track review ~ 'the shy man spoke' ~ fionn crossan

by 05:01

Artist: Fionn Crossan
For fans of: Ben Howard, Joshua Burnside

To be so young, Mallusk-songwriter Fionn Crossan sings the weathered songs of a life fully lived, with lamenting regret, sorrow and even flashes of hope pouring out of every line.

If it's this maudlin reflection that draws you into Crossan's world, his virtuoso picking-patterns keep you there. Rustic and poignant, without ever threatening to overshadow the song upon which it floats.

'Maybe lost at sea's not the worst place I could be...'

There is an impenetrable yearn in Crossan's voice. A haunting admittance to the end of something great, or the start of something hard. As each broken verse falls into the next, edging ever closer to a heartbreaking close, you're waiting for the floodgates to burst open. They do, around the two and a half minute mark, when Crossan's defiant 'I was shy, but I spoke' leaves you all but broken. Truly hurting for the narrator of a story you may not fully understand, but can't help but feel you do.

Throughout you hear the rhythmic effects of John Martyn, the gentle whisper of Ben Howard's sophomore record 'I Forget Where We Were'Though ultimately Crossan has crafted his own beautiful melancholy, no mean feat in a genre overcrowded so much already. 

Though it may be a bit early to claim 'The Shy Man Spoke' timeless, twenty listens in and we are no closer to listening to anything, or indeed anyone, else. 

Taylor Johnson

track of the week ~ 'time and space' ~ michael bell

by 02:36

Artist: Michael Bell
For fans of: Boards of Canada, Explosions in the Sky

There's a serene nostalgia to ambiant producer Michael Bell's music that feels as comforting as it is untracable. If Brian Eno's 'An Ending' conjures a tranquil image of the end of the world, then Bell's paints a similarly relaxing feel to universe which surrounds it.

The guitars here play the role of strings, quietly ebbing and flowing at peace with the rest of the music, never fighting for dominance. Meditative and self assured, you get the feeling that 'Time and Space' is simply the first step on a long musical journey for Michael Bell, who could follow in the footsteps of Oaks and Ryan Vail before too long.

Taylor Johnson

ep review ~ 'seagreen' ~ natures

by 07:12

Be it deliberate or not, Monaghan born, Dublin based, songwriter Dáithí Murphy's move from the hardcore end of the musical spectrum, to the acoustic has proved an inspired decision. 

As the live-wire frontman of heavy-af-rock band 'Attack the Day', Murphy's aggressive vocals and bold performances marked both him and his band as eventual successors to the likes of Axis Of on the Irish punk scene, making the emergence of 'natures', his acoustic side project, extremely unlikely. Yet a nine months on from his first Soundcloud demo there comes 'Seagreen', natures debut DIY EP. 

Four songs drenched in heart, Murphy leaves no stone unturned in his quest to bleed out every emotion he has onto his lyrics sheet. From "thinking about the way you give me hope" in the charming indie-pop stylings of 'Going to Yours', to pondering the size of his own funeral on the excellent 'April 15th', each track tells a story, each story uniquely engaging. 

There's also been massive strides forward for natures as an artist; the simplified, lofi aspect of the songs suits his vocal, the song structures are more playful, the melodies more memorable. It feels and sounds like a friend playing guitar in your living room beside you. Even if you're seven cans in and there's nothing left to do but laugh before you both cry. 

It's within that simplicity that 'Seagreen' pulls you into it's world. It's a world of "lighting rollies of toasters and drinking cans in the garden", it's being as scared of the future as you are excited by it. It's about loving and hurting, but loving again because in the end it's all gonna be worth it. 

Seagreen is a record of hope. For every sad lyric, and there are plenty, there's another telling you to keep your head up.

That might be exactly what the world needs right now. 

Taylor Johnson

For fans of: The Front Bottoms, Human Kitten, Cloud Nothings

top songs of 2016 ~ #10 ~ #1

by 06:24
Part two of our comprehensive round up of the best tunes to emerge from these shores in 2016.

If 2015 kickstarted the emo-revival, this past year cemented it, as throughout the uncertainty people seemed to bind together more than ever before. The #IAMWHOLE campaign saw thousands of people unite to combat mental health stigma, football's 'Rainbow Laces' campaign emerged to show the sports support of homosexual players and last years World Mental Health Day (October 10th) gathered more support on social media than ever before.

It was the year Twenty One Pilots frontman Tyler Joseph's open-book lyricism saw his band conquer the planet, Modern Baseball's 'Tripping in the Dark' documentary gave an insight into the stress and damage constant touring can have on bands and closer to home we all felt the loss of Rainy Boy Sleep, honored countlessly and rightfully by everyone who knew him and loved his music.

With this in mind, perhaps that will be 2016's lasting legacy. A reminder that no matter how bad things get, you're never alone. Hopefully next year can build on this hope and we'll be dancing to some new tunes as good as these songs come December 2017.

Here's hoping...

Taylor Johnson

#10. Silences ~ 'Carve Me Open'

 Included in Spotify's 'Best of Folk' playlist recently, Silences have had another momentous year that culminated in the release of 'Luna', their latest stunning EP. At the EP's launch in Bar Sub, this was the tender highlight, as frontman Conchúr White pulled off the mic to serenade the crowd in alost perfect, well, silence. An utterly brilliant track.

Spotify version here

#9. January ~ 'Constantly Hungover'

"You're constantly hungover, we don't talk when you're sober..."

Back in March, Belfast's coolest sadboiz truly arrived on the local scene with 'Constantly Hungover', a nostalgic hurricane of a track bursting with ambition, melencholy and an absolutely epic chorus. Months on from that release they've not only established themselves south of the border, but also recorded 'SWELL' a follow up EP in the same vein as its predecessor, but turned up to eleven. We can't wait...

#8. Robocobra Quartet ~ 'Correct'

If in 50 years it emerged that Robocobra Quartet were the true genius behind Bowie's final studio album 'Blackstar', there would be very few questions asked. Somehow Chris Ryan's outrageous jazz-punk project manage to make the most truly idiosyncratic noise accessable, in a way that can't help but make you feel cooler for listening to it. Correct? Correct.

#7. The Late Twos ~ 'Vanishing Fire'

Rarely does a band do pure unadulterated joy better than The Late Twos. This title track from their latest EP is as close to summer time happiness as you can get without being literally on a beach with your best mates. That said, it's more than just a catchy chorus and explosive drumming; the outro from lead guitarist Ryan Bennett is one of the most moving this band have ever produced. It's more refined, clever and uplifting than ever before.

Listen on Spotify here

#6. Little Arcadia ~ 'Lights'

Since forming in school back in 2012, Little Arcadia have carved out a name for themselves as one of the North Coast's hidden gems. An abundance of energy, an explosive live sound and tunes that stick in your head for days, for years now they've been considered northern headliners and rightfully so. Their latest single 'Lights' finally got them some exposure in the capital this year, with airplay on Radio Ulster and praise from all who've heard it so far. The goal next year? To expand that fan base further and show the rest of the country what they've been missing.

#5. Girlfriend ~ 'don't come to my funeral'  

"i bury all these things so deep it's hard to tell
if buried truths are treasures of just more burden"

We could have picked any track from '3am Rituals', the debut EP from Dublin's most exciting new band 'Girlfriend', to make up this list; in the end 'don't come to my funeral's gentle sway, ghost-whisper backing vocals and beautifully lo-fi production just edged it.

It's a record that demands constant re-listens, opening with the explosive 'kill them all (with your feelings)' and culminating with the deeply moving 'the stuff you think about late at night and never tell anyone about'. It feels like an important record, one that will be re-visited time after time, just as it should be.

#4. Junk Drawer ~ 'Quandary'

'To see the world, or stay inside my head?'

 Despite much of Junk Drawer's clever lyrics going over my head entierly, that hasn't stopped them becoming one of my favourite new bands to come out of the country in recent years. Their dreamy, gloom-tinged indie dips and dives on an EP sounding like it was made by a band already six albums and a strained relationship with the alternative music press in to their careers. With a bit of luck, Stevie, Jake, Brian and Rory Dee will be turning Mojo down for interviews sooner, rather than later.

#3. Ciaran Lavery ~ 'Okkervil River'

This stunning track from the NI Music Prize winning album 'Let Bad In' goes some way to explain the mammoth hype surrounding this incredibly talented songwriter. Incorporating an inspired horn section, Lavery once again trancends the singer-songwriter constraints that a solo musician with a guitar can so easily fall into. An ode to the innocence of childhood and how it felt 'to have everything', this may the hidden gem on an album fully deserving of every accolade it picks up.

#2. Jealous of the Birds ~ 'Russian Doll'

Jealous of the Birds has had an incredible year. Shows as far wide as America and London have seen her break through to a worldwide audience, whilst her NI Music Prize nominated debut album has been streamed over half a million times on Spotify. For us it was a toss up between the lo-fi-punk stylings of 'Russian Doll' and the gentle sway of 'Marcus', with 'Russian Doll' just coming out on top. The beauty of Jealous of the Birds, aka Naomi Hamilton, is her utter commitment to making music as pure as herself. The result is a record of splendid variety, dancing between the lines of indie and folk, pop and bohemia. Next year will undoubtedly be another fantasic year for this extremely talented songwriter.

#1. Hot Cops ~ 'Auto'
'no one really knows their kids
nobody kisses their parents anymore
no one really talks to their kids and
nobody talks to their parents anymore'

Written after a disasterous trip to Amsterdam which included a visit to the home of Anne and Otto Frank, 'Auto' may be Hot Cops most mature release to date. Despite still being very much in love with their old records, the anthemic-power displayed on earlier releases like 'Another Teen Age' sound almost juvenile in comparison to 'Auto's swirling guide to the "isosceles rooftops lining the canals". It remains poetic, visceral and a natural progression if ever there was one.

Taylor Johnson

pavilion 'battle of the bands' begins once more...

by 12:19

The Thin Air's annual 'Battle of the Bands' is now taking submissions for their biggest competition to date.

Ran in conjunction with SONI & Magill Promotions, this years top prize ways in at £1000.

To enter your band email '' along with song and social media links.

Previous competitors include Robocobra Quartet, SALAD BOYZ and the sadly now defunct Treehome.

Enter now!

top songs of 2016 - #20 - #11

by 07:15

As we wave goodbye to the madness of 2016 and look toward a future more in doubt than an Oasis reunion, it's good to remind ourselves of some of the quality local music released over the last 12 frantic months.

Here at Encore NI we've arranged these tunes into a top 20 list of our absoloute favourites to come from these shores. We start with...

#20. The Autocratic ~ Revelations

A young four-piece growing in confidence with each release, 'Revelations' has been the most danceable single of theirs to date. Channeling the jangly guitar work of Johnny Marr and a chorus Stereophonics frontman Kelly Jones would be proud of, Belfast looks the most likely destination to find this band next year, having cut their teeth in Portrush's Atlantic Bar for most of this year. With a new line-up, new tunes and a new base in the capital city, this could be a big year for them.

#19 Natures -'Lighting Rollies Off Toasters'

As the energetic frontman of 'Attack of the Day', Dáithí Murphy is more used to watching his crowds injuring themselves in mosh-pits than getting nostalgic to sad acoustic songs about, literally lighting rollies off toasters. Though in the strange year of 2016 anything was truly possible, and in 'Seagreen', his debut solo EP under the name 'Natures', Murphy channeled these emotions into something truly meaningful. Currently making an impression on the Dublin emo-scene, 2017 will see the release of 'Half-Hearted', a follow up single long in the works.

#18 Sea Above - 'Going Away'

 It's been a year of quiet growth for Sea Above, a Belfast three piece with their roots in the US grunge scene of the early 90's. Their latest demo release 'In The Scoop' showed their more delicate side, with this gentle solo effort leaving a lasting impression.

#17. Sleeping Outside ~ 'Inhaler'

"my mind is overflowing
your agenda's really showing
and i can't catch my breath"

Another band breaking out of the North Coast's newly emerging emo-scene is Sleeping Outside, who blew away the crowd at Stendhal Festival with one of the performances of the summer. Despite a set filled with bangers, it was their emotionally charged version of 'Inhaler' that summed up the sound of a very memorable summer. Next year will important for them.

#16. Saint Sapphire ~ 'Supersonic Pulse'

2016 proved a wonderful year for Saint Sapphire and their charismatic frontman Sam GR Morgan. Buoyed by the addition of two new members and a new EP due for release in February, the bands trademark optimism shone through on this Manic Street Preachers inspired single.

#15. Brash Isaac ~ 'Only Ghost'

Former 1930's drummer Andrew Cameron has had quite a remarkable year since exchanging his drumsticks for a microphone. The young songwriter topped off a year of heart-wrenchingly beautiful releases with a slot at the Emerald Armada's Christmas Show, setting up another wonderful year ahead. This string accompanied track is a favourite.

#14. R51 ~ 'Elephant' 

Since this websites creation back in 2013 we've praised the intoxicatingly brilliant R51 more times than we can remember, and having already chosen 'A Perfect Life' as our track of the year through Chordblossom (read our thoughts here) toyed with the idea of leaving them off this list. In the end we couldn't, this track is just too good.

#13. Fox Colony ~ 'Patterns'

Due for release next year in full blown 'banger' form alongside a brand new EP, 'Patterns' is the synth-driven emotional jewel in Fox Colony's ever growing arsenal of tunes. A song about 'Every boy and girl on Tumblr, over-romanticising every situation', we predict there'll be alot of people singing the words back to frontman Darren Hill in 2017. We'll be right at the front with them!

#12. Oh Boland ~ 'Take Me Back To Mutton Island'

As Galway's number one indie-slop-pop-slacker-rock band of the last few years, Oh Boland have carried a city's hopes on their backs for a while now; thankfully debut album 'Spilt Milk' delivered, with this Pavement-y single standing out for that ferocious chorus hook.

#11. Life Goals ~ 'Wreck Less Nature'

"I don't wanna die! But I don't wanna live like this anymore..."

For many Decky McBride's latest project were the sound of the summer, as Life Goals stormed every gig they played in their busy 2016. Their debut split release of 'Wreck Less Nature' and 'Between The Lines' had a distinctly American feel, evoking the likes of PUP and Modern Baseball in the process. It's proved a winning formula so far and in 2017 there's no signs of Life Goals slowing down.

Taylor Johnson
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