely practical reasons, and yes, one of the overriding reasons is nostalgic, but let’s deal with them one by one.




The vinyl record is the oldest medium of recording music, it was followed by 8-tracks, cassettes, CD’s, mini-discs, and eventually digital mp3’/ flac’s. Out of the older mediums, 8-tracks, cassettes & mini-discs are all dead, and if you left a bunch of 20 of your least favourite CD’s on the side of the road, nobody would pick them up, CD’s get scratched easily, skip, and look like office stationary. Digital music is a wonder, it’s portable, transferable over multiple devices and you can send your favourite song to a friend within seconds, for free. So why is the oldest medium, still relevant, where later ones, but not all, have failed? 



1) Possibly the most callous reason, is that vinyl records, purely because of the old economic adage, supply and demand, appreciate in value & remain popular, yet hard to obtain. For example, in the 1990’s, when the CD first came out, it was heralded as the new dawn of music listening, high quality stereo audio on a, well, compact disc. As a result, for the first time ever, vinyl production dropped dramatically in comparison to the 50’s / 60’s / 70’s and 80’s. As a result, you could be paying €100 plus for an Oasis album on vinyl, which you could get for a fiver on CD, or, for some other artists, well over €200.


Oasis, What's The Story Morning Glory, currently selling for £89.99 sterling on the 18th of April, 2014 on eBay

2) Vinyl doesn’t have a remote control, what does that mean? With CD’s and .mp3’s etc. on laptops, we can skip songs in an instant on albums, ‘I love the opening 3 tracks, but I could care less for tracks 4-7, and then there’s a strong finish, apart from track 11’, sometimes this attitude is justified, but sometimes are we being impatient? We do live in a world of instant gratification, we have no patience, maybe amongst the tracks we skip so readily, there could have been a favourite song, we’ll never know. With a vinyl record you are, and it sounds like the wrong word, but, ‘forced’ to listen to an album in it’s entirety, how it was meant to be listened to by the band or artist, of course you can get up off your arse and move the needle to the next track, but, as a downside, it’s a bit laborious. 

3) Finally there is aesthetics, if you are lucky enough to get a reasonably priced first press (that’s a record that is the original from the year it was released) you are going to be able to hear the album as it was heard by say, a teenager in the 1960’s etc.). I’m very lucky to have first press copies of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan and many others. For me, this is a unique experience. A teenager or an adult originally bought the album, a week after it was released, and went to their bedroom, and played it, in the 60’s, 70’s and so forth, and I’m hearing the album just as they heard it. Not on CD or .mp3, but I have in my hands the record that some kid bought back then, there’s an authenticity about that, a snapshot of the past, an original piece of music history, that I now possess, romantic? Yes, rewarding, most definitely.


Tower Records, April, 2014

There has been a massive revival in vinyl over the last 10 years, for the first time, teenagers who did not grow up with record players in their homesteads are buying records, and almost the entire upstairs of the newly opened Tower Records on Dawson Street is dedicated to vinyl alone, the Stairway To Heaven. If you have a pair of speakers at home, you can buy a record-player with radio for only €80 http://www.hifi-tower.ie/Record-Players_c132.htm

But let’s be honest, at the end of the day, is a vinyl record better than a CD, 320kpbs, .mp3 or similar Flac file? We often hear vinyl junkies claiming that vinyl sounds better than any other format, but where’s the evidence? There are conflicting results. I always go with the science bit, and here it generally agrees with me, but, having said that, I also think a high-quality digital version of a song or album through decent headphones is better, and that’s hard for me to admit! Either way, ask your parents what records they might have laying around in their living-room or attic, you could be sitting on a fortune, musically. Here's Pitchfork (No) vs. Science (Maybe / Yes) in the links below, make up your own minds!

http://pitchfork.com/thepitch/29-vinyl-records-and-digital-audio/

http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/question487.htm

http://www.recordstoreday.com/

*Record Store Day article to follow in 24 hours!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

New Irish Music - Join Me In The Pines (w.Dave Geraghty, Bell X-1)



Join Me In The Pines, 'Golden Guilt'

Info: As a big fan of Bell X-1 over the years, and indeed Juniper before them, it's exciting to see guitarist Dave Geraghty embark on his new solo project, performing as Join Me In The Pines. Geraghty had two previous solo albums, 2007's Kill Your Darlings and in 2009, The Victory Dance, the name change comes about as Geraghty seeks to evoke a place for his music to rest as he explains, 'instead of it being anchored to reality by a person's name'.

The two tracks I have heard so far, 'Golden Guilt' (above) and 'Joy Is A Lion' have a beautiful country folk feel to them, with a recurring theme of optimism and ponderous lyrics, it's hard not to imagine Geraghty sitting on a porch in the American countryside penning his songs on a banjo!

Join Me In The Pines' first ever Dublin performance is tomorrow night, Friday 11th of April, in the Unitarian Church on Stephen's Green, a wonderful venue which promises an intriguing occasion for all who will be in attendance. 
Doors are at 8.30pm, and tickets are only €15, but move fast as the Cork show sold out last Friday, available at entertainment.ie/tickets/. Thanks to my favourite people in the world at www.orchestrate.ie I will be heading along to the show myself and I'm really looking forward to a completely different live experience from Dave and his band. For more information on Join Me In The Pines head over to the website www.joinmeinthepines.com, in the meantime, just for old times sake, let's see where it all started!

Juniper, 'Weatherman'

Monday, 7 April 2014

Never Mind The Netflix


See what I did there? Ah lads. For the moment I don't think I can recommend any more Netflix stuff until I watch a few more things, but in the meantime here's a quick run down on the best TV Series' from the beginning of 2014. When I say best, I mean best for a variety of reasons which I will explain for each show, always bearing in mind that taste is personal, one man's Breaking Bad is another man's Fair City, it happens, strange and all as it is. I'll leave spoilers out of the synopses (I learnt a knew word today!) and if you're so inclined, just don't watch the trailers. So here we are, in no particular order....


1) True Detective (HBO) - I would imagine a lot of people might have seen this already as it's probably been the most talked about show of the last few months, but if you haven't, I can't recommend it enough. Two very different characters are paired up to find a serial killer, Woody Harrelson as the conservative womaniser and Matthew McConnaughey as the no scruples, anything goes, oddball. The 8 episodes of Season 1 finished exactly a month ago and the whole show was high quality in every way, sadly we won't have the pair back for Season 2, but hopefully producer Nic Pizzolatto will still be able to maintain the high standards he's set himself. There are so many elements to True Detective that were amazing and I won't go into them now lest I ruin it for anyone, all I can say is I'm going to miss Marty Hart and Rust Cohle.


Why is it worth watching? Unbelievable acting, dialogue, plot, cinematography, tension and darkness, pretty much everything.


2) Vikings (History Channel) - Just over half way through Season 2 and I thought it could be one of those series' that would have a fun-filled first season and then fall on it's arse, but thankfully the good times are still rolling in 793 AD. You're not going to get thought provoking plot lines or stellar acting (while it's pretty good) but what you will get is plenty of action, bloodshed, a relatively authentic historical feel and gangs of marauding vikings who have yet to discover the meaning of the word moral. Season 1 has Gabriel Byrne as the evil Earl Haraldson who is pitted against the main character, Ragnar Lothbrok played by Travis Fimmel (for the laydeez), who is based on the 13th century Norse sagas Ragnars saga Loðbrókar. To say it's merely brain candy might be a bit harsh, it's up a level from that, it's addictive and highly entertaining, definitely a show you could spend an entire day at the weekend watching and it's mostly shot in Ireland, for whatever that's worth! 


Why is it worth watching? If you enjoy the opening scene and intro with the amazing Fever Ray song, 'If I Had A Heart', you will enjoy the entire thing, guaranteed, it'll never take as little time for you to decide on whether to invest your time in a series.


3) Les Revenants (The Returned) - (Haut et Court) - A bit of Gallic entertainment now, Les Revenants, like many other foreign language series' also has a U.S. counterpart, but as with The Killing and The Bridge, it's always best to watch the original if you can. This one has a very interesting storyline, a small rural village in France is rocked to it's core when many former residents, who died years before, begin turning up alive, with no signs of having aged or no memory of their own deaths. Freaky shit. Whilst still in shock at the seemingly resurrected family members and neighbours, a spate of murders occur which bear the hallmark of a serial killer from decades before, boom! The eight-episode Season 1 aired in 2012 and while no release date has been announced yet, Saison Deux is due in 2014, so, good to catch up before it's release. Les Revenants is a series that leaves you with a lot of unanswered questions, which are to be revealed in the next instalment, promises of reward for loyalty are always nice.


Why is it worth watching? It's a novel twist on the zombie genre, mixing horror and thriller to great effect. Squeaky bum time.


4) Rectify - (Gran Via Productions) - The same production company that brought us all 5 seasons of Breaking Bad gives us an opening mini-series of 6 episodes in Rectify. The background to the story sees main character Daniel Holden released from prison after 19 years on death row, he's finally cleared of murder with new DNA evidence. Daniel returns to his family and community and attempts to readjust to life on the outside. His character has clearly been traumatised and he has become a wraith, highly socially awkward and unable to articulate what troubles him. The first season is mostly introductory, we get very little background to the original crime, to why he is so broken inside or what his life was like before imprisonment, but we see enough snippets to hold our curiosity until Season 2 is released (due end of July this year). The acting is good, in particular the lead, played by Aden Young, and there are some uncomfortable scenes which are a trademark of a good drama in my opinion. 

WARNING: Long trailer, may give too much away

Why is it worth watching? You'll probably know inside the first 15 minutes whether you'll want to sit through the following 5 episodes. While not ground-breaking, if the second season is as good it will be worth sticking with, and you are left wanting more at the end of each episode.


5) Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey (Nat Geo) - In some ways this is an updated reboot of Carl Sagan's epic 1980 series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, but it's definitely needed given that that was almost 35 years ago, and we've learned a lot since then. Sagan is best known as the astronomer who brought the galaxy, the universe and the stars to the masses, like any great teacher, he was able to translate the complex scientific nature of his work, and the wonders of the cosmos into lay terms for Arts graduates like myself. At the age of 17, a young science enthusiast from the disadvantaged part of The Bronx went to meet Carl Sagan at Cornell University on the other side of the city, after that meeting a life-long bond would grow between the two, and that young man was Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who is now an internationally renowned astrophysicist, and fittingly, is our host on the updated Cosmos series. Just like Sagan DeGrasse Tyson can teach the masses, without dumbing down the content, or diluting the wonder of what he relays. The title I suppose is self-explanatory, but the best thing about the Cosmos reboot is that it is visually stunning (apart from the space-craft...) and in case we had forgotten, we are shown the importance of realising how small, yet significant, our place is in the vast universe / multi-verse. The simple questions we should all know the answers to, such as our address in the universe, how old our universe is and how it was created, are all answered and much, much more. 

Below the trailer for Cosmos 2014 I have added my favourite slice of Carl Sagan wisdom, his wonderful excerpt 'You Are Here', from his monologue 'Pale Blue Dot'. It was inspired by a picture taken by Voyager I on 14th of February, 1990, which Sagan assisted NASA with, on that day Voyager I had already travelled 6.4 billion kilometres out into space. The spacecraft contains data on the history of our planet and civilisation, music, art, literature and more, with the hope it will reach some other life form (mightn't be a great move when you think about it!), Voyager I is still on it's journey today and is the farthest human made object from Earth.

Why is it worth watching? Handy for pub quizzes.


Cosmos trailer

Carl Sagan, 'You Are Here', Pale Blue Dot

Carl Sagan, 1934-1996

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Under The Skin (2014)


Under The Skin, trailer

Genre: Sci-fi of sorts
Starring: Scarlett Johansson
Director: Jonathan Glazer
IMDB Rating: 7.2/10
My Rating: 8.5/10
Runtime: 108 mins

Synopsis: An alien temptress seduces men into her nest, making their skin slip off as easily as their clothes.

Under the Skin is one of those films which will have people divided. It answers questions with more questions and doesn’t leave you feeling gratified. It does however offer you a sensory experience like no other. 

Reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey, the film opens with unusual imagery of another dimension accompanied by a remarkably unsettling score. We move from outer space to what could be the inside of a human eye and find ourselves in a blank canvass with two naked Scarlett Johansson’s... From there the story follows Scarlett as she drives around Glasgow picking men up in her van and luring them into her hive. The alien’s lair is a dark void and Scarlett is like a praying mantis, holding her victims in a trance as she removes her clothes and leads them into a mysterious goo. The master-plan isn’t clear and we’re left counting up the possibilities. Answers are seldom gratifying in the sci-fi genre and Under the Skin isn’t afraid to wander. One could tear the film apart and say that nothing happens and that the film doesn’t mean anything but that would be cynical. Why not allow yourself into its charm and formulate your own theories on where or what it could be?

The cinematography in the film is diverse. Peculiar patterns layer into shapes as the lens draws closer and closer. We often stray into the otherworld before arriving back at Scarlett’s side. Mixed with this beautiful artistry is a documentary aesthetic showing the gritty side of Glasgow. Shots of the main street, Celtic supporters and hen parties give the city a sprawling effect, like insects multiplying. The supporting cast are all unknown local actors that could be easily passed by on the street. There’s nothing sugar-coated about them and even Scarlett’s attire is inelegant and transparent.    

I have to congratulate the production team for not straying into a Hollywood aesthetic and making Scarlett look better than ever. Under the Skin is an unusual film that will linger in my thoughts for a long long time.

I'm on anti-depressants and suffer from severe anxiety, should I watch this film on a Sunday night?! - Ehhhh I’m gonna say... yes.

- by Gavin Fitzgerald

Friday, 4 April 2014

New Irish Music - The Journals E.P. Release

(photo courtesy of Dom Marceleno Photography**)


 The Journals, 'Part II'

Info: Dublin band The Journals describe their sound as an indie / shoe gaze hybrid, this is a good starting point when listening to their music for the first time, but what struck me after multiple listens was how the tracks sprawl out across even more genres, strong elements of folk and an undertone of hard rock get thrown into the mix with beautiful results. Usually a band will have some obvious reference points, ones you might identify straight away, and initially tracks can become hard to distinguish, but with The Journals I'm getting a more rewarding experience. 

Last night I listened to the 5 tracks on the E.P. straight through, and then straight through again and struggled to pin down who they sound like. On their BreakingTunes page (see link below) they outline their influences as Bon Iver, Beach House, Elliott Smith, Pixies, Warpaint and Jeff Buckley, in addition I would be adding fellow Dubliners Future Kings of Spain, Danish alt-rockers Mew and at times Band of Horses. There is definitely a strong early 90's rock feel to many of the songs as well, complimented by the energetic drumming of Alex Cummins, guitarist John McDowell's powerful riffs and Niall Thornton's crisp bass lines keeping each track centred. 


The Journals, 'Move Away'

The first track on the E.P., 'Part II', is instantly attention grabbing, the morose guitar and bass introduction provide the backing to at first sad vocals from front man, Ollie Moyles which elevate to an uplifting finale. Second track 'Creatures' is probably the closest nod to Jeff Buckley, reminiscent of 'Nightmares By The Sea' & 'Yard of Blonde Girls' from Sketches... while retaining an original feel. 'Evil Man' & 'Blankets' are where the folk attributes come in and approach a softer sound with some wonderful guitar-picking, and great vocal harmonies across both songs, there's a hint of Fleet Foxes in the latter track especially. Finally probably the catchiest tune of the lot is fourth track 'Moving Away', funky riffs and bass with a euphoric chorus this is a serious head bopper.

In conclusion, yet another very talented Irish act, both musically and lyrically, The Journals are well polished and have combined all of their influences and then some into this audio treat, and I'm not saying that because I personally find their sound particularly appealing, the quality is there to be heard. You can listen to the entire E.P. above in the SoundCloud segment, or even better, check them out at the venues below, starting with next Friday, 11th of April downstairs in Whelans on Wexford Street, you won't be disappointed.

Live shows:

Friday, 11th April, Whelans, Wexford Street, Dublin 2.
Sunday, 27th April, Sweeney's (upstairs), Dame Street, Dublin 2.
Friday, 13th June, The Grand Social (with Heroes in Hiding), Lwr. Liffey St., Dublin 1.

Further info:
Follow on Twitter @The_Journals

** Photos courtesy of Dom Marceleno Photography. Check out the following link to see more great photos of Dublin’s music scene www.facebook.com/dommarceleno

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Mac DeMarco - Salad Days (2014)


Mac DeMarco, 'Blue Boy'

Info: Canadian and Brooklyn resident Mac DeMarco releases his second album, Salad Days as a follow up to his 2012, critically acclaimed debut 2. DeMarco is the son of an opera singing mother and grandson of a jazz playing grandfather, but it wasn't until the age of 14 that he took a keen interest in music, and quickly realised he had a talent and love for song-writing. Whilst he seemed to revel in the bemusement that greeted his bizarre live shows, at which the audience came to expect flashes of nudity and other strange behaviour, his second album sees him facing increased attention from the music world and a shuffle toward seriousness is reflected as a result. Whilst NME and Pitchfork both poured praise on his first album (Pitchfork put it in their Top 50 for 2013) others, including The Guardian acknowledged his undoubted talent but felt there were certain elements missing. 


DeMarco is certainly a playful eccentric, his devil may care physical appearance and lifestyle (he lives in a small box-room apartment on the periphery of Brooklyn, one bemused journalist described lit scented candles on a visit desperately trying to hide the stench of cigarette smoke) are well known at this stage and it will be interesting to see how he copes with international recognition that is sure to follow the release of Salad Days. Hopefully his persona will be enough to avoid him deviating from what has so far been a winning formula, in the words of the man himself; "Knowing that people are expecting something is just going to drive you insane. That was part of the record, finding a way to have fun with it again, pushing all that bullshit to the side, because if you go into it thinking, 'I've got to make something better than my last one', or, 'I've got to please these people' – fuck that, what's the point of doing it in the first place?"

How to describe his music? Well, it's certainly in the jangle pop genre, reminiscent of 80's & 90's acts such as The Cure, The Smiths, The Lemonheads and the first one that struck me, the brilliant Birmingham band, Felt. One distinct difference however is while the aforementioned mostly had a serious tone and dry humour, DeMarco's music is more relaxed and upbeat, that's not to say it's entirely positive in tone, it does have some more serious themes. On the first single, 'Passing Out Pieces' he seems to question his past and the consequences his actions might have had, but ultimately concludes that that's life; 

Watching my life, passing right in front of my eyes
Hell of a story, oh is it boring?
Can’t claim to care, never been reluctant to share
Passing out pieces of me, don’t you know nothing comes free?

What mom don’t know has taken its toll on me
It’s all I’ve seen that can’t be wiped clean
It’s hard to believe what it’s made of me




                           

In addition to 'Passing Out Pieces' the two openers are wonderful, 'Salad Days' and second track 'Blue Boy' (above video) get lodged in your head after one listen. 'Chamber of Reflection', the ninth track is also a stand out, all in all it's difficult to not see Salad Days doing well, and it's hazy, summery vibe has come along just in the nick of time. If I was to give it a rating I'd go for 3.5/5, but it smells like a grower. At present there appears to be no Dublin tour dates, only U.K. and Western Europe, but if you like the above tracks, I highly recommend checking out 'Ode To Viceroy' and 'My Kind of Lady' from his first album.

Salad Days is out today, 1st of April (no, really, it is)

http://macdemarco.bandcamp.com/