Monday, 22 January 2018

Single of the Week: Train Room - Entertainment Nights

Train Room - Entertainment Nights

Train Room - Entertainment Nights

Info: Train Room is the brainchild of Balla, Co. Mayo songwriter, musician and producer Joe Monaghan. Train Room’s first gig was at Dublin showcase Hard Working Class Heroes Festival in October 2016. His debut EP, 'Delicate Bones', brought the band’s distinctive sound to a wider audience with positive reviews from Nialler9 in The Irish Times, GoldenPlec and an interview with Hot Press early last year following. 

Whilst Delicate Bones loosely fit into the folk-pop genre, new single 'Entertainment Nights' from Train Room sees Monaghan dipping his toes in new waters. It's only brief from the outset, but the electronic intro provides the first hint, on the verses we find ourselves in 80's pop-rock ballad territory, the vocals and percussion style attest to this. One of the most pleasant blind-sides you'll come across occurs from 2:37 onwards where Train Room displays his aptitude for some mighty fine prog-rock solos. It's scorching in the best sense, and sets up the energised closing perfectly.

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Irish Playlist #018: Paddy Hanna, Accidents In The Workplace, VLLNS, Sal Dulu & More

A.Smyth - Into The Darkness

Info: It's great to be back in the saddle after the Christmas / New Year break and hearing more wonderful Irish music being made without delay as we get going in 2018, although one or two of these singles were from the tail-end of last year. Without further ado I'm delighted to share REMY's first Top 10 Irish Playlist of 2018, listen on...

Starting with Dundalk funkadelic troupe Accidents In The Workplace and their latest single 'Wake Up' which dropped mid-December, it's an outrageously uplifting tubular voyage through a Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, the intro to Rod Stewart's 'If You Really Want Me', and a brass tacks disco-funk medley. Delicious across it's entire 4:41.

The mighty Paddy Hanna released latest single 'Tolouse The Kisser' last week, and it's firmly my favourite of his most recent batch of tracks. Hanna goes all out on the lively baroque-pop method he is so adept at delivering, this is the track that Roy Orbison ascended to the heavens with in the background to a chorus of angels directed by Wes Anderson (use your imagination here!), Hanna's song-writing is just getting better and better.

This Fresh Hell is the moniker of Dublin based musician, composer and producer Des Garvey and 'Intact' is his debut single under the alias. This Fresh Hell operates as the vehicle for Des' solo work, with a number of collaborators appearing throughout. 'Intact' is the first track to be released from a WIP album which is due to drop in 2018. This is a track and project which excites me from This Fresh Hell, 'Intact' is an intoxicating mixture of far-out thick warbled synths and beats along with a retro-sounding vocal from Niamh McGoldrick, the album will be of great interest around these parts upon release.

VLLNS - The Devil and the Deep Sea
VLLNS - Photo: Sam McCabe

Dublin alternative and blues-rock trio VLLNS shared debut single 'The Devil & The Deep Sea' on New Years Day, and it grows very quickly with each listen. Somehow managing to sound both loose and tight in delivering their sound, the chorus is made ear-catching with its quick-fire bass-lines and thudding percussion, and the final third sees some bang on blues riffs to top it all off.

Dublin producer and ambient electronic act Sal Dulu's single 'Duluoz Dream' was in my Top 10 Irish single releases for 2017, and new single 'Tyko' shows that there is plenty more great chilled-out sounds to come from him in 2018. A lot of acts strive to reach that ultimate blissed ambience in their downtempo music, but Sal Dulu has it in the bag, I would love to see some collaborations with this guy in the near future.

A. Smyth is the moniker of ex-VANN Music man Aaron Smyth who is now striking out on his own. In his quieter vocal moments on 'Into The Darkness' there's a 90's pop-rock sound, and on the pre-chorus it's full modern indie-rock. What makes this single stand out from its peers is the deft dip between pop-rock and darker soundscapes.

I'm loving the debut from the delightfully and curiously named Arms That Fit Like Legs and their single 'You Will Go On My First Whistle'. Their electronic modus operandi here flits between the bubble-gum pop of Peter, Bjorn & John and a more pensive 80's synth OST style. I'm beyond disgracefully late in posting the latest single from Irish singer-songwriter Martha Ffion, who is currently based in Glasgow. Her track 'We Make Do' is taken from her forthcoming album Sunday Best which is due out early this year. Ffion's style is ponderous and engaging, plonking piano and inter-twining acoustic guitar with delicate yet bubbly percussion provide a breezy backdrop to her truly unique voice.

Martha Ffion - We Make Do
Martha Ffion - Photo: Laura Meek

Earlier this month Dublin-based garage and hard-rock trio Stone Sea released their debut EP Vaporizer, and I'm digging it, in particular track 'Swamp', the introductory drumming wouldn't be amiss on the Pixies Doolittle (think 'La La Love You'). The band then get stuck into some heavy riffs and sweeping progressions that carry you quickly until they reach the half-way point which sees them reduce tempo momentarily. I'm liking the spread of influences across the 6 and a half minutes, Metallica and Soundgarden perhaps, and at 5:50 the solo is peachy.

It took me a few listens to fully enjoy Longford four-piece Painted Skies single 'Taking On Water', but every time I listened to it I felt an enduring likeability, and also great promise. They have struck a fine balance between riding the indie-pop train and also scattering enough distinctive musical elements throughout to give that little bit of something extra. You can tell there's a great yearning to express many thoughts and ideas through their music, and that will come with time, but there's more than enough here to suggest they will be fully capable of achieving it. 

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Album of the Month: Anna Mitchell - Anna Mitchell

Anna Mitchell - Album

Info: 'Anna Mitchell', the album, intertwines fragility and power, it is a record made with confidence, intuition and empathy, assuredly alternating between sparse, atmospheric grooves and slightly gnarled, expansively lovely distorted grungy folk, rock.

The album was recorded independently in Cork, Ireland under the watchful eye of engineer and co producer Brendan Fennessy (O Emperor) along with a band of well known Irish musicians including drummer Davie Ryan (Jack O’ Rourke, Notify), Brian Hassett on bass (John Blek & The Rats, Mick Flannery) and Alan Comerford on guitar (O Emperor, Mick Flannery).

A large chunk of this recording was written while Anna was based in based in Woodstock recording a live album with Simone Felice and The Felice Brothers and you can certainly hear the spirits of upstate New York haunting the album.

Opening track 'All These Things' which Anna Mitchell released as a single late last year, gets her sophomore self-titled album off to an ear-catching start. From a gentle introduction the song spirals delicately upwards, everything is so carefully placed and delivered, from the subdued percussion to the soft-blues of the electric guitar, before peaking with Mitchell's emotive chorus.

'It Pours' has that dirt-track country blues sound, the guitar-playing is brimful of nonchalant swagger, mighty blues á la Clapton or Jeff Beck, and I love how the hammond organ is dropped briefly in throughout. Once again a powerful conclusion awaits at track's end. The country feels come on strong on third track 'Radio Waves', this is a very fine homage to the genre, a little bit Dusty and a little bit contemporary country-rock, it's warm and the musicianship is perfect.

Anna Mitchell - All These Things

With 'Never Learn' Mitchell moves into slightly more bare territory, but the emotive impact is not lessened. 'Get Out' sees the album swing back to traditional country-blues story-telling, in an instant Mitchell can pull up the blind on a window to the past, that familiarity is a source of high enjoyment to the listener, and the electric guitars exude honky tonk Rolling Stones-era vibes. Following the assertive electro-blues tone of 'Dog Track' we reach the chantueserie of 'Better Life', tremelos abound on possibly the most contemplative and escapist tracks on the LP. We're on the road again as we sign-off with closing number 'Come Home', a breezy sun-soaked slice of Americana where Mitchell puts the boot into her propensity for balladry.

Anna Mitchell's second album ticks all of the right boxes, it spans out in many directions from its country-blues core, keeping you engaged from start to finish in such a disposable era. The musicianship is beyond reproach and the production is perfect, avoiding being over-cooked whilst doing this collection of tracks absolute justice. An early highlight for 2018 which will appeal to existing fans of the genre and should make new ones too.

Anna Mitchel plays Coughlan's Live in Cork on the 8th of February, Levi's in Ballydehob on the 10th of Feb., and Whelan's on the 16th.

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Forbidden Fruit Festival 2018 - Four Tet, Richie Hawtin, AE Mak & more Added To Line-Up

Forbidden Fruit 2018

Ibibio Sound Machine - Give Me A Reason

Info: This years Forbidden Fruit Festival kicks off once again on the June Bank Holiday Weekend (2nd-4th) at The Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, in Dublin 8. Among the stellar line-up already announced are Grizzly Bear, The War on Drugs, Warpaint, Thundercat, Bonobo, Vince Staples and Spoon

Pioneering DJ, producer, and legend of underground dance music, RICHIE HAWTIN will be bringing his new 75-minute audio visual show to Forbidden Fruit! The show, RICHIE HAWTIN CLOSE - Spontaneity & Synchronicity, explores the relationship between human creativity and innovative technologies that enable the freedom of improvisation. It will challenge the distinction between DJ’ing and live performance and will take you closer to his unique way of performing. Using intimately placed cameras this man-machine relationship unfolds onscreen in real-time bringing the audience closer than before to Hawtin’s intuitive gestures.

Electro maestro Kieran Hebden AKA FOUR TET, brings his LIVE show to Dublin for the first time since Metropolis 2015. His unique sound and melodies incorporate elements of hip hop, electronica, techno, jazz, grime and folk music with live instrumentation, with some of his newer tracks being inspired heavily by techno music. He’s also remixed tracks by the likes of Aphex Twin, Explosions In The Sky, Super Furry Animals, Radiohead and Manic Street Preachers, amongst others. 

Listen all, y’all. Next up, a man who needs no introduction - MIKE D, ladies and gentlemen. That’s right, the founding member of the Beastie Boys is coming to town. Rapper, musician, songwriter, drummer, label founder - Mike D will be a DJ set but will also perform songs live. Beastie Boys sold over 50 million records, with seminal LPs like Paul's Boutique, Check Your Head, Ill Communication and Hello Nasty.  Billboard have decreed them the biggest selling rap group of all time - and they are members of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Ain’t no sabotage. 

London born Ben Thompson AKA Ben UFO is one of the leading figures in UK bass music today. Known as the "non producer" of UK record label Hessle Audio, his sound is unmistakable. Having carved out a DJ career, he not only tours the European festival circuit, has club residencies, he also has his renowned radio show on Rinse FM. Always ahead of the curve, UFO has been responsible, alongside Pearson Sound and Pangaea, for some of the most varied and groundbreaking releases of recent years.

Electronic afro funk band IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE know how to bring the party! They merge afrobeats, funk, electro, disco with a heavy dose of trumpets and synths. Fronted by London-born Nigerian singer Eno Williams, Ibibio Sound Machine is a clash of African and electronic elements inspired in equal measure. The 8 piece released their second album titled Uyai last year to great acclaim. Above is a taster track 'Give Me A Reason'. Prepare to get your dancin’ shoes on!


Day tickets on sale 9am Wednesday 24 January via Ticketmaster

Saturday Day (2nd) 
1st Release - €64.50

Sunday Day (3rd) 
1st Release - €64.50

Monday Day (4th) ON SALE NOW
1st Release - €64.50

Two Day Weekend (Sat 2nd & Sun 3rd) ON SALE NOW
1st Release - €109.00
2nd Release - €119.00

Three Day (Sat 2nd, Sun 3rd, Mon 4th) ON SALE NOW
1st Release - €162.50

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Timetable & Latest Acts Announced For Whelan's Ones To Watch 2018

The Wood Burning Savages Whelan's Ones To Watch
The Wood Burning Savages - Photo: Remy

Info: With less than 24 hours before Whelan's Ones To Watch 2018 kicks off, here's a round-up via playlist of the latest acts to be added to the roster, and they are most ticklish, cap-doffs to bands I've seen live before such as The Wood Burning Savages, if you have an ounce of 70's rock in your person, a must see. Alien She will be one of the bands that leave a mark on you this weekend, you will remember their performance for a long time after January, easily into those much harked after 'longer-evenings'. Tanjier, well they're just completely majestic electro-pop, and right at the fornt of the pack in their genre in Ireland right now, I saw them twice in 2017 and both times was a wowza. 

Galway band The Clockworks are pop-punk-rock-skiffle maestros, they write the songs your feet want to hear, and having them on the main stage on Thursday is a gift. One of the bands that have been so so dear to our hearts since the blog began and multiple live shows later that hasn't changed, I'm very excited to see Segrasso this weekend. Their live show is guaranteed to slip along the spectrum from shoegaze to distorted rock carnage by the end and they've been one of the best live bands I've seen over the last 3 years. Young Earth, an immense pop-rock force made up of frontman Mark O'Keeffe, and fellow guitarists Alex O'Keeffe and Dylan Maher, and one of Dublin city's finest drummers, Ben Mulligan.

The most important thing about WOTW though, is seeing bands and acts you haven't seen live before, and of the new additions to the line-up I'm eager to see Akora, Susie Blue, Moon Looks On, and Slow Riot, and as always happens, I end up falling head over heels for the ones I wasn't watching closely enough beforehand.

Stage times for Saturday and Sunday will be confirmed very soon, for updates and to purchase tickets, keep an eye on the Whelan's Ones To Watch Facebook page here

THUR 18th

Whelan’s :
21:00-21:30 OH BRYAN
21:45-22:15 EVE BELLE
22:30-23:00 THE CLOCKWORKS
23:15-23:45 LITTLE ONE
00:00-00:30 THE GIRL TALK
00:45-01.15 EHCO

Whelan’s Upstairs :
21:15-21:45 A GREAT QUIET
22:00-22:30 SILVERBACKS
23:30-00:00 PROPER MICRO NV
00:15-00:45 GIRLFRIEND
01:00-01:30 NEOMADIC

FRI 19th

Whelan’s :
21:00-21:30 MOLLY STERLING
21:45-22:15 MUNKY
22:30-23:00 SUN.SET.SHIPS
23.15-23.45 OH JOY
00:00-00:30 BICURIOUS
00:45-01.15 NO MORE QUESTIONS**

Whelan’s Upstairs :
20:30-21:00 SARAH O’GORMAN
21:15-21:45 LOWLI
22:00-22:30 DOWRY
22:45-23:15 JYELLOWL
23:30-00:00 ELKIN
00:15-00:45 SYLK
01:00-01:30 BOBBY BASIL
01:45-02:15 CHANCER

Front Bar :
21:00-21:30 DRIVELIGHT
21:45-22:15 FEUDS
22:30-23:00 SEGRASSO**

SAT 20th


SUN 21st



Single: Elephant - Waiting Game Part II

Elephant - Waiting Game Part II

Info: Dundalk artist Elephant (aka Shane Clarke) has become something of an understated enigma in Irish music. From the theatrical and introspective tones of his critically acclaimed 2015 debut album HyperGiant, the singles he has released since then, especially lately, are the early sprouts of a new chapter in the Elephant Chronicles. Of course there were hints back in 2015, but since then it appears that he has let the world of music pour into him, and controlled it without becoming overwhelmed.

Listening back to 'Waiting Game' from last summer, which drew a hard line in the sand in terms of his sound, it's hard, as it usually is with his music, not to become a little overwhelmed emotionally yourself. But that single truly was the intro for me to 'Waiting Game Part II', this is a most luxurious velvet cloth of 80's-inspired new romanticism. Bryan Ferry is standing outside in the dark with his ear pressed against the window as Clarke pulls this one out of the bag on the inside. 

I'm as happy not dwelling on words or themes when listening to music, switching off and zoning out, as I am becoming subsumed in songs which pull you under into their world. Elephant's music does the latter, and leaves an indelible mark on the soul, mind and heart simultaneously, but when he chooses to. The word on the street in The Town is that there's an album coming sometime in 2018, it might be beyond the stratosphere.

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Single: MUNKY - 7AM

MUNKY - 7AM Bues Single


Info: Dublin band MUNKY's long-awaited new single '7AM' brings home what fans of the four-piece over the past 12 months have come to adore about their live shows, that slick amalgamation of swaggering 70's blues-rock and funk with a 21st century twist. Rippling wah-wah guitar effects and a phat chunky bass-line, punctuated by frontman Zachary Stephenson's bone fide rock vocal lead the way towards Conor Lawlor's crunching guitar solo and grinding percussion at the 1:10 mark that we've come to love from the stage. 

Fans of late 1970's prog-rock á la The Alan Parsons Project will relate instantly to the tightly delivered stylings of one of the capital city's most rewarding live performers. In 2018 in China it will be the Year of The Dog, in Ireland it will be the Year of the MUNKY.

MUNKY play Whelan's Ones To Watch at the Main Stage this Friday, 19th of January at 21:45pm, and then their big one, the '7AM' single launch night will be held over two nights at the same venue on Friday, 9th & 10th of February. The first night is sold out, and the second night is running out of tickets too, you can get all the info here, and proceeds from the Saturday are going to the Peter McVerry Trust.

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Tuesday, 16 January 2018

EP: Deep Sky Objects - Deep Sky Objects

Deep Sky Objects
Photo: Jack Deacon

Info: Deep Sky Objects are a three-piece alternative-rock band from Kerry. The band members include brothers Kevin O'Brien (lead vocals, guitar), Thomas O'Brien (drums and backing vocals) and DD Foley (bass guitar and backing vocals). Deep Sky Objects stemmed from a shared mutual interest in groups such as The Smiths, Interpol and Radiohead.

In late 2015 the band began to record a collection of demos, releases under 'We're Done Falling'. With the completion of five tracks the band mixed their material at ‘Sonas Studios’ in Killarney. The tracks were then mastered by Ruairi O’Flaherty in Los Angeles. 'We're Done Falling' went on to physical release in June 2015. Since then Deep Sky Objects have recorded their debut self-titled EP 'Deep Sky Objects' in Whitewell Studios with Ciaran O'Shea. The EP was subsequently mastered by Fergal Davis.

I'm a big fan of first-listen winning, which is what I got from all of the tracks on Deep Sky Objects debut self-titled EP when listened to straight through for the first time. I like all of their aforementioned influences, and something that is always pleasurable is when those bands only mildly ripple through, but enough so that you can get stuck into a set of tracks straight away. For me I heard more strains of Manic Street Preachers, MEW and The Drums on this EP. 

Opener 'This City's At War' is probably the most overt British-sounding indie-rock number out of the five, it's melodic and I love that little baggie Manchester guitar break at the start, mixed with the treacle-dripping bass and crooning vocal refrain, it's a good start to an upward curve as the EP progresses.

'Bones' edges its way into gloomier waters in terms of mood, but that high tempo percussion and rattling bass keep the energy in tow and the vocal on the chorus is ever so spine-tingling. The sudden dropping of sound and then slowly lifting it up again as the drums and bass kick into gear again, almost as if at the push of a button are nicely executed.

'Desire' is where it's at for me, like Beck and his two turntables and a microphone. Hard rock opening and smash and grab percussion, this is a song I need to see live, and I think Kevin O'Brien could be one of the most personable vocalists I've heard in an Irish band in an age, I love this guys voice. You can't play nasty bass and drums without a face-melter coming up at some point, and so it does on 2:11, zinger.

'See You When It's Over' has that barmy and enjoyable early 21st century sound á la Hard-Fi, Maximo Park and Kaiser Chiefs, and again I can picture this being a fairly raucous moment in any live set. The EP finishes strongly on 'Crazy New Addiction', justifying a five track effort, the bass-line along with the song title conjure up images of 80's new wave or post-punk, it's heavy, this is good, and that sinister semi-muted guitar progression and bass at 2:48 is amazing, like Fleetwood Mac's 'The Chain' as interpreted by Joy Division, just before one last whallop of all of the elements combine to see us out. Quite frankly a band who deserve a wider listenership and are more than just an exciting prospect.

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The Independent International Playlist - The Best of 2017

Krakow Loves Adana
Hamburg's Krakow Loves Adana - Photo by: Ebba Ågren

Info: I dropped so many balls in the final months of 2017, but the biggest one was not paying homage to the incredible independent international music which featured on the blog over those 12 months. Over the last few years I've always collated it in some shape or form, but never managed to do so as the year drew to an end, and it's bothered me since. All I can say is that this is a ridiculously good playlist, and I never put my neck out like this, although taste in music is personal and subjective, but you'll struggle to not enjoy the vast majority of these acts. It's a vacuum-packed collection of the finest independent music from across Europe, England, Wales, Scandinavia, Italy, Germany, and Canada, the U.S., Australia and elsewhere. We wax lyrical about the Irish music scene over the last 4-5 years and how it's currently at its healthiest, but it's also happening across the globe, the creativity and improvisation is in stark contrast with the grey bleed that is popular culture.

I hope you enjoy this playlist and become a fan of some of the acts on it, many of whom I hope to feature again in 2018 as singles become EP's and EP's become albums.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Video: 1000 Beasts - Lord (It's OK) feat. Janet Grogan

1000 Beasts - Lord (It's Ok)

1000 Beasts - Lord (It's OK) feat. Janet Grogan

Info: Irish electronic act 1000 Beasts released his latest single 'Lord (It’s OK)' (featuring Janet Grogan) today. This is the third single from 1000 Beasts, following on from his debut 'Wonderland' (featuring Briony) and 'Got This Feeling (Remix)' (featuring Ryan O’Shaughnessy), both released in second half of 2017.

'Lord' is a broken-hearted love ballad reminiscent of Bon Iver, Francis and the Lights, and Cashmere Cat. A compelling vocal performance from Janet Grogan, ‘Lord’ culminates in a sparse yet emotionally powerful vocoder climax at the two-and-a-half minute mark. The video for 'Lord' was shot in Birmingham, directed by Lochlainn McKenna, and stars Beth Antonia and Ray Bethley as the warring couple at the centre of the song.

Cian Sweeney (1,000 Beasts) is one of those rare...animals, three singles in and the pattern is beginning to emerge that there is no pattern. 'Wonderland' was a late 90's Moloko-esque piece of dancefloor trip-hop, 'Got This Feeling' was a more contemporary downtempo electro-pop venture, and O'Shaugnhessy's vocals were the hook to the listener's ear, still worming its way around mine since last year.

And then today new single 'Lord (It's OK)' which is incomparable to both, rn'b grooves and a soul-pop vocal courtesy of Grogan are the overlay for Sweeney's restrained and moody beats and synths on this occasion. His music slithers around warmly in the background before intertwining with the vox on the chorus. The vocoder always seems to draw comparisons to Bon Iver this weather, but let's remember that the great Robert Moog was responsible for making it music-ready as far back as 1970. At times the vox on the track would remind me more of the output of Sydney's Gordi (who incidentally JV is a big fan of!). Ultimately 1,000 Beasts and Janet Grogan have done a stellar job of combining their talents on 'Lord (It's OK)' and I already want an album.

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Sunday, 14 January 2018

Remy's Top 10 Irish Albums of All Time

Rory Gallagher Rory Gallagher

Info: Picking all-time favourites can be a tricky business, there are too many variables, however, when it came to me picking my 10 favourite Irish albums, for once I found it quite easy. This is a post I started 2 years ago, never got around to completing, and scrapped altogether, but always stayed in the back of my mind. It loosely encompasses albums that had a major impact on me (obviously), but more from what I could call my formative years as a music fan than in recent times. Anyone who knows me well will roll their eyes at my No.1, but be happy that they are not in the vicinity to hear me babble on about it and the artist yet again. 

(Note: full playlist is at the end of this post with some bonus tracks).

1. Rory Gallagher - Rory Gallagher (1971)

Way back when I was in a jam session with a band I'd been playing with for just over a year, we'd had to replace the lead guitarist at short notice and a 16 year-old chap came in, we were only a few years older. During a break he started playing some jaw-dropping solos and I asked him what it was, he told me it was a Rory Gallagher song, I'd never even heard of him at that time. A while later I was in HMV on Grafton Street and texted him to tell him I was standing in front of a sale of Gallagher albums on CD and what should I pick up, straight away he came back with Tattoo, Rory Gallagher and Deuce, I bought all three. I remember going back to my room at my parents house, closing the curtains and sticking on all three albums with headphones on while I lay on the bed, conversion happened instantly. Over time Gallagher's self-titled debut became the firm favourite, and 'I Fall Apart' is probably my favourite song of all time. I read vociferously about Gallagher around this time and ended up acquiring an almost complete catalogue on vinyl.

2. Whipping Boy - Heartworm (1995)

If ever an album captured my youth, Heartworm is it, it resonated like a bizarre parallel to my late teens, and I think myself and my friends felt like it was written for us at the time, ah such silliness! I still marvel at it today, it's bittersweet though, because they really should have gone on to greater things. I tried to learn as many of the songs from the album as I could on the guitar back then, and I recall being a little awestruck when a girl I was going out with was babysitting for one of the band members and when we arrived at his house I saw one of their Hot Press awards from 1996 when they won Best Irish Rock Single, Best Irish Rock Album and Best Irish Rock Songwriter awards. Even today there's so much uncomfortable and scathing darkness emanating from Heartworm, what a storybook of an album, every inch of lyric tells a tale.

3. U2 - Achtung Baby (1991)

I still laugh to myself when I think about Achtung Baby, because I was only 11 years of age when it was released, and my sister got it for my for my 12th birthday on cassette of course, it was 1992. We would go on holiday to Northern Spain every year and my father insisted on driving the whole way, Jesus Christ it was an ordeal, from Dublin to Rosslare, then a ferry to France and a two-day drive, so if you didn't have a walkman you'd lose your mind as a child. I was obviously listening to awful shite at that age with the odd exception, the first album I ever owned was Chris De Burgh's Flying Colours which my parents bought for me, well-intentioned no doubt, but not a good start in life! Thankfully my older sibling gave me my first ever great album, indebted to her for that. I should point out that she was no music connoisseur herself and had subjected a very impressionable and young Remy to everything Smash Hits and Kylie and Jason could throw at me. 

Anyway, Achtung Baby, talk about opening my head and leaving an indelible imprint on my brain, even at the age of 12. I do love listening to U2's earliest album's, in particular Boy and October, the first two, 'Out of Control' is one of my favourite tracks of theirs. But Achtung Baby, for me, was the zenith, of a new rock sound and incredibly game-changing lyrics. It also seems to mark, from that great height, their slow-burning descent into never recapturing that genius. I am in love with every single track on this album to this day, I still remember when 'The Fly' and 'Mysterious Ways' were released as singles and watching the videos on MTV. My favourite track's on the album though are 'Ultra Violet (Light My Way)' and 'Love Is Blindness', for crazy good lyrics though I have to go with 'Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World' - "6 o'clock in the morning, you're the last to hear the warning...I had a dream that I saw Dalí, with a supermarket trolley, he was trying to throw his arms around the girl, he took an open-top Beetle, through the eye of a needle, he was trying to throw his arms around the world". It is still so potent today in 2018.

4. The Frames - Dance The Devil...

I can safely say that if it weren't for The Frames I probably would never have begun to review music. When I attended their post-Fitzcarraldo / pre-Dance The Devil... shows I felt a horrendous frustration. I am so grateful that I got to see them live on numerous occasions during that period, their live shows in Whelan's were other-worldly, the first hit of a drug that made me want to see great live music for as long as I was alive. The frustration was how such a band was not getting what I perceived, probably rightly but also a bit naively without understanding the greater mechanisms of the music industry, the recognition they deserved internationally, it was an outrage to 19-year-old me. I used to look at the charts and go, "This is bullshit!" but you learn. 

The Frames Concert Ticket 1999 Whelan's

This was a hard toss-up between those two albums, but I go for Dance The Devil..., just about, because I feel that it was when Hansard and Co. came out swinging, Fitzcarraldo is a faultless album, but Dance The Devil... happened when we couldn't love them anymore. I definitely appreciated what I saw live of both albums at the time, but I don't think I fully grasped the significance, I will always remember the invites to the crowd to join in, and it felt like everyone in the venue knew every line of every song, it was a magic time, and I'm a big sop for that time!

5. Thin Lizzy - Live & Dangerous (1978)

So many great albums, Jailbreak, Johnny The Fox, Black Rose, Renegade, Thunder & Lightning, yet there was always a sense that Thin Lizzy couldn't recapture the majesty of their live performances in the studio. Two albums sought to redress this, 1983's Life Live and 1978's Live & Dangerous, and the later in particular hit the nail on the head. Aside from the music, which is kind of integral, you also get a taste of Phil Lynott's humour, rock-star bravado and personality. It's an essential collection of tracks, and you could probably get away with not owning any of the Lizzy catalogue and this double-LP would provide you with everything you needed to know. Standout highlights being 'Emerald', 'Dancing In The Moonlight', 'Still In Love With You' (just close your eyes, listen, and get right to the end), and 'Don't Believe A Word'.

6. The Waterboys - Fisherman's Blues (1988)

Another very difficult toss up between Fisherman's Blues and 1985's This Is The Sea, the title-track of which is one of the greatest Irish tracks. I went with this album though because I think it gives the listener more. It also melds far more traditional Irish sounds, not that that is overly important to me, but for some reason, listening to Fisherman's Blues drags me back to my earliest childhood memories. My parents were avid canoeists and I remember weekends spent along the Royal and Grand canal's out past Dublin's suburbs with their friends, and the day finishing in a pub with crisps and that quintessential malt smell, Harp and Benson & Hedges ashtrays. Those memories somehow tie me to the sound and theme of The Waterboy's albums from the period, no doubt the name helps, but I think I must have heard this music back then and it echoed subconsciously years later. 

Also, Mike Scott is an icon, I've often seen him on Grafton Street attentively listening to buskers, long coat and trademark hat in tow, and had the pleasure of briefly meeting him in Tower Records when it was on Wicklow Street. I went in after work to buy their new album An Appointment With Mr. Yeats, I duly told Mike I was a massive fan of The Waterboys and asked him to sign the album, which he duly obliged. He then said, "So, did you enjoy the performance?" I didn't realise they'd just done an in-store show, I lied and said it was great, lest he think I was a phoney after just announcing my fandom, for shame. 

7. The Mary Janes - Sham (1998)

Like The Frames back in their heyday (sorry), I was very lucky to catch The Mary Janes on the main stage in Whelan's around the time they released their glorious album Sham, again this is an album I still get the urge to revisit, and my favourite tracks are constantly changing. Final track 'Centurian' has been the latest go to over the past few years, it's heart-breaking and beautiful in equal measure. I have noticed that this album is always missing from retrospective collections of 'the best Irish albums' type books, which is an awful shame, although it does seem that the music press didn't take to well to their debut album from 2 years before, Bored Of Their Laughing

8. Van Morrison - Veedon Fleece (1974)

I was real late bloomer when it came to Van Morrison, and I can put it all down to one song, 'Brown-Eyed Girl', I began to find it so unbearable when I was in my twenties, if I heard it one more time at a wedding or being covered in a pub I was going to gouge my eyes out. It was own fault for not exploring further, but that all changed one summer evening in my girlfriend's house (now wife), the back doors of the living-room were open, and it was a perfect summer's evening by Irish standards. Her family were hardcore audiophiles, the record collection had all of the masters from the 60's and 70's, Dylan, Hendrix, Dire Straits, Baez, and of course, Van. She stuck on Astral Weeks, it was my first time ever hearing it, and I was consumed and converted within it's 46 minutes. 

Needless to say this led to further investigations, 'Brown-Eyed Girl' was now banished, a long-lost memory (I should note it's not a bad song, it was just reaching far beyond saturation point!). My next port of call was Moondance, and again, wow. So on one night a year or two later in 2011 I went on a rampage online and got first presses on vinyl of, Tupelo Honey, Saint Domnic's Preview and Veedon Fleece (having already acquired Astral Weeks, Moondance and It's Too Late To Stop Now in local record shops in Dublin).

At one point, at the beginning, Astral Weeks was my favourite, which is normal I suppose, and then Moondance, but as time went by, I settled on Veedon Fleece, it is such a visual and poetic collection of tracks, Van Morrison's lyrics a source of wonder. In Griel Marcus' book, Listening To Van Morrison, he recalls a conversation with Rolling Stone journalist Jonathan Cott as they listened to a second cut of the album, and when 'Linden Arden Stole The Highlights' played he turned to Marcus and said; "You hear that? That's a prayer." That kind of sums up much of this album for me, it's other-worldly, the tales that Van Morrison tells feel like they're based on events from centuries ago, mystical. My favourite track is 'Streets of Arklow' (below), gets me every time, like most of the album, the piano is hypnotising.

9. God Is An Astronaut - "All Is Violent, All Is Bright" (2005)

My introduction to Wicklow's God Is An Astronaut came via their 2006 EP, A Moment of Stillness, at the time I was big into post-rock and ambient ethereal music, reaching peak Sigur Rós and Mogwai fandom, so when I heard GIAA I was in, well, heaven. It was a while before I actually found out they were an Irish band, and this made it even more intriguing and an eye-opener for me, insofar as I realised we weren't just a nation of balladeers and indie bands, something more magical and expansive was out there, you just had to seek it out. From that EP I worked my way backwards to "All Is Violent, All Is Bright", talk about a soul-stirring and escapist album, opener 'Fragile' still holds the key for me, it works its sorcery with ease with every listen.

10. Mic Christopher - Skylarkin (2002)

It seems crude to say it, but it was fortunate purely in a musical sense that The Mary Janes frontman had almost completed Skylarkin before his tragic death at the age of 32 in Holland whilst on tour with The Waterboys. Friends and family took up the mantle to get the album over the line and we all benefited from ne of the best Irish singer-songwriter albums ever made. There isn't a single piece of filler on the album, and it grows and grows and grows, the sincerity, playful sadness and contemplation of Christoper's lyrics are a great source of hope, joy and at times, reflective melancholy. 

Bonus: Republic of Loose - Aaagh!

Literally, aaagh! because this one totally slipped my mind and would be a criminal omission! Although 2004's This Is The Tomb of The Juice would be the more critically enamouring, Aaagh! seems to have more of my favourite tracks by Republic of Loose in one place, and, nostalgia. Whilst they were stylistically at polar opposites on the spectrum, Republic of Loose re-lit the torch that Whipping Boy dropped too soon after Heartworm, they captured a more optimistic period in Ireland with their first two albums, articulated what we were experiencing in a fun and relatable way. Maybe we were all partying too hard, and not looking beyond the end of our noses, but by Jaysis we had a good time and The Loose captured that in their music. 

Honourable mentions also go to the following albums which I also adore and mean(t) a lot to me over the years;

Mundy - Jelly Legs (1996)
Therapy? - Nurse (1992)
The Divine Comedy - Casanova (1996)
Ash - 1977 (1996)
Future Kings of Spain - Future Kings of Spain (2003)
Damien Dempsey - Seize The Day (2004)

Album: The Academic - Tales From The Backseat

The Academic - Tales From The Backseat

Info: For the four members of The Academic, one thing was clear: they were always going to make music. From their very first gig - an underage school disco where they performed a shoddy MGMT cover with a nerve-wracked Craig on lead-guitar - to their appearance on Battle of the Bands when they came a resounding last, these four Irish Midlanders were resolute in their determination to share their music.

"Our songs are stories about everything from relationships, to nightlife, to a dissatisfaction with the 'what' and 'where', and a longing for bigger and better things," explains Matt. "I think what is interesting about our songs is that they give the world a glimpse of what adolescent life is like in small town Ireland." Their songs chronicle the relief of pitch-black teenage winters finally giving way to the adult bright lights beyond their native Mullingar flatlands. But as their lyrics hint, with freedom comes newfound anxieties. In their words: "It’s about recognising that life can’t be all fun and games forever, but that it’s still okay to have a good time."

The first big Irish album release of 2018 came this weekend courtesy of indie-pop rockers The Academic and their debut album Tales From The BackseatI recall seeing the four-piece live in October 2015, not knowing what to expect as at the time I'd only heard single 'Different', but hands up I probably had that suspicion that sometimes goes with the territory of young bands having a relatively large following at such an early stage. You wonder how much is hype and how much is a big PR push behind some acts, a default position I used to hold often but thankfully I'm a bit less cynical nowadays. During and after that sold out main stage performance from the Mullingar quartet in Whelan's I got it, I got what made them stand out. It was an incredible live performance and one of the best shows I saw that year, easily a top 5. 

From that point on they would play multiple tours with sold out shows across the UK, Europe and North America and it was quite amazing to watch it unfold. Now we have their debut LP to put side by side with that progression. Starting with 'Permanent Vacation' you can instantly grasp that pop-rock sound and a youthful appeal, the track grows on you very quickly after a couple of listens and has all it's anthemic moments carefully placed for maximum effect.

The very successful single 'Bear Claws' comes up next, with over 1.7m streams on Spotify to date, it encapsulates the naive teenage romanticism of first loves and heartbreaks, trying to make sense of the whirl of fond memories and subsequent painful parting. 'Different' still stands the test of time 2 years on, there's an endearing emotive appeal to the vocals and lyrics, proceedings are kept simple, however, it was certainly a very early piece of evidence of what the band are capable of.

'Bite My Tongue' has a pop-edged The Strokes feel about it, and like so many of The Academic's songs there is a real rousing energy to the chorus, it's a snappy sing-a-long slice of indie-pop. We can all relate to this song title, with trepidition, a night hanging in the balance, 'Fake ID' is a dancefloor filler, which is appropriate, with our protagonist losing out with his roll of the dice and faced with a solitary wander home through town. At this point you really have caught on to the diary mode of Tales From The Backseat, how it's a wry recollection of ups and downs and what, at the time, seemed more tribulation than trial. 

Another single springs forth in the form of 'Northern Boy', this is the ultimate anthem song on the album out of the ten, the breaks and rises compliment each other perfectly as the track reaches its penultimate forlorn finale. The second last track on the album, 'Why Can't We Be Friends?' is comfortably my favourite on the album, I'm loving that dark 80's guitar intro, and the first time I heard it it struck me that this track represents the direction where I personally would like to see The Academic go in. The album closes with the balladry of 'Girlfriend', it's an unashamed pop tune, but encapsulates the entire theme of this collection of songs, and as we've seen previously, one thing The Academic do well is straight-up nostalgia.

As a whole package Tales From The Backseat ticks so many of the right boxes for a debut release, it's clear the band had a vision when writing these songs, that they would be connected in storyline form. In some ways this reminds me very much of an early Beatles record such as Introducing or With the Beatles, not musically mind, but just in terms of concept, although those Beatles LP's were littered with covers. It recalls that period of the Fab Fours discography in the sense that youthful abandon and innocence is celebrated, and is something their audience can directly connect with. 

The big challenge for The Academic now is that they won't be able to repeat this formula without accusations of labouring creatively. I don't think this is a concern however, as we do see windows into where they are veering toward next, and the most important thing right now is that, after over two years of incessant touring and recording, they sit back with satisfaction on what is an accomplished debut album in Tales From The Backseat.

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