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Album Review: Our Krypton Son – Fleas & Diamonds

 
By on Tuesday, 21st March 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Our Krypton Son Fleas and Diamonds album coverThe north of Ireland houses a music scene unlike any other. Its tight-knit, supportive community, bolstered by the huge range in musical prowess behind it, is what makes it unlike any other. It offers equal opportunities to its residents in order to grow its musical diversity and push its love of the art. And with Output Belfast bringing huge attention to the small corner of the industry, N.I’s musical offerings are well and truly coming into a light of their own.

One act in particular that has been making strides since 2010 is Derry-based singer/songwriter Our Krypton Son. Known locally as Chris McConaghey, he released his second studio album ‘Fleas & Diamonds’ earlier this month. It follows the success of his 2012 debut self-titled album and is described by McConaghey as “a song cycle about rebirth, the first growl of love and its final wheeze, the squalor and the glamour of it, one season giving way to another.” This close relation to nature and the change in seasons could be linked with the fact that McConaghey took a similar approach to Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, who locked himself in a cabin in the woods in Wisconsin when writing ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’.

Except that McConaghey pitched a tent in an abandoned building, amidst the harsh terrain of a small village in County Derry called Cleeslough. Armed only with his daughter’s toy guitar, his sole mission was to write an album. He wrote in his diary, “It’s bloody freezing and I’m shivering. Shivering with the starling, shaking with the gorse bush but I’m here to write an album, this village and I.” At 46 minutes and 47 seconds of runtime, Our Krypton Son has written 11 beautiful, extremely well crafted dream-pop songs that express a wide variety of emotions, touching on feelings of heartache and passion.

‘Fleas & Diamonds’ begins with a track unlike any other on the album. ‘Winter Taunts Spring’ acts like an ode to the change in seasons. The upbeat, guitar part reminiscent of Southern Irish folk artist Fionn Regan, is opposed by McConaghey’s yearning vocals. Singing about the gloomy and almost lifeless atmosphere that hides in the winter, the juxtaposition between the two key elements in the song, showing how winter physically taunts spring.

Although McConaghey describes the album thoroughly in his writings, ‘Winter Taunts Spring’ as a standalone track brings a sense of ambiguity to the album. However, when taken as a whole, we experience exactly what the opening track displays: the cold and gloomy emotions of heartache against the warm feeling of comfort that comes with love. Tracks like ‘Everything Reminds me of You’, ‘Alaxandria’ and ‘Falling In Love is a Suicide Mission’ hold a Mac DeMarco sense of innocence. With less painful melodies than ‘Can’t Make You Come Back’ and ‘Loving You Is Sweeter’, heart-beating drums, lush orchestral accompaniments and sweeping vocal harmonies, these tracks wrap us in a moment of safety and glee before the light fades and cracks begin to appear.

As the album continues, the push and pull of love becomes more apparent. ‘Relics’ begins the resulting decline of a lost love, but not quite demonstrating the squalor that McConaghey references in his diary. It shows acceptance that the spark has faded, leading to the understanding that the end is expected. The song holds a delicacy within its frail drum machine percussion sound and the deep, flat tones of an organ. The simplicity within the ensemble draws attention to McConaghey’s lyrics, which touch upon the monotonous behaviour that follows the loss of someone or something of importance. With a matching video depicting animations of these actions within day-to-day life, against the backdrop of dull nude colours, ‘Relics’ is an introspective track relating to many different personal thoughts, each as gloomy as the last.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZc8kf4eklg[/youtube]

McConaghey’s songs thusfar suggest a desire to move forward and leave the past behind. Yet as the album comes to a close, he drops ‘Loving You is Sweeter’. The ballad becomes a track about reminiscing that touches on the overbearing amount of thoughts, emotions and actions that comes with looking back, on what McConaghey describes as, “the first growl of love and its final wheeze, the squalor and the glamour of it”. The song is based on one elegant melody that seamlessly flows between verse and chorus, disregarding ideas of conventional songwriting. Its repetitive nature only strengthens the lyrics of love and the object of his affection, while expressing the need to impress them right up until the last lyric, “loving you was sweeter, sweeter in the end”.

‘Fleas & Diamonds’ is the telling of an epic love story, a masterclass on human nature and an honest expression of the array of emotions felt through inner conflict. Our Krypton Son brings this world to life through ingenious, well-crafted songs about the struggle of heartache, contrary to the encouragement of love, and the obstacles that must be overcome when faced with change.

8/10

New album ‘Fleas & Diamonds’, the second by Derry’s Our Krypton Son, is out now via Smalltown America Records.

 

Single Review: Talos – Odyssey

 
By on Monday, 6th March 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo by Brendan Canty

Known to his mum as Eoin French, the Cork-based singer/songwriter Talos arms himself with a mic and an electric guitar. However, his music is far from your typical singer/songwriter. Although his voice is reminiscent of Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, with hints of Australian Matt Corby within his vocal melodies, Talos blends emotive lyrics with sorrowful chords, along with the punch and liveliness of electronic music. Talos has recently released a brand new single titled ‘Odyssey’, taken from his upcoming debut album.

‘Odyssey’ is an introspective song that confronts the thoughts and feelings experienced through self-doubt and the feeling of triumph over these thoughts. In his own press release, Talos explains, “in any endeavour we find ourselves at the point of doubt. Those moments where you question yourself … it’s a beautiful and testing cycle.” I believe Talos has captured these feelings accurately, elegantly representing them in a song.

It begins with a slow swell of arpeggiating synths and light, swirly pads. French enters with the line “unloosen the sky, and suffer the sights” simultaneously with his guitar playing, extended third chords that add to the fragility of Talos’ delicate lyrics. A slow building intro mirrors and extends throughout the entirety of the song. For its 4 minutes and 45 seconds run time, the song continuously builds by layering textures on top of one another, showcasing how the simple three chord structure can masterfully develop into a beautiful spectacle of sound. These compositional devices help in strengthening the focal point of the track, French’s lyrics and vocal melodies.

What begins with the hint of a drum pattern in the first chorus leads to the introduction of an accompanying piano melody in the subsequent verse, meandering around the chords and taking your ear on a detour. Just as these elements begin to develop, we’re met with a sudden drop in intensity, revealing a whole new side to the song. Before any endeavour, there is a period of preparation, and Talos represents this period with a stripped-back bridge section.

Very little accompanies French’s lyrics as he reaches the turning point over the aforementioned thoughts of self-doubt. The lyric “now I’m wading water” becomes the driving force behind the track as we suddenly become sonically immersed in a wall of pulsating synths. The song begins to build again, but this time with the newly established feeling of triumph. Finally, with the total takeover of a lead synth line that mimics the vocal melody, the song concludes. We’re left with the feeling of accomplishment and self-belief having been taken on an emotional journey via conventional harmony and a surprisingly bright synth line.

8.5/10

‘Odyssey’ is the newest single from Southern Irish artist Talos and is available now. His debut album ‘Wild Alee’ due for release on the 21st of April. To catch Talos live, go here for a list of dates in his upcoming Irish tour.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIKuDnU5WPk[/youtube]

 

Output Belfast 2017 Music Conference and Showcase Roundup (Part 2)

 
By on Tuesday, 28th February 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

To read the first half of my roundup on Output Belfast 2017, click here.

Between the daytime seminars and the evening gigs was the perfect time to grab a bite, and head over to the Oh Yeah Centre for a drink and a chat. Networking is key at these events, so why not spark up some conversations and elaborate further on some of the points made throughout the day The speakers were done for the day, the bands were getting ready for the evening shows and everyone else had time to kill. If you found yourself at a loose end, you could have popped to a little room to the left of the front door to the Oh Yeah to catch a stripped back set from Beauty Sleep ahead of their gig at The Dirty Onion.

At 8 PM, the evening’s events kicked off, and with some truly amazing acts. Ryan Vail was one of the first to showcase his fantastic new bespoke live, audiovisual show, which he created in partner with Plume Studios, AVA Festival and Generator NI. Enclosed in what looked like a cage of coloured vertical lights, Vail stood alone on a backlit stage, casting a dark and ambient silhouette across the venue like a physical representation of Vail’s heavy and intricate music. A huge overhead screen projecting real-time outdoor scenes of forests and skies Plume Studios shot themselves, altogether creating an incredible performance made possible by a great network of contacts only found at Output.

The great thing about Output is the wide variety of eclectic artists they book each year. If Ryan Vail lighting up the MAC isn’t your thing, you could also catch theatre pop artist Sullivan & Gold at the Black Box Café, “decent folk” singer/songwriter Robyn G Shiels upstairs at the Duke of York, or indie rockers Junk Drawer at Voodoo. At any given time, there was always an incredible selection of artists to choose from, including some of this year’s SXSW artists New Portals, Silences and Jealous of the Birds. Belfast’s own Robocobra Quartet, another SXSW 2017 showcasing band, landed a play of their song ‘Correct’ on Daniel P. Carter’s rock show the following Sunday night, off the back of their show in at Output.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-SfI3WC0iA[/youtube]

In the midst of running from venue to venue, trying to catch as many bands as possible, I managed to score some personal highlights, dark, electronic pop outfit Hiva Oa being one. They took the stage following Junk Drawer’s grungy, fuzz-infested rock and gave all that they had. Hiva Oa produced a huge sound consisting of tight drum grooves, experimental synths and melodic vocal melodies, which presented a interesting blend of electronica, hip-hop and alt indie that kept the crowd moving from start to finish. The band left their first single ‘A Great Height’ until the end of their set, which was close to shaking Voodoo to bits. Chris McCorry’s heavily distorted synth entered like an approaching stampede, before Christine Tubridy’s pounding drum groove acted like a pacemaker that could set everyone’s hearts to the same beat. Unfortunately, it was harder to make out Stephen Houlihan’s topline; however, as he swayed and stumbled around the stage, it all made for an equally engaging aesthetic performance.

Joshua Burnside was another highlight of the evening. I had caught him 2 weeks previously in Derry. when he played with a full band. His stripped-back set in Black Box Café was equally as astonishing, if not more as when I first seen him. Burnside beautifully serenaded a room filled with people with just his guitar and the exceptional Rachel Boyd on violin. Aside from the cheers between songs, the place was silent, which only added to the fragile atmosphere Burnside created with his songs. One song in particular that I felt hit home to a lot of people that night was the recent, unscheduled release of the politically-orientated ‘Red and White Blues’. Although it is a political song, it speaks from a deeper place relating to Burnside’s own upbringing and family history, with the idea that politics – particularly Irish right- and left-wing politics – is adversely affecting the way some people think and their freedom of speech and abstract thinking. When he performed this track at Output, he had complete attention of his audience, as if the whole conference’s attendees stopped to hear his words and melody. As he strummed the last chord, the room once again erupted in awe and approval. No matter what your views are, it is a beautiful song.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r14gjSvy8ZI[/youtube]

As it was my first year attending Output, I admit it was a little overwhelming. From the minute, you enter the MAC for registration, there is an awareness of being surrounded by top industry professionals. However, once I understood that everyone was there for the same reasons, mainly to network and grow their relationships within the industry, I felt a true sense of community. It helped that the importance of relationships and support in the community was often touched upon in many of the seminars, and in Bob Lefsetz’ case forced onto many of the attendees this year. For musicians/bands, PR and management companies, producers and even a few academics, Output Belfast is without a doubt the perfect place to be for anyone involved in the Northern Irish music industry.

Editor Mary Chang contributed to this report.

 

Output Belfast 2017 Music Conference and Showcase Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Monday, 27th February 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

As the dust settles on the 4th annual Output Music Conference and Showcase event, I’m taking a look back over my experiences at the event. This is to give you, the readers, insight into the important messages and valuable lessons I acquired throughout the day, as well as outstanding performances. This was the first covered by TGTF; in the past, TGTF’s words on Northern Irish acts was mostly restricted to showcases at other festivals, such as in Carrie’s coverage of the Output Belfast afternoon showcase at SXSW 2016. Like that event, this year’s Output Belfast was sponsored by Generator NI and Belfast City Council.

This year, Output was held within the oldest part of Belfast city centre, the Cathedral Quarter. It’s a small area in the southeast section of the city packed with fantastic architecture, cosy pubs and underground music venues that lace the narrow cobbled streets and alleys. Named after St. Anne’s Cathedral that still stands here, the Cathedral Quarter was once home to trade and warehousing particularly within the linen and shipbuilding industries. Now it is the cultural hub of Belfast, with a rich music and arts scene that attracts so many people that the bars, venues and even streets are always thriving. No better place to hold Ireland’s leading music industry networking and showcase event, if you ask me.

Throughout the day, seminars and master classes were held in The MAC (Metropolitan Arts Centre) and the Oh Yeah Centre. If you’re an attendee, the daytime programming offered a chance to soak up any and all information, advice and personal points of view from the abundance of industry professionals assembled. Before 1 PM it was possible to catch Crispin Hunt (British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors and cowriter with Florence and the Machine and Jake Bugg), Lee Denny (founder of Kent music event Leefest) and Amy Lamé (London’s first ‘Night Czar’) during the opening address. Moving to another floor of The MAC, you had the option sitting in on either a pitch and sync talk with Simon Pursehouse of Sentric Music; a production seminar with Rob Ellis (PJ Harvey), Liam Howe (Ellie Goulding) and Rocky O’Reilly (Start Together Studios); or a meeting with the performance rights organizations PRS, PPL, IMRO, MCPS and BASCA.

I opted for the Metal Machine Music talk on artist and business development in rock and metal hosted by Daniel P. Carter, host of BBC Radio 1’s Rock Show, promoter of famed Belfast venue The Limelight Joe Dougan, Head of Marketing at Red Essential Ali Tant and artist managers Ian Rendall (Making Monsters) and Ally McCrae of Two Up Management. The speakers discussed matters relating to the development of the rock and metal scene, what it takes to break into the scene and maintain your success, the importance of hard work, supporting one another and being in control of your work and career. The speakers painted a picture of a tight-knit community within the rock and metal scene by sharing the understanding that being supportive, genuine and respectful of the people in the industry, as well as applying honest hard work with belief in your art, will do more favours than anything else.

These became overarching themes throughout the day. In other sessions and even in the lobby of the MAC where people gathered between talks, a sense of community and support was evident and hugely encouraged. For example, during the Country 2.0 seminar Milly Olykan (Festival and Events Director at The O2) Stuart Banford (Downtown Country, Northern Ireland’s only 24/7 digital country music station), Lynne McDowell (Country Music Association) and Iain Snodgrass (Universal Music Group) discussed similar topics but instead in relation to country music. It seemed no matter what genre of music you listen to, or what area of the industry you work in, the key messages about the pathway to success are the same.

This year’s keynote was an hour-long discussion with esteemed music commentator and analyst, Bob Lefsetz, presented by Mark Gordon of Generator NI. Lefsetz has been an active member of the music industry for over 30 years. Though he began as an entertainment business attorney, Lefsetz slowly moved into the field of analysing and commentating on the music industry. He created and published his own magazine called the Lefsetz Letter, which he eventually put out online for free. He is renowned for his forward-thinking ideas and rational statements towards music, the industry and those within it, and at this year’s Output all those present witnessed this firsthand.

Listening to Lefsetz speak on the music industry sounded as if he was expressing his hatred towards it. He delivered a passionate and intriguing discussion about his beliefs in regards to the music industry: his comments could have been mistaken as negative, but in fact he was purely being realistic. In his own words, “don’t sugarcoat it”. Through his work as an attorney and the Creative Consigliere for heavy metal band W.A.S.P, Lefsetz knows the music industry is a cutthroat business where artists often get taken advantage of. He was able to give advice by relating to his own experience by pointing out the errors a lot of people make and even provided solutions to difficult situations. Throughout his discussion, he covered a wide spectrum of important topics including the use of social media and its algorithms to assist in driving PR and advertising campaigns, the importance of and differences between Spotify playlists vs. top chart playlists, niche marketing, targeting specific audiences and energising those who can spread the word. He said he accepts and confirms sexism and racism exist but that neither should matter, and that hard work and hustle is more important and that bringing up a person’s gender or race is an excuse for “not being great”, clearly something that can be a bone of contention. Similar to the guiding principles presented in the Metal Machine Music session, Lefsetz expressed the importance of relationships in the business and how he believes they are more powerful than money. With a lot to say and a very charismatic and expressive personality, Bob Lefsetz was an intriguing, engaging speaker. He was an excellent conclusion to the daytime schedule, and next up was the evening events.

Editor Mary Chang contributed to this report.

 

Single Review: Orchid Collective – Waited on the Sun

 
By on Wednesday, 15th February 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

For a band who have only been together just over a year, Orchid Collective are already making tremendous strides within the Irish music scene. Since the release of their debut EP ‘Courage’ in November 2016, the Dublin-based lads have gained a lot of mainstream media attention from the likes of Clash Magazine, Hot Press Magazine, Irish national radio station RTE 2FM and Nialler9, who recently premiered their most recent single from the EP, released last Friday.

‘Waited on the Sun’ is the second single from ‘Courage’, and it has been self-described by the band as “the perfect ode to the final days of winter.” The longing for warmer nights and brighter days is a sensation everyone can relate to, which is why the track’s anthemic opening brings familiarity, a sense of safety and warmth upon listening. The intro, which doubles as the chorus, acts as the driving force of the song. David O’Shea’s lyrics seem to work as a guiding light rather than its leading feature, leaving enough room for the instrumentation to take a leading role, something that Orchid Collective’s folk-rock predecessors failed to experiment with. This gives the track a hint of ambiguity opening its meaning up for personal interpretation by each individual listener, such as a sonic representation of that moment you notice the buds on trees opening up, indicating the first signs of spring.

The song has an overarching message of love and lust, but this is presented in a rather physical manner, less subtle than the change in seasons. Shea Tohill’s lead guitar parts take on the spotlight role, bringing a real vibrance to the track whilst highlighting the intensities of the song’s dynamics through the use of the extended range of his guitar. This leaves enough open space for Darra Doyle and Hugh O’Neill to experiment with their respective mobile bass lines and physical drum parts, creating tensions and resolutions where necessary.

With a subtle, light and breathy synth pad in the foundation of the track, plus intricate three-part vocal harmonies, ‘Waiting on the Sun’ is a song that can challenge patience and serenity, while displaying strong physicality and vitality.

7.5/10

‘Waiting on the Sun’, the newest single from Orchid Collective, is available now. You can also catch the band at their next headline show at Dublin Unitarian Church on the 4th of March. To read more of TGTF’s past coverage on the band, including editor Mary’s coverage of them at Hard Working Class Heroes 2016 last October, go here.

 

Preview: Output Belfast 2017

 
By on Thursday, 9th February 2017 at 11:00 am
 

The 4th annual Output Music Conference and Showcase returns to Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter on the 16th of February. Set up by Belfast City Council in partnership with Generator NI in 2014, the conference has continually grown in size and popularity. Bringing hundreds of artists, businesses and students together each year makes it the leading music industry networking and showcase event in Ireland.

Held primarily at the MAC in Belfast city centre, Output will house a lineup of various seminars and lectures conducted by many of the world’s top industry professionals. Once the evening hits, Output turns its sights on the huge number of home-grown talent through a night of showcase gigs held across various venues within the Cathedral Quarter. Confirmed hosts for 2017 include blogs such as Nialler 9, State.ie and The Thin Air. Voodoo and The Nerve Centre will be among the many local venues used. Organizations such as Smalltown America Studios and PRS will be among those presenting and curating gigs.

Last year’s conference hosted the incredible Steve Albini as the closing keynote speaker of the conference. Having someone who has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry speak at the conference was a huge honour for the city and the event, providing attendees the unique opportunity to learn from one of the most acclaimed and respected figures in the music business.

Closing the conference this year is legendary industry analyst, critic, commentator and creator of the email Lefsetz Letter industry newsletter, Bob Lefsetz. Output will also offer insightful talks presented by Spotify, PRS Foundation, Adidas and Jagermeister’s music teams, Marc Sylvan (Million Pound Drop, Total Wipeout) and creator of Leefest Lee Denny. Speed networking sessions and panel discussions also figure into the daytime programming.

Acts of note appearing at this year’s Output’s music showcasing portion include SXSW attendees from Northern Ireland Jealous of the Birds, Ryan Vail, Silences, Robocobra Quartet and New Portals, among many others. Although specific details on venues have yet to be announced, many other incredible Irish acts playing this year are Callum Stewart, TOUTS (under the same management as The Stone Roses) The Wood Burning Savages, Joshua Burnside, Sullivan & Gold, Scenery, Autumns and Kerrang! favourites Making Monsters.

Output is a completely free event in Belfast next Thursday, the 16th of February. All you have to do is register on their Web site. What are you waiting for?

 
 
 

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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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