Noise Annoys: Neil Brogan, Teenage Fanclub, Ferna and NASA Assassin
Neil Brogan – Chlorine Gardens (single, self-released)
THE good weather that used to arrive with the early days of May finally made an appearance this week, and the upbeat indie pop jangle of Neil Brogan seems tailor-made to soundtrack the ongoing spell of hot sticky sunshine.
Named for the Belfast street in the Stranmillis area which Noise Annoys lived opposite for much of its long-departed 20s, Chlorine Gardens is the title track of the forthcoming new album from the former Sea Pinks leader, who's now surely been a solo artist for longer than that band actually existed.
Despite the song's breezy, uptempo summer vibe, the song's lyrics are actually pretty autumnal and existential, with references to falling leaves, "ruinous feelings" and "disintegration days" to leaven the jaunty reverb-soaked guitars.
"I feel OK, but I can't pay my way" croons Brogan, a sentiment which might well chime with a lot of folks right now during the ongoing post-pandemic cost of living crisis.
Suck it and see at neilbrogan.bandcamp.com.
:: Teenage Fanclub – Foreign Land (single, PeMa)
STICKING with all things indie and jangly, Belshill's finest are back with a brand new single from a new album it seems like almost no-one was expecting so soon after 2021's acclaimed Endless Arcade.
Still, one record every two years used to be fairly normal for the Fannies in the 'before times' – that's as in pre-Covid, though it also applies to the bulk of their output prior to the departure of founding member Gerry Love in 2018.
With the Top 20-troubling Endless Arcade having emphatically proved that there is indeed 'life after Love' (ahem) for the band, who added former Gorky's Zygotic Mynci leader Euros Childs (keys/vocals) to their number for that record, despite its title Foreign Land finds them back on familiar sonic turf for a gentle boogie of a tune which coasts along in a chilled, easy listening style that positively radiates late-60s/early-70s Laurel Canyon rock energy.
"The past is a foreign land, I did my best you understand" coo Norman Blake and co over a melodic feast of woodwind and organ-augmented guitar strumming, which is fans' first taste of the upcoming album Nothing Lasts Forever, which is due out on September 22.
"The song is about moving forward, not dwelling on the past," explains Norman of Foreign Land.
"We shot the video in Hamilton Mausoleum, near Glasgow. Given that the album is called Nothing Lasts Forever we thought it would be appropriate to shoot a video inside a tomb."
If you like the sound of their latest number, don't forget that the Fanclub will be back in Ireland shortly for dates at Cyprus Avenue in Cork on June 13 and at Monroe's Live on June 14 as part of the Galway Folk Festival.
If you've no mission of making those shows, don't despair – the band also have Dublin and Belfast gigs lined up in the wake of Nothing Lasts Forever's release on November 2 and 3 respectively, tickets for which are on sale now via ticketmaster.ie.
:: Ferna – Understudy (album, Stunt Double Records)
BELFAST-based, Coleraine-raised Hannah McPhillimy has been a fixture of the local music scene for a good while now, offering jazzy/folky singer-songwriter fare under her own name, dabbling in 'indie' with the band Go Wolf and probably other projects too that Noise Annoys isn't even aware of: however, since adopting the moniker Ferna a couple of years ago, she seems to have captured people's imaginations like never before.
So what's in a name? Well, the Ferna persona has found Hannah incorporating more electronic elements into her music, deploying synths and production-manipulated 'traditional' instruments alongside her expressive, always easy-on-the-ear singing – which provide a distinctive through-line from past work to present endeavours – to fine effect.
Her second single as Ferna, a pleasingly off-kilter, unrequited love song called Wasting which combined a throbbing low-end with glassy synths and soaring vocals, made a striking showcase for this new sound – and duly won Single of The Year at the 2022 NI Music Prize Awards.
It receives second-billing on Hannah's recently released debut album, the Stuart Reid-produced Understudy, tucked in behind opening tune Open Up: this one's a moodier but no less catchy affair, a sort of musical note-to-self about the rewards of letting your guard down once in a while which constantly builds and releases tension in a pleasing manner.
Morning After, another previous single, is a well-honed duet with Joshua Burnside that initially harks back to the musical simplicity of Hannah's previous work under her own name with its playful vocal interplay and gentle acoustic guitar work – see also the stripped-back heartbreak/homesick ballad, River and Watchman's tender, intimate acoustic strummer – but gradually builds to a psychedelic crescendo that is pure Ferna.
On the subject of guest vocals, one of the album's other stand-out moments is Bleed, on which the Co Derry artist is joined by an all-star cast of backing singers drawn from the local music scene. Cheylene from Beauty Sleep, Katie 'Hex Hue' Richardson, Brigid O'Neill and Candice 'Girl For Sale' Cathers add vocal sauce to a powerful, pulsing, shape-shifting tune inspired by the life of activist and author Coretta Scott King.
The lyrics of the sweeping, piano-powered emotive ballad Walk On were also inspired by the late Mrs Martin Luther King, while psychedelic synthpop anthem Go Quietly locks in to a be here now/you'll be a long time dead kind of vibe, as does the mid-tempo meditation of New City, with its uber-catchy "tell me if I repeat myself" vocal hook and tangible vibe of wanderlust.
Recalling the tastefully eclectic musical dexterity and emotional punch of Noise Annoys favourite Joan as Police Woman at her best, Understudy is nothing less than a hugely impressive debut album: we suspect that title might be a private joke about how its creator has viewed her musical career to date, but as Ferna, Hannah McPhillimy is now displaying the confidence and poise of a bona fide star.
Grab a copy now via ferna.ffm.to/understudy, and stay tuned to Noise Annoys for future live dates.
:: NASA Assassin final show
ON THE subject of future live dates, sadly our local and much-loved heavy-riffin' spacers NASA Assassin have but one show remaining before they hang up their space helmets/ sandwich board for good: tomorrow night will find The Watcher and co blasting off on a final pronk mission to Uranus (sorry) via the launchpad that is The Limelight 2, with specialised intergalactic support from The Bonnevilles and St Hellfire.
Slip on your black armband and book your place on the departing mothership now via wegottickets.com/event/572149.