Album Review: Our Krypton Son- Modern Ruins

Our Krypton Son’s latest album Modern Ruins is the third full-length release from the Derry based singer-songwriter. The moniker of Chris McConaghy, Modern Ruins follows on from his NI Music Prize nominated album Flea’s and Diamondsreleased in 2017. Produced, recorded, and mixed by Ryan Vail, throughout the nine tracks we are taken on a journey of sprawling soundscapes and alluring verse.

Opening with the pensive echoes of ‘Arbor Bird’, the stirring beauty and sweeping strings of the track help to set the tone for the rest album. Inspired by a line in John Berger’s ‘Confabulations’ the song deals with the effects of a stroke on a close family member. Released earlier this summer, ‘White Sun’, the album’s lead single is a compelling mix of folk ramblings and modern electro. A hypnotically engaging song, the addition of synth sounds from Vail help to enhance the ambient mood of this track.  

Moving effortlessly from one song to the next, ‘Death Keeps Me Awake at Night’ is a gorgeously mournful and meditative track. There is an astounding depth of honesty at the core of McConaghy’s words no matter the subject. With an evocative track title ‘The Boy with the Cauliflower Ear’ shifts and changes in feeling as a more expansive sound and instrumentation is introduced.

Creating a collection of moments that are both transient and enduring there is a refreshing consistency with each Our Krypton Son’s songs that come from his strikingly personal lyrics.  The pulsing beat through ‘Bloodletting’ helps to keep McConaghy’s vocals smooth and steady. Closing the album with the beautifully intricate ‘I’m a Field in Winter’ the track builds intensely towards the end before fading out with a delicately sombre piano and sits perfectly at the end of this record.

Along with Ryan Vail the pair have worked seamlessly together to create a remarkable album of exceptional arrangements. Through the duration of the album we hear how both artists have come together to create a body of work that sees them move into fresh realms of their own individual sounds. McConaghy’s ability to weave intricate pieces of music with imaginative and thoughtful lyrics helps to confirm his status as one of Ireland’s best kept songwriting secrets.

Aine Cronin-McCartney

Interview: Johnny Bourke

Irish singer-songwriter Johnny Bourke released his debut single  ‘Can’t Do Without’ on Friday 3rd July. Aine Cronin-McCartney caught up with the singer to chat about lockdown, musical influences and plans for the future.

You released your debut single ‘Can’t Do Without’ on Friday 3rd July, how has the reaction been so far?

It’s been amazing! I’m so glad to finally share this with the world and the reaction so far from far and wide has just been one of pure support and has warmed my heart. People are great.

For those maybe not familiar with your sound how would you describe it?

It’s a fairly unique blend of pop, blues, and R&B. I’m heavily influenced by all of these different genres and I’ve spent a long time honing a sound which I felt was right for me!

Who would you say your musical influences have been growing up?


Every time I’m asked this question I give different answers because there are so many in my head but today let’s go for John Mayer, John Frusciante, and Bruce Springsteen.

After spending years honing your craft as a session musician what made you want to start releasing your own original music?

It felt like the next step. I have been lucky to be very busy as a musician thus far so I never really had ample opportunity to explore my own music until I made time for it in the last few years. Now I’m at a stage where this is what I want to devote all my time to.

How has the process of releasing your debut single been?

It’s been a lot to be honest. The thing about working for yourself and promoting yourself is that no one is really giving you limits. You can spend as much or as little time as you want and I definitely found it hard to shut off, there was constant guilt that I should be hustling. There still is. I’ve learned a lot from this experience but yes I’m quite burned out at this stage if I’m being honest haha.

How has lockdown affected you as a musician?

Funnily enough lockdown almost suited me for reasons related to the previous answer, because all my live work was cancelled it left me ample time to work on promoting the single. I’ve just recently broken a writer’s block I had for a couple of months so it’s nice to get back to making music.

Prior to lockdown how had your plans for 2020 been shaping up in terms of live performance?

Amazingly and obviously now obliterated. I got a good run at the start of the year around Australia and New Zealand but was looking forward to coming home and playing this new material later in the year. I’m not worried, things could be a lot worse, I think perspective is important. 2021 will be a big year.

What artists/releases have you been enjoying recently? Both Irish and further afield.

Alex Tierney just dropped an amazing single, Dillon Ward has a really sick vibe to his music and is really unique. Bigger names I think Niall Horan is absolutely killing it and I’ve surprised myself by recently becoming a Justin Bieber fan, his new stuff really speaks to me.

What can we expect from you for the rest of 2020?

I’ll be dropping more music soon and you can be sure that when live music is back and feasible you will catch me on stage!

-Aine Cronin-McCartney

Single Review: CeeV- Lonely Night

Co. Down based singer CeeV’s latest release is an emotive attempt at expressing all those familiar feelings of missing home through modern pop sensibilities.

Currently based in Newry, CeeV first started to cut her teeth in music while studying at BIMM in Manchester. Although initially lacking the confidence to perform in front of others CeeV finally plucked up the courage and starting releasing music on SoundCloud. After amassing over 30,000 plays, CeeV began performing her own songs and slowly started building a loyal following.

After finishing her studies, CeeV travelled to Ottawa, Canada and determined to improve her craft performed in every venue possible. Now back at home CeeV has been finally releasing her songs to the world with her first release in over a year. The straightforward pop tune accompanied with soulful vocals proves to be a successful combination on ‘Lonely Night’. Along with the new track, CeeV has also provided followers with a striking lyric video.

Speaking about the song CeeV explains “The song’s about sleeplessness, overthinking, nights out, basically tired eyes but a racing mind.”

Aine Cronin-McCartney

Single Review: Our Krypton Son- White Sun

Our Krypton Son’s latest track ‘White Sun’ is an exquisitely plaintive return to form for the Derry based folk singer.

The moniker of Chris McConaghy, ‘White Sun’ provides us with the lead single from Our Krypton Son’supcoming third album ‘Modern Ruins’. Three years since his last release ‘Fleas and Diamonds’ we are presented with a track that is beautifully hypnotic.

Produced by Ryan Vail the addition of atmospheric synth sounds, and his magic touch has helped make this song a compelling mix of folk ramblings and modern electro. You can feel as the sounds swell around you and we are brought into the alluring and contemplative world of McConaghy’s shimmering musings. Through the song we hear how both artists have come together to create a track that sees them move into fresh realms of their own individual sounds.

Describing the track McConaghy says “‘White Sun’ is a poem of nothing. Shafts of light on a reservoir. Shafts of sun reddening the gills, burning behind the earlobes, years ago when you were a child. Memories of chips wrapped in obituaries, slices of watermelon dropped in the sand like sopping downturned grins suggest a limited future but then the white sun rises in the morning and anything is possible.”

Photos by Wrapped in Plastic
Aine Cronin-McCartney

Single Review: Conor Marcus- ‘No More Broken Hearts’

Fast rising star Conor Marcus excels on new track ‘No More Broken Hearts’, as he takes us through a journey of loss and acceptance. The young performer who is regarded as one of Northern Ireland’s most promising young singer/songwriters follows his previous release ‘Hold Me Close Again’ with another emotive pop focused single.

Writing his own material since he was nine years old, it wasn’t until inspiration struck at 12 with ‘The Girl I Met’ that Conor acknowledged his song-writing ability. A year later, he performed the song on ITV’s The Voice Kids UK during the blind auditions, where along with his mentor Danny Jones from McFly he went on to reach the semi-finals.

Having already conquered so many achievements Conor is also currently the youngest participant of the renowned ‘Scratch My Progress’ programme. All of which has helped him build a fervent following as he continues to reach new heights of success.

‘No More Broken Hearts’ signals a more mature approach to song-writing as Conor makes moves into new ambitious themes and music. With each of Conor’s releases comes an indication that this is a newcomer to be taken seriously. A breezy moving melody combined with a charming vocal that is supported by animated pop beats helps give the track a cool and effortless vibe.  

Speaking about the track, Conor said; “This song is about dealing with the loss of someone close to you. It was inspired by the passing of my granny, many years before I was born, when my mother was just 15. I’ve been working on the song for a long time and I’m really happy with how it’s turned out.”

You can check Conor Marcus’s new track ‘No More Broken Hearts’ here.

Single Review: Alice LA-Flowers and Florentines

Alternative pop chanter Alice LA’s brand new single ‘Flowers and Florentines’ has provided the perfect step into spring. Having certainly secured a reputation for producing inspired content the Banbridge native has been a welcomed breath of fresh air in a sometimes-predictable musical landscape. Currently a part of The Oh Yeah Music Centre’s prestigious Scratch My Progress programme which focuses on talent development it has been energising watching Alice progress over the year.

A refreshing and joyous opening the overtly pop vocal feels like a warm friendly breeze before reaching the grandeur of the chorus As with Alice’s previous singles there is a thrilling high with sharp expressive lyrics supporting a song that will resonate long after you’ve finished listening to it. The expanded sound and pulsating beat along with the gale force power of LA’s vocal has truly cemented ‘Flowers and Florentines’ as a modern pop presence.

Aine Cronin-McCartney

Live Review: Gifted- The Belfast Empire

It’s my first gig of the year and while initially only attending the event as a faithful gig-goer I am so impressed by the end of the evening I decide to put together a review. Starting off my 2019 by attending one of my favourite musical venues, Belfast’s ‘The Empire’ there is a palpable buzz. The crowd gathered all drawn to see an amazing line-up of female led talent featuring Jess Edlin, Gemma Bradley, Reevah and for their very first show Problem Patterns. Organised by Shizznigh Promotion’s, Jonny McKee, Gifted has deservedly earned its reputation as one of Belfast’s prominent gig nights.

After a substantial crowd had gathered Jess Edlin opens the evening, my first time seeing her perform. There are definite hints of nervousness as she begins which is understandable giving the quietness of the room. The contemporary singer songwriter seems to find her stride and along with a grungy guitar we are treated to a very fragile and delicate vocal. Edlin has a charming vulnerability to her performance and provides an enjoyable start to the evening.

Songstress Gemma Bradley is next to the Empire stage bringing her eclectic fusion of RnB and pop. Having already built a remarkable repertoire Bradley’s aptitude to coin soul baring pop songs has helped influence her ever growing following. Performing her most recent single ‘Hollow Heartbeat’ it was impossible not to nod my head to the enchantingly catchy and pop-soaked tune. Often with some singer-songwriters their set can become a little lacklustre however Bradley possesses enough power as a performer to keep the audience constantly engaged.

Dreamy folk singer Reevah is up next, taking her place on the Empire stage and beginning her set with just herself. Performing new song ‘Bee’s’ the delicate vocal delivery exposes a darkness and despair to some of her lyrics and is tinged with a sweet melancholy. Joined for the second half of her set by her band the extra additions give another level of depth to Reevah’s songs. Accompanied by her band ‘Nights’ is a palliative and immersive song with an entrancing and calming melody. Whether Reevah is performing solo or accompanied by her band she maintains the ability to hold the audience in the palm of her hand.

Finally, for their very first performance five-piece feminist punk outfit Problem Patterns are ready to show us what they are all about. There is a huge surge in energy in ‘The Empire’ with the group having a considerable crowd of supporters who occupy the front of the stage. Originally forming as part of Girls Rock School NI, there had been talk for them to write originals for the better part of a year. Finally, in Autumn 2018, they got it together, and haven’t stopped screaming since.

Performing their debut track ‘Allegedly’ the song is a formidably charged and derisive reproach against a society that has become tolerant to sexual assault and even more powerful live. Sometimes amid uncertainty a band like Problem Patterns come along who are not only able to soliloquise certain issues but make you feel like change is possible.  What also makes this group so interesting aside from their topical lyricism is the fact they do not have a clear front-woman but instead switch roles and instruments making it an exhilarating watch.  Setting the bar for their future performances insanely high, Problem Patterns debut gig was an overwhelming success for a band at any stage of their career.  

-By Aine Cronin-McCartney

Shizznigh Presents: The Tragedy of Dr Hannigan, No Oil Paintings, Aidan Logan and Whale Talk.

For their third Sound of Belfast gig, Shizznigh Promotions managed to put together another sublime line-up of performers. Consisting of new and established acts for a brilliant week night expedition to the Empire it certainly motivated a lot of people to come out in full force. Starting the night off is Whale Talk who despite being a fairly new band have been making a considerable breakthrough on the NI scene. They are the perfect band to help introduce and begin the evening with delicate harmonies and casual indie vibes.

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Up next is singer-songwriter Aidan Logan who has brought a full band with him for the night. Recently returning from Nashville where Aidan spent his time writing, recording and soaking in all that Tennessee has to offer. Very charming and confident on stage, Aidan immediately attempts to build a good rapport with the audience by telling them anecdotes about his songs and travels. His song ‘Higher’ is an incredibly catchy and infectious song and is the highlight of the set. Having spent so much time in Nashville it’s evident how much Aidan has been influenced by country throughout his set while also putting his own twist on songs . Towards the end of his set Aidan takes a moment to dedicate a song to his friend Margaret who just passed away ‘Seems You Better Go’. As the rest of the band step aside it’s just Aidan and his guitar accompanied by soft and gentle piano and is a beautiful tribute.

Four piece ‘No Oil Paintings’ arrive next on stage and begin their set with ‘God Only Knows’. Lead singer Chris Kelly’s vocals sound immediately strong and powerful accompanied with George Sloan’s solid drums makes for a bold entrance from the band. Their second track ‘Cut Me’ has guitarist Sean Doone take the lead for vocals with a deeper and darker tone to his voice adding a melancholic element to the song. Finishing the set with their latest single ‘Icarus’ which the boys have also just released a video for the song begins with gorgeous harmonies. There is a really good synergy between all the members on stage and you can truly feel the connection that they not only have as musicians but as friends. The biggest triumph for any band is to be able to sound better live than they do on track and this is certainly true for No Oil Paintings.

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Finally the main act of the night, The Tragedy of Dr Hannigan takes to the stage with No Oil Paintings joining for the band’s debut gig. Inhabiting the full character of Dr Hannigan, Tony Wright appears with a top hat and long coat and it’s clear from the start that not only are we in for a musical treat but a theatrical performance as well. With so many people onstage it felt like a huge jam session was about to take place with an array of players and instruments.  Dr Hannigan’s first release ‘Hey Little Worried One’ begins with impressive harmonies before the hypnotic drum beat kicks in. There is an electric atmosphere in the Empire as the audience become increasingly more and more excited as the band continue.  

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There were points during the set that I felt as though I had been transported to a real blues bar located in Louisiana as my senses were completely overwhelmed by the incredibly funky ‘We Can’t Breathe’. Inviting Steven McCartney to the stage for the slowest song of the night ‘You the bottle and me’, Tony comes right down off the stage into the audience. Making his way over the tops of tables and across chairs it was almost as if the vigour of the crowd had carried him. Inciting the audience to begin chanting, the crowd continue to clap and foot stomp even after the band leaves the stage. Setting the bar for future performances, The Tragedy of Dr Hannigan’s first gig was a truly overwhelming and successful night for a band at any stage of their career never mind one’s debut. 

By Aine Cronin-McCartney
Photos by Ciara McMullan

Shizznigh Presents: Anto and the Echoes, Vokxen, Part-time Pilots, Les Pantalons and Darren Doherty and the Heathen Choir

As part of the continuing Sound of Belfast festivities, Shizznigh Promotions presented a showcase of up and coming local bands and acts on Friday in the Oh Yeah. A remarkably versatile and talented line up of performers, it was great to see so many fans arrive from early on to help enjoy and support the evening. Another wonderful Sound of Belfast gig it was refreshing to attend an event with acts that were not only new to myself but a few that I had been meaning to catch for a while.

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Arriving just on time to catch the last few minutes of Darren Doherty and the Heathen Choir there is an upbeat atmosphere as everyone seems excited for a night of good music. Despite what their name might suggest the heathen choir helps support Doherty’s extraordinarily melodic musical offering and I look forward to catching the band in full next time. Up next was ‘Les Pantalons’ who provided more of a jam style routine with the three of them remaining seated throughout. The very chilled and relaxed position from the band made for an easy and enjoyable performance.

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‘Part Time Pilot’s take to the Oh Yeah stage next as the audience starts to build. The bands energy and vivacious presence on stage helps to encourage audience members to gather at the front. Their great audience interaction ensures that fans are kept very interested and attentive for the whole set. Lead singer Enda Mc Crory has a very strong and alluring voice which along with their accessible rock sound has ensured that Part Time Pilots are a band worth keeping your ears open for. 

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Catchy, melodic girl group Vokxen are next to perform as they enchant the audience with their atmospheric pop sound. The group shimmers on stage with both their glittery outfits and seductive harmonies creating the perfect pop storm. The trios synth heavy sound accompanied with sweet melodies and electronic dance tunes makes Vokxen the most memorable act of the night.

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Headlining the evening was the incredibly talented Anto and the Echoes, the six-piece who have a distinct look certainly appear the part on stage. It can often be difficult waiting to go on all night especially after so many acts before them but Anto and the Echoes take it completely in their stride. Lead singer Antony Breen is certainly a confident and self-assured front man who knows how to work both a crowd and a stage. Moving effortlessly from catchy pop songs to heavier indie rock sounds serves only to highlight the bands versatility. The band carries a very positive upbeat vibe when they perform and was something that the audience certainly reacted to helping to end a very successful Sound of Belfast showcase. 

By Aine Cronin-McCartney
Photos by Carrie Davenport Photography

 

Gifted: Sister Ghost, Born Only Yesterday, The Sea, Close By and LetGo Dive- The Belfast Empire

For the second event of Sound of Belfast’s premier night, I made a quick dash over to the Empire where Gifted had put together an absolutely amazing line up. Unfortunately I missed alt rockers ‘Let Go Dive’ as I was making my way from one venue to the next but will be sure to catch them next time.

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Self described as polite rockers from Belfast ‘The Sea, Close by’ are up next and by this stage The Empire has started to fill out. Starting of their set with ‘Never Ever’ the band grow in confidence as they continue and become more relaxed throughout. After a few songs the drummer interrupts to tell the audience that bass player Kate and singer Alastair have just recently got married after originally meeting in the very venue we are standing in, ‘The Empire. Finishing off their set with ‘Humphrey’s Got a Heat Lamp’ they tease the audience briefly with the Friends theme tune before launching full force into their track and ending the set with their strongest song.

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North Coast post rock four piece ‘Born Only Yesterday’ are next to the stage. The boys who released their EP ‘The Eyes, The Heart, The Sin’ in September have been busy making their rounds on the local scene. Clearly having built up a burgeoning legion of fans there is a small crowd gathered at the front of the stage who are attentive throughout. Front man Danny McClelland is a commanding presence on stage and the band have an addictive energy with a great vibe between members. Above all Born Only Yesterday are enjoyable and fun to watch and they exude the kind of spirit that makes you want to join a band and I look forward to see what the next few months bring for them. 

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Finally finishing off the night is the ever confident Sister Ghost who assuredly take their position on stage. Lead singer Shannon O’Neil is an incredible force to be reckoned with as she navigates and leads the rest of the band with ease. Already entrenched in the NI rock scene it’s easy to see why they have become favourites with their ferocious rhythms, diverse textures and distinct delivery. With highly rhythmic, rapid paced songs and O’Neil’s vocal power and ability always make Sister Ghost a very entertaining act to watch.

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By Aine Cronin-McCartney
Photos-Bernie McAllister