Noise Annoys: new music from Neil Brogan, New Pagans, Rory Nellis and The Ulster Orchestra, plus the climax of Independent Venue Week 2021
New music from Neil Brogan, New Pagans and The Ulster Orchestra, plus the climax of Independent Venue Week 2021
:: Neil Brogan – Weird Year (album, self-released)
IT'S been well over a month since former Sea Pinks bandleader Neil Brogan released his debut solo album Weird Year – apologies for the delayed review, Neil, things have been kind of weird around these parts too lately – but though it was apparently crafted during 2020's lockdowns as "a raft of sanity" for the Belfast-based singer/songwriter/lo-fi jangle-pop specialist to cling to, its existential, stasis-addled yet grimly optimistic vibes could not be more 2021 even if it had just been recorded while I was typing this very sentence. Or this one. Or this one (etc, etc).
Kicking off with the entirety of his excellent five song EP Life Itself, including the outstanding Kite Bird (wistful, chiming) and Life Itself (bruised/bruising romance), er, itself, Weird Year continues to document Brogan's year of pandemic living, with proceedings becoming increasingly tense and, indeed, weird as the record progresses.
You're Sad Today offers a playfully downbeat Nirvana-esque ballad highlighting the 'joys' of enforced domesticity, surf's up on 'life is, like, an ocean, man' number For The Waves, while Hallowe'en Is The Season provides a pleasingly bratty, Ash-y slice of three chord indiepunk cool on which Brogan sticks it to the Van with the classic line "gonna dress up like Van Morrison, gonna wear a mask made of gammon and ham".
Album highlight Neighbours is another punky moment which finds him flipping the hugs-over-the-garden-fence sentimentality of the classic soap theme on its head to amusing effect, contrasting nicely with the angsty insight and unmasked sentimentality of the more contemplative title track, another stand-out moment.
There's really not enough songs named after traffic signals, and certainly few which can hold a candle to the deceptively pretty charms of Brogan's acoustic guitar plucked lockdown stroller Belisha Beacons, which makes for a lovely album closer.
But wait: there's more, in the form of his charming and wryly amusing seasonal single Christmas (With a Difference) – please God don't let it be in any way relevant come this December – and 'bonus' track Year's End, a delightfully woozy rumination on the whole 'same s***, different year' phenomenon we're all currently living through.
I hope you'll want to make Weird Year part of your soundtrack to 2021 after reading all that, so point your device at Neilbrogan.bandcamp.com and make it happen – although I'm sure Neil wouldn't mind at all if you left your actual purchase until Bandcamp Friday next week (hint-hint).
:: Ulster Orchestra & various artists – Our Songs, Our Place (album, self-released)
AND now, as they say, for something completely different – for this column, at least. Out now, this new release from the Ulster Orchestra features nine lockdown-themed (OK, so maybe it's not so 'completely different' in that sense) songs by local songwriters developed through the Orchestra's Your Song Now project.
Composer and arranger Paul Campbell approached the Ulster Orchestra in April last year with the idea of curating a 'musical response' to the first Covid-19 lockdown. This became the Your Song Now project, which invited songwriters to submit a song that spoke to their life and experience of the lockdown.
From 69 entries, nine songwriters were selected to work on their songs with mentors Duke Special, Kitt Philippa and Paul Campbell, culminating in a genre/generation-blurring album which explores the lockdown experience and how it has changed our lives.
Campbell explains: "These songs are saturated with real life – our lives – and I hope that the album might remind us of all that's precious about these challenging times, long after they've become a distant memory."
The result is just over 30 minutes of eminently radio-friendly orchestrally enhanced pop, including stand-out tunes Blush and Bashful from Co Kildare singer/songwriter Gemma Cox, Belfast singer Roise McHugh's Someone You Don't Need and the climactic operatic antics of Tempus in Pandemico (Lockdown Gardening) featuring Joanna Paton, which should win some sort of an award for its title alone.
Our Songs, Our Place is available for purchase digitally from all major online retailers and in CD format from Ulsterorchestra.org.uk, priced £10 plus postage and packaging.
Personally, I'm dying to hear an Orchestra enhanced versions of Neil Brogan's Weird Year and Neighbours – maybe they can get together for Vol 2?
:: Independent Venue Week 2021
AS OUTLINED in the previous Noise Annoys, this week has seen the annual celebration of independent live music venues moving online with a series of streaming events and performances.
With just a couple of days left to run, there's still plenty to enjoy from the IVW programme, including a double dose of pre-recorded live music performances from Belfast's own Oh Yeah streaming today at 12pm and 7.30pm on their You Tube channel.
The participating artists hadn't yet been announced at time of writing, but thus far they've treated viewers to top tunes from Noise Annoys faves Careerist and Arborist which you view right now at Youtube.com/user/ohyeahcentre/videos.
There's plenty of non NI-centric stuff happening too today; former Inspiral Carpets crooner Tom Hingley will be performing live at 7.30pm, while Dubliners Fontaines DC are among the turns appearing at online festival event Music Feeds from ethical music promoters Everybody Belongs Here at 8pm – other acts performing include Liam Gallagher, Blossoms, DMC, James, Amy Macdonald, Steve Mason and Gruff Rhys.
Tomorrow, Oh Yeah will offer us streamed performances from NI Music Prize Contender Award-winner Sasha Samara at 12pm and 7.30pm, while the Belfast Barge will have music from local duo The Rising at 8pm plus a pre-recorded interview with venue founder Derek Booker, the man who sailed the barge all the way from Holland back in 2006.
Also worth catching tomorrow will be Primal Scream bassist Simone Marie's #IVWTake5 interview with Sleaford Mods shouter Jason Williamson at 5pm (you can find her previous #IVWTake5's on You Tube, including chats with drum'n'bass pioneer Roni Size and Smiths legend Johnny Marr), followed at 5.30pm by BMX Bandits man Duglas T Stewart's Independent Venue Week music quiz. It's in aid of Help Musicians UK, so if you're a bit of a music trivia master/pub bore, now's your time to shine for a good cause
Full details and event tickets available via Independentvenueweek.com.
:: New Pagans album news
BELFAST'S New Pagans aren't letting the ongoing lockdown get in the way of their plans for world domination: the band have announced that they will be releasing their hugely anticipated debut album in March.
Titled The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All, it's coming out via Oxford indie label Big Scary Monsters (who've put out stuff by the likes of Pulled Apart By Horses, Jamie Lenman, The Get Up Kids and Andrew WK) on March 19 and is set to feature pretty much all of your New Pagans favourites – including the entirety of last year's Glacial Erratic mini-LP – plus a couple of new tunes for added purchase incentive.
Indeed, the 2020 NI Music Prize Best Live Act winners might not be able to go out and promote the release via touring, but they do have a new single out now to herald its imminent arrival: Christian Boys, which hardcore fans will already have heard way back in 2019 during their Radio Ulster live session for Stephen McCauley's programme.
Inspired by the kind of god-bothering creeps this place is absolutely riddled with, it's an atmospheric quiet/loud/quiet/riot slow-burner which takes its sweet time in unleashing a super catchy chorus hook before erupting into an entertainingly noisy pedal-stomping finale.
Check it out now via your preferred streaming audio service and let that momentum carry you straight to Bsmrocks.com/products/new-pagans-the-seed-the-vessel-the-roots-and-all-lp where you can get your vinyl pre-order needs sated.
:: Rory Nellis – January (single, self-released)
FINALLY for this week, and indeed this month, Belfast singer/songwriter Rory Nellis has a new single out now. It's called January, and thus this review is very much sliding in under the wire as we prepare to update our calandars in anticaption of all things February.
The song itself is a soothing acoustic 'n' piano winter ballad ideal for soundtracking your daily stare through rain-lashed windows, preferably accompanied by a restorative cup of tea and biscuit combo.
Play it now at Rorynellis.bandcamp.com, where you'll also find his entire discography currently on offer for a cut-price £5.50 - a January sales bargain for sure.