The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Freshly Squeezed Irish

18

This is an irregular post, a thing I don't do without reason - not a review as such, but rather an exhortation to buy the Rubberbandits' single between now and the 23rd. "Horse Outside" is its name, and you can buy it in record stores or on iTunes.

You may remember that last year, there was a campaign to usurp Simon Cowell's flavour of the month with "Killing in the Name Of" by Rage Against the Machine. This was successful in the UK, but in Ireland the hordes of tween girls overcame the more alternative among us to put that wholly forgettable X-factor winner, Joe McElderry, in first place. Sadly for those girls, their investment came to nothing, as whatever-his-name-was announced that he was gay sometime during the year. 

This year, we have an equally forgettable X-factor winner, Matt Cardle, singing an equally forgettable cover, with the interesting addition of a guitar every so often. Thankfully, it seems that we have this time steeled ourselves against this invasion of the lowest sort of English culture, and global commercialism. The Rubberbandits, a Limerick hip-hop duo, are on the way to the number one spot.

I need not tell you about the Rubberbandits, whose video "Horse Outside" has topped 2.5 million views on Youtube. I may, however, tell you why you should go immediately to iTunes and buy their single. This band are capable of the most cutting, intelligent satire that I have come across in recent popular music. They have held a startlingly clear mirror up to many facets modern Irish culture, and the reflection is not always attractive. At first, I imagined that they were unaware of the extent of their social criticism, but hearing them regularly in the national media, I think they are genuinely clever people, quite aware of what they are creating.

Another reason to respect them is the number of feathers they've ruffled among the mindless, caipín-wearing traditionalists of this country. The criticisms leveled against them on Joe Duffy's radio programme, and their own elegant rebuttals, are absolutely hilarious. It seems that singing about sex, drugs and criminal activities is still rebellious in this country, but the Rubberbandits do it in such an original, way - intelligent and profane at once - that they deserve the notice even of music snobs. And, most importantly, they deserve the Christmas number one single. 

 


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10

Artist: Lucy Foley
Release: Copenhagen (Album)
County of Origin:  Clare
Genre:  Offbeat Electro-acoustic Folk
The Freshly Squeezed Rating: 8.5 drops out of 10

 

Lucy Foley's first album, recorded in New York and Co Clare and inspired by the time she spent in Denmark, is a good record to return with, after my long absence. Lucy Foley is offbeat, edgy and refreshing.

 

There's a lot to like about Lucy Foley. She doesn't seem to fit neatly into any genre, the whole album seems interwoven into a tapestry, and she manages to maintain her rhotic Irish accent. Her laid-back style reminds me of Susie Wilkins, a London-based artist whose music I lived on for a few weeks after I saw her supporting Joe Jackson.

 

It seems to me that this is one album that is best enjoyed as a whole, but especially notable within it are “It's a Tangle”, a catchy and surprisingly frank opening, and “Mister Bogeyman”, the sixth of seven tracks, a dark but urgent jazz-folk cross.

 

Copenhagen was released on October 1st - it can be previewed and bought here. Check out Lucy's website for more information, including information about gigs.


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02

lisacuthbert-obstaclesArtist: Lisa Cuthbert
Release: Obstacles (Album)
County of Origin:  Dublin
Genre:  Melodramatic Piano Pop-Rock
The Freshly Squeezed Rating: 7.5 drops out of 10

 

 

Lisa Cuthbert obviously owes something to Dolores O’Riordan and company, but her music definitely stands on its own as both novel and emotionally engaging. From the anger of “My Material Girl” to the desperation of “Second Leaving”, this highly impressive debut album will catch you between its crystal highs and throaty lows.

The artist was born and bred in Dublin, and initially earned a reputation for her diverse repertoire, including a number of Metallica covers. Last year she recorded her first EP, Ready to Unfold, and with it she began to explore a more pensive style, which retains the occasional vein of aggression: in my opinion, adding immeasurably to it.

Lisa Cuthbert’s combination of piano and vocals is incisive, and at times derails the listener with walls of unexpectably sincere lyrics. I can see people dismissing this music without a second thought, but it commands my respect. Especially look out for “Obstacles”, “My Material Girl” and “Storm Coming On”. 

Lisa Cuthbert released "Obstacles" this March. She performs in Tower Records and in the Bewleys Cafe Theatre this Friday the 6th: more details can be found on her Myspace here.


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23

Artist: Kowalski
Release: Take Care, Take Flight (EP)
County of Origin:  Down
Genre:  Indie-Disco
The Freshly Squeezed Rating: 3.5  drops out of 10

Kowalski are the epitome of well-polished - although 'Get Back' seems slightly discordant to me - but entirely uninteresting music. Their music is occasionally good, sometimes original - but never both at the same time. 

This particular brand of Indie, entirely lacking personality or bravery, especially irritates me. The very essence of Indie music is the struggle for independence and individuality, and this band is the type of timorous conformity and of seeking the centre. Kowalski offends me by its excessive desire not to offend anyone at all. The death of Indie lies in this sort of pathetic appeasement of the musically ignorant.

I think that my distaste for this music is heightened by my aversion to moany vocals of any genre. I only grudgingly accept the necessity for Michael Stipe's whinging as a necessary component of R.E.M.'s sound. Here, I see no such necessity. Kowalski seem to be simply afraid of playing out loud.

This band, who hail from Bangor, have saved themselves from a lower rating with their general togetherness, and their relatively acceptable lyrics. Perhaps someday Kowalski will throw off their shackles and begin to create for themselves, rather than for other people. Until that day, though, £3 for a digital copy of one of their EPs is a very high price.

Kowalski's Myspace can be found here, and you can download and listen to their new EP here


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17

boa morte dial waltz

Artist: Boa Morte
Release: The Dial Waltz (album)
County of Origin:  Cork
Genre:  Downbeat Alt Folk
The Freshly Squeezed Rating: 8.5  drops out of 10

When I began to listen to this release, my first thought was that the music was too modest, that the band only needed to expand a little, to muster a little courage and to come out with a really powerful album. Having listened to it a number of times, however (and it definitely needs time) I've decided this band is perfectly mature: their style isn't assuming, but it's still very powerful, in its own slow but momentous way. Citing Neil Young and Leonard Cohen as their influences, they remind me of a melancholic Yusuf Islam.

Boa Morte formed in Cork in 1998, but haven't released anything for a number of years. It seems that they were planning to release this current album five years ago; why they've been delayed until now is a mystery. Judging by their music, though, this band isn't one inclined to rush things.

'The Dial Waltz' is more poetry than mere music. The lyrics take centre stage, and although the music is enjoyable, it's really more of a vehicle for the lyrics than an end in itself, and especially the drums seem to be replicated in a few songs. Nonetheless, this band is definitely one I'll keep on my iPod. Look out for 'Luminous Plankton' and 'Tears on a Full Moon', my favourites on the album.

Boa Morte released 'The Dial Waltz' in May of this year. Their Myspace can be found here. We presume that they'll be gigging over the summer: watch this space for up-to-date information.


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12

Milan JayAlbum: Mellow Funk
County of Origin: Galway
Genre: Mellowtronic
The Freshly Squeezed Rating: 6 drops out of 10

Milan Jay (is it really his name? Doubtful, but you never know) supposedly spent 18 months putting this, his debut album, together. I can't vouch for its originality - although in an interesting twist the artist proclaims that he isn't really into Electronic music, 'it's just what he came out with'. 

The album isn't bad, and in fact it's great background music, it has energy, and the artist himself has it spot on when he describes it as "music for 10 hours at 30,000 feet with nowhere to go and nothing to see but an endless blue sky". It's poppy, energetic and it'll put you in a good mood. Perfect for your jogging playlist. 

I think MJ has a lot of potential. The would-be hit on this album, A.I.H.I.D., is a genuinely strong track, and Farewell Hiroko, my own favourite, is ethereal and calmly euphoric. 

Mellow Funk can be listened to and downloaded for free here. Since you aren't paying a cent for it, I'd download it and have a listen - in the unlikely case that you don't like it, you've lost nothing. Milan Jay has promised us he'll be touring live and releasing a new single over the summer, so watch this space.


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11

 

Welcome to Freshly Squeezed Irish, the new CLUAS blog penned by Philip McDonald! The focus here will be on bringing you the best new Irish music you've never heard. Bands who would like to featured on this blog should drop Philip a line via this dedicated page. Be sure as well to sign up for the Freshly Squeezed Irish RSS feed!

 

Sweet Jane - Sugar for my Soul

Band: Sweet Jane
County of Origin: Dublin
Genre: Dreampop Rock 'n Roll
Album: Sugar For My Soul
The Freshly Squeezed rating?
 8 drops out of 10

"Sugar for my Soul" is a crisp, melodic album from a promising group. Sweet Jane, presumably named after the Velvet Underground song, have been getting rave reviews across the board - and this is no exception. With echoes of REM's vocals and The Edge's guitar, their airy, bright sound is infused with country and rock 'n' roll. In fact, their self-descriptor, "dreampop rock 'n' roll", despite sounding contrived, is surprisingly accurate. The almost-title track, "Something For My Soul", is extremely catchy.

Sweet Jane have been around for around two years, releasing an EP in 2008, touring throughout 2009. They have just released this, their first LP, a surprisingly mature piece of work for such a recent band.
 
Look out especially for "Save a Little Place", which seems to be a subtle tribute to "All I Have to Do Is Dream" by the Everly Brothers. With quirks like this, and a hidden track (better not give the game away by saying where it is), it's obvious that this album is deeply thought-out, as well as being plain good. 



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Nuggets from our archive

2001 - Early career profile of Damien Rice, written by Sinead Ward. This insightful profile was written before Damien broke internationally with the release of his debut album 'O'. This profile continues to attract hundreds of visits every month, it being linked to from Damien Rice's Wikipedia page.