Best of 2013 w/ Ciaran Dwyer of Knoxville Morning

Knoxville-Morning---Ciaran-Dwyer

It’s that time of year when every music website, publication and blog (including this one) are busy compiling lists, lists and more lists. Last year I asked bands and artists who’d played ‘BarryGruff Presents’ shows to put their own list making skills to the test in picking their ‘favourite album of 2013′, ‘favourite song/remix of 2013′ & ‘favourite Irish song of the year’. After another successful year of shows, why break with tradition?

Right, that is enough waffling from me, it’s over to Ciaran Dwyer from Knoxville Morning and his picks from 2013.

Irish Song of the Year: Lethal Dialect (Feat. Jacknife J) – ’13 til Infinity’

My love of lyric writing came from being an obsessive Hip Hop Fan in secondary school and it was this that led me to folk music and to the poets that are my heroes today. I’m quite new to Lethal Dialect and when I heard this song it blew my mind on first listen, the easy going production and flow is perfect and the song couldn’t have come at a better time, slap bang in the middle of our best summer in years but its the subjects that Lethal raps about that really bring me in. Like all great writers he writes about his own environment and what he sees around him turning the often banal into things of beauty. The last verse (especially the last two lines) give me shivers on the scruff of my neck every time I hear it, one of the best tributes to a woman I’ve ever heard in a song. Pure Poetry, Pure Genius.

Album of the Year: The National – ‘Trouble Will Find Me’

This was a toss up between this and Push the Sky Away by Nick Cave which also blew my mind this year. Trouble edges it for me as The National have been my favourite band for many years now and every album is a step up the ladder of greatness, this one being probably my personal favourite alongside Boxer. The highlight tunes on this for me are ‘I Should Live in Salt’, ‘Demons’, ‘Humiliation’ and ‘Pink Rabbits’ (one of the finest songs they’ve ever written). Matt Berninger is the man of the match on this album, outdoing himself with his Vocals and pushing himself to new heights with his lyrics. I was lucky to see them tour twice this year and the second time ranks as one of my favourite shows that I’ve ever seen.

Song of 2013: The Mighty Stef – ‘The Hardship’

I can remember loving this song the first time I ever heard it being played in a sound check in Detroit. It hadn’t yet become the absolute Monster of a song it is today but had all the hallmarks of a Mighty Stef classic even back then. The word Hardship has been thrown around our bands in jest for a couple of years now, often in the middle of real hardship where some comic relief is needed to keep the train on the tracks. If there’s one thing I know about Stef and his operation is that he has had to work incredibly hard through all manners of Hardship to get any little thing he gets in Music. The singing on this is perfect, a master-class in how to deliver a song, full of emotion and passion and going right to the end of his range as a singer. ‘The Hardship’ is an anthem to all of us who are in this game for the long run.

(Video) Lethal Dialect – ’13 ‘Til Infinity’

Lethal Dialect is easily one of the best rappers in Ireland, and has been for sometime now. LD is gearing up for the release of his highly anticipated new album, 1988 this summer.

Ahead of the forthcoming LP the he has treated us to ’13 ‘Til Infinity’ – a fine first taste of what to expect from the album. It appears he’s swapped the darkness of his previous two albums in favour of lighter, brighter vibes. ’13 ‘Til Infinity’ has a sun-kissed summery feel to it with a woozy laid-back vibe and a jazzy touch. All a platform for LD to unfurl  his  nostalgic, contemplative lyrics. LD has always been a thoughtful soul, but even so, his lyrics and delivery on this occasion are really striking. The suitably summery and highly polished video, directed by Jonathan Lambert, is excellent too, check it up above. Having scrapped his Magnum Opus project it was always going to be intriguing to discover what LD would come up with. The good news is, he hasn’t disappointed. 

1988 is due out this summer & you can download ’13 ‘Til Infinity’ for free here.

BarryGruff’s Irish Albums of the Year 2012

BG12IrishAlbums

Pretty self explanatory this one. There’s been a lot of great music released in Ireland over the past 12 months & here’s ten Irish albums I’ve enjoyed the most in 2012. You can also check out the ‘Albums of 2012‘ & ‘Irish Songs of 2012‘ if you want.

10. The Expert – ‘Neckbreakers’

Not strictly an album, more of a beat tape as it happens but who makes theses rules? Over seven glorious cuts of jazzy instrumentals The Expert takes us on a head nodding journey from start to finish. Having produced beats for over fifteen years, mainly with his band MJEX, it certainly shows. A worthy addition to any record collection.

09 Imploded View – ‘Picnics With Pylons’

Picnics With Pylons is the debut album from Longford based producer Imploded View (aka Jerome McCormick). Continuing with his forte for atmospheric downtempo electronic music, his debut rarely if ever, emerges from first gear. Preferring to meander through a vast and cloudy world of extremely chilled ambient sounds, an air of calmness permeates the entire record. McCormick is certainly comfortable in this skin, he seems at peace, a feeling transposed to the listener as the airy productions wash over you, allowing time for delicate detail, added emotional depth and mood and thought provoking atmospherics. An assured and composed debut.

08 The P Affection – ‘Cakes For Occasions’

The P Affection’s debut was a scatter-shot of indie-pop, rock, ska, and folk, a very good one it must be said. While staying true to the influences of that record, with Cakes For Occasions, The P Affection have grown as a band and refined their sound. It’s a pretty irresistible and varied selection of power-pop and harder edge indie-rock coated in a mix of humorous and heartfelt lyrics. The P Affection continue to improve in all that they do, it’s going to be exciting to see where to next.

07 House of Dolls – ‘House of Dolls’

Taking their cue from the likes of The Chameleons, The Verve, Jesus & Mary Chain and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club; there is no messing around with House of Dolls. Equally adept in the psych-rock/shoegaze department or rip-roaring  dirty rocking guitar riffs. It is here where the albums persona lies, flipping seamlessly between the two styles, on the one hand the fired up brutish rock sounds and on the other, the more measured and steady but no less captivating psych-rock sounds. A very good album, one deserving of much greater exposure.

06  Our Krypton Son – ‘Our Krypton Son’

Our Krypton Son is Derry man Chris McConaghy, who on gathered close musician friends together to create the band in early 2010, they have taken time to produce their self-titled debut. It is a warm collection of alt-rock/folk songs, imbued with an eerie sense of melancholy and an autumnal feel. McConaghy proves himself an excellent songwriter and his voice is possess a real richness and warmth. Our Krypton Son is a solid debut with so much to like but, having seen them live, there is even more to come.

05 Knoxville Morning – ‘Knoxville Morning’

A trip across the US left Ciaran Dwyer of Band On An Island with a collection of songs and stories, of a distinctly different variety to those of BOAI, and so Knoxville Morning was born. Under this new alias, with Dwyer at the helm, he is joined by fellow BOAI members and The Mighty Stef, Gavin Elsted (We Are Losers), Brian Gallagher (Humanzi), Stephen Fahey (Super Extra Bonus Party) and Claire Prendergast. The record is a sweet blend of folk, country and Americana, and while it wears it’s US influences on it’s sleeve, Ciaran’s intuitive storytelling remains a linchpin that holds everything together. It maybe shouldn’t work, but it does, and remarkably well too, which is a credit to Dwyer and all involved.

04 Lethal Dialect – LD 50 Part II

LD 50 Part II is the second record from Dublin rapper Lethal Dialect and it is extremely impressive. Composed, confident and intelligent, there is no bullshit bravado here, just great rap tunes. LD’s greatest asset is his voice, spitting salient bars above beats and samples, he utilises every breath to paint an all too realistic depiction of life in Dublin. Delving into a whole raft of topics and issues others tend to refrain from, he’s cool, calm, sometimes agitated and angry but always passionate. A refreshing and thought-provoking new voice, not only for Irish hip-hop but Irish music in general.

03 Ghost Estates – ‘Ghost Estates’

Prior to this release, Ghost Estates had already carved out quite a name for themselves, their debut album goes someways to realising their potential. With three songwriters in the band, stylistically it’s diverse, taking in a mix of new wavey sounds, reach for the sky guitar anthems and straight up indie rock. This amalgam has seen them arrive at their own distinct sound of hazy electronica edged indie which send a shiver down the spine. It is said two heads are better than one, well, judging by Ghost Estates’ debut, three are certainly better than two. Easily one of the best Irish indie album for some time.

02 Nathan Conway & The River Valley Band – ‘Nathan Conway & The River Valley Band’

Nathan Conway & The River Valley Band certainly borrow from the past to create a timeless soulful country sound, and have found their niche. The tone is soulful country, set to overarching themes of demise and redemption, draped in Conway’s intuitive storytelling which paints vivid pictures with his words. Mostly you feel they are working together, from the swinging uptempo tracks to the less blustery, slower numbers. They have a rapport with one another; brass, percussion strings and Conway’s deep bellowed croon, all work in perfect tandem. Sonny Boy requires a degree of patience, but it is worth it. A beautiful, timeless and assured album.

01 Conor Mason – ‘Standstill’

Standstill continues where 2009’s When It’s Over left off, flowing gently by, amid a sea of soft lilting vocals, whispering lyrical poeticisms and subtle instrumentation. It is permeated by an air of richness, comforting tranquillity and shrouded in melancholy. Standstill is a slow burner and requires patience, understanding and repeated listens to be fully appreciated. Standstill is a beautiful, simplistic and assured album and sometimes that is quite enough.

Telling It As It Is | An Interview With Lethal Dialect

The new issue of Lookleft has hit the shelves across Ireland this week. Here is an interview with Lethal Dialect from the previous issue. Lookleft is available in every Easons north / south & other selected retailers.

*At the time of writing LD was working on new album ‘Magnum Opus’, this has since changed & he is working on a different record, ‘1988’. Explained better here.

LD

Over the past 18 months Dublin rapper Lethal Dialect (LD) has emerged as, not only on of the most exciting acts in Irish hip hop, but Irish music in general. Taking time out from recording his third album, LD caught up with Lookleft.

Growing up surrounded by house and dance music, hip hop became his true musical love. For LD the attraction to Hip Hop was the social commentary, “I know it sounds clichéd to mention but 2Pacs ‘Brenda’s Got A Baby’ was definitely an influence. It’s not just relative to African American communities but ours as well. It’s the only music form I could ever really relate to. It’s the only form that has a lot of lyricism involved, unlike other music; it’s more about what you’re saying.”

A deep thinker for as long as he can remember, he always found the need to express himself and hip hop was a natural choice. It is the attitude which shapes and informs his own musical style, concerning himself with the everyday things, good and bad, that he sees around him. Although he is keen to stress “It’s not just about talking about how you feel or what you see, it’s easy to do that. It’s about saying things in a creative or slick way with wordplay or a clever twist that’s the challenge.”

It’s an attitude and approach which has in time won over many music fans as he explains, “The first album was an underground album with a lot of dark undertones so I wasn’t expecting much but it put the name in a few heads.” With the second album the reception was much different. “It’s been received very well.  I couldn’t shout out everyone who helped promote because I’d be here all day but it’s gotten radio play, it’s been in nearly every Irish newspaper and a few things on television. “

LD believes hip hop in this country may finally beginning to get the recognition it deserves but also feels some of this attention may be misplaced, as both good and bad acts receive the limelight. “I think they are exploiting many of the jokers or novelty acts by focusing a light on them while the likes of Scary Éire or RíRá never got the media recognition they deserve.”

With a certain level of derision when it comes to the genre, is there an attempt to undermine hip hop as happened in the US and UK? LD believes there is a certain amount of conspiracy, “anytime I have been on anything to do with the mainstream media there has been an undercurrent of taking the piss out of it but what do you do? You can either be on mainstream media and have your name out there or ignore it and your name won’t be out there. I think it’s about finding a balance.”

This is not the only prejudice he’s experienced while trying to get his music heard. “I have noticed a lot of classism for example, especially with things on RTE. There’s definitely a lot of classism there that they need to be look at themselves. I’ve noticed a lot of it lately in Irish society in general, I suppose I never really noticed it before until I started to get out there and do different things. I don’t think it should matter. “

In spite of these obstacles the future looks bright for Lethal Dialect and he’s very upbeat about the new album. “When the third album Magnum Opus drops, that will be the pinnacle of what we’re gonna do at a street level and then hopefully do a proper studio album.” It like previous releases is “100% DIY or homemade” and “100% percent original beats and lyrics” and while still dealing with serious subjects “it’s much more upbeat and lyrical” than previous releases.

You can download both LD50 & LD50 Part II for free from http://lethaldialect.bandcamp.com/. Lethal Dialect plays The Workman’s this Sunday, with both albums ‘played in full’ for the last time (details here).

Lethal Dialect – ‘Sun Soaked’

Dublin rapper Lethal Dialect has been a busy man, releasing his debut album last year, following it up with the superb Part II earlier this year, with Magnum Opus set to conclude the trilogy next year.

‘Sun Soaked’, the first track from his forthcoming album, is a slightly breezier production to what we’ve heard from LD to date. He still sounds authoritative yet humble, these are honest reflections from a truthful and important voice in Irish music. There is absolutely zero bullshit bravado on show here, a rare commodity in music nowadays. The release of Magnum Opus can’t come quick enough.

You can stream ‘Sun Soaked or watch the video below. Also, I interviewed Lethal Dialect for the latest issue of LookLeft Magazine, you can pick it up from Eason’s stores Island wide.

Introducing: Lethal Dialect

Dublin rapper Lethal Dialect was one of the most impressive performers at Camden Crawl Dublin back in May. Composed, confident and intelligent, there is no bullshit bravado here, just great rap tunes.

Guru once said “It’s mostly tha voice, that gets you up. It’s mostly tha voice, that makes you buck. A lot of rappers got flavor, and some got skills. But if your voice ain’t dope then you need to [chill… chill… ]”. Why mention this? Because Lethal Dialect’s greatest asset is his voice, sailing above beats and samples he utilises every breath to sound his honest and truthful messages.

LD paints an all too realistic depiction of life in Dublin, delving into a whole raft of topics and issues others tend to refrain from. Often cool, calm, sometimes agitated and angry but always passionate. a refreshing and thought-provoking new voice, not only for Irish hip-hop but Irish music in general.

The first two installments of the LD50 trilogy are now available for free download here.