Last Friday, I bundled myself up, tucked myself into bright red hat, scarf and gloves, and went into town, to meet a lovely friend, chat, eat, and then seek out something I have been waiting exactly a year to own.
I never got my hands on it. It was a book about Vivian Maier – ‘Vivian Maier: Street Photographer’, carefully put together by John Maloof, the man who now owns hundreds of thousands of the late Vivian’s incredible street photographs.
The Gallery of Photography, where I was determined to buy this book, was unexpectedly closed, and so I left, just a little dejected. To tell the truth, I had wanted to buy the book as a present for a friend, and though I couldn’t really afford two copies, I just knew in my heart that once I had one in my hand, I’d need another.
On the way out of the building, I saw a man standing in the doorway to the women’s bathroom, turning around, slowly touching the wooden doors. In his hand was a stick, perched on his nose was a pair of dark glasses. I reached for his arm and asked him where he wanted to go. The men’s bathroom? ‘The main door,’ he told me, and off we went, me awkwardly explaining where we were – “There’s nothing in the way… Here’s the door… Here we are, now: Temple Bar’. He left silently.
When I’m out, I always have a camera in my bag, but I realised recently that I am often too self-conscious to use it. I’m not a ‘photographer’, and I feel self-conscious taking out a camera and capturing a moment.
Vivian Maier seemed to have no such worries – but then again, she had an incredible secret talent. We are not alike except that we are two women with the mechanical ability to capture an image we find pleasing, but she helps to encourage me to just pick up a camera and go with it. In this age where everything is documented online, where people put up their photos for others to see on Flickr or blogs, sometimes it’s impossible for you to know your own ability. You scrutinise your work – whatever the medium – because you can compare it so easily to others’.
But Vivian Maier’s maxim appeared to be ‘No one will see this, except you, so just take the photo’. No matter if she thought anything like this at all or not, these are words that are inspiring, words that show that you don’t have to create something in order to prove you are the best or most talented photographer/writer/singer/insert-profession-here.
You can create just for you, for your enjoyment. For the feeling of reading back your own words, and knowing that only you will be satisfied by them; for the knowledge that only you will know the difference between the image you pictured in your head when you pressed the shutter button and the image that appeared, like magic, on the photographic paper in your hands. It’s not for anyone else; it’s just for you. So if people see it, or read it, or listen to it, and they don’t enjoy it, that’s fine. It’s just for you.
And here is what encouraged me to write this: a lovely blog post about Vivian by Laurence Mackin of The Irish Times that is more up-to-date than my one, and a piece on RTÉ Arena, also about Vivian. Enjoy!
The past two years have seen a huge rise in the amount of young electronic musicians emerging from their bedrooms and plonking themselves onto blogs, radio shows and into the ears of many.
It’s not like Ireland wasn’t a place for great electronic-based music before, but it’s very easy now to get your hands on the software needed to make purely electronic tracks, and even easier to get your music online and into people’s heads. You don’t even have to release a full album – look at Toby Kaar, who is wowing people on the strength of a handful of official tracks, great remixes and awesome live shows.
That all brings me to Feel Good Lost, and the Fundit campaign set up for this Cork-based duo’s new project, The Lightbox Tour.
We are organising a short Irish tour taking in Dublin, Limerick, Cork, Galway, Belfast and Waterford over a week at the end of February. The tour will have 7 acts wich include Bantum,Feel Good Lost, Monto, Reid, Sert One, Simon Bird and Tenaka.
The tour will go under the banner ‘Lightbox’ as each of the acts perform using visual based music hardware such as Monomes, Kaoss Pads, APCs and iPads. Feel Good Lost will be providing live visuals for each of the acts over each of the nights.
Workshops will be staged before each night which will allow people to come and see how each of the acts interacts with the software/hardware so as to provide an even more interactive elements to the nights.
Each night will also host DJ sets in secondary rooms which will include guest DJs such as Nialler9, Jim Carroll, Logicparty and Ian Malaney as well as several of the featured acts.
The gig will take place in Cork on Saturday, February 4 and admission so far is TBC but I will update as soon as it is confirmed.
This is instrumental rockers Rest and Ten Past Seven first co-headlining bill since 2006 (I feel a bit old reading that!).
They say that the capacity for the show will be very limited, so you can expect to get up close and personal with Corkonians on the night. I expect it will be intense!
Ten Past Seven:
To find out more, visit:
Finally, here’s the new tune from Daniel Rossen, he of Grizzly Bear/Department of Eagles fame. It’s sweet, it’s piano-based, and it’s suitably minor-key-mournful for all us Grizzly Bear fans out there.
You’ll find it on his solo debut Silent Hour/Golden Mile, which will be released on 16 March this year.
This track couldn’t have come out in any decade other than the 80’s – that bassline! those drums! – and yet there’s something quite timeless about it too. It’s by Canadian singer/actress Mary Margaret O’Hara, who has a sort of cult status amongst her fans, given that she only released one album ‘proper’, the stunning Miss America (in 1988), one soundtrack to a film called Apartment Hunting (that she apparently did not consent to being released), and one Christmas-themed EP, as well as contributing to a handful of other people’s projects.
There’s nothing like releasing an album as intriguing, unusual and gut-twisting as Miss America and then not doing what people expect you to, which is go and release another damn album. This has helped O’Hara – who is the sister of actress Catherine O’Hara – maintain an air of mystery about herself that is further cultivated by her endearingly offbeat appearance during her gigs (which don’t take place very regularly) and her unique style of self expression (check out the video below for evidence of the latter – her facial expressions and movements are unlike anything I’ve seen in a music video before).
There really is no one else who sounds and performs like Mary Margaret O’Hara, and with a voice that could shatter the hardest of hearts, and songs that explore the deep ache of love, Miss America is an album that will remain a classic.
It’s Friday, so how about a little catch up on what’s been going on this week? Music, radio, juicing (!) and more are included here.
Choice Music Prize
By now, we all know that The Choice Music Prize nominees have been announced – was your pick in there? I have to say that I’m delighted to see Tieranniesaur and Patrick Kelleher and His Cold Dead Hands in there, and overall the list is really solid. It’s never going to satisfy everyone, and it’s nigh on impossible to put together a list of 10 nominees that every single person will be happy with.
I did have fears based on the new sponsors, Meteor, given how disconnected the old Meteor Awards were from the Irish independent music scene, but overall the decisions here are down to the judges, a very trustworthy and knowledgeable gang.
That said, it is perhaps inevitable that the music would all come from one corner of the Irish music scene – I wonder how this could be remedied, or should it be up to other awards ceremonies to reward the best albums in Irish hip hop, metal, trad, etc?
What do you think? Let me know in the comments.
Free music: Out on a Limb Records
Out on a Limb Records have been giving away free downloads of albums from their back catalogue all during the week. So far, Owensie, Windings and Giveamanakick have been featured. Who is on offer today? Check out their website and twitter for more info.
Free music: Orcas
Orcas is the new musical project by duo Rafael Anton Irisarri (The Sight Below) and Benoit Pioulard. The first inklings that they were working together came when they released a haunting cover of the Broadcast song Until Then, in tribute to the late Broadcast musician Trish Keenan. Now they’re back with their first original release, which is available for free download (see below). Combining their ambient sensibilities and love for layered, ghostly sounds, Carrion is both stark and beautiful. Expect a full album later this year.
Fancy listening to some incredible old Katie Kim songs? Check out VAULTS Vol 1, which is only available to buy on tape during her forthcoming tour, and is on Bandcamp now for your listening pleasure.
I achieved one of my dreams a few months ago when I got to sing as part of a small ‘choir’ for a song on the Walpurgis Family album. The album, Dawn, is released this month and it has already gotten a rave review from Patrick Freyne in Hotpress, who really knows his stuff. Here’s Let’s Go Camping from the album – listen closely and you might hear me (ha!). Congrats to Jeroen and Popical Island on the release!
Is your favourite venue fully accessible to all people of all abilities? You might be surprised to hear the truth about whether wheelchair-users can get to gigs in their favourite haunts, as this fantastic article by Louise Bruton in The Ticket in the Irish Times shows today. Good on Louise for highlighting this!
Many venues tick the boxes but do not go further than the token requirements. The wheelchair area often has a restricted view or limits you to having one mate with you, even if you’re with a gaggle of mates.
This great event, which aims to challenge mental health prejudice through creative arts, brings Royseven, Cashier No9, Le Galaxie and dREA together at The Button Factory at 8.30pm on Saturday night. More info here.
Whelan’s: Ones to Watch
What homegrown acts should you be listening to in 2012? Whelan’s have put on a showcase aiming to tell you just that. The gigs have been going since Wednesday, and run until tomorrow (Saturday), when the following bands play:
My tips are Nanu Nanu, Depravations, Alarmist, Bouts, and Come On Live Long – but heck, it’s a bloody great list of bands.
I love Radiolab in a big way – it’s like the younger, more rambunctious sibling of This American Life. Its latest show is about the bad things that people do, like, er, commit murder. Expect to feel very informed (and a bit wary of humanity) after listening to this.
Gib from the independent record store Elastic Witch had a chat with me for this week’s Sweet Oblivion. You can listen to it by following the link here.
Gig of the Week
My gig of the week next week is definitely going to be A Winged Victory for the Sullen. They play the Sugar Club on Thursday 19 January and it’s going to be a guddun’. Tickets are just €13.50 and you can find out more here.
Drink yr Juice
Courtesy of the great Home Organics, a blog post about juicing for all you vegaholics out there.
This looks great – it’s a book about taking photos with Polaroid cameras, and it comes out in May. I’m doing one of Susannah Conway‘s photography e-courses at the moment and loving it. It’s really changing the way I see things, even if I’ll never be the next Cartier-Bresson ;)
Jon Cohen interview
Montreal-based musician Jon Cohen is playing Ireland next week – Dublin’s Grand Social on Friday 20 January to be exact. If you’re a fan of Brendan Benson, The Dears, and Broken Social Scene, I think you’ll really dig his stuff.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this video from Dirty Beaches. I really love his stuff and so does Cohen – we had a chat about how he really wears his influences on his shirt sleeve, and yet manages to maintain his own originality.
His album Badlands and other releases can be found on Bandcamp.
Here’s the video for his song True Blue:
What have you been enjoying this week?
The world needs more independent record stores, but it’s an extremely hard time to open one. That’s why the latest bunch of Irish indie record stores – Elastic Witch in Dublin and Wingnut in Galway, and now Waterford – are taking a new approach to selling records in Ireland.
Instead of focusing on being stand-alone entities, they are harnessing the power of an existing business in which to root themselves, showing that in recession times it’s good for people to come together to make things work.
The phrase ‘bum leg’ came into my head the other night while watching The Wire (yep, I’ve finally joined that huge club – only 10 years late!). It’s not very PC, and probably ableist, so it’s not one I’d recommend adding to your vernacular… but thankfully it’s also the name of this wonderful Joe Pernice track from his solo album Big Tobacco.
The greatest songwriters are those who can make individual songs feel like multi-paged epics, with deftly-written characters, a mesmerising plot, and edge-of-the-seat mystery. This is one of those songs. You’re left wondering who this person is, the man with the ‘bum leg'; who the shifty little robber is that injured him; and how long he has left until he becomes a ghost.
Sometimes, it’s nicer not the get the answers; that way, you can imagine a story all of your own. It’s that sense of intrigue that keeps you on edge during Bum Leg, and why it’s so good to return to it again and again.
Here’s a great live version of the track:
Hey folks – I’ve changed my domain from http://sweetoblivionloves.com to http://aoifebarry.com. While it feels a bit weird having what some call a ‘vanity’ domain, I had left the old domain lapse and it has been bought by some marketing company in the meantime.
So if you happen to have that old address on your blogroll, I’d really appreciate if you could change it to http://aoifebarry.com to avoid people thinking I’ve completely changed career direction. Freelance journalism is certainly not easy at the moment, but I swear I haven’t jumped ship…!
Thanks a million.
These days, I find myself playing more and more Irish music on the show – more and more Irish songs that I adore. So much so that in planning this week’s show I’ve realised I won’t have any room for anything outside of Ireland (plus I’ll have an interview hopefully on the show too, with an Irish music-making and music-supplying person, all going to plan).
It’s a wonderful way to be, particularly as Sweet Oblivion is not an Irish-only show, and I try not to confine my playlists by location/gender/genre/etc. I try to be mindful and have some balance there, but it’s got to be something I really like or love (and/or think others will love) before I play it.
Here are two recent releases from Irish musicians that I’m particularly enjoying, and one from an Irish label. I love the atmosphere that they create, and I think you will too.
I’ve played tracks from Galway-based Jimmy Monaghan aka Seamus O Muineachain on the show consistently throughout the year (and was absolutely chuffed and surprised when he asked to use a photo I took on the cover of one of them). I got the first EP out of the blue, and hadn’t realised that Seamus was Jimmy of Music for Dead Birds, one of the many great bands to have released albums on the Rusted Rail label.
So I literally listened to it blind, so to speak, and was blown away. It was magical. Later, I met Jimmy while interviewing the equally prolific Tony Higgins – but I didn’t actually realise his identity as ‘Seamus’ until after the interview. “You’re HIM!?’ was my reaction when I found out.
Here’s his third EP, and as usual it is available for free download. While keeping the focus on the piano, Jimmy has added more musical flourishes to these tracks compared to the previous EPs – a scatter of cymbals, a rather yearning violin and a touch of electronics to add drama.
On the subject of bands who released on Rusted Rail, the next album to come from the micro-label, which is run by Keith Wallace, is ‘Soft Wounds’ by Songs of Green Pheasant. The delicate, double-tracked vocals and plaintive horns on opener Teen Wolf had me hooked from first listen.
Made by Sheffield-based Duncan Sumpner, this is the 4- and 8-tracked album of your dreams, if you love nothing better than sinking into an aural bed of softly-sung, lo-fi, feathery goodness. It’s pop, in the most understated sort of sense. If the B-section of your record shelves contains Bedhead, Beirut, and Belle and Sebastian, you’ll want Soft Wounds to do your ears some subtle damage.
Keeping with releases that are perfect for grey winter nights in, the Band of Clouds album is another one for you sensitive types. When you’re listening to this, close your eyes and pretend that John Haggis and friends have gathered in your home to play you these songs. The lights are dimmed, the turf fire is blazing, and outside there’s a storm a-gatherin’.
Outside Broadcast is the perfect companion to Songs of Green Pheasant and Seamus O Muineachain, because there is a similar energy running through it, one that you can feel in the pit of your stomach. It’s perfect winter listening because, just like the other releases, it has a smudge of mournfulness on it, a sadness that’s simmering beneath.
It’s no surprise, really, given its genesis:
John Haggis pieced this long player together while he was recovering from an operation which helped him to walk again. No longer able to play music live with his friends, hiding away and making this album became a music therapy of sorts.
The album was made by John, who’s from Granny It’s Ok To Experiment studio in Waterford, and features a host of acts including Katie Kim and Deaf Joe.
It’s just 7 euro to download the digital version of Outside Broadcast, or 10 euro for the CD/vinyl.
Happy listening! Let me know if you enjoy any or all of the above releases.
I’ll be playing tracks from all of these on Sweet Oblivion this Thursday at 5pm, on RTE 2XM.