Thursday, 24 April 2014

7 Must See Alternative & Indie Gigs In Ireland This Summer 2014

Following on from my feature on the top rap gigs to be frequenting this summer in Ireland, I'm turning my gaze to the rock scene, where again I'll be previewing a number of excellent upcoming concerts that I'll be attending over the next few months, and so should you.

Bob Dylan (17th June, The 02)

This will be a divisive one for sure; personally, I was hugely disappointed in Dylan's show at the 02 last time around but perhaps I expected too much of a man who is now 72 years of age and still touring like he was in his early twenties. In any case, there's no debating the fact that Robert Zimmerman is simply one of the greatest songwriters of all time, if not the absolute best, so seeing the legendary folk figure take to stage should be on any self respecting music fan's bucket list. Tickets are going between e65-e76.

Elbow (25th June, Royal Hospital Kilmainham)

Elbow were one of the most consistent alternative rock bands of the 21st century for a long period before they blew up in 2008 with the hugely successful The Seldom Seen Kid, and since then they've only continued their solid output with Build A Rocket Boys! in 2011 and this year's The Take Off And Landing Of Everything. Guy Garvey and co. are big favourites in Ireland due to their wonderful set of festival appearances over the past few years and you can expect them to be in flying form at the end of June as they return to our green pastures for a date in Kilmainham which will set you back e49.50.

The Arcade Fire w. The Pixies (29th June, Marlay Park)

Along with Kanye 3 days later, this is the Irish gig of the summer for my money. The greatest rock band in the world right now performing with one of the greatest and most influential of all time is not to be missed under any circumstances. Pixies new material has yet to be judged even if it does sound fairly dodgy and a small legion of fans were left alienated by Reflektor last year even if the majority rightly judged it to be another triumph from Win Butler's troops, but on June 29th any doubts will be cast aside on a night of celebration for two truly special artists who are guaranteed to put on a spectacle in Dublin for concert goers. Tickets are still available for e61.50- if you haven't picked one up, do it now.

Eels (1st & 2nd July, Olympia Theatre)

E hasn't quite reached the bar he set early in his career with the likes of Electro Shock Blues and Daises Of The Galaxy since returning in 2009 with Hombre Loco and following it up with a series of average albums, but I can personally attest to Eels superb live show having witnessed them at a belting St. Patrick's Day show in Vicar Street half a decade ago, and the Olympia will be a great setting to hear the eccentricities of Mark Oliver Everett on display. Even if E understandably leans towards his newer material, you'll be sure to hear set highlights like ''Flyswatter'', ''Cancer For The Cure'' and ''Novocaine For The Soul'' which are worth the ticket price of just under 40 quid anyway.

The Prodigy (2nd July, The Marquee)

The long awaited release of The Prodigy's 6th album How To Steal A Jet Fighter (they announced its title a full 2 years ago) is still up in the air, but it's hard to complain when hitting the road and still doing what they do best; performing live to their insane fans. After returning to form in 2009 with Invaders Must Die, Prodigy's live show was perfected on the subsequent tour, and if you were lucky enough to witness them back then, you'll need no excuse to grab a ticket to see them in The Marquee, Cork this time around even with the steep 60 euro price tag attached. It's also interesting to note their no show in Dublin- perhaps a sign that there is a festival appearance yet to be announced for the electronic legends in the capital, with the most likely destination being Electric Picnic.

Arctic Monkeys w. Jake Bugg, Miles Kane & Royal Blood (12th July, Marlay Park)

There really is no better time to witness Alex Turner and co. in action following on from one of their finest releases ever last year in AM, and you can expect a mix of classics new and old from the Sheffield lads. The supporting line up doesn't look like much to be fair, but an Arctic's show in Dublin is never to be missed, an you can expect a huge set in Marlay Park this July. Tickets are going for their expected price at e60.

The National (18th & 19th July, Iveagh Gardens)

Another hugely successful indie act of the noughties, The National's consistently impressive output continued last year with Trouble Will Find Me, another widely acclaimed record from the American natives. Their set at the Iveagh Gardens is a hidden gem considering its e42 pricing and support from Owen Pallett, Arcade Fire instrumentalist and composer as well as excellent and under appreciated solo artist, who drops his fourth individual record In Conflict before the Dublin date.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

7 Must See Hip-Hop Gigs In Ireland This Summer 2014

What with Danny Brown's recent appearance at the Olympia that I so regretfully missed, Earl Sweatshirt's sick gig in the Academy and DOOM hitting The Sugar Club the same week, we haven't been short on visiting rap talent of late. The summer however, promises to be an excellent one for hip-hop lovers in Ireland as a variety of superstars new and old hit the capital and beyond.

As always I'm here to provide a running commentary by laying out the best gigs for you to see this summer so sit back, check out the upcoming live music and stay tuned for coverage of them when they happen.

Big Daddy Kane (3rd May, The Sugar Club)

This summer is set to be steeped in heavyweight appearances from hip-hop legends and kicking off the party is Big Daddy Kane in The Sugar Club in under two weeks. One of the greatest rap artists of the 1980's and most influential people ever to step to a mic, Kane requires no introduction but another good reason to catch this performance is its intimate setting, with The Sugar Club having proved a wonderful venue for hip-hop artists of late. It's also very reasonably priced at just e22 a ticket.

Grandmaster Flash (4th May, The Village)

If you're craving a massive rap weekend in early May you are most definitely sorted with Grandmaster Flash following Big Daddy Kane in The Village on May 4th. A pioneer of hip-hop beats and one of the most celebrated DJ's in rap, Flash can be seen for a measly 15 quid. It'd be rude not to.

Schoolboy Q & Isaiah Rashad (27th May, Vicar Street)

Two of the biggest upcomers in rap music right now, Top Dawg Entertainment's Schoolboy Q and Isaiah Rashad both dropped albums this year to strong critical acclaim (one I agreed with, one I can't say the same about) and will be unmissable at what is sure to be an intense concert in Vicar Street come the end of May. Q's in-your-face braggadocio style rap will get the crowd rowdy while Rashad delivers the kind of contemplative think pieces that made his debut release such a pleasure this year. When you consider a price of just 26 euro for two of the hottest young rappers in the game, expect Vicar Street to be bouncing on May 27th.

Pusha T (9th June, Vicar Street)

Pusha's solo debut My Name Is My Name was one of the best rap albums of 2013 without doubt, and this is another well priced gig in the always beautifully atmospheric Vicar Street. Grab a ticket for e26 and thank me later as you witness one of the best MC's in the world right now take stage in Dublin this June.

Jurassic 5 (17th June, Vicar Street)

Another historically significant name in alternative rap, Jurassic 5 reformed last year following a break up in 2006 due to disputes among the group, and it's your duty as a self respecting hip-hop fan to see them while you can when they play the capital this summer. The band are also making plans to release a live album of their current tour so you never know, you could be part of the recording process. This is Vicar Street once again, however this time tickets are a little steeper at e36.

Kanye West & Pharrell Williams (2nd July, Marlay Park)

Alongside The Arcade Fire/Pixies set three days prior in the same place, Kanye and Pharrell are set to play the Irish gig of the summer on July 2nd. Kanye arrives as part of his spectactular Yeezus tour in the midst of recording a new album less than a year after what many (including myself) judged to be 2013's greatest record, while Pharrell is experiencing a massive career peak at the moment with the release of his second solo album G I R L and smash hit single ''Happy''. Shelling out e59.50 might seem a bit much but consider Drake/Watch The Throne's ludicrous 80 quid pricing in the O2 and count yourself lucky; it won't seem an awful lot on the night as you witness a modern music legend in all his glory.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis w. Danny Brown, Angel Haze & Ellie Goulding (10th July, Marlay Park)

Fresh off his huge Grammy win's for 2012's The Heist, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are still touring and they return to Dublin for a July show that also features the talents of one of my personal favourite artists Danny Brown, upcoming female rapper Angel Haze and the hugely successful Ellie Goulding. It's a bit of a mix and match when you look at the talent, but there's no denying this is an impressive line up and another stand out for Irish music fans.

Well that looks like a promising summer indeed. When you include the likes of Public Enemy at Forbidden Fruit, Massive Attack headlining Longitude and Outkast dominating the Picnic line up, there'll be no shortage of live hip-hop entertainment over the next few months. Enjoy it and keep it here for more rap album and gig reviews.

As if that wasn't enough though, I'm taking a look at even more excellent upcoming Irish gigs, this time with an alternative/indie rock twist, so stick with the blog as I keep you posted further in the next couple of days.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

''Recess'' Skrillex - A Review

Ever since he ditched his debut emo rock project From First To Last for a solo career in 2007, Sonny John Moore has made an undeniable impact on the electronic music landscape as Skrillex, delivering a brand of hardcore electro dance that has shaped recent crazes like Dubstep while also delivering him major commercial and chart success. The genre that Skrillex belongs to is a polarizing one indeed, but if any name has been consistently referenced within it over the past 5 years it's no doubt been Moore's, and so after multiple hit singles, EP's and six, yes SIX Grammy Awards, it's definitely surprising that Recess is the 26 year old's debut studio album.

For many, Recess will mean nothing more than another unwelcome addition to a thankfully dying niche genre which has already outlived it's remarkably short life, but Skrillex's reputation as the face of Dubstep is sometimes an unfair tag to attribute to the American. For a start, many fans of the genre would throw a fit at seeing his name at the top of the leaderboard, for the same reasons that you could hope Moore is able to outlive the utterly mundane and monotonous ''wait for the drop'' nature of the music- he was always a slightly more appealing, conventional side of true Dubstep. And by true Dubstep, I mean ear destroying, brain melting, boring nonsense.

And yes, there is a large supply of that kind of sludge here, the assumed personality of Skrillex, another DJ who wants no more than to produce a set of empty club bangers, but fascinatingly, there's an entirely different side to the musician which quietly pronounces itself on Recess and sheds a lot of light on the possibility of a real future for Moore in different areas of electronic music.

''Stranger'' is the first track in a very unexpected midsection which introduces a more introspective identity to the album, experimenting with a low key sound that stands in direct contrast to the straightforward club anthems on the album, while ''Try It Out'' lives up to its name by incorporating quite lovely synth touches which lift it above the standard fare. Major highlight ''Coast Is Clear'' utilizes a wonderfully chosen guest appearance by Chance The Rapper on a weird, wonderful track with absolutely zero hint of Skrillex's past persona- it's an insanely catchy pop tune with a hilarious ''Do you wanna fuck?'' refrain that uses an interpolation of ''Big Poppa'' to good effect in the best track on the album bar none. ''Doomy Poomp'' is another curios example of self exploration here and the strangest track in a good way, while closer ''Fire Away'' is another contender for best song, a low key final sound which delves into a deeper side of electronica, promising a far more in depth Moore that could definitely go further.

Alas though, there are not only positives to be had here, and too often Skrillex produces the kind of meaningless drivel that, on the strength of the aforementioned tracks, he should now have outgrown. The title track offers a conventional hook which has led to predicatble chart success, throwing in Fatman Scoop and reusing a similiar vocal of his from the classic club banger ''Be Faithful'', while ''Dirty Vibe'' features Diplo, fresh off the most underwhelming track on Mo's debut, once again showing up for the worst song on the album by some distance. ''Fuck That'' and ''Ease My Mind'' don't even warrant a mention, you've heard them before. The best of a bad bunch is a duo of tracks with Ragga Twins (opener ''All Is Far..'', ''Ragga Bomb'') which are the usual unapologetic electro anthems but there's a sense of fun added with these guests that adds a personality and presence lacking in these usually sub par outings.

Often on Recess though, there are numerous moments which shine brighter than the darkened, oft treaded wayward path of conventional EDM and while it's a strikingly inconsistent record that perhaps just about leans on the negative side, Recess offers a musician who seems far more open to change and progression than before.

On conclusion, it's plain to hear that Skrillex is an interesting DJ who can quite easily surpass the Dubstep conventions that have both given him his success and hindered him on Recess- he doesn't seem quite ready to let go of his baby genre over these 11 tracks and this makes Recess a dwindling, boring experience for the most part that drowns alongside it's beyond average contempotraries, but when he ignores these conventions and explores further sounds it couldn't be more obvious that Skrillex is a more talented figure than Recess would have you believe.

There is a crossroads ahead for Sonny Moore on his next release whatever form it may take- either he can keep swimming with the small fishes and continue respectable but shallow commercial success, or confront his instincts and make something more meaningful, more accomplished and more suited to his ability. Hopefully, strangely, Recess can be a product of transition rather than the final version of Skrillex.


Monday, 7 April 2014

Kurt Cobain: A Tribute

This weekend marked the 20th anniversary of the passing of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain on April 5th, 1994. That day the music world lost one of the all time greatest icons, songwriters and vocalists that ever graced the business and two decades on it's only right to pay tribute to a true legend and incredible artist.

For me, to describe Kurt Cobain and my feelings toward him in words is a futile exercise; everything I can think of saying seems like such a pathetic, insignificant response to one of the greatest musicians in history. So I'll keep it as simple as possible; Kurt Cobain, and a very small group of artists like him, is the reason I listen to music. The passion, energy, love, hatred, anger, venom, intensity and most of all emotion that he delivered to fans throughout his time in this world is unrivaled in music past, present and future. And when you consider the future, it really is so hard not to look back and think 'what if'.

Because if anything ever showcased how much there was left in Cobain to give to his fans, it was that haunting performance in New York on a November night in 1993 when the Seattle native showcased the genuinely beautiful artistry behind his raw grunge and unveiled a deeper, wiser side to a desperately troubled figure that could have taken his already legendary, iconic status to new levels of genius in the 21st century.

I guess we'll never truly know just how talented Cobain really was; the scope is infinite for a man who died at 27 with the whole world in his hands, but what we were left with is even more precious due to its abrupt, unfinished ending. For those who are still listening like myself twenty years later, and will be in another twenty, Kurt Cobain is immortal anyway- the music will never burn out or fade away.

Friday, 4 April 2014

''No Mythologies To Follow'' Mø – A Review

The growth and popularity of electro pop female led acts and singer-songwriters has revealed itself to us in the likes of Grimes, Charli XCX, Purity Ring and Chvrches recently, so it's not surprising that Danish 25 year old Karen Marie Orsted has created herself a small pre album buzz prior to the release of her debut album No Mythologies To Follow. A wonderful Spice Girls cover a few months back certainly raised interest and here we have 12 full tracks featuring Mo's brand of downtempo synth music to fully assess the hype.

The results are pretty good. Each of Mo's tracks carry an intimate electronic vibe that she expresses with her attractive, welcoming vocal over smooth synth textures and looped, hip-hop inspired drum tracks. Early highlight ''Maiden'' is laced with sleek guitar and piano and the excellent production quality that it introduces is a reoccurring feature on tracks such as ''Waste Of Time''- itself a pretty good indication of Mo's talents with a bitter vocal that is somehow simultaneously lovely and harsh, revealing a side to Mo's personality that's prominent and quite significant to her music; an aura of brilliant coolness.

''Dust'' is another highlight with splashing synth drops that decorate excellent chorus harmonies while ''Slow Love'' provides the most intriguing moment of the album by far, with an excellent disco style beat suits the singer wonderfully and could definitely be explored in more detail in the future. Another contrasting track is ''Never Wanna Know'', a more straightforward indie tune that's led by drums and vocal harmonies which comes off quite retro and recalls Cults.

There are no complaints to be had as such, but there are perhaps a couple of times when No Mythologies slips into a comfort zone as Red settles for being a club like anthem while Diplo's feature on ''XXX 88'' is a building, repetitive track that goes unnoticed among a better group of songs.

As the album closes on a euphoric, triumphant note with ''Glass'', it's clear that No Mythologies To Follow signals the arrival of another talent in this growing sub genre. The most impressive thing about this album is the quality of the production, and Mo has done a great job of assembling a strong team behind the music. No Mythologies To Follow is a good start, and one that showcases an artist liable to improve- Mo is definitely talented enough, peculiar enough and intelligent enough to carve out her own niche, meaning that while there's an ocean of similiar acts out there at the moment, Mo isn't just another to add to the pile.