live review ~ 'good vibes for terri hooley' ~ fundraiser, limelight, belfast

by 18:21

In a heartwarming tribute to Northern Ireland's Godfather of punk, last night saw some of this countries best songwriters gather for a memorable night in the Limelight.

Headlined by Ash frontman Tim Wheeler, (fresh from the release of his debut solo album), the sold out audience were treated to a series of memorable performances, most notably from the stunning Bronagh Gallagher, who's voice continues to defy the passing of time, as she sounded better than ever.

To open an evening of this stature would always require a certain level of energy and charisma, perhaps going some way to explain the emergence of the awesome Verse Chorus Verse (pseudonym of  former ASIWIFA guitarist Tony Wright) , who provided a set of typical verve. Upbeat and affirming, Verse Chorus Verse's rough vocals and powerful songs filled the venue, showing his professionalism whilst remaining genuinely grateful for such an opportunity. Everything from his trademark movement on stage, to his childhood tales of buying records from Good Vibrations (and indeed finding his moniker on a Nirvana album suggested to him by Mr Hooley himself) acted as an appropriate and entertaining start to the evening.

He was followed by the vaudeville stylings of Duke Special, who provided a set of daring Victorian undertones and dark piano. Not scared to literally batter his instrument, Special's unique theatrics were enthralling from the outset; even if at times it detracts from the magnificent piano playing which form the basis of his act. Culminating in a brilliant cover of The Magnetic Fields cult track 'Andrew In Drag', Duke Special looked incredibly comfortable back on the big stage, it was refreshing to see him back up there.

By the time Tired Pony's Iain Archer took to the stage, proceedings were well underway and the crowd finally seemed up for it. A sensational performance of tracks taken mainly from his album 'To The Pine Roots', saw Archer with just his acoustic guitar. Though this can often leave an artist badly exposed, the opposite must be said for Archer, as his guitar playing and the strength of his voice were highlighted beautifully by the likes of 'Everest' and 'Black Mountain Quarry'. Bringing bandmate Bronagh Gallagher on for a finalé of the glorious ''I Am The Landslide', it begs the question as to why Archer doesn't gig more regularly on his own. Though having said this, looking after teenage sensation Jake Bugg may be time consuming enough...

Little Matador's Nathan Connolly and Dave Magee then gave their acoustic interpretation of the alt-rock bands heavier tunes, surly no easy task. Calling upon memories of 'Nirvana Unplugged' for inspiration, songs like the pulsating 'Shatter' had a new swagger in what is a fairly intimate stage for a band of their size. Clearly enjoying themselves, the banter between the band and audience was almost as entertaining as the music itself, though once again Bronagh Gallagher stepped in to elevate the performance to new heights ~ bravely stepping in for the ill Garry Lightbody to sing an emotional 'Chasing Cars'.

As the last line's of Gary Lightbody's singalong masterpiece faded out, on came former Energy Orchard frontman Bap Kennedy. Having shed his 'indie rebel' skin long ago, Kennedy's roots are now firmly set in the country mold, though that didn't hinder his performance in any way. With a solid band around him, Kennedy now channels much of the same sound as Steve Earl, who of course asked  a young Energy Orchard to support him on a string of dates in the early 90's after stumbling across them in a North London pub. Measured, controlled and never off key, it was a performance of integrity from a local hero.

The night then came to an end with Tim Wheeler, beloved by the crowd before he even opened his mouth. Treating the crowd to acoustic performances of 'Oh Yeah', 'Kung Fu' and of course, 'Girl From Mars', was a humble move from an artist who has just released a stunning debut album in it's own right. Festive renditions of songs he wrote with London based-singer Emmy The Great ('Christmas Day (I Wish I Was Surfing)' & 'Jesus The Reindeer' respectively) went down brilliantly, but undoubtedly the highlight of the set and possibly the entire evening was yet to come. A full band rendition of Terri Hooley's favorite song 'Be My Baby' by The Ronnette's (led by Bronagh Gallagher) and The Undertones 'Teenage Kicks' saw the venue in full voice.

A fitting tribute to Terri Hooley and one that will certainly not be forgotten anytime soon.

Taylor Johnson

top 3 ~ best irish tracks of 2014

by 10:14

Well here it is. Encore NI's top 3 best tracks of 2014. As always, we must stress that this list has been compiled to celebrate the Northern Irish music scene and the amazing acts which make it what it is. After an exhausting month of writing, listening and changing the final positions more times than we care to remember, this is our official top three best tracks of 2014.

Agree? Disagree? Please let us know via our Twitter page (@EncoreNI) and Facebook!

Our aim is always to promote the local scene; If you know any bands which should have made the cut, please get in touch. Here's the list so far...

25. BLOOM - Tropical Edge Of The Storm
24. Malibu Shark Attack - Better Off As Friends
23. Oh Volcano - Oceans
22. Paper Man - Like TV
21. Matthew Duly - Ghost In Your Memory
20. Adebisi Shank - Mazel Tov
19. This Is Me Dead - Vega
18. Treehome - Keep Our Loving Discreet
17. Hot Cops - Origami
16. Autumns - Cold War
15. His New Atlas - His Young
14. Hurdles - France
13. Ciaran Lavery - Shame
12. Moscow Metro - Spirit Of A City
11. Serotonin - Cleanse Me

10. Meb Jon Sol - Everyone Has A Secret Song
9. Wonder Villains - Marshall
8. The Couth - Down By The River
7. Echo Raptors - Feel It In Your Heart Again
6. Aaron Shanley - Real Thing
5. The Late Twos - Lana True
4. Joshua Burnside - Catalina


3. Hot Cops - Kenzie's Farmhouse

The only band on this list to have featured more than once, Hot Cops have came out of nowhere to become one of the best bands in the country. Their explosive debut EP (followed by the erratic, pulsating brilliance of new single 'Origami') made it clear that Hot Cops were a supremely talented band. Three tracks of equal excellence, encased in a tomb of indie-noise rock and a shattered frame of mind. Bursting with angst and genius, 'Kenzie's Farmhouse' is the sort of track that makes you want to thrash against a barrier, forgetting who you are and how you got here.

Occasionally you get the impression that Hot Cops don't quite realise how brilliant they are. Perhaps they do, though it doesn't seem like it. Either way, whether they like it or not, (and you suspect they don't) Hot Cops are writing anthems for the underclass. For those who can't quite put it into words themselves, Hot Cops put it in verse and chorus. A special band.

For fans of: Nirvana, Radiohead
Expect in 2015: Everything & Anything

2. In An Instant - Lovers Apart

At number two, it's another young band and another EP opener. The stunning 'Lovers Apart' encapsulates all that make Bangor's latest prodigies so exciting. A dramatic breakdown, an electronic backdrop and frontman Mark Hegan's entrancing vocals at full strength. The sound made on this first recording is only beaten by the bands live performance, itself a spectacle to behold. Though you could have chosen any of the tracks from 'A Light You Know And Love', it's this dynamic opener which sets the standard. Now off to dream it all up again, In An Instant seem already well on their way.

For fans of: Snow Patrol, U2
Expect in 2015: Their status as headliners fully established

1. A Plastic Rose - Someone's Daughter

The term 'legends' is thrown around a lot in modern life. It's infiltrated our everyday vocabulary, when it was once spared only for the great amongst us, those who have achieved something. For Sligo born (mostly), Belfastian's A Plastic Rose however, no other description will suffice. Through various EP's, 2 albums and countless shows the band that reminded us that all we know and love will die have earned their place in our hearts. Now finally home to give the Belfast music scene the, as one fan put it, "kick up the arse it needs", there is no denying that Belfast never did fill the gap left by the alt-rock heroes. Which brings us to 'Someone's Daughter'. When APR began releasing new singles for album number two (the awesome, Flickering Light Of An Inner War). Encore NI were keen to pronounce it some of the bands best work, and it is. But why Someone's Daughter? Well, for one thing, it see's the bands trademark blend of noise and melody in perfect harmony. From Ian McHugh's overlying riffs, to the songs screaming intro, the enthralling nature of 'Someone's Daughter' is evident from the opening strums of a guitar. Lyrically, front man Gerry Norman touches a raw nerve, though it may not always be evident. 'There's no God in my skies, just your love and protecting eyes'.

Praised by Radio One amongst others and back to the relief of everyone in Northern Ireland. Nothing looks beyond the grasp of A Plastic Rose. Even if we are still waiting to find out what it means when you fall asleep screaming...

For fans of: Biffy Clyro, Million Dead
Expect in 2015: Top billings, for everything 

Taylor Johnson

top twenty five ~ best irish tracks of 2014 ~ 10 - 4

by 08:02

Having kept you in suspense for frankly far longer than necessary, it's now time to reveal Encore NI's top ten best tracks of 2014. It's been incredibly difficult narrowing down a years worth of quality tunes into one definitive list; hopefully our twenty five choices reflect the eclectic, hardworking and passionate heart of the Northern  Irish music scene and that if you've been reading the entrants so far, that you may have discovered a new artist in the process. We can't ask for any more than that. If you feel an injustice has been done and that we've left out a sure fire contender, please join the debate on Facebook and Twitter. We always love to hear your thoughts!

Have a fantastic Christmas & continue to support the local scene ~ you create tomorrow's legends.

Thanks for everything, 

Enjoy the music.

Encore NI

10. Meb Jon Sol - Everyone Has A Secret Song

This heart-rending ode to love won and lost was the emotional pinnacle of a debut album long overdue. Formerly of local indie-pop legends Colenso Parade, their frontman has grown into a powerful performer in his own right, this Smith's inspired acoustic track a hidden gem amongst 'Southpaw Niños' avalanche of melody. Opening old wounds has never sounded so good.

For fans of: The Pogues, The Waterboys
Expect in 2015: A follow up album 

Download the song on Itunes here, or listen for free on Spotify.

9. Wonder Villains - Marshall

Bright, shimmering art-pop in it's purist form, there is perhaps no band in the country that can claim to represent the modern face of Northern Ireland like Derry's Wonder Villains. From nostalgic tales of swapping little brothers for Pokemon cards (who didn't attempt that at least once?), to dreaming of driving into the sunset in a Ferrari, the lyricism which flows so effortlessly from Eimear and Cheylene is beloved for it's relatable overtones and tenacious optimism. The fact that it's wrapped so delicately in a blanket of 80's synth-pop and feel good riffs only adds to the appeal. Here, 'Marshall's entrancing bass line can't fail to make you dance.

For fans of: Best Coast, Echosmith
Expect in 2015: A UK tour & brand new fan base.

8. The Couth - Down By The River

2014 was a huge year for The Couth, culminating in an EP which in no way achieved the extended airplay it deserved. Channeling their surf-rock roots and adding an anthemic punk streak was a brave move, but ultimately one that has benefited Lisburn's most exiting band in years. 'Down By The River' is a football terraced chant of rebellion, youth and having the time of your life on nothing more than a carry out and a group of mates.

For fans of: The Ramones, The Strokes
Expect in 2015: Relentless gigging

Hear the track on Reverbnation here

7. Echo Raptors - Feel It In Your Heart Again

This seven minute belter from Belfast's mod-rock patriarchs is still technically awaiting it's recorded debut, but having cemented it's place in Echo Raptors electric set throughout the course of the year we couldn't leave it out. Driven by lead guitarist Vince Caddell's sterling guitar work, there's no denying the influence of psych bands past, but that is in no way a criticism, far from it. Instead it simply reinforces what we already know; that Echo Raptors are a band unafraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves, whilst brimming with originality and verve.

'Feel It In Your Heart' looks destined to close huge gigs in the future, even if we're made to wait for a debut album release.

For fans of: Stone Roses, Tame Impala
Expect in 2015: Record deal whispers...

6. Aaron Shanley - Real Thing

One of the finest singer-songwriters to emerge out of Northern Ireland in memory, Aaron Shanley left a gaping hole in the local scene when he left to continue his craft in London. Now home after a successful run of shows, he recently unveiled the sequel to the much loved 'Bedroom Tapes' EP. Clearly in a much happier place, Shanley's songs now glow with a positive introspection, reflecting on the joys that love can bring, rather than it's all to familiar pain. Though we don't quite expect to see the man who wrote 'Sometimes People Just Fall Outta Love' to be cartwheeling on street corners and taking salsa lessons anytime soon, songs like the uplifting 'Real Thing' make a welcome addition to the Aaron Shanley arsenal (his trademark style in no way altered, we might add). Released briefly last month to coincide with an important date, 'Real Thing' will be available to download early next year.

For fans of: Bright Eyes, Elliot Smith 
Expect in 2015: An abundance of new material

5. The Late Twos - Lana True

The leading light of Belfast's once flagging indie-scene, it's no secret that The Late Twos mission to pick up where Pete Doherty's Libertines and the like left off in the mid-2000's has been a largely successful one. Flanked by a Kasabianesque football fraternity of dedicated supporters, to experience The Late Twos live is an altogether different experience to almost every other local band in the country. Though 'Lana True' may not posses the 'av'it!' mentality of their punchier singles, a gentle beauty remains in a track never short of heart. A 21st century waltz, a song like 'Lana True' is a very rare occurrence and could simply not be overlooked in the top 5 songs of the year.

For fans of: Arctic Monkeys, The View
Expect in 2015: Greater exposure//Bigger venues

4. Joshua Burnside - Catalina
Another massively gifted songwriter, Joshua Burnside's unique acoustic stylings ensure that he will never be an artist of passive acceptance. For all those who really feel the enormous outpourings of emotion within Burnside's broken melodies, you will undoubtedly fall in love with it.

'Catalina', a self confessed travelling song, tells the enigmatic story of taking all you can and simply getting out. Stunning violin flows alongside Burnside's beautifully weathered vocal and that enchanting riff. Glorious.

For fans of: Bob Dylan, Kurt Vile
Expect in 2015: A big move // Debut album

Buy 'Catalina' here.

Top 3 coming soon!

Taylor Johnson

top twenty five ~ best irish tracks of 2014 ~ 15 - 11

by 06:35

Moving ever closer to the top 10, here's our rundown of the best Irish tracks to emerge this year // 15-11. Join the debate on Twitter @EncoreNI...

15. His New Atlas - His Young

In an incredible year for the Armagh singer-songwriter, Eoghan O'Hagan has successfully made the jump from promising young up-start, to established local talent. Developing the brooding potential of his earlier EP's, 'His Young' is the result of tear-stained soul searching, dark memories and the kind of climactic chorus you always felt he was capable of. Now building his fan base in England, how much longer will Belfast be able to hold on to His New Atlas?

For fans of: Jeff Buckley, Daughter 
Expect in 2015: More tours, releases and record label tug-of-wars.

14. Hurdles - France

Another product of the Scratch My Progress development program, Hurdles return to their indie pedestal with a new guitarist, a funkier sound and refreshed optimism. Playing off an R'n'B guitar groove, 'France' is a track more suited to European dancefloors than the close quarters gigs the band cut their teeth with. No doubt inspired somewhat by Daft Punks revival, France is a song for the here and now, just like it's authors. 

For fans of: Daft Punk, Superfood
Expect in 2015: A long awaited follow up to debut EP 'Where To Start'.

13. Ciaran Lavery - Shame

3 Million streams on Spotify alone does not lie, and so the hype machine is in no way malfunctioning when you consider the buzz around Belfast's Ciaran Lavery. A singer-songwriter of Damien Rice delicacy's, but thankfully, with his own glacier voice, 'Shame' is the narrow best on an EP of startling quality. 

For fans of: Damien Rice, Iain Archer, Stephen Fretwell 
Expect in 2015: A major support slot//Breakthrough 

12. Moscow Metro - Spirit Of A City 

This Summer release from the Limerick four-piece was everything but, a brooding, swirling mass of dark, yet melodic post-rock. Channeling the atmospheric glow of Depeche Mode and the hopelessness of Joy Division, Moscow Metro simmer with a perfect blend of noise and feeling. 

For fans of: Joy Division, Interpol
Expect in 2015: A host of festival appearances.

11. Serotonin - Cleanse Me

Despite lacking the bite of newer singles 'Paint' and 'Peel', there's just something about this energetic opener we couldn't get out of our heads this year. Be it the intriguing lyrical content or that sterling guitar riff which runs through the tracks core, 'Cleanse Me' remains an important weapon in the Serotonin arsenal. "Don't be alarmed..."

For fans of: Sonic Youth, Fugazi

Who should make the top ten? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter & Facebook.

Taylor Johnson

top twenty five ~ best irish tracks of 2014 ~ 20 - 16

by 07:58

Continuing on in our rundown of the best tracks released in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland this year. Here we take a look at some newer acts to have broken through alongside our more established talent. Join the debate on Twitter @EncoreNI.

20. Adebisi Shank - Mazel Tov

Wexford's 'Adebisi Shank' have sadly passed through Northern Ireland largely unnoticed by the mainstream; a credit surely to their low maintenance approach and laid back personas. In a musical world not short of X-Factor fakery, it's refreshing that a band as humble as the power-trio can go through three quality albums, explosive live performances and remain true to the underground which raised them. This beauty, taken from their third album (The superbly titled, 'This Is The Third Album Of A Band Called Adebisi Shank') will live on past their sad recent decision to split.

For fans of: And So I Watch You From Afar
Expect In 2015: n/a

19. This Is Me Dead - Vega

'This Is Me Dead' have come out of nowhere to earn themselves a spot on this list and intrigue the minds of local music professionals in the process. Though the unexpected release of new EP 'Vega' generated the type of hype closer associated to young upstarts, the Belfast band have actually been around a while. Sneering, American indie falls over Editors influenced riffs, concluding in an angst-ridden concoction of something we're desperate to thrash around to.

For fans of: Interpol, Editors
Expect in 2015: A load of live appearances. 

18. Treehome - Keep Our Loving Discreet

Ahh Treehome. Discovered largely through their excellent performances in The Pavilion Bar's 'Battle Of The Bands' this year, the funk driven teenagers proved their recording worth through this stylish single. Not shy to a mass stage invasion, this young group have achieved more than they could have imagined in their first years together ~ from radio airplay, to gig requests across the country. Big things ahead.

For fans of: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nile Rodgers 
Expect in 2015: A debut EP & subsequent tour.

17. Hot Cops - Origami 

Blistering riffs, explosive drumming and that haunting vocal. Maudlin, yet invigorating. This is the sound of Belfast's Hot Cops, this track coming from their time with the Scratch My Progress talent development program. "She says that I'm her bible...I always wondered what she meant by that..."

For fans of: Pavement, Pixies
Expect in 2015: Explosions.

16. Autumns - Cold War

This patchwork noise-rock, courtesy of Autumns, has all the hall marks of an undergrad favorite. Interwoven grunge is played beneath a Sonic Youth drone, as Christian Donaghey's disjointed vocal somehow pulls everything together. A snapshot of bigger things to come.

For fans of: Sonic Youth, Slowdive
Expect in 2015: A gig in a warehouse. 

Who should be in our top 15? Join the debate now @EncoreNI and on Facebook here.

Taylor Johnson

top twenty five ~ best irish tracks of 2014 ~ 25 to 21

by 08:43

As another great year winds to a close, Encore NI again finds itself reflecting on a host of positives for the local music scene. From a record number of new bands receiving recognition across the pond, to a live scene revitalized by young bands demanding (and earning) stage time, we want to now celebrate some of the tracks that have made this year as good as it was. Not even the loss of our beloved Glasgowbury could dampen our local bands and artists spirit, as new genres blossomed amongst our indie-rock heritage. Unable to confine our list to 20 tracks (believe us, we tried!), over the coming weeks we will reveal what we believe to be the best tracks to come out of the country this year. Disagree with us? Get involved in the debate on twitter ~ send your suggestions to @EncoreNI.  

25. BLOOM ~ 'Tropical Edge Of The Storm'

Hazily fading into existence as easily as one may fade out, Belfast's first and only, avant garde Psyche-Blues outfit have came out of nowhere to become one of the countries best underground prospects. Raised on a diet of Beatles, Tame Impala and The Doors, BLOOM's 60's elements are never hidden away amongst their tidal waves of synth and tension building bass guitar. Never afraid to let their music wander, you can expect BLOOM songs to last anything up to half an hour or longer,  'Tropical Edge Of The Storm', being no different. An instrumental piece sonically detailing the passing of a storm, this track wouldn't look out of place on the new Pink Floyd album.

For fans of: Pink Floyd, Brian Jonestown Massacre
Expect in 2015: A cult following to develop.

24. Malibu Shark Attack ~ 'Better Off As Friends'

Probably the worlds only 'Trans-Atlantic' hip-hop duo, the story of Malibu Shark Attack is a beautiful tale of two men on opposite sides of the world, who love music. The brain-child of legendary Northern Irish producer Rocky O'Reilly, his collaboration with Atlanta's 'Tribe One' culminated in glorious sonic landscapes of 80's synth-pop, thrown alongside a rapper of effortless flow and charisma. This opening track from the bands debut album is the highlight of something we certainly hope we haven't seen the last of yet.

For fans of: Gorillaz, Los Campesinos
Expect in 2015: A major support slot somewhere down the road...which may just lead to something huge.

23. Oh Volcano ~ 'Oceans'

This catchy single from former General Fiasco frontman Owen Strathern's new band, is the culmination of months locked away with a synth and an array of 80's records. Drenched in sun filled melody, 'Oceans' groove and drone complexities make for a compelling mix. Somehow, it sounds even bigger in a live setting, as proved during their dates supporting the mammoth Twenty One Pilots on the Irish dates of their World Tour.

For Fans of: The Cure, Arcade Fire
Expect In 2015: A UK tour.

22. Paper Man ~ 'Like TV'

Moving away from the cleaner angst of debut EP 'After Effects', Paper Man's foray into an altogether heavier sound produced further reassuring results. Follow up 'Midfield Modern Argument' again showcased frontman Alistair Greyson's moving lyricism, combining with the altogether tighter sound of a band never scared of offending the mainstream. 'This conscious stream, making me scream..this is the first time, stop screaming in my mind'. Their recent split now heralds the emergence of new band 'The Sea, Close By', whilst drummer David Hunter considers his musical future.

For Fans of: Smashing Pumpkins, Million Dead
Expect in 2015: 'The Sea, Close By' to start things all over again ~ a brand new sound for drummer Dave.

21. Matthew Duly ~ 'Ghost In Your Memory'

Having performed at such venues as our own Ulster Hall, the Empire and Birmingham's monstrous 'LG Arena' (with band 'Lipstick Lizards), you'd think the name 'Matthew Duly would be written into local music consciousness by now. Sadly, this is not yet the case, though on the basis of this year the Whitehead native is not far off. Capping off a series of quality performances across the country by winning a place on the coveted 'Scratch My Progress'  talent program, the only solo singer-songwriter to do so, Duly is earning his space on the local music scene in his own right, having played in local bands for years. This maudlin ode to the passing of time is surly his most accomplished to date, with a beautiful chorus.

For fans of: The Shins, Matt Corby
Expect in 2015: A long awaited debut EP.

Who should be in our top 20? Join the debate now @EncoreNI and on Facebook here.

Taylor Johnson

live review ~ morrissey ~ 3 arena, dublin

by 05:24

To review a man as influential on ones life as Steven Patrick Morrissey is a difficult task indeed. To act as an impartial judge upon a musician who's words have acted as a guide to life through a persons most formative years, who's very thoughts mean more than religion and who's spotlight shines brighter than any other, (celestial or otherwise) is near impossible. Regardless, we cannot resist to comment on one of musics all time greatest icons as he played Dublin's 3 Arena.

First off, A Morrissey concert is much more than a concert. We will stop short of calling it a spiritual experience (though it truly was), and will instead focus on the performance aspects. Morrissey can still sing. Beautifully. Each and every song was sung with their authors passion and intensity, just as they should be. Opening with the breathtaking 'The Queen Is Dead'  the Manchester born-legend was as assured and confident as always, stalking the stage with a fervour which only accentuated his class.

In past shows on this tour he has been criticised for focusing too heavily on new material ~ we must ask, why? Here each new composition radiated with an intoxicating glow; and while it also helps that 'World Peace Is None Of Your Business' is an album of real warmth and charm, the individual tracks stand alone brilliantly. 'The Bullfighter Dies', 'Kick The Bride Down The Aisle', 'Staircase At The University'...each one was sung back to him with as much love as his most treasured classics.

This tour has also reminded any in doubt of Morrissey's place in people's hearts that there is no fear of his influence dimming. Grown men and woman alike cried like children upon his stroll to centre stage and continued to throughout. People hurled themselves towards the barriers in the desperate hope of a single touch, at the expense of almost certainly being kicked out. Poetry in motion, Morrissey continues to make the stage his home, within which he can do as he damn well pleases. A horrifying video of animal slaughter accompanied 'Meat Is Murder', though this is a cause most noble and fully justified. 'Asleep's sweet lullaby marked a heartrending reflection on the inner anger at the universe which has not burned out over time. Even 'Everyday Is Like Sunday's magnificent crescendo cannot be marked out as a highlight, as there were simply too many in a night which never fell below awe and musical excellence. Not once did Morrissey's Baritone vocal whimper, not once did his desire waver. He's a man who is, and will always be changing lives.

Ripping off his shirt to bid Dublin a farewell (hopefully not his last), this charming man will, in perfect irony, live forever.

Taylor Johnson

single review ~ runaway [go] ~ 'ashes'

by 17:53

We all love runaway [GO]. For years the darlings of Belfast's indie-pop scene, the band built around those hair raising harmonies of Fiona O'Kane and Dave Jackson are looking increasingly likely to join Mojo Fury and 'And So I Watch You...' as our next indie success story.

Any worries that front-woman Fiona may pursue the poison chalice of the solo career seem to have been laid to rest (for now at least) as runaway return from their recent UK Coffee House-tour refreshed and with a debut album ready to, well, go. Taking on the baron wasteland of mainstream pop may seem like a noble quest on paper, but in order to actually achieve such a feat takes a back catalog of consistent brilliance; Thankfully anyone present at the bands last Limelight gig will be able to vouch that they have more than enough fire power in their setlists to blitz most festival regulars, usually doing the rounds with tired material (we're looking at you Courteeners).

The first single to be released from their upcoming debut record, 'Ashes' is the sound of Runaway [GO] coming out fighting. All the key characteristics with which they built their fan base upon remain; Fiona's glistening vocals, the slow build to another crashing crescendo of a chorus ~ but there's a new found wisdom to be enjoyed here. If early singles like 'Alligator' simmered with a youthful verve, 'Ashes' is altogether more grown up. It speaks of hope, while stressing quiet caution, opening a more mature chapter to the bands long history. The key here remains rooted in the groups dynamic vocalists, playing off each other as always, yet remaining fresh.

Though we would perhaps like to hear more of James Lappin's melodic guitar work (too subtle?), the songs piano led opening more than makes up for it. Lyrically, the song works around the empowering 'And I'm running, I'm running away, from the ashes of all my old flames', a beautiful line and one it's not hard to imagine being sung back to them by bigger and bigger crowds.

This is a very exciting time for Northern Ireland and a truly fantastic time for our music. Don't be surprised to see 'Alive' make waves across the nation. Though they may soon outgrow us, Belfast should always be grateful to Runaway [GO].

Taylor Johnson

& Hear an acoustic performance from the band 
on their latest tour here⁞► 

For fans of: CHVRCHES, Arcade Fire

autumn/winter round up

by 06:57

Due to an incredibly hectic schedule of gigs, meetings and various radio projects, it's been totally full on here at Encore NI over the last few weeks! As a result here's a concise round-up of everything that's been taking place in and around Belfast for you, complete with reviews!

1. The Sass release new EP 'Be Free'

A lot has been written about Belfast lads The Sass. Forced to change their line-up multiple times and forced into a sporadic gigging schedule that had halted their progression somewhat, the 60's inspired outfit are now reaping the benefits of consistency, as new EP 'Be Free' beautifully demonstrates. Marking a definite progression, both stylistically and lyrically, The Sass have graduated from the surf-pop melodies of singles gone by to a more mature sound, reverberated riffs now working in sync with their jangling guitar persona. Frontman Colm Donnelly has also never sounded better; be this down to his delight at the bands evolution from their humble beginnings, or simply a boost in confidence is hard to say, but whatever it is, it's working. 'Be Free' is a gently swaying, maudlin take on 21st century love and life, the Morrissey inspired 'Lucy' the gem in the crown. In fact, it may be worth mentioning that the French verses in Lucy are perhaps Donnelly's finest to date. Lyrically breaking new ground, only Damien Rice has attempted such a feat in recent years. Exciting times.

2. Loris release video for new single 'Yeah'

After a near sell out EP launch in The Bar With No Name, electro-pop trio Loris unveiled the video to title track 'Yeah' yesterday. Showing a clear progression from their early days, the band have proven their ability to maintain the sparse production of earlier singles, while adding new flavors to the mix. For one thing, it's darker, hinting at a hidden aggression previously buried under an avalanche of synths. Francis Mitchell's vocals are also sounding more assured, as Loris continue to grow into their own niche on the electronic spectrum.

3. His New Atlas completes English tour

The brainchild of singer-songwriter Eoghan O'Hagan has been threatening to blow up on the big stage for a while now, the Armagh native's recent English tour reinforcing this fact. Riding off the back of his massive sounding 'Torn Out Lungs' EP, (a record of great depth) O'Hagan took his band on the road for a three date tour of the countries capital and Liverpool, playing to great crowds and continuing to forge his hard earned reputation across the water. Now back in Belfast, don't be surprised to see His New Atlas play bigger and better venues as his stock price rises.

4. Gary Lightbody & The Assembly ~ 'This Is All That I Ask Of You'

Who else but Gary Lightbody would assemble a band of some of the most promising musicians in Northern Ireland, to write and perform a one off acoustic ballad for charity? 'This Is All That I Ask Of You', see's the Snow Patrol front man duet with the likes of Ryan & Eimear of Wonder Villains fame, SOAK, Sillouette and David C Clements in a track much more in the mold of his side project Tired Pony than the indie anthems he's known for. A track based around the bands obvious vocal talents, each melody has been carefully crafted, resulting in a stunning live performance in the heart of Stormont. Now on sale for 99p, all money earned from the songs release will go towards The Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust. For further information head to Snow Patrol's official website.

Taylor Johnson

live review ~ oh volcano ~ mandela hall, belfast

by 13:28

Supporting the mammoth Twenty One Pilots on the final date of their first world tour was always going to be a tall order, thankfully our own Oh Volcano made it look, quite literally easy. 

Armed with a series of big hitting electronic pop songs, the band, a fairly new entity it has to be remembered, sounded much more assured than expected. Debut single 'Oceans' had the crowd really moving, managing to capture the swaying likability of CHVRCHES, through a maturer finished product.

Entrancing synth lines and catchy choruses define the two-piece's sound, casting ambient shadows across their infectious melodies. Front man Owen Strathern has totally transformed his indie aesthetic, while maintaining the ferocity of his vocal. Tight guitar work interweaves between progressive house, all the while hinting at something deeper. For a two piece band with no drums to capture an audiences attention, (particularly that of Twenty One Pilots dedicated following) takes real persistence, a trait Oh Volcano possess to no end. 

Clearly enjoying their new venture, Oh Volcano looked fully captivated by each of their own songs, almost as much as the crowd themselves. Adding to the already exciting atmosphere that had made it's way into the building.

Brimming with 80's influences, Oh Volcano already sound like a future cult band. Having only scratched the surface of this new acts potential, expect their stock price to rise with each future release.

Taylor Johnson

For fans of: Broken Bells, CHVRCHES, New Order
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single review ~ scott anderson ~ 'is this the end?'

by 02:51

Scott Joseph Anderson is one of this country's good guys. A passionate musician and lover of local music, he has contributed more to the Belfast music scene than many may realise. Be it through his tireless efforts with hard rockers Aquatramp, or his one man pursuit to watch as many local gigs as humanly possibly, The Titanics new bass player very rarely sits still. This may go some way to explain why the release of his debut solo album 'Small Exxxplosions (Part 1)' really comes as no surprise. Here Encore NI takes a look at his latest single release...

'Is This The End?' is Scott Anderson's ode to uncertainty. While it's standard practice that the bass line which runs throughout it's 6 minutes is a weaving, trippy highlight (it's the least we'd expect from a man known for playing a six stringed bass) what does catch us out is the songs beautiful interludes. Sweeping outro's of piano and synth combine over Anderson's sparce and distant vocals, making for a waltzing echo chamber of Glasvegas proportions. This is the song at it's best and adds a new string to Andersons bow, who's more emotive side is understandably reigned in for his other bands.

The entrancing nature of Anderson's melody's unfortunately leaves the content of much of his lyrics unexplored, however a brief read over them and you'll be rewarded with a prose far deeper than anything the multi-instrumentalist has worked on before. Indeed, the entirety of Small Exxxplosions is every inch the solo record, honest, revealing and deeply personal. At times, it's home made aesthetic can make it a difficult listen,  but a rewarding one none the less.

"I remember thinking, I needed you with me, through happiness and's easy to write this all off, as being over, and under the cover of the merciless eyes of the sea"

If Anderson was to enter the studio for a polish of Small Exxxplosions, 'Is This The End?' would surely be dedicated the appropriate treatment as well. It's a track of genuine feeling and hopeless faith.

Praise must also go to Anderson for his dedication to the DIY ethics that has shaped his career so far. (Almost all of the recording for his album was done at home, each music video hand made). It must be mentioned, however, that in order for his work to earn the airplay it richly deserves, at least some part of the mastering process may have to occur professionally. It's simply unfair that a pop-act can enter the studio with a half written melody, and emerge with a certain top 10 single through careful production alone; though this is sadly the world we find ourselves in. Subtle undertones of guitar and a richer piano sound would benefit this track, though the basics have been done well. The thought of a maudlin string section bursting through it's crescendo (think Badly Drawn Boy's 'The Shining') may also elevate it to it's true potential.

Taylor Johnson

For fans of: Badly Drawn Boy, Arcade Fire, Devotchka
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live review ~ ni music prize 2014 ~ sullivan & gold, robyn g shiels, more than conquerors and therapy? ~ mandela hall, belfast

by 13:17

In a year in which the flame of local music was ignited brighter than ever, competition for this year’s NI Music Prize was, understandably fierce. Of the twelve nominated acts, the difference in style and presentation could not have been more eclectic, though one thing each nominee had in common was quality. From the doom laden sludge rock of Slomatics, to Sullivan & Gold’s soft acoustic numbers, it was a great mix. Walking into the exciting venue of the Mandela Hall, Encore NI realised that our own hesitance to predict a winner was one shared by all; it really was that tight and a tribute to the quality of albums on show. Before the Oh Yeah Centre’s Stuart Bailie could announce the winner however, there were time for some performances from the acts, as well as a headline slot for legends ‘Therapy?’. Taylor Johnson was on hand to give his thoughts…

Proving they are so much more than a band to fill the New Ancestors shaped hole left in Belfast, Sullivan & Gold opened the evening in a confident and assured manner. Minimalist arrangements allow their songs to flourish on the big stage, an appreciative audience falling quiet enough to allow tracks like ‘Jigsaws’ to be embraced the way the band intended. Crisp, Fleetfoxes inspired harmonies remain key components to the ex ‘Good Fight’ two piece’s sound, though when required they have no problems in kicking things up a gear. They've clearly not forgotten how to work an audience.

Sadly, the solemn sound of Robyn G Shiels was rather drowned out by the time he took to the stage. Perhaps suffering for his lack of backing band (instead braving the stage with only an acoustic guitar in hand), Shiels has to be admired for his commitment to his art. Never once phased, he continued to press on with a collection of soft, pain ridden anthems - often tinged with regret, but delivered with purpose. The banjo led backing provided a Springsteen-esque touch to his maudlin tales, unfortunately the running order derailed a potentially pivotal performance in the evening. Shiels, however, simply proved his professionalism (at one point mockingly declaring he was ready to ‘get this party started’). Knowing all that mattered where those who did listen, for them he produced a subtly beautiful performance.

What this night badly needed was a band to shake it's foundations, a specialty of final performing nominee's More Than Conquerors. Completely at home on the Mandela's huge stage, Belfast’s hardest rocking sons have been slightly more absent from the gigging scene here than many would like; a fact underlined by the vibrancy of this storming set. Opener ‘Pits Of Old’ now sounds like a bona fide classic, effortless and exhilarating in equal measure. Ending on the brand new ‘Red’ was a brave move, but one that ultimately paid off, the band displaying a more anthemic side to their hard rock. With front man Kris Platt on top form throughout, this was the perfect way for More Than Conqueror’s to remind you why they’re amongst our top talents.

More Than Conqueror's produced a blistering performance...

Finally it was time for the triumphant return of Therapy, though not before the nights winner was announced. For his last album ‘Blood Of The Innocents’, the honour went to Robyn G Shiels, a gracious and worthy winner. Those who perhaps didn't give the man their full attention during his earlier set were surely wishing they had of now!

Hyped to perfection by Across The Line's Rigsy, the legends powerful rock was always guaranteed a strong reaction, (in many ways the quality of their performance was almost secondary to their actual presence) but in a truly special homage to their 1994 release "Troublegum", the Ballyclare natives played their hearts out. Sounding tighter and more invigorated than in years gone by, tributes to punk hero’s The Ramones acted as a reminder, if one was needed, that the band in front of us deserve equal high praise. Angular riffs and sing along chorus' propel ‘Therapy?'s sound, but more importantly the punk spirit which forced them into the nations consciousness has clearly not deserted them. Introing tracks with reworkings of John Lennons 'Nowhere Boy' show the band are clearly not short of inspiration either, peppering their set full of unexpected trick shots. Cameos from Snow Patrols Nathan Connelly & a passionate performance from Tony Wright of Verse Chorus Verse were only overshadowed by a brief (and awesome) cover of Joy Divisions "Control".

It was a truly special night for Belfast and the climax to another great year of music. Encore NI would like to congratulate the Oh Yeah Centre and Volume Control teams for their work over the year and all those who contributed to such a great evening. We can’t wait for next year.

Taylor Johnson

gig review ~ scratch my progress ~ hurdles, hot cops, matthew duly, r51 & serotonin

by 06:36

This year the highly coveted Scratch My Progress program took on five of the country's top young talents. Bending the rules ever so slightly to accommodate the incredible talent in the city, the scheme opened its doors to one more act than usual, giving them the chance to record a track, take part in a professional photoshoot and get quality advice from music industry bigwigs. The climax of the project took place in The Oh Yeah Centre, as the scheme showcased its talent in a one off gig to coincide with an EP launch of each band's recorded track. Having covered many of the chosen bands on display before, Encore NI was keen to see how the scheme had benefited Belfast's best...

Opening a show of this class seemed a daunting task, not so however for alt-rock stalwarts Serotonin, who demonstrated great maturity in a set of conviction. Lucy Loane has clearly grown into the front woman mould, her on-stage persona now as defined and confident as she is off stage. The Scratch My Progress experience has clearly done Serotonin the world of good, a rawer, Sonic Youth inspired sound beginning to take shape. You have the feeling this rawer sound has always been within them, but now they are really starting to feel it themselves, as their manic audience clearly agreed. Serotonin had a crowd up and dancing literally from pulsating opener 'Cleanse Me', making a great start to the evening. Future single "Peel" paints the most promising picture of their future, in a set full of highlights.

(R51 ~ mesmerising noise rock...)
Then came a revived R51, the five piece playing with a renewed intensity on stage. Purpose flew from every riff of Jonny Woods guitar, Aaron Black's synth adding an extra layer to their beautiful chaos. Thankfully Melyssa Shannon has retained the melodic entrancement in her vocal, Kate Bush remaining an influence. Without doubt, R51 provide the biggest performance of the night, influences of post rock past leaving their mark on an enthralling set; think Meanwhile Back In Communist Russia bred with Radiohead. A real spectacle.

Singer/songwriter Matthew Duly showed his charisma from the moment he took to the stage. Using an Elvis Presley styled 50's microphone, the Whitehead native worked his way through a collection of beautifully honed material, his falsetto stronger than ever. The newly recorded 'Summer Days' seems more refined since it's last outing, but the dual power of epic closer 'Ghost In Your Memory' (which remains Duly's lynchpin) and the climactic 'Different Colours' were definite highlights. Provided he wants it enough, Matthew Duly could be one of this countries best acoustic artists to emerge in years.

Penultimate act Hot Cops once again proved they are a very big band, with a very big sound. New single "Origami" shone in a setlist minus any of the material from their stunning debut "Another Teen Age". Carl Eccles' frontmanship is a truly important entity for the band, his relaxed demeanor a vital component in their rock & roll machine. This is not to dismiss Hot Cops rhythm section, providing a brooding, dark spectrum which casts a shadow over much of the three pieces set. Without question "Mum rock anthem" 'Decay' stood out. Heart warming and desperate in equal measure, the entire crowd were soon singing along, even those hearing it for the first time. A truly special song. "Cause I don't wanna feel it any more..."

Eccles also provided one of our favorite pieces of on stage banter..."Thanks for coming everyone, stick around cause Hurdles are on next and they love to party."

(Hot Cops ~ punk~poetry)
Finally Hurdles made their way on stage and yes, they certainly do love to party. Playing a selection of tracks from their debut EP 'Where To Start', new guitarist Thomas Bannon looks more assured than ever since joining the indie-pop quartet. Tracks like 'Roadrunner' ("I'm a big fan of Looney Tunes" admits Hanna) sound somehow bigger than in previous outings, though perhaps that is simply down to Hurdles enjoying themselves more. Ending on their newly recorded single 'France', a three minute belter of a pop tune, (that seems destined to soundtrack nightclubs across Europe) the bands new found 80's disco elements took the forefront.

It was a fine night for local music and the overwhelming appreciation for all those at Scratch My Progress was evident. This years graduates are surely the projects finest to date, raising the bar even higher for next year! We can't wait to see who makes it on to this brilliant scheme ~ it clearly makes a difference!

Taylor Johnson
Photos courtesy of  Carrie Davenport.
Serotonin: For fans of ~ Sonic Youth, Pixies ~ Facebook, Twitter
R51: For fans of ~ Meanwhile Back In Communist Russia, Radiohead, My Morning Jacket ~ Facebook, Twitter
Matthew Duly: For fans of ~ Glen Hansard, Jeff Buckley ~ Facebook, Twitter
Hot Cops: For fans of ~ Pavement, The Shins ~ Facebook, Twitter
Hurdles: For fans of ~ Two Door Cinema Club, The Strokes, Daft Punk ~ Facebook, Twitter

gig preview ~ modern life is rubbish ~ aaron shanley, havana house party, salford lads club, sonja sleator | pavilion, belfast

by 08:54

Encore NI is proud to announce the next line-up of our monthly gig night 'Modern Life Is Rubbish'. Headlined by the incredible Aaron Shanley, the night has grown beautifully since it's debut back in May and has led to some of our favorite ever local music moments.

Who can forget the dance hall created by headliners Echo Raptors? The tears streaming down faces after an emotional performance by His New Atlas? The headbanging electricity and improvised DJ set after Frank&Beans, or the mammoth  crowd brought along by The Sass for their set ~ Which included 'The Bar Fly' himself, the infamous subject of many of their songs!

Oh how we swayed to the spontaneous acoustic singalong by Runabay, long after the soundman had went home and tripped out to the psychedelic vibes of Surfhouse and Bloom. Even as recently as last month, Serotonin's Ben Bryson executed The Pavilions first ever stage dive, writing his name into Belfast folklore in the process?

Yes, Modern Life Is Rubbish has and continues to be, a wonderful night indeed. New friendships have been born and romance has even blossomed ~ but it couldn't happen without you*. From day one, our audiences have been nothing short of superb ~ we've not had one poorly attended or lackluster crowd and for that, we thank you. Here's a rundown of each act and why our next will be another memorable one...

Headliner: Aaron Shanley
Genre:Acoustic // Indie
Download: Sometimes People Just Fall Out Of Love, Amy, Here Without You, She's So Easy To Hold, Trouble
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Whether entrancing audiences with his soulful, acoustic honesty, or letting his wilder side out through his Startled Space Moth side-project, Aaron Shanley is one of Northern Ireland's finest acts. Regularly praised by many (this website included) for his touching style and stunning vocal, he is an artist that simply cannot be missed. Having recently returned from extensive gigging in London, expect an assured, emotional performance.

Band: Havana House Party
Genre: Indie
Download: Monsters, Conscience & The Martyr, Memo

Lauded as the future of indie for a few years now, Havana House Party are now starting to build on the hype created by their awesome 'Demons' EP. Thrilling, dance invoking indie is where they made their name, but tracks like 'Conscience & The Martyr' hint at a darker edge below the spotless surface.

Band: Salford Lads Club
Genre: Indie
Download: No releases (yet)

The mysterious Salford Lads Club took shape after the disintegration of previous acts. The brainchild of Tony Connolly, frontman of the awesome and much missed Surfhouse, expect a Stone Roses style burst of grooves and dancey rhythms.

Artist: Sonja Sleator
Genre: Acoustic
Download: San Francisco, That Night, Snow
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Personally requested by Aaron Shanley himself,  Sonja Sleator has established herself in Belfast through hard work and a never ending gigging schedule. With a debut EP already under her belt and a repertoire of songs not short of honest (sometimes painful) emotion, Sonja Sleator's own brand of upbeat pop is sure to kick proceedings off brilliantly.

If this isn't enough for you, don't forget our full indie//alternative//local soundtrack, all situated inside one of the city's best bars. We're not gonna lie, we are incredibly excited. We hope you are too.

Taylor Johnson

 *or Chris the soundman, one of the coolest humans on the planet. Thank you Chris!

album review ~ the velvet underground ~ the velvet underground and nico

by 08:50

This week Encore NI takes a look at one of America's most influential bands, the artistically acclaimed Velvet Underground. Their seminal debut was recorded back in 1966, at the dawn of the Summer of love and amidst a back drop of uncertainty, as the American war machine began ripping through Vietnam. Though you'll find no revolutionary statements here, well, not unless you're big into drugs, which many people were. Here Taylor Johnson takes a look at one of rock and roll's most definitive records and asks the question: was it really that good?

A lot can be said about The Velvet Underground. Most of it overwhelmingly positive, and for good reason. Primarily, The Velvet Underground were cool. Think of every possible combination of essential band criteria: Born and raised in New York City, a nonchalant, effortlessly brilliant front man and management in the shape of art hero Andy Warhol. Not convinced? Add the gorgeous German model Nico to backing vocal duty and songs of an increasingly sex-dominated nature. Come on, who wouldn't want to be in The Velvet Underground? 

Brian Eno once commented that although only 30,000 people bought a copy of 'The Velvet Underground and Nico, "every one of those people started a band" ~ so just what made this cultured art-rock album the phenomenon that it was? Surely a cool image isn't enough? Is it?  (No, it's not)

Opener 'Sunday Morning' sparkles from the first second. It's gentle harmony and effervescent texture makes it a perfect declaration of intent, with Lou Reed in great form. This album's production is often praised for it's delicate texture, and it's no more prevalent than here. Everything from the floating, hazy bass line, to Nico's reverberated backing vocals also add an extra layer for the listener. 'Sunday Morning' could be the most relaxed admission of drug fueled paranoia in history. Or, if you'd prefer, just another description of a Sunday. "Watch out, the worlds behind you, there's always someone around you...and I'm falling, I've got a feeling I don't want to know"

'I'm Waiting For The Man', see's Velvet Underground begin to release their rockier potential. Slightly dirtier, punk like distortion proves a strangely beautiful contrast to Reed's Dylan-esque spoken verse. The inclusion of bluesy piano (that later Noel Gallagher would borrow somewhat for 'Mucky Fingers') adds a new dimension to a song that rarely threatens to go anywhere, the chords almost rooted to the spot. Having said this, the groove and riffs that run parallel to Lou Reeds vocal give this track enough to move forward. It's engaging, uplifting, and another massive irony that such fast paced virility could prove the soundtrack to lyrics like "Feel sick and dirty, more dead than alive"...

At manager Andy Warhol's request,  Lou Reed penned 'Femme Fatale' about actress and socialite Edie Sedgewick (right). The prose is typical Reed, though lead vocals were gifted to Nico for this one. Initially, the German's unusual tone comes across rather harsh, at odds with the lounge styled backing. After a few listens though, you begin to appreciate the singer for what she is. Although you'd rather hear Reed crooning through the verse on this sleepy, dream like track, you do see the artsy endeavor in the finished product.

'Venus In Furs' gives the first glimpse into Underground's foresight as an influential band. The brooding psychedelic vibes which radiate from start to finish may also be a manifestation of their singer's altered mind-set ~ it's dark. Seriously dark. The use of accentuated violin and the bizarre soundscapes which follow never really settle, even in the musically lighter chorus ('I am tired, I am weary, I could sleep for a thousand years, a thousand dreams that would awake me, different colours made of tears'). Inspired by an obscure Austrian author (Leopold von Sacher-Masoch if you must know...), 'Venus In Furs'  may be owed some amount of gratitude by the likes of The Doors ~ or more recently our own Joshua Burnside.

'Run, Run, Run' see's The Velvet Underground revert back to their blusey roots. A standard rock and roll tune, perhaps without 'I'm Waiting..."'s melody, this tracks obscure solo's and uneven finish gives it the artsy edge many bands could never emulate. Those that did, reinvented it slightly and called it punk. Though it has to be said, for all it's quirks, there remains an inexcusable predictability here. It's followed by side 1 closer and Andy Warhol's favorite, 'All Tomorrows Parties'. The soft guitar intro may be one of Lou Reed's best, integrating brilliantly into the piano. This may also be Nico's best vocal performance, particularly on the chorus. A window into the New York socialite scene of the time, it remains a refreshing insight from a band firmly part of 'the in-crowd' ~ a first at the time.

If Lou Reed had been keen to hide behind metaphors in previous tracks, 'Heroin' does not shy away from it's obvious influence. A simply beautiful cry for help, here Reed attempts to explain the mythology behind the drug and how it helps him become 'Jesus' son'. A synth driven quest for the truth, 'Heroin' ends with the kind of tragic cacophony usually reserved for Shakespeare's literature. "It will be the death of me, Heroin, it's my wife and it's my life". 

Here Velvet Underground make their biggest nod to mainstream rock, with The Rolling Stones pouring out of 'There She Goes Again'. Lou Reed is again in fine form, in a track you imagine was recorded swiftly in one of his brighter mindsets. On the contrary, 'I'll Be Your Mirror' slows proceedings back down again, as the philosophical ponderings again resurface on this relaxing song. By this stage, we are well accustomed to Nico's unconventional twang and are indeed warming to it.

'The Black Angels Death Song' returns back to Bob Dylan territory, long winded verses running into the tracks surreal accompaniment ~ like listening to Sgt Peppers, on acid, inside the mind of the mentally ill. The dissonance throughout the track, coupled with it's loud-hissing feedback, really begins this albums slide into artistic oblivion. Finale 'European Son' is even weirder again. Cited by some as the first 'metal song' alongside The Beatles 'Helter Skelter', it's psychotic bass lines and floury of noise makes little, to any sense and retains this madness to it's conclusion. Rampant, it becomes almost a challenge to find a single melody within it's cavern of insanity. It is, in all honesty, a sad end to a great album. The crash comes courtesy of bassist John Cale hitting a stack of plates with a metal chair. It makes little to no sense and yet, after sitting through five of it's seven minutes, is difficult not to finish.

In truth, 'The Velvet Underground and Nico' is not the precious haven of rock and roll jubilation as 'Sgt Pepper' or 'The White Album' once was, but nor was that their intention. Somewhere amongst the wall of noise and dark lyrics, I like so many others fell in love with New York's coolest art project.

Just one listen and you will too. Just don't be expecting any light. Lou Reed turns every one off on his way out...
Taylor Johnson

For fans of: Sonic Youth, Joy Division, Bob Dylan

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