Tonight will see the last Sweet Oblivion go out on RTÉ 2XM at 11pm. It has been a hard decision to make, but for now I’ve decided to take a break from the show.
Sweet Oblivion has been going out on the digital station for almost four years, and aside from a year or two’s break I’ve been presenting a show under the Sweet Oblivion name for around 10 years, since the days of Cork Campus Radio in UCC… so it’s going to be strange not having a weekly show to make.
2XM is a fantastic resource and I was so lucky to get to play whatever I wanted, with no one telling me what I was playing was too out there, too familiar, too old or too new. It was a lot of freedom, and the station is a great opportunity for anyone who wants to get into the radio game. A huge thanks has to go to Mark McCabe and all at the station for their help and support over the last four years.
I have plans to archive the old shows, in case there are people who still would like to listen to them, so I’ll keep you posted on that.
I’m turning 30 this month, and life has changed a fair bit in the past year – this is just the latest change. And yet, it comes from some quite positive reasons, like a change in job that has in many ways enriched my life in ways I didn’t expect. Along with that comes a new focus and new opportunities, and I think I need the time that the show took up to just do new things and take a breather from churning out a weekly hour of music.
It was a privilege to get to do the show, not a chore, but when I realised I wasn’t giving it 100 per cent, I knew it was time to finish up.
A huge thanks to anyone who has listened to it at any stage over the past few years. I’ll still be doing my monthly podcast with the Ticket in the Irish Times, so Irish bands are very welcome to send their music to me for that.
It’s coincidental that the last show comes just days before the Camden Crawl Dublin festival, where there will be two shows under the Sweet Oblivion name. It’s in the Stag’s Head just off Dame St, and the bands that will be playing will be low-key and really lovely.
There’s Peter Delaney, Hidden Highways, Skelocrats, Soil Creep, The Holy Roman Army and Yawning Chasm. There is so much choice at the festival, with loads of big names, so I hope that we get a decent crowd at the Stag’s Head. If you’re at the festival, why not pop in on Saturday or Sunday night for a drink and some great Irish music?
Doors are at 7pm, the first bands go on at 7.30pm. On Saturday, Skelocrats, Yawning Chasm and Hidden Highways play (in that order), and on Sunday, Peter Delaney, the Holy Roman Army and Soil Creep play.
Here’s a taster:
Holy Roman Army
Tickets for Camden Crawl Dublin, and all the info on other bands playing, is available here.
Pics by me
Delighted to say I’m one of the ‘curators’ for the Camden Crawl this year – we’re awaiting the line-up info, but the venue will be the small and cosy Stag’s Head. More info here: http://www.camdencrawldublin.com/
My mum moved house last month, out of the family home where we had lived for more than 20 years.
I took these photos during the move, feeling restless and strange about the house being emptied of everything that had meant ‘home’ since I was a child.
I’ll miss the squeaky step at the bottom of the stairs, the front door that would never shut properly unless you shoved it like you were furious with someone, the cold terracotta-coloured tiles, the kitchen walls that must bear at least five much-deliberated-over layers of paint, the strange noises that emanated from the attic at night, the weird palm tree out the back garden, the shed full of random odds and ends, the tree whose branch I used to swing from, the mossy driveway, my old bedroom, the walk from the bus stop to the house that felt shorter and less scary the older I got.
Still, to new beginnings. There will be another house I’ll love somewhere else, soon.
Photo by me
It feels like another lifetime, but in reality it has only been just over a decade since going to HMV (or Virgin Megastore, the other record store chain in Cork City when I was growing up) was a Big Thing for my peers and I (and, if you’re reading this, most likely you too) to do on a Saturday. I’ve so many memories of buying albums in there, browsing even when broke, learning about bands from friends, reading the backs of CDs to try and figure out if the album would be any good, buying singles on tape…
Today, HMV went into receivership, staff (with their families and homes and bills and lives that all depend in some way on their wages*) were told the doors to the stores were to be shut and are likely to remain so, and another nail seemed to have been hammered into the coffin containing the decaying corpse of what is known as ‘the music industry’.
Things have changed. We know that, and most of us don’t really know how things can get any better. One thing they can’t do is go back to where they were, now that the genie is out of the damned bottle and we have access to music in ways we only dreamt of 10 years ago. Had you said to me when I was 15 that when I was 25, trips to the record store could be replaced by buying records ‘off the internet’, I could choose to download album tracks instead of whole albums, and I could have any album I wanted, for free, in a few minutes, I’d have raised an over-plucked teenage eyebrow. How great does that sound?
But what has resulted from all of these changes in the way music can be sold, distributed, and accessed? An industry floundering. Had I also been told that in my 30th year, musicians would be questioning how much they are getting paid for their songs to be listened to on legal streaming sites, that independent record stores were few and far between (though, thankfully, those we do have are a joy to visit) and that the traditional model of selling and listening to music was sailing down the Swannee with just some driftwood left in its wake with which to cobble together a new model, I’d have been confused. Wouldn’t we have prepared for this?
Yes, some companies adapted and changed, but some stayed stagnant. Large music retailers wanted to – of course – keep the important position they had on the high street, and diversifying into selling books and DVDs (and even relegating the music section to the basement, as HMV on Grafton St, Dublin, did) seemed to be the answer for some. But it wasn’t enough for HMV. Or Virgin Megastores. Or Zaavi. (Or Road Records.) It seems the case that with the evolution of music consumption, no amount of diversifying could ever be enough for the larger chains in particular.
This was initially supposed to be a post about YouTube, about how stumbling across a Jeff Buckley video that I’d never seen before reminded me of the time when the only information you could get about musicians you liked was from music magazines, more knowledgeable friends or, occasionally, TV shows. We all know what has happened to music magazines, and how relevant they are to the average person. And MTV, for example, with its 24-hour rotation of reality TV shows of questionable content, isn’t the resource it once was either.
The past is a foreign country, one where the musical currency was tapes and mix-CDs, torn-out magazine articles and traded tidbits. The future of every facet of the music industry has yet to be written, but so far it is being scribbled on scraps of paper that end up getting tossed in bin.
I hope that in another 10 years we won’t have just nostalgia and rose-tinted memories to hold on to.
And yet, one small spark of hope: Vinyl sales are up…
*Some HMV stores in Ireland, like the one in the Crescent in Limerick, are holding lock-ins to get the wages they are rightfully owed. More power to them, and I truly hope they get their money. It shouldn’t be the case that the very people who kept the shops going on a daily basis are left with nothing.
Pic by me, Dublin
There are few things better than going through a phase of listening to the same artist for a week after not listening to them for quite a long time. That immediate feeling when you put on the first track is like a restorative sigh – you can instantly relax into that blissful space where every note, every beat is deliciously familiar.
With that in mind, here’s some Arthur Russell for your ears. Thanks to his intense work ethic and ability to create music spanning a number of genres, you can listen to him if you’re in the mood for disco, if you’re feeling love-lorn, or if you just want to hear someone play cello like their heart depended on it.
(David Byrne plays guitar on that one)
(The video is gas, and the track is so… lusty)
Another band that I turn to for listening binges is Low, who helpfully have a brand new song out. Hurrah! Far from the darker sound of albums like Drums and Guns, this track hints at the band returning to the more upbeat, fuller sound of albums like The Great Destroyer, but still keeping things a bit restrained. What a voice Mimi Parker has, eh?
The Invisible Way is out on 19 March on Sub Pop. Fingers crossed we’ll see a live date here.
Lord Huron are new to me, but released their first LP late last year in the US. If there is a Fleet Foxes or Midlake-shaped hole in your life, Lonesome Dreams will fill it.
On to another of my most-played artists, Benoit Pioulard, and another reason why 2013 is shaping up to be a super one for new music. His fourth long player, called Hymnal, is due out in March also (on the incredible Kranky label), and here’s a little snippet of a track from it:
Hear the keys? Those, alongside the news that Kyle Bobby Dunn worked on strings for the record, has me incredibly excited to hear what the finished product will sound like. Hopefully the album will be available in a special edition, like its predecessor was – trust me, it’s worth it for all the goodies you get.
Here’s a new podcast featuring an interview with Rafel Anton Irisarri and Thomas Meluch (the man behind Pioulard) who together play under the name Orcas. (The link to download the podcast is at the bottom of the post).
Finally, if you have made it all the way down to here, you might be interested in the latest Community of Independents episode. You may also recognise the voice doing the voice-over during the Wolfbait interview…
In other news, my show Sweet Oblivion was supposed to be back this week, but it seems an old show went out instead. So I’ll see you next week for a new show on Wednesday at 11pm.
Finally, the Meteor Choice Prize nominations were announced this week – I’m a judge this year (very exciting) and it was really interesting to see which albums that I voted for made it through. I was sad not to see Katie Kim, Laura Sheeran and the Spook of the Thirteenth Lock in there, but I also don’t think that if albums didn’t make the award they’re not ‘deserving’ of one (that would be fairly nonsensical). If you don’t have any of those three albums, I’d highly recommend them.
Pic: Me/Declan Kelly
When the rush and stress that is the end-of-year best-of lists (all those hyphens is enough to bring me out in a rash) is over, it’s time to start imagining what lies in store for the next 12 months of music.
Being honest, I go through phases with music (and with blogging too, as my haphazard approach proves). Sometimes I’m all about new music, soaking up whatever fresh sounds I can get my ears around; other times I can’t find anything new that excites me, and retreat back to the familiar songs that made me swoon first time around.
There are such distinct emotions associated with those two endeavours that I wonder if each phase maybe reflects how my own life feels during each particular phase. When I’m full of energy and happy to embrace change, I reach for the new stuff; when things are out of sorts and I’m struggling to find balance, I put my hand out and grab the old.
Now that I’m clearly in an introspective mood, it’s this love I have for older music that I sometimes feel is at odds with music blogging. The Irish blogging scene generally tends to be driven by people who have an urge to discover new music and write about it, and that in itself is proof of how hungry we are for new sounds here. That isn’t criticism – and I couldn’t for the life of me imagine how terrible things would be if no one gave a toss about new Irish music – but when I want to write about older music, about old tracks, old albums, old artists, I wonder if doing that is at all appropriate.
If I stopped for a second and thought about it, though, of course it is. Just because this is a ‘new communication platform’ that I’m using, and just because it is often used to share the joy of new music, doesn’t mean we all have to do the same thing. There are blogs dedicated to every single type of music every created scattered around the internet. One little barely-read blog spouting lines about an old Bonnie Prince Billy track isn’t going to put a dent in this charming online world.
So I resolve to, when the mood strikes me (I’m contrary like that), post whatever music I’m listening to that really makes me want to write, to share whatever I’m feeling at the time. I can’t promise that this year I’ll finally ‘crack’ blogging, and I’m not sure if that’s even what I intend to do, but I do know I’ve been slacking of writing about music for the sake of it, and this space is just perfect to scribble in.
So, in the spirit of this, here are some new tracks I’m enjoying right now.
(On a related note, if you’re in an Irish band, you might be interested to hear that I write a monthly column with accompanying podcast for The Ticket in the Irish Times. If you’d like your MP3s considered, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org)
What are you listening to at the moment? All recommendations gratefully received.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Melody’s Echo Chamber
Caoimhin O Raghallaigh