Derv’s Longitude Top Ten

For the weekend that’s in it, we’ve pulled together a Spotify playlist featuring tracks from MUST SEE artists we recommend you DON’T MISS at Longitude Festival.

Derv’s Longitude Top Ten playlist includes a track from the artist on everyone’s lips this week, the delightfully voiced Floral Dresses by Lucy Rose along with The Staves, which features on her new album Something’s Changing (out now, and it’s more beautiful and delicate than silk chiffon).

Also included is Sauchiehall Street referencing Glasgow lifted from the latest Catfish and the Bottlemen album, Ride, multi-coloured, beats driven dreamy alt-pop concoction Blossom by Berlin based Milky Chance, and infectious delicacy Easier Said with its twirling Smiths-esque guitar intricacies by New Yorkers Sunflower Bean.

You’ll also find the delectable Dua Lipa giving a heartbreaking delivery of the evocative Scared to be Lonely in the Martin Garrix acoustic version and the absolutely stunning R&B honey Teenage Fantasy by Jorja Smith whose delicious voice is warmer than a July’s evening – lovin’ the carefree end to that track btw!

You can follow this or any other of our playlists over on Spotify where a world of musical goodies awaits!

**Note – Longitude have issued the following information regarding what will and won’t be tolerated//allowed on-site – see below for details.

Derv’s Longitude Top Ten #1

  1. Lucy Rose – Floral Dresses (with The Staves)
  2. Catfish & The Bottlemen – Glasgow
  3. Leon Bridges – Twistin’ & Groovin’
  4. Milky Chance – Blossom
  5. Sunflower Bean – Easier Said
  6. Dua Lipa – Scared to be Lonely (with Martin Garrix, Acoustic Version)
  7. Dermot Kennedy – Boston
  8. Glass Animals – Agnes (Radio Edit)
  9. RAYE – The Line (Acoustic Version)
  10. Jorja Smith – Teenage Fantasy

DervSwerve x

LONGITUDE – DO’S AND DON’TS

DO – CHECK SET TIMES. GATES OPEN 1.30PM DAILY WITH THE FIRST SET KICKING OFF AT 2PM OR NEAREST.

DON’T – PITCH UP EXPECTING TO BE ABLE TO BUY A TICKET – THEY ARE COMPLETELY SOLD OUT!

DO – BRING ID

DON’T – BRING ALCOHOL

DO – FEEL FREE TO BRING A BAG BUT SIZE IS RESTRICTED TO A4 (21cm/8.27in by 29.7cm/11.7in)

DON’T – BRING UMBRELLAS, ANY METAL OBJECTS, FLARES, FLAMMABLE OBJECTS, ILLEGAL DRUGS, LEGAL HIGHS OR PROFESSIONAL CAMERAS

DO – PLAN YOUR JOURNEY IN ADVANCE AND ALLOW EXTRA TIME FOR TRAFFIC DELAYS. BUSES SERVICE MARLAY PARK INCLUDE

  • 16 – Airport / O’Connell Street to Grange Road
  • 116 – Parnell Sq to Grange Road (limited service)
  • 161 – Dundrum Road Luas stop to Grange Road (limited service)
  • 14 – Beaumont via Amiens Street to Ballinteer Shopping Centre
  • 75 – The Square Tallaght / Dun Laoghaire to Ballinteer Shopping Centre

Who’s Your Forbidden Fruit?

Tick Tock Festival O’Clock … It’s just a few steps to festival heaven as we approach the Summer month of June, with its beach-friendly, blue-skied days and long, balmy wine-friendly nights, or are we mistaking Ireland for a different more azure-dazed location?

Nothing says the start of Irish Summer like the klaxon-call of the first of the season’s festivals and while for many that siren is sounded by the annual bougainvillea bedecked Bloom, for others the de facto season opener is the capital’s Forbidden Fruit festival. Operating from its base in the gorgeous surrounds of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, FF runs across the Irish June bank holiday weekend – Saturday 3rd to Monday 5th inclusive, to be precise.

With a range of artists from across the full sonic spectrum on it’s three day programme, FF is a valued showcaser for an idiosyncratic rainbow made up of eclectic and left-of-centre genres. Not for them the boybands, Rihanna wannabes or faux-leather clad rock anthemers. Instead, their line up features both emerging and successful talents from the non-mainstream fields of alt-pop, folk, experimental techno and Chilean improv.

So, with a host of music acts ranging from the sublime Lisa Hannigan’s enchanting folk-pop to the ridiculously innovative Aphex Twin, who are the acts in the Forbidden Fruit orchard whose music you’ll want to bite into and chow down on.  Let’s take a look wander through the three day a la carte …

Saturday 3rd June

Musical Bill of Fare protocol pretty much dictates the same hierarchical structure as a Michelin starred menu – starters, entrees, mains with dessert being optional and left to your own late night delectation!

As you would expect, the festival opens with a wealth of emerging Irish talent including Dublin purveyors of delish dance-pop ‘n’ house Le Boom, RTEs rainbow DJ Tara Stewart and rapidly rising rap-poet Jafaris, whose sound is more East Coast than East Wall.

Moving up a flight to the next level, we find the student-run, salubrious Trinity Orchestra, (tune in below to see what these guys can do to a Gorillaz track!), block-rocking beatmaster DJ Mall Grab, techno-house homie Jax Jones, and mistress of wonky funk, Londoner Nao. British hip-hop funksters Hot Chip close out this second tranche as it were, with their #DJSet.

Up at mezzanine level, FF fest-goers will find Peckham born street rapper Giggs, ambient-pyschers San-Fran based Tycho (a must for all your Tame Impalers), and those maestros of electronic choreography Berliners Booka Shade. Saturday night title of Chief electronic cooks and deck virtuoso goes to the Hartnell bros, more commonly known as Orbital.

Sunday 4th June

Day 2 in the FF pleasuredome is a veritable riot of Irish talent from unorthodox creative Aikj through Dub alt-rockers Heroes in Hiding to the amazing Ships whose album Precession is a wonderland of enigmatic electronica. One younsgter you should keep an eye out for is Soule, a singer fast making a rep for herself with her soul-electro-pop fusion.

The name Motor City Drum Ensemble is enough to catch the eye, but one whiff of the beat driven meld of drums, tech and jazz-soul is enough to hook the ear. German Danilo Plessow is at the helm of this unorthodox outfit with a global vision.

Sirens Press Shot Uncredited

At the top table you’ll find 21 year old Guersney native Mura Masa, a NAME+, in the world of hip hop cum R&B production and songwriting, another set of Berlin boyz and yet another experimental-electro duo Moderat, and the totally bloomin’ amazing Chilean Nicolas Jaar #nowords

With the head honcho title being allocated to homeboy Irish born, English raised electro-genius, Aphex TwinSaturday night is a must for the electro-nuts amongst you.

Monday 5th June

Probably D-Day for folksters, Monday 5th wraps up Forbidden Fruit with a sparkling array of ambience, ethereal and kaleidoscopic.

Twenty year old Galwegian Laoise is one of the newer stars of the festival’s final line up.  With a blend of dreamy pop that flows in and out of shadows, hers is a sound with more than a little darkness to its seeming iridescent perfection.

Cork man Eoin French will showcase his Talos project, whose strikingly beautiful debut album Wild Alee had Irish media in raptures earlier this Spring.  He’ll be followed by Choice Music Prize Winners Rusangano Family, whose Afro-beats based experi-rap has provided a much welcome breath of fresh air to the local scene.

An act who’s bound to be a huge draw on the night is Leeds born Paul Thomas Saunders whose voice teeters on the brink of Brett Anderson (listen to his vocal on Appointment in Samarra on our FF playlist and tell me I’m hallucinating).

The only artist to get two tracks posted to said playlist, Paul has just released a stunning new single, Holding On, which if you’re not going to the festival, you can check out here.

Saunders will be followed onto the main stage by rich-voiced, young Australian native Gordi who was hugely impressive when she played Whelans support to Norwegian flyers Highasakite last May.

Lest I forget to mention it, Forbidden Fruit comes replete with inflatable wedding chapel (pictured above), disco dodgems, a wedding disco, bingo loco (for all you clickety click two fat ladies nutters out there), a comedy tent, a funfair and oh, most importantly, a cocktail bar.  Interested much? Full details here … bites of the Forbidden Fruit.

The final countdown sees a rich roll-call of music veterans including English folk trio The Staveswhose vocal harmonies always send shivers tingling down the spine and the utterly delectable, silken-voiced Lisa Hannigan whose 2016 album At Swim was a masterclass in the power of understatement.

The festival folds with the inimitable Bon Iver, legends within the realm of indie folk, noted for their innovative and exploratory creativeness.  Their last album, 22, A Million, was a bit of a ‘departure’ as they say, but a dog can’t chew the same ball for his whole life can he? You can hear 21 Moon Water, one of the tracks from that album on the playlist below. For you ‘folkster’ die-hards (contradiction in terms) here’s something more up your traditional street.

That’s it folks.  65 Music Acts over three days on one of the best Bank Holiday weekends in Ireland.  Forbidden Fruit caters for the wacky, the winsome and the wonderlusters.  It’s line crosses the great divide between avant-garde electronica & ball-breaking techno and feather-lite folk/existential psychedelia.

With artists from as far as Germany and Australia and from so near that they could hop on the 25a and be there in 15 minutes, Forbidden Fruit caters for hungry music fans as anxious to see homegrown talent (and isn’t it wonderful to see a large cohort of Irish acts on the bill), as a flavoursome pick n mix from far off shores.

Whichever side of the coin your tastes lie in, Forbidden Fruit will should provide more than a little something for you to sink your teeth into.

Forbidden Fruit runs from 3rd to 5th June in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. Full details re tickets, line up, times, areas etc here. Check out our FF playlist on Spotify.

Female Artists Constitute Just 27% Of The LineUp Of The Top 3 Irish Music Festivals – Why?

THERE ARE MORE women than men living in Ireland, according to the Census 2016 results.  

Figures, recently released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that, of the 4,761,865 people in Ireland, 2,407,437 are female and 2,354,428 are male (a difference of 53,009).  Overall, there is a gender ratio of 97.8 males for every 100 females.

So tell me then why it is then that only 27% of the 114 acts playing three of the biggest music festivals in Ireland are made up of females or have a female vocalist/musician at the helm.

While some fare better than others – the EP Main & Other Voices Stages coming in at a ‘colossal’ 33% – the likes of Forbidden Fruit has just a miserly 16% female representation in its lineup.

The reasons for this gender imbalance remain unclear but it must be assumed that the festival organisers along with bookers & promoters, still hold an archaic view of festival going audiences ie. that despite the fact that some of the biggest selling global music artists are female (Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Beyonce) the public preference is for a male driven festival lineup.

With that in mind, let’s look at the current situation in Norway.  Of the acts that have dominated the Norwegian music charts over the past twelve months, the handful of indigenous artists have either been female – Aurora, Frokedal, Astrid S, Susanna Sundfor, Sigrid, Jenny Hval (the latter was the winner of the Phonofile Nordic Music Prize 2016 for her stunning album Blood Bitch) – or female centric – Highasakite, Slotface.  Norwegian, indeed most Scandi music festivals, are crammed with female talent – one look at the Trondheim Calling, by:Larm & Oya programmes for the past few years will tell you all you need to know about Nordic gender balance.  Female headliners – not a problem.

So, who are the special ones? The female chosen few who’ve managed to secure much sought after places in the ranks of the festival lineup elite.

FORBIDDEN FRUIT (3-5 June, RH Kilmainham) : PROMOTERS, POD – TOTAL ACTS 25, OF WHICH FEMALE 4 — 16%

So far, of the acts announced for FF only 4 – yes FOUR – are female and/or have core female members.  Now four isn’t bad, in comparison with last year’s two, we say without an ounce of sarcasm.  In fact yoy FF seem to be actually doubling their female constituent parts, that number rising from 1 to 2 to 4, so that next year we should expect a ‘great eight’, no?

The Forbidden Fruit Four are – Lisa Hannigan, The Staves, Peggy Gou and Nao.  Not a sniff of female in the headliners Orbital, Aphex Twin, Bon Iver or even amongst the top support acts, Booka Shade, Nicolas Jaar, Flying Lotus.  Hannigan is as good as it gets in the ‘chain of command’.

LONGITUDE (14-16 July, Marlay Park) : PROMOTERS, MCD – TOTAL ACTS 47, OF WHICH FEMALE 12 — 25%

The ‘penthouse’ at Longitude is ‘so macho’ as to be disquieting where the top four tiers are filled solely by male acts.  Headliners include Stormzy, The Weeknd and Mumford & Sons, none with so much as a feminine squeak.  Interestingly, The Weeknd’s other half, Selena Gomez, has the globe’s biggest social media following, clocking up a gargantuan 119m followers.

Be that as it may, here are the results of the Longitude jury – Jorja Smith, Dua Lipa, HVOB, Karen Elson, Lucy Rose, Bitch Falcon, Raye, Sunflower Bean, Aine Cahill, Her, Ray Blk and Norwegian newbie Sigrid.  This year’s distinguished dozen represents a 140% uplift on the 2016 lineup which featured a measly five female artists.  Notwithstanding the large % increase, the figure itself remains paltry at best.

ELECTRIC PICNIC (1-3 Sept, Stradbally) : PROMOTERS, FESTIVAL REPUBLIC – TOTAL ACTS 42, OF WHICH FEMALE 14 — 33%

Top of the Festival Pops, Electric Picnic also tops all others when it comes to female inclusion – but hardly by a noteworthy margin.  Featuring 14 female artists out of a possible 42 acts lined up to play their main stage plus Other Voices, EP2017 is still lagging way behind the national male:female ratios or Scandi fest averages.

Strip out the male centric acts and you’re left with a female inclusive lineup that looks as follows – The XX, Chaka Chkan, London Grammar, Annie Mac, The Pretenders, Phantogram, All We Are, Kelly Lee Owens, Goat Girl; [Other Voices] Saint Sister, Odetta Hartman, Loah, Katie Laffan, Soule.

Big up to EP for the number of Irish females included in this year’s mix but by the same token, a festival as ginormous and important as EP that prides itself as being a leader in terms of diversity and eclecticism should surely, be leading the way in terms of gender parity.  Kudos for having The XX and Chaka Khan on the top rungs of the lineup ladder, but they still only make up 1/3 of the overal top 6 acts featured in this year’s programme.

While it would be easy to lay the blame at the feet of the ticket buying public, frankly in this day and age, that age-old excuse doesn’t quite cut it any longer.  The fact is that in the industry itself there are several women at the top of their game – Jo Whiley, Jenny Greene, Annie Mac, Edith Bowman. In addition, there is a large cohort of female artists dominating music on a global scale – Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Adele, Selena Gomez, Sia, Carrie Underwood – all of whom are listed in the Top 30 best selling music artists of 2016.  So, saying that women no longer ‘own it’ in a male-dominated industry, is quite frankly, bull.

In an age where women’s voices are getting louder AND being heard, what is it about the Irish Festival scene that appears to be turning both a blind eye and deaf ear to the growing trend of peer to peer, gender to gender equality within the universal music industry.  Frankly Ireland, it’s not good enough.  If we can look to Scandinavia as role models for matters of health and education, and if we are happy to be lead by their example, then similarly we can follow in their footsteps when it comes to equality of status, positioning and recompense when it comes to all things music.

The current trend won’t undergo any seismic shift unless bookers and promoters ‘woman up’ and start putting some serious effort into including more female artists in the lineups of our biggest festivals.  Come on Ireland! Let’s starting putting the ‘equality’ into the gender equality we speak so much of! As the song goes, let’s get the balance right.

To celebrate some of the female acts playing this Summer’s Irish Festivals, we’ve run up a Females for Festivals playlist over on Spotify! Enjoy!!

Lounging At Longitude, Spending The Weeknd at Marlay!

Marlay Park based Longitude Festival has just released its day-by-day lineup. In addition its promoters have also announced a further twenty-two acts.

With the countdown to the mid-Summer festival well and truly under way, promoters MCD have published the day-by-day breakdown, as well as introducing a host of new names to the bill, some of which our readers will be well and truly familiar with –

  • Sigrid
  • Aine Cahill
  • Dermot Kennedy
  • Gucci Mane
  • G-Eazy
  • Young Thug
  • Leaon Bridges
  • The Martinez Brothers
  • Earl Sweatshirt
  • JP Cooper
  • Mick Jenkins
  • Dave
  • Ray BLK
  • Johnny Flynn and The Sussex Witt
  • Sunflower Bean
  • Palace
  • Youngr
  • HVOB and Winston Maeshall
  • Gill Landry
  • Karen Elson
  • Bitch Falcon
  • Wild Youth

Youngster Sigrid is the latest Norwegian pop sensation whose fiery vocal and feisty lyrics have set media tongues wagging not just across Europe but as far away as SXSW where she performed earlier this year. Dermot Kennedy and Aine Cahill, both of whom already have a huge following in Ireland and Britain, are likewise following suit in establishing their ‘rep’ Stateside.

This year’s Longitude lineup features several big ticket names including Stormzy, The Weeknd and Mumford & Sons. Other well known acts performing include Irish duo Picture This (who have a new single Never Changes out on 9th May!), Leon Bridges, Jack Garratt, Glass Animals (whose latest album I reviewed) and the divine Lucy Rose whose past collaborations have included the Manic Street Preachers.

To whet your appetite I’ve run up a tasty playlist which you’ll find below, featuring some of the many artists who’ll be rocking up to Marlay Park in July.  Longitude takes place in Dublin’s Marlay Park on the weekend of 14th – 16th July, 2017.

Weekend tickets €189.50 / Two Day Tickets: €129.50 / Day tickets €69.50 
are available from Ticketmaster.

Jess Glynne & Tom Jones Lead Line-Up For Punchestown 2017

With a stellar line up of stars from every walk of music life, cast across several generations, this year’s Punchestown Music Festival looks set to prove an even more popular draw than its 2016 predecessor.

Running over 29th and 30th July, the two day festival will feature in its line up stars from the ‘60s through to today including Tom Jones, Deacon Blue, All Saints, Lightning Seeds and Jess Glynne.

HRH Tom Jones is a legend in his own musical lifetime. Purveyor of swoon-inducing hits such as ‘Delilah‘ and the Prince cover ‘Kiss’, the Welsh vocal powerhouse is also one of the stars of UK TV hit show ‘The Voice’. Jones has sat in the judging hot-seat since the show’s 2012 inception, except for the 2016 series when he took time out after the death of his beloved wife Melinda.

Scots clan, Deacon Blue, were best of indie breed back in the mid-80s, spinning hit after Caledonian hit with songs like ‘Real Gone Kid’, ‘Wages Day’ and ‘Your Town’. Recently reforming as a four-piece for a much welcomed comeback tour, the pop-rock band have gone on to perform at the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony, with 2016 seeing the release of a new album entitled ‘Believers’.

For those willing to take a walk on the wild, whacky or vintage sides, there’s a multitude from which to choose.  Boney Daddy Cool’ M (don’t tell your mother), Smokie of (WTFis) ‘Alice’ fame, ‘a little bit more’ with Dr Hook, and for anyone of a certain age who was swinging around venues like Dublin’s Olympia in the early ‘90s, there’s super ABBA tribute group, Bjorn Again. 

Catering to the younger gen in the crowds will be R&B soul-pop performer Jess Glynne, who coincidentally turned down an offer to join Sir Tom on the Voice judging panel.  The singer has a string of #1s to her name while her track Take Me Home, which you can stream below, was the official Children In Need charity single 2016.

Lastly, for those with a predilection for making random hand signals whilst disco dancing dressed up as a traffic light, there’s the Village People, who may or may not have upgraded to a condo from their 1970’s base in NYC’s ‘YMCA’.

Tickets for MCD’s Punchestown Music Festival will go on sale through various Ticketmaster outlets at 9am on Friday 31st March 2017, www.ticketmaster.ie

Day tickets will cost €69.50 inclusive of booking fee, while Two Day tickets will set you back €129.00.

 

Phonofile Nordic Music Prize Nominees Announced

Phonofile Nordic Music Prize
Phonofile Nordic Music Prize

The dozen nominees for the 2016 Phonofile Nordic Music Prize have been announced; they make for quite the eclectic list!

The nominees, whose music crosses the broadest of spectrums, hail from all five countries that make up the Nordic region, with each country getting equal weighting.  Established in 2010, the prize is awarded annually for that album which the judging panel deems best of year.  Previous winners include Mirel Wagner (FI), First Aid Kit (SE) and most recently Band of Gold (No).

The Nordic jury responsible for selecting the shortlist is made up of a cohort of industry heavyweights whilst the overall winner and commendations are chosen by an international panel including the BBC’s Stuart Maconie and Welsh journalist and Guardian music critic Jude Rodgers.

The artists nominated for the Phonofile Nordic Music Prize are:-

Denmark – CTM, Bisse, Værket

Iceland – Jóhann Jóhannsson, Skúli Sverrisson

Finland – Oranssi Pazuzu, The Hearing, Mikko Joensuu

Norway – Jenny Hval, Nosizwe

Sweden – Kornél Kovács, Cherrie

CTM Suite for a Young Girl
CTM Suite for a Young Girl

The shortlist is something of a spaghetti Bolognese the main ingredient of which appears to be diversity.  Encompassing shots of midnight metal and blasts of underground garage beats, the nominated albums run the gamut of musical taste.

From Jóhannsson’s cinematic widescreen soundscapes which could so easily have been recorded at the bottom of the coldest, darkest oceans, to Pazuzu’s compelling drone through Nosizwe’s idiosyncratic soul-style on the raw and unorthodox, ‘In Fragments’, to any newcomer to Nordic music, this multi-cultural medley is quite the Pandora’s box.  A box whose treasures once released, should be slowly savoured and enjoyed.

For this reviewer, my money is on either Iceland or Denmark to take this year’s prize – one isn’t prepared to take that any further; some impartiality is required.

And while one might have individual grievances about those Nordic albums not included, it must be said that all of the albums nominated are more than worthy of their place on this list.

An award ceremony to announce the winner of the Phonofile Nordic Music Prize, run in association with By:Larm, Music Norway and GramArtist Organisasjonen, will be held in Oslo on Thursday 2nd March, 2017, during the By:Larm festival.  You’ll find a full Spotify playlist featuring chosen tracks from the nominated albums below.

Pom Poko – Unleash New Single Ahead of Trondheim Calling & Cruise Into Urort Final!

Pom Poko Urortfinalen 2017
Pom Poko Urortfinalen 2017

Norwegian modernist collective Pom Poko have just released their third single ‘It’s a Trap’ accompanied by an impressive avant-garde ‘toon visual, the work of Olav Fangel Jamtveit, brother of the band’s vocalist, Ragnhild FJ.

A song about release and arrival, letting go to achieve self-awareness, ‘It’s a Trap’ is a quirky, punchy little sherbet that fizzes with pops of 90’s post-punk with more than a hint of glam psych.  Without doubt the track benefits from the experimental nous and masterly hand of Highasakite‘s Kristoffer Lo, a man who knows his way around more than a few instruments.  Adding his trademark guitar, brass and a.n.other sounds to the mix, Lo has taken Pom Poko’s sound in a more experimental and diverse direction, giving the original live jam the same depth and texture he brings to all his collaborations.

While the instrumental backdrop has some sharp edges, it is chasmed by sufficient wide spaces to counter-balance the intensity. As usual, vocal duties of the infinitely starlit variety are carried off with effortless ease by Ragnhild Fangel Jamtveit and if her previous live vocal performances are the benchmark to go by, Pom Poko’s two gigs at Trondheim Calling should be something else and then some more!  During TC the band will also perform a live sesh for P3’s Ruben.  Unfortunately for me it’s happening on the Wednesday, ahead of my arrival ‘on scene’.

In addition to their saffron shot nocturnal cartoon visual accompaniment, Pom Poko have adorned their single with the cutest, candy-coloured artwork by Norwegian illustrator Erlend Peder which you can see here!  The floral bedecked character is as yet to be identified!

Illustration Erlend Peder
Illustration Erlend Peder

In other news, Pom Poko have made it to the Urort Final 2017 (a Norwegian national award for promising emerging artists); if you like what you hear, you can vote for Pom Poko to win this prestigious award, here. #doit

It is a testament to their punky quirkiness that Pom Poko give their facebook page “unofficial status” – hook up with it here to touch base with the band and keep up to speed with their lives at Trondheim Calling and their Urort escapades!

The future is definitely as bright as the characters in their ‘It’s a Trap’ video for this effervescent four-piece – I hope you’ll join me in wishing them all the luck in the world – for Trondheim Calling, for Urort and we-ell, for the future.

‘It’s a Trap’ is available now via Phonofile – http://phonofile.link/its-a-trap  .  Watch the captivating fam-made visual here.

A Dozen Diamonds That Gave A Shine To An Otherwise Murky 2016

Julia Holter

Julia Holter

Well here we are, on the cusp of yet another new year.  Who’d have guessed that as we stumbled unsteadily in a post-Christmas toxic daze towards 2016 that it would prove to be one of the murkiest, most unsettling and quite frankly disturbing of years.  One can only hope, and there is always hope, that this coming year will bring gladder tidings and a lot more joy than its predecessor.

Musically, 2016 had many, many highs.  It also shared several heartbreaking lows not least amongst which were the untimely deaths of Prince, George Michael and David Bowie – three of the rather large cohort of celebrities and legends who passed away in this year of darkness.  While those legends who died were predominantly male, much of this year’s sparkle mainly came from the female stars of the music world.  Lady GaGa, Beyonce, Marissa Nadler, Taylor Swift, Julia Holter … just some of the big female names that featured in the 2016 musical calendar.

Not surprisingly, some of them feature in my Dozen Diamonds of 2016 – a playlist of songs by international artists, with a select contribution from our part-time contributor, Eddie Sweetman.  Interestingly, the two artists selected for inclusion by Sweets are both male, while mine are predominantly female. Those choices themselves would probably make for an interesting case-study!

So which songs, by which artists made it into our top twelve, and why?

12. Margaret Glaspy – Pins and Needles (USA)

Strong, feisty country tinged indie with an edge.  There’s a waft of punk attitude blowing through the gritty melody, and more than a hint of steely determination in the ballsy lyrics.  The right side of rock for my tastes; tastes which I seem to share with most of BBC Introducing, BBC6 Music and BBC 1 … not a bad benchmark. Classy, savvy, strong, energised sounds from a lady who’s going places.

11. Birdy – Wild Horses (UK)

Twilit voiced, inspired poet and musical prodigy, Jasmine Lucilla Elizabeth Jennifer van den Bogaerde aka Birdy, has seen her star rise, and rise, and explode.  World class productions are now the order of the day but Birdy still holds on to the spiritual and emotional qualities so inherent in her earlier more gauche works.  With a vocal range that can scale mountainous heights and scrummage fireplace ashes, this super-talented musician could craft a song from the nothingness of a silken spiderweb and make it a masterclass in songwriting and performance.

Her 2016 album, ‘Beautiful Lies’ was a gift to the world – a finer, more emotive, and splendid talent you will struggle to find, and with even greater things sure to come, the future is “global” for this little songbird.

10. The Last Shadow Puppets – Les Cactus (UK)

Like them or loathe them TLSP are nothing if not entertaining. Seeing them live in Oslo was akin to watching a human firework display crossed with the energiser bunny thrice spliced with Poitin.  A pair of musicians who have most certainly put the roll back into rock, Turner & Kane may take the music seriously, but the live performances are treated more like a fun ride on the amusements. Never ones to shy away from taking the piss out of themselves, the video for their cover of ‘Les Cactus’, is a classic example of TLSP ‘on form’. As a cover, it pales in comparison to the Jacques Dutronc original, but as a piece of entertainment, it doesn’t fall short.

9.  Ed Harcourt – Occupational Hazard (UK)

Intense, moody, brooding, cavernous, blazing, ferocious – just some of the words I would use to describe Ed Harcout’s 2016 scorcher of an album, ‘Furnaces’, every pun intended.  One of the standouts LP releases of the year, ‘Furnaces’ reached out to and drew into its fold, a broader, more diverse audience than any of the Englishman’s albums had hitherto succeeded in doing.  I was drawn hook, line and sinker to this track because of the wolverine intensity of the guitar sequences and brutal rawness of the lyrics, the combination of which is addictive.  Brutal ingenuity at its bloody finest.

8. Radiohead – Burn the Witch (UK)

The first of two entries from the worlds greatest band EVER, ‘Burn the Witch’ was one of a pair of picks by sometime contributor Eddie Sweetman.  In his words, “incisive, relevant an astonishing comeback and the highlight in my opinion of the album.”  Need we say more?

7.  Amber Arcades – Fading Lines (NL)

What can I say.  I fell in love with this song on first play.  Like a 21st century incarnation of The Cardigans,  Annelotte de Graaf has all the dreamy deliciousness of that Nina Persson vocal, along with plenty of her antecedents uber Nordic cool!  Sexy, edgy, inviting indie-pop with a swirl of darkness running across its shiny exterior.

6. David Bowie – I Can’t Give Everything Away (UK)

The second of Mr Sweets’ picks, and a poignant one at that.  ‘Blackstar’ was a huge favourite amongst the bloggerati and a fitting finale from a gifted man, musician, artist, performer & more, who was truly one of a kind.  On his selection of this particular track Eddie explains: “This was the last track Bowie ever released. Poignant and delicate. Even more so now that we know he was aware he was dying.”  A fitting tribute I think you’ll agree.

5. Marissa Nadler – The Best You Ever Had (USA)

Sadly sickness struck (again) when Marissa Nadler came to town … “out damn ‘germ’ out I say” said I, alas to no avail.  Laid low, my chance to see this bewitching enchantress weave her goth clothed spells was gone in the blink of 24 hours (the length of time it takes me to go from apparently healthy to woefully ill).  I had sped towards Nadler like a bee to honey on the recommendation of my ‘pen as sword’ icon, tQ scrivener John Doran, who had bade me not to miss her more than magical live performance.  Instead, I’ve had to make do with looping replays of her album, ‘Bury Your Name’ from which this is my stand out track. Delish!

4. Julia Jacklin – Coming of Age (Aus)

The new age Little Miss Firecracker of country-grunge hits Dublin at the end of February 2017 and nothing, I mean NOTHING will stop, hinder or hamper my path to Whelans! Elbows at the ready, that space up the front is mine. Part of that new wave of punky twang that includes fellow upcoming songstrel Margaret Glaspy, Julia Jacklin takes smartly honed real-life lyrics and sandwiches them between slices of heaving melodies chock full of punchy guitars layered over a tightly woven R/S.  The result is impossible to resist infectious country stained down and dirty pop. Only a fool would miss the chance to see this raw and rousing talent shine live!

3. Radiohead – Identikit (UK)

2016 saw the arrival of what was possibly the most awaited album for years.  ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ didn’t disappoint.  This piece of classic Radiohead was sheer musical perfection packed with all the innovative ingredients that have made this quintet the consummate musical giants that they are.  And while most blogs will have opted for either of the two singles, this off-kilter piece of jazz infused experimental alt transports me back to the halcyon days of ‘Kid A’.  With its lyrical nods to Murakami’s 1Q84 (there was a similar intertwine between ‘Kid A’ and Kafka on the Shore), haunting interludes from vocal ghosts, and natty, spacious percussion Identikit is the understated star in this a stellar compilation.

2. Julia Holter – Lucette Stranded on the Island (USA)

Yeah, yeah I know.  The album was released in 2015.  But for me 2016 was all about Julia Holter.  Having failed to make her Dublin concert earlier in the year, one of the main catalysts for my travelling to Oya in Oslo, was the chance to make up for that lost experience.  While thirty minutes was far too short to soak up the musical enchantment magicked by an artist of Holter’s calibre, as luck would have it, Julia returned to Dublin in November and gave, what was for me and the several hundred other spellbound concert-goers in Vicar Street, the live performance of the year.  Compelling, captivating, magical, powerful, innovative – Julia Holter ranks as one of the most outstanding of contemporary female artists. This ingenious track just goes to prove it.

1. Weyes Blood – Generation Why (USA)

Not since hearing Dusty Springfield sing ‘The Look of Love’ have I come across another female vocal that radiates such warmth and richness, with a darkness edged with light. A voice with a true and unfaltering power cloaked in a sheath of softness like an iron fist in a velvet glove.  Not until that is, I heard the voice of Natalie Mering, the enigmatic talent behind music project, Weyes Blood. ‘Generation Why’, from the album ‘Front Row Seat To Earth’, is lyrically inspired and musically fresh, and while it contains many of the default elements of a classic pop song, it is the shades of daring alien electronica and the edgy undertones to words sung with angelic clarity that take this song to altogether another level.

The inclusion of so many American artists reflects the shifting sands of my musical tastes during 2016.  For me personally, this has been quite a remarkable year in terms of the quality and diversity of the music that’s been released.  And while the likes of Bieber, Rihanna and A-Z of Hip Hop may dominate the charts, the greater wealth lies in those treasures which remain beloved of those worthier barometers of musical greatness – The Guardian Culture, DiS and my personal fave, The Quietus.

I’ll leave you with a Spotify list of the 12 tracks featured in this sparkling retrospective … and hope you enjoy them as much as both Eddie and I have done.  May 2017 bring more shimmering gems to brighten up our sometimes more than mundane lives!

HWCH Unveils Its Hot 100 (ish)

hwch social

Irish music festival Hard Working Class Heroes has unveiled the ‘shortlist’ of 100+ acts (there’s actually 105) that made the final cut for its now annual industry convention and new music showcase.

Whittled down from a longlist of 700 names, the A-Z of who’s new in Irish music was selected by a panel of judges comprising national and international industry names.

Running from Thurs 6th to Sat 8th of October across a plethora of Dublin venues including hotspots Odessa and The Chocolate Factory, the festival-cum-networking event will see tech meet music meet business in both formal and inform settings over its three day span.

In addition, HWCH has announced its inaugural Conor Walsh Memorial Bursary, in honour of the Swinford musician who tragically died earlier this year.  The task of choosing “the act who most embodies Conor’s talent and bravery among their number” will be afforded to the participating centum, whose votes will determine the act to be awarded the €2,500 bursary, which will fund recording or touring costs.

Some of the names to make the HWCH hot one hundred are Wyvern Lingo, Talos, Bitch Falcon, Evvol and PALE RIVERS.  Check out the full line up here.

Tickets for HWCH are on sale via DICE.FM (mobile app), with costs broken down as follows:

Weekend Tickets €45.00, Nightly Tickets €20, Individual Venue Tickets €10

Øyafestivalen – The KlubbØya Live Review

Panda Panda Subscene KlubbOya 2016
Panda Panda Subscene KlubbØya 2016

Where the roving reporter chronicles their Øya pub club-crawl and all that it entailed!

O is for Øya, Oslo and Oh My God! How Much? (no wonder the Norwegians continuously offer up profuse “tusen, tusen takks” when they’re reeling in your hard grafted tusen, tusen krone!).

This Øya trip raised the ‘bar’ to an all time Gin og Tonic high, as we hit new heights both physically and financially in the Radisson Sky Bar.  Beautiful view! ‘Twud want to be at 135 NOK or 15 euro a hit and not even a complementary bar snack in sight!

Anyway, I deviate.

Oslo is home to a musicfest called Øyafestivalen, an annual shindig held early to mid August when the winds are warm, the sun is high, the skies are blue … needle-vinyl-scratch!  Øya is held every August when you’d think the weather would be pretty clement with a day-glo summery vibe, yes? #Computersaysno!

Foto Isak Froseth for Oya Official
Foto Isak Froseth for Oya Official

I arrived in Oslo on the afternoon of the fest-opener, Klubbdagen, to be greeted by the inclement glumness of grey skies and drip drop showers.  Oh well, says I, the rain can’t get you indoors and indeed it couldn’t as I kicked off my evening’s musical ramble at the Verkstedet venue, having worked out my bearings sans compass but with a lot of inky arrows dotted along my brand-Øya map!

Due to the compression of so many bands into a super short space in time, I opted to see just four acts, with a possible fifth depending on how both evening and bod went.  First up out of the traps was Ludvig Moon, a band with more members than The Specials, or so it seemed as they struggled to find ‘personal space’ on the tiniest of stages in an equally ’boutique’ venue resulting in a band-member overflow spilling out onto the venue floor.

Comprised of Anders (vox/guitar), Ole T (keys), Herman (guitar), Kristofer (drums), Andreas (bass), and Lydia (vox/guitar), Ludvig Moon are still a very young band despite their five years mileage on the clock. Signed to Riot Factory, their releases have been limited to an eponymous EP (of uncertain release geography) and this year’s smash single, ‘Cult Baby‘ whose epicness was drooled over by the likes of Best Fit.

Ludvig Moon Verkstedet Oya 2016
Ludvig Moon Verkstedet Oya 2016

Straight up … Ludvig Moon are a very good band live.  The timbre of the vocals and the instrumentation is pretty much studio to stage without too much of a shift.

On the night though, there was something of a disconnect, as faint as a skipped heartbeat, between both vocalists which, unfortunately, ran the first five minutes of the set ragged.  However, this is nothing that more live gigging and a bit more practice shouldn’t iron out.  Hey even Chris Martin had a total “slam the brakes, what key am I supposed to be in?” moment at Glastonbury for goodness sake!

Live syncing is never easy and I just felt that their nerves got the better of them, but once they settled, it all flowed, and flowed well, so much so in fact that a  30minute cut off did them an huge injustice, as they were just beginning to blossom when their moment in the sun came to a hard stop.

Instrumentally Ludvig Moon are solid, their only downfall is the inexperience of youth.  Musically, they are already there…performance-wise, they are within touching distance of reaching their stride.

One of the songs on their setlist was ‘Swim Dream’.  Obviously a huge fan favourite it went down a storm, and if you peruse this live ‘garden edition’ you’ll understand why!

**If you’re really observant you’ll spot a rogue escapee from Dråpe … one whom I keep running into ’round and around’ Norway’s hotspots!

Next!

To be honest, Chain Wallet were a band I knew very little about before seeing them in Oslo.  Made up of Stian Iversen, Christian Line and Frode Boris (with Marius Erster Bergesen, Adrian Søgnen & Lars Finborud joining live) they hail from that western hub of Norwegian music, Bergen, birthplace of many of Norway’s musical elite including Susanne Sundfor and Anne Lise Frøkedal to name but a few.

Having to glide at high speed down Torgatta from Verkstedet to Internasjonalen caused me to miss their kick off.  Arriving at the venue, it was apparent that they were already full steam ahead and, so was the beyond capacity throng.  The hyped up audience was packed so tightly there was literally no room to move.

There was a particularly good reason that such an huge crowd pitched up; Chain Wallet are incredibly good, I mean amazingly superb, live.  Tearing the varnish off the wood and the paint off the ceilings kinda good.

Chain Wallet Photo by Synne Sofi Bårdsdatter Bønes
Chain Wallet Photo by Synne Sofi Bårdsdatter Bønes

Chain Wallet’s music is a modern mirror of the type of 80’s chart-busting sophisticated pop sounds that the likes of Prefab Sprout and Deacon Blue used to produce so well. Enigmatic, tuneful, animated, their music gently draws you into its feelgood soundscape and notwithstanding a faint hint of melancholy drifting around the edges of its melodies, Chain Wallet’s portfolio is pure pop perfection.

Of the three bands I saw perform on the club-night, Chain Wallet’s set was the most cohesive, had the strongest sound and was the most perfectly synchronised.

With a pretty strong line in guitars, confident yet warmly inviting vocals and an ‘in total harmony’ RS, Chain Wallet’s self-assured translation of their superior pop compositions from record to live is pretty faultless.

The band’s eponymous debut album will be released via Jansen Plateproduksjon on 7th October, but is available to pre-order now – http://www.jansenplateproduksjon.tigernet.no/artist/17373–chain-wallet.

You need to be ALL OVER IT!!  (I’m soooo looking forward to reviewing it!!!). 

Chain Wallet wrapped their set with this coolness…get down with it.

Fangirling alert!

If watching Chain Wallet gave me palpitations, standing in front of the magical Hanne Kolstø as she performed a tranche of her greatest hits live brought me to another plane.  I think I reached that nirvana musical folks say they strive for – transcendence.

I had waited so long to see this artist play live, that it was with a lot of nerves and a much bated breath I anxiously waited for her to take to the stage.  Disappoint, she did not. Far from it!

If anything, Kolstø’s performance was the best of the night, and certainly one of the highlights of the festival in toto. (so much so that it’s going to get its own individual review)

Internas Oslo
Hanne Live at Internasjonalen Aug 2016

 

Hanne’s music is existential indie-pop: honest songs brought to life by intuitive, adept musicianship and produced with class and finesse.  Exceptional is probably the word that springs to mind!

Sublime, fiery, feisty, evocative, intense, passionate, Hanne Kolstø gave this performance her all, and then some, and still had fuel in the tank for more at the close.  The audience roared and so did I…  Kolstø the consummate performer, with a pitch perfect faultless delivery, a choir of instruments singing in unison, she alone made the effort of travelling to Oslo worthwhile.

‘One Plus +’ was one of my favourite songs before seeing Hanne Kolstø play KlubbØya.  It lived up to the live performance and my heightened expectations.

Riding high on the crest of a musical wave I wasn’t long being flushed back down to earth by the deluge of rain in which we had to walk to our next destination- Subscene – to check out Trondheim troupe, Panda Panda.

Oh what an unfortunate choice of venue…(if it was their choice, I’m unsure).  Too stark, too big, Subscene is seriously lacking furnishings, adornment and most importantly, atmosphere.  It was dead, and nothing Panda Panda could do, play or sing was ever going to change that fact.

I first saw Panda*2 perform live up in Blaest in Trondheim, during the annual TC music festival.  They played the opening night to a huge and enthusiastic crowd and their performance was beyond adrenalin on steroids good.  They were stellar; animated, enthusiastic, and in the zone.  They were lit & fired up like they’d been plugged into the Norwegian grid.

While they tried to convey the same verve and, gain the same audience rapport in Oslo that they’d had in Trondheim, sadly it just didn’t happen.  Whether through rain-soaked tiredness, or feeling the flatness of the venue, the crowd just ‘weren’t there’.

Herman Wildhagen, Photo from PP FB page
Herman Wildhagen, Photo from PP FB page

Which was a shame, because on balance, Panda Panda’s performance was pretty good, and at times, quite amazing.

They mixed it up, crossing some untried newbies with more tried and tested knockouts such as ‘New Friends’.  When they got everything right, it was phenomenal, but there were moments when quite frankly the guitars and drums hit a level beyond ‘noise’ that completely drowned out the lead vocal.

Ragnhild Jamtveit has such a light pitch to her very pure vocal that taking the ‘fuzz’ beyond a certain decibel level is the equivalent of hitting the mute button on her mic.

I genuinely like, admire and am a fan of Panda Panda, and, sincerely want them to do well.  But until they tighten up their on-stage sound they are at serious risk of doing a huge disservice, not just to themselves, but to their supersonic songs!

That said they, especially Jamtveit and drummer Oddbjørn Sponås, totally killed their cover of Abba’s, ‘The Winner Takes It All’.  While the former has sufficient vocal reach and nuance to both carry and emotionally nail this song, the latter is pretty much given free rein to let loose and show his wares, which he did on the night with dynamic aplomb.

With my ears fuzzed, and my pockets a lot lighter than when I set out, I trudged back to my hotel through the dark, dank streets of a not-so-summery Oslo night.  Slightly disappointed, I wasn’t deflated, confident in the knowledge that Panda Panda, who are blessed with talent in copious bucket-loads, are capable of so much more.

This is a band who write blisteringly good songs, which they play with exceptional musical ability, and whose lyrics are teased and translated with intuitive nuance and superb vocal sync and control.  To prove that point, I’ll leave you with an insight into how good Panda Panda can be live.