ep review ~ 'broken to be rebuilt' ~ katharine philippa

by 05:04

Despite being a somewhat enigmatic figure, Katharine Philippa is no newcomer to the music scene in Northern Ireland. Having released her first EP 'Fallen' in 2011, and recently graduating with a bachelor of music from Queen's University, she has been honing her craft for a number of years. 'Broken to be Rebuilt' is not only a culmination of years of education in her art, but a deeply personal exploration of life, love and pain.

Those who are lucky enough to discover her music are engulfed in a listening experience like no other. The title track opens the EP in spectacular fashion; a fragile, piano-led song which focuses on themes of despair, destruction, and subsequent healing and rejuvenation. This sentiment, 'Broken to be Rebuilt', epitomizes the entire EP. The tracks are sorrowful, however Philippa is not admitting defeat. This is not a mournful, self-pitying record - an underlying motif of optimism lies throughout.

The sprawling 'Hosanna' is a raw, emotive number. The acapella opening showcases Philippa's spellbinding vocal, with the lines 'God, if you are here, come and lend your ears / The world has become dulled, and I can't feel anything' reflecting Philippa's inner struggles with her faith. In Hebrew, hosanna means “please save”, and this sense of desperation permeates the track, driven by thunderous timpani, howling vocals, and rapturous organ.

The melancholic 'Nightingale' is further evidence of Philippa's flair for conveying raw emotion. The repeated lyric 'you hit this heart like a drum beat' drives the song forward towards a climax of Kate Bush proportions. In contrast, 'Pawns' is a minimalistic, electronically driven track, which is not far from the experimental trip-hop soundscapes of FKA Twigs. In 'Home', Philippa makes use of layered, harmonised vocals, building an eerie, cavernous atmosphere. Within the nostalgic track, she draws influence from her natural surroundings - you can hear recordings of the waves lapping over the shore recorded on a beach near Portballintrae, a personal imprint of childhood memories which adds great character to the track.

The EP draws to a close with a reprisal of the title track, 'Broken to Be Rebuilt' being played by an orchestral quartet. This haunting addition gives a sense of finality and closure to what is a deeply personal and emotive record. Having supported the likes of Daughter and Tom Odell over the past year, and recently being lauded on Twitter by folk chart-topper Hozier, I suspect that Katharine Philippa will not remain Northern Ireland's little secret for much longer.

Lauren Johnson


For fans of: Daughter, FKA Twigs, Fiona Apple, Joanna Newsom

track of the week ~ daveit ferris ~ 'all i wanted'

by 07:55

Entrepreneurial singer-songwriter Daveit Ferris is better known today as the mastermind behind Chordblossom, one of the countries most successful local music websites. Ferris has worked tirelessly over the years to break new bands within Northern Ireland, whether through promotion, gig opportunities or the recording process. For a new generation of local music fans however, it may surprise them to learn that this unassuming music aficionado was once the front man of one of our best bands. This wasn't a band who showed glimpses of potential, Mascara Story was a band that fulfilled theirs and then some. More surprising still, Ferris is not now ready to rest on his laurels, reflecting on all the good he's done for the country. Instead he's embarked on his most audacious project yet, '365 Sparks' which see's him stick to a rigorous songwriting process that will allow him to release a new song every day of 2015. Ridiculous? Perhaps. Possible? With Daveit Ferris at the helm, you have to believe so. Having released several beautifully arranged EP's of various nature since  Mascara Story's breakup, the songs from 365 Sparks are inevitably destined to be steeped in various genres. Luckily, Ferris has proved time and time again that he is comfortable in many different formats. While debuting some of the material from his new project, Encore was immediately drawn to one particular teaser. Taylor Johnson gives his verdict...

 What can be gathered from 1 minute, 30 seconds of a song? Somewhere between 'All I Wanted's melodic Green Day inspired electric guitar tones, to it's writers trademark pitch perfect vocals, quite a lot indeed. One aspect of Ferris's songwriting that has always been evident is the passion that lies beneath every tracks surface. This is why so many put their faith in Mascara Story's maudlin tales, they pulled no punches, anger and regret radiating from every line like a teenage fist to a wall. There was no comfort to be taken here, the comfort came from within the moshpit, or through a pair of headphones as you stared out a bus window and remembered how much you loved (still love) that bitch of an ex-girlfriend that shattered your heart...but we digress.

As Ferris has got older, his influences don't seem to have evolved massively, though the sound has undoubtedly developed. The crunch from his amp has not been discarded, nor the pristine clarity of his vocals, even if the Beach Boys falsetto has been given a greater degree of freedom (no bad thing, provided they're not overdone). The chorus will also provide a nostalgic shiver for Mascara's old fans. It's been a while since we've heard his voice cascade through a breakdown like this. Once again, lyrically Ferris hits a raw nerve you didn't even realise was showing. "Since we met I can not sleep...all I wanted, was one moment, just to pretend we're alive". 

If anything, you want to hear him get darker, broodier and perhaps even more aggressive. Though it has to be remembered, this is just a drop in the ocean of 365 brand new tunes. If they're all of this quality (a very tall order) Daveit Ferris may be on to his biggest project to date.

Taylor Johnson

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For fans of: Mascara Story, Green Day, My Chemical Romance

single review ~ autumns ~ 'commitment'

by 08:58

Christian Donaghey is a rare breed of  musician. Through careful craftwork of his sonic and lyrical prose, he has managed to accomplish more in his short time as 'Autumns' than many bands will throughout their career. From the inception of this new project only a year ago,  record labels and management executives have cast an eye towards Donaghey's dream like soundscapes, citing his minimalist visuals and waltz like tracks as potential trendsetters. The release of new single 'Commitment'  has already won the Derry native radio airplay and Encore NI was certainly keen to investigate the hype. To believe or not to believe? This was the question...

No stranger to the effects pedal, Autumns new single 'Commitment' takes no time in making its point. At just under three minutes long, it's a public burial of the pop single blue-print, allowing a woozy bass line and Fugazi styled overtones to entrance the listener. Autumns make music within a silhouette, as if to shroud their true feelings in a haze of feedback. Although you never feel Donaghey is prepared to hold back his real emotion, he simply wants you to work for it.

This single would not look out of place in Liverpool's sludge-pop scene, (alongside the likes of Go Fiasco etc) though equally Autumns embrace of the darker end of indie's diverse spectrum could have seen them send Manchester's Haçienda into raptures ~ and yes, this is a bold proclamation for an act so young, but one we feel is entirely justified thus far.

While their dark and brooding melodies take a degree of influence from the ghosts of art-punk past, there's enough here to suggest Autumns may be a very unique act. Giving shoegaze a new lease of life, this is the sound the likes of Ballymena's sadly defunct Frank&Beans may have one day achieved under different circumstances. Effortless grunge, with layers of possibilities.

Though perhaps this development  shouldn't surprise us, this is the band who released their debut single on cassette tape after all...

Taylor Johnson

For fans of: The Horrors, Joy Division, Pixies
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gig preview ~ 'scratch my progress' showcase...

by 09:56

At this moment in time local music in Northern Ireland has (with a few exceptions*) never been stronger. In an age of increasing commercialism and lesser artistic control, it is fundamentally important for each local scene to support their acts as much as possible. Here in NI, we benefit from possibly the most supportive local music structure in Britain, with the mothering arms of Across The Line on the BBC, The Oh Yeah Music Center and a thriving series of websites and magazines dedicated to ensuring it's survival. One of the best schemes to develop in recent years is 'Scratch My Progress', a development program designed to mentor local artists, ensuring they get a chance to record professionally, meet industry bigwigs and take part in a photoshoot with photography legend Carrie Davenport (amongst others).

This years acts are perhaps the schemes strongest to date, an eclectic mix of the countries best through a variety of genres. On November 12th, the Oh Yeah Centre will play host to the official Scratch My Progress EP, featuring tunes from each act. To ensure you don't miss the next generation, Encore NI have provided a run down of each act and why you shouldn't miss this unique line-up.

Band: R51
Genre: Alt-Rock
Download: Slowhound, Skelf, Boxkite
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Once known as The Beast Of The R51 Broadcast, the mysterious R51's unique brand of alt-rock is as certain to amaze as it is to have you headbanging. A combination of front-woman Melyssa Shannon's Kate Bush-like lucid vocal and Jonny Woods stunning guitar soundscapes create the haze with which this band will draw you in.

Band: Hurdles
Genre: Indie-Rock
Download: France (new single ~ out soon!), Paper Soldiers, Ruthless
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The emerging faces of NI indie since their emergence last year, Hurdles have proved a breath of fresh air and then some. The release of their superb debut EP 'Where To Start' reinforced their importance (particularly after General Fiasco's sad disintegration) and followed a heroic gigging schedule. Now with a new guitarist and a fresh, groove inspired sound, Hurdles next release is expected to be their best.

Band: Hot Cops
Genre: Indie/Punk
Download: Another Teen Age (EP)
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Encore NI has already made multiple comments on the potential of this particular band. We've made no secret of our excitement and the praise heaped on their debut EP 'Another Teen Age' speaks for itself. Go see them.

Artist: Matthew Duly
Genre: Acoustic
Download: Locked Inside, Ghost In Your Memory, Different Colours
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Being the only solo singer-songwriter in the scheme may bring a certain degree of pressure for Whitehead's Matty Duly. If this is indeed the case, he's not shown it. With a beautifully weathered voice and finely tuned setlist, Duly's songwriting bursts with the kind of raw emotion necessary to win over any audience. He proved that himself, performing at our own Modern life Is Rubbish in September. His voice and demeanor also bear more than a passing resemblance to The Shin's James Mercer, a rare and impressive accolade.

Band: Serotonin
Genre: Alt-Rock/Grunge
Download: Cold Coffee, Peel (Another new single ~ out soon!), Cleanse Me
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Modern Life Is Rubbish  headliners Serotonin are another band regularly praised by the local press. Their stunning live shows and unpredictability remain their strong-points, though front-woman Lucy Loane's fierce vocals and powerful stage presence, also ensure their army of fans, never go home disappointed.

Don't miss the chance to catch this one off gig | Oh Yeah Centre, Belfast // November 12th, 8pm.

We'll be there!

Taylor Johnson

*We are of course, not for one second prepared to undermine the 'Little Solidarity Movement' of the mid 2000's ~ A Plastic Rose, Fighting With Wire, ASIWYFA...

single review ~ silences ~ 'sister snow'

by 12:37

'Sister Snow' is the title track from the forthcoming EP from alt-indie five piece Silences. From the humble beginnings of the solo project of frontman Conchúr White, Silences have grown to become one of the most captivating and authentic indie bands Northern Ireland has to offer. Throughout 2014 Silences have graced stages from Nashville to Dublin, and if 'Sister Snow' is anything to go by, the Armagh outfit show no signs of slowing down.

From the fragile finger picking intro, an eerie soundscape is crafted, drawing the listener in from the first beat. The ethereal vocal further develops the spectral sound, submerging the listener into a hazy dream-like atmosphere. Condensed into just over two minutes forty seconds, the track is a masterclass in leaving the listener craving more. 'Sister Snow' is veiled in mystery, as we're left wanting to know more about the illusive 'Sophia' mentioned in the chorus. The gauzy, immersive sound fits in perfectly with the twisted fairytale landscape of the video.

'Sister Snow' is a track that masterfully maintains many balances. The vocal is delicate without being weak, the instrumentation simplistic without being dull, the lyrics sincere without being contrived. The brief intervals of distorted electric guitar separate Silences from the stereotypical indie-acoustic fare, and the meandering melody will have you wanting to hit the repeat button more times than you can count.

For fans of: Villagers, Keaton Henson, Amber Run

Lauren Johnson

single review ~ the beau motives ~ 'let it all go'

by 07:46

As the class of 2013 begin edging towards the deeper ends of their musical careers, massive decisions inevitably have to be made. While some bands begin to fade under the increasing pressure of the 'one year mark', others make the bolder move to take their art much more seriously. Bed room jams become extensive recording sessions. Local gigs to friends and relatives evolve into tours and, in rarer circumstances, EP's and singles develop into debut albums. Ireland's The Beau Motives sit confidently on the latter side of this musical divide, their initial hype now firmly anchored by brand new single 'Let It All Go'. As they edge ever closer to that elusive first album Encore NI took a look at the single heralded by many as the start of something very special indeed...

Haunting vibes and ethereal vocals light the way for Southeners The Beau Motives, a trademark of their live performances thankfully captured in the opening riffs of their debut single 'Let It All Go'. Swirling echo's of underlying synths provide an impressive pedestal with which to build their verses, leading to a chorus of uplifting clarity.

Undoubtedly frontwoman Shaz Condon's piercing vocals remain at the forefront of The Beau Motives 80's inspired, sound here. As tensions rise throughout the tracks introduction (particularly through an ingeniously foreboding bass line), the menace at the heart of this track diminishes, but never completely vacates the sound; even in the aftermath of a chorus of (almost) Arcade Fire proportions.

The passion Condon manages to capture is reminiscent of a young Annie Lennox, strong and inspiring, The strength of her falsetto alone marks her band out as one of undoubted quality and possibility. Provided they can maintain the momentum of this single, an album will not be too big a burden for The Beau Motive to handle.

Taylor Johnson

For fans of: Glasvegas, Arcade Fire

album review ~ meb jon sol ~ southpaw niños

by 08:27

The result of years of graft, sweat and dogged like tenacity, 'Southpaw Niños' is a debut album long overdue from one of this country's great entertainers. Beginning his musical career in the beloved Colenso Parade, Mickey McCullagh has long since established himself as a prominent face in the Belfast music scene, whether it's supporting local artists or promoting gigs himself. Divine intervention from the BBC over in London halted Colenso's dreams of a debut album (though that seems a story for another time...), kick starting the journey to what would become Meb Jon Sol.

Multiple gigs, a revolving door of new bandmates and one fateful trip to Madrid later, finally the newly christened Meb would get there by himself. But how does the finished product live up to this legacy? Thankfully, bloody well. Here Taylor Johnson gives his opinion...

Opening with the pulsating single 'Captain Of This Ship', Meb Jon Sol's debut couldn't really have hoped for a more appropriate opener. A modern day sea-shanty of sing-along proportions, 'Captain...' manages to sum up the feel good nature of McCullagh's musical heritage within a three and a half minute burst of banjo riffs and tub-thumping vibrancy. All wrapped within a raw and emotive vocal, it is, in many ways, a timeless homage to everything Belfast represents. You'll be singing 'All this is yours my friend' after one listen or your money back.

Then comes 'Not Young Anymore', a swinging anthem of Pogues like fervour. Everything from the title's beautifully harmonized refrain, to the guiding electric guitar solo (which edges the song along without overstaying it's welcome) highlights a songwriting maturity that the singer perhaps doesn't get credited enough for. As it leads into the folk-era Springsteen inspired 'Leave All Your Troubles With Me'. Another song brimming with character, here we see Meb Jon Sol at his most reflective, as he asks a loved one to discard their worries to 'the cold white sea' and follow him instead, against a gentle Irish violin backing.

In 'Angie, Where Did Your Love Go?' we see the introduction of a more atmospheric sound, as some sterling guitar work paves a great intro. Again we see Meb attempt to comfort a lover he's leaving for the greater good. 'You'll see me in a million different ways' proves a perfect sentiment through a track teeming with a regretful acquiesce.

The next track proves a winding hark back to McCullagh's Colenso days, as 'I Am From Nowhere's three piece vocal harmonies and skiffle beat chorus radiates his old band's feel good vibes. The heartrending 'I Am Yours' continues the albums love-lorn sentiments, as he croons, 'I am a widow who does not cry, a dead man that did not die, a bird that does not fly, but I am yours' in real poetic fashion.

Penultimate track 'Everyone Has A Secret Song' is perhaps this albums real highlight. Though never an obvious choice for a single, it remains a hidden gem of real emotional potency. Melodically lifting, but with maudlin overtones, it may also contain  McCullagh's best lyricism to date.

"Everyone has to move on, everyone loves someone who's gone, everyone has a secret song, but yours and mine were one"

Honest and charming, everything from it's 'Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want'-esque mandolin solo, (as if you're floating down a Venetian gondola) to its closing soft acoustic guitar is utterly intoxicating.

Finally we reach the album's eponymous climax. Complex acoustic guitar work builds to a classic Meb Jon Sol fiesta of a chorus. Riveting, yet strangely melancholy, Southpaw Niños feels as much a closing to a chapter as the opening of a new one. It marks the successful triumph of years of dedication and in truth, there could be no other song as appropriate to mark the albums end.

In all, Southpaw Niños carries much of the same DNA as Bruce Springsteen's all too often overlooked Seeger Sessions ('We Shall Overcome'), an album of subtle genius and nostalgic warmth. It has the potential to achieve classic status, provided McCullagh doesn't decide to take on a new challenge too soon!

Taylor Johnson
For Fans Of: The Pogues, Billy Bragg


gig preview ~ red beard promotions presents...

by 07:06

Gig news! Our good friends over at RedBeard Promotions have produced another fine indie-driven line-up for their next show. You can read our preview on each act below, to ensure you don't miss out on the chance to see your new favorite band for the first time...

The Bayonettes

Scathing alt-rock and dirty riffs have given The Bayonettes a fine platform with which to build their fan base. The Coleraine collective, who have played everywhere from  Barnfest to Tweedfest, have wasted no time since their formation little over a year ago, the release of single 'Kimono Hussies' adding gravitas to the hype.

Expect: Air guitar battles. Plenty of them.

Gone All Year

Currently recording their debut album, hard hitting pop-punk act Gone All Year are another group revered for their enthusiasm on stage. Comparisons to their genres big hitters of Blink 182 and Fall Out Boy could so easily be a curse, but in a band as naturally engaging as the Belfast five piece it only stands them in good stead.

Expect: Grown men screaming for "Sugar we're going down!" and un-ironed Paramore t-shirts.

The Couth

Lisburn's finest garage-punk band take the swinging beach boy melodies of the 60's and infuse it with the two fingers-relentlessness of The Clash. Another act beloved for their live shows, The Couth's energy, style and watertight tunes will have the crowd jumping in no time.

Expect: A sea of raised fists as their wavy debut 'Cycles' fades into new single 'BloodBreaker'.

The Titanics

Now boasting Aqua Tramp's multi-instrumentalist bass player Scott Joseph Anderson in their line-up, the local lads thankfully have a rocky sound to match their mammoth name. Having blitzed their way through to the final of The Pavilion's 'Battle of the Bands' competition this year, the weight of expectation is expected to get a lot heavier in the coming months...

Expect: Their very attractive entourage to be out in full force (complete with band t-shirts).

Havana House Party

Having been heralded as 'the next big thing' for over four years now, Antrim's Havana House Party are simply one of this countries best bands. Their EP 'Demons' still ranks as one of the strongest debut's in local memory and with a back catalogue as varied as theirs, it's difficult to see their new rise being halted by anyone other than themselves. If they can continue with this new found momentum, we may have another Two Door styled export on our hands.

Expect: A mass of dancing to the likes of 'Demons' and singalongs to their punchier lyrics. ("lying is a trait that you seem to enjoy" etc)

Taylor Johnson

modern life is rubbish 6 ~ what to expect...

by 07:16

As our next Modern Life Is Rubbish looms ever nearer (tomorrow night, 9pm), here Encore NI have very kindly produced a list of songs and otherwise interesting things to watch out for on the night. It promises to be memorable...

1. Headliners Serotonin unleashing future new single 'Peel'.

One of the last tracks worked on with old drummer Mark McDaid, 'Peel' captures the fury of Serotonin at their most explosive. Not to be missed.

2. Opener Ash Smith ripping a tasty acoustic solo.

Okay, perhaps not a full on Joe Satriani job, but Ash can play and play he shall.

3. Barman Pearse Mccrory challenging Ash Smith to a rap battle.

It's no secret that Belfast's favorite bar man can spit serious lyrics, but when he witnesses acoustic singer-songwriter Ash Smith doing the same, don't be surprised to see him too take to the stage.

4. BLOOM briefly convincing everyone present that world peace is a very achievable thing.

The Belfast four piece will be making their debut, an undoubtedly big occasion, and you can be certain they'll make the most of it. Peace & love are very high on the psychedelic bands agenda.

5. The inevitable 'Cold Coffee' mosh-pit.

In all my years of gigging around Belfast, rarely has an audience reacted just quite so erratically to a local song as 'Cold Coffee'. The breakthrough track from Serotonin's debut EP 'Gestures', the tracks uplifting punk guitar sound and front woman Lucy Loane's pitch perfect vocals will undoubtedly get all present on their feet and dancing (dangerously).

6. That one old guy who drinks brandy in the corner. 

No one knows who he is, where he's from, or if he even speaks English, but right on cue at 9:15, old no name danders in, pays his way and stays til the bitter end. He's been there from our very first gig night and is often more reliable than the acts themselves. We salute you and your brandy sir.

7. The ghost of after parties past.

Also since day one of our gigs, someone has always thrown some sort of an after party. We don't always get an invite (sometimes we don't find out about it until weeks later...), but it always happens and it's usually messy.

8. 'Strawberry Flift' ~ a symphony of shoegazing love.

Until now only house parties have experienced the true trance inducing power of BLOOM ~ But come tomorrow night, we'll have a room of psychedelic love zombies ready to make peace with you.

9. 'Thoroughly Modern' getting casually dropped in...

A simply genius piece of acoustic action from opener Ash Smith. Don't miss it.

10. Serotonin (and their fans) losing their shit.

It's fair to say our headliners are well known for not taking it easy on stage. Whether it's Lucy Loane commanding the front of the stage, or Ben Bryson jumping off amps, you can bet that Serotonin will make the most of their headline slot.

It's gonna be a big one, see you there!

Taylor Johnson

single review ~ gaze is ghost ~ 'revolvere'

by 05:49

Wrapped in a winter haze, Londonderry//Derry born songstress 'Gaze Is Ghost' (Laura McGarrigle) has quietly went about building her haunting empire from nothing. Releasing her debut EP in January of last year, her rise has been as subtly infatuating as the music itself. The release of new single 'Revolvere' does little to quell this climb, further proof, if proof was indeed still needed, that Gaze Is Ghost is one of our finest female songwriters.

Easing into life, 'Revolvere's slow moving undertones are what gives it it's edge. Fantastic production aside (bravo once again Mr Rocky O'Reilly), McGarrigle's songwriting has developed in simple, but effective fashion. Delicate Lisa Hannigan styled vocals float over the type of tender melody too often ruined by impatient build ups. Here, Gaze Is Ghost is in no rush to bring this track to it's dark climax, instead allowing it to simply breath ~ not gasp for air.

In many ways, the maudlin sentiments which run through 'Revolvere' are what Snow Patrol may have aimed for on the darker end of the Hundred Million Suns' (The Lightning Strike) or even Fallen Empires (Broken Bottles Form A Star) spectrum; had they of been in a more reflective mood.

Dark, brooding and utterly engaging. Gaze Is Ghost has unwittingly written the perfect accompaniment to any artistically acclaimed, Cannes Film Festival winner.

Taylor Johnson 

For fans of: Regina Spektor. Lisa Hannigan, Melody's Echo Chamber
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Watch the new music video here

four essential tracks you have to hear this week ~ a round up

by 08:03

So as the festival season winds down to a halt, Belfast's music scene can expect the annual upturn in gigs, as our bands stop looking further afield for love and applause. Though there's been a slight lull in new releases of late, Encore NI has been searching for the essential sound of the city. Here's four tracks you have to hear this week.

1. Mere Moths ~ Time

The title track from teenage songwriter Patrick Wright's new EP marks a considerable step forward, both sonically and stylistically.  If the ghost of electric guitars and indie bands past suffocated Wright's progress as a solo artist before, here we see an artist much more comfortable in his own skin (and sounding all the better for it). Swaying with Paolo Nutini styled fervour, 'Time' continues down Wright's earlier carved path of honesty and self-discovery; with lines like "God know's I'm trying..." certain to keep the die-hards happy and intrigue a potential new audience.

A track as laid back as this' only potential draw back, perhaps lies in it's own assurance. It's almost too cool. Like a trippy haze, you could listen to it for hours on end and happily ponder the nature of existence. But somewhere amongst the looping guitar and 'Jake Bugg in an Amsterdam coffee shop' solo, you're likely to forget where you are or how long you've been there.

For fans of: Paolo Nutini, Gil Scott-Heron
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2. SOAK ~ B a noBody

Endearing, acoustic pop here from NI's most coveted young balladeer. 'B a noBody' is further proof that the scarily young SOAK, real name Bridie Monds Watson, has the art of the heartrending ballad down to a tee. Now signed to the legendary Rough Trade (yes, previously home to The Smiths) Monds-Watson's glacier vocals are given the sparse soundscapes they deserve and can grow into. Nailing the melancholic foreshadows of her famous label-mates within the first line, Soak once again displays a maturity far beyond her years. An album is imminent and not a moment too soon.

"The teenage hope is an unguarded time, we're trying hard to make something of what we are" 

For fans of: Chvrches, Tegan & Sara
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3. In An Instant ~ Keep On Moving With Your Heart In Place

With a schedule as cluttered as the in demand Bangor four piece, it's understandable that they've had little free time to enter the studio. When they do, however, you can be sure that this gem will be given pride of place. A slow building electronic mass, "Keep On Moving With Your Heart..." proves that the magic combination of Hegan's emotional honesty and Davison's programming wizardry, has not been used up on their debut EP.  Richard Crawford's synth is also given space to breathe on this track, as drummer Andrew Rutledge continues his rock steady masterclass behind the kit. Production wise, there's already a mesmerising nod to U2's 'Songs Of Innocence', particularly the awesome 'Song For Someone'.

The hardest aspect will be channeling such a big track into one recording. If they manage it, this crowd favorite could further progress their breakout from Belfast.

For fans of: U2, Wheat, Snow Patrol
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4. Hot Cops ~ Slouching

Perhaps a slightly self indulgent choice, though it can't be denied that the final track off Hot Cop's phenomenal debut deserves much more credit than has been the case. Effortlessly oozing the kind of nonchalant steadfastness that takes many bands years to craft (if ever), Hot Cop's display a shockingly beautiful, maudlin prose, that is quickly becoming a trademark. While it's important not to proclaim them the saviors of alt-rock just yet, this is a very promising sign indeed. Go see them now, before the mainstream start falling in love.

For fans of: Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead
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Taylor Johnson

live review ~ boys ~ the monarch, camden // encore introducing

by 04:59

Whilst venturing through the streets of London's famous Camden Town, the unmistakable twang of an electric guitar in full flight was enough to pull me, like a magnetic field, into The Monarch, where here I found electronic-pop weavers BOYS. Taking the art of the three piece down a peculiar, synth drenched side road, I entered this gig with cautious optimism...

West London's 'BOYS' are a curious mismatch of poetic ambiance. Throughout their set they sway with sonic instability, yet that doesn't seem to matter as each song progresses. In fact, it adds to their charm. In Ross Pearce they have a front man who hasn't quite developed his full on stage persona, but clearly has a vision of where he wants to go. Stalking the stage like a young Ian Brown, Pearce maintains a Manc flair through the nonchalant gaze of a Londoner stranded during a morning tube strike. While sitting on the floor with your back to the audience may not seem like a great idea on paper, here it pays dividends, adding an intriguing quirk to compliment their sound. Elsewhere, lead guitarist Mike Stothard's riffs run through their songs beautifully, never settling for less than hypnotic, particularly on newer songs. It was a difficult gig, to a less than appreciative crowd, but somewhere amongst the technical malfunctions lies a band of real potential.

In truth, BOYS sound like Blur during a heroic acid trip, which is by no means a bad thing.

Taylor Johnson

Find BOYS here:

sleeping with the nme ~ update

by 03:33

Hi folks!

Just wanted to take this opportunity to apologise for the lack of posts lately! It's been a crazy few weeks. I've just returned from London, working for The NME magazine, which was simply insane. I hung out with rock stars, radio one dj's and got an insight into the dirtier side of rock and roll. An experience that will not be forgotten.

 I've also been immersing myself in more amazing local (and some not so local) music and I believe we all have cause for optimism at the moment. The talent in this country is getting better and better, and here at Encore we want to push this even further.

 We have a few more great articles and surprises on the way, but in the meantime keep an eye out for the next Modern Life Is Rubbish gig, as well as a guest appearance we're lining up as well for the site. It's all very exciting.

If you or anyone you know is interested in doing some music journalism, and would like experience at Encore, we're always looking for promising young writers to help build our team. Simply send an email to EncoreNorthernIreland@gmail.com with a sample of your work & we'll take it from there.

We're also now considering a wider range of bands for coverage & gigging exposure through Modern Life Is Rubbish ~ Send us your demos via Facebook.

Thanks for your continued support,
Keep rocking in a free world,


louder than bombs ~ the power of local music

by 09:08


From the nostalgia inducing swoon of Van Morrison, to the primal, punk growls of teenage kicks right through the night, Northern Ireland is a nation of rich musical history and proud tradition. 

Now, having finally moved into the 21st century and cast shadows over our darker periods, never again can we allow nonchalance to leave Belfast ignored and unloved by the rest of the world. (Like the weird cousin at a house party no one can remember inviting, but feel awkward asking to leave)

Scratch beneath the surface and a musical mecca awaits. As diverse as the streets of London and brimming with enthusiasm, here Encore NI have compiled a list of the top young Northern Irish artists to look out for in 2015 and beyond (in no particular order we might add!). Hold onto your Guinness…

  1. Hot Cops

Take the spine tingling drawl of Julian Casablanca’s in his Strokes pomp, the maudlin wit of Morrissey and the punk sneer of The Sex Pistols and you’re still not quite ready to comprehend the raw velocity of Belfast’s Hot Cops. Frontman Carl Eccles awkward demeanor lulls audiences into a curious confusion, perhaps even looking out of place centre stage. Then without warning, he bursts into a poetic snarl, blowing minds in the process.

To put them in context, this is a young band writing metaphor’s about depression, (“And you tied balloons to the corners of my mouth, to make it seem like I wanted to be there, but looking back I didn't wanna be, anywhere”) the flaws of humanity (“We went out and found a dead deer, you said Well, well, well what do we have here", and then you said that it was Bambi
And for the rest of the day I cried my eyes out, for the rest of your life you laughed your head off”) and naturally, Bill Clinton.

Download: Their entire ‘Another Teen Age’ EP

For fans of: Radiohead, Mind-bending poetry.

  1. In An Instant

For a band like In An Instant, comparisons to some of the nation’s biggest exports (Snow Patrol), comes as a welcome compliment. In reality, this is a lazy assumption linked to genre and no more. Possessing a distinctly European vibe, In An Instant take the Springsteen styled folk approach, (writing each of their songs on acoustic guitars) before the radical addition of a synth based overhaul, elevating their songs to sing-along heights. For now, they tread the indie-pop divide extremely delicately, though this is no bad thing. With a huge fan base and Radio 1 airplay under their belts, these teenagers have a lot to be hopeful about.

For fans of: Chvrches, U2, Two Door Cinema Club

  1. Echo Raptors

For years Belfast has searched for our own piece of the 90’s, a band that really captured the feel good optimism of that decade and all it represented. We had Ash, though beneath Tim Wheelers long winded lyrics we knew we couldn't compete with what was happening across the water. Oh how very different it could have been with Echo Raptors…an indie explosion of The Stone Roses swagger, Oasis’ anthems and the Verve’s sensitivity. With a back catalogue of tunes now well-known across the UK (particularly up North) and a lyric book so filled with self determination it could have been stolen from Noel Gallagher himself, this is a band to make you believe in rock and roll again.

Download: The Plastic People, She’s So Free & the massive Change My Way

For fans of: Oasis, The Verve, The Stone Roses

  1. A Northern Light

Pioneered by local legends A Plastic Rose amongst others, A Northern Light have been the rebellious upstarts of the Northern Irish scene for a few years now. Their alt rock roots have in recent years infused further towards a mix of electronica, with orchestral sections, their fan base has only expanded, rather than diminished under this transition. This interesting mix concluded with the huge single ‘Kill It’, beloved by BBC Introducing. Currently working on their debut album, this Northern Light is shining brighter than ever.

Download: Kill It, International Anthem
For fans of: 30 Seconds To Mars, Angels and Airwaves

  1. The Late Twos

In recent years they’ve been described as Northern Irelands answer to The Libertines and it’s not difficult to see why. Frontman Matty Legge’s distinctive vocal and natural stage presence (where somehow he looks effortless and original, in a role so easily overdone) is an undoubted strongpoint, however without the tunes to back it up, they would not have found their success. Taking mod and indie influences and adding a ska-like skiffle beat has proved a wise development and made them one of the country’s most exciting talents. To remain relevant in a genre like this is an achievement in itself.

Download: Never Mind, The Late Twos, Sierra Leone
For fans of: The Libertines, The Kooks

  1. Pretty Child Backfire

Masters of the violin overdub, the band combine uplifting lyrics of love and adventure with an indie sound quite unlike anything currently out there. Formed as bored teenagers, this band have grown massive in their home city and even been championed by Gary Lightbody, who personally mentored their frontman in the craft of songwriting after watching them play a pub gig. Despite this, Pretty Child sound nothing like Snow Patrol, preferring acoustic riffs to hollering cries.

Download: I Wish I Knew You Better, If We Can Last The Summer
For Fans of: General Fiasco, HavanaHouseParty

  1. His New Atlas

Known throughout Belfast as the most emotional person to have ever lived, 18 year old Eoghan O’Hagan has done incredibly well over the last year. Through the release of two well received EP’s and a succession of Irish tours, His New Atlas has carved a reputation out of nothing, breaking out of his small village surroundings through big hitting chorus’ and soaring vocals. One of the most dynamic live performers in the country, the only way is up for His New Atlas. (Though be warned, crying on stage is to be expected)

Download: His Young, Blood, Pillars
For Fans of: Charlie Simpson, Daughter

  1. Aaron Shanley

Settle down kids, we’ve saved possibly the best til last. Singer-songwriter Aaron Shanley is in possession of one of the most unique voices of the last 20 years, brimming with delicacy and emotion. A breath taking lyricist, Shanley’s tales of heartache, despair and aliens destroying the Earth have the stunning ability to leave you in a trippy haze, or with tears in your eyes. Having written songs for artists as far afield as Nashville, USA and plied his trade here in London, Aaron Shanley remains one of the most captivating performers in Northern Ireland and has been recognised as such. You really must hear him to fully appreciate his talents.

Download: Everything! – Specifically; Sometimes People Just Fall Out Of Love, I Really, Really Wish You Were Here, Amy, Here Without You
For Fans of: Damien Rice, Ryan Adams, Badly Drawn Boy

Taylor Johnson
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