ep review ~ his new atlas ~ 'blood'

by 10:11

From the opening croon on this delicately mastered EP, Armagh born  'His New Atlas' (the pseudonym of acoustic songwriter Eoghan O'Hagan) displays all the transient beauty of a post-Fightstar Charlie Simpson. Title track 'Blood' is indeed brimming in this ambient mold, as the gravel-tinged vocals flow sweetly over gently strummed acoustic guitar.  The mellow nature of this track gives His New Atlas the space necessary for his intricate sound to develop, as underlying piano guides the harmonious blend of guitar, violin and eventually gentle drums. This fading and subtle build up drives the song to a melodic burst of acoustic riffs, culminating in enough of a conclusion to tide the track to the relaxed conclusion of falsetto vocals it was crying out for from the first verse. O'Hagan must surely have realised this tracks potential as a closing (or opening) sentiment to live gigs whilst writing and as such, could easily have went overboard on the production, leaving the true sentiments lost in a barrage of unnecessary noise. Instead, a stripped back approach has maintained the heartfelt feelings you imagine such a beautiful track was written with. A fine opening.

This is followed by 'Like A Balloon'. What becomes immediate is the tracks reliance on a choir styled backing vocal and the subtle introduction of a xylophone, as utilized brilliantly by Snow Patrol ('You Could Be Happy' etc) amongst others in recent times. Unfortunately, this intertwining of instrumental addition doesn't quite click and 'Like A Balloon' struggles to capture like it's predecessor. This is unfortunate as the track suddenly bursts into life moments later, as a fade out of the opening verses transcends into a energetic Fleet Foxes style onrush of harmony. After this, the following verses begin to flow easier, as if the song has found its purpose again. By this stage, the listener once again feels entranced by His New Atlas's bold vocal and acoustic prowess, which is elevated again towards the end of the track when a build of steady drum beat, piano and the sort of folk styled compliments that would not look out of place on a Badly Drawn Boy album, unite to bring the EP to a strong close.

In all, an engaging and exciting release from an acoustic artist with both appeal and potential in equal measure.

Taylor Johnson.

If You Like...Fleet Foxes | Pretty Child Backfire | Charlie Simpson ~ You'll love His New Atlas.

Keep up to date with all His New Atlas news on the links below...


single review ~ meb jon sol ~ 'captain of this ship'

by 05:18

Born from the ashes of indie rockers Colenso Parade, Omagh's own Mickey McCullagh returns to the spotlight with his new folk rock outfit Meb Jon Sol. With a name supposedly derived from various childhood nicknames, and a backing band of friends both old and new, the overwhelming feeling of personal warmth and heart that Meb Jon Sol radiates is, thankfully, beautifully reflected in their debut single 'Captain Of This Ship'. Having spent prolonged periods of time living in Madrid, perhaps it was inevitable that the former lead guitarists style would shift and change with his surroundings. The result is an exhilarating mix of acoustic driven folk, with subtle hints of Mumford and Sons and our own Emerald Armada thrown in for good measure. 

Although these may be too obvious comparisons for what is a very original track. The backing vocals of 'All this is yours my friend, all this is yours' providing a real foot-tapping sing along aspect that is a difficult element to capture. The instrumental interludes swing tirelessly into each verse, adding a Pogues styled breakdown of carefree abandon that makes this song difficult to dislike. Perhaps taking inspiration from Ben Howards hit 'The Wolves', 'Captain of This Ship' is a strong track that you imagine would finish a set with fast paced excitement. McCullagh's voice guides the track well, though you imagine the introduction of a second, female vocal to intertwine with the frontmans gravely tones may elevate Meb Jon Sol's folk rock to a new level. 

A confident and assured debut from a band with a lot more to offer.

Taylor Johnson

If You Like... The Pogues | Emerald Armada | Josh Ritter ~ You'll love 'Meb Jon Sol'

Keep up to date with all official Meb Jon Sol news on the links below...

album review ~ 'sean anonymous ~ 'anonymo'

by 07:17

On Monday 20th January 2014 The John Hewitt in Belfast, a now iconic venue that has played host to acts as renowned as Mumford & Sons and Seasick Steve, saw the Irish debut of one of Americas most promising young rap artists, Minneapolis's own Sean Anonymous. In a musical setting more commonly associated with aspiring acoustic singer/songwriters, Sean Anonymous took to the stage with infectious confidence and a striking charisma. Then came his set. A blistering whirlwind of sweet, flowing rhymes and energetic performance, the young hip-hop artist soon had the Irish crowd on their feet and swaying to the hypnotic beats. At the end of the set Encore NI was fortunate enough to catch up with one of the USA's most promising talents, even managing to get a copy of his debut album 'Anonymo'. Here Taylor Johnson gives his thoughts...

From the opening vinyl scratches of Sean Anonymous' debut record it's clear that this young hip-hop artist has the confidence necessary to succeed in what has become such an over saturated genre. To open your account as an artist by declaring 'you wanna live life', Sean immediately lays down a marker to the listening world. He's determined to chase his dream and nothing will stop him. Yes, this may sound like a cliched introduction to proceedings, but be warned, this is an album of genuine honesty and poetic prose, rarely pulling any punches in the process. The opening scratches of the record are reminiscent of Snow Patrol's early attempts to integrate hip-hop elements into their indie debuts. Think 'Absolute Gravity', minus the distorted, guitar driven interludes and you'll get a feel for the relaxed back beats of 'Anonymo'.

It almost goes without saying, that Anonymous's flow is both flawless and effortless in equal measures. His whistling overlays on opening track 'Fast Forward', glides perfectly over brilliantly constructed drum beats, almost subconsciously encouraging the listener to throw an arm in the air in approval. The slightly bluesy 'Hands High' highlights Anonymous's flexibility, having built a complex rap around a funk styled guitar riff. This track also showcases the Minneapolis mans speed, as he blazes through several brilliantly written verses with precision and ease. It also showcases the first of many collaborations, as Tony Phantom & TruthBeTold add another dynamic element as they declare they just wanna 'Make rap, make love and pay bills'. Not a bad mantra if you ask me. 'Sunny' see's a beautifully sampled version of the song of the same name, as made famous by Boney M. Built around a delicate piano riff that wouldn't look out of place on Amy Winehouse's debut album 'Frank', it's a beautifully relaxed track that acts as more of an interlude to the next track than anything else. It's evident that 'Alright' was written from a personal place. You can feel the passion radiating from each well considered and gentle verse, as Sean Anonymous showcases a gentler side to the carefree attitude which has dictated the album thus far. For the lyrical prowess alone, this may the strongest track on the record. If you were told 'It's hard to keep believing in this, please believe that I'm looking out for you everywhere that I go, through the changing of seasons, days and the evenings, are fading and leaving they're changing like rain and the snow' came from a Silvia Plath poem you wouldn't think twice. Which is perhaps the most fitting compliment I can give a song brimming with emotion and honesty.

'How 2 Get On' see's Anonymous take a brief back seat, as DJ Corbett leads a crusade against big industries and false promoters. With the sort of chilled back beat Damon Albarns Gorillaz has strived to echo since 'Demon Day's'. Meanwhile 'No B.S' see's the album reach a new level of relaxation, as the verses are allowed to flow over the audience like a wave. It feels as though you are in a hazy bubble during 'No BS', which may well be brilliantly appropriate. Though it has to be said it is the first time the record tends to loose slight momentum.

Final track 'Hot To Death' continues the albums relaxed vibes, with another track delivered with a relaxed confidence. Layered with 80's styled subtle guitar, it wasn't the momentous ending the album perhaps deserved, though will no doubt make for a great live performance.

Through Sean Anonymous's genuine desire to never compromise his own style and his commitment to self expression, it gives this record a refreshing buzz, leaving it as the perfect soundtrack to a house party or to a sea of swaying arms in an American stadium. 'Anonymo' is a beautifully honest debut and a reminder that American hip-hop is not simply defined by financial greed and men in suits. It's defined by the kids on the street, honing their skills in homemade rap battles. By local venues, giving aspiring artists the chance to play to their first audiences and finally by the artists themselves. Who, by following the example of artists like Sean Anonymous, will continue to keep it real and give new hope.

In that sense, one of the opening verses of this album may also be the most potent. Whats the one rule to become a successful rapper?

'Don't spit it, if it isn't true'.

Taylor Johnson.

Keep up to date with all Sean Anonymous official news on the links below:


If you like | Gorillaz | Eminem | The Streets ~ you'll love Sean Anonymous

Top Tracks | 'Fast Forward' | 'Alright' | 'Hands High'

track of the week ~ 'never gonna let you down' ~ glenn rosborough

by 08:04

It's always a brave move for the lead guitarist of any band to announce the release of solo material. To take the step into life as the sole lyricist, composer and performer of any new project carries with it a unique pressure and certain responsibility that the security of a band just doesn't carry. For acoustic singer/songwriter Glenn Rosborough however, the transition has been as seamlessly natural as a Wyldling guitar solo in full flow. A minimalist production and soaring vocals have captured the Londonderry/Derry man's new style beautifully and eloquently, as a gently plucked acoustic guitar intro is balanced by a hand clap percussion. This small scaled, natural approach gives the track a nostalgic tinge, leaving the impression that it could be a song from a distant childhood memory, despite hearing it for the first time. A rare and powerful accolade.

Rosborough's vocal has the raspy twang of a seasoned folk veteran, captivatingly raw from the outset and brimming with emotion. The falsetto'd harmonies of the chorus elevate the song to a new level, providing a further layer of sweet melody which pulsates through the heart of this track.  With such a unique and haunting voice, you wonder why Rosborough isn't yet one of our most renowned songwriters. The accompanying video is also a must see, detailing the precision and confidence necessary to pull of such a well performed song.

In all 'Never Gonna Let You Down' is a hall mark of Glenn Rosborough's talent as a vocalist and songwriter. Though never destined for mainstream adoration, anyone with a passion for acoustic prowess and an ear for a melody will recognise the heart and soul behind this beautiful song.

Taylor Johnson

If you like Iain Archer | David Gray | Bob Dylan

Check out Glenn's official live video for 'Never Gonna Let You Down' here.

track of the week ~ 'she's so easy to hold' ~ aaron shanley

by 06:33

This weeks track of the week comes from Lisburn's own Aaron Shanley. The acoustic singer songwriter has gathered a large, underground following over the last few years, both through his rigorous touring schedule, punk styled side projects and of course, that distinct vocal, a smooth blend of smoky ambiance and gentle melancholy. Yet, for all of Shanley's diverse musical projects, including his foot-stomping venture into punk with 'Startled Space Moths', it was his earliest recordings of simply himself and an old acoustic guitar which captured the hearts and minds of his loving fan base. This is why the release of his latest EP 'Bedroom Tapes: Swiss Cottage Teal Roses'  once again sparked the onrush of affection for this talented artist, who, armed with an even broader perspective on the world in which we live and a wave of new material, was ready to stake his claim as one this countries finest songwriters. Having fell in love with the EP from the word go, it was only fitting that Taylor Johnson would choose the opening track as Encore NI's 'Track of the Week'.

From the opening palm muted strums on Aaron Shanley's acoustic guitar the tone of the EP is set in motion. Like the sun emerging from a clouded sky, 'She's So Easy To Hold' has the hallmarks of an uplifting ballad to new found optimism, while never abandoning Shanley's trademark beautifully maudlin delivery. Showing a new found maturity, a pristine piano overlay is intertwined perfectly with subtle electric guitar riffs. This is performed with incredible precision, showing a progression from the pure acoustic tracks of EP's gone by and one that only adds to the folk tinged melancholy he's carefully crafted his songs around.

Vocally, Shanley's mournful croon glides over the beautiful arrangement's around him, singing the chorus with as much emotion as a track such as this can handle without ever threatening the tracks delicacy. In a lyrical sense, the songwriter continues to wear his heart on his sleeve, the opening line of 'Some things you wish you didn't know, breaks your heart to find the truth'  particularly moving. Be warned, this is not a song of self pity and desperation. Far from it. This is Aaron Shanley's admission to the pains of life and love, yet somehow through it all, you get a feeling of hope from this song. She may not be easy to hold onto, but for that one moment in time it may just be worth the heartbreak.

Why? 'She's so easy to hold'.

Taylor Johnson

If You Like: Tired Pony | Neil Young | Alex Turner (solo acoustic sessions) ~ You'll love Aaron Shanley.

ep review ~ mere moths ~ 'you grew up'

by 02:55

The journey of Patrick Wright from guitar swinging, indie rocker, to the delicate and soulful acoustic tinged folk artists that he has became in recent times has been a long and intriguing process. Starting life as a promising indie four piece, 'Mere Moths' immediately grabbed the attention of the local music scene through their acclaimed 'Water Of The Land' EP. You felt the only thing that would hold the band back was their age, as despite the technical complexity of their compositions and Wrights clever and mature lyrical prowess, they were only young teenagers. Wright himself has admitted in interviews that he was only 'about 14 or 15' when he wrote the songs that would shine the first spotlight onto Mere Moths and their rock filled potential. Sadly, life got in the way and gradually the band began to dissolve until only Patrick was left. Deciding the keep the name that had already gained the respect of his musical contemporaries, 'Mere Moths' began life as a solo project. Nearly two years since Wright took on the mantle as a solo artist, Mere Moths much anticipated follow up EP 'You Grew Up' has finally been released and it's fair to say that expectations have been inevitably high. Taylor Johnson had a first listen...
Opening with the beautifully ethereal title track, 'You Grew Up' immediately sets the tone for the EP through a series of blues influenced acoustic guitar riffs. It's almost a gentle reminder to anyone expecting the spunky, Jake Bugg styled rock and roll of 'Water Of The Land' that the man behind the guitar has matured and with him too, has the content and delivery of his brilliantly crafted melodies. With a raspy vocal tone and atmospheric backing, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were listening to an unreleased Fleet Foxes track. Haunting and soothing, 'You Grew Up' is a superb introduction to Mere Moths new found maturity.
'Fight Me' opens with a gently strummed acoustic guitar, gently balanced with a subtle piano floating into the heavier interludes. This song has a distinct Paul Weller element, brilliantly placed classical guitar riffs elevating the track to it's powerful and emotive peaks. A compelling mix.
Penultimate track 'My Fear' highlights Wrights gripping melancholy undertones. Opening with an almost Smiths styled classical guitar, this song lays bare Mere Moths assured and confident sound, with the powerful refrain of 'I don't believe in Jesus, as he didn't save me' striking a particularly potent nerve. Could benefit with a classical overdub on any future recordings to add a bittersweet element to proceedings, but as an EP track 'My Fear' never threatens to let the quality of the first two tracks falter
Finally 'Reassurance' see's Mere Moths return briefly to their rockier roots, a full band set allowing Wright the opportunity to crank up both the volume and passion, as a distorted electric guitar elevates their sound to new heights. Again, adding to the EP's wonderful elective nature, Mere Moths versatility see's 'Reassurance' breaking into Bruce Springsteen territory. Everything from the flowing build up, to the rough, strong delivery echos the American folk rock hero and the fact that this is the only track from the EP with such credentials is a credit to Wright and his consistently developing songwriting. 
Will Mere Moths continue to produce the folk tinged rock of the final track of this well crafted and diverse EP, or will we see more of the sensitive, singer song-writer styled acoustic ballads of the opening tracks? Only time will tell. In the meantime 'You Grew Up' is a thoroughly enjoyable bridge to cross, both for the older fans of Wrights indie roots and new fans intrigued by his new found role as a solo artist. 
Mere Moths has grown up and with him, has his sound.

Taylor Johnson.
If You Like... Jake Bugg | Paul Weller | Fleet Foxes ~ You'll love Mere Moths

Keep up to date with all Mere Moths news on the links below...

Twitter | Facebook | Soundcloud 

live review ~ a night for rem ~ the limelight, belfast

by 13:45

United in anticipation and excitement, nestled under the soft glow of a minimalist stage set-up, a packed Limelight launched themselves to the barrier as Radio Ulster's own Rigsy took to the stage for the final time. He'd played the momentousness of the occasion to complete perfection, riling the crowd for every act of this fantastically organised night in aid of  Alzheimer's research, before calming proceedings to discuss the importance of the night itself. Yet before long, it couldn't be contained any longer. With a weary smile and a knowing nod to the side of the stage, it was finally announced. Snow Patrol where at the Limelight and history was about to be made.

Opening with a beautifully composed cover of 'Nightswimming', the returning hero's were in control from the moment they stood before the adoring crowd. Johnny McDaid's beautiful piano arrangements flowed seamlessly with an on form Gary Lightbody, his voice as captivating and fresh as it had been on the bands breakthrough third album 'Final Straw', and it's from this album that the band seemed to take inspiration from, bringing out a stripped down version of alternative hit 'Chocolate'. Instead of the instantly recognizable guitar riff Lightbody instead relied on the intuition of the audience, singing the notes with a delicate passion appropriate for such an intimate venue. Over highlights of a captivating set came from 'A Hundred Million Suns' glorious 'Crack The Shutters', before both Lightbody and guitarist Nathan Connolly had the chance to pour light on their respective side projects. The incredible 'All Things All At Once' from Tired Pony's 'Ghost Of The Mountain' and Little Matador's 'Shatter' briefly energized proceedings, as the crowd shifted from it's previous sea of waving arms to a cacophony of swaying bodies. Even those unfamiliar with Connolly's new brand of rockier indie seemed won over by his raw, powerful and artistically nonchalant vocal delivery.

Ending on a rare acoustic performance of the slightly electronic 'Just Say Yes', it was a triumphant return for Northern Ireland's biggest exports. For those packed into the tiny Limelight that night, it will certainly be a gig that will live long in the memory, long after the final echos of 'Light Up, Light Up' had faded into nothing. They will almost certainly never play another venue as small again.

Taylor Johnson
Powered by Blogger.