The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


Have you checked out the CLUAS writers' choice of top 40 albums for 2009? The clear winner was the excellent 'Hospice' by The Antlers, with silver and bronze going to Grizzly Bear and Fever Ray respectively. Read the full list and then let us know what you think of it.
Our various French counterparts have also been choosing their favourite long-players of the year - and the print, web and radio media have more or less settled on the debut album by The XX.
In the French press, Les Inrockuptibles, the most influential music and culture magazine in the country, gave their prize of best album 2009 album to the erstwhile foursome, now a trio.
For second place Les Inrocks picked 'The Turn' by Fredo Viola. The what by who? Well, it's the debut album by a London-born, New York-residing singer-songer who mixes folk, post-rock and a pinch of electronica. The record was shortlisted for this year's Prix Constantin, France's equivalent of the Mercury or Choice prizes, as it was released on French label Because. (It's an okay record but hardly one you'd put forward as the second-best of the whole year.)
Coincidentally, Les Inrocks' third place went to another Because release - 'IRM' by Charlotte Gainsbourg. 'Merriweather Post Pavillion' by Animal Collective was fourth and Phoenix's 'Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix' was fifth.
St Vincent, The Antlers, Dirty Projectors and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart were passed over by Les Inrocks but Passion Pit, Grizzly Bear, Bill CallahanLa Roux, Alela Diane, Sonic Youth and DM Stith are among those who made the final cut. You can read through their full Top 50 list here or here. (The print edition of Les Inrocks extends to a Top 100.)
On the radio, listeners to top indie show C'est Lenoir on France Inter also went for The XX in their poll result ahead of gloomy French chanteur Dominique A, Grizzly Bear, Soap & Skin and Wild Beasts. (The show's presenter, Bernard Lenoir, selected Soap & Skin over The XX in his own personal choice.)
And on the web, The XX was also the pick of Sound Of Violence, the French blog that specialises in UK (and Irish) music. Interestingly, the other podium places in their top ten went to The Horrors (NME's top album of 2009) and Muse, with Kasabian making number five.
So, what conclusions can we draw from this? Well, the small French alt-music community appears to have much the same taste as their Irish brethren and, em, cistern. That said, they seem to follow the UK music press and scene more avidly than the US scene, hence the dominance of The XX across the board and lack of consensus on American albums.
Also: to judge by these results Irish acts are not making much of an impact in France. Adrian Crowley's 'Season Of The Sparks' made number 58 in the Les Inrocks Top 100 (thanks to Nat for pointing that out - we had only seen the online Top 50), having received high praise in the magazine the week before. Will any Irish acts do better in 2010?
Our favourite moment from The XX is still their gorgeous cover of Womack and Womack's 'Teardrops':

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When I started the Sound Waves Blog three years ago, my intention was to explore music, surfing and their interrelationship with each other at a time when Ireland's own surf culture was on the brink of exploding into the mainstream. Looking back on some of the topics dealt with over those years,I'm surprised at the diversity of the material covered and the number of musicians spotlighted in the postings; many of whom are equally at home on daytime radio as they are on alternative rock shows. In a nutshell, surf culture has become so absorbed into the mainstream of Irish popular culture in the last year or so that it has become increasingly hard to find something distinctive about Irish surf culture that is worth highlighting; perhaps the best example of this absorbtion into the wider culture is Ross O'Carroll Kelly's hilarious take off of the AIB Surf Adverts in the Irish Times.

One question I did not grapple with on the blog however was why did surfing get so big in Ireland at this point in history and why were Irish surfers being increasingly drawn from the ranks of lawyers, accountants, and the financial services ? Sure, the increased wealth of the Irish played a part, surfing only developed originally in Hawaii because the natural wealth of the islands was so great that the Hawaiians discovered the concept of free time away from work, but more than that I think that surfing might have offered an escape for people away from an increasingly frenetic and corrupt corporate culture in Irish professional life; perhaps surfing represented to the frazzled professional some cold water Eden where mobile phones could not go. Who knows?

If I was to choose the tipping point for the changes that I have documented in this blog then that point would be Jack Johnson's 2006 concert in the Point Depot. For myself however, this wave of change closed out in another live music event, the 2009 Cois Fharraige, in Kilkee. Returning home after those concerts, I felt that the time had come for new directions. Personally, I was tired of being an interloper on the West coast, putting up with the seemingly endless driving, lousy food, over priced digs and the increasingly crowded and unfriendly line ups. I got back to Dublin, sold off my surf boards and with the money purchased myself a 12 foot Hawaiian shaped stand up paddle board. Now I spend every available spare moment on the water just minutes from my home, rather than hours in my car, and I get on with my life instead of putting it on hold.

See you in the water.

Jules Jackson



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Were you at Yann Tiersen's show at Vicar Street in Dublin in 2003? Brilliant, wasn't it? If you saw Tiersen that night then you also saw an indie group from Brittany called The Married Monk - they were his backing band that night. We recommend their 2001 album 'Rocky' - spelled 'R/O/C/K/Y' to make sure that absolutely no one bought it.

Etienne JaumetA member of The Married Monk, Etienne Jaumet (right), has branched off into electronic side projects. One of them, Zombie Zombie, is a duo featuring him and one of the Herman Dune brothers, Neman. But now Jaumet (pronounced 'Joe May') is releasing music under his own name - an EP called 'Entropy' back in July and now an album called 'Night Music'.

Jaumet's brand of familiar electronica - Moroder-esque rhythms here, Kraftwerk-flavoured synths there - is hardly trail-blazing. But, as with those two illustrious influences we mentioned, the trick of electronica is to make robotic sounds feel human and soulful. Jaumet succeeds: 'Night Music' is warm and thoughtful, conjuring up the atmosphere its title suggests. It's too good to die as sonic wallpaper in trendy wine bars and boutiques.

So, that's our final suggestion for a French music gift this Christmas. Now we're busy making a list and checking it twice: our Best French Music of 2009 - and of 2000-09 too, when we reveal who's been naughty or nice in the world of Gallic tunes. But that's for next week...

With a bit of luck the snow is melting from the runways of Paris and your correspondent will be able to get home to Ireland tomorrow morning for the holidays. If you're travelling somewhere for Christmas, home or away, get there safely and have a good time. Here's the title track from Etienne Jaumet's 2009 E.P., 'Entropy':

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Franco-Irish relations are at a bit of a low point these times. (No need for us to go into the why of it here.) Fortunately, 2009 will end with some good news from France for one of our best-loved performers.

Adrian Crowley'Season Of The Sparks' by Adrian Crowley, full-time singer-songer and part-time festival curator, has got a rave review in the current issue of Les Inrockuptibles. This is excellent news for Crowley - Les Inrocks is France's biggest-selling and most influential music and culture magazine. Crowley lived in Toulouse for a while some years ago, so no doubt he'll be especially pleased by this notice. (Carly Sings and Duke Special have previously got the rave from Les Inrocks too.)

Obviously you'd like to know what the handballers are saying about our man. Well, we should point out that Les Inrocks has a very florid and pretentious style. That said, we've translated for you the entire review of Richard Robert from Les Inrockuptibles:

The enchanter

Dazzling in writing and execution, Irishman Adrian Crowley joins the circle of songwriters who are as impressionistic as they are impressive.

By the magic of an alchemy for which the formula escapes us, certain musicians gather in their hands all the beauty that enchants the lives of us music-lovers and mould it into a form at once immediately familiar and totally unheard-of. With his writing of pedigree and his baritone timbre, Irishman Adrian Crowley (already on his fourth album) joins this exclusive category of enchanters. With its classic dimensions (ten tracks, 36 minutes), its disdain for the spectacular and its unshakably balanced tone, 'Season Of The Sparks' will hardly rock the songwriting world to its foundations. However, it causes a considerable effect which lingers long after its final notes have faded away.

It is a miracle of equilibrium and elegance that few collections of songs are able to provoke, a unique mix of melodic clarity (established in the enchanting 'Summer Haze Paradise' and later confirmed in already-classic songs like 'The Wishing Seat', 'Liberty Stream' and 'Season Of The Sparks'), harmonic finesse and instrumental draughtsmanship, heightened by an art that is consummate in its execution.

Sensitive in his lyrics, Crowley's attention to natural elements finds its full expression in the organic and hazy textures that adorn his ballads in a minor key: electric guitars unravelling in unreal threads ('The Beekeeper's Wife', 'Squeeze Bees'), strings streaming like autumn rain ('The Three Sisters', 'Swedish Room'), echoing synthesisers covering each song in a shimmering veil...

Adrian Crowley crosses these special lands with a deceptively impassive voice that at times evokes the warm richness of Bill Callahan. And when he finally disappears after a final moment of grace (the suspenseful 'Pay No Mind') he leaves the obsessive memory of a fantastic wizard bewitching our consciences by means which he'll keep a secret until the end.

(original review by Richard Robert/Les Inrockuptibles, translated by Aidan Curran)

Well! Fair play to him - let's hope this is the beginning of great success for him here in France. You can listen to these enchanting tunes on Adrian Crowley's MySpace page. Here's the video for 'The Wishing Seat':

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Somadrone and Twinkranes (live in Dublin)
Somadrone and Twinkranes (live in Mill Street Studios, Dublin) Review Snapshot: Twinkranes fused frenetic drumming and looped bass, while Somadrone saturated the studios with a luminosity of noise...

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Here are the names of real French bands currently doing well on the Paris indie scene: The Bewitched Hands On The Top Of Our Heads; Jil Is Lucky; (Please) Don't Blame Mexico. Leading cultural magazine Les Inrockuptibles awarded their CQFD prize for most promising new act of 2009 to The Popopopops. An electro DJ/producer called Julien Brambilla, featured lately in The Guardian and therefore gaining serious UK exposure at a swoop, decided he needed a stage name and so he's calling himself Danton Eeprom.

Far be it from your correspondent to pose as some sort of communications expert, but we spot a serious flaw here in French bands and their plans for world domination. The tunes might be good, the look sharp, the live show tight. However, Jacques le Frenchman then ruins it all by calling his band something so awful that no one outside France will ever take them seriously or have a listen. (We should point out that most young French people speak English quite well.)

For instance: you might quite fancy some Gallic retro-pop or dancefloor-friendly indie. But there's no way you'd take an uninformed gamble on bands called Diving With Andy or Pony Pony Run Run, right? Right. Could they not have run the name past an English-speaking friend first? Perhaps some enterprising young anglophone here in Paris should set up shop as an English-For-Pop-Music teacher or consultant. (Hmmmm...)

All this is inspired by yet another decent French act let down by slack work at the baptismal font: Get Back Guinozzi! (The exclamation mark is theirs. Because calling your band just 'Get Back Guinozzi' would have been ridiculous.)

Anyway, the defendants: GBG! are from Toulon in the south of France. At their core is a duo, Eglantine Gouzy and Frederic Landini (right), but they have three bandmates for live shows. Landini is a prominent music promoter - his MIDI project stages an impressive annual festival in Toulon every summer and next February they're bringing The XX down south. GBG! are currently based in London and signed to FatCat Records.

Their first album has just come out - it's called 'Carpet Madness' and it's quite good. If you remember your Venn diagrams from maths class, GBG! make lo-fi indie pop that would be the intersection of the sets The Moldy Peaches, The B-52s, Cibo Matto, Belle And Sebastian and '60s reggae-pop. Gouzy, with her accented and simplistic vocal delivery, is an acquired taste. But so is Guinness and you had no qualms about putting in the effort to acquire that one. Their poppy cover of 'Police And Thieves' briefly recalls the stale joke that is Nouvelle Vague but still (just about) works. On the whole, this album has a lot of genuine charm and energy, plus a love of melodic indie pop.

Check out tracks from 'Carpet Madness' at the Get Back Guinozzi! MySpace page. Here's the video (note: contains kitsch '70s nudity) for the best song on the album, 'Low Files Tropical':

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Vote countingTypically at this time of year CLUAS is full democratic flight with polling booths wide open for readers to submit their votes to find the top albums of 2009. However, this year we've decided to not do a readers poll. And why not? It's simply because of the utterly mad amount of time it takes to tot up the thousands of votes we get.

Fret not, as there will still be a CLUAS poll this year. The last few weeks the CLUAS writers have been busy voting for their top 10 albums of 2009 and tomorrow (16 December) the results will be published. As always the CLUAS writers have stepped up to the plate and their votes collectively deliver an intriguing, diverse, credible and occasionally surprising top 40. I was pleased as well to see that, despite the intense competition from non-Irish releases, a total of five Irish albums released in 2009 made it into the top 40. Which ones? You'll see tomorrow.

In advance of the poll here's a quick overview of the numbers behind this year's writers poll:

  • 23 writers submitted a list of their fave albums of the year.
  • 202 votes were cast (an average of just under 9 albums voted for by each writer)
  • 131 different albums albums got a vote, of which...
  • ...89 albums were voted for by only one writer leaving us with...
  • ...42 albums that were voted for by 2 or more writers.
  • Breakdown of number of writers who voted for an album that made the top 40:
    • Number of albums voted for by 5 or more writers --> 3
    • Number of albums voted for by 4 writers --> 3
    • Number of albums voted for by 3 writers --> 10
    • Number of albums voted for by 2 writers --> 24

One thing I can already say is that the album that topped the poll did so by a healthy distance. It was voted for by over a third of all the writers who voted (8 out of the 23). That there would be broad agreement among the writers on the top album of 2009 is quite a surprise considering the massive number of different releases (131) that secured a vote in the poll.

Hang in there until tomorrow to see which album topped the poll. The only hint I'll offer is that it is NOT one of the following two 2009 releases (both of which just missed a place in the, er, coveted top 40, they being placed 41st and 42nd placed in the poll):

  • Mark Eitzel 'Klamath'
  • Arctic Monkeys 'Humbug'

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Posted in: Blogs, Promenade
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A quick round up of some notes in the parish bulletin:

First, we lend a metaphorical cup of sugar to our new neighbour, 'Alternative Tunings'. Written by Aideen O'Flaherty, it's a blog featuring stuff that isn't obscure French indie-pop or the continuing adventures of the Gainsbourg family, but don't let that put you off. Already, in her very first post, Aideen has spoiled you with five promising new Dublin bands, so 'Alternative Tunings' should be worth checking out regularly.

Second, this blog will have its annual Best French Music list in the last week of the year. And, it being also the last week of the decade, we'll hop on the bandwagon and do a version 2000-09 as well. Drop us a comment, mail or tweet if you have suggestions or strong feelings on the matter.

Third, it's Christmas here in Paris. (Coincidentally, it's Christmas in Ireland around now too.) We told you last year how the French don't do Christmas songs - but they make up for it in Christmas lights. Department stores here are dazzling and the Champs-Elysées, if you stand in Place de la Concorde and look up, is glowing like a heavenly constellation.

Though there's no 'Jingle Bells' ringing out here, the Christmas lights of Paris deux mille neuf have a music connection. This year the lights outside swish department store Printemps were flicked on by Beth Ditto, in Paris for three sold-out Gossip shows at the Bataclan. Meanwhile, illumination duties on the Champs-Elysées were entrusted to Charlotte Gainsbourg. (You see? That family always ends up here somehow.)

Charlotte Gainsbourg 'IRM' album coverIt's been some year for Charlotte. Back in May she won the Best Actress prize at Cannes for her role in Lars von Triers' typically divisive 'Antichrist'. Now to December, and new album 'IRM' (right) has been released here in France. As you probably know by now, it was produced and co-written by Beck.

We've already featured the title track here - a tuneless, monotonous dirge in the manner of 'Tomorrow Never Knows'. On that evidence, the album promised to be something best avoided.

Well, here's 'IRM' the album. And, damned with faint praise, it's better than 'IRM' the song. Though never as memorable as her previous long-player, the cool and nocturnal '5:55', it's still decent enough.

First single 'Heaven Can Wait' (video below) continues the '66-'67 Beatles vibe with some 'Penny Lane'-style music hall piano chords, while 'Dandelion' sounds like Donovan's 'Mellow Yellow'. It's hard to have strong feelings either way about two such innocuous tracks. Other songs in this vein, like 'Master's Hand' and 'Me And Jane Doe', are less tolerable.

This record is a lot more engaging when Gainsbourg leaves the summer of love behind and heads somewhere wintry. 'Vanities' has a lovely Scandinavian bleakness which makes it the album's standout track. (Perhaps next time she should head to Sweden and make the record with Stina Nordenstam.) The melancholic folk-pop balladry of 'In The End' recalls an iconic French pop star of the late '60s and early '70s - not her father, but Françoise Hardy from the time of her 1971 English-language album 'If You Listen'. Never fear: the symphonic and soulful 'Le Chat Du Café Des Artistes' is a clear nod to Serge.

As for Beck, his presence is discreet but discernable - there are enough of his trademark alt-folk touches, electronic flavourings and surreal free-association lyrics. That said, non-fans of his have nothing (much) to fear from 'IRM'.

So, despite the contaminating effect of its awful title track, 'IRM' is alright. It'll be released in the UK and Ireland in January, when the accompanying press release will no doubt include '"...decent enough... innocuous... alright" (French Letter)'. Oh, and on the album cover she looks like Mrs Sarkozy.

You can listen to snippets from each song on Charlotte Gainsbourg's web site. Here's the interesting video for that first single and duet with her producer, 'Heaven Can Wait':

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1. OrphanCode

OrphanCode closely rival A Lazarus Soul for the accolade of ‘my favourite Dublin band’. Their sound is very developed, free from beginner’s errors and undeniably catchy. If you have ears, and like music, then you’d be crazy not to like OrphanCode. If visual is more your forte, their video for “Last Dance” is very, very impressive. I’m eagerly awaiting the release of their debut LP, you should be too.
Key Tracks: There Is a Light, No Armour.

2. Caruso
Dubliners Caruso are a combination of folksy indie music, mainly acoustic and at times similar to REM (which is no mean feat) but are unmistakeable as Caruso chiefly due to the wavering vocals of front man Shane O Fearghail and an all over Irish feel to their songs. Their 2007 debut album “The Watcher & The Comet” is striking and memorable, and they’re preparing for a tour of New Zealand and Europe after recently signing to a publishing deal in Germany. Definitely ones to watch.
Key Tracks: All Your Features, Monster.


3. I Draw Slow
The recent resurgence of folk music thanks to bands such as Noah & The Whale and Mumford & Sons has made folk music ‘cool’ again. One Irish band worth your time if you’re into the latest folk/roots scene is I Draw Slow. With cleverly penned tracks and atmospheric music that is incredibly catchy you could do worse than listen to their songs.
Key Tracks: Santiago, Dead In The Morning.

4. Scarecrow Disco
Scarecrow Disco play folksy/mellow music, and there are very few Dublin bands who can play music like this but get it exactly on point like they do. They’ll be featuring on a compilation of the best of Dublin’s unsigned acts and are preparing to release a split 7” single with the brilliant The Hot Sprockets.
Key Tracks: Your Parrot’s Low On Batteries, Sign Of The Times.

5. Travega
Travega are baffling, purely because once you hear their music you’ll wonder why you have never heard it before. Channelling the likes of Blindside and Papa Roach and having a menagerie of musical influences has worked out very well for them, they’ve shaped their own sound while not losing sight of playing the music they love - it’s apparent from their songs.
Key Tracks: Bull Run, Nowhere To Run

This week marked the 29th anniversary of the death of John Lennon, being the Beatles obsessive I am I couldn’t let this go unnoticed. So, here’s a video of ‘I Am The Walrus’. And why exactly did I pick this song over the others?  Because any accomplished song writer who’ll happily jump around singing “I am the egg man, they are the egg man, I AM THE WALRUS! goo goo goo joob ” is a legend in my eyes. Enjoy!

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The Beat Poets
Northern Ireland’s finest The Beat Poets release their new EP “The Making” this week (See in Album Reviews Section). I caught up with them recently to discuss their desire for world ...

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Posted in: Interviews
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Nuggets from our archive

2003 - Witnness 2003, a comprehensive review by Brian Kelly of the 2 days of what transpired to be the last ever Witnness festival (in 2004 it was rebranded as Oxegen when Heineken stepped into the sponsor shoes).