Let’s Eat Grandma – I, Gemini

This originally appeared in Gigsoup.

A weird and wonderful tapestry of genre – as though Lorde underwent mitosis and joined Animal Collective.

The outrageously precocious Let’s Eat Grandma are Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton, two teenage multi-instrumentalists from Norwich whose debut album seems destined to become one of the most alluring & unique projects of the year. Their kooky name (by no means condoning the consumption of elderly relatives) is a reference to one of the more famous illustrations of the enduring usefulness of the Oxford Comma. The album’s title – ‘I, Gemini’ – itself seems like a nod to the two being constantly mistaken for twins (they’re not related, to clarify). They make synth-drenched experimental pop – filled with captivating melodies undercut by a nameless darkness, like a half-remembered fairy tale.

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Forbidden Fruit 2016: Friday

A long and sort of rambling piece I did for The Thin Air after going to the first day of the Forbidden Fruit festival in June 2016. Photo credits – Moira Reilly / The Thin Air.

It’s a cracker of an afternoon as I make my way through Kilmainham – a day ripped straight from the pages of old Junior Cert Irish essays, all erratic excitement and rock-splitting sun. I’m heading to Forbidden Fruit for the evening, and should mention that I’ve foolishly disregarded the tips on the festival’s website to dress appropriately for the weather. I’m wearing jeans and carrying a jacket, so I mostly feel like a rotisserie chicken for the majority of the afternoon & evening. Forbidden Fruit, with its faintly edenic name and location on the grounds of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, falls into that category of non-camping, ‘boutique’ music festival – the kind that seems to have come into its own in the last five years or so. Festivals like this generally try to narrow the aperture of their appeal (re: genre/sound), so as to more effectively assemble a coherent lineup of artists. The logic is that it gives the impression of something that’s been diligently ‘curated’, rather than haphazardly assembled with the intention of appealing to as wide a consumer base as possible. Forbidden Fruit have wisely included the (almost) universal appeal of funfair rides, because there’s nothing quite like humanity’s mastery of the centripetal force to liven things up in between the electro and rap and electro-rap. I’m only here for the Friday, so mine is a temporary slice of this apple of sensible hedonism. Festivals like these sometimes live or die on the vagaries of weather, so the vivid sunshine is really helping to make things that bit more utopian, while nicely illustrating Irish people’s almost existential relationship with the weather.

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What’s Yr Rupture?

This originally appeared in The Thin Air as part of their Label Mixtape series.

Running an independent record label can often seem like one of the more concrete definitions of a ‘labour of love’. Brooklyn-based label What’s Your Rupture? (WYR?), founded in 2003 by one Kevin Pedersen, has managed to strike a superb balance in its release strategy – giving a platform to newer bands while simultaneously bringing older artists to new audiences. Oddly enough, the label originally started off the back of the notoriety gained by Pedersen’s stand-up comedy act, but has since gone on to become one of the most venerated underground labels in contemporary music. While fairly discerning in what he releases, Pedersen’s process of curation tends to broadly reflect the label’s DIY ethos.

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Road To Nowhere

This is a retrospective on Modest Mouse’s debut, ‘This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About’, which I wrote for The Thin Air in March 2016.

What do you think of when you hear the phrase ‘driving music’? As musical notions go, it’s one that usually comes with a specific set of aesthetic criteria. Upbeat tempos, big choruses, maybe the occasional indulgent guitar solo. This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About, the debut of Issaquah indie rockers Modest Mouse, turned twenty last Saturday. While directly referencing both a long journey and a clear mind, if anything this album is the protracted, pensive inverse of canonical ‘driving music’ – ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ with a dicey hangover. Modest Mouse emerged in the early nineties as part of a curious cadre of Northwestern American indie-punk bands like Lync and Heavens to Betsy (who were an early incarnation of Riot Grrrl nobility Sleater Kinney). Raised on a mix of Seattle post-hardcore & the more considered songcraft of bands like Built to Spill, they forged a sound in the early years of their career that still sounds utterly unique, even two decades later. In the wake of their pathologically average recent effort, Strangers to Ourselves, it’s worth looking back at their debut; what you happen to find is an almost entirely different band – callow yet surprisingly self-assured.

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Sea Pinks, Oh Boland, Hiva Oa @ Roisín Dubh, Galway

This originally appeared on The Thin Air’s website (http://thethinair.net/2016/03/sea-pinks-roisin-dubh-galway/) in March 2016. Photo credit: Ana Levisky / The Thin Air

I sometimes wonder how often, if ever, bands think about how the sound they craft in a studio translates to a live stage. Some groups are simply ‘studio bands’ – they sound better when they can endlessly and obsessively tinker with the sonic possibilities of technology. Others see the live setting as a different set of circumstances altogether, something with the living potential for a more sensory collective experience, something that can become a genuine reason to senselessly roar at your friends in a smoking area. While this is all pretty vague stuff to be beginning with, I promise it has a tenuous connection to the Sea Pinks gig that occurred in the Roisin Dubh on Saturday last, February 12th March. The gig was free in, which as an impetus to get people to go and see live music should never be underestimated.

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Laura Gibson – Empire Builder

This originally appeared on The Thin Air’s website (http://thethinair.net/2016/04/laura-gibson-empire-builder/), in April 2016.

There aren’t many labels in popular music that come with as many unspoken assumptions as ‘singer-songwriter’ does. As cultural archetypes go, it’s uniquely malleable and somewhat slippery – images are conjured both of introverted Moleskine-clutching creatives & street-busking dilettantes,  haunting cafés as they wrestle with personal demons. It’s a label that could be reasonably applied to artists across a broad spectrum of creativity/popularity/influence while still retaining its diagnostic value – Nick Drake and Ben Howard are both ‘singer-songwriters’ in some sense or another. There also tends to be a smuggled expectation among listeners that the songwriting of a ‘singer-songwriter’ will have some inherent poetic worth, given the highly intimate nature of its communication – the universal dressed up as the personal.

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Honey Talks – An interview with Stephen Sharpe

A version of this originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of tn2 magazine, which you can find on their website (http://www.tn2magazine.ie), should the need strike you.

Steven Sharpe is a Galway-based singer-songwriter who cultivates a witty, unapologetic style that is difficult to describe. He’s quite forthcoming about his eclectic batch of influences, citing “Nina Simone, Kate Bush and Laurie Anderson” as “the holy trinity of artists, for me”. While acknowledging that much of his music is about “being gay and shit”, and he remarks on how he “never really heard that growing up”. Instantly recognisable as jangly, guy-with-a-guitar-folk-pop, there’s an immediacy to his songwriting that exudes a confidence and authority beyond the trappings of the genre, something “stomping, fabulous, flamboyant”. The tags on his bandcamp page are an aptly laconic summation of this style, some of which include “acoustic”, “gay”, “phat”, “gay rights”, “gay lefts” and “class”.

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Death Grips – Fashion Week

A version of this first appeared on tn2 magazine’s website (www.tn2magazine.ie) in February 2015.

The unorthodox release of Fashion Week, the completely instrumental sixth album from unorthodox hip-hop trio Death Grips, would seem to fit the bizarre narrative of this group’s career. The album of course comes replete with its own offbeat origin story: it was downloaded from some neglected corner of cyberspace, posted on a subreddit, dismissed outright as a spurious leak, then legitimised by the band’s own Soundcloud account.

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Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit

This originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of tn2 magazine, as part of the Videodrome series. You can find the other entries in the series on their website (http://www.tn2magazine.ie).

Only truly disenfranchised nineties kids will get this. I joke, but Nirvana’s seminal debut Nevermind had a seismic cultural impact upon its release in September 1991, one that still resonates to this day.

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