Festival coverage, including that from SXSW 2017 and BIGSOUND 2017, can be read through here.

SXSW 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Live at Leeds 2016 | 2015 | 2014
Sound City 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Great Escape 2015 | 2013 | 2012

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Album Review: A.S. Fanning – Second Life

 
By on Thursday, 12th October 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

AS Fanning Second Life coverIrish singer/songwriter A.S. Fanning is making a ‘Second Life’ for himself, with a new solo LP of that particularly apropos title. The former frontman of Dublin-based bands Porn Trauma and The Last Tycoons, Fanning relocated to Berlin several years ago. Finding it to be more affordable than Dublin for his practical and musical purposes, he decided to stay on, and he finished recording the self-produced album ‘Second Life’ there earlier this year. Just after wrapping up the record, Fanning made his American debut at SXSW 2017, which is where TGTF happened to make his acquaintance.

As is often the case with carefully crafted pieces of music, the collection of songs on ‘Second Life’ have evolved over a lengthy songwriting process, and some of them have already made the rounds as early single releases. ‘Carmelita’, for example, dates back to the end of 2015, and it has stood the test of time for inclusion on the full LP. Indeed, the ironic religious imagery in its poetry and the desperately yearning quality of its refrain distinguish it straightaway as one of the album’s strongest tracks.

Appearing later in the album, ‘Dark Star’ has also been part of Fanning’s live repertoire for at least the better part of a year. Fanning’s dramatic baritone delivery of its darkly brooding lyrics “you met a sweet boy in that stupid bar with no name / he was so kind and helpful, apologised when he came” were a memorable part of his setlist at SXSW, and the song makes a similarly striking impact in the tracklisting of ‘Second Life’. Current single ‘Never Been Gone’ is slightly more uptempo in its shuffling rhythm, and distinctly warmer in tone than many of the tracks on the LP. Its light instrumental interludes and gently wistful lyrics, “soft summer sun, memory so strong, nothing needs explaining, just a feeling that you’d never been gone”, are a welcome glimpse of sunshine amongst the figurative shadows where Fanning more typically dwells.

Midway through the album, Fanning takes on a deliberately artistic aesthetic with instrumental piece ’The Heron’. Purely instrumental tracks are often more difficult to interpret than songs with words, but this one comprises musical gestures that are angular, delicate and tranquil, like the graceful bird mentioned in the title. Penultimate track ‘Empty Suitcase’ isn’t strictly instrumental, but its brief and distant vocal lines are clearly secondary in focus to the deftly constructed instrumental layers that make up its rich harmonic and textural soundscape.

‘That’s Where They’ll Find You’ is similarly expansive and dynamic in its instrumental arrangement, but much more ominous in tone. Its throbbing heartbeat pulse and heavy keyboard structure frame sinister lyrical references to places of “sickness and plain despair and all that is unjust / where raving madmen find their bliss and stiff john lust.” Here again, Fanning’s deep baritone plays to its greatest effect, with its unique combination of dry humour and utter solemnity.

Final track ‘Louis Armstrong’ is shaped as an old-fashioned jazz ballad with prominent brass in the backing arrangement, inspired by the famed American jazz musician who evidently factored into Fanning’s musical upbringing. Its lyrics have a mildly pessimistic bent, which keeps the song from feeling entirely out of place on the record. “I can only pray the joy outweighs the sadness in the end”, Fanning sings, and closing the album on this clever and surprising note ultimately brings that lyrical wish to fruition. A.S. Fanning’s ‘Second Life’ as a solo artist may be just beginning, but the wide range of his musical and lyrical ability has set him off to a very promising start.

8/10

A.S. Fanning’s debut LP ‘Second Life’ is due out tomorrow, Friday the 13th of October, via Proper Octopus Records. Tomorrow night, Fanning will play an album launch show at Dublin Whelan’s. TGTF’s previous coverage of A.S. Fanning, including live reviews from SXSW 2017, is right back this way.

 

SXSW 2017: Thursday afternoon at Music From Ireland’s Full Irish Breakfast – 16th March 2017

 
By on Tuesday, 11th April 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

Thursday at SXSW 2017 was another full day, but my tired feet did get a bit of a reprieve after the lengths I walked on Wednesday night. I started the day at the Austin Convention Center for Zane Lowe’s keynote session, then spent the remainder of the afternoon at B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub, which hosted Music for Ireland’s day show, the Full Irish Breakfast. (Editor Mary caught the opening acts on the Irish Breakfast bill, New Portals and Ciaran Lavery while I was listening to Zane Lowe; you can read about them in her Thursday afternoon review.)

AS Fanning IB

I arrived at B.D. Riley’s with just enough time for a plate of breakfast before “dark folk” singer/songwriter A.S. Fanning began to play. I’d seen Fanning earlier in the week at the Convention Center Next Stage, but as I’ve noted in the past, B.D. Riley’s has a very different ambiance from other SXSW venues, especially the sterile Convention Center stages. Fanning’s sharp lyrics and dramatic rock-tinged musical style skillfully elicited a mood of brooding melancholy in both environments. I caught him later in the afternoon for this quick interview, where we talked about the different venue atmospheres and his upcoming album ‘Second Life’.

"Loah

One of the afternoon’s pleasant surprises was soulful singer/songwriter Loah, whose West African musical influences were delightfully unexpected in the context of the Irish showcase. Her silky vocals and exotic stage presence were nothing short of stunning, bringing the bustling pub to a momentary standstill. Take a listen to my interview with Loah right back here, and watch this video for her full band performance of ‘Cross’, courtesy of Press Record.

Cloud Castle Lake IB

Next on the bill were electronic act Cloud Castle Lake, whose cool detachment and distinct avant-garde tendency took a decidedly different tone. Brendan Jenkinson’s ethereal falsetto was almost lost in the shuffle of background noise at B.D. Riley’s, but the band’s heavily rhythmic musical arrangements made a strong impression nonetheless.

"JOB

Northern Irish alt-rocker Jealous of the Birds (aka Naomi Hamilton) played a full band show at B.D. Riley’s, as opposed to the stripped back set I saw her play on the Output Belfast boat earlier in the week. Her erudite lyrics and eclectic mix of musical styles took on a much more vibrant cast in the fully-arranged versions of her songs, especially the popular ‘Goji Berry Sunset’. Hamilton and her bandmates fully embraced their punk-rock undertones in this pub setting, exponentially raising the energy level on the stage as well as among the punters in the growing crowd.

That newly-generated energy was immediately picked up by fellow Northern Irish band Silences, (pictured in the header photo above) who took the B.D. Riley’s stage with a decided air of confidence, quite different from frontman Conchúr White’s demeanor in his solo appearance last year. White and his bandmates didn’t waste a lot of time on chatter, preferring instead to impress the crowd with their massive, soaring five-piece sound. I was literally stunned to silence (pun intended) by the goose bump-inducing arrangement of their single ‘Breathless’, and I bubbled over with excitement for the up-and-coming Silences in this post-set interview with White and guitarist Chris Harbinson.

Taking full advantage of the momentum built by their Northern Irish compatriots, avant/experimental group Robocobra Quartet brought a surprisingly brash punk attitude to their jazz-tinged classical aesthetic. Based on our Adam’s description of them in his preview of NI artists, I probably should have expected punk, but I didn’t realise the extent of that influence until I heard lead singer/drummer Chris Ryan do his frenetic routine. The jazz side of things came through in the unique combination of saxophone sounds provided by Tom Tabori and Thibault Barilon. It’s an odd but intriguing mélange of sounds, and my immediate post-set commentary probably sums it up best: “I’m not sure what I just listened to, but I think I liked it.”

Birds of Olympus IB

I was equally intrigued by Dublin psych-rock act Birds of Olympus, especially after their frontman Spud Murphy described their sound to me as “Talking Heads mixed with Ennio Morricone”. Their songs were broadly expansive and strangely hypnotic, with smooth vocal melodies and edgy rhythmic grooves evolving in vivid kaleidoscopic fashion. Check it out for yourself in this live video performance of ‘Cinder to the Sun’ on the band’s official Facebook.

The Academic IB

Mary and I had been waiting over a year to see young Dublin rockers The Academic, and they took the Irish showcase by storm at SXSW 2017, with a set that was by turns wildly energetic and broodingly sullen. Frontman Craig Fitzgerald has cultivated a certain bad-boy mystique that feeds into the band’s more introspective songs, like ‘Thought I Told You’ and ‘Small Town Lovers’, while the driving momentum of songs like ‘Different’ is clearly the band’s strongest suit.

Picture This IB

The final act on the Full Irish Breakfast was another up-and-coming mainstream pop band, the swaggering Dublin rock duo Picture This. I’d taken the opportunity to sit down with band members Jimmy Rainsford and Ryan Hennessy earlier in the week, and their unabashedly cocky demeanor in that Tuesday afternoon interview had piqued my interest for seeing them live. As it turned out, they had every reason to be confident. The anthemic rock-leaning pop of tracks like ‘You & I’ was enthusiastically received at B.D. Riley’s, ending the day on an ecstatic high. Also, for the record, Hennessy fulfilled his earlier promise to play topless, which I hadn’t taken seriously until he actually did it.

Picture This 2 IB

All in all, the Full Irish Breakfast once again lived up to its reputation as one of the best shows in town during SXSW, and the bands on the showcase fully exceeded even my high expectations. For more on the fine Irish acts at SXSW 2017, you can read back through Mary’s coverage of the official Music From Ireland showcase at the Velveeta Room on St. Patrick’s Day.

 

SXSW 2017: Tuesday morning and afternoon spent with Irish artists and an exceptional English band – 14th March 2017

 
By on Wednesday, 5th April 2017 at 5:00 pm
 

The Tuesday morning of SXSW 2017 found me out the door early, headed across the Colorado River to the Hyatt Regency Boat Dock, which the launching point for the Output Belfast Boat Party. The Boat Party, a collaborative event among several agencies including Generator NI and the Belfast City Council, is quickly becoming a Convergence tradition at SXSW, popular among attendees from across the Interactive, Film, and Music categories.

I was lucky to get onboard, as the boat quickly reached capacity. I had only just made my way to the upper deck when I was approached by one of the morning’s performers, electronic musician Ryan Vail. I recognised him from his press photos and felt a momentary panic, worried that I would be expected to say something intelligent about electronic music and drawing a complete blank. Fortunately, Vail was knowledgeable enough for both of us, and he kept the conversation afloat until the official festivities began.

Guy internal

The morning’s distinguished emcees included our friends Mark Gordon of Generator NI and Belfast city Alderman Guy Spence (pictured above), as well as Help Musicians UK CEO Richard Robinson. All three were cordial but brief in their remarks, wanting, like the rest of us, to get straight to the music performances. Vail took the stage, such as it was, first. Balancing his sensitive electronic equipment on the gently rocking riverboat was something of a challenge, but Vail managed it beautifully, setting a soft and mellow sonic atmosphere for the rest of the show.

Ryan Vail internal

Alt-rocker Jealous of the Birds (pictured in header above) returned to Austin this year after a successful debut at SXSW 2016, this time with her full band accompanying her. For this brief semi-acoustic riverboat set, she was joined only by keyboard player, Hannah McConnell who also provided lovely backing vocals. I found myself whistling along to the now familiar ‘Goji Berry Sunset’ and hanging intently on the literary-leaning lyrics of ‘Tonight I Feel Like Kafka’. You can check out another SXSW 2017 performance of both tracks, courtesy of NPR, right here.

Ciaran Lavery internal

Final performer Ciaran Lavery opened with an a capella take on ‘Let Bad In’ that had me in tears before he had even completed the full song, which made it a bit difficult to take photos. He acknowledged that his songs aren’t exactly upbeat “dance numbers”, but his richly-textured vocals and stark acoustic arrangements felt pleasantly warm and inviting in the early afternoon Texas sunshine.

After the boat party was complete, I took a few minutes to sit down with the three featured artists for this impromptu interview, then I headed quickly back downtown for another interview with a band from the Republic of Ireland, Dublin’s Picture This. I was few minutes late to reach them, but fortunately they were gracious enough to wait, and band members Jimmy Rainsford and Ryan Hennessy gave this fascinating introductory soundbite. They exuded confidence and swagger, which immediately struck me as unusual, but in a positive way, very different from the self-deprecating humility of so many artists I meet. I wouldn’t have the chance to hear Picture This play live until the Thursday afternoon of SXSW, but needless to say, my curiosity was piqued.

From there, it was back to the Radisson for me, where I had arranged an interview with Reading quartet Sundara Karma. They were fresh on the SXSW scene, having only arrived in Austin hours before, but they were chomping at the bit to immerse themselves in the experience. In contrast to Picture This, Sundara Karma seemed genuinely unaffected by the hype surrounding their SXSW appearance. Click here to listen back to my poolside chat with band members Oscar Pollock and Haydn Evans.

AS Fanning internal wide

Interviews complete for the afternoon, my next stop was at the Convention Center Next Stage, where I met Mary to catch Irish singer/songwriter A.S. Fanning. Later in the week, (in this interview) Fanning would describe the Convention Center vibe as more like a lecture hall than a proper gig, and I have to agree with his sentiment. The large stage and open seating area was almost too spacious for Fanning’s dark, intimate songwriting, but his captivating lyrics and resonant baritone vocals very quickly minimised the emotional distance between himself and his audience.

AS Fanning internal tall

Keep following TGTF’s continuing coverage of SXSW 2017 in the coming days for more on all of the excellent artists featured here: Ryan Vail on the grand piano at St. David’s Bethell Hall, A.S. Fanning and Picture This at Thursday’s Full Irish Breakfast, Ciaran Lavery at the Output Belfast day show, Sundara Karma at Stubb’s BBQ, and Jealous of the Birds on Saturday’s Music for Listeners showcase at El Sapo.

 

SXSW 2017 Interview: A.S. Fanning

 
By on Tuesday, 28th March 2017 at 3:00 pm
 

Irish singer/songwriter A.S. Fanning was unique among his Irish peers at SXSW 2017 in that he’s currently based in Berlin rather than at home on the Emerald Isle. Not having any previous knowledge of Fanning’s music, I was curious about what might have prompted him to make that choice. After hearing his set on Thursday’s Full Irish Breakfast at B.D. Riley’s Pub, I was able to catch him for a quick interview to find out more.

As Fanning explained to me, he relocated to Berlin several years ago, with his previous band The Last Tycoons. (Tangentially, a quick Facebook search reveals that Fanning was known as “Switchblade Steve” during his time in The Last Tycoons, a fact that I sorely regret not knowing at the time of the interview!) Finding Berlin less costly than Dublin, he simply decided to stay on after the band split up.

Musically speaking, Fanning’s life experience going back to childhood has led him to a rather enchanting blend of “dark folk”, Americana, and rock ‘n’ roll influences, which he talked about briefly in our interview just below. If you missed it earlier this month, you can hear Fanning’s current single ‘Carmelita’ in our preview of Irish artists at SXSW 2017, and check out his striking baritone vocals in the live video for ‘Dark Star’ at the bottom of this page.

A.S. Fanning has just finished recording his album ‘Second Life’, funded by a Kickstarter campaign that wrapped up in January. Its release is expected later this year, via Proper Octopus Records. Stay tuned to TGTF for more coverage of A.S. Fanning at SXSW 2017 in our upcoming review of the Thursday afternoon Full Irish Breakfast, as well as further news on the album release if that becomes available.

Special thanks to Candice for helping me coordinate this interview.

 

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017: Irish artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Tuesday, 7th March 2017 at 11:00 am
 

The Emerald Isle always sends a strong contingent of acts out to SXSW, and this year for SXSW 2017 is no exception. Having covered Hard Working Class Heroes myself for the first time last October and my new initiative in 2016 to include Ireland as part of TGTF’s official remit make supporting the Irish and Northern Irish artists coming out to Austin all that much sweeter in 2017. In this post, we introduce you to seven acts from different corners of Ireland proper. The summaries of acts below were written by the newest member of our team and our Northern Irish correspondent Adam McCourt. Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and artists and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite artist is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook and official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

The Academic – rock / Mullingar
The Academic – Craig Fitzgerald (vocals/guitar), brothers Matt (guitar) and Stephen (bass) Murtagh and Dean Gavin (drums) are an indie pop four-piece from Mullingar. Since their performance of their debut single ‘Different’ on one of Ireland’s most watched television shows, ‘The Late Late Show’ they have done nothing but soared to success. They signed a publishing deal with Global publishing in that same year and since have appeared on the bills of top festivals and supported huge names Kodaline, The Strypes, Little Green Cars and opening for The Pixies at The Marquee. Their debut EP ‘Loose Friends’ was released in October 2015. We reviewed their single ‘Mixtape 2003’ and featured its promo video last year, so TGTF are no strangers to these young talents. FFO: Kings of Leon, The Metric System, Stereophonics

A.S Fanning – singer/songwriter / Berlin via Dublin
A.S Fanning is a musician, singer, songwriter and producer who was previously the frontman for the underrated Dublin band The Last Tycoons. Since their end, Fanning has relocated to Berlin and began writing music alone. So far, he’s only released one single, ‘Carmelita’ so far; however, keep your eyes and ears peeled for his debut album funded by Kickstarter crowdfunding, ‘Second Life’, expected to drop this March. FFO: The Veils, Editors, Tom Waits

Birds of Olympus – rock / Wicklow
Spud Murphy (vocals), Donal Colohan (guitar), Darin Joye (guitar), Rory Clarke (bass) and Derek Byrne (drums) make up the Wicklow based self-proclaimed neo-psychedelic band Birds of Olympus. Keeping in line with their rather cryptic and metaphorical online bio, the birds hatched from their eggs in late 2015, and since have been testing the waters with their fresh blend of pop. They’ve released three singles – ‘Vine of the Soul’, ‘Cinder to the Sun’ and ‘Lights Out’ – and have a debut EP on the way. FFO: Modest Mouse, Villagers, Tame Impala

Cloud Castle Lake – electronic / Dublin
Dublin-based electronic trio Cloud Castle Lake have no fear when it comes to experimenting with sounds. Blending gloomy r&b chord progressions with Aphex Twin-esque acid techno drum grooves topped with an angelic falsetto voice, Brendan Jenkinson, Rory O’Connor and Daniel McAuley have perfected the art of cross-genre music. They released their debut EP ‘Dandelion’ in September 2014 and since then have only put out one single, ‘Glacier’. We’re looking forward to seeing what they unveil in Austin. FFO: Radiohead, Aphex Twin, Wild Beasts, Capua Collective

EMBRZ – electronic / Dublin
EMBRZ is the brainchild of Dublin-born musician Jack Casey who started out as a guitar player in a band as a teenager. It’s said that an early deadmau5 track turned him on to electronic music. Since this discovery, EMBRZ has contributed massively to the vast world of EDM-influenced music with a rich blend of emotive dance music and downtempo beats. His remixes of The 1975’s track ‘Settle Down’ and Ellie Goulding’s ‘How Long Will I Love You?’ gained over 1 million plays when released and since then have almost tripled. A flurry of singles have been released in the last 2 years: ‘Silent’, ‘Lights’, ‘Home’ and ‘Breathe’. FFO: The 1975, Kygo, Bantum

Loah – soul / Dublin
The music created by Sallay Matu Garnett, aka Loah (pictured at top at an Other Voices show last year), comes as no surprise considering her background. Born in Kenya, but raised between Dublin, Sierra Leone and Maynooth, she now works as a part-time pharmacist in Dublin and writes stellar African infused soul/fusion music. Her rich blend of her African roots is what sets her apart from any other fusion artists, thus pioneering a genre Loah calls “ArtSoul”. Loah recently collaborated with Irish DJ and Bantum on single ‘Take It’ from his 2017 RTE Choice Music Prize Irish Album of the Year Award-nominated debut ‘Move’. FFO: Lianne La Havas, Nina Simone, Childish Gambino, Patti Smith

Picture This – pop/rock / Dublin
When Ryan Hennessy (vocals/guitar) and Jimmy Rainsford (drums) began writing music in 2015, neither of them anticipated that they would sell out 8 dates in total at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre, making Picture This the first band to do this since R.E.M in 2007. Picture This’ success started in 2015 when Hennessey posted a video to Facebook of himself singing ‘Take My Hand’, culminating over 1.2 million views online. They booked a debut show in Dublin’s Grand Social venue, which sold out in less than 30 minutes. The gig moved to The Academy, which also sold out making them the first band to sell the venue out on their first gig. Their self-titled debut EP was released last summer, and we imagine a debut LP won’t be far behind. FFO: The Coronas, Kodaline, Ed Sheeran, Stereophonics

 
 
 

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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