Hudson Taylor ‘Singing for Strangers’ review

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A bit of buzz has been building up around Hudson Taylor for a while. Having started out busking on Grafton Street, the brothers (Alfie and Harry) relocated to London a couple of years ago and have since been signed by Polydor. They’ve built up an impressive following on social media which will give them a solid foundation and fanbase that will no doubt lap up their debut album Singing for Strangers. That hard work and time spent honing their craft is evident on what is a highly polished debut, built on sweet voices, strident acoustic guitars and the occasional crashing piano chord.

The opening track Just A Thought kicks things off in exuberant fashion, with plenty of ‘Whoa-oh’s’, bringing to mind those other young Irish upstarts Raglans. It’s clear from the start that Hudson Taylor have a knack for hook-laden, clever pop songs about lost love that are just right for repeated radio plays. The pastoral Butterflies and Night Before The Morning After further enforce this view, while next single World Without You allows the duo to show off their impressive vocal range with some stunning falsetto.

Weapons is a charming call to lay down arms and embrace the sweeter things in life while Care appeals to that nice girl to get away from that nasty guy. It’s all very nice and incredibly well put together but there are two tracks that break from the poppy template and these are the tracks that really stand out.

Off The Hook eschews the big sound of most of the album and sticks with a sparse arrangement of folky guitar picking, bass and beautiful harmonised vocals while Battles is the best song on the album. Menacing keys and strumming introduce this sinister folk tune, with world weary lines like “only time will tell if we’re all just cynics on the run” make it the most lyrically interesting track on offer.

This is a really solid album and it will be interesting to see where Hudson Taylor go from here. They have the pop sensibilities and ability to craft a tune that could see them be hugely appealing commercially but that’s not the only weaponry in their arsenal. It would be great to also see them further explore the more folk end of things as well. Whatever way they go, it looks like these young brothers are destined for good things and with a raft of well crafted tunes and years of hard work already behind them, few could begrudge them that success.

This article originally appeared on dublinconcerts.ie on 22 January 2015

Kerbdog ‘Congregation’ album – Review

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Frontman Cormac Battle has previously said that he felt Kerbdog were the ‘right band at the wrong time’. In their short career the band released two studio albums, including the seminal ‘On The Turn’. That album cost Mercury Records over a million dollars to make and was produced by renowned producer Gggarth Richardson and would surely have been a great success had it come out five years before it’s 1997 release. Unfortunately for Kerbdog, ‘On The Turn’ was released bang, smack in the middle of the Britpop years and their heavier sound just didn’t fit in with what was in vogue at the time.

It wasn’t long after the release of ‘On The Turn’ that guitarist Billy Dalton left the group and the other members wound up calling time on proceedings not long after that. It was a sad ending for an Irish band that had so much potential but such is the quality of the band’s back catalogue that the passing years saw them gain new fans, influencing the likes of Frank Turner and Biffy Clyro. Their reunion in 2005 was warmly received and the band have toured sporadically ever since. But now things have been ramped up a notch with the return of Dalton, talk of recording new material and the release of ‘Congregation’, a live album that is their first release in 17 years.

This is an album that will appeal to old and new fans of the band. With every track from ‘On The Turn’ included and a few tracks from their debut album also thrown in, ‘Congregation’ makes a great gateway into the world of Kerbdog for the uninitiated and also works as a reminder to long time fans of just how good they were.

Recorded in Dublin, Bristol and London in 2012, ‘Congregation’ presents a band at their blisteringly live best. From the opening chants of ‘Kerbdog, Kerbdog’ from the crowd, the pace is breakneck; chunky riffs reminding the listener of the band’s metal influences that mingle so well with the more grungy fare on offer.

All of the Kerbdog favourites are here – the deep brooding bass of ‘Mexican Wave’, the off kilter chords of ‘Lesser Self’ and the infectious, repetitive riff of ‘Scram’. The crowd seem to be lapping it all up and they play their part too, notably singing every word of ‘Sally’ back at the band. The band seem to be enjoying themselves too, engaging in a bit of craic with the security men before ‘Sorry For The Record’ and inviting the crowd to have a dance before launching into the very moshable ‘Didn’t Even Try’.

Once the raucous proceedings are brought to a close with ‘JJ’s Song’ played with joyous abandon, we’re treated to Kerbdog’s first new studio recording since ‘On The Turn’. ‘Electricity’ is a polished tune featuring some excellent twin guitar licks and nice vocal harmonies that trundle into a massive chorus. It’s a strong tune and will hopefully be the first of many new songs the band unleash upon us in the near future. It would be almost criminal if they didn’t release more new material after whetting the appetite by reminding us all how good they are with this live offering.

This article originally appeared on dublinconcerts.ie on 1 October

Adebisi Shank ‘This is the Third Album by a Band Called Adebisi Shank’ – Review

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This is indeed the third album by a band called Adebisi Shank and it’s an album full of gleeful madness, distilled through some old circuitry and whatever else the Wexford lads must have had lying around at the time. When a band cites a range of influences that include Enya, Game of Thrones and Crash Bandicoot games then you know you’re in for a weird and wonderful ride and it’s appropriate that the album is eight and a bit tracks long (the last track trio always is a bit of an afterthought to Voodoo Vision that precedes it but more of that anon). For that 8 bit sound is stamped all over the album, along with a whole host of vocals that have been processed through a vocoder. The overall effect is that the album mostly sounds like one long 80′s computer game; and a really fun 80′s computer game at that.

Opening track World In Harmony sets the template for what’s to follow, leading with those robotic elements and veering through peaks and troughs of noise before going out in a blaze of glory. It’s a tune that grabs the attention and draws the listener in, making them want to hear more and those inquisitive souls will be rewarded for their curious nature.

Big Unit is, well…big! Full of spacey riffs and pounding beats, it changes pace a few times when one least expects it before wandering off in a different, delightful direction. Elsewhere Turnaround is a cacophonic, breakneck bundle of fun that features a nice accordion cameo from guitarist Lar Kaye’s father Leonard.

The additional instruments that pop up on a couple of tunes do keep things interesting and manage to keep the synth, guitar and vocoder shenanigans from becoming monotonous. There’s some great brass on Mozel Tov, a tune that wouldn’t sound out of place in a zany 80′s rom-com or adventure yarn that never got made – something like Three Men Go Back To The Future and Have Adventures In Babysitting. Who wouldn’t pay to see that movie?

There are new ideas in pretty much every track on the album, Thundertruth is like a nursery rhyme that harnesses the childlike quality that drifts through the whole album. But the best track is essentially the last track. Voodoo Vision is an absolute beast, with anthemic guitar and syth trading licks before everything breaks down and all that can be heard is a luscious piano melody and those processed vocals. After all that has gone before, this is a moment of unexpected, gentle beauty, another surprise on a record that is full of them. Of course the song does explode back in to life before seguing into trio always almost unnoticed for the briefest of moments.

So that is the third album and they are a band called Adebisi Shank. They’re playing Whelan’s on 25 September and on the evidence of this album and their older output, that’s sure to be a seriously fun night.

This article originally appeared on dublinconcerts.ie on 22 August 2014

SlowPlaceLikeHome ‘Romola’ album – Review

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Hailing from Ballyshannon in the south of Donegal, Keith Mannion delivers a mellow slice of atmospheric indie-dance under the guise of his SlowPlaceLikeHome alter-ego. Romola is endlessly inventive, with each carefully layered tune full of twists and turns and unexpected sonic wanderings.

It’s difficult to inject a pastoral feel into electronic music, but the self-proclaimed ‘interstellar forest dweller’ manages to do just that over the course of the ten tracks on this album. This is helped in no small part by the fact that Mannion likes to incorporate field recordings in to his music, which brings to mind this scene from 24 Hour Party People.

It’s those field recordings that open the album, the sounds of the countryside dance in the air before the near whispered vocal ushers in the opening track Our Rules. This track sets the template for the album, with spacey, sci-fi synths and reverb drenched vocals the order of the day.

Not that these are the only sounds on the album. Mannion seems to draw on a vast range of influences and it is interesting to note that he said in a recent interview that he hadn’t listened to many new releases over the past couple of years as he wanted to develop his own music untainted by what else is going on at the moment. This has lead to a highly idiosyncratic approach that sees Take On Me style drums on She Comes In Colour Stereo sit easily with the God Is An Astronaut and even whisps of My Bloody Valentine type approach that characterizes the likes of Set Fire To The Stars. 

Although rooted in that futuristic synth sound, it’s the range of instruments that keep things interesting. Delay heavy guitar dominates Autumn’s Children, which is the type of tune that brings to mind roaring red summer sunset than the title suggests. Elsewhere Perfumed (With Life’s Imperfections) features some impressive call and answer dynamics between guitar and drums before wandering off into an entirely different direction while Luna is literally adorned with bells and whistles.

There is also the slightly menacing Romola Parts one, two and three to contend with although the overall tone of the album is that blissed out, ethereal vibe that knits everything together.

This is a fine album, that offers something new with every listen. Country living has never sounded so good.

This article originally appeared on dublinconcerts.ie on 9 August 2014

New Secret Weapon’s Debut Album – Review

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They’ve been on the go for nearly seven years and now, New Secret Weapon have finally released their debut album.

After a fateful meeting at KnockanStockan all those years ago, the band have spent their time honing their craft on stages all over Ireland and the UK and on the evidence of this album, this has been time well spent.

Helmed by Rian Trench of Solar Bears, the self titled long player from the Dublin three-piece is a hard album to define. Elements of metal, punk, blues, prog and psychedelica are all thrown into the mix to create a truly unique yet familiar sound. Shifting tempos are another trademark of the album; just as you think a song is going one way, the tempo changes and brings the song off into a crazy new direction. It’s a device that keeps the tunes interesting and marks the band out from other bands with a similar sound. The band half been compared to Queens of the Stone Age but perhaps Josh Homme’s other group, Them Crooked Vultures, might be closer to the mark.

Songs like the funky trip out of ‘Tea Party’ and recent single ‘Look At The State Of It’ kick the album off in fine style. Guitars and groovy bass are cranked up high but in spite of the heavy riffs, the band haven’t forgotten about melody, with guitarist and singer David Griffin’s voice easily transitioning from howls to near whispered menacing vocals throughout the album.

‘Wild One’ is the stand out track of the first half of the album. Jumping from time signature to time signature, the song features several extended, spacey guitar rushes that herald the more ambitious second half of the album. This second half features not one, but two seven minute epics and both are mightily impressive.

‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’ is full of chunky riffs and hysterical vocals before an extended breakdown that leads back in to a playfully chaotic outro. Elsewhere, ‘Rose’ is nearly eight minutes of shrieking riffs, crashing drum fills from Trevor Keogh and edgy bass rumblings from bass player Mark O’Connor. In less skilled hands both of these tunes could have ended up as overblown pretentious messes but the band manage make such undertakings look easy.

With the bluesy ‘Funeral Marsh’ wrapping things up, this is one of the finest Irish albums released this year. These guys have taken their time before committing music to record and that is perhaps a lesson to other bands that they don’t need to rush to release music and should take time honing their craft. The sheer scale of the sound is breathtaking and those who listen to this album will certainly be wanting to catch the band live to have this monster sound ring in their ears.

Fortunately the band are playing a host of Irish festivals over the summer. They have dates confirmed for Vantastival, Sea Sessions, KnockanStockan and Electric Picnic amongst others. By the time they play these dates they are sure to have an army of new fans thanks to this stunning record.

This article originally appeared on dublinconcerts.ie on 28 April 2014

Milky Chance ‘Sadnecessary’ Album – Review

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Since meeting in school on an ‘Advanced Music Course’ in their hometown of Kassel in Germany, Clemens and Philipp who make up Milky Chance have been performing under various guises before settling into their current incarnation.

Becoming Milky Chance just under two years ago, the duo have since scored a massive hit with ‘Stolen Dance’ which has surpassed 40 million hits on YouTube. Now it’s time for their debut album and what they’ve produced is an interesting pop record. Combining producer Philipp’s electronic beats with Clemens’ guitar and vocals, Milky Chance have created an album that, while not perfect, will certainly get the head bobbing on these long hot days.

Recorded in their own home studio using minimal equipment and released on their own Lichtdicht (stop sniggering at the back) label, ‘Sadnecessary’ is essentially the musical equivalent of Dimitar Berbatov; it can at times appear languid and lazy but is also capable of great things and overall stands head and shoulders above a lot of the competition.

‘Stunner’ and ‘Flash Junk Mind’ open the album in fine uptempo style before the pace is slowed somewhat for ‘Becoming’. ‘Running’ is a dynamically interesting tune and one of many that instantly transport you to a beer garden as the sun sets and the world gently drifts by.

At times the album feels like it could become a bit samey but fortunately there are some nice breaks, like the Eastern flavoured ‘Indigo’ to shake things up and keep the listener engaged. While the record does lull a bit in the middle, ‘Down By The River’ stands out as an incredibly fine pop song and features some bright classical guitar melodies.

The sequencing of a record is not often discussed but it’s a crucial part of putting an album together and Milky Chance have gotten things bang on with their debut album, saving the big guns for last. The aforementioned ‘Stolen Dance’ is a fine slice of chilled out pop that has echoes of The XX but the real standout track is the closer ‘Loveland’ which showcases Clemmens’ superb raspy vocals. It’s quieter than much of what has gone before but the emotion and rawness of the song crawls under the skin in the best possible way.

‘Sadnecessary’ is a fine opening salvo from Milky Chance and is certainly worth wrapping your ears around when it is released on 4 July.

This article originally appeared on dublinconcerts.ie on 18 June 2014

Raglans – Debut Album – Review

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Fresh from supporting The Strypes on their recent UK tour, Raglans have just released their eagerly awaited self-titled debut album. Produced by Jay Reynolds, whose previous credits include Pulp, Paloma Faith and The Verve amongst others, it’s a slick, exuberant and polished affair, packed full of catchy hooks, clever lyrics and anthemic choruses.

Kicking off with the knockout one-two of recent singles ‘Digging Holes’ and ‘(Lady) Roll Back The Years’, Raglans establish their intentions from the off. Both songs are up-tempo, rollicking numbers that burrow their way into your ears and stay there whether you want them to or not. ‘Digging Holes’ immediately grabs the listener’s attention as its intro roars from the speakers and the song, with its Foals-style guitar work, sets the party template that the rest of the album follows up on.

‘(Lady) Roll Back The Years’ is an acoustic driven tale of singer Stephen Kelly’s close encounter with an older lady with amorous intentions that he managed to narrowly avoid (although the line ‘maybe some day you’ll come calling’ suggests that he might regret rebuffing those advances!). It features the first of several impressive flourishes from lead guitarist Sean O’Brien. In fact, it’s O’Brien’s guitar work that make this album stand out from similar releases.

His solos, combined with some terrific rumbling drumming from Conn O’Ruanaidh, make ‘White Lightening’ one of the stand-out moments of the album while the spacey riffs on ‘Not Now’ add subtlety to Kelly’s wistful lyrics.

Elsewhere, ‘The Man From Glasgow’ is a post-punk tinged rocker complete with spikey guitars, funky bass grooves and good old fashioned rock n roll drumming that mark it out as a potential single for the future; while ‘Fake Blood’ with its ‘whoa, whoa’ refrains and call and answer choruses make it rife for audience participation and is sure to be a live favourite.

There are nods to their folk roots too, with mandolin featuring heavily on ‘Before Tonight’ and ‘Down’. ‘Down’, a reworking of an early demo, is a song about yearning to break free because there’s ‘no life in this shotgun town’ and you can be sure that Raglans will be able to satisfy those yearnings if they continue to release the type of high quality radio-friendly music that’s on offer here.

As ‘Born In Storms’ wraps up the 11 songs in under 40 minutes, you can’t help but be swept along with the enthusiasm and good vibes that the record generates although it could be argued that the record’s big strength is also its biggest flaw. Any one of the songs on offer could be imagined as a single, and that’s an impressive feat for any band. But while they are all great stand alone songs, when collected together they begin to feel a little samey. Perhaps one or two quieter, slower songs would have helped to pace the album a little bit better but if the only gripe about an album is that there’s too many catchy songs on it then the band aren’t doing a whole lot wrong.

There’s plenty of time for Raglans to explore those avenues if they so desire, but for now they’ve released an exceptionally fine album that’s sure to establish them as one of Ireland’s hottest new acts. With endorsements ringing in their ears from the likes of Ricky Gervais and Dermot O’Leary they look set to make a big splash on the other side of the Irish Sea as well so now be the time to catch them in some of the more intimate venues that they’ll be playing around Ireland over the next couple of weeks. By the looks of things those venues will be too small to hold their audience in the very near future.

This article originally appeared on dublinconcerts.ie on 22 March 2014

Otherkin – ‘As A High’ EP – Review

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In a recent conversation with Dublin Concerts, Otherkin opined that their music would be heading in a heavier direction. Their new EP, ‘As A High’ certainly sees them taking steps down a grungier path and it makes for an impressive addition to their rapidly growing canon.

The opening track ‘SLN’ is the heaviest of the three tracks on offer here. There are echoes of Pearl Jam in the intro before the song kicks into a hypnotic, swampy groove that drifts over Luke Reilly’s laid back vocals to form a heady brew of wonderfully fermented noise.

It’s the stand out track of this offering and it’s no surprise to hear that this will be the lead single off the EP. There’s a video planned which is to be directed by Narayan Van Maele, whose previous credits include excellent work with Sounds of System Breakdown and Heritage Centre amongst others, and is based around a ‘wacky idea’ the band have, so it’s sure to be worth a watch.

This video will be released on 27th March to coincide with the launch of the EP, which takes place in The Grand Social. Support on the night comes from New Natives. There are also DJ’s playing afterwards until well beyond the witching hour so 27th March is sure (to paraphrase a certain former England football team managerial candidate and his shiny suit wearing son) to be a top, top night for Otherkin fans.

While SLN is the standout track, the other two songs are far from filler. ‘As A High’ is a nice take on the well worn loud/quiet/loud dynamic. Staccato bass and drums dance merrily over the vocals in the verses before the drums and strident strumming usher in the choruses. This all leads to a swirling, psychedelic crescendo which brings matters to a satisfying conclusion.

‘Ego Mud’ closes out proceedings with its Talking Heads style guitar intro leading into an Editors meets Pumpkins romp. Reilly’s vocals are nicely embellished with just the right amount of reverb and the song displays Otherkin’s impeccable grasp of song structure.

What’s most impressive about this EP, and the rest of the band’s material to date, is that while it’s easy to pick out their influences as you listen to their music, Otherkin have managed to meld these influences together to create their own unique sound. Even at this early stage in their career, you know straight away that you’re listening to an Otherkin song even if some of the newer work is a bit heavier than the older stuff.

That’s a rare quality in a new band and it should see Otherkin safely along the upward curve on which they seem to be heading. The band are cautious when asked about an album release but with so many great tunes in the bank already, a long player must surely be in the offing soon.

This article originally appeared on dublinconcerts.ie on 25 March 2014

Laura Elizabeth Hughes EP Review

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With over 1.5 million views on her YouTube channel, it’s fair to say that there has been a bit of buzz about Dublin singer-songwriter Laura Elizabeth Hughes over the past year. Released with the help of a Fundit campaign that was one of the most highly supported campaigns ever on that site, Hughes delivers four sophisticated songs of heartbreak and lost love on her self-titled debut EP.

There are probably many who would roll their eyes and think; ‘not another heartfelt singer-songwriter’ but Hughes’ incredibly well crafted songs mark her out as something different from what can sometimes be a banal and bland crowd. From the start of the first song 8:7, with the opening lines ‘Scorn my love and scorn your heart/With empty chains and words unspoken,’ Hughes’ hauntingly beautiful voice demands that you stop whatever you’re dong and listen intently.

Her voice and lyrics are her biggest assets and they are wisely brought to the fore throughout the EP. The arrangements are kept nice and simple, allowing the listener to focus on the powerful vocals and soaring melodies that illustrate the singer’s extensive range.

Paper Thoughts is a tender ballad that pleads to someone to open up because ‘the bitterness you hold is burning through your bones.’ It features some nice string flourishes that add depth and atmosphere to the arrangement while lyrically it’s mightily impressive.

That lyrical talent is also evident on the highlight of the EP, Who Is That Stranger, a song that perfectly encapsulates the experience of the last dregs of a failing relationship. By the time Hughes sighs ‘I tried to fix us but couldn’t stop the world from tearing us down’ you can’t help but have the urge to give her a big hug and tell her everything will be alright. But you get the impression that this is a young lady who could live a hundred lives of hardship and still come out smiling defiantly with no such comfort required.

The closing track, Recall, has a slight whiff of Julie London’s Cry Me A River about it. It features some jazzy, gently finger-picked chords and the interesting musing that ‘nobody falls halfway.’ It’s a fine song but perhaps lacks the emotional punch of Who Is That Stranger which perhaps should have been the closing track. Having said that, if the worst that you can say about a record is that you’d slightly alter the running order then you don’t really have a whole lot to complain about.

Laura Elizabeth Hughes has built a sold foundation with this release and hopefully she can keep building on this momentum and it won’t be too long until we hear more from her. Her YouTube following shows that there is an audience with an appetite for her work and she is most assuredly one to watch for the future.

This article originally appeared on dublinconcerts.ie on 6 December 2013

Tandem Felix – ‘Ryan Hoguet’, ‘How Strange, The Weather’ – Review

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Lucan four-piece Tandem Felix follow up their recent support of Kodaline in the Olympia with the release of their new double A-Side single ‘Ryan Hoguet/How Strange, The Weather’ on Trout Records. As well as a digital release on Bandcamp, the band have also issued the single as a limited 7” record, with each sleeve featuring an individually hand-painted cover by Dublin artist Salvatore Fullam.

The single is sure to build on the momentum generated by the release earlier this year of the band’s debut EP, “Popcorn”. While “Popcorn” was likened favourably to Radiohead, ‘Ryan Hoguet/How Strange, The Weather’ has more of a Postal Service/Midlake-type vibe to it. This may be due to the fact that the new single was recorded mostly at home by lead singer David Tapley, resulting in a sparser, intimate sound in comparison with its predecessor.

‘Ryan Hoguet’ is a dreamy, mellow track featuring some interesting dynamics and an impressively understated guitar solo but the stand-out of the two songs is most definitely  ‘How Strange, The Weather’. The song is apparently written about overcoming a creative slump. If only all creative slumps could be this impressively out-manoeuvred.

The song opens with angelic harmonies complimented by a beautifully simple acoustic melody line before breaking down to near silence. A sparse guitar lick leads us to the outro refrain of ‘stormy the weather, out across the moor’.

To these ears, the song as a whole has more of the feeling of a long summer’s evening than a stormy day on the moor, but that’s a minor quibble. Overall it’s a thoroughly satisfying three-and-a-half minutes that improves with repeat listening.

This article originally appeared on dublinconcerts.ie on 4 December 2013