Monday, March 28, 2005

The Frames - Burn the Maps

Having recently been released internationally, I thought it was appropriate to post my review of Burn the Maps. First published in Comes With a Smile.

Artist The Frames
Title Burn The Maps
Label Plateau Records

Recently voted Best Irish Band in the Meteor Awards, expectations rest heavily on The Frames. Four years after the platinum-selling, For the Birds, Burn The Maps could be the album that propels The Frames to the zenith of their career. It could also mark the site of what might have been.

Every band has a strong point; be it the gravel of Johnny Cash, the intricacies of Lambchop, or the poetry of Dylan. For the Frames, it’s the ability to be aggressively brash one moment and violently quiet the next. Some songs need canyons to breathe, but some sit quietly in the corner of the room. Burn the Maps doesn’t start by kicking the door down. Opener, Happy, begins with solitary, gloomy acoustic followed by simple bass and drums. Glen Hansard’s boy soprano melody glides over the top. It’s very restrained, but with intimations of something more abandoned. The martial rhythms and brutal guitar enter next with single, Finally. Full of conviction and doubt, the vocals break into an anguished cry with the violin circling overhead like a vulture eyeing its prey. This is the Frames we know doing what they do best. In typical fashion, they pull the volume right down for the next track before bursting forth once more.
The whole record speaks with the melancholy bitterness of a disappointed lover, ricocheting between resentment and regret, love and hate, art and blood. Full of big songs but sung with the conviction they need, the album’s centrepiece is Fake, The Frames’ answer to Smashing Pumpkins’ Today. Soaring riffs merge with infectious melodies to disguise the honest lyrics. The ‘A’ side builds up to this crescendo, with the ‘B’ side coming back down, finishing how it started. Underglass is worth mention for its driving bassline, towering chorus and haunting verse. It’s their darkest album to date, but the openness brings a feel of authenticity. If it gets the recognition it deserves, the Frames will be huge.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Go! Team

The Go! Team are playing in Belfast shortly and I am in two minds as whether to go! and see them. To aid my decision Amanda from my office has lent me their debut, Thunder, Lightning, Strike. The extent of my knowledge is that they are darlings of Uncut and in every photo appear to be dancing. Oh, and they have a clever promotional picture where they each spell out a letter of their name on t-shirts. If anyone knows anything about the Go! Team, good or bad, please let me know.

On another note, my left-leaning, manifesto-reading, kitchen-cleaning flatmate has reviewed the new release from Mogwai. Check it out at
Oh Thee Rusted Satellite . It will make him happy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Bright Eyes article

Paste Magazine is a great independent publication with insightful comment and proper, lengthy articles, rather than pages of advertisments and photographs. It comments on music and film and subscribers recieve a dvd and audio cd every month. They are a magazine for people who still enjoy discovering new music, prize substance and songcraft over fads and manufactured attitude, and appreciate quality music in whatever genre it might inhabit--indie rock, Triple-A, Americana, folk, blues, jazz, etc. A quality that I feel is all too lacking in the hyped MTV music world of today.

Paste turned their hand to an article about Bright Eyes. Read it HERE

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Five People You Meet in Heaven


I spent a long St. Patrick’s Day weekend with my girlfriend (Heather) in Donegal. While lying in beautiful sunshine on the golden sands of
Rathmullan I read Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven. It’s a short but genuinely affecting and thought provoking book, about the life and reasons of a fair-ground mechanic named Eddie. It raises some questions without ever labouring the point, it carries a message without being philosophical and it makes you turn pages without thinking. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Brendan Benson

The Metro Times Detriot have published a great interview with Brendan Benson prior to the relase of his contagiously catchy Alternative to Love LP, released later this month. Listen to The Pledge here from the new album.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Snow Patrol

Following on from my previous post. Here is an old review of Snow Patrol, before they were famous...

29/10/03 Snow Patrol @ The Boat Race

Before the show the sound engineer said the best night of the tour so far was in Oxford. Well anything the Dark Blues can do, we can do better. A capacity crowd of students and townies alike packed the Boat Race for the last night of the Snow Patrol tour and at about nine o’clock the support act, Kid Symphony took the stage. Fresh from their appearance in NME’s ‘Brit Pack’, Kid Symphony kicked off with their next single ‘Hands on the money’ to be released on November 24th. Although initially lukewarm, by the end of the 7 song set the crowd were cheering to the ‘hyper-melodic rock’. Having whetted our appetites the tall wiry blonde singer left us ready for the main act. Described by some as similar to Belle and Sebastian, the band themselves claim influences from Californian Pop, Super Furry Animals and Low, amongst others. Drawing mainly from their recent album, ‘Final Straw’’ Snow Patrol filled the Boat race with great music and witty banter. Singer Gary Lightbody threw fantastic rock shapes from atop the bass drum as they pounded out Spitting Games and other hits. In between songs Gary talked about car dealerships, Bloody Marys and how fantastic Cambridge was. Returning alone for an encore Lightbody tenderly sang an oldie before being joined by the rest of the band for the ‘last time we ever play Starfighter Pilot like this’. ‘What a fantastic way to end the tour!’ he cried, and we could only agree.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Irish U2 support

Just found out that homeboys Snow Patrol and Paddy Casey are supporting U2 when I see them in Croke Park in Dublin this June. I interviewed both acts last year when they came to play in Cambridge. In those days Snow Patrol were supporting Athlete (hard to believe) now, and Paddy Casey was supporting another irish talent, Katie Melua. I can vouch that both acts make fantastic support, and main events in their own right.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Iron and Wine Empire Music Hall 3 - Nov - 2004

First published in Alternative Ulster magazine.

Iron and Wine

Music Hall
3 - Nov - 2004

This was a night when angelic harmonies, simple but beautiful guitar and arresting story telling transported us from a rainy Botanic to an Appalachian camp-fire. This was a night in the presence of Sam Beam and co, a.k.a. Iron & Wine. He is a magician, and his art is making three chords sound like the most enchanting thing in the world. His breathy voice creates emotion-laden songs of love and loss, of cherished memories, of real life. The simple musical backing never bored and the interplay between Sam and his harmonizing sister never ceased to amaze. On the bluesy ‘Free until they cut me down’ the two guitarists played off each other, bringing the night to a musical crescendo. The audience was modest in number but reverent in admiration. Rapturous applause accompanied the end of every song, to which the bashful Sam would just say a short thank you. He spoke little, commenting only on the recent
US elections.

Co-headlining was the Scottish Alistair Roberts. Playing solo for the most part, his music was folk of the Celtic variety. While a talented singer and guitarist, it was unfortunate that he came second on the bill. Compared to the previous act his melodies sounded harsh and his voice sharp edged. Though enjoyable, it was Iron and Wine playing in our heads as we left.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Wilco DVD

I'm really enjoying a DVD I downloaded of Wilco and Bright Eyes at the Austin City Limits festival. If you're a fan then you'll love this fantastic performance, if you're not, then perhaps this will persuade you. Check it out here

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Cass McCombs

ALBUM PREfection

Cass McCombs is as elusive as he is enigmatic. There is nothing straightforward about PREfection, it’s music that defies genre pigeon-holing. It glitters of Manchester, the Smiths, the Fall (Equinox), Morrisey (Sacred Heart) and of a less poppy Hour of the Bewilderbeast. It bursts forth with lyrical intelligence and complexity, not many song-writers get away with lines like “Semper Fi, E. Plurbius Unim”. It could be “old weird Americana” but it’s more like the Flaming Lips producing Pete Wylie. The highlight is Sacred Heart, constructed with quasi-religious imagery, a pure melody and backed with shimmering guitars and huge reverbed drums. Its climatic verse to chorus crescendo accompanies the obtuse lyrics. It’s dreamlike and desolate, his voice ranging from mumbles to pitches of intensity. Cuckoo, a song unsurprisingly about a clock, and City of Brotherly Love are blissful ballads, with brushed snare and swirling organ. While Equinox is the tale of a whore’s wedding, Cass plays the troubled romantic. The reverb-shuddering guitars and swooping vocals lend the record a timeless feel. There’s some southern gothic (Bury Mary) and shuffle numbers thrown in for good measure, creating an intriguing and complex album full of strange narrative and memories. It’s not immediately accessible, but rewarding for the adventurous.