Monday, 11 April 2016

track of the week ~ bry ~ 'don't go alone'

For fans of⁞► Snow Patrol, The Killers
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As one of the pioneering Youtube musicians of the 21st Century, Brian 'Bry' O'Reilly has built a mammoth fanbase out of nothing more than a video camera and raw charisma. Now hurtling out of cyberspace and into the real world, the Irish songwriter's debut album is due out this year, thus putting the finishing touches to an extraordinary first chapter to the Dubliner's musical career.

'Don't Go Alone' is the first single to be taken from an album a long time in the making. Having traveled the globe with an acoustic in hand, it's fair to say that Bry has more than a few stories to tell; and here we see him again on the backfoot, holding on to a reality he can't change, to a moment slipping into the past.

 After so many years as a lone troubadour, it would be fair to expect a few teething problems with his new full band set-up, but thankfully Bry's freshly crafted stadium sound is perfectly suited to this new line-up. 'Don't Go  Alone's pulsating drum beats and subtle keys mark a big departure from his earlier work, (with the exception perhaps of the brilliant 'Your Life Over Mine') but elements still remain. The falsetto which runs so smoothly in the chorus, that unmistakable Irish lilt and the open fragility which saw an army of internet followers fall in love with him.

As a tune, 'Don't Go Alone' sounds like a set closer.  Hook filled verses, a sing along chorus and a big production from Greg Wells. Listen carefully to the outro and you'll hear elements of the Wells produced twenty one pilots record 'Vessel', with 'Ode To Sleep's cheerier moments being the most obvious reference point.

Recording his debut album in LA may be the most rock 'n' roll thing Bry has accomplished in his career so far, but with each new stepping stone comes the recurring feeling that he'd probably rather be at home, watching Harry Potter with his wife; he might just wait until festival season is over first, though.

Taylor Johnson

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

ep review ~ 'dusk and dawn' ~ hurdles

For fans of⁞► Two Door Cinema Club, Chic, Peace
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The slick, infectious indie pop which first saw Hurdles slide into our stream of  consciousness back in 2012 has remained at the core of their sound, even if it has experienced a face-lift or two along the way. New EP 'Dusk & Dawn' has the look and feel of a band ready to take on the next stage of their musical careers.

Catchy opener (they always start strong!) 'Closer' offers a brief glimpse back into their more guitar centered past, before those Summer-night synth's get their first outing of the record. It's a carefully crafted sound, each layer more intricate than the last. When it all comes together, as it so often does throughout 'Dusk & Dawn', you begin to feel that this is the sound Hurdles have always been building towards. 

Those richly textured indie-pop riffs perhaps work best on the title track, sounding straight out of Bombay Bicycle Club's 'So Long, See You Tomorrow'. 'Wake' too, sounds smooth and natural, even with it's new found level of groove. 

Deliberate or not, 'Dusk & Dawn' feels like a chronological guide to Hurdles history, building to it's crescendo, the mammoth 'France'.  First debuted on the Oh Yeah Centre's 'Scratch My Progress' talent program/label, this dancey single has already notched up nearly 30,000 soundcloud plays, a remarkable amount for any young band. From the first listen 'France' remains firmly implanted in your head and trust us, it will stay there. It may not have the 'indie-upstart' charm of earlier singles  'Kaleidoscope', or 'Pictures', but it is clear that this is not quite the same band anymore.

A mature, confident release from a band still made for the festival circuit and long, hot Summers.

Taylor Johnson

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

single review ~ 'young hearts' ~ new atlas

New Atlas
For fans of⁞► The 1975, Barcelona, Swim Deep

It may be a bit premature to proclaim 'Young Hearts', the debut single from Armagh-born, Liverpool-based, two piece New Atlas, the best they've ever done. As despite their new image, new colour scheme and bold new sound, the emotive-pop noise of guitarist/frontman Eoghan O'Hagan and pianist Luc McParland is not an entirely new prospect. Indeed, under previous moniker 'His New Atlas', the lads mournful ballads marked them out as one of this countries most promising young outfits. but all things must change and along with the haircuts, so has the sound.

Part of what made 'His New Atlas' so enchanting was O'Hagan's palpable pain behind the microphone. Songs like 'His Young' dragged you into the songwriters troubled mind, and often left you there long after he'd left the stage. 'Young Hearts' manages to convey that same emotion, but in very different ways. If 'His New Atlas' led you into the dark, 'New Atlas' feels like an escape back into the light.

Shimmering synth work from McParland paints 'Young Hearts' dreamy pop landscape, whilst his bandmate pulls another big chorus out of nowhere. This was par for the course on his slower work, but bringing out the big guns on a single like this is a totally different matter all together. They nail it here.

For all of 'Young Hearts' big production and instant melody, there remains some of the shadows from his previous work. 'If my Mother and Father had stayed together, maybe we could have too...", suggesting that we won't be hearing them cover 'Love Me Do' anytime soon.

A bold new direction, illustrative pop-critiques on the human condition and a festival worthy chorus. A certain Matty Healy may well approve. Extremely promising.

Taylor Johnson

Monday, 29 February 2016

gig review ~ blackstaff music presents... fionn crossan, search party, fox colony & red house

This week our reporter Connor Martin headed down to Alexander's Bar, Lisburn, to check out the latest Blackstaff Promotions  showcase...

On a blustery night here in Lisburn opening act Red House continued their upward trajectory  with an electric set. Their first song was a new one, 'Scorpion Woman', but it immediately slotted in with their growing body of original material. The standard of songwriting and musicianship in this band continues to amaze, particularly considering their age. 

I have to say, despite a rather subdued crowd, I moshed myself silly, only enhancing this young band's reputation for producing a fun, energetic live show. The sheer joy of making music shines through in every note they play. Second on the bill were Fox Colony, a three piece from Belfast. These relative newcomers impressed with their hooky and atmospheric pop punk. Like Modern Baseball, their songs seem to create a little world of fuzzy guitars, clattering drums and an angsty solidarity for the audience to really get in to.

Highlight of the set came through debut single 'The Weekend'. I look forward to seeing what happens as this band continues to grow in confidence... there is so much promise here!

Next up was punk-new comers Search Party. Lead singer Sean McDonnell broke a string during the first song from sheer enthusiasm. This band (who have just released the excellent EP 'Life is Art') have improved leaps and bounds since I last saw them. They are tighter, faster, leaner. Sean's voice has found new power, and new lead guitarist Ethan Murphy consistently manages to push things further than before. 

Bass player Ryan Pendleton has also come on, contributing a rock solid low end thump, particularly evident on the awesome 'Coming Alive'. Special mention must go, however, to drummer David Malone. A lesser musician might have phoned in such a sparsely attended show, whilst David did not. Put simply, he beat the hell out of the kit and I commend him for it. As Sean said at the opening of Search Party's set, "We may not have gotten all of Lisburn out tonight", but it was, frankly, their loss. 

Finally came headliner Fionn Crossan, remarkably composed and confident beyond his eighteen years. In a set which ranged between tranquil fragility and blustering folk, Crossan's alluring vocals and relaxed demeanor endeared him to the small crowd before a note had even been sung. Opening number 'Siblings' and penultimate tale 'Chased By Wolves' may have been set highlights, but Crossan's carefully chosen covers also made for some wonderful listening, particularly with his total reinvention of the Springsteen classic 'I'm On Fire'. 

As a debut headline show the Mallusk teenager could do no more, making it all the more frustrating that there weren't more people there to enjoy his maudlin tales. From this performance, a future of attentive crowds in much bigger venues looks almost a certainty; and with a debut  EP not too far into the distance, Fionn Crossan may just get there sooner, rather than later.

Connor Martin

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

single review ~ 'beluga' ~ the autocratic

The Autocratic
For fans of⁞► Muse, Arctic Monkeys, The Killers

The North Coast's reputation for producing riff-bashing three pieces is much like Barcelona's for producing world class midfielders. Pretty good. So the arrival of North Coast, riff-bashing, three piece The Autocratic should really come as no surprise.

A young band just starting to find their feet in the local music scene, already they have amassed a decent northern following; throwing themselves head first into those halcyon days of pub gigs and house parties. It's an initiation all the best have had to go through, and with a few headline shows already under their belts, the arrival of debut single 'Beluga' is a welcome one indeed.

Taking their lead from the likes of Axis Of and A Northern Light, 'Beluga's big chorus and punk-tinged verse's keep things upbeat; and whist the riff which draws you in evokes 'Favorite Worst Nightmare' era Arctic Monkeys, frontman Connall Ennis' distinctive vocal ensure the band's authentic sound remains just that.

As a debut release, 'Beluga' sounds bold and confident. The drumming is tight, the chorus is memorable, and the solo running into the outro hints at much bigger things to come. For a young band right at the start of their musical careers, all the signs point skyward for The Autocratic.

Just as Axis Of look to hang up their guitars for the foreseeable future, The Autocratic's arrival ensures the musical circle of life continues. The North Coast scene is alive and kicking.

Taylor Johnson

track of the week ~ 'galway rain' ~son of the hound

Son of the Hound
For fans of⁞► The Pogues, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen

Michael McCullagh is a story-teller at heart. A troubadour in every sense, whether regaling us with tales of  doomed sea-captains or Native American wanderers, a closer look will reveal the dedication at the heart of Son Of The Hound's music; a dedication that his won him more than a few admirers in both Northern Ireland and beyond.

New single 'Galway Rain' is a happier departure from last single 'Pilgrim'. There's still that blue-grass celtic charm which has carried on from his Meb Jon Sol days, but there's a breezier edge to the guitarist's words here, a lighter touch. He sounds, dare we say it, happy? 

In a genre so often littered with pain and suffering, political rebellion, or even just a good old fashioned punch-up (cheers for all that Shane MacGowan), 'Galway Rain' treads the road less traveled, and sounds all the better for it. Lyrically it's more Van Morrison than anything else, and that's not just because of the chorus' mention of "Brown eyes shining in the Galway rain". McCullagh sounds at peace here, flowing through his folk-pop melodies with ease, as if he's running on pure instinct.

With each new release Son of the Hound continues to thrive. 'Galway Rain' is a song to dance to, singalong at the top of your voices and ultimately, to remember the good times.

We'll drink to that.

Taylor Johnson

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

news ~ jessica hopper announced as keynote speaker 'women's work festival' in belfast

One of the most important voices in modern music journalism today has been announced as the keynote speaker at an upcoming Belfast based festival.

The "Women's Work Festival" is a series of events designed to celebrate women's crucial role within the music industry and to encourage a new generation of girls to pursue careers within music. This year's keynote speaker, Jessica Hopper, is the current editorial director for music at MTV, having previously held roles at Pitchfork and Rookie Magazine.

Her unmissable talk will take place in the Oh Yeah Music Centre, at 3pm on the 6th of March, and is set to cover important issues such as the international conversation around inclusivity in the music industry and  what is changing within it. 

The festival will kick off with a unique evening on Friday 4th with broadcasting pioneer Annie Nightingale, who recently celebrated 50 years in music and will end with a music showcase featuring some of the most promising acts of 2016 including Saint Sister, Jealous of The Birds and Katharine Philippa. 

Further details can be found at;

Taylor Johnson