track of the week ~ tour alaska ~ 'love love love'

by 06:19

Name: Tour Alaska
Genre: Indie//Folk 
For Fans Of: Bright Eyes, Elliot Smith, Iain Archer 
Location: Belfast

"This city is bleak and it's getting bleaker, only the straight get cake...everyday the children are learning a different way to hate"

Every so often a song comes along to really capture the times and feeling of a city, and in 'Love Love Love', the brand new demo from Tour Alaska, Belfast may have found its song for right now. 

A maudlin tale disguised as a happy strummer, here Tour Alaska (the solo project of A Plastic Rose's Gerry Norman) combines the breezy tenderness of Conor Oberst with his own trademark howl. In a bizarre way, it's the most feelgood song about Belfast's shortcomings you're ever likely to hear, more a rallying call than a depressing reality check. With such an uplifting chorus in tow, you feel Tour Alaska could play this song with a full band behind him or on his own, and it would remain just as powerful; and as the sing along potential of this track continues to overflow with each listen, you begin to wonder what else Norman could have in his songwriting locker...? It's a tantalizing thought!

Making his solo debut at our Pride gig this Friday, this is shaping up to be a very special night for Northern Irish music.

Taylor Johnson

gig preview | 'a gay pride fundraiser'

by 17:19

This Friday we will be teaming up with Belfast's Oh Yeah Centre, in support of Belfast Pride 2015!

As the date fast approaches for one of the most exciting gigs you'll see this year, we've compiled a few reasons why you really can't miss it. 

1. Tour Alaska's echo-chamber bliss.

An incredibly new project, Tour Alaska is the softer side of A Plastic Rose's dynamic frontman Gerry Norman. Calling on the very best of this island's tender songwriting roots, Tour Alaska's four released demo's see's elements of Damien Rice, Bright Eyes and Bon Iver converge to take you to a wooden cabin, far from the rest of humanity. Expect tears of joy and sing along chorus' throughout!

"I'm so sorry, I'm not a machine..."

2. Hot Cops frightening power

We all know about Hot Cops by now. Darlings of Radio One's Big Weekend in Norwich and the writers of some of this countries most exciting indie-rock in decades. Having vaulted those perilous early shows with total ease, Hot Cops are now at a point were they are starting to appreciate their own brilliance; and with that confidence comes the sort of gigs you want to be able to say 'I was there' for. With new singles 'Six' and 'Decay' leading the charge (Kenzie's what?) you can guarantee Hot Cops will blow minds. 


3. Sister Ghost's grunge explosion

Already boasting a fantastic double a-side to her name (as well as the awesome debut single 'Scent'), Sister Ghost's ascent to the top of NI's punk scene has looked incredibly easy. Always guaranteeing an energetic live show, the band's hard riffs and noise mastery will take you back to the riot grrrl movement at it's absolute best.


4. Jealous of the Birds' effortless chill

Since the release of her debut EP 'Capricorn', life has been rather crazy for Jealous of the Birds. Oozing a bohemian cool, the young singer-songwriter's voice has entranced many since she first stepped on a stage earlier this year. Between her 90's style and 'singing songs in a lighthouse until 6 in the morning' vibes, Jealous of the Birds deserves all the praise she's been getting so far.

 "voice is loud, thundercloud, god is deaf, waste of breath"

5. It's for such an important cause

With Northern Ireland still lagging behind the rest of the civilized world in terms of rights for the LGBT community, this is a chance to get behind a really great cause ~ Love is love!

Doors open at The Oh Yeah Music Centre, Gordon Street at 8pm.

Tickets will be available from the Oh Yeah Music Centre and on the night, at the price of £5. Bar service, over 18s only, late license.

Don't miss it!

Taylor Johnson

throw back | oppenheimer

by 06:12

Name: Oppenheimer
Genre: Noisy-Pop
For Fans Of: They Might Be Giants, The GO! Team, Broken Bells
Location: Belfast

When you consider how small a city like Belfast is, it's quite incredible how regularly we seem to punch above our weight in terms of producing great bands. Since Encore NI's inception back in 2013 (wow) we've seen the difficult nature of the music business at first hand. We've seen some incredible bands come and go, tour to the point of exhaustion and then tour some more, and sadly, disband too. It's a sad fact that not every deserving band/artist makes that leap into the mainstream, but whilst this is an unfortunate truth to deal with, we can take comfort in the fact that the music remains. Here at Encore NI we want to celebrate that, and so brings us to the first in a short series of 'throwback' pieces, where we celebrate a great Northern Irish band who are no longer together. 

Oppenheimer were an electronic band active from early 2004, made up of Rocky O'Reilly and Shaun Robinson. Whilst now we perhaps take our electro-pop scene for granted, in the early 2000's it was a rarer occurrence to get a band as creative as the two piece. Weaving hook-heavy soundscapes of synth and melody, Oppenheimer's shimmering pop music laid down much of the blue-print for many of our strongest bands today. Adopting an optimistic approach, this was a band dealing in pure joy, with an 80's touch. The local scene also owes a lot to Oppenheimer for their focus on emerging talent, running a competition to support them at the old 'Spring & Airbreak' (Limelight) back in 2009; a competition won by none other than a certain Wonder Villains, who would later name their debut album 'Rocky' in ode to the man behind the vocoder.

Though it's not just Derry's power-pop hero's that owe something to the band, however. Oppenheimer's unique sound has found it's way into many of today's current crop, with the likes of Team RKT, Shadow Police and In An Instant all adopting a similar approach to modern pop, with a delicate touch and a focus on melody. 

Pushing on from those early Belfast shows, Oppenheimer would go on to sign to a major record label, release two successful albums and tour throughout Europe and the United States. Their blissful tunes also began finding their way onto our Television sets, and if you're one of the millions of people around the world to have seen 'How I Met Your Mother' and 'Ugly Betty' then there's a good chance you've heard some of the duo's music already. 

Whilst Shaun Robinson has since moved to New York, Rocky O'Reilly remains in Belfast, producing bands and artists in Start Together Studio's, whilst occasionally making the odd record (see 'Malibu Shark Attack' for more) in his spare time.

A special band, for a special time, Oppenheimer's legacy still remains today ~ have a listen to their live album from 2009, to hear why. 

Taylor Johnson

encore introducing | pale waves

by 06:58

Name: Pale Waves
Genre: Glitter-Pop
For Fans Of: Wolf Alice, Swim Deep, The 1975
Location: Manchester 

A tidal wave of pristine-pop, the colour spectrum of Manchester's newest indie kids 'Pale Waves' is anything but pale. The female fronted four-piece take the tuneful synthy-melodies of the late 1980's and kick out the synth, leaving a guitar sound caught halfway between Manchester and 90's America. 

Marr's melodic shimmer, Squire's paint splattered creativity and more recently, Matty Healy's maudlin cry's,  it's all there to enjoy on new single 'Heavenly'.

"I wanna stay, stay til the end"

It's distinctly Mancunian, and yet lulled gently into the 21st century. Whether clutching to a 3am cigarette with Slowdive on repeat, or dancing wildly to Blondie at their hook-heavy best, it seems the members of Pale Waves have taken on board various muses whilst crafting their sound; and they sound all the better for it. Currently catching the vintage-revival fever sweeping the UK, if Pale Waves aren't the sound to your Summer yet, the question is why not?

Get your vinyls out and stick My Mad Fat Diary back on for one last spin; the future is back.

Taylor Johnson

track of the week | 'nothing more than' | halfmoon bay

by 15:40

Name: Halfmoon Bay
Genre: Low-Fi // Acoustic
For Fans Of: Bright Eyes, Aaron Shanley, The Front Bottoms
Location: Belfast
Facebook//Twitter | n/a

Halfmoon Bay is a wonderfully unlikely affair. 

The side project of The Bayonette's charismatic frontman Danny McClelland, it see's the vocalist swap his Jaguar for an acoustic and his angular riffs, for delicate chord changes; with startling results. The track in question here, 'Nothing More Than' channels Morrissey levels of poetic honesty, his prose beautiful in it's simplicity. The low-fi fuzz which accompanies McClelland's  sparse vocal gives the track a mid-90's American feel, his pain evident, haunting even. 

Line's like 'It's something you could appreciate, if you were alive' give this track it's special quality, as if it's been plucked straight out of the subconscious of The Mountain Goat's John Darnielle. That said, 'Nothing More Than' is no maudlin homage to America's Poetic-Indie scene and stands strong on it's own. McClelland's voice never wavers, nor is it ever overcome by emotion. This is a maudlin song, but somewhere amongst the Scott Pilgrim like charm, lies a comforting bridge between sadness and hope. This is a song to sit and watch the sun go up alongside. To never leave your bedroom with.  

Though it's not been confirmed if 'Nothing More Than' will be re-recorded for Halfmoon Bay's debut EP (coming soon), it certainly paints a promising picture. Til then, we wait.

Taylor Johnson

ep review ~ 'their self loathing debut (mostly)' ~ junk drawer

by 06:03

Name: Junk Drawer 
Genre: Indie
For Fans Of: Yuck, Fleece, Teenage Fanclub, Sparklehorse 
Location: Belfast

The superbly named 'Junk Drawer' is a strange amalgamation of worlds. Taking  a dash of Graham Coxon's disjointed melodies and the riffing splendor of former Yuck frontman Daniel Blumberg, Junk Drawer have created a noisy debut to rival most UK releases this year.

Never remaining in the same space for too long, the three piece strike the perfect balance between haze and harmony on this two track release. The first of these, 'Buying Pictures (For The Frame)' is an anthemic call to arms, uplifting and yet startlingly dark; and whilst the lead vocals remain partly suffocated amongst the barrage of noise, it's this that gives the track it's authentic 90's feel. Swirling and warm, it could easily be an early contender for track of the year.

Second track 'Murphy', though more menacing than it's predecessor, is no less enjoyable. There's a definite Joy Division soundscape at play here, as the tempestuous waters of Junk Drawer's huge sound is explored deeper. There's also a forlorn intensity to their frontman's (whoever that may be) voice. As if his heart may detonate at the end of each chorus.

Much like a siren's call, Junk Drawer's 'Their Self Loathing Debut (Mostly)' will continuously tempt you to re-press that play button. Do it. This band are awesome.

Taylor Johnson

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