Infinite Shuffle

January 4, 2016

217 – Squarehead

Filed under: Ireland, S — assman41 @ 8:58 pm

A little more than a decade ago, if an under-the-radar indie band wanted to gain national exposure, it had to hope that some hip music director for a TV show or movie would happen across its music and use a song in the soundtrack.

You know what I’m talking about. Like back in 2004 when Adam Brody was raving about Death Cab for Cutie on The O.C. and Natalie Portman and Zach Braff were having their lives changed by The Shins.

Eventually, musicians took matters into their own hands via social media, such as MySpace, Facebook and YouTube. But they still know how powerful an endorsement can be when it comes from the right music site or blog.

The next iteration of that is podcasts, where anyone can gush to listeners about their new favorite bands in a way that can’t be replicated simply by the written word.

And that’s how I came to discover the band Squarehead, while listening to Domhnall Gleeson’s recent chat with the boys at Nerdist. The actor plugged a few favorite bands from his native Ireland, including FIDL and Delorentos. (Go here to listen to the interview, or just skip to the 37:20 mark.)

Regarding Squarehead, Gleeson said they were “like a mixture between Weezer and Nirvana and the Beach Boys or something.”

Personally, I don’t hear much grunge influence, unless he’s referring to the lo-fi quality that pretty much every indie band has these days. But there’s definitely plenty of Rivers Cuomo’s crew in there; nowhere more so than on “What’s Wrong”, the opening track from their 2013 album, RESPECT.

As for the “Beach Boys or something” line, he’s referring to the surf-pop vibe that a lot of popular indie bands have latched on to the last few years, best typified by The Drums. It can be heard throughout Squarehead’s album, especially on some of their catchiest tunes, such as “Swing” and “2025”.

(The above video was actually made by Gleeson, along with brother Brian, to help benefit his hospice charity, Immaturity for Charity.)

Just about every song from this Dublin trio is catchy to some degree. Some of the more notable tunes include “Two Miles”, “2025”, “Pulse”, “Magic Darts”, “Knives” and “John Of God”.

According to Wikipedia, the group began in January 2010 as a solo, acoustic project by lead singer and guitarist Roy Duffy. Along with Ian McFarlane (bass) and Ruan Van Vliet (drums), they released a couple of singles — “Fake Blood” and “Midnight Enchilada” — to critical praise before putting out their debut album, Yeah Nothing, in August 2011.

These songs are more homogenous but still catchy, and that surf vibe is even more prevalent. Besides the two singles, another standout is “Confident Girls”.


March 19, 2013

151 – My Bloody Valentine

Filed under: Ireland, M — assman41 @ 2:47 pm

During the nearly 3.5 years that I’ve been maintaining this blog, I have written about all sorts of bands. But it has become clear that there are a few genres that tend to stand out. They include airy-fairy dream pop and lo-fi, slightly distorted shoegaze.

And in much of my writing, I’ve often mentioned a few bands as obvious influences to these modern acts. They include Dinosaur Jr., My Bloody Valentine and, to a lesser extent, The Jesus and Mary Chain. Alas, my knowledge of these seminal bands is extremely limited, but I know enough to be able to spot their influence.

With My Bloody Valentine ending their 22-year hiatus and releasing the sorta self-titled m b v last month, it seemed like the perfect time to finally delve into their catalog. Thankfully, it wasn’t too extensive, since they’d only put out two albums before disappearing.

Upon listening to the group’s 1988 debut, Isn’t Anything, it was understandable why most fans seem to overlook that album. It was necessarily bad, but it was clear that the band was still honing its craft.

Having a solid appreciation for ’80s music, I can only imagine what it must have been like to hear MBV for the first time back then. They’re so different from anything on the radio then, and I’m sure it was just the kind of off-the-wall sound that a lot of people were searching for at the time.

As far as I’m concerned, hearing it for the first time 25 years after it was birthed, it’s not doing a whole lot for me. There are a few noteworthy songs — “I Can See It (But I Can’t Feel It)”, “Sueisfine” and “(When You Wake) You’re Still In a Dream” — but for the most part, it’s just a bunch of distortion and unintelligible lyrics.

That brings us to 1991 and the release of Loveless, which is considered by many indie music taste-makers to be one of the most important albums ever released. Maybe if I’d heard it when it originally came out I’d have similar feelings. But hearing it in its entirety now for the first time, it’s not that much different from the band’s debut album.

MBV had clearly tightened their sound during the three years between albums and had become more accessible, but, besides a few strong tracks — “Only Shallow” and “When You Sleep” — it sounds like mostly filler.

Even though their music wasn’t for everyone, MBV had clearly opened a new world on the music landscape and basically invented the shoegaze genre. And they helped influence a slew of bands that have come out since — including more modern ones, such as Yuck, A Place To Bury Strangers, The Radio Dept. and The Helio Sequence.

The band’s recent release is said to include several tracks that were recorded in the early ’90s. And you can certainly hear some of that classic MBV sound throughout the album. But interestingly enough, a lot of the new songs sound as if they’ve been influenced by band’s modern descendants.

Gone, for the most part, is the annoying distortion, and in its place is a much more accessible, melodic sound. It’s particularly noticeable on the aptly titled “New You”.

With any luck, fans won’t have to wait another two decades for the Irish quartet to put out another album.

June 20, 2010

32 – Niall Connolly

Filed under: C, Ireland — assman41 @ 12:01 am

This is my first — and last, I would assume — shameless plug for a musician friend of mine. Actually, he’s a friend of a friend, but considering he’s Irish and we’ve been drinking together in Chicago once before, we’re practically friends.

Connolly is a singer/songwriter from Brooklyn, by way of Cork, Ireland. I first came to hear of him when my friend, Scott, met him during one of his trips to Ireland a couple of years ago.

He burned me a copy of his 2007 album, Future Tense, and I gave it a whirl. I had to admit, it was pretty solid.

I’m usually not one who goes for the singer/songwriters. While many of them are quite talented, I generally require more instrumentation and complexity to my music than just a dude and his guitar.

That being said, I could definitely tell that Connolly had some chops. While his Irish lilt is ever-present, his sound can’t really be pigeonholed into the Damien Rice/Glen Hansard ilk. His vocals and song-crafting styles could easily be mistaken for somebody born in the States.

A couple of my favorites from the aforementioned album are “70,000 Words” and “If You Find Me In Morocco”. I can still remember singing along to the former when I saw Connolly live at Atlantic Bar in Chicago during Scott’s ill-fated debut as a concert promoter.

Future Tense was Connolly’s third full-length release, and he has since added two more, including a live album in 2008 and Brother, the Fight is Fixed, which comes out July 1.

Scott flew out to NYC to help Connolly shoot the video for the first single, “Jesus Is Coming (And I Can’t Pay the Rent)”. The song is catchy as hell, and the video isn’t bad either. I particularly liked the two lip-synching women.

For more on Connolly, check out his official website or his MySpace page.

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