Angel Olsen – My Woman...

Angel Olsen follows up her acclaimed 2nd album ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’ with another stunning record.

Marissa Nadler – Strangers...

Another bewitching effort from Boston born singer songwriter Marissa Nadler.

Sufjan Stevens live @The Helix, Dublin 29 Aug 2015...

A very special night in the company of the wonderful Sufjan Stevens.

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell...

So I had this whole review typed up, ready to go. You know the kind: a little bit of background about the artist, a few carefully constructed sentences that attempt to describe the record in the context of the artists earlier work. And there was a genuine effort at remaining coolly detached, objective because that’s what those who write about music are supposed to do, right?   Except I am first and foremost a music lover, someone who still finds magic in melody, who is still moved by a few simple chords and words that are sung with genuine heart and feeling. So I listened to Carrie & Lowell one more time last night. One final distraction free run through, an affirmation listen if you like, before publishing the few words I had pulled together about the record. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t publish those words because they didn’t reflect in any real way just how affecting the experience of listening to this record had been. Objectivity and cool detachment seemed to hold sway and because of that, they read as dishonest and insincere. So this is my attempt to start again, to convey  just how much beauty and compassion can be found in this heart-breaking music. Carrie & Lowell is a record that examines in moving detail Sufjan Stevens’ complex relationship with his mother. When he was just an infant his mother abandoned the family and spent most of the rest of her life battling alcoholism and depression before she passed away in 2012. Contact between the family and their absent mother was sporadic at best, with Steven’s recollections of her confined to a few faded childhood memories of summers spent with her and her husband at the time, Lowell Brams.  It is an album that attempts to address the...

Father John Misty-I Love You, Honeybear...

Let’s start with a confession – I have never been a big fan of the Fleet Foxes. Somehow, warped as this may be, I hold them collectively responsible (stand up Mumford & Sons, you own a share of this) for the explosion of lank haired, watery indie folk and bearded hipsters that threatened to engulf the music scene a few years back. So the idea of a solo album by the drummer from a band that left me distinctly underwhelmed wasn’t exactly lighting my fire. So then I did a little digging. J. Tillman was the drummer for the Fleet Foxes, but he was also an acclaimed solo artist in his own right, long before the FF thing started. A solo artist that had released seven albums by the time he underwent some kind of Road to Damascus transformation and became Father John Misty in 2012. And that’s when things got really interesting – Fear Fun, the first album released under the new moniker introduced us to a different side of Tillman. Edges and flaws. Exposed and human. And so to I Love You, Honeybear. Jesus Christ. This is good. Not just good in ‘album of the week’ good, but good on a level approaching modern classic. I am not kidding. The thing that strikes you on first listen is the sheer musicality of these songs – Tillman has gone for it in a big way, the shackles have been thrown off and a host of potentially deeply unfashionable influence have been scrambled together to produce something incredible. Glen Campbell, The Eagles, Clifford T Ward, Elton John (yes, that Elton John) 70s Laurel Canyon soft rock – they are all in there, in the syrupy string drenched arrangements and little melodic flourishes that pop up with dazzling regularity. And we haven’t even...

Dry The River -Alarms in the Heart...

Dry the River deliver an album of impressive, soaring arena rock.

Angel Olsen live @ Whelans 6 June 2014...

This promised to be one of those special nights – Angel Olsen arrived for the first of three Irish dates having released one of the year’s most striking albums. ‘Burn Your Fire for No Witness’ won her a legion of new admirers – Olsen’s searing, confessional intensity and raw, elemental approach to making music seems to have struck a chord with music fans tired of slick, over produced rock devoid of any real substance. Whelan’s was near capacity when Olsen and her band took to the stage – there was no fuss, no fanfare, they just arrived, plugged in and started to play. The first thing you notice is that voice – it is a potent weapon, capable of moving from the sweetest yearning to a full on impassioned cry in the blink of an eye. The band faithfully replicates the low-fi indie country vibe of the records – at times, it was like listening to Patsy Cline fronting the Velvet Underground as Olsen pulled together a set comprising of songs from each of her three albums. Old favourites ‘Tiniest Lights’ and ‘Miranda’ bore up pretty well while ‘Lights Out’, ‘Stars’ and ‘High and Wild’ from her most recent album predictably drew the biggest cheers of the night. After about an hour, the band departed and Olsen took centre stage – for fifteen minutes, she held the audience absolutely spellbound with stripped back versions of three of her songs. The highlight was an absolutely stunning version of ‘White Fire’ – this was Olsen at her most effective; every hoarse whisper and anguished cry tightened her grip on an already captive audience. There was very little of the annoying audience chatter that seems to mar most gigs in Dublin these days, a testament to the...

Ron Sexsmith – Forever Endeavour...

Canadian born singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith is something of a music business enigma.  Since the release of his first album in 1991, he has been critically lauded by the music press and feted by some of the most celebrated names in rock and pop. A host of admirers including Chris Martin, Elvis Costello, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Steve Earle and Sheryl Crow have all proclaimed his greatness in the past, with many of them covering his songs in their live repertoire. And yet, a major commercial breakthrough has eluded him, something that is obviously a source of immense frustration based on comments he has made in interviews over the last few years. On recent albums, he has flirted with a more pop oriented sound but Forever Endeavour marks a return to a back to basics approach, and sees him reunite with legendary producer Mitchell Froom, who produced Sexsmith’s first three albums. The result is an album of acoustic based, melodic folk- pop streaked with his trademark melancholy, performed in his unassuming, laidback style. It is unlikely to add to his list of admirers, but dedicated fans of Sexsmith will find plenty here that has a ring of familiarity about it – Sexsmith has always been a consummate song-writer and his belief in the power of the song shines through on every one of these tracks. He has doggedly adhered to the belief that if a song is good enough, nothing else matters, and so this is an album out of time, out of step with current trends and fashions in the fickle world of pop. ‘Nowhere to Go’ opens the album with a plucked acoustic guitar melody and a flourish of French horn before settling into comfortable Ron Sexsmith territory – all the same lyrical...

Marissa Nadler talks about her beautiful new album ‘July’...

We are just a third of the way through 2014 and already we have been treated to potentially this year’s most beautiful album. July by Marissa Nadler is a lush and dreamy exploration of regret, loss and yearning, a collection of songs of shivering, ghost-like beauty. Over the course of the last 10 years, Nadler has been honing her craft as a songwriter to the point where it feels like July is her most mature, fully realised and accomplished record to date. We caught up with her just after the announcement of a Dublin show on the 5th September in the Button Factory. First off, congratulations on the new album Marissa – it’s a really gorgeous record, one of the very best of 2014 so far. You must be immensely satisfied with the response to it? Thank you! That’s very nice of you to say. I’m very happy with the reception of the record so far. There are few things more satisfying than sticking to something for as long as I have and then feeling this kind of reward back. July feels like a giant leap forward for you both sonically and thematically. It is really beautifully produced and arranged and it feels like your most personal record to date. It’s absolutely my most personal record. When I was much younger, trying to write songs about life with any weight felt a lot like dress-up. So, in my early records, I tended to deal more with surreal imagery and fictional storytelling that were informed, but not entirely, by real life. I feel that I just have more real life experience and more grit from which to draw inspiration now. I think it’s just a natural progression for me as a writer, now that I...

Marissa Nadler – July...

An album titled July might offer the promise of songs bathed in the warm and golden light of summer but there is something darker at work on this 6th album from Boston based singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler. Nadler has been making eerie, ethereal folk music since the release of her first album back in 2004. July represents a major progression and is by some distance her strongest album to date. This is a delicately rendered collection of Southern Gothic lullabies; Nadler explores themes of lost love, separation and the longing for things we can never have. It is at times breathtakingly beautiful -opener ‘Drive’ introduces us to Marissa Nadler’s bewitching voice; imagine the yearning of Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval crossed with the sombre elegance of Leonard Cohen. That yearning is central to so many of the songs here; ‘1923’ burns with longing while ‘Dead City Emily’ floats by, a dreamy wistful reverie for the past. There is a strong alt-country influence in the plucked acoustic and pedal steel guitar arrangements that give this album an air of refinement that wasn’t as evident on the more straight ahead Goth Folk of her early records. Impeccably produced, each instrument occupies its own clearly defined space with Nadler’s beautiful voice pushed up high in the mix as a voice as richly compelling as hers should be. The dark sensuality of tracks like ‘Desire’ and ‘Holiday In’ brings to the fore another side to Nadler – this is music that seduces and allures. Spectral harmonies and dreamy elegance lure you in but just below the surface beats a blackened heart; there is a baleful and sinister undercurrent that something is not quite right. Like the most beautiful rose with the sharpest thorns, July is an album of exquisite gorgeousness...