Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Sarah Dooley "Stupid Things" - Album Review

Let me just start this review by saying, I really want to hang out with Sarah Dooley. Sarah is a singer-songwriter and pianist based in New York City. Her debut album Stupid Things, gives the impression that she is the most tremendous company!  It is wonderfully enthusiastic and filled with an excited sense of possibility.  

This album is wonderful, simply wonderful. It's quirky and at times just plain odd. Each song is a perfectly crafted little tale, elegantly describing in beautiful ways the simpler things in life...city life, the joys of youth, a rather endearing crush, while at the same time, describing more complex emotions in a simple, accessible and highly relatable manner. I genuinely believe that most people will be able to find some facet of their own awkward experiences buried somewhere in these songs.The lyrics are wonderful. Endearing, earnest, heartfelt, and at times downright hilarious. I could write the whole review on them, but this would do a grave injustice to the quality of the production of the album. The orchestral arrangements, bass and rhythm sections playfully compliment the piano on it's journey to aid Sarah in her story telling.

For fans of Regina Spektor, Lenka and our own Ailie Blunnie, this album is right up your alley. There are moments of The Beatles and moments of Burt Bacharach. There is plenty in here to keep you interested. It's a great album, for a debut it is astonishingly accomplished. It is not perfect, there are times where it lags just a little, but as a whole piece it is rather fantastic. Sarah's energy is infectious. Her delivery is one thing that cannot be questioned. Her vocals are wonderfully emotional and add to the theatrics of the album. There are times when it feels like it was written for stage. Walking around listening to the opening track, Stupid Things, I felt like I should be accompanied by dancers, a marching band and the entire cast of the Muppets and Sesame Street. It's not all chirpy and quirky, there are also some beautiful, more subtle moments like Nine Inch Snow and I Want You To Wonder which sounds like something Sara Bareilles would be proud to claim.

Any album that features the lyric "Goonies is a fantastic movie" gets my vote and comes highly recommended.


More info on the wonderful Miss Dooley at http://sarahdooleymusic.com/
Stupid Things is available now from iTunes

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Moscow Metro - Spirit of a City E.P. Review

Limerick 4 piece,  post-punk shoegazers Moscow Metro are an incredibly hard working band who are just about to drop their new E.P. Spirit of a City. The E.P. was recorded in some of Ireland's top studios and co-produced between the band themselves and Owen Geaney and Rob Kirwin. (Glasvegas, The Horrors)

While at first listen, the E.P. is nothing strikingly new or different, it is a solid collection from a band who are clearly very confident in their sound and wear their influences very much on their sleeves. Their sound is a mix of The Cure, The National, White Lies and My Bloody Valentine. It's a powerful mixture of  dirty guitars, atmospheric effects all mashing into a sort of  echoing mayhem while being held together with the low key, sobriety of the vocals.  It's powerful, it has great dynamics, but it has no major, distinguishing feature.
The highlight of the record is Headlights which starts with a very airy Jesus and Mary Chain style guitar...perhaps this is part of the problem...everything seems a little too relatable to the bands who have come before.

The songs are good, well produced and well performed, but like I said, there is nothing to distinguish them from the plethora of similar bands to have popped up since the revival of the genre. That said, I will have no problem putting the E.P. on in the future. It's dark, moody, frustrated, but there most certainly is something beautiful there. It's definitely worth checking out if you're a fan of this kind of music. One thing that is clearly evident from this record is that the band are in absolutely no short supply of talent.  I am very much looking forward to hearing future releases from Moscow Metro. I like where they are going with this...they are just not quite there yet.


More from Moscow Metro at http://moscowmetromusic.com/
The E.P. is available from tomorrow (April 11th)

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Album Review - Nicole Maguire "What You Really Mean"

Cork native, Nicole Maguire has an impressive CV. She counts among her fans, Damien Dempsey, Glen Handsard, and country legend Nanci Griffith. No stranger to playing live, Nicole has been gigging since she was 15 and has opened for Damien Dempsey in Vicar Street and had the pleasure of supporting The E-Street Band's Jake Clemons on his most recent stint around Ireland. Her debut album What You Really Mean is a charming collection of soft, low key, honest songs. Nicole's voice is simply magnificent as she reflects, over the course of 11 short folk/americana songs, on love, loss and regret.

I have been meaning to review this album for several weeks now, but to be brutally honest, I was unsure as to how I felt about it after my first listen or two. I have however listened to this album a lot...and I mean a lot over the past fortnight and it grows on me the more I hear it. One thing that stuck out for me was that the purest and barest songs on the album are in my opinion the strongest. They seem somewhat less polished, but far more passionate. My personal favourite song, Casey, is a beautifully performed, purely acoustic number. Everything sounds a little less "perfect", but somehow more honest. The faint rattle of the strings against the fret board and the slightest cracks in Nicole's otherwise immaculate voice fills the song with a sense of delicate intimacy in a way that I did not feel as instantly with some of the more heavily layered songs. That said, those more heavily layered songs are still quite good. It just took me a little longer to appreciate them. I would really like to hear them stripped back a little more and perhaps given the same treatment that songs like Fall Apart were given, just for for the sake of reference. Perhaps this says a lot about the calibre of Nicole's song writing and the quality of her solo performances, especially when you consider some of the names who performed on her album...Bob Glaub (Crosby, Stills and Nash), Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello and The Attractions), Val McCallum (Sheryl Crow) and Vonda Shepard

All things said, What You Really Mean is a really great debut album. Playfully dancing between folk, pop, americana and simple, straight forward, route one country. High points for me are the album's opener Run With Me, Casey, Fall Apart, Don't Let Me Go and the powerful, tremendously emotional Hard Love. I stand by my initial impression that the simpler songs are the strongest, but this does not take from the quality of the rest of the songs. The songs themselves are great, the lyrics, are simple, honest and sweet and the performances are great. Perhaps the only downside is that otherwise great songs are let down in one or two spots by the delivery.  A real grower that I can see myself coming back to time and again. Great for some pleasant background listening. Nicole herself said about the album "I hoped to create something that in twenty years I could be completely proud of." Hope no more Nicole, job done, be proud...be very proud.


Check out more from Nicole at http://nicolemaguire.ie/
What You Really Mean is available now from iTunes

Be sure and catch Nicole when she performs her new single Hard Love on The Late Late show on RTE this Friday.