We know it’s early days yet, but Richie Egan didn’t hang about this year before dropping an album that’s sure to be near the top of the end-of 2015 lists. This Chemical Sea is only a few weeks old, but critics and fans have already given it the ‘best Jape album ever’ tag and we’d agree.
Egan, along with co-writer Glen Keating, have crafted a melodic electronic pop album that ebbs and glitters with melancholy, while avoiding all the schmaltzy pitfalls. He’s beat usual suspects Hot Chip to the punch this time, with This Chemical Sea jumping the gun on the kings of delicate electronic pop, who are due an album in the coming months.
Speaking to The Star a few weeks ago, self-avowed analogue synth geek Egan gushed about his love of house and the communal rush of electronic music, and we’re expecting some of this to rub off live. He was unequivocal in his live plans, saying: “We will lean towards dance, because I fucking love dance music so much… you can’t beat a good breakdown.” Egan also described seeing Caribou at Body & Soul at Electric Picnic, and feeling like his head had been “blown away by a shotgun”. Egan has bottled some of that Caribou magic on This Chemical Sea by nabbing David Wrench, who has mixed Caribou, FKA Twigs and Glass Animals.
We’d also agree with him that This Chemical Sea is a more coherent collection than previous records, so expect a huge chunk of the album to be played live over the weekend — including one of his personal favourites, Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon, co-written with Villagers’ Conor O’Brien.
Jape kicked off their short Irish tour last night with a sold-out show in Dublin’s Academy — and plenty of #ticketfairy pleas were going out on Twitter through the day. Away from Egan’s hometown, you’ll have more luck over the weekend in Galway, Limerick and Cork, although there won’t be much elbow room at any of the shows.
Egan has been emphasising his live electronic direction, but it’s not like bleeps are a new thing in his canon. Over his five albums he’s turned his hand at folk and electronica, exporting some of the traits he picked up as a member of post-rockers The Redneck Manifesto. Jape also won back-to-back Choice prizes for his third and fourth albums Ritual and Ocean of Frequency, and you’d get pretty short odds on This Chemical Sea getting the hat-trick.
Jape is primarily about the album as artistic statement — but he’s also blessed with a few weather-proof stand-out songs that could thaw the frostiest of crowds. The transcendent Floating — his perennial encore song — would go on any Irish best of from the last decade, a song that could rouse any radio playlist, mixtape or early evening set at Body & Soul. Elsewhere, he’s armed with an revelatory call to arms in The Oldest Mind, with its chorus of “Celebrate what it is to be young.” And for an artist who reckons he’s still just starting out, he has plenty to teach the rest of his peers.
BLOG PARTY, Sugar club, Dublin, Friday, €12 (tickets)
IF YOU still haven’t got round to ticking off a few acts to follow on the Irish scene this year, now’s your chance to jump on the bandwagon of a few taste-makers. Blog Party is a simple set-up — blog sites Nialler9, Le Cool, The Last Mixed Tapes and Golden Plec have picked their top bands of 2014, for a four-header at the Sugar Club tonigh.
Dear Desert (pictured) have been turning heads with their sophisticated electronic pop in the vein of Talk Talk or The Blue Nile; September Girls craft noise-pop with a nod to the Ronettes and the Jesus & Mary Chain; Carriages create broken folk and electronica with glitchy keys and field recordings, and Bitch Falcon deal in effortlessly cool grungy alt-rock, while making every band in Ireland jealous of their name.
After the gigs, Choice Cuts have selected a crew to carry it on till late, including DIP, Well-Known and Diskotekken DJs.
DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979, Academy, Dublin, Friday, SOLD OUT and Limelight, Belfast, Saturday, £25 (tickets)
WHEN DFA 1979 released their debut album You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine in 2004, no one realised they’d spend the next decade as a cult act with that one LP to their name. The Canadian duo’s debut was a thrilling headbutt of an album — a pile-up of dance-punk, math rock and mangled electronics that still holds up after hundreds of listens.
Stopgap bands MSTRKRFT, Bad Tits, Deserts and Sebastien Grainger & the Mountains kept the pair occupied separately, but without the same spark.
Maybe they spat out their cups of tea when they heard the turgid Royal Blood were stealing their rock duo thunder over the last year or two, as Jesse F. Keeler and Sebastien Grainger dropped back into the equation last year with The Physical World — another chance to bring the noise to a new generation.
ENCORE!!! PRESENTS STOP MAKING SENSE + DJs Sugar club, Dublin, Saturday,€12 (tickets)
WE’RE kinda cheating with this one, but this time a film does count as a gig, as Talking Heads’ all-time classic concert movie Stop Making Sense gets cracked out of the can in the Sugar Club tonight. The 1984 show still hangs up as the greatest ever concert movie, and iconic images of David Byrne’s mega-suit, the Psycho Killer boombox and the choreographed running on the spot are still as thrilling 30 years later.
Just don’t expect any normal cinema codes of conduct to be adhered to — you’ll be wasting your time shushing the people in the aisles dancing like eejits to Once in a Lifetime, Life During Wartime and Burnin’ Down the House. They’re showing the fully remastered version through a Funktion One soundsystem, and there’ll be free popcorn.
If that’s not enough to sway you, DJs Johnny Moy, Billy Scurry and Martin McCann will be dropping NYC disco and post-punk from the era, with This Greedy Pig and Sally Cinnamon playing in the Yard out the back.
BEN FOLDS, Whelan’s, Dublin, Saturday, SOLD OUT
IN THE last week, Ben Folds has had the rather honourable task of launching a ‘Creative Minds’ project in the US Embassy in Dublin, to help “tighten cultural ties between the US and Ireland and inspire creativity in young people”.
It’s a nod to Folds’ standing as a singer-songwriter, geek slacker-rock hero, band-leader and accomplished pianist, with enough crossover appeal to tick off aspiring musicians, lifelong alt-rock fans and Michael D himself. Away from the masterclass in the Phoenix Park mansion, Folds is heading across the city tomorrow for a gig in a more familiar rock haunt.
After his orchestral manoeuvres adapting Ben Folds Five songs for piano in the National Concert Hall last, along with his new classical concerto, he’ll be Rockin’ the Suburbs on Camden Street with his new band. Expect a trawl through his bulging songbook, trading old faves like Bitch Went Nuts, Zac and Sarah and Army.
FATHER JOHN MISTY, Whelan’s, Dublin, Sunday, SOLD OUT
You know there’s a buzz act in our midst when tickets are already on sale for a follow-up gig in a bigger venue a few months down the line. Father John Misty is already the most hyped artist of 2015, selling out this Whelan’s show in no time, and a Vicar Street show in October won’t be slow in shifting tickets.
J. Tillman’s tripped-out alter-ego allows him to throw some glitter and blockbuster production values over his early rustic folk, much like Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s technicolour Palace Music forays.
His new album I Love You Honeybear — his second as Father John Misty — is an opulent widescreen collection that hits folk and country at right angles, with just the right amount of Lambchop, Elton John and overblown 70s prog among his psychedelic deconstructions of the love song.
We’re not sure how many bandmates he’ll have in Whelan’s, but he’ll be clawing every last bit of your attention.
JUNGLE, Olympia Theatre, Dublin, Tuesday, SOLD OUT
If you heard Jungle wafting out of Boots as you were passing through a shopping centre, you’d imagine it was a radio ad for a new face cream, dreamt up by a PR team with a few Jamiroquai albums knocking around the office.
But dig a bit deeper and you’ll get beyond the tasteful neo-soul and airbrushed funk, and find Jungle’s debut album a sophisticated future pop album with plenty of leftfield sidesteps.
Primarily the project of London producers J & T, the pair have a cast of singers and musicians to perform live as a seven-piece who’ve been good to their word as a BBC Sound of 2014 nominee.
There’s been plenty of online and word-of-mouth gushing over their jubilant live show that ramps up the BPM on tracks like Platoon and Time — and there’ll be a dusky summer festival buzz bottled for the Olympia on Tuesday
PLACEBO, Olympia, Dublin, Wednesday, SOLD OUT and Waterfront Auditorium, Belfast, Thursday, £39.50 (tickets)
We read a gig review a few months ago warning that Placebo weren’t playing any of their ’90s hits live, and it reminded us of the time Shakin’ Stevens refused to play This Ole House and all his brilliant stupid songs at Glastonbury.
There’s no harm in trying to move forward without the albatross of mega-singles, but beyond extreme die-hards, who really cares much about Placebo beyond Nancy Boy, Pure Morning and Bruise Pristine?
In fairness, they’ve released five albums since the turn of the millennium, but it’s been to ever-decreasing sales and the novelty of Brian Molko’s emo-glam wearing off like last night’s mascara on a rollover session.
Still, you have to give them a bit of credit for refusing to play the hits like lapdogs, even though they’ve already made their cash by selling out the Olympia at 50 bucks a head.
Originally appeared in the Irish Daily Star