10 releases we can't wait for

by 18:17

It sucks waiting for your favorite band to release a new album. The endless expectation of that 'new sound' they've been promising, that leaked 30-second sound-check some guy recorded on his Nokia that you just have to hear properly...the adrenaline of brand new art-work! It's a beautiful and heartrending experience for any music lover and here at Encore NI we get that too. So here's a list of 10 releases we've been pining for, forever!

#10. A Northern Light ~ tbc.

Electronic starlets A Northern Light have been brightening our stages since 2010, but it was their latest single 'Kill It' which really cemented their place as one of NI's strongest acts. Coming in at just under 4 minutes, it's a minuscule snippet of what their debut album will potentially sound like, but even so, it's promise is clear for all to see.


#9. The Sea, Close By ~ 'Duke'

A DIY release in it's purest form, The Sea, Close By's debut EP may well see them return to the acoustic roots of front-man Alastair Greyson's earlier band 'Vampires & Secrets'. That's if first single 'The Modern Mercury' is anything to go by. Beautifully produced, few bedroom tapes will be as sought after as this.

#8. Pretty Child Backfire ~ tbc.

The hugely successful Pretty Child Backfire may return under a new name, but at this stage, their fans are unlikely to be bothered ~ they just want them back! With a mammoth catalogue of indie-pop crossover gems at their disposal, Pretty Child's nostalgic take on love and life will undoubtedly make for a brilliant debut album. Let's hope it's not too far away now.

#7. SOAK ~ 'Before We Forgot How To Dream'

Bit of a cheat this one, because this debut from Derry City's pride and joy has technically just gone on sale. Still, for an artist so young this is truly a marvelous achievement, and with the freshly recorded 'Sea Creatures'  now rubbing shoulders with the rest of Radio 1's A-List it promises to be one of Rough Trade's finest moments.

#6. BLOOM ~ tbc.

BLOOM are just getting better and better. The groovy instrumentalists have been making waves since arriving on Belfast's music scene last year, their live show a mixture of Pink Floyd cosmic energy and The Door's electricity. Now encompassing some vocals into their finely tuned sound, a debut EP is surly on the horizon; but what will make the final cut? 'Kepler's Glass Eye'?  'Tropical Edge Of The Storm'? It'll be fun finding out!

#5. Affleck ~ tbc.

Another hugely talented electronic act, Affleck's clever instrumentation and fascinating melodies have gained them many fans across Ireland both North and South. The video game affection-ado's debut eponymous release was met with resounding praise, the emphatic 'Cat King Lightning'  the biggest indicator that they are on to something quite special. We can't wait to see them back!

#4. Runaway [GO] ~ 'Alive'

Mysteriously and frustratingly, the brilliant Runaway GO dropped latest single 'Ashes' straight out of nowhere at the end of last year with promises of an album to follow. Six months down the line and we're still no closer to hearing the finalised work of Dave, Fiona and co. On the plus side, if you're gonna keep a nation in limbo 'Ashes' is the way to do it; a snapshot into a band never short of ideas, we still can't wait for debut album 'Alive'. 

#3. Snow Patrol ~ 'Broken Bottle Forms A Star'

It may well be that this tiny fraction of Snow Patrol's 'Fallen Empires' was never destined to be more than a cute interlude; but regardless, it is truly stunning! With the rumor mill insisting that it is destined to open album number seven, Gary Lightbody would be truly letting a gem go if this particular symphony remained open ended.

#2. The Couth ~ tbc.

Not yet content with the work of latest EP 'Bloodbreaker', Lisburn's The Couth are due to start work on a follow up within the next few weeks. With catchy tunes flowing from all directions from the four piece, there's every reason to believe this next EP could be their best yet.

#1. Joshua Burnside ~ tbc.

Now with that pesky degree out of the way, Northern Ireland's most exciting experimental-folk artist can finally begin work on his debut album. Last single 'Catalina' was far and away one of last year's best releases. Provided he can maintain the soothing intensity of his earlier work Joshua Burnside will have a debut album of real beauty on his hands.

Taylor Johnson

single review ~ 'somebody' ~ vokxen

by 06:03
Genre: Electro-Pop
For Fans Of: HAIM, Blondie, Paloma Faith 
Location: Belfast

VOKXEN are a band doing things right. Clearly not ones for fanfare, this electronic-pop supergroup managed to avoid the trap doors of social media too early on in their careers. Instead, they chose to hit the ground running with a catchy single, radio play and the recording of their debut EP all but over straight away. It's some feat for any band, but particularly one like VOKXEN, who join the likes of LORIS, Shadow Police and  Pleasure Beach on the crest of a synth wave.

'Somebody' fits the chilled, Californian aesthetic of the band  perfectly. With crisp production and hooks galore, Cool FM's Stuart Robinson played the track immediately after Years & Years mammoth hit 'King' and far from sounding out of place, the track seemed to shimmer all the more on commercial airwaves. For all VOKXEN's mainstream potential, that doesn't mean this is a band lacking indie credibility; tight, creative harmonies and a Kate Bush-like falsetto permeates through the end of this track. Always a good sign.

If the aim of 'Somebody' was to break into Belfast's tightly knit pop scene on the first attempt, it's mission accomplished.

Taylor Johnson

single review ~ 'sleep tonight' ~ shadow police

by 03:18

Name: Shadow Police
Genre: Synth-Pop
For Fans Of: New Order, Ghost Of An American Airman, CHVRCHES 
Location: Belfast

In case you didn’t know, the 80’s are back, and Shadow Police are here to proclaim it. The decade once associated with cheesy pop and bad taste has now become a fertile plain of influence for producers of all things synth. Arguably the seeds were sown by M83’s 2011 release Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, alongside the Drive soundtrack, and this is where Shadow Police’s influences certainly lie.

The emotive, string-like synths (or are they horn-like?), arpeggiated chords, echo-laden vocals, gated snares, and Europe-meets-America outlook of the resurgent synthpop are all on show, as well as some slick production. The vocals on this track are a particular highlight, often unintelligible, as they echo off into space, only to be answered by soaring synths, it works well. The shimmering synth in the latter half of the track is another personal favourite moment, and I feel really highlights the clever production. The treatment of the bass and drums on the other hand falls a little flat. Mostly unchanging throughout the song, they feel too static, a little boring. The bass however does sound good, all of the synths sound good, which in itself is an accomplishment.

All of this combines to produce something that could easily pass as a B-side for M83. But that is precisely my only major gripe. All the elements come together well, but if a greater spark remains to be lit by Shadow Police, you feel that will only come with time; provided they go out and grab it.

With strong production and equally strong vocals, this is a promising debut from Shadow Police, and I look forward to seeing what comes next.  

Andrew Burns

single review ~ 'crazy' ~ loris

by 06:44

Name: Loris
Genre: Electro-Pop
For Fans Of: Years and Years, Indiana, PAWS
Location: Belfast

Loris' last major release, 'Yeah', was a big hitting single with a catchy guitar line and strong, intelligible vocals. New single 'Crazy' is better. A much more anthemic effort, this time around Loris have sacrificed some of that indie-pop sensibility in exchange for the sort of floor-filler pop kings Years & Years would kill for.

It seems this is a band that never stops learning, as each release marks another improvement, another step closer to the main stream. The creeping bass line lurks just enough to keep the rhythm, whilst adding to that 'epic' feeling; just like Imagine Dragon's mammoth hit 'Radioactive'. 

The synths are well placed and dance-worthy, 80's influenced, but never outdated. This is the biggest indication yet that Loris' short musical journey could about to get, ahem, even crazier.

Taylor Johnson

track of the week//introducing ~ 'ruth' ~ michael cera

by 06:14

Name: Michael Cera
Genre: Love-Folk
For Fans Of: Neutral Milk Hotel, Michael Cera Movies 
Location: Ontario, Canada 
Facebook//Twitter ~ N/A

We all love Michael Cera. Hollywood's most charming nerd has been mumbling, stumbling and awkwardly excusing himself into people's hearts for years now; but did you know he released a self funded album last year? Better still, did you know that it was actually pretty good?

The awesomely titled 'true that' came, quite literally, out of nowhere. Completely un-promoted by Cera himself, his debut release was seemingly happy to float endlessly throughout cyber space, until someone realised that the random melodic art-folk record uploaded to Bandcamp was actually made by the man himself, and not just a band calling themselves 'Michael Cera'. 

'True That' is a hazy mix of ambient soundscapes and quite haunting acoustic songs; Cera's voice at times echoing My Morning Jacket's Jim James, the log cabin isolation of Bon Ivor, or even Kurt Vile's earlier work. 

Whilst we all assumed (or perhaps, just really hoped) that Cera could play guitar like Scott Pilgrim and wrote songs about girls way out of his league in his spare time, few could have imagined the emotional or artistic depths 'True That' delves into. 'Ruth' is one of the more simplistic pieces on the record, but remains a firm favorite, Cera's depictions of a woman just too tired to help even herself, both touching and maudlin. Lyrically too, Cera never once comes close to the cinematic 'happy ending' he's no doubt been asked to perform in hundreds of times.

"Where once had blossomed a bouquet,  
Now all but wilting like a leaf,
In the ruthless light of day"

'True That' is an album to listen to over a bottle of wine and a fine, leather bound book.

We salute you Michael Cera. Giver of music, friend of animals & cactus alike, and all around good guy.

Taylor Johnson

live review ~ hidden machine & chordblossom presents...silences single launch

by 09:37

In a country as small as ours, there’s a certain inevitability about the intimacy of the music scene; and yes, we’re not as big as Dublin or London, but for punching above our weight Belfast cannot be beaten. Last Friday night we witnessed another of our overachievers in full flight, the awesome Silences. Launching their new single ‘The Sea’ (Review here) our expectations were understandably high. Better still, the collaboration between one of our best gig promoters Hidden Machine & our friends at Chordblossom ensured a stellar line-up throughout. Now it was the bands turn to live up to the hype…

Tasked with opening the show was Jealous Of The Birds, a solo acoustic artist of sublime simplicity. Jealous Of The Birds (real name Naomi Hamilton) reputation has led to many proclaiming her the next big thing, remarkably before even a single live performance. Not a bad way to make your debut then, playing to a near packed out Bar With No Name in support of one the country’s most exciting new bands. It was a pivotal moment, as bohemia’s new hope could so easily have welted in the spotlight. Thankfully here we saw an artist so intrinsically relaxed, so totally at ease, that it felt like nothing more than a bedroom jam with a couple of friends. Songs from debut Ep ‘Capricorn’ radiated back to the audience, any worries that Hamilton’s low-fi sound would be lost on stage immediately put to bed. There wasn’t a great deal of chat between songs, but enough to show this was a performer in her element. In all, Jealous of the Birds justified her well deserved praise. The faint shimmers of nostalgia which run through her songs gives proceedings a timeless element, and rightly so.

Following behind were Dandy’s Loft, another band making their rather big debut. Again, this band showed a wonderful confidence throughout a set of varying velocity. Any band willing to combine electric guitars with a ukulele will always command a certain amount of respect, but even without this wonderful juxtaposition, Dandy’s Loft had this audience won over from very early on. Dublin’s Patrick O’Laoghaire , aka ‘I Have A Tribe’, is another young artist with a big following.  Already beloved by his home city and interestingly Berlin, I Have A Tribe’s Bjork like melodies and gentle grace behind the keyboard was pretty beautiful. Dressed in an oversized jumper, O’Laoghaire looks and sounds like the finished product, the single ‘Yellow Raincoats’ particularly so.

So finally onto Silences, a band really beginning to make waves across the mainland UK. On a night of quality performances, our headliner did not disappoint. Frontman Conchúr White led his band through a blaze of enthusiasm, whether head banging along to his own creations or thrashing the extra bass drum on stage, it was as rocky a performance as Silences are ever likely to have given and what a welcome surprise it was. They of course know how to hype up the crowd, as singles ‘Santa Cruz’ (“You can sing along to this next one, you just need two words. One’s ‘Santa’, the other one’s ‘Cruz’”) and ‘The Sea’,  went down wonderfully with the audience. At one bizarre point, we saw what their frontman described as “Silence’s first ever mosh-pit”, so to was the extent of their energy.

This was the performance of a band on the rise, feeling every song and feeding off the crowd.

With acts like this, it looks like we will be continuing to punch above our weight for some time yet.

Taylor Johnson

track of the week ~ 'it's on now' ~ young g

by 04:25

Name: Young G
Genre: Hip-Hop//Rap
For Fans Of: George The Poet, The Streets, Kendrick Lamar 
Location: Belfast

Northern Ireland is a nation not known for our hip-hop. In recent years, however, an emergence led by the likes of Bomb City 7, the awesome Bee Mick See and (arguably) Jun Tzu has seen flashes of talent begin to emerge ~ even if a 'rap scene' remains a work in progress.

Attempting to push that progress onto the next level is Young G, an underground rapper with an impressive CV. For although G, (real name Gershom Kaoma) is a new name to the greater Belfast music scene, the young rapper has steadily honed his craft through a series of demo's and mixtapes over the years. His last band, a hugely understated three piece called 'The Project Sound', released some of my favorite tracks of 2012, but sadly faded away without a Belfast show.

Choosing to build his career outside of the capital city has been a meticulous process for Kaoma, but one that holds his debut solo release, 'It's On Now', in a unique position; experience, but without the weight of expectation. This is a song bursting with originality and a strong, clear voice at the mic ~ a very hard balancing act. In the past, Young G has tackled issues as varied as first love ('L.A.E' ~ 'Love Addictive Ecstasy'), civil rights ('Colour') and the all important difference between knowledge and wisdom. Here we see a rapper ready to leave the underground, ready to step up.

"We're coming for the crown now, we heading to the sky, we can barely touch the ground"

There's an almost Gallagher-esque 'Getting out of the city' mentality to Young G's songwriting here, and it remains smothered in optimism throughout.

Musically, there's more than one nod to Mike Skinner's Birmingham-based garage beats here. 'It's On Now' sounds like a hidden track from 'Original Pirate Material', complete with rising string section, syncopated drum beats and soulful backing vocals just loud enough to get a word in edge-ways.

It's the second half of this song though, which really see's Young G at his full, expressive best. Slowing things down ever so slightly, the change in pace allows him the chance to really let rip.

"A few people just don't know what trust is, it all goes on the way they interpret it, the mind's state say's it's all about the Benjamin's, I want to paint every picture like a silhouette" 

It's gems like that which will give Young G a real chance. 

This is a rapper prepared to name check Kurt Cobain, compare each rhyming couplet to a bullet and preaches the importance of being yourself. All this, on a debut single.

Now gearing up for the release of his debut solo-EP/Mixtape 'Method To The Madness', Young G is a name worth remembering.

Taylor Johnson

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