ep review ~ owen mcgarry ~ 'stray'

by 07:07

In a market already greatly over-saturated, Owen McGarry is a breath of fresh air. Having played his way through almost every street corner and venue in our capital city, it's only natural the singer-songwriter would pick up many allies along the way. Here we see those friendships come together to create 'Stray', his latest and most highly anticipated EP. Although the host of well known names making appearances on the record have upped the intrigue, ultimately it's McGarry's humility, work ethic and passion for his craft which has seen the public returning for more. Encore NI were delighted to be given an early listen...

Opener 'Soon' lays down a marker from the opening echo's of the distant violin. This isn't a collection of backstage recordings, perhaps written with a bottle of wine and a heavy heart. This is an immediate indication of the sheer professionalism of McGarry's set-up. An electronic bass glides through the unsteady drum backbone (in what could easily be from the pen of Californian sisters HAIM), before the first contributor of the record strides into what is, admittedly, an Ed Sheeran shaped comfort zone. Perhaps this is an unfair and even lazy comparison for former 'Voice UK' star Conor Scott, who's vocal is as calm and assured as ever before. Though without McGarry's electronic ambiance and the expertise in what is a finally produced track, you fear this song may have drifted off course. Instead, a (The 1975 inspired?) saxophone solo comes streaming into life, lifting this opening number to greater heights than it may have done.

Follow up 'Body Of Sea', drifts beautifully into focus in an innocuous daze, More Than Conquerors frontman Kris Platt providing his share of opening vocals. Subtly brilliant, Platt's delivery and ear for a melody can't help but draw in the listener from the opening line, as his trademark story telling techniques are given a new, though thoroughly welcome platform here. McGarry's cries in the songs chorus are worthy of the gradually intensified background, as the song grows along with it's listener. Orchestral interludes act as an inspired lead up to the songs brilliant bridge, finally fading in the after glow of it's last chorus. A hidden gem.

'Paths' see's a return to the electronic edge of the EP's beginnings, a slow start reignited in a chorus of unexpected passion. It's a method increasingly explored by artists in recent years, a gentle piano interlinking with the buzz of the computerized textures. This track doesn't fully hit it's full potential until a post-rock styled instrumental build up takes us to our final chorus, which thankfully rages with the intensity it was undoubtedly written in. A slow burn, but one worth waiting for.

Fellow acoustic artist Ryan McMullan's inclusion is one likely to excite many local music fans. Having both carved their names through similar musical journeys, the Belfast based performers share many of the same admirers. Though just because something should work, doesn't mean it will. In this case, however, the ease with which you'd imagine this collaboration would work is showcased, as it lives up to these expectations fantastically. Everything from "Far Gone's" breezy, folk-pop production, to the sing-along melody suggests this song would have been a joy to write. "When you wrap your arms around me, when we're face to face, I know that this will be okay...". McGarry's use of the classical musicians at his disposal is once again on point, as the image of a filled Ulster Hall swaying as one to this song, really doesn't seem a million miles away.

Final track 'Breathe You In' allows McGarry to return to basics, in a finely written example of a what must surely be a future single. The inclusion of Silhouettes Shauna Tohill transcends the tracks pop-potential once more, her quiet harmonies as haunting as the violins which lay beneath 'Breathe You In's surface. A fitting and emotional end to McGarry's most mature work to date.

Credit must be given for the sheer audacity of 'Stray'. To be a solo artist and build an EP around the voices of others is a task not often explored at local level and you feel this may be a point of reference for Northern Irish music for many years to come.

Though it can't be described as groundbreaking work, 'Stray' is a fine example of what hard work and dedication can produce in the long-run. Another promising step in the career of Own McGarry.

Taylor Johnson

For all official Owen McGarry news follow the links below...


single of the week ~ 'scent' ~ sister ghost

by 18:51

Towards the end of 2013, an already varied and expansive soundscape of local music gained yet another merit through all girl, three piece Vanilla Gloom. The infectious grunge of Shannon Delores O'Neill, Megan O'Kane and Grace Leacock opened horizons previously unexplored at a local level, as the band quickly gathered a dedicated fan base to revel in their post-punk rallying cries. Sadly, like so many of grunge rocks fallen children, Vanilla Gloom's reign came to a head in a manner befitting of one of the three pieces guitar-swirling records. With the dust finally beginning to settle on the bands eventful life-span, the writer behind many of those much-loved tracks has continued to evolve...the result? 'Sister Ghost', a band of similar snarl, but with the added incentive of a rich history and open future.

The release of debut single 'Scent' was always going to be a huge statement of intent for lead guitarist Shannon Delores O'Neill. Assuming sole lead vocal duties and complete creative control over Sister Ghost, it's the project tipped by many to finally reclaim the Smashing Pumpkins sized hole left by Vanilla Gloom in Belfast. Thankfully the army of supporters have not wavered, 'Scent's official video racking up over 200 plays on Youtube  alone soon after it's release, but was this loyalty justified? Thankfully, the answer is a resounding yes. The 90's inspired, grunge guitar line smothers the underlying drums, producing a much more menacing tone than previously explored by Delores O'Neill. The front-woman's vocal now rests delicately over the quiet chaos below, creating an almost deathly hollow, worthy of the bands memorable name.

The gentle thunder of 'Scent's vision, is a testament to the finely honed song writing ability of it's author. For all it's menace and pent-up frustration, Delores O'Neill's desolate picture is allowed a chance to scream out loud, in the form of it's seismic chorus. It never really reaches that happy ending, but you feel there's a reason for that. Nor does Sister Ghost ever intend on giving this to her audience either. You feel, based on this evidence at least, this is a band fully aware that happy endings rarely exist and to portray anything different would be a betrayal to the music.

Another strength of this young project, lies in it's almost shoe-gaze like adaptions. The freedom of Dolores O'Neill's writing flows as naturally as the fuzz from her amp suggests. A change of pace or key is barely registered by the listener, as by that stage the soothing drones of each verse have fully engulfed any potential wandering thoughts.

It's a single already making head-way in establishing the Sister Ghost story. Picked up almost immediately by BBC DJ Stephen McCauley, the track took little time in making an impression and as first ones go, this is a strong one. What will be key now is the careful development of future tunes. If 'Sister Ghost' can learn the lessons of  it's predecessor and continue to grow, the grunge scene may have found it's new hero.

And not a moment too soon.

Taylor Johnson

For all official Sister Ghost news, follow the links below:

Find the new single from Sister Ghost here⁞►

live review ~ go wolf ~ t in the park festival, kinross, scotland

by 06:51

General outpourings of emotion is a concept not often associated with the people of Scotland. Indeed, emotion as a concept seems to have been disregarded long ago, in favor of stiff upper lips and a barrage of alcohol poisoning. Which leads us conveniently to T in the Park 2014, a festival that seemingly did it's best to refute this history in a show of fireworks, national pride (no doubt fueled by the 'Yes/No' UK debate) and a predominantly Scottish line-up. Thankfully for us, the Northern Irish flag was flown proudly by electronic-pop act Go Wolf, riding the crest of a wave after their recent signing to Brooklyn based label 'Ooh La La Records'

Playing the prestigious BBC Introducing Tent is an honour not to be taken lightly. This is a mind-set clearly shared by CHVRCHES front-woman Lauren Mayberry, who had earlier told a capacity King Tut's crowd that she had 'Dreamed of performing there since she [sic] was a teenager' and had 'attempted to win a slot on the stage for five years', unsuccessfully we might add, before the alt-pop phenomenon of her current band. With that in mind, it simply accentuates the leaps made in recent years of bands and artists from a country that is developing a well deserved reputation for punching well above our weight...

Setting an early energetic tone, Go Wolf's  electronic elements were fully embraced by the Introducing Tent's weathered spectators. Playing early on the second day of proceedings unfortunately hindered the potential of Go Wolf's audience, as the insanity of the rave heavy 'Slam Tent' and it's late night partying rendered many festival goers unconscious until mid-afternoon at the earliest. Thankfully, those who did make the walk to the introducing stage took no time in adjusting to the up-tempo ambiance of the Belfast bands back catalog. Tracks like 'Slow Burn', with it's art-house delicacy and dance invoking rhythms, proved a welcome respite from the  power chord thrash of many other young artists, perhaps floundering slightly under the momentum of the occasion at hand. In Go Wolf's case, any additional pressure added by that iconic BBC logo overhead was instead embraced by the band, as a casual brass solo flew nonchalantly over the boundlessly casual backbeat provided by drummer Stephen Hackworth. Perhaps that should come as no surprise now, considering the attention heaped on them almost from the outset of their short lived careers by outlets like BBC Radio 1.

The 80's inspired pop hooks of 'One More Night' and debut single 'Voices' unsurprisingly had many on their feet and dancing, allowing front-man Scott Jamison and bassist Chris Sloan to relax into the atmosphere they had created. A casual glance into the crowd perhaps reinforcing just how far the founding members had come, since their early days in the back-alley venues of Belfast. If there was one criticism to make of the four piece, it can only be in the glaring omission of fan favorite 'Even God'. Undoubtedly left out in favor of a more festival friendly set-list, the track has for many come to represent the lyrical and emotional pinnacle of much of Go Wolf's history and would have been a welcome finale. Despite the calls from the crowd, even this failed to deny that Belfast's Go Wolf were a worthy representative for the nation.

A quick overview of the bands and artists who've graced the Introducing Stage in years gone by show that, only the best will continue to climb the stages to super-stardom. Co-Headliner Jake Bugg, Tame Impala and The Horrors are just a few of the acts to emerge from the relative anonymity of early-slot shows and break out into the mainstream. Can Go Wolf emulate their success? Absolutely. On this evidence, that early hype is looking increasingly justified.

Taylor Johnson

For all official Go Wolf news, follow the links below.

Official Website

ep news ~ 'torn out lungs' due for release ~ his new atlas

by 03:28

It's an incredibly busy time for Armagh's His New Atlas, as the singer/songwiter (real name Eoghan O'Hagan) prepares for the release of a brand new single, complete with music video, as the first taster of the highly anticipated 'Torn Out Lungs' EP.

'His Young', due for release 25th July, see's the trademark ambiance of records gone by laced with frighting new levels of honesty, in a move the teenager has described as 'the first real song I've written about myself'. Perhaps this is a watershed moment in the development of His New Atlas, a project so often praised for pushing the sonic boundaries of love-lorn devotion and hopeless romanticism.

As time has progressed, so too has the music, and as such the themes running through O'Hagan's lyricism seem to have developed to matters much closer to his heart. But why the change? He explains, 'This EP is about my family, and me...making it has been a gigantic amount of closure and I hold every word dearly.'His Young' will be the first honest, true song and it outlines the subjects of this EP perfectly'. 

With greater honesty, comes greater risk and as His New Atlas continues to bare his soul it seems this is one risk he must undertake. 'I am so nervous for 'His Young' to be released, because this songs speaks the words I could never find the bravery to exhale!'. 
An admirable attitude and one that will undoubtedly see each verse carefully analysed by those who've taken comfort in the lyrics of EP's past.

But will 'Torn Out Lungs' see the exorcism of any personal demons amongst it's very public outpouring? 'You'll have to wait until August for the picture to be colored in!'

His New Atlas 'Torn Out Lungs' EP is due for release in late August.
The brand new single 'His Young' will be released 25th July.

His New Atlas will play three 'Secret Garden Shows' in his hometown of Armagh, Belfast and Derry/Londonderry in support of the EP release. For further information on these intimate performances, please contact Eoghan personally via the His New Atlas Facebook page.

Taylor Johnson

For all official His New Atlas news, follow the links below.

Powered by Blogger.