top 20 tracks of 2015 // part 2

by 15:29

Finishing off our top ten, these are the songs we felt best encapsulated 2015.

It was a year of spectacular highs with our involvement with Spectrum Festival and VC Records, the discovery of many fantastic young artists and some of the most memorable gigs we've experienced to date.

A massive thank you to everyone who has supported the website and what we do.

Here's to 2016!

Taylor Johnson
Encore NI

10. In An Instant ~ 'Come The Night'
For fans of ~ U2, Bruce Springsteen, Coldplay

Before Gary Lightbody picked up a guitar and took out his angst on songs like 'Starfighter Pilot', U2 showed the world what could be achieved with singalong melodies and a head full of dreams. On 'Come The Night' Bangor's stalwart indie-pop connoisseur's prove they can handle the same formula, packing hook after hook into this 3 minute belter of a tune.

9. The Remedy ~ 'Live For Today'
For fans of ~ The Rolling Stones, Rodriguez, The Beatles

2015 has proved to be a transitional year for Belfast lads The Remedy; with life-long friend Euan McBride's addition on the bass the band's sound has continued to evolve. Their newest incarnation see's them embracing the dancier elements of bands like The Happy Mondays and Primal Scream, though not on future single 'Live For Today'.  Here we see the band's older influences come to the fore, (particularly that of Sixto Rodriguez) as frontman Joel McCracken's passionate vocal howls under a trumpet led opening. This is 'Different Class' up a gear, and more importantly, another huge anthem for the band. This is undoubtedly a huge year for them.

8. Aaron Shanley ~ Frightening
For fans of ~ Ben Kweller, Bright Eyes

In truth, we could have picked any song from songwriter Aaron Shanley's most recent low-fi record 'Metal Alligator'. Here we see Shanley's poetry stretched over a shimmering soundscape, seemingly without boundaries. Easily the most inventive album of the year, 'Metal Alligator's total faith lives in constant doubt. There is light in the dark, and hope in oblivion. "This is fucking frightening, not in a bad way, honest..."

7. Tour Alaska ~ 'Old Grass Tennis Court'
For fans of ~ Iain Archer, Sufjan Stevens, The Reindeer Collective
Facebook ~ n/a

A poetic tale recounting his time living in Edinburgh, 'Old Grass Tennis Court' is the delicate jewel in Tour Alaska's acoustic crown. The solo project of A Plastic Rose frontman Gerry Norman, Tour Alaska is a chance for fans to delve back into the emotional tides of songs like 'Sun's A Shadow', 'Garavogue' and 'Indian Sheets' and we can't wait for more next year.

6. Junk Drawer ~ 'Buying Pictures (For The Frame)'
For fans of ~ Pixies, Weezer

Slow dancing between the boundaries of grunge and slacker rock, Belfast's Junk Drawer are one of the most complete young band's in recent memory. Debut release 'Buying Pictures (For The Frame)'s Pixies-esque bass bends, walls of feedback and dead-pan choir outro immediately marked them out as a band with something to say, and with each listen we heard more and more. Effortlessly brilliant, sad-tinged pop; their self loathing debut was worth the wait (mostly).

5. The Couth ~ 'Pretty Lady'
For fans of ~ The Strokes, FIDLAR, The Beach Boys

In taking the 60's swing of classic groups such as The Beach Boys and throwing it into the 21st century, The Couth have crafted a sound quite unlike any other today in Northern Ireland. Built around fast paced, Ramones influenced guitar, this anthemic track was the high point of their excellent 'Friday Night Fever' Ep. 

4. Robocobra Quartet ~ '80-88'
For fans of ~ Self Defense Family, Sun Kil Moon

The most original band to emerge from the UK in years, Robocobra Quartet's own brand of thunder-jazz-punk is as explosive as it sounds. This penultimate tale from their 'Bomber' EP is another piece of genius.

3. Little Arcadia ~ 'Anywhere Else'
For fans of ~ General Fiasco, More Than Conquerors

Undoubtedly the North Coast's most exciting prospects, 'Anywhere Else' is the triumphant high point of an excellent Ep from the lads. Complete with one of the most pulsating chorus' of the year, 'Anywhere Else' is a song which demands your attention, and will hopefully get all it deserves next year.

2. Hot Cops ~ 'Decay'
For fans of ~ Nirvana

The stand out band of 2015, Hot Cops are also probably the best young band in Britain today. This track, 50% of a double-a side release 8 months ago, is their best so far. They will have better songs out next year and will continue to get better and better, and then better again.

1. R51 ~ 'Pillow Talk'
For fans of ~ Smashing Pumpkins, Kate Bush

Coming in at number 1 we have R51, who managed to take us all with them to their woozy, underwater-dream world last March via Pillow Talk. In a year which saw them take to the stage at Reading and Leeds Festival, the Mandela Hall and pretty much every other cool gig in 2015, the band already have plans of a follow up release. They'll do well to top this instantly nostalgic track, which see's Melyssa Shannon's shimmering vocals rise above her bands triumphant noise.

"Do you dream of me ever?"

Taylor Johnson

top 20 tracks of 2015 // part 1

by 17:14

In a year which saw us help launch a brand new record label in Belfast, a host of successful local gigs and the spirit of punk injected back into Northern Ireland via Serotonin's now infamous outdoor performance, it comes that time again to celebrate this years musical soundscape!

As always, it's been incredibly difficult to choose only twenty tracks from the array of wonderful releases. Here at Encore NI, our ethos has always been about encouraging new talent, and so we hope our list rightfully shines a light on not only the established artists of our music scene, but the unsung heroes as well!

The only rule we've enforced this year is that no band or artist could feature more than once; and while we would never claim this list to be anything more than opinion, we hope you find a new artist to love and follow into the new year!

& So without further ado, we begin with...

20. Fox Colony ~ 'Headphones'
For fans of ~ The Front Bottoms. Joshua Burnside, Billy Bragg

For newly formed trio 'Fox Colony' life has proven pretty smooth so far. The brainchild of poet-come-frontman Darren Hill, this hidden gem came courtesy of the songwriter's 'Hand of a Wolf' EP, a record evoking the cut-throat clever lyricism of The Front Bottom's Brian Sella, mixed with the intoxicating instrumentation of Joshua Burnside. A definite candidate for my favorite lyrics of the year, ("what about America? Thought that you were gonna move, I thought you hated it here? But you just get high in your boyfriend's bedroom") Fox Colony look set to be everyone's favorite folk-punks next door in 2016.

19. Young G ~ 'Say Something Flow'
For fans of ~ Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar

It's been a great year for twenty year old Gershom Kaoma. Having finally put the finishing touches on his debut mixtape 'Method to the Madness', the Belfast rapper staked his claim to the city's rap crown with a blistering performance at the launch of this year's 'Volume Control Records' album party. This remix showcases Kaoma's command of the microphone beautifully, as he allows his natural wit to flow like there's no tomorrow.

18. Charlie Loane ~ 'Inside Out'
For fans of ~ The Emotions, Otis Redding, Amy Winehouse
Facebook ~ n/a

Though we're more accustomed to witnessing Charlie Loane singing over screaming punk guitars in his native Serotonin, this change of pace from the lyricist offered a stripped back insight into just how good a singer he really is. Channeling the classic soul of Otis Redding or The Emotions, this chilled effort proved one of the year's most welcomed surprises.

17. Dillon Templeton ~ 'Happie.'
For fans of ~ Brand New, The 1975, The Cure

This rain-splashed track from the Little Arcadia guitarist has proved one of the most instantly heartbreaking of the year. Dripping in emotion, Templeton's simple prose leaves a lasting impression from the very first listen. A very special song.

16. Sister Ghost ~ 'Growing Pains'
For fans of ~ Hole, Bitch Falcon, Sonic Youth

Championed by RTE, Across The Line and many others, Sister Ghost has proved one of this year's biggest success stories. This pile-driving 90's tinged punk anthem evokes strong Sonic Youth vibes, complete with haunting breakdown...

15. Echo Raptors ~ 'Believe In Love'
For fans of ~ Cast, Oasis, The Verve

A step away from their usual pile-driving style, this beautiful ballad from Belfast's Echo Raptor's showed off the emotional side songs like 'Change My Way' only alluded to. Complete with piano and a wonderful performance from Vince Caddell on lead guitar, 'Believe In Love' is easily up there with the bands best work to date.

14. Stonemasons ~ 'How To Fix Everything' 
For fans of ~ Radiohead, ASIWYFA, Rise Against

Cocooned within a sea of distortion, Belfast's Stonemasons have written possibly the most uplifting song of the year. This closing track to their 'Lost Layers' EP starts pretty heavy, with driving bass and thunderous drumming; before building to a crescendo of the highest order. It's a sonic journey ~ you have to go there to get back, and then go again. With the dust onbly now beginning to settle on this year's memorable Russian tour, we're sure they'll have a few more stories to tell in 2016...

13. SALAD BOYZ ~ Dreams
For fans of ~ The Presidents of the United States Of America, FIDLAR, Weezer

Making it to the final of The Pavilion's famous Battle of the Bands after only months together should tell you all you need to know about Belfast's newest grunge-punks SALAD BOYZ ~ and yet it totally doesn't. Fronted by the ever charismatic Tommy Haghighi, these boyz' mix of sweet, tuneful melodies and heavy guitars mark them out as one of Belfast's most exciting and original new bands. This particular song, though not yet released, is their best to date. All hail the Sal-lord, SALAD BOYZ are here for the duration.

12. Pleasure Beach ~ 'Dreamer To The Dawn'
For fans of ~ Arcade Fire, CHVRCHES, M83

Born out of the ashes of Yes Cadets, Pleasure Beach's rise from the rehearsal room to this islands biggest stages has been swift and deserving. Encompassing all the best qualities of the 1980's with a contemporary twist, Pleasure Beach have the style and sound to make 2016 their own ~ with this, the title track from their debut EP, their signature tune.

11. Shadow Police ~ 'Sleep Tonight'
For fans of ~ New Order, Kavinsky

This gorgeous track from the Belfast synth-pop duo has paved the way for their great beginnings this year. Following successful slots at both Barn Fest and the VC Records album launch, Shadow Police's fan base i now shared between the capital and the North Coast ~ expect them to build on that in 2016.

Part two coming soon!  

Taylor Johnson

news ~ a northern light announce christmas show

by 06:35

Following on from the awesome news that their debut album 'Kingdoms' has finally been recorded, Belfast's A Northern Light have announced a huge Christmas gig next Thursday in White's Tavern, Belfast.

Having been out of action for much of the year recording their debut, the chances to see A Northern Light have been few and far between, making this gig an unmissable event. Support on the night comes from the mammoth noise of R51 and the delicate laments of singer-songwriter Kris Marsden.

To top things off, the band must surly be in the running for gig poster of the year with this effort...!

[Doors 9pm / Admission £5.]
Taylor Johnson

volume control records album launch party ~ a summary

by 05:21

It was a night steeped in expectation, excitement and fresh hope last Friday night in Belfast's Oh Yeah Music Centre, as we helped to celebrate the official launch of Volume Control Records!

On the night a selection of acts from the label's first ever compilation album (available to buy from the Oh Yeah Centre) played to a large crowd not put off by the eclectic mix of genres on show; on the contrary, the melting pot of sounds on offer acted as the catalyst for one of the most openly celebratory gigs of the year.

Opening proceedings came the effortless cool of synth-pop duo Shadow Police. After a brief break from the touring circuit the two-piece's return to the stage proved a welcome one, with an arsenal of new material at their disposal. Opening with a catchy new instrumental piece, the band's set flowed between their New Order inspired roots, to 'New Gold Dream' era Simple Minds. With a sound so clearly inspired by that golden era of UK pop music, lesser band's may be forgiven for creating a homage, rather than a stand alone back-catalog of their own. For Shadow Police, that will never be a concern, as between frontman Matty Duly's distinctive, alluring vocals and guitarist Daniel Thorton's creative soundscapes, this band will continue to push boundaries.

For former 'Project Sound' frontman Gershom Kaoma, tonight's gig held a special significance. Not only was this his first gig in Belfast, but it was also his debut under new alias 'Young G' as he performed tracks from his upcoming mix tape 'Method To The Madness'. Diving headfirst into an exhilarating set, Young G's fast paced flow and punchy lyricism at times echoed controversial rap-heavyweight Kanye West, at others, the more reserved witticism's of The Streets Mike Skinner. Joined on the night by Volume Control Record's own Andy Black on the decks, it was a grand entrance for the man heavily tipped to shake up the Northern Irish hip-hop scene. Highlight of the set was undoubtedly new single 'It's On Now', (which includes the genius line 'never hold my head in shame, lyrics, bullets Kurt Cobain') met with a rapturous reception by the crowd.

From one Belfast debut, to a grand Belfast return, as local lads The Remedy took to the stage. Another swift departure from the previous act stylistically, but never in danger of letting the high standards of the night drop. This was a performance of real intent from a four-piece missing their heart-beat, as drummer Chris Hanna was forced to watch from the crowd after sustaining an injury in the build up to the gig.

 Opening with a brand new tune after any hiatus can be a risky move, but in future single 'Live For Today' The Remedy have a special song indeed. In a set overflowing with melody, orchestral interludes and rich vocals all around, The Remedy showed that their long-awaited debut EP (due for release next year) will be one certainly worth waiting for. Dipping momentarily back into their history for the pile-driving 'I Am The One', the band then finished on their debut single 'Different Class', which continues to remain a firm highlight.

"We're Little Arcadia and we're from the North Coast!"

For a band as young as Little Arcadia, pulling the crowd they did into The Oh Yeah Centre on it's own must be considered a significant achievement. Already established in their native Coleraine as one of the most exhilarating live bands in the country, this was only their second ever gig in the capital; and as introductions go, few can be as exciting as this. Playing a set molded from their five year-long history, songs like 'FUQ' and 'Fox Polar' showcased their heavier edges, grabbing more than one comparison to a young More Than Conquerors. On the other end of the spectrum, tracks like the dance-evoking 'Monday' brought back memories of General Fiasco at their peak. Culminating in the rowsing 'Anywhere Else' (a sing-along favorite) it wont be too long before Belfast comes calling for Little Arcadia once more.

Wearing their trademark 'Homemade Salad' tee-shirts, Belfast's SALAD BOYZ blitzed their way through a tight, punk driven set at the top of our album launch bill. The 'Guinness Battle of the Bands' finalists high energy and melodic-alternative rock had the crowd bouncing, whilst songs like the stunningly beautiful 'Dreams' showed their more emotional side. The huge cheer which accompanied frontman Tommy Haghighi's introduction for 'T-4-2' ("This song is on the album, people seem to like it") showed just how much this young band have been embraced by the city. Finishing on a request for old favorite 'Balls', it was a poignant and appropriate ending to the birth of a record label determined to give something back to Belfast.

It's something we at Encore NI are very grateful to be a part of.

Taylor Johnson 

Find all the bands featured on the album below!

Little Arcadia 
The Remedy
Young G
Jealous of the Birds
Maeve McPherson
Shadow Police
The Bayonettes
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