She & Him – Volume 3...

The queen of quirky cool Ms Zooey Deschanel is back with another instalment of her highly successful collaboration with indie-folk songwriter M.Ward under the moniker She & Him. Volume III is actually the duo’s fourth album – and further evidence that Deschanel has something of the Midas touch. It seems the terminally cute actress turned chanteuse can do no wrong; in a career spanning fourteen years she has managed the rare feat of appealing to both the indie hipster set and a more mainstream audience with considerable aplomb. There have been rumblings of a Deschanel backlash of late – her TV show New Girl is quirky cute overkill and has led to some former ardent fans admitting  feelings of ‘Zooey fatigue’, but her popularity with the masses shows no sign of waning. When actors decide to launch a career in music, there is inevitable scepticism but right from the release of her debut album with She & Him in 2008, Deschanel’s excursion into the world of pop was warmly greeted. The She & Him take on breezy, fifties and sixties style pop had a retro charm that fitted in very nicely with Deschanel’s own public persona and sense of style.  In truth, her first two albums received a pretty easy ride from the music press – so enamoured were we with Zooey’s beauty and kooky charm, we tended to overlook the fact that she possessed a decidedly ordinary voice and the songs on those earlier albums were pleasant but slight and derivative. Volume III is more of the same but probably the pick of the bunch to date – the songs are stronger, Deschanel has improved vocally to a noticeable degree and there is a greater air of confidence in how these songs are...

The Pastels – Slow Summits...

It’s getting harder and harder to hold on to the belief that pop music still matters in any real and tangible sense anymore. It has been commodified and homogenised to such an extent that it is barely recognisable as the beautiful, bittersweet art form it once was. It now exists as a stream of bits and bytes, flattened and compressed, songs reduced to mere files that sit on our laptops and computers in their thousands, some never to be listened to at all. Pop music is now more disposable than ever; the ease with which we can freely access and download music renders it almost valueless. Listening to Slow Summits by The Pastels recalls a time when this was not always the case. The Pastels featured on the now legendary C86 cassette tape released in 1986 by the then powerfully influential British music weekly, the NME. The release of that cassette is often cited as the catalyst for the birth of indie pop as we know it -while this may be spurious, the bands that featured on that tape were all part of a fiercely independent scene that tried to recapture the DIY ethos of punk and had an idealistic commitment to the idea of pure pop, an ideal that pop music was worth cherishing. Some twenty seven years on, The Pastels commitment to this vision of pure pop is as strong as ever and Slow Summits is a beautifully nostalgic realisation of that vision. Their music has retained a timeless charm and a childlike sense of wonder despite the passage of time. They have been accused in the past of sounding amateurish, fey and twee – those accusations are unlikely to go away with this release. At times, they make Belle and Sebastian...

The Wedding Present live @ Roisín Dubh, Galway 3 November 2012...

The Wedding Present: Seamonsters Anniversary Tour – a night of magic and wonder.

Beach House Live @ Vicar Street 28 October 2012...

On the back of two of the best albums of the last five years, Baltimore duo Beach House returned to Dublin and a predictably sold out Vicar Street riding the crest of a wave. If third album Teenage Dream heralded their arrival as serious contenders, this year’s Bloom was conclusive proof that Beach House are currently at the peak of their considerable powers. They have built their reputation on a richly layered brand of hazy dream pop, anchored by the commanding voice and presence of singer Victoria Legrand.  With an expanded line-up of three for the live shows, Beach House delivered a competent set, but if truth be told, the show was a little bit disappointing, lacking any real major peaks or excitement. It is hard to pinpoint why it felt like something of a letdown –Legrand was in fine voice, the music was tight and the sound was pretty good. It just seemed to lack that special ingredient that turns a good live show into a great one. Opening with ‘Wild’, the bulk of the set was plucked  from their last two albums but there was a treat for fans of second album Devotion when they played ‘Gila’ early on. Crowd pleasers like ‘Zebra’,  ‘The Hours’ ‘Take Care’ and the wonderful  ‘Myth’ were all gleefully lapped up by their adoring fans with closer ’10 Mile Stereo’ going down particularly well.  The band returned for just one encore, the hypnotic ‘Irene’ and that was it. For the whole concert, Victoria Legrand remained rooted behind her keyboard at the back of the stage, radiating cool, icy detachment with the other two musicians stationed out front. While not expecting Iggy Pop like theatrics, there was no real sense of connection with the audience, and in a...

The Heartbreaks – Funtimes...

Classic jangly guitar pop debut from Morecombe based The Heartbreaks.

Miike Snow – Happy To You...

Forgettable electro-pop from Swedish trio Miike Snow.