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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Picture This / October and November 2017 UK/Irish Tour

 
By on Friday, 25th August 2017 at 9:00 am
 

Irish pop/rock duo Picture This will play a run of live dates in the UK and Ireland this autumn, in support of their debut self-titled LP, released on the 25th of August via Republic Records/Universal. (You can read our review of the album that posted yesterday here.) The tour will open in Belfast and include a stop at London Shepherd’s Bush Empire, before closing with back-to-back shows in Dublin and Killarney.

Tickets for the following shows are available now. TGTF’s past coverage of Picture This, including a live review from SXSW 2017, is right through here.

Friday 27th October 2017 – Belfast SSE Arena
Sunday 29th October 2017 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Monday 30th October 2017 – Bristol Thekla
Tuesday 31st October 2017 – Birmingham Institute 2
Wednesday 1st November 2017 – London Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Friday 3rd November 2017 – Manchester Academy 3
Saturday 4th November 2017 – Edinburgh Liquid Room
Sunday 5th November 2017 – Glasgow Garage
Tuesday 7th November 2017 – Dublin 3Arena
Wednesday 8th November 2017 – Dublin 3Arena
Friday 10th November 2017 – Killarney INEC
Saturday 11th November 2017 – Killarney INEC

 

Album Review: Picture This – Picture This

 
By on Thursday, 24th August 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Picture This album coverIrish rockers Ryan Hennessy and Jimmy Rainsford, known collectively as Picture This, showed up in Austin for SXSW 2017 earlier this year with an undeniable swagger about them. Their confidence bordered on cockiness when I interviewed them on-site early in the week. Their brash performance at the Thursday afternoon Full Irish Breakfast only solidified their aura of complete self-assurance.

Following a successful string of singles and an EP release, Hennessy and Rainsford had just completed the recording of their debut LP when I met with them in Austin. They chose to make the self-titled album at Nashville’s Blackbird Studios, with veteran producer Jacquire King (Foy Vance, James Bay) at the helm. Nashville was an inspired choice of venue for the Irish duo, and as it turns out, King’s deft production is a large part of what makes ‘Picture This’ a compelling listen.

Lyrically, the songs on ‘Picture This’ are a bit predictable and formulaic, but the warm, acoustic-based musical arrangements and the momentum of Rainsford’s driving rhythms save them from being overly trite. Hennessy’s lead vocals are stunning stunning throughout, even when his lyrics are slightly awkward, and his gentle Irish lilt is undeniably seductive, though perhaps exotic only to my own American ear. “Take my hand / and we can go walking / and we can talk about whatever is on your mind”, Hennessy invites in the album’s opening track ‘Take My Hand’. The song’s acoustic guitar backing grows into a sweeping chorus with the addition of Rainsford’s pounding drums, and the narrative love story plays out like the plot line of a saccharine film romance, with the protagonist declaring, “I’m no longer scared of your older brother / he said ‘we’re cool man, I know you love her’”.

The remainder of the 13-track album unfolds in largely similar fashion, with most of the songs expanding upon the tried-and-true themes of reckless love and youthful abandon. ‘You & I’ and ‘Let’s Be Young’ pack the same forceful punch on the record as they did in live performance at SXSW. Early single ‘Everything I Need’ further raises the bar with a heart-racing tempo and bright piano melody in the backing arrangement.

Hennessy tries his hand at an intimate ballad in ‘Jane’, where his graceful falsetto makes up for the rather weak chorus lyrics: “you make me feel / that love is real / so pick me up / I wanna lay you down”. His evocative vocal delivery is more effective later in the album on ‘Smell Like Him’, where he exquisitely captures the poignant sense of jealousy in the line “I don’t want you to be happy if you’re not happy with me.” Recent single ’95’ is another sweet ballad with a shuffling rhythm and a gentle piano melody behind charmingly innocent lyrics about being in love for the first time. That charming effect is unfortunately ruined in the chorus, where even Hennessy’s beautiful singing can’t save the lines “I ran down to the square / and I held back her hair / as she threw up everywhere”. Pop contemporary Ed Sheeran recently employed a similarly inelegant lyric in ‘Castle on the Hill’, ruining an otherwise lovely verse. Can we all just agree that there’s nothing romantic about vomit?

The aforementioned Ed Sheeran comparison will undoubtedly surface again for Picture This as their album begins to circulate. Its anthemic pop style is sure to appeal to young audiences looking for easily digestible, radio-friendly hits. Though mainstream pop gets a bad rap among jaded music snobs, new listeners could easily do worse. Jacquire King’s strong production aesthetic lends the album a nice sense of depth, in comparison to the recent trend of production-by-committee pop albums, and he clearly had no need to employ gratuitous studio trickery to make this music palatable. Hennessy and Rainsford are genuinely talented artists, and their emotional content is both universally relatable and undeniably authentic. Crisp, concise and brimming with confidence, ‘Picture This’ is primed to break its namesake band onto the scene in America and worldwide.

7.5/10

The self-titled debut LP ‘Picture This’ is due for release tomorrow, Friday, the 25th of August, on Republic / Universal Records . In support of the album, Picture This will play a headline tour of North America in September, followed by a list of live dates in the UK and Ireland; you can find the details on their official Facebook. TGTF’s full past coverage of Picture This can be found back here.

 

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.

 

RTÉ Choice Music Prize Awards Roundup

 
By on Tuesday, 28th March 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Earlier this month, I headed out to The RTÉ Choice Prize Awards at the jam-packed Vicar Street in Dublin 8, south of the Liffey. Arriving early, we grabbed ourselves a pint of Guinness’ Hop House 13 and took our seats in anticipation of an exciting, music-filled evening. During the course of the night, we were treated to a range of live performances, as well as the announcement of the winner of both the RTÉ Choice Music Prize single and album of 2016.

The first act of the night was Wallis Bird, whose yellow-white hair glowed onstage like a beacon of light. Bird captivated the audience with her heartfelt a capella as she stood alone onstage during ‘Home’, the title track of the album for which she was nominated. On another track, she banged against a microphone and used a loop pedal to create a rhythmic and organic backdrop for her incredible lungs. It was a raw and vulnerable performance. In a post-performance interview, Bird recounted the significance of ‘Home’ and living in the house where she first met her girlfriend.

Next up was Bantum (Ruairi Lynch), nominated for his album ‘Move’, who I’d had the pleasure of seeing before at the Shortlist Sessions, but the last time I saw him he was alone onstage with his laptop and guitar. This time, he was joined onstage by the singers who feature on his tracks. The first track ‘Feel It Out’ featured Farah, and the second featured Loah and two backing singers on the song ‘Take It’. It made a huge difference with the singers being live, really fleshing out the music, and he looked like he was a lot more comfortable. After the performance, he discussed his love for funk sounds, and how the album was released completely independently.

We Cut Corners, who I’d also seen at the Shortlist event, took to the stage next and played a hugely varied set in terms of tempo and sound. Nominated for their album ‘The Cadence of Others’ the duo confidently took to the stage to perform their tracks ‘Middle Kids’ and ‘Of Whatever’. Considering their smart and wonderfully wordy lyrics, you’d never guess the pair are teachers. At one point, the two stood side by side at the microphone, singing a capella with a smoky, moody spotlight allowing their voices to carry over the crowd. Then, at other times, Conall Ó Breacháin was banging one handed against a drum kit with one hand whilst John Duignan was strumming away at his guitar.

Next to the stage was indie legends and former winner of the Choice Prize, The Divine Comedy. Neil Hannon,sat at a piano to perform some tracks from his latest effort ‘Foreverland’, Divine Comedy’s 11th studio album, reviewed by editor Mary back here. He and his live band kicked off their three-song set with ‘Catherine the Great’, before playing the witty and evocative ‘How Can You Leave Me On My Own?’ and drawing a number of laughs from the audience.

Following The Divine Comedy’s performance, the winner of the Song of the Year was announced. Unable to be there on the night, winners Picture This (winning for ‘Take My Hand’) had recorded a video accepting the award and thanking all who had voted from a studio in the States where they are recording their new album. You can listen to Carrie’s interview with Picture This in Austin after that recording experience here.

Lisa Hannigan then took to the stage. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t heard Hannigan sing live just how powerful, yet calming her voice is. Ethereal and waif-like, Hannigan seems to command the stage without really trying to draw attention. I’m trying not to sound like a super fan. Armed with a banjo on one track, and what I believe was a tabletop accordion on another, Hannigan’s album ‘At Swim’ (reviewed by Carrie here) was nominated for the Album of the Year, and she played a few tracks from the album, including the spooky and slow-marching ‘We, The Drowned’ and the folky ‘Undertow’.

The sixth act of the evening was the all-in-black Katie Kim, nominated for her third studio album ‘Salt’, whose morose, moody sound I fell in love with right away. Standing at first with her guitar, then moving onto a keyboard, Kim’s unusual and rich sound filled the room, and in particular her tracks ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Day is Coming which are the first two tracks on the album. ‘Salt’ is an emotive and powerful piece of work, and seems even more incredible when considering Kim is a solo artist.

A little different to Kim’s haunting melodies, eventual Album of the Year winners Rusangano Family (for ‘Let the Dead Bury the Dead’) virtually erupted into life and had the audience on their feet during their fast-paced set. The title track of their LP opens with the tolling of a funeral bell, before MCs God Knows and MuRli began to do what they excel at, capturing the crowd’s attention with their fast-paced and lyrical verses.

Rapping about Irish identity and asylum seekers, they engaged the crowd by dancing and jumping enthusiastically throughout the set, even joining the audience out on the floor, while DJ mynameisjOhn was at the decks. After just a few minutes of their performance, former TGTF contributor Tom turned to me and said, “I want these guys to win”.

RTE Choice Music Prize 2016 winners Rusangano Family

Then we had All Tvvins, the enigmatic indie pop duo Conor Adams and Lar Kaye, nominated for their album ‘IIVV’, which Adam reviewed back here. They started with the catchy ‘Thank You’, a track with a seriously addictive guitar hook. Up next they played ‘These 4 Words’, followed by ‘Darkest Ocean’, receiving huge cheers from the audience. Bouncing around the stage, the pair looked like they were having a great time.

The final act of the night was Overhead the Albatross, nominated for their album ‘Learning to Growl’. An instrumental-only act, live they have what seemed like 6 million guitars, a drum set and a violin. They finished up with a well-earned standing ovation and certainly deserve some real props for making instrumental-only music so interesting and feel so accessible. I’m going to be honest, I couldn’t tell you what tracks from their nominated album were played, but they were certainly impressive with a mixture of funky rhythms, moments of slower paced violin solos, and with an evident passion for the music that they were playing.

All in all, we had a pretty spectacular night. It was great to catch a glimpse of what the all too underrated Irish music scene has too offer. Perhaps underrated isn’t the best term, as the people that I’ve spoken to in my newly adopted home can’t help but rave about the music that is out there by Irish artists. This is music too often under the radar in terms of the global picture aside from the occasional artist that will break through: Hozier jumps to mind here.

I can definitely say that I’m excited to see what’s in store for the future of Irish music, particularly now that I’m able to access more of it living on Irish soil. If the eclectic and talented mixture of music that I heard at Vicar Street is any indication of the variety of music there, then I’ve got high hopes for the music that I’m going to be discovering over the coming months (maybe even years) now that I’m rooted here in Dublin.

 

SXSW 2017 Interview: Picture This

 
By on Friday, 24th March 2017 at 3:00 pm
 

The Tuesday afternoon of SXSW 2017 was a busy one for interviews. The second of my scheduled appointments for the day was a true roving-reporter style interview on the bustling streets of downtown Austin with rising Irish pop/rock duo Picture This. Our own Adam had already featured Picture This, comprising singer/songwriter Ryan Hennessy and drummer/xylophonist Jimmy Rainsford, in his preview of Irish bands at SXSW 2017.  But I was up to that point unfamiliar with their work, and as I wasn’t able to see them live until the following Thursday, I had plenty of questions to ask in the interview. (Keep an eye on TGTF for our coverage of Picture This at the Full Irish Breakfast on the Thursday morning of SXSW.)

Fortunately for me, Hennessy and Rainsford were more than willing to chat about their recent activities and rather dazzling list of accomplishments. It became clear in very short order that this is a band with a singularly determined ambition and a sharp-sighted focus on their rapidly unfolding career path. In the course of our conversation, it came out that Hennessy and Rainsford had only just arrived in Austin from Nashville, where they recorded their debut album (in “record” time, so to speak) at Jacquire King’s Blackbird Studios. They talked with me about their experience working with King, as well as their decision to record in Nashville rather than their home base of Dublin, where they’ve already had incredible success on the live music scene.

Picture This are scheduled to tour the UK and Ireland in May and June; you can find a complete list of live dates on their official Facebook. Their shiny new LP is due out later this summer on Republic Records. In the meantime, you can listen to ‘Let’s Be Young’, from their self-titled and self-released debut EP, just below the interview stream.

Many thanks to Taylor for coordinating this interview.

 
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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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