live review ~ volume control presents...'the sea, close by' | oh yeah centre, belfast

by 05:56

If I could have been at Belfast's Oh Yeah Centre from 7pm, believe me I would have. The prospect of a line-up featuring Dublin's answer to Hole (Kate's Party), great quality pop punk (thank you, Dream Awake) & a big ol' slice of hardcore (The Geneva Experiment) looked a tantalizing prospect. Thankfully, my House Of Fraser name tag in hand, I managed to get down just in time to catch 'The Sea, Close By's headline set.

This was undoubtedly a big gig for the band. Not that long into a new name, new line-up and an array of new material, their readjustment period wasn't necessarily over, coming into this. What those at The Oh Yeah Centre witnessed, however, was a display of total confidence in their new form. Relaxing into a set of both old and new, 'The Sea, Close By' shimmered as headliners here. Quick to thank the tireless work of the Volume Control team and their fellow musicians for opening proceedings, it was great to see a band so totally at ease.

Latest single 'The Modern Mercury' was given a new lease of life, as the acoustics of it's current recording was replaced by pulsating drums and some Billy Corgan styled guitar work from Alastair Greyson; all the while bassist Kate Cannon's haunting vocal are left to simply carry the song. It's not a million miles away from 'His New Atlas' and sounds excellent here.

Songs from the bands Paper Man era were also given a run-out, and it was here the crowd really started erupting to the bands definitive alt-sound. 'Poetry's electricity picked up the pace, whilst heavier number 'Kissy Face' kept things frantic, the audience really getting into things now. Then came 'Like TV', a personal favorite and a great example of the maturity of Greyson's songwriting.

"This is the first time, stop screaming in my mind"

'Eyes' too, sounded reinvigorated here. Raw, punchier and considerably more angry than previous live renditions, whether the band were feeding off the energy of the crowd or simply in the zone, this was proving a special night for those in attendance.

Now pretty exhausted, it looked as though The Sea, Close By had given everything they had to their audience (including a stray Wispa bar to one guy who looked as though he'd actually passed out. He didn't though. He was fine.), but they weren't finished yet. Closing number 'Collisions', a song older than the band itself, is simply brilliant. Tonight, it is better than brilliant, it is anthemic, and by the end of the night here in Belfast everybody knows it.

"This is an old one, some of you might know it, so you gotta sing along"

It soon became apparent that everybody knew Collisions. Having the words to your own song sung back to you must be an incredible feeling, and for Alastair Greyson, it's more deserved than most. 

This new Volume Control team are on a roll and long may it continue!

Taylor Johnson

ep review ~ 'it's aliiiive!!!' ~ salad boyz

by 07:27

Genre: Salad-Core//Grunge-Punk 
For Fans Of: The Descendants, Weezer, Parquet Courts
Location: Belfast

SALAD BOYZ really couldn't care less what you think. The four piece, born out of a mutual love of punk and riffs (and seemingly salad) have came out of nowhere on a four man mission to shake up the local music scene. 'IT'S ALIIIIVE!!!' follows the feel and energy of the 'plastic America' backlash of the early to mid 90's. Seattle had Nirvana, Boston had Pixies, hey even the disconnected LA kids had Weezer to hold onto. These band's sang about their angst towards the looming 21st century with wit and charm, even when it was masked beneath a sea of feedback. One feels SALAD BOYZ roots lie firmly within this turning tide, screaming for change and the man to fuck off.

'IT'S ALIIIIVE!!!' is a live Ep of real warmth, character and frightening energy. Showcasing the band's debut gig, in all it's raucous glory. was a clever move and with each listen more details emerge of this mysterious, underground act. 'LoudCrowdWowed' is a distortion heavy, jump and down call to arms; frontman Tommy Haghighi's lyrics remaining brilliantly relateable throughout. 'Dankatron 20000' see's The Descendants influence begin to emerge, as a punk-styled melee erupts. The prospect of a room full of people singing this back to the band is very exciting indeed. Even 'Balls', encompassing 15 seconds of screaming, has a charm you can't really explain. Think 'Crash & the Boys' classic 'I Am So Sad, So Very, Very Sad' from Scott Pilgrim VS The World. 'Gone Fishin' follows a similar path (including the brilliant line 'Salad powered so efficient') . Then, out of nowhere, you're hit with 'T-4-2' and everything you thought you knew about this band is thrown out the proverbial window once more.

A simplistic, Pixie's style strummer, 'T-4-2' is a simply beautiful ode to  life's darker times. Again, Haghighi's introspective lyricism cuts deep here, but when wrapped around lead guitarist Simon Gilbert's strikingly melodic lead line, a feeling of hope remains above water. There's even room for some harmonious backing vocals from bassist C-More Major, who's falsetto compliment's Haghighi's dynamic style excellently. (A Plastic Rose-esque, perhaps?)

  'Empty' too, stands out on this record. More aggressive than it's predecessors, 'Empty' see's the SALAD BOYZ frontman claim he's 'not eloquent enough to explain this pain' ~ on the contrary, it's his 'heart on his sleeve' style that will see their fan base grow. Held together by an exhilarating performance from drummer Michael Alexander, who remains steadfast under every potential pitfall of this debut, 'Empty' must surly have been marked down as a set closer from the second it was written. Punchy, forceful and clearly emotional, it's a sign of just what SALAD BOYZ could become.

Eat your greens, SALAD BOYZ are aliiiive and kicking.

Taylor Johnson

encore introducing ~ track of the week ~ 'wake and bake' ~ fleece

by 08:06
Name: Fleece
Genre: Alt-Psychedelia 
For Fans Of: Pixies, The War On Drugs, Yuck
Location: Montreal

Some guys form a band in Montreal and release an Ep. Nobody really cares. Those same dudes make a homemade video eating rice cakes and showing just how easy it is to write an Alt-J song. The video goes viral ~ the band gets noticed, and then 'Wake and Bake', their latest single, gets re-recorded and an album follows. Everybody cares.

As band history's go, the story of 'Fleece' is a lot more Scott Pilgrim, than Oasis ~ but that doesn't mean they haven't had to work for their new found success, nor that they're anywhere near where they want to be yet. 'Wake and Bake' is the trippy first release from an album sticking out beautifully in a world where nothing seems original anymore. Hazy, lackadaisical and dripping in nonchalance, 'Wake and Bake'  sounds like that song your older, much cooler cousin Kenny used to play at his house parties back in 1994. It's got that great dynamic of sounding new and exciting, but weirdly nostalgic. There's even room for a gloriously messy breakdown, with time signatures temporarily forgotten and some sort of jazz-inspired bass line dancing through the cracks. 

All things considered, this is as strong a debut as Fleece could have hoped for. It could be for them what 'Get Away' was for Yuck ~ an indie-rock crossover into the mainstream. Their debut album, 'Scavenger' is great too ~ even if it requires a little patience. That said, even those that don't 'get' Fleece, will probably want to be them, and that is a truly great sign indeed.

'Wake and Bake' is a pretty high bar for Fleece to vault over for their next release, but why not aim high?

Taylor Johnson

spectrum 2015 ~ official preview

by 12:26

Spectrum 2015 Preview 

Professional, passionate and always memorable, Belfast’s Spectrum Festival has grown out of nowhere to become one of the country’s most sought after local music events, a night dedicated to the modern sounds of Northern Ireland. Formed over a chance meeting and a shared love of the local music scene, Spectrum is the creation of Mícheál Douglas and Chris Lowry; who between them wanted to build a platform for local musicians to aspire to, whilst adding another vital date to the Northern  Irish calendar. Spectrum is for all those stuck in the 9 til 5 grind, doing what they can to keep their band above water. For the bedroom musicians, sweating over every inch of their home-made Ep, and for the people of the city they love ~ to come and experience the sound of a country united by something as simple as music.

Three years down the line and some may argue that they have succeeded. Building on the intimate success of their debut Black Box show, Spectrum then grew to The Speakeasy in Queens University SU. With a history that now includes Mojo Fury, Pretty Child Backfire, Kasper Rosa and A Plastic Rose (where Ian McHugh’s infamous ‘swallow dive’ to the bar is became one of the defining musical snapshots of the year), it’d be fair for them to take their foot off the gas somewhat. Not so, as Spectrum Festival returns in 2015 to the beautiful  Mandela Hall, a venue that has hosted the likes of Snow Patrol, radiohead, Pete Doherty and countless others ~ but who will add their names to that illustrious list this Summer? We felt it only fair to take you through it, one by one.

This is your official guide to Spectrum Festival 2015.

#1. Echo Raptors.

Look out for; Frontman Phil Rainey channeling Ian Brown for the groovier numbers.
Big Song(s); ‘Change My Way’, ‘Believe In Love’, ‘Plastic People’
For fans of; Cast, The Beatles, Oasis

If you needed proof that rock ‘n’ roll was alive and well, one quick listen to Echo Raptors back catalogue would surly put your mind at ease. Loud, uncompromising and hugely passionate, the Raptor’s have gone from strength to strength from their humble beginnings making acoustic video’s in their respective kitchens! Having already supported the likes of Happy Mondays and The Charlatans, toured all across the UK and released several big hitting singles, it’s fair to say the band have hard earned their dedicated Belfast fan base. To put it simply, rarely will Echo Raptors have to sing their own chorus’ ~ especially in front of a home crowd. For those wanting reminded of a time before the button pushers (alt-j we’re looking at you), Echo Raptors are the perfect tonic.

#2. In An Instant

Look out for; The entire crowd dancing to single ‘Something Right And Something Real’ ~ even those hearing it for the first time!
Big Song(s); ‘Something Right And Something Real’, ‘Come The Night’, ‘All Binds Fall Undone’
For Fans Of; Snow Patrol, U2, Two Door Cinema Club

Despite being just out of their teens and a band for less than two years, In An Instant are one of the most talked about acts in Northern Ireland today. Never rushing, IAI have picked their battles wisely during their short time together, delaying the release of debut EP ‘A Light You Know And Love’ to the point of pain for their fans; the results however, were clear for all to see, as In An Instant soared into contention as the country’s most exciting outfit. Easing their way into support slots for Blitz Kids and A Plastic Rose alike, nothing has ever seemed too big for this band or their mammoth sound. They’ve the songs to fill arena’s, but will they be ready for this one? (Well yes, they absolutely will ~ but let’s try and end on a cliff hanger).

#3 R51

Look out for; Frontwoman Melyssa Shannon’s ‘laser-eyed baby’s head’, resting on the synth.
Big Song(s); ‘Pillow Talk’, ‘Modern Age’, ‘Slowhound’
For Fans Of; Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead

R51’s star is very much in the ascendancy. Their ‘Pillow Talk’ Ep is undoubtedly one of the releases of the year and having already made their Mandela Hall debut, this gig is unlikely to phase them in the slightest. A five piece of melodic~melancholia, R51’s blend of electronic rhythms and dreamy guitar has a broader range than most. At times hauntingly delicate (‘Seaweed’, ‘Modern Age’) and at others forcefully raw (‘I Hate That Too’), it seems whatever this band put their minds too they can accomplish. Check out the harmonies between Mellissa Shannon and lead guitarist Jonny Woods too ~ impeccable!

#4 Hot Cops

Look Out For; The lounge-music interlude in ‘Passive, Passive’. You’ll know it when you hear it.
Big Song (s); ‘Fallout’, ‘Decay, ‘Six’, ‘The Art Of The Act’ etc, etc.
For Fans Of; Nirvana, Pavement

The band of the moment, (not that they’d tell you themselves), Hot Cops are three sweet boys with a remarkable sound. Fresh from an Introducing slot at Radio One’s Big Weekend in Norwich, the band’s ever building hype and fan base seems to at the least not bother them and at the most probably bother them, a little bit. Two Ep’s and a double a-side down, world domination to go. No pressure Hot Cops.

#5 Loris

Look Out For; Mike Mormecha’s insane drumming//Francis Mitchel’s haunting falsetto.
Big Song (s); ‘I’ve Been Quiet’, ‘Crazy’
For Fans Of; Years & Years, Indiana

Lisburn’s electro-pop pioneers have had an amazing few months since the turn of the year, growing from poppy-new comers, to an experienced band remarkably quickly. Alongside this growing experience has been the praises coming their way, with everyone from Phil Taggart to Rigsy quick to big up Loris’ rise. Third single ‘Yeah’ was then chosen as BBC Introducing’s ‘Track of the Week’, an accolade which saw nearly the entire Radio 1 team playing the track on some of the UK’s biggest radio shows. Add to that support slots with Ballet School, Little May and most recently Sylvan Esso, and you have a band ready for the next stage in their musical careers.

#6 New Ancestors

Look Out For; Some sort of river-dance!
Big Song (s); ‘Don’t Feel Sad’, ‘Annabelle’
For Fans Of; Kodaline, Southern, The Civil Wars

Having cut their teeth as the beloved 1930’s, New Ancestors transition into the present has been remarkably easy. Whilst their unique blend of folk-pop remains distinctly more ‘Rocket Summer’ than Mumford & Sons, it doesn’t mean they lack a commercial edge, far from it. Frontman Jonny Solari’s poetic lyrics glide over emotional backing, guaranteeing a poignant moment amongst the feedback of this year’s festival.

#7 Joshua Burnside

Look Out For; Weird instruments//costumes//new songs
Big Song(s); Old Red Eyes, Catalina, Platonia
For Fans Of; Paul Simon, Badly Drawn Boy, Damien Rice

Joshua Burnside may be the most unique songwriter in Britain and Ireland today. His music a stunningly harmonious blend of folk and electronica, there’s a simple beauty to be found within Burnside’s travelling songs and playful lyricism. Now based in Glasgow, this will be a rare chance to see one of our best songwriters live for a while. Don’t miss the chance.

#8. Emerald Armada

Look Out For; The trademark Armada-mosh-pit.
Big Song(s); ‘I Don’t Mind’, ‘This House’
For Fans Of; Fleet Foxes, Villagers

The Emerald Armada have been a bed-rock of the Belfast music scene for years now. A blue-print for any new band, the Armada’s tireless gigging schedule, addiction to writing and work ethic has served them supremely well since their formation back in 2010. Now back to the Mandela Hall as all conquering headliners, The Emerald Armada’s celtic rock will undoubtedly prove a special experience for fans both old and new.

Secret Weapon; Go Girl! (DJ's)

Every good party needs a trump card, and Spectrum Festival is no different! This year Belfast's fastest growing all female supergroup//really cool club have been invited to DJ in the Bunatee Bar for the night. Already making serious waves throughout the city, 'Go Girl!'s commitment to freedom of expression and supporting the arts has come not a moment too soon! 

So there it is, this year's official Spectrum Festival 2015 Line-Up. For more information on each band, click on their names below.

Taylor Johnson

track of the week ~ 'outdoorsman' ~ rory nellis

by 08:26

Name: Rory Nellis
Genre: Alt-rock
For Fans Of: Pete Doherty, Jeff Buckley, Elliot Smith
Location: Belfast

Rory Nellis has been a prominent name in the Northern Irish music scene for some time now. As the face and voice of the seriously great Seven Summits, Nellis' grunge-pop songs slowly evolved over the years into it's own niche. On debut solo album 'Ready For You Now' we see a greater cohesion, a finer balance between the tracks; Whilst 'Outdoorsman' really stands out.

With it's Jeff Buckley styled introduction and stunning string-section, 'Outdoorsman' is an isolated ode to the Summer, tragic and powerful. It feels cinematic, and certainly wouldn't look out of place on a Bond soundtrack. Whether that's what the songwriter was going for here is another matter.

Vocally, it's a passionate effort, every bit as alluring as those early Seven Summit's recordings. Where Nellis will go from here is anyone's guess ~ thankfully he seems anything but short of ideas.

Taylor Johnson

news ~ go girl release single for #freethenipple

by 06:23

Today all female supergroup 'Go Girl' released the music video for a single supporting the world-wide  'Free The Nipple' campaign. A synth-led, hook heavy tune, the wondefully titled 'Boobs' is actually a pretty catchy tune ~ but that's almost irrelevant compared to the positive work these creative woman are doing for Belfast!

Fronted by the Wonder Villains Cheylene Murphy, Go Girl's ethos is incredibly simple; it's a club for girls to get together, support eachother and try to make a difference through the arts and self expression.

Interested in being a Go Girl? Click here!

And check out the official music video below, featuring Bee Mick See.

Taylor Johnson

ep review ~ 'three songs' ~ craft work

by 03:37

Name: Craft Work
Genre: Trip-hop, Neo-classical
For Fans Of: Robocobra Quartet, Rob Dougan, Moby
Location: Belfast
Facebook//Twitter ~ n/a

There are times I feel some what unqualified, (naive perhaps?) in trying to analyse the sound made by Chris Ryan. His sense of spacial awareness within his music, the ever expanding distance between the light and the heavy; it's all a bit much at times. Lyrically, again, I am occasionally left some degree of self-doubt. Am I really understanding this? Is this what he means? Having got to know Ryan relatively well over the last two years, I can now confidently conclude that his answer to these thoughts would be to not overthink it ~ and so I won't. 'Three Songs' is a beautifully pieced together collection of sample-heavy tracks linked by the authors growling poetry at the microphone.

'Car Crash #1' sounds like the cinematic sequel to Robocobra Quartet's 'Bomber'. There's an underlying intensity matching it's title, percolated by Ryan's hypnotic, iron cast drum beat. It has the brooding intensity of an old war documentary, so very menacing. Ryan has his finger hovering above the self destruct button throughout. Will he press it? Well, er, no, but it's a strong start none the less and sounds better with more than one listen.

Follow up 'The Major' continues this dangerously uneasy-feeling, and we are beginning to wonder if Chris Ryan has some deep lying post-war stress disorder. Whether or not the drummer//producer had intentionally wanted to take us back to 1944 is anyone's guess ~ but it's an interesting thought.

"None of what we gained, compares to what we lost"

Regardless, the rising and falling of the string section in this song is truly beautiful, particularly around the 1:36 mark. To us, this is a journey to the edge of the human mind. Again filled with a dark foreboding, Ryan does just enough to stop himself falling off the edge.

Climaxing in fine fashion, 'Different Trains' is Ryan's take on the anthemic, again led by a remarkable string section. Percussion wise, Ryan again judges things perfectly, a trip-hop 90's vibe making it's way to the surface. There's some lyrical gems in here too, the way with which Ryan shouts them adding to their carefully orchestrated triumphant feel. Never gratuitous, the passion with which 'Different Trains' is sung is as if he's screaming in the face of the universe ~ as if he's daring time to prove him wrong.

"I still feel the same as I did at thirteen, and I'm going to feel this way until I die"

Taylor Johnson

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