Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Fun Apple products

Today in California Apple is holding a special event to show off some 'fun new products'. Quite what this means, no one is sure, but rumours are flying. High up on this list of probabilities is an iPod Hi-Fi as Apple branch into accessories. More exciting however is the possibility of an all-new video iPod with a touch screen. Think Secret have an inkling it may look like this:

So we await with baited breath, perhaps it's a new Powerbook, feature length movies on iTunes or something else fun and new. Who knows?

Very wet

Yesterday I was walking home from the city centre and there was a strong wind. I buttoned my coat, turned up my collar and tightened my scarf. A few paces later and I felt a drop of rain. 'It's nothing' I thought and quickened my pace. No sooner had I passed the buses at City Hall then the heavens opened. I was soaked. Not some slightly wet kind of affair, absolutely drenched. When I finally arrived home, I hung up my coat and it continued to drip water on the floor for the rest of the evening.

This morning on my walk to work it started to snow. Great. But I learn from my mistakes, today I had an umbrella. This is the first time it has snowed in Belfast while I'm walking to the bus. Apparently we're set for more.


On my stereo at the moment is the new Josh Rouse album, Subtitulo. It's full of the sounds of sunny Spanish villages and summertime, unlike Belfast. Josh Rouse is featured in Filter Magazine's latest Podcast, with a couple songs from the new album and a short interview with Josh. Download it here for free.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ryan Adams (I know, again. This time it's a podcast)


Ryan Adams has recorded a podcast for The Times Online. It's in the form of an interview with Pete Paphides with extracts from 29. Download it for free.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A well read friend

Now the internet was designed for things like this. Type a book that you have loved into the search box, click a button and up comes reccomendations for you to try. It's like browsing the bookshelf of a (very) well read friend. Check it out.

Ryan Adams (again)


Ryan Adams 29

Almost every Ryan Adams review bemoans his lack of quality control, his huge output of songs and his frustrating potential. Every music critic is willing him to make a sequel to Heartbreaker, his beautiful debut solo record, and there was great hope that 29 would be the album to deliver that promise.

29 was written shortly after recovering from a career-threatening wrist injury and recorded without the Cardinals but with long-time producer Ethan Johns at the desk. His seventh solo release finds Ryan in an introspective mood, looking back over his twenties. Nine songs cover nine years treading the usual themes of mortality and unrequited love.

Like most of his releases, Ryan wears his influences on his sleeve. The opener is a rip-off of the Greatful Dead's 'Truckin' and Strawberry Wine sounds like a Neil Young impersonation. But Adams' story telling puts him in a league of his own. 'Elizabeth, You Were Born to Play That Part' is a piano-and-vocals meditation akin to Sylvia Plath on loss, desperation and depression. Over gentle drumming and hushed arpeggios he sings 'Where ever you are/ I hope you're happy now'. Night Birds, perhaps the best track on 29, showcases a mid-twenties crisis. Over morose reverb piano Adams continues 'I feel like a body stuffed into a trunk', and later 'we sink/ into the ocean'. The song closes with unnecessary over-production and swirling reverb to produce the feeling of drowning. It's a little indulgent and typical of an album that almost delivers.

Like the nine wildly different years Adams experienced from twenty, the songs on 29 are too long, over-earnest and overdone, with the hint of a drug induced haze. Yet it delivers what it promises: a catalogue of maturing and getting older, the ups and the downs, the highs and the lows. It is the weakest effort of his three recent releases but still valuable as it shows a different side of the North Carolina troubadour to Cold Roses or Jacksonville City Nights.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Primer on DVD

Yesterday Primer was released on Region 2 DVD. Dave has promised to buy it as a belated birthday present and I eagerly await its arrival. Primer was the best film I saw last year, and since the moment the lights in the theatre came on, I've wanted to see it again.

By their nature, films about time travel are difficult to follow. Causality, paradoxes and multiple timelines do not lend themselves to 'no brainer' plots. What starts out as an innocent bit of playing the stock market turns into a matter of trust, betrayal and friendships.

So much goes on over the hour and a half that the breakneck pace is difficult to keep up with. After watching this in the cinema, we discussed it into the wee small hours. I look forward to doing so again, perhaps with a bit more insight this time.

Monday, February 20, 2006

SXSW schedule

The schedule for the greatest alt-country and americana festival in the world, South By South-West has just been announced. It takes place March 15-19 in practically every available space in Austin, Texas.

I'm not sure the line up so far is as good as previous years. Usually just about every band you ever wanted to hear performs. Some of the highlights for this year include Mogwai, Built to Spill and Josh Ritter. Of course whatever your musical taste, you'll find something at SXSW.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Josh Ritter - The Animal Years

Here's a review of the forthcoming new Josh Ritter album. I would reccomend it.


Josh Ritter's success to date is largely due to nurturing from the Frames. While working an awful job in Boston and performing at open mic nights, the Irish rock group stopped in for a beer, heard one song and asked him to open for their tour. Word spread and Ritter is a much bigger name in Ireland than his native America.

Frames front-man Glen Hansard sees something of himself in Josh Ritter. Both are comfortable with voice and acoustic guitar, both see the importance of good lyrics and aren't afraid to wear their heart on their sleeve.

On his V2 label debut, Josh has teamed up with Iron and Wine producer Brian Deck. Deck didn't try to make a hit single. The result is much more interesting. Ritter speaks his mind and inspired by Mark Twain, St. Paul and Dante confronts the war in Iraq and his escapist impulses at the state of the American union.

Production is unobtrusive and the instrumentation is conventional. There are hints of subtle electronic elements, but the song writing is exceptional. 'Girl in the War' is as stirring and Springsteen like as 'Born in the USA'. 'Thin Blue Flame' with its apocalyptic, gospel-like testimony is captivating.

With The Animal Years Ritter has opted out of the autobiographical, and instead stretched himself to write a philosophical and political statement. The result is something more sincere, more timely and relevant. Eleven great songs sung by a little-known talent.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

New Josh Rouse album

Thankfully the new year will bring a new Josh Rouse album. Subtitulo comes out March 20th (Europe)/March 21st (US & Canada). I've been a big fan of Josh since I first heard Under Cold Blue Stars, and have had the pleasure of interviewing him watching him perform. Live Josh is always better than recorded Josh, but is with great excitement and anticipation that I await Subtitulo.

He's touring in support of the new album in the US and Europe, but at this time unfortunatly not in Belfast.

US Tour Dates:

4/1 Atlanta, GA @ The Variety Playhouse
4/3 Annapolis, MD @ Ram's Head
4/4 Alexandria, VA @ The Birchmere
4/6 Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Live
4/7 New York, NY @ Town Hall
4/8 Boston, MA @ The Paradise
4/10 Montreal, QUE @ Cabaret Music Hall
4/11 Toronto, ONT @ The Mod Theatre
4/13 Chicago, IL @ Park West
4/14 Madison, WI @ The Orpheum Stage Door Theater
4/15 Minneapolis, MN @ Cedar Cultural Center
4/18 San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall
4/19 Los Angeles, CA @ Henry Fonda Theater
4/21 Seattle, WA @ Nuemo's Crystal Ballroom
4/22 Vancouver, BC @ The Red Room
4/24 Austin, TX @ The Cactus Cafe
4/25 Austin, TX @ The Cactus Cafe

European Tour Dates:

5/6 Bergen, Norway @ Bergen Festival
5/7 Oslo, Norway @ Rockefeller
5/9 Stockholm, Sweden @ China Theatre
5/10 Gotenborg, Sweden @ Sticky Fingers
5/11 Malmo, Sweden @ KB
5/13 Arhus, Denmark @ Vox Hall
5/14 Copenhagen, Denmark @ Vega
5/19 Sheffield, England @ Memorial Hall
5/20 Manchester, England @ Academy 2
5/22 Edinburgh, Scotland @ Queens Hall
5/23 Nottingham, England @ Rescue Room
5/25 London, England @ Shepherds Bush Empire
5/27 Newcastle, England @ Live Theatre
5/28 Oxford, England @ Zodiac
5/29 Brighton, England @ Concord 2
5/30 Milton Keynes, England @ The Stables
6/1 Dublin, Ireland @ The Village

eMusic is offering "O, I Need All The Love" for a free download from Josh's latest EP Bedroom Classics, Vol. 2. Check it out.

If for some reason you haven't heard Josh Rouse do yourself a favour and get Nashville

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Mr Cheney - Weapon of mass destruction

Does knowing that the Vice President Dick Cheney can shoot a gun make him a strong leader? On a hunting trip in Texas over the weekend, Dick took a shot at 78 year old Harry Wittington. Apparently he belived there to be wingless quail in the brush, and the old Republican happened to be in the line of fire.

American comedy is having a field day:

Jon Stewart: "But why, Rob? If he had known Mr. Whittington was not a bird, why would he still have shot him?"

Rob Corddry: "Jon, in a post-9-11 world, the American people expect their leaders to be decisive. To not have shot his friend in the face would have sent a message to the quail that America is weak."

Washington Post journalist Dana Milbank turned up for interview like this:

View all the witty wise-cracks late night US tv is churning out HERE

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Tim Grainger Experience

Firstly, I should declare an interest. When I was rocking around Ireland, playing the bass in lemon twelve , Tim Grainger led with stirring vocals. Since his move to London in search of fame and glory, Lemon Twelve has disintegrated to allow the constituent members to persue their own projects. Dave plays in The Burning Cities, Niall plays in The Smiles , I have a two projects, Independent Wee Men (with Paul from The Smiles) and Evensong. Now Tim is making his mark too. He is about to release his self titled EP.

album: (Self titled)
artist: Tim Grainger
release date: March 2006
label: independent
Domain: www.timgraingermusic.co.uk

This debut solo offering from Tim Grainger features three covers, marking the beginning of a career to be followed by original material. Different in style from his emo-rock days as lead singer of Lemontwelve it marks the mellower style of a man in his twenties, discovering himself, his passions, faults and needs. Production from a London studio is kept simple, unpretentious but not amateur. The emotion is heartfelt, the music is sincere.

As a first offering, it provides ground on which to be build upon. His Ryan Adams tinged acoustic worship offerings will benefit as he finds his feet and stamps more originality on the tunes. Let's file it under work in progress; Tim has an impressive voice which always manages to sound sincere. He chooses three well-known covers; In the Secret, This is my desire and I Will Never Be the Same. His forthcoming original material should showcase the creativity and knack for a meoldy that he is capable of.

Tim already has some Spring dates lined up around London. Check out his website for further details.

Happy Birthday about the music!

It's time for a celebration. About the music is now a year old. It seems a long time since my first post on 3rd February 2005. It seemed like a good idea at the time, somewhere to post the reviews I was writing and allow far away friends to keep in touch with my comings and goings. To date 2,826 folks have logged onto the site, from as far as 7000 miles away. It's been a blast, I hope you have enjoyed reading as much as I have enjoyed posting. Thanks to everyone who has left a comment, here's to another year.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Director: Steven Spielberg

Last night I went with my housemates Dave and Steven to see the new Steven Spielberg picture, Munich. Our local cinema does all films on Tuesday night for £2.50 so the bargain hunters smelt a good deal in the air.

The tea-time gnocchi had gone to Dave's head and his excitement at leaving the house was palpable by the time we neared the neon-signed building. Steven predicted queues stretching for miles down the street. As we live in Ireland, I predicted rain and grabbed an umbrella.

As it turned out, there was little rain, and not much of a queue to speak of. We purchased out half price tickets, found the cinema and then seats, almost, but not quite, neck breakingly far forward. We endured some awful trailers for trashy rom-coms before the feature began.

Munich in short is great. Action-packed, but not brainless, poignant without lecturing, fast and exciting. I'm not going to dwell too much on the ideology or political statements the film makes. There are plenty of other bloggers to talk about that. The message of Munich is essentially a call against arms, that violence begets violence, that family is important.

It follows Avner (Eric Bana), an Israeli intelligence agent tasked with killing all those involved in the Munich Olympics kidnap of Israeli athletes. Avner is a young man called to serve his country and leave his pregnant wife. He is a moral man, but as he kills, he becomes both a hardened killer, and acutely sensitive. His young family becomes more important to him as he dispatches the family of others. His new home in the underworld of espionage and assassinations takes its toll; paranoia sets in and almost akin to Jarhead the man becomes incapable of being anything other than a soldier.

Spielberg has returned to form. At one level Munich is just another racy thriller. But it works at a deeper level too: the wrestle for Israel, the wrestle for a man's soul, the questionable use of violence for political ends and the importance of spiritual and biological family. Spielberg's Jewish righteousness will offend some and please others, but whatever way you look at it, Munich is a great film.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Me and You and Everyone We Know

Late on Saturday night I settled down in bed with my headphones on to watch Me and You and Everyone We Know, the first full-length film by writer/director/lead Miranda July. It scooped the Special Jury Prize at last year's Sundance festival.

It is a very indie film, but with much more substance than other films with critical acclaim like Garden State. July populates her story with a group of well-drawn, intertwining, unique, eccentric and familiar characters. She stresses the importance of community in a time when family is falling apart.

Richard is a newly separated shoe salesman, struggling to win the approval of his two kids, and find a role for himself. Christine (July) is a taxi driver for the elderly and video artist in her head and spare time. Christine takes a passenger into the shoe store and is smitten by the beguiling ability of Richard to convince her that things don't have to be this way. Shoes, and life, don't have to hurt.

The variety of the characters and sub-plots between fat middle aged nobodies, confused teenage girls and meandering children makes sure that the film is never less than engaging. It is riddled with subtle messages and meanings- signposts of life, the last rites of a goldfish, and the dowry of a school-girl.

July has already been heralded as the new voice of American film, a tough tag to live up to but she demonstrates enough promise in her debut outing that she just might have the goods to deliver.

The perfect Ryan Adams album of 2005

Stylus Magazine has taken it upon themselves to create a great Ryan Adams from all the 55 tracks released in 2005. Their list culminates in the inclusion of 12 quality tracks, losing all the filler, along the all-too-familiar theme of unrequited love. Stylus would include:

01. A Kiss Before I Go (Jacksonville City Nights, track 1)

02. Sweet Illusions (Cold Roses disc one, track 2)

03. Let It Ride (Cold Roses disc two, track 2)

04. Words (Elizabethtown iTunes Music Store exlcusive, track 1)

05. Night Birds (29, track 3)

06. Hard Way To Fall (Jacksonville City Nights, track 3)

07. When Will You Come Back Home (Cold Roses disc one, track 4)

08. My Heart Is Broken (Jacksonville City Nights, track 10)

09. The Hardest Part (Jacksonville City Lights, track 5)

10. Dance All Night (Cold Roses disc two, track 6)

11. Mangolia Mountain (Cold Roses disc one, track 1)

12. The End (Jacksonville City Nights, track 2)

I agree on the most part with their list. I would include Meadowlake Street (Cold Roses disc one track 3), Strawberry Wine (29, track 2), remove My Heart is Broken and get rid of Nightbirds..

Check out the Stylus article here .

Friday, February 03, 2006

Search needs

I dont really like chain mail but i just got a chain message from a girl i knew once and it said this: go to google and type in your name followed by needs. now you're all clever readers but that means Iwould type in andrew needs. then you put on this email what it says. for example when i typed in andrew needs it said this:

Andrew needs a belt. Andrew is showing his undies, what a classy moment.

It showed this for Heather needs:

Heather Needs Men ...Now!
Hi! My name is Heather and this is my home page! ... Because Heather
likes to play rough!!! And no hair on your back!!!

And for David:

David needs a wash - or at least a dry clean

Check it out

Something in the genes

Somehow I have managed to go 23 years of my life without knowledge of one of my greatest namesakes. Sonny Boy Williamson. Nicknamed "King of the Harmonica" by his peers, was one of the most inspiring harp players in blues history. He played with passion, metronome like timing and inventive technique.

I was playing a bit of guitar with my blues influenced, Polish flat-mate last night, and afterwards over a glass of Chardonnay he introduced me to the full, resonating sound of Sonny Boy Williamson. Williamson was born on the Sara Jones Plantation near Glendora, Mississippi in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. He has been called by many, the most influential blues artist of all time.

Spot any similarities?

Thursday, February 02, 2006


I went with the lads from my house to see Jarhead last week. You've probably heard all about this movie allready, but for what it is worth, i enjoyed it. I thought the acting and the characters were great, some of the photography was stunning, particuarly in a scene near the end where an airstrike is viewed from the reflection of a window. There are some spectacular set pieces such as the burning oil fields of Kuwait.

It tells of the frustration and boredom of a soilder. "Four days, four hours, one minute. That was my war," the Marine sniper Tony Swofford tells us. "I never shot my rifle." It shows the effect of a tour of duty on the family life of a Marine, the unfaithful girlfriends, the testosterone, all-male environment, the machismo and the psycho. It has some laugh out loud moments, but ends rather unsatisfactorily. But then again, I think that is the point. There was no climax to their war, they, like us, were left feeling a little dissillusioned by it all. Not withstanding this, Sam Mendes skillfully develops his characters and creates an affecting and worthwhile film.

Josh Rouse on the airwaves

I have spent quite a bit of time in planes this week due to my work. While sitting on the BMI jets awaiting take off, I noticed the smooth sounds of Josh Rouse filtering through. They played Winter in the Hamptons from his latest record, Nashville. The other track was John Mayer, from Room for Squares. It is nice to hear some decent music while sitting on a tarmac in Heathrow. Go on Josh!