single review ~ the mannerly hoods ~ 'woodstock'

by 15:04

For Fans Of: Babyshambles, General Fiasco, Circa Waves

As 2/5's of Belfast's cheekiest purveyors of indie-dance The Late Twos, David McMaster and Ryan Bennett have filled nearly every venue in the city, treaded every boardwalk and drank every pint going in the process. 'Woodstock' is the debut single from their  wonderfully named sideproject 'The Mannerly Hoods', which see's the duo retaining the loud guitars and earworm chorus's that saw Belfast fall in love with them the first time around.

Coupled with a brilliant video, 'Woodstock' isn't an ode to the legendary 60's music festival, but perhaps the even more legendary Woodstock Road in East Belfast. It's here The Mannerly Hoods excel, honestly and without pretense painting a picture of their native city that blows the Summer of 69 out of the water. Jangling guitars cascade through a frenetic and clever pop verse, leading to a chorus left in your head for days after a first listen.

Sharp, witty and brimming with energy, as introductions go 'Woodstock' is a perfect start. The Mannerly Hoods charming cheekiness, and ear for crafting a pop tune has been well honed over years of serving the indie scene. One suspects this new project won't be short of more gems like this, and long may they continue  to produce them.

Taylor Johnson

single review ~ 'keep your head up' ~ rachael boyd

by 06:00

For fans of: Sufjan Stevens, Sigur Ros, Radiohead
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Rachael Boyd is a genius.

Sometimes there is no other word for it. Having made her name playing alongside the likes of Joshua Burnside, Rews guitarist Shauna Tohill and more recently the runaway success story that is Ciaran Lavery, the young multi-instrumentalist boasts an impressive CV. With a sound as eclectic and difficult to pin down as her's, it's no surprise that the music has (so far) been better recieved in random pockets of appreciation all across the world than in Britain or Ireland. Take the incredible 'Back In Your Box', a lowkey release from early 2013 that has gathered over 26,000 hits despite virtually no plugging from the virtuoso violinist. There's comments in Italian, Chinese, Russian and even without Google translate, the '<3's give away that Boyd's compositions translate across the water.

 'Keep Your Head Up' follows a similarly rich formula, encompassing lush string arrangements with lofi hip-hop beats, creating another universal piano ballad.

Whilst it is unlikely we'll ever see kids blasting 'Keep Your Head' from their I-phone speakers at a bus stop, you may well  hear it paint the sonic background to a Cannes Film festival prize winning piece.

Taylor Johnson

ep review ~ 'coping mechanism' ~ steady decline

by 06:35

For fans of: Neck Deep, The Wonder Years, State Champs

Rarely will a brand new band emerge onto any scene as fully formed as Steady Decline.

Formed at the tail end of 2016 by four friends with a pop-punk shaped hole in their hearts,  the Dublin band announced themselves to the world with a cool name, logo, merch, a seven track EP/Mini album and an Irish tour literally within their first week of existance; with such rapid fire enthusiasm, could their music live up to the hype? Taylor Johnson listened to find out exactly that...

For all the exquisite attention to detail surrounding Steady Decline's start to life, 'Coping Mechanism' embodies everything they're about far more than any finely tuned music video ever could. Opening with the appropriatly named instrumental 'New Beginnings', this record is designed to feel like a gig, with everything from the tension building intro, to 'Battlescars' anthemic finale being taken into consideration.

Singles 'Front Porch' and 'Stay The Same' have an irrepressible swell, punchy verses each time leading to choruses which seem to get bigger with each passing guitar solo. Dual vocalists Oscar Hackett (Homecomings) and Jack Wright (Dream State) have an A Plastic Rose appeal, as both frontmen carry the same heavy weights in their head, the same longing. Together they work brilliantly, the effect instant.

The full throttle pulse of the title track keeps emotions running high, as Wright concludes that if he wants to drink the night away, he will. ("Fuck what your friends all say, this is my coping mechanism!"). Sounding straight out of Neck Deeps 'Life's Not Out To Get You', 'Start Over' see's more love laid to waste, more chances lost as Wright admits, "I wrote you once a week, but I could never send it..." and an outro reminiscent of his acoustic beginnings in much loved Galwegian band Dream State.

'Erase Me'  is the emotional pinacle of a record surrounded by pain. A change of pace from what we've heard so far.  It's a giant singalong waiting to happen, as Wright once again bares his soul for all to hear. It leads quite delicately to 'Battlescars', a tune that teases the smallest bit of light to shine on 'Coping Mechanism's dark shadows, before stripping it away. Brooding and heavier than the rest of the record, 'Battlescars' is Steady Decline's mission statement.

Whatever is thrown at them on this journey they are about to embark on, whatever they must deal with, Steady Decline will not stop moving forward...and they'll have the scars to prove it.

Taylor Johnson

ep review - tyrannosaurus wrex - 'fromthecarpet'

by 07:21

For fans of: Damien Rice, Joe Purdy, The Tallest Man On Earth

The ambient sadness of 'Fromthecarpet', the debut release from Tyrannosaurus Wrex, resonates long after the final chord has rung out on this quietly brilliant collection of demos.

The side project of Brand New Friend and Sea Above's Aaron Milligan, Tyrannosaurus Wrex's introduction to the world was made as subtly as the music itself; no fuss, no grandeur, just delicate songs with nods to The Tallest Man On Earth, Jose Gonzalez and Glen Hansard throughout.

Take the hypnotic waltz of opener 'Greens For Blues', a heartrending lofi trek through the deepest trenches of the human psyche, as we witness it's author battling his own brain. Beautifully, Milligan balances the desolate with hope, leaving just enough light in to break the darkness.

"After all I'm still me, still the same person I've always been, still the same blood running through my veins, the same heart and the same old pain"

'Phone Call' at times feels so personal, it seems an intrusion to listen on. We hear more haunting guitar work, layered over an acoustic lead and Milligan's hushed, entrancing vocals. We hear more solace in others, as he sings "Please keep answering my calls, I just wanna know you're there, don't have to say anything at all...". 

Closing the EP is 'Different', a song more in the vein of his alt-rock roots in Sea Above. Yet more complex guitar work is given room to grow in what is undoubtedly the most anthemic track on 'Fromthecarpet', yet that doesn't make it any less personal than the EP title suggests. We hear reflections on a battle won, but a war years from conclusion.

"Doing well, coping, sleep tonight, here's hoping..."

For an unofficial, bedroom demo, 'Fromthecarpet' hits incredibly close to home. 

Taylor Johnson

ep review ~ silly guys having a fun time ~ salad boyz

by 05:02

For fans of: Weezer, Pixies, Blur

By their very nature, Belfast's favourite vegetable-cult band don't take themselves too seriously. Born over a shared love of snacks and good times, SALAD BOYZ are a rare breed in a musical landscape littered with trend and self-importance; 'Silly Guys Having A Fun Time' sounds like a peaceful rebellion against that mentality, with some real bangers hiding amidst the party-themed chaos.

Take opener 'Crocodile' for example, a soul searching bop that see's frontman Tommy Haghighi take a look back at all the friends he's lost to time, life and geography. This is followed by 'Gotit', a funky jam in the vein of blur-meets Lou Reed. We see more self-deprecation, spun with just enough light to retain the 'fun time!' in the EP's title.

"I'm a joke, I'm a mess, I'm a bum, but I'm having fun" 

Careful not to bare too much of their soul three tracks in, the boyz take the opportunity to remind you that you have chosen to listen to a punk band named SALAD BOYZ. As a result, you are rewarded with 'Kickz', a hilarious rally through Haghighi's brain as he quite sweetly reminds the listener that he is in this for the "sweet dank beats and the super tasty licks'. Oh, the same also applies to the stock market, karate and rather beautifully, your own mother.

'Big Things' returns 'Silly Guys...' to a pleateau of something slightly more serious. The guitar work from Simon Gilbert on this record shines in it's subtlety, none more so than the intro here. Eventually descending into a mass of screamed vocals and inevitably, pirate metal.Which makes the finale all the more special.
When SALAD BOYZ have something real to say, they express it with more honesty and eloquence than they may realise. Closing number 'Over' is an anthem deserving of singalongs and tender moments. Of heartbreak-playlists and blossoming romance. Of failure and victory and just for the kicks. Like 'Crocodile' and 'T-42' before it, it highlights SALAD BOYZ ability to write a roof-raising chorus. The licks remain tasty, particularly in Gilbert's guitar solo leading to the last refrain.

"And I'd try to explain
But you wouldn't believe me
The words would be wrong
And they wouldn't come easy
You'd say we're alright
But it's obvious to see
It's over, it's over, it's over, it's over..." 

With songs as heartfelt as 'Over' in their locker, it's unclear whether SALAD BOYZ will ever want to stop being silly and having fun.  

I hope they don't.

Taylor Johnson

ep review ~ the couth ~ 'burnout'

by 12:05

For fans of: Royal Blood, Twin Atlantic, Circa Waves

It's been a while since Lisburn's premier garage-rock band The Couth last unleashed a wave of their chaotic, ramshackle pop, but after a hiatus spent crafting new songs and a new sound, they're back this Summer with their latest EP, 'BURNOUT'.

Everything from frontman David McCrum's passionate delivery, to bassist and brother Matthew's Mac De Marco-esque lackadaisical charm marked The Couth out early on as one of the countries most exciting indie-secrets. Buoyed by the euphoric sound of runaway single 'Cycles', they followed it up with 'Casual Sex At The Omniplex', which offered more slices of highly addictive surf-pop, perfectly capturing a heatwave summer on record.

Fast forward a year and they've ripped up the rule book, the heart pounding 'Bloodbreaker' EP and it's follow up 'Friday Night Fever' showing a new harder-edged side to the band...and it's here we reacquaint ourselves with the quartet, no longer the new kids on the block, but one of the most established bands in the scene.

Opening with the heart pounding 'Coming After' shows the direction of this record straight away. A Clash-esque bass line kicks to life a punk song littered with screeching guitars and an aggressive streak we've not seen before. We're also treated to a Royal Blood inspired breakdown and, as it's a Couth record, a chorus designed to be blasted at full volume, getting more and more anthemic with each listen.

New single 'Fire' races out of the traps with a Black Keys swagger, frontman Dave McCrum's lackadaisical vocal dancing over thunderous drum and bass. It all makes way for another huge chorus, which see's bassist and younger brother Matt McCrum joining in for a venomous, bombastic finish. What 'Fire' really does though, is act is show The Couth are a band always willing to adapt, constantly evolving; and whilst it would be easy to churn out a 'Casual Sex At The Omniplex Part ii', Dave McCrum's conviction to write exactly how he's feeling remains integral to the band's appeal.

A perfect example is epic closer 'My Head's Wrecked', a two finger salute to the pressures of the modern age, soundtracked by more rattling guitars and tribal drumming from Kyle Irwin. It's unexplored territory for The Couth, as Dave McCrum bares his soul for all to see.

"You know I used to be so carefree, but now everything gets on top of me, don't bother me today..."

You can tell from the first listen it's a massive live tune, catchy verses and a runaway chorus, but it's heavier than we've heard before. It's FIDLAR meets 'First Impressions of Earth' era Strokes, gripping and fragile, as if this momentous noise could, in the best possible way, cave in on itself at any second.

Wrecked though their heads may be, The Couth have proven once again that they are at the forefront of the indie scene in Northern Ireland with this record.

'Burn Out' may just catch fire.

Taylor Johnson
Watch the official video for first single 'Fire' below:

track of the week ~ salad boyz ~ 'crocodile'

by 05:52

For fans of: Weezer, Martha

Step for a moment into the world of SALAD BOYZ, four best friends making vegetable-flavoured rock and roll with their tongues placed firmly in cheek. Their latest EP is titled 'Silly Guys Having A Fun Time' and that's exactly what they sound like on 'CROCODILE' a track of such pure at heart charm, it could be easy to overlook the gentle sadness percolating through.

From day one, SALAD BOYZ have represented all that is good about making music for the love of it. In many ways, they are the human embodiment of a 'Wholesome Meme', never seen without their matching vegetable tee's, beaming smiles and banter-a-plenty. This is a band who don't care how they may be perceived, as long as the music's good, and on 'CROCODILE' they sound more developed than ever.

Frontman Tommy Haghighi paints a painful picture, longing for a past he's not sure even exists anymore as he laments; "I'm fine on my own, no one's fine on their own...". Guitarist Simon Gilbert's lead guitar sits beautifully above the noise, further compounding the major key melancholy SALAD BOYZ have made their trademark through songs like 'T-4-2' and the eagerly anticipated 'OVER',  that's been doing the rounds on various setlists for months now.

The intrigue surrounding SALAD BOYZ, their unique merch and links to the SALORD* aside, this is a band with a heart and soul. Just four friends making music, great music at that.

Taylor Johnson

*check out the band's Facebook page for more on that.
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