As published in Sunday Business Post Magazine on June 30th 2013

BellX1Review

As published in Sunday Business Post Magazine on June 23rd 2013

AustraReview

As published in Sunday Business Post Magazine on June 23rd 2013

OEmperorReview

Haim

As published on State.ie on May 28th 2013

Hype can be a wonderful thing, and Haim are a band who have indulged it to the hilt. They wowed on a global scale off the back of a free-to-download debut EP which spawned one of THE songs of 2012 in the form of ‘Forever’, and drew rave reviews from subsequently showcasing their wares at last year’s SxSW. A valuable musical commodity, Haim were snapped by Polydor Records under the careful managerial watch of Roc Nation, and unsurprisingly topped the BBC Sound of 2013 poll. The trio of sisters – Este, Danielle and Alana – have only played in Ireland once before, on the support bill for Florence & the Machine in The O2 last December, so for many this is the first opportunity to catch them live. It’s not for nothing that they sold out Whelan’s in mere minutes.

The venue is jammed and the excitement is palpable. Shortly after 9:30pm, Haim explode onto the Whelan’s stage to launch their world tour with ‘Better Off’, and it’s immediately obvious that this sisterly trio are going to lend all new meanings to the term ‘stage presence’ this evening. Backed by percussionist Dash Hutton, each Haim sibling has her own clear-cut role in the setup – Danielle the silent but strong axe-wielding front-woman, Alana the multi-tasking musical heart of the band, and Este the charismatic conversationalist whose bass-driven rhythmic passion is written all over her face. Together, they possess a rare musical magnetism that completely sucks the audience in and is unrelenting in its grasp – and all in the space of ten songs.

Raw, impassioned, no-nonsense musicianship is the name of the Haim game, as a dazzlingly raucous take on Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’ proves mid-set. However the quality of their original songs is the main draw – strong and seductive slow jams ‘Send Me Down’ and ‘Go Slow’ captivate impeccably, whilst impossibly catchy singles ‘Falling’ and ‘Don’t Save Me’ find the adoring crowd in fine voice, and the hooky brilliance of ‘Forever’ incites a shoulder-shimmying frenzy. Tasters of the treats that their debut album will hold fill out the setlist in a highly promising manner – a release date is yet to be confirmed, but the fine-tuning is well underway and it should be a matter of months.

It’s all over within the hour but there’s no complaints to be heard, for what Haim gave their audience within a ten-song set is more than some bands with twice the arsenal of songs could even aspire to. A gig which down the line will be recalled as a landmark performance of a band who are on route to the top of their game at a blistering pace.

CSSBandShot

Admittedly, I’m a bit late to the party on this one – but since having heard they’re headlining Castlepalooza this August bank holiday weekend, my interest in CSS has been seriously re-sparked. I have nothing but fond memories of seeing CSS live since they first exploded onto the scene in the summer of 2006 with their awesome debut Cansei de Ser Sexy.

Things have changed considerably in the CSS ranks since 2011’s La Liberación – the not-so-amicable departure of creative driving force and multi-instrumentalist Adriano Cintro is sure to alter the São Paulo now quartet’s sound significantly. All will be revealed on June 7th with the release of the band’s fourth studio album Planta, produced by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek (who co-produced Yeah Yeah Yeah’s recent album release, Mosquito).

Check out the dance-fest music video for lead single ‘Hangover’, as well as album artwork and track listing below:


CSSTrackList

Chvrches

The stunning title track from CHVRCHES Recover EP has been on constant rotation for me since its release earlier this year, and now the Scottish electro trio have unleashed another absolute banger of a song to up the anticipation for their debut album coming this September. Take four minutes to check out ‘Gun’ and make your Tuesday instantly better:

 ClaireBlogHeader.jpgOn Wednesday 1st May 2013 – the first day of summer – the brightest ray of sunshine I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing passed away peacefully following an arduous 40 month battle with cancer. We had known that the day would inevitably come – but nothing can properly prepare you for it. I am heartbroken beyond repair.

My beloved cousin and dear friend Claire would’ve celebrated her 34th birthday on this day, Tuesday 14th May. A lifetime far too brief, but one which left its indelible mark on countless others.

Claire’s story was documented beautifully by The Mayo News last week with a stunning tribute to her wonderful life, and an evocative account of the funeral that she herself had had such an integral role in planning which brought the town of Westport to a standstill. To read it is to get to know her; and to understand the extremity of the loss.

In the weeks subsequent to the March day when Claire found out that her illness was terminal, all I wanted to do was chat to her and spend quality time with her, and I feel so grateful to have been able to do so. She and her amazing husband Mark talked openly about her fate with a level of acceptance and valiance that was devastatingly admirable. Dotted around their home were cards from family & friends who had begun putting their feelings and farewells into words. I wanted to write one to her myself, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do so. The sense of finality was just too much for me.

I decided that instead I would make her a CD of ‘Claire’s Greatest Hits’ – five carefully chosen songs that held special sentiment throughout our friendship – as a positive trip down memory lane. I had Tuesday 30th April booked off work to drive to Westport at the crack o’ dawn for a few hours of “cuzzy chats & cuddles”, as Claire had requested by text… Little did I know that as we finalised that plan it would be the last message I would ever receive from her, and the day we had earmarked would be her penultimate one in life – Claire’s condition began to worsen at a rapid pace, and all too soon the end was nigh.

I was just past Longford on the road West when I got ‘the call’. Claire had passed away peacefully and pain-free, in her own bed and surrounded by family and friends, just as she’d wanted it to be. I cried more than I have ever thought was possible that day. Yet there was enormous comfort to be found in simply being in Westport – her beautiful homestead, and the town I love so well. The next morning, without knowing what else to do, I drove out to Old Head – a fabulous beach near Louisburgh where Claire & I had enjoyed long walks with her dog Sammy – and I sat on the sand listening to those five special songs I’d chosen for her but didn’t get to give her. Over and over again.

ClaireBlogPostHeader.jpg

• Old Head beach in Louisburgh, Co. Mayo •

It really is astounding the comfort that music can provide in times of despair; how a song can vividly transport you right back to a moment in fond memory. These songs proved therapeutic for me in the immediate aftermath of coming to terms with this devastating loss, and now I can think of no better way to pay tribute to Claire than by sharing these happy memories. In life she was my beloved cousin and dear friend, and in death she is my heroine.

May she rest in beautiful peace.

 

Sharon Shannon – ‘Blackbird’

In the summer of 2008 I moved to Boston for a few months, where Claire was living on a career break from teaching. We developed an unbreakable bond that summer, and the craic was relentless. She looked out for me no end from day one, and secured me a job in the bar she worked in – The Burren, in Somerville. One of the shifts we worked together was on Saturday mornings – usually a quiet one, laden with chats over iced-coffees and games of Scrabble (she always won). But those mornings always started the same way, with ‘The Blackbird’ blaring over the bar’s speakers whilst setting up to open. Majestic.

 

Neil Young – ‘Out On The Weekend’

Weekends spent in Westport with Claire in good health were incomparable. She never hesitated to welcome a crowd into her home. A talented cook, she frequently dazzled with her delectable dishes. I always offered to help her but she politely declined – my reputation in the kitchen ain’t the best, to be fair –  all she requested was that I soundtrack the proceedings. No matter how many times I flicked through the iPod I would always settle on Neil Young’s ‘Harvest’ album to begin with – an album we both passionately love, with an opening track that became synonymous with enjoying a pre-dinner beer as the sun set over Clew Bay of a Friday evening.

 

The Dixie Chicks – ‘Landslide’

‘Twas often that we sat around Claire’s living room, but TV was never part of it. Conversation and music were key (and copious amounts of wine!) and it ALWAYS ended up in the very wee hours. Claire had a great love for country music, and one night she played me this Dixie Chicks version of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide’ and it blew my mind. Normally I’d scoff at the mere notion of ANYONE covering Fleetwood Mac – but I’ve loved this since that first listen. Of course the song’s emotive lyrics take on a whole new meaning now – but that just makes me love it even more.

 

Damien Dempsey – ‘Your Pretty Smile’

Claire had a fascination with Damien Dempsey long before I ever realised his mighty talent, and she used to try to convert me… I was having NONE of it, much to her dismay. She had an impeccable skill in imitating his distinctive accent – and on a weekend away in Kilkenny in 2008, she played me this song upon our return from the pub, and sang along verbatim as the two of us absolutely fell around the place laughing. It just kinda became ‘our’ song after that – and the classic line of “Darlin’, don’t you ever stop with that smilin’…” resonates now more than ever.

 

The Traveling Wilburys – ‘Handle With Care’

Claire’s mother, my aunty Ger, passed away in September ’08 after a long battle with cancer. With her impossibly charismatic presence and larger-than-life personality, Ger was the life & soul of every party – a true character, with a heart of gold. She loved her music and her tastes certainly rubbed off on her family… In August 2010 I celebrated my birthday in Westport, and Cousin Niamh invited myself & my friends to her house for a BBQ. She and her partner Tom pulled out all the stops with a veritable feast of treats, and Claire baked me a cake. It was the best birthday I have ever had. As the beers flowed and darkness fell we lit a fire and broke out the guitars under the stars. I played this song – a Buckley family favourite – and myself, Niamh and Claire sang it at the tops of our voices. “Jaysus, I could feel my mother coming out of me for that one Elaine!” said Niamh and Claire afterwards… and now, I’ll always imagine both Claire & Ger are havin’ a dance wherever they are when I listen to this one!

 

 

As published in Sunday Business Post Magazine on April 28th 2013

SavagesReview

As published in Sunday Business Post Magazine on April 28th 2013

GhostpoetReview

YYYsMosquitoBanner

As published in Sunday Business Post Magazine on April 14th 2013

With their last release marred by a premature leak, Yeah Yeah Yeahs have cautiously played the game of slow-burning anticipation with fourth album Mosquito. Announcements direct from Karen O via social media, a tantalising viral video teaser, the unveiling of Beomsik Shimbe Shim’s garish artwork, a radio exclusive first-play for lead single ‘Sacrilege’, and even a band-led online listening party in advance of release.

The trio have been busy since 2009’s It’s Blitz! with a myriad of individual endeavours in the interim – Nick Zinner embracing his penchants for orchestral arrangements and photography, Brian Chase crafting a solo album, and Karen O dabbling in psycho-opera composition and collaborating with Santigold, David Lynch and Trent Reznor. Such diverse new influences have unsurprisingly added further twists to the classic YYYs edgy post-punk indie stylings, but whilst the band’s creative influences have deviated, the names of Nick Launay and Dave Sitek at the production helm remain unchanged. “This is a feel good, food for the soul, chicken soup for the ears Yeah Yeah Yeahs record – which doesn’t mean easy listening…” warned Karen O in advance of release. She’s a woman of her word.

The gospel-infused ‘Sacrilege’ is quite simply epic – albeit an ambitious album opener, the standard of which isn’t matched throughout. The rhythmically ominous ‘Under The Earth’ stands out, Chase striking percussive perfection, and Karen O’s vocal delivery at the peak of her ability. The razor-sharp riffs of the title-track hint at greatness, however the overuse of mosquito metaphors is tiresome – nevertheless, it’ll be an incendiary live offering.

The mention of James Murphy in the production credits for ‘Buried Alive’ instilled strong anticipation, but the result proves underwhelming – Karen O seems disengaged, and the Dr. Octagon nu-metal style guest rap is just bizarre. Several other tracks veer dangerously towards monotony – that said, when Mosquito is good it’s great, as proved by the juxtaposing closing duo of the anthemic ‘Despair’ and the emotive ‘Wedding Song’.

Mosquito is by no means Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ finest offering to date, but there are enough quality tracks to supersede the questionable inclusions.