single review ~ 'keep your head up' ~ rachael boyd

by 06:00

For fans of: Sufjan Stevens, Sigur Ros, Radiohead
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Rachael Boyd is a genius.

Sometimes there is no other word for it. Having made her name playing alongside the likes of Joshua Burnside, Rews guitarist Shauna Tohill and more recently the runaway success story that is Ciaran Lavery, the young multi-instrumentalist boasts an impressive CV. With a sound as eclectic and difficult to pin down as her's, it's no surprise that the music has (so far) been better recieved in random pockets of appreciation all across the world than in Britain or Ireland. Take the incredible 'Back In Your Box', a lowkey release from early 2013 that has gathered over 26,000 hits despite virtually no plugging from the virtuoso violinist. There's comments in Italian, Chinese, Russian and even without Google translate, the '<3's give away that Boyd's compositions translate across the water.

 'Keep Your Head Up' follows a similarly rich formula, encompassing lush string arrangements with lofi hip-hop beats, creating another universal piano ballad.

Whilst it is unlikely we'll ever see kids blasting 'Keep Your Head' from their I-phone speakers at a bus stop, you may well  hear it paint the sonic background to a Cannes Film festival prize winning piece.

Taylor Johnson

ep review ~ 'coping mechanism' ~ steady decline

by 06:35

For fans of: Neck Deep, The Wonder Years, State Champs

Rarely will a brand new band emerge onto any scene as fully formed as Steady Decline.

Formed at the tail end of 2016 by four friends with a pop-punk shaped hole in their hearts,  the Dublin band announced themselves to the world with a cool name, logo, merch, a seven track EP/Mini album and an Irish tour literally within their first week of existance; with such rapid fire enthusiasm, could their music live up to the hype? Taylor Johnson listened to find out exactly that...

For all the exquisite attention to detail surrounding Steady Decline's start to life, 'Coping Mechanism' embodies everything they're about far more than any finely tuned music video ever could. Opening with the appropriatly named instrumental 'New Beginnings', this record is designed to feel like a gig, with everything from the tension building intro, to 'Battlescars' anthemic finale being taken into consideration.

Singles 'Front Porch' and 'Stay The Same' have an irrepressible swell, punchy verses each time leading to choruses which seem to get bigger with each passing guitar solo. Dual vocalists Oscar Hackett (Homecomings) and Jack Wright (Dream State) have an A Plastic Rose appeal, as both frontmen carry the same heavy weights in their head, the same longing. Together they work brilliantly, the effect instant.

The full throttle pulse of the title track keeps emotions running high, as Wright concludes that if he wants to drink the night away, he will. ("Fuck what your friends all say, this is my coping mechanism!"). Sounding straight out of Neck Deeps 'Life's Not Out To Get You', 'Start Over' see's more love laid to waste, more chances lost as Wright admits, "I wrote you once a week, but I could never send it..." and an outro reminiscent of his acoustic beginnings in much loved Galwegian band Dream State.

'Erase Me'  is the emotional pinacle of a record surrounded by pain. A change of pace from what we've heard so far.  It's a giant singalong waiting to happen, as Wright once again bares his soul for all to hear. It leads quite delicately to 'Battlescars', a tune that teases the smallest bit of light to shine on 'Coping Mechanism's dark shadows, before stripping it away. Brooding and heavier than the rest of the record, 'Battlescars' is Steady Decline's mission statement.

Whatever is thrown at them on this journey they are about to embark on, whatever they must deal with, Steady Decline will not stop moving forward...and they'll have the scars to prove it.

Taylor Johnson

ep review - tyrannosaurus wrex - 'fromthecarpet'

by 07:21

For fans of: Damien Rice, Joe Purdy, The Tallest Man On Earth

The ambient sadness of 'Fromthecarpet', the debut release from Tyrannosaurus Wrex, resonates long after the final chord has rung out on this quietly brilliant collection of demos.

The side project of Brand New Friend and Sea Above's Aaron Milligan, Tyrannosaurus Wrex's introduction to the world was made as subtly as the music itself; no fuss, no grandeur, just delicate songs with nods to The Tallest Man On Earth, Jose Gonzalez and Glen Hansard throughout.

Take the hypnotic waltz of opener 'Greens For Blues', a heartrending lofi trek through the deepest trenches of the human psyche, as we witness it's author battling his own brain. Beautifully, Milligan balances the desolate with hope, leaving just enough light in to break the darkness.

"After all I'm still me, still the same person I've always been, still the same blood running through my veins, the same heart and the same old pain"

'Phone Call' at times feels so personal, it seems an intrusion to listen on. We hear more haunting guitar work, layered over an acoustic lead and Milligan's hushed, entrancing vocals. We hear more solace in others, as he sings "Please keep answering my calls, I just wanna know you're there, don't have to say anything at all...". 

Closing the EP is 'Different', a song more in the vein of his alt-rock roots in Sea Above. Yet more complex guitar work is given room to grow in what is undoubtedly the most anthemic track on 'Fromthecarpet', yet that doesn't make it any less personal than the EP title suggests. We hear reflections on a battle won, but a war years from conclusion.

"Doing well, coping, sleep tonight, here's hoping..."

For an unofficial, bedroom demo, 'Fromthecarpet' hits incredibly close to home. 

Taylor Johnson

ep review ~ silly guys having a fun time ~ salad boyz

by 05:02

For fans of: Weezer, Pixies, Blur

By their very nature, Belfast's favourite vegetable-cult band don't take themselves too seriously. Born over a shared love of snacks and good times, SALAD BOYZ are a rare breed in a musical landscape littered with trend and self-importance; 'Silly Guys Having A Fun Time' sounds like a peaceful rebellion against that mentality, with some real bangers hiding amidst the party-themed chaos.

Take opener 'Crocodile' for example, a soul searching bop that see's frontman Tommy Haghighi take a look back at all the friends he's lost to time, life and geography. This is followed by 'Gotit', a funky jam in the vein of blur-meets Lou Reed. We see more self-deprecation, spun with just enough light to retain the 'fun time!' in the EP's title.

"I'm a joke, I'm a mess, I'm a bum, but I'm having fun" 

Careful not to bare too much of their soul three tracks in, the boyz take the opportunity to remind you that you have chosen to listen to a punk band named SALAD BOYZ. As a result, you are rewarded with 'Kickz', a hilarious rally through Haghighi's brain as he quite sweetly reminds the listener that he is in this for the "sweet dank beats and the super tasty licks'. Oh, the same also applies to the stock market, karate and rather beautifully, your own mother.

'Big Things' returns 'Silly Guys...' to a pleateau of something slightly more serious. The guitar work from Simon Gilbert on this record shines in it's subtlety, none more so than the intro here. Eventually descending into a mass of screamed vocals and inevitably, pirate metal.Which makes the finale all the more special.
When SALAD BOYZ have something real to say, they express it with more honesty and eloquence than they may realise. Closing number 'Over' is an anthem deserving of singalongs and tender moments. Of heartbreak-playlists and blossoming romance. Of failure and victory and just for the kicks. Like 'Crocodile' and 'T-42' before it, it highlights SALAD BOYZ ability to write a roof-raising chorus. The licks remain tasty, particularly in Gilbert's guitar solo leading to the last refrain.

"And I'd try to explain
But you wouldn't believe me
The words would be wrong
And they wouldn't come easy
You'd say we're alright
But it's obvious to see
It's over, it's over, it's over, it's over..." 

With songs as heartfelt as 'Over' in their locker, it's unclear whether SALAD BOYZ will ever want to stop being silly and having fun.  

I hope they don't.

Taylor Johnson

ep review ~ the couth ~ 'burnout'

by 12:05

For fans of: Royal Blood, Twin Atlantic, Circa Waves

It's been a while since Lisburn's premier garage-rock band The Couth last unleashed a wave of their chaotic, ramshackle pop, but after a hiatus spent crafting new songs and a new sound, they're back this Summer with their latest EP, 'BURNOUT'.

Everything from frontman David McCrum's passionate delivery, to bassist and brother Matthew's Mac De Marco-esque lackadaisical charm marked The Couth out early on as one of the countries most exciting indie-secrets. Buoyed by the euphoric sound of runaway single 'Cycles', they followed it up with 'Casual Sex At The Omniplex', which offered more slices of highly addictive surf-pop, perfectly capturing a heatwave summer on record.

Fast forward a year and they've ripped up the rule book, the heart pounding 'Bloodbreaker' EP and it's follow up 'Friday Night Fever' showing a new harder-edged side to the band...and it's here we reacquaint ourselves with the quartet, no longer the new kids on the block, but one of the most established bands in the scene.

Opening with the heart pounding 'Coming After' shows the direction of this record straight away. A Clash-esque bass line kicks to life a punk song littered with screeching guitars and an aggressive streak we've not seen before. We're also treated to a Royal Blood inspired breakdown and, as it's a Couth record, a chorus designed to be blasted at full volume, getting more and more anthemic with each listen.

New single 'Fire' races out of the traps with a Black Keys swagger, frontman Dave McCrum's lackadaisical vocal dancing over thunderous drum and bass. It all makes way for another huge chorus, which see's bassist and younger brother Matt McCrum joining in for a venomous, bombastic finish. What 'Fire' really does though, is act is show The Couth are a band always willing to adapt, constantly evolving; and whilst it would be easy to churn out a 'Casual Sex At The Omniplex Part ii', Dave McCrum's conviction to write exactly how he's feeling remains integral to the band's appeal.

A perfect example is epic closer 'My Head's Wrecked', a two finger salute to the pressures of the modern age, soundtracked by more rattling guitars and tribal drumming from Kyle Irwin. It's unexplored territory for The Couth, as Dave McCrum bares his soul for all to see.

"You know I used to be so carefree, but now everything gets on top of me, don't bother me today..."

You can tell from the first listen it's a massive live tune, catchy verses and a runaway chorus, but it's heavier than we've heard before. It's FIDLAR meets 'First Impressions of Earth' era Strokes, gripping and fragile, as if this momentous noise could, in the best possible way, cave in on itself at any second.

Wrecked though their heads may be, The Couth have proven once again that they are at the forefront of the indie scene in Northern Ireland with this record.

'Burn Out' may just catch fire.

Taylor Johnson
Watch the official video for first single 'Fire' below:

track of the week ~ salad boyz ~ 'crocodile'

by 05:52

For fans of: Weezer, Martha

Step for a moment into the world of SALAD BOYZ, four best friends making vegetable-flavoured rock and roll with their tongues placed firmly in cheek. Their latest EP is titled 'Silly Guys Having A Fun Time' and that's exactly what they sound like on 'CROCODILE' a track of such pure at heart charm, it could be easy to overlook the gentle sadness percolating through.

From day one, SALAD BOYZ have represented all that is good about making music for the love of it. In many ways, they are the human embodiment of a 'Wholesome Meme', never seen without their matching vegetable tee's, beaming smiles and banter-a-plenty. This is a band who don't care how they may be perceived, as long as the music's good, and on 'CROCODILE' they sound more developed than ever.

Frontman Tommy Haghighi paints a painful picture, longing for a past he's not sure even exists anymore as he laments; "I'm fine on my own, no one's fine on their own...". Guitarist Simon Gilbert's lead guitar sits beautifully above the noise, further compounding the major key melancholy SALAD BOYZ have made their trademark through songs like 'T-4-2' and the eagerly anticipated 'OVER',  that's been doing the rounds on various setlists for months now.

The intrigue surrounding SALAD BOYZ, their unique merch and links to the SALORD* aside, this is a band with a heart and soul. Just four friends making music, great music at that.

Taylor Johnson

*check out the band's Facebook page for more on that.

album review ~ our krypton son ~ 'fleas & diamonds'

by 10:35

Our Krypton Son
For Fans Of: Andy Schauf, The Divine Comedy, Leonard Cohen

Derry singer-songwriter Chris McConaghy, Our Krypton Son's debut record sparked a tidal wave of acclaim too substantial to be ignored. Whilst Electric Mainline presenter Stephen McCauley claimed him to be "one of the best songwriters in the country",  cultural magazine/website The Thin Air went one further, calling the eponymous record "unparalleled in this country at present". Sophomoric effort 'Fleas and Diamonds' takes all the gentle genius of that first effort, whilst upping the dosage of love and loss just enough to break your heart even more than the first time around.

Haunting opener 'Winter Taunts Spring' eases to life a record that sits beautifully between Buckley and Cohen. Other highlights include the Divine Comedy inspired 'Alexandria' and the brilliantly titled 'Falling In Love Is A Suicide Mission'.  

Oddly, Our Krypton Son's delicate take on the Weezer classic 'Buddy Holly', which could so easily have gone wrong, lives almost as long in the memory as his originals; the touching re-arrangement sounding like a future wedding classic from the first listen.

On a record swimming in carefully constructed layers, Our Krypton Son has manages to maintain an endearing simplicity throughout 'Fleas & Diamonds'. The reference points feel warm, comforting even, as McConaghy's original voice is never buried by his influences, only enhanced by them, making for an all around gem of a record.

Taylor Johnson

spotlight/track review ~ 'flawed' (live from the bbc) ~ foreign owl

by 09:49

Foreign Owl
For Fans Of: Royal Blood, Pixies, Axis Of

It's probably fair to say the tiny village of Burt, in County Donegal, isn't known for it's pioneering alt-rock. It may also be fair to say the tiny village of Burt, in County Donegal, isn't really known for anything at all; yet it is here we find 'Foreign Owl', a brand new three piece hoping to change that perception of their home village as quickly as possible.

Despite being a new outfit to the local scene, Foreign Owl were almost immediately picked up by BBC Radio Foyle, where Stephen McCauley was quick to praise their innovative song structures and originality.

Explosions of noise burst amidst the delicate melodies found in their verses, this contrast proving pivotal to the Foreign Owl sound. The featured track from their BBC electric session, 'Flawed'dances between heavy riffs and quiet contemplation, the musicianship at their core watertight as ever.

If they can maintain the ferocity of their live performances on future releases, Foreign Owl may give the people of Burt something to be proud of very soon indeed...

Taylor Johnson

To watch their live session with BBC Radio Foyle click here.

track of the week ~ 'signifigance' ~ the winter passing

by 05:25

The Winter Passing
For fans of: Yuck, Candy Hearts, Cloud Nothings

As one of Ireland's most exciting bands, Tipperary natives The Winter Passing have had a significant weight of expectation thrusted on their young shoulders in recent times; and whilst for some this expectation can turn into pressure, The Winter Passing use it as rocket fuel on 'Significance', their latest single and possibly best release to date.

A DIY band at heart, they've built a loyal following through tours with the likes of Modern Baseball, The Front Bottoms and Moose Blood, achieving plaudits wherever they've been. Explosive live shows, palpable energy and radiant enthusiasm prove integral to The Winter Passing experience, a difficult thing to capture on record. On this occasion they manage to do so effortlessly, as brother and sister vocalists Rob and Katie Flynn sound happier than ever before, even if their lyrics tell a different story.

'Significance', their first release since debut LP 'A Different Space Of Mind', is proof this is a band evolving at their own pace and on their own terms, as shimmering guitars merge beautifully with a driving bass line. Lyrically we see shades of self doubt dipped in colour as Rob sings "Sunshine follows my lonely mind, hold your hand til you let go...". 

We also hear one of the most uplifting chorus' of the year so far, as Katie Flynn's resplendent vocals explode alongside the noise beneath them. We hear clever dynamics at play too, making you wait for the final burst before fading to black.

"Stay with me! I'll try to be all you need"

A fresh and exciting step on from their first record, 'Significance' somehow manages to feel nostalgic too, as if the soundtrack to a happy time you've never had (or haven't had yet).

As an introduction to new EP 'Double Exposure' (released 21st April), this is a near perfect first impression.

Taylor Johnson
Pre order 'Double Exposure' here.

album review ~ 'cicatrix' ~ over the hill collective

by 04:20

Various Artists / Over The Hill Collective
For fans of: The Travelling Wilburys, Kate Bush, Tom Petty

Based in the Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast, the 'Over The Hill Collective' are a band of older musicians collaborating and writing original music purely for the love of it.

The brain child of Oh Yeah's outreach development officer and lead guitarist Paul Kane, the concept grew out of a desire to get older musicians involved in music in a safe, exciting and productive environment. Together they write and record original albums entirely from scratch, with each member contributing a track.

As wonderful a concept as that is, the reality of taking a group of musicians, who haven't been playing together for very long, and expecting them to gel on a record together, is always going to be a tall order. Thankfully 'Cicatrix' proves to be a boisterous, spirit raising throwdown with enough heart to keep you listening straight through to the end...

What makes 'Cicatrix' such a joy to listen to is it's utter spontaneity. Any preconceptions you may have about an album written by a group called 'The Over The Hill Collective' is thrown out the window completely by Bernard Jackson's foot to the floor opener 'Next Time'; An upbeat strummer that could sit as comfortably on an Elvis Costello record as it could on (wait for it) the latest Weezer album, as is Rivers Cuomo's love of The Beach Boys and classic pop melodies.

Other highlights include the hauntingly beautiful ragtime of Liz Kelly's 'Jump In', which warns of the choppy waters of a failed relationship. All the while Kelly's theatrical charm remains reminiscent of American pop songstress Regina Spektor, a fifties swinging beat gently tiding the track to it's conclusion.

Paul Kane's own contribution 'Wash My Hands' provides a folk-driven stomp to proceedings, complete with the most catchy chorus about someone coping with OCD as your likely to hear this year. Elsewhere Rab Wishart's country-tinged ode to missing home could be straight out of a Disney film, whilst Neil Lavery and Danielle Ireland's 'If I Could' brings a floating Pink Floyd-effect to an album brimming with influences from across the decades, and most genres.

'Ultimatly 'Cicatrix' is a record of such unbridled, eclectic, joy that it's near impossible not to take something away from it. It serves as an example too, that it's never to late to go after your dreams, as summed up perfectly by twenty one pilots frontman Tyler Joseph during his Grammys acceptance speech recently;

"Anyone, from anywhere, can do anything"

Taylor Johnson

For more information on Over The Hill & how you can get involved, click here.

Listen to 'Cicatrix' on Spotify here: //

women's work photocall

by 05:06

The Oh Yeah Music Centre's fantastic Women's Work project is coordinating a fun, exciting and ambitious photo call on Saturday 11th March!

They are inviting as many women involved in music and other creative projects as possible to be in a photo which will then go on to feature in an upcoming festival booklet, to be launched at the end of March (date tbc). Dates and content for Women's Work will all be revealed at the launch.

The final photo will also be added to the walls of the Oh Yeah Music Exhibition. 

Want to get involved? Simply turn up at the Oh Yeah Music Centre with a piece of paper stating your name, job title and/or involvement with music; this is in order to ensure you get a mention in the booklet. 

Don't miss out!

Date: Saturday 11th March
Time: 3pm-4pm

Location: Oh Yeah. 

Taylor Johnson

track of the week ~ 'alright' ~ life goals

by 04:15

Name: Life Goals
For fans of: PUP,  Joyce Manor, The Menzingers

Belfast three piece Life Goals have returned to the studio in fine form, unleashing new single 'Alright' into the world just before their latest tour announcement.

A hook-laden suck punch of a track, lyrically we hear frontman Decky McBride wrestling with the truth, and what he wants to be the truth."He could be corrupted, but he could be convinced...that everything's alright", as Life Goals third person storytelling is allowed the space to make it's deserved impact.

Driven by a no-nonsense bass line and an instantly chantable chorus, 'Alright' dances between remorse and panache the way all great pop-punk songs do, showing a slightly more vulnerable side to the band that thundered out of the blocks with 'Wreck Less Nature' last summer.

In all, it's a welcome return to a band rightfully earning their reputation as one of the countries best pop-punk bands.

The official single release gig will take place in Voodoo, Belfast on the 25th February.

Taylor Johnson
Catch Life Goals live here:

30/03 Galway, Roisin Dubh with Anna's Anchor
31/03 Dublin, Fibber Magees with Anna's Anchor
01/04 Belfast, The Barge with Empty Lungs and Anna's Anchor07/04 Limerick, The Loft with Empty Lungs and Anna's Anchor

spotlight ~ paper/boy ~ 'guerilla therapy'

by 06:28

Name: Paper/Boy
For fans of: Robocobra Quartet, Cloud Nothings, The Libertines

When I think back to being fifteen/sixteen few things of any significance come to mind.

Football until dark, my first solo trips to Belfast to meet friends, perhaps? The most creative plans I had were to avoid doing homework! Yet hidden somewhere in the tranquil hills of Donegal is 'Paper/Boy', a ferociously ambitious two-piece of that age, creating exciting, fuzzed-up punk with a message.

Unlike punk two-pieces who have came before, (Slaves, Drenge, Royal Blood etc.) Paper/Boy have no clear frontman/drummer dynamic. Instead beat maker Lochláinn Kelly and guitarist Joshua McNutt share both the stage and vocal duties in perfect harmony, the Donegal duo's equal enthusiasm breathing life into songs that seem both lyrically and musically mature beyond their young years.

Having caught them at a recent gig up North, the bands confidence was clear from the first fuzzed chords of Talking Heads' classic, 'Psycho Killer', before a barrage of original material already well developed.

Amongst those original tracks 'Guerilla Therapy's gently swinging verses and Libertines-y chorus stood out a mile. The dry wit of the lyric shows tremendous promise too, songwriter Lochláinn Kelly's emo-tinged knack for a one-liner evoking the same sort of maudlin prose Dylan Baldi made his own on Cloud Nothing's debut 'Turning Off'.

"I don't believe in god, I'm my only saviour...she's trying to climb inside of me"

Indeed the similarities between the two projects seem intertwined at times, both have a passion for the rougher edges of indie, whilst holding on to the pop melodies of the bands which inspired them. In Paper/Boy's case, this is the likes of Bell X1, Radiohead and most devotedly, Car Seat Headrest, the emotional boundaries of Kelly's prose becoming all the more obvious with each reference point.

Provided they continue to channel their inner-punks in the polite, articulate manner they have so far, anything could happen to Paper/Boy. Their bare wit captured the crowd at their most recent gig, whilst the energy kept them there.

Though few musicians manage to hang on to the same band they were in since the age of fifteen, Paper/Boy have something undeniably exciting. You can be sure these two young punks will be dishing out tinnitus for years to come.

Taylor Johnson

track of the week ~ 'tony hawks' ~ guilt trips

by 10:09

"Whenever I see those skateboard kids I know those kids will be alright"

Our track of the week this week comes from the woozy, electronic soundscapes of Guilt Trips, the latest project from Junk Drawer/Sister Ghost/Radio Weirdo's Brian Coney.

Narrated by Jerry Seinfield, Guilt Trips hip-hop influenced sound carries all the confidence of a Tony Hawk kick-flip.

Taylor Johnson

ep review ~ 'are you happy?' ~ m y l k

by 05:20

For fans of: Weezer, Los Campesinos!, The Muffs

M Y L K are the sound of a Summer day slowly fading into the evening. Vibrant and glorious, yet tinged with the sadness of knowing it can't quite last forever.

'Are You Happy?' is a record painting an honest picture of love, self doubt and the reality of life in the 21st Century. Straddling the line between sincerity and irony is a tough game to play, but one M Y L K do brilliantly over the course of four tracks, each with their own story to tell.

It's an emotional bombardment from the very first line, which see's frontman Brendan Seamus channel his inner Frank Skinner, dropping  poignant social commentary all over his band's infectious energy. Whilst opening a record with the line "Wish I didn't miss you anymore"is a refreshingly honest approach on it's own, to do so over the top of punchy-indie guitars and an uptempo drum beat keeps things cheeky, but meaningful, a recurring theme on this full throttle EP.

If 'Sad and Lonely's doomed romance sets a bleak scene, the title track doesn't do much to bring things back from the brink for our plucky protagonist. A banging indie-pop anthem, this time fronted by Empty Lungs guitarist Kevin Jones, 'Are You Happy?'s sweet harmonies and charming riffs disguise the fight 'to get better' that goes on throughout the track, albeit with their tongue placed firmly in cheek.

"Is it gonna get better? It won't get better!"

'At A Loss' follows a similar pattern, in probably the most infectious pop song about alcoholism you'll hear this year. For a finalé, we find 'Slane Girl', a song so desperately needed in today's rapidly regressing society that it's words catch fire from the very first listen. This melancholic tale of a girl humiliated at a music festival packs an emotional punch that the other songs on this record flirt with, without exploring in quite as much detail.

"We bully to deflect our miserable reality, and wish we had the guts to express our sexuality"

So how do we feel after repeated listens to M Y L K? 

...are you happy?

As I'm brought back to that fading Summer day, I have to say yes.

Taylor Johnson

track review ~ 'the shy man spoke' ~ fionn crossan

by 05:01

Artist: Fionn Crossan
For fans of: Ben Howard, Joshua Burnside

To be so young, Mallusk-songwriter Fionn Crossan sings the weathered songs of a life fully lived, with lamenting regret, sorrow and even flashes of hope pouring out of every line.

If it's this maudlin reflection that draws you into Crossan's world, his virtuoso picking-patterns keep you there. Rustic and poignant, without ever threatening to overshadow the song upon which it floats.

'Maybe lost at sea's not the worst place I could be...'

There is an impenetrable yearn in Crossan's voice. A haunting admittance to the end of something great, or the start of something hard. As each broken verse falls into the next, edging ever closer to a heartbreaking close, you're waiting for the floodgates to burst open. They do, around the two and a half minute mark, when Crossan's defiant 'I was shy, but I spoke' leaves you all but broken. Truly hurting for the narrator of a story you may not fully understand, but can't help but feel you do.

Throughout you hear the rhythmic effects of John Martyn, the gentle whisper of Ben Howard's sophomore record 'I Forget Where We Were'Though ultimately Crossan has crafted his own beautiful melancholy, no mean feat in a genre overcrowded so much already. 

Though it may be a bit early to claim 'The Shy Man Spoke' timeless, twenty listens in and we are no closer to listening to anything, or indeed anyone, else. 

Taylor Johnson

track of the week ~ 'time and space' ~ michael bell

by 02:36

Artist: Michael Bell
For fans of: Boards of Canada, Explosions in the Sky

There's a serene nostalgia to ambiant producer Michael Bell's music that feels as comforting as it is untracable. If Brian Eno's 'An Ending' conjures a tranquil image of the end of the world, then Bell's paints a similarly relaxing feel to universe which surrounds it.

The guitars here play the role of strings, quietly ebbing and flowing at peace with the rest of the music, never fighting for dominance. Meditative and self assured, you get the feeling that 'Time and Space' is simply the first step on a long musical journey for Michael Bell, who could follow in the footsteps of Oaks and Ryan Vail before too long.

Taylor Johnson

ep review ~ 'seagreen' ~ natures

by 07:12

Be it deliberate or not, Monaghan born, Dublin based, songwriter Dáithí Murphy's move from the hardcore end of the musical spectrum, to the acoustic has proved an inspired decision. 

As the live-wire frontman of heavy-af-rock band 'Attack the Day', Murphy's aggressive vocals and bold performances marked both him and his band as eventual successors to the likes of Axis Of on the Irish punk scene, making the emergence of 'natures', his acoustic side project, extremely unlikely. Yet a nine months on from his first Soundcloud demo there comes 'Seagreen', natures debut DIY EP. 

Four songs drenched in heart, Murphy leaves no stone unturned in his quest to bleed out every emotion he has onto his lyrics sheet. From "thinking about the way you give me hope" in the charming indie-pop stylings of 'Going to Yours', to pondering the size of his own funeral on the excellent 'April 15th', each track tells a story, each story uniquely engaging. 

There's also been massive strides forward for natures as an artist; the simplified, lofi aspect of the songs suits his vocal, the song structures are more playful, the melodies more memorable. It feels and sounds like a friend playing guitar in your living room beside you. Even if you're seven cans in and there's nothing left to do but laugh before you both cry. 

It's within that simplicity that 'Seagreen' pulls you into it's world. It's a world of "lighting rollies of toasters and drinking cans in the garden", it's being as scared of the future as you are excited by it. It's about loving and hurting, but loving again because in the end it's all gonna be worth it. 

Seagreen is a record of hope. For every sad lyric, and there are plenty, there's another telling you to keep your head up.

That might be exactly what the world needs right now. 

Taylor Johnson

For fans of: The Front Bottoms, Human Kitten, Cloud Nothings

top songs of 2016 ~ #10 ~ #1

by 06:24
Part two of our comprehensive round up of the best tunes to emerge from these shores in 2016.

If 2015 kickstarted the emo-revival, this past year cemented it, as throughout the uncertainty people seemed to bind together more than ever before. The #IAMWHOLE campaign saw thousands of people unite to combat mental health stigma, football's 'Rainbow Laces' campaign emerged to show the sports support of homosexual players and last years World Mental Health Day (October 10th) gathered more support on social media than ever before.

It was the year Twenty One Pilots frontman Tyler Joseph's open-book lyricism saw his band conquer the planet, Modern Baseball's 'Tripping in the Dark' documentary gave an insight into the stress and damage constant touring can have on bands and closer to home we all felt the loss of Rainy Boy Sleep, honored countlessly and rightfully by everyone who knew him and loved his music.

With this in mind, perhaps that will be 2016's lasting legacy. A reminder that no matter how bad things get, you're never alone. Hopefully next year can build on this hope and we'll be dancing to some new tunes as good as these songs come December 2017.

Here's hoping...

Taylor Johnson

#10. Silences ~ 'Carve Me Open'

 Included in Spotify's 'Best of Folk' playlist recently, Silences have had another momentous year that culminated in the release of 'Luna', their latest stunning EP. At the EP's launch in Bar Sub, this was the tender highlight, as frontman Conchúr White pulled off the mic to serenade the crowd in alost perfect, well, silence. An utterly brilliant track.

Spotify version here

#9. January ~ 'Constantly Hungover'

"You're constantly hungover, we don't talk when you're sober..."

Back in March, Belfast's coolest sadboiz truly arrived on the local scene with 'Constantly Hungover', a nostalgic hurricane of a track bursting with ambition, melencholy and an absolutely epic chorus. Months on from that release they've not only established themselves south of the border, but also recorded 'SWELL' a follow up EP in the same vein as its predecessor, but turned up to eleven. We can't wait...

#8. Robocobra Quartet ~ 'Correct'

If in 50 years it emerged that Robocobra Quartet were the true genius behind Bowie's final studio album 'Blackstar', there would be very few questions asked. Somehow Chris Ryan's outrageous jazz-punk project manage to make the most truly idiosyncratic noise accessable, in a way that can't help but make you feel cooler for listening to it. Correct? Correct.

#7. The Late Twos ~ 'Vanishing Fire'

Rarely does a band do pure unadulterated joy better than The Late Twos. This title track from their latest EP is as close to summer time happiness as you can get without being literally on a beach with your best mates. That said, it's more than just a catchy chorus and explosive drumming; the outro from lead guitarist Ryan Bennett is one of the most moving this band have ever produced. It's more refined, clever and uplifting than ever before.

Listen on Spotify here

#6. Little Arcadia ~ 'Lights'

Since forming in school back in 2012, Little Arcadia have carved out a name for themselves as one of the North Coast's hidden gems. An abundance of energy, an explosive live sound and tunes that stick in your head for days, for years now they've been considered northern headliners and rightfully so. Their latest single 'Lights' finally got them some exposure in the capital this year, with airplay on Radio Ulster and praise from all who've heard it so far. The goal next year? To expand that fan base further and show the rest of the country what they've been missing.

#5. Girlfriend ~ 'don't come to my funeral'  

"i bury all these things so deep it's hard to tell
if buried truths are treasures of just more burden"

We could have picked any track from '3am Rituals', the debut EP from Dublin's most exciting new band 'Girlfriend', to make up this list; in the end 'don't come to my funeral's gentle sway, ghost-whisper backing vocals and beautifully lo-fi production just edged it.

It's a record that demands constant re-listens, opening with the explosive 'kill them all (with your feelings)' and culminating with the deeply moving 'the stuff you think about late at night and never tell anyone about'. It feels like an important record, one that will be re-visited time after time, just as it should be.

#4. Junk Drawer ~ 'Quandary'

'To see the world, or stay inside my head?'

 Despite much of Junk Drawer's clever lyrics going over my head entierly, that hasn't stopped them becoming one of my favourite new bands to come out of the country in recent years. Their dreamy, gloom-tinged indie dips and dives on an EP sounding like it was made by a band already six albums and a strained relationship with the alternative music press in to their careers. With a bit of luck, Stevie, Jake, Brian and Rory Dee will be turning Mojo down for interviews sooner, rather than later.

#3. Ciaran Lavery ~ 'Okkervil River'

This stunning track from the NI Music Prize winning album 'Let Bad In' goes some way to explain the mammoth hype surrounding this incredibly talented songwriter. Incorporating an inspired horn section, Lavery once again trancends the singer-songwriter constraints that a solo musician with a guitar can so easily fall into. An ode to the innocence of childhood and how it felt 'to have everything', this may the hidden gem on an album fully deserving of every accolade it picks up.

#2. Jealous of the Birds ~ 'Russian Doll'

Jealous of the Birds has had an incredible year. Shows as far wide as America and London have seen her break through to a worldwide audience, whilst her NI Music Prize nominated debut album has been streamed over half a million times on Spotify. For us it was a toss up between the lo-fi-punk stylings of 'Russian Doll' and the gentle sway of 'Marcus', with 'Russian Doll' just coming out on top. The beauty of Jealous of the Birds, aka Naomi Hamilton, is her utter commitment to making music as pure as herself. The result is a record of splendid variety, dancing between the lines of indie and folk, pop and bohemia. Next year will undoubtedly be another fantasic year for this extremely talented songwriter.

#1. Hot Cops ~ 'Auto'
'no one really knows their kids
nobody kisses their parents anymore
no one really talks to their kids and
nobody talks to their parents anymore'

Written after a disasterous trip to Amsterdam which included a visit to the home of Anne and Otto Frank, 'Auto' may be Hot Cops most mature release to date. Despite still being very much in love with their old records, the anthemic-power displayed on earlier releases like 'Another Teen Age' sound almost juvenile in comparison to 'Auto's swirling guide to the "isosceles rooftops lining the canals". It remains poetic, visceral and a natural progression if ever there was one.

Taylor Johnson

pavilion 'battle of the bands' begins once more...

by 12:19

The Thin Air's annual 'Battle of the Bands' is now taking submissions for their biggest competition to date.

Ran in conjunction with SONI & Magill Promotions, this years top prize ways in at £1000.

To enter your band email '' along with song and social media links.

Previous competitors include Robocobra Quartet, SALAD BOYZ and the sadly now defunct Treehome.

Enter now!

top songs of 2016 - #20 - #11

by 07:15

As we wave goodbye to the madness of 2016 and look toward a future more in doubt than an Oasis reunion, it's good to remind ourselves of some of the quality local music released over the last 12 frantic months.

Here at Encore NI we've arranged these tunes into a top 20 list of our absoloute favourites to come from these shores. We start with...

#20. The Autocratic ~ Revelations

A young four-piece growing in confidence with each release, 'Revelations' has been the most danceable single of theirs to date. Channeling the jangly guitar work of Johnny Marr and a chorus Stereophonics frontman Kelly Jones would be proud of, Belfast looks the most likely destination to find this band next year, having cut their teeth in Portrush's Atlantic Bar for most of this year. With a new line-up, new tunes and a new base in the capital city, this could be a big year for them.

#19 Natures -'Lighting Rollies Off Toasters'

As the energetic frontman of 'Attack of the Day', Dáithí Murphy is more used to watching his crowds injuring themselves in mosh-pits than getting nostalgic to sad acoustic songs about, literally lighting rollies off toasters. Though in the strange year of 2016 anything was truly possible, and in 'Seagreen', his debut solo EP under the name 'Natures', Murphy channeled these emotions into something truly meaningful. Currently making an impression on the Dublin emo-scene, 2017 will see the release of 'Half-Hearted', a follow up single long in the works.

#18 Sea Above - 'Going Away'

 It's been a year of quiet growth for Sea Above, a Belfast three piece with their roots in the US grunge scene of the early 90's. Their latest demo release 'In The Scoop' showed their more delicate side, with this gentle solo effort leaving a lasting impression.

#17. Sleeping Outside ~ 'Inhaler'

"my mind is overflowing
your agenda's really showing
and i can't catch my breath"

Another band breaking out of the North Coast's newly emerging emo-scene is Sleeping Outside, who blew away the crowd at Stendhal Festival with one of the performances of the summer. Despite a set filled with bangers, it was their emotionally charged version of 'Inhaler' that summed up the sound of a very memorable summer. Next year will important for them.

#16. Saint Sapphire ~ 'Supersonic Pulse'

2016 proved a wonderful year for Saint Sapphire and their charismatic frontman Sam GR Morgan. Buoyed by the addition of two new members and a new EP due for release in February, the bands trademark optimism shone through on this Manic Street Preachers inspired single.

#15. Brash Isaac ~ 'Only Ghost'

Former 1930's drummer Andrew Cameron has had quite a remarkable year since exchanging his drumsticks for a microphone. The young songwriter topped off a year of heart-wrenchingly beautiful releases with a slot at the Emerald Armada's Christmas Show, setting up another wonderful year ahead. This string accompanied track is a favourite.

#14. R51 ~ 'Elephant' 

Since this websites creation back in 2013 we've praised the intoxicatingly brilliant R51 more times than we can remember, and having already chosen 'A Perfect Life' as our track of the year through Chordblossom (read our thoughts here) toyed with the idea of leaving them off this list. In the end we couldn't, this track is just too good.

#13. Fox Colony ~ 'Patterns'

Due for release next year in full blown 'banger' form alongside a brand new EP, 'Patterns' is the synth-driven emotional jewel in Fox Colony's ever growing arsenal of tunes. A song about 'Every boy and girl on Tumblr, over-romanticising every situation', we predict there'll be alot of people singing the words back to frontman Darren Hill in 2017. We'll be right at the front with them!

#12. Oh Boland ~ 'Take Me Back To Mutton Island'

As Galway's number one indie-slop-pop-slacker-rock band of the last few years, Oh Boland have carried a city's hopes on their backs for a while now; thankfully debut album 'Spilt Milk' delivered, with this Pavement-y single standing out for that ferocious chorus hook.

#11. Life Goals ~ 'Wreck Less Nature'

"I don't wanna die! But I don't wanna live like this anymore..."

For many Decky McBride's latest project were the sound of the summer, as Life Goals stormed every gig they played in their busy 2016. Their debut split release of 'Wreck Less Nature' and 'Between The Lines' had a distinctly American feel, evoking the likes of PUP and Modern Baseball in the process. It's proved a winning formula so far and in 2017 there's no signs of Life Goals slowing down.

Taylor Johnson
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