The Listening Post: No Sozopol

 Some bands aren’t made to last forever, meaning that a lot of the time they leave behind music that will remain unchanged and won’t be marred by the band’s unsuccessful ‘change of direction.’ No Sozopol is one of those bands. Having disbanded in 2011, shortly before the release of their debut album ‘Now That We Have Your Attention’, No Sozopol’s music is just resting, silently waiting to be heard.

The songs on the album combine both indie and pop rock sensibilities with strong, unwavering vocals. Stand out track ‘Demist My Head Freeze My Heart’ starts timidly with jangly guitars and group vocals before climbing to rock-like riffs making it seem like it’s two songs that have been melded into one. It effectively shows the band’s capabilities and musicality. ‘Now That We Have Your Attention’ is available as a free download here, so now you have no excuse! Below is the video for ‘Claustrophobia’, the first single off the album.


Viva Brother v NME

“And as for NME. Shame on you.” This was the tweet that followed Viva Brother’s announcement of their split. NME had propped up the band, had them on the cover and regularly reported about them. This isn’t the first time NME has been accused of building up a band only to knock them down, it’s been claimed that they gave The Enemy the same treatment.

Calling out NME seems like a weak thing to do swiftly following the announcement of the split – it suggests that NME may have played a part in Viva Brother’s decision to split up. Viva Brother released an excellent debut album in ‘Famous First Words’ (if you haven’t listened to ‘Otherside’ yet you absolutely should), their potential was evident and it genuinely seemed as though they had a lot to offer the music industry, even if there were a multitude of dissenting voices saying otherwise.

Here’s where it gets confusing – if a band appears to have a loyal fanbase, were well-known by NME’s readership due to their frequent appearances in the magazine, were touring internationally and had just finished recording their second album it seems odd to split up and suggest that the publication (which admittedly did take a dim view of them after initially creating hype around them) that gave them media coverage is in some way a factor in their split.

Viva Brother’s frontman Lee Newell was in no way averse to insulting other musicians, and like any musician who has anything negative to say about anyone in the industry he drew instant comparisons to Liam Gallagher. Maybe it was Newell’s penchant for insulting other people that ultimately was Viva Brother’s downfall. It was inevitable that NME  would hone in on the negative yet newsworthy controversial statements Newell was making. Insulting musicians who a lot of people look up to and respect is clearly never going to endear you to music fans.

Bands last because they have staying power, overnight success rarely occurs. A band will inevitably fail if either the band or their music isn’t strong enough and they don’t persevere. In this instance Viva Brother’s music definitely had potential, it seems the band just weren’t willing to persevere. Posting vague but suggestive tweets about a music magazine who they were only too happy to talk to several months ago is a strange thing to do in the wake of a split up.

Perhaps ‘Famous Last Words’ is one of those records that will only get the recognition it deserves long after its release, but for a band who already had two previous incarnations, consisted of talented musicians who weren’t afraid of drawing attention to themselves, then negative press and criticism seems like a lame reason to split up, especially when they had a supportive fan base too. As Liam Gallagher said in 1995 in what I presume is Viva Brother’s least favourite music magazine, “You spend your life thinking ‘I want everyone to love me’ – that will never happen.”

Phantom First Friday Gig Review

Venue:  The Academy, Dublin.
Date: Friday, 5th August 2011.

Givers: the band of the night

Amidst all the red and green lights emerged Tieranniesaur, a Dublin six piece with a Warpaint-like sound mixed with synthesisers. For the first few songs their combination of dreamy and shouty music was interesting, until it became swiftly apparent that all the songs seemed to be melding into one. There were no definable features, apart from the Bez-like creature who danced on the stage behind the band for a few songs, impressively dancing even to the slow parts.

So memorable was their performance that when Louisiana natives Givers took to the stage that they couldn’t remember the band’s name when they were giving them a shout out. The award for the most enthusiastic and energetic performance of the night goes to Givers. Having told the crowd to move to the previously empty front of stage because they travelled all the way over to Ireland, so the least we could do was walk a few steps nearer to them, gave the previously lacking atmosphere the kick it needed.

They powered through every song jumping around on stage and crashing drums like children who’d been let loose in a sweet shop, brimming with enthusiasm while interacting with the crowd. And, judging by the amount of times they mentioned how happy and thankful they were to be in Ireland, savouring every moment.

Headliners Cashier No. 9

Shortly afterwards came the time for the headliners, Cashier No. 9. Having received regular air play on Phantom has significantly raised the Belfast band’s profile, the night after this gig they were support to Bell X1 and Editors in Marlay Park. Sounding not dissimilar to Portugal the Man, the mellow but inviting tones of the band seemed to flow seamlessly from the stage.

In addition to the attention-grabbing music Cashier No. 9 also have the most dapper percussionist I have ever seen, wearing a bowler hat and waistcoat with pride. This is clearly a band to be taken seriously, and with each song gained more and more attention from the crowd and got better and better. Their catchy songs and engaging stage presence aren’t to be ignored.

But by the end of the night it was the pulsating drum beats and rhythmic sounds of Givers that were most memorable and impressive, and that seemed to be reverberating throughout the streets on the way home. Their eagerness and enthusiasm was astounding, and when a band are so confident and so into the music they’re playing it’s impossible not to feel the same way.

The Listening Post: OrphanCode

You should never underestimate the seriousness of a chess match, and one band who understand the importance of one are Dubliners OrphanCode. And as well as this essential requirement for being in an indie band they’ve also mastered the art of writing songs that have real staying power (I’ve been a fan since 2008, and the melody for ‘Last Dance’ still pops into my head on a regular basis) and are definitely one of the most talented and underappreciated bands in Ireland at the moment.

Since their earlier incarnation of Nero this band have been getting consistently better, and I genuinely have yet to hear a song by them that I don’t like. They’ve been one of my favourite Irish bands for the past few years and definitely stand out from the endless number of other bands trying to make it. OrphanCode have the distinct feel of a band teetering on the brink of wide recognition, and when you listen to any of their songs you’ll understand why.

Giving Up Facebook

I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t been tempted to delete my Facebook account. In fact, it’s something that I’m strongly considering. Such a move would be hot on the heels of the deletion of my (previously dormant) MySpace and Bebo accounts, I feel like I’m on a roll and if I stop now I’ll be forever in debt to endless ‘social’ network sites that I get bored with very, very quickly.

Facebook’s good for keeping in touch with people who you don’t get to see as often as you’d like to, school friends who you haven’t seen in ages and just general banter with the friends you see every other day. But after the 100th Farmville invite and event invitation it gets a bit weary.

And I just can’t keep up with the bizarre social competitiveness that some people seem to thrive on, changing their profile pictures every day and endless updates of how “last night was a messy one.” (What are the odds they were sitting at home in their pyjamas watching Jersey Shore, eh?)

Or maybe it’s the opposite, maybe I’m bizarre because when I go on nights out I’m not arsed about getting my picture taken with everyone in the room. If someone is snapping pictures of you every two seconds then chances are that you’re not actually having that great a night. And when I’m hungover the last thing I want to do is look at a computer screen and announce the fact that I feel like my insides are dying – I prefer to get a takeaway and weep about my self-induced illness.

I don’t like drawing attention to myself, I have a very boring life and no pearls of wisdom to share, nor do I care if you’ve just found tin foil that’s cheaper in Spar than in Londis (yes, that was a real status update) or if you’ve just contracted herpes (not real, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time).

What originally began as a fun way of interacting with friends has turned into a surreal world where you find out much more about people than you ever wanted to and if you’re not eating dinner on a yacht with Barack Obama off the coast of the Bahamas then you’re the weird one.

But every time that little white arrow is hovering over the “cancel account” button I hesitate. What if I end up losing touch with some people and then never having any way to be in contact with them ever again? What if something funny happens on Facebook that all my friends will have seen and then I’ll be the odd one out? So I retreat. I click back to the homepage and reenter the world of endless holiday snaps and pointless status updates.

Cancelling my account is something that plays on my mind every time I log in. I start to weigh up the pros and cons in my head with neither column being particularly convincing. Sometimes I just give up and go to Spar, because cheap tin foil won’t sell itself.

The Listening Post: Kristeen Young

“She frightens me,” I overheard the brunette in the front row quietly say between songs. To receive this kind of reaction is no mean feat, and when Kristeen Young took to the stage as the support act for Morrissey’s recent gigs in Dublin’s Vicar Street she definitely grabbed the attention, confusion, and fear, of the audience members. Thrashing out songs on her ceramically designed keyboard and wailing into the microphone with a look of both anger and determination on her face made her hard to ignore.

During her set you could hear mutterings of “PJ Harvey” and “Kate Bush”, and while the similarities are undeniable there’s also something very endearing and unique about Kristeen Young. Maybe it’s her catchy lyrics, maybe it’s her quirky fashion sense, maybe it’s her knack for hitting perfect notes when she sings. Whatever it is, it’s hard to put my finger on. But that’s one of the qualities of Kristeen Young, it’s difficult to adequately describe her music and on-stage presence, she seems like an anomaly that’ll be forever hard to grasp, and that’s perhaps one of the best things about her.

Blink 182 – Up All Night Review

In 2009, to the joy of Blink 182 fans all over the world, Tom DeLonge unfound God and realised that the dulcet tones of Angels and Airwaves could never match Blink’s aggressive, raw and unmistakably American sound. So the Californian cockney wonder returned and three years later Blink 182 have released their first official single since their 2005 hiatus.

Blink 182’s long-awaited new release Up All Night treats fans to a barrage of chugging riffs, drum fills and a more mature lyrical direction. With Hoppus and DeLonge sharing vocals as per usual, singing lyrics about how “everyone lives to tell the tale of how we die alone someday” and “all these demons/they keep me up all night” marks a change to the usually juvenile and audacious songs associated with Blink 182. They’re not singing about being called immature or falling in love with girls at rock shows. This is a world-weary song about despair and being a ‘grown-up’, but when it’s underpinned with Blink 182’s brand of pop punk it somehow makes it okay. The enemas of the state are back, but this time they’re not taking any shit.

The Listening Post: Rooftop Anthem

Young, enthusiastic and void of the lack of direction that tends to plague bands in the first few years of their formation, Rooftop Anthem are an interesting quartet. Channelling the likes of Kings of Leon, mixed with original and catchy lyrics, makes for an exciting listen.

Though Rooftop Anthem only formed in 2009 they already sound ready to be filling arenas. Their debut single Suzie is a combination of catchy lyrics which will be embedded in your brain for days, with attention grabbing riffs and a new sound for the face of Ireland’s usually overlooked indie music scene. Have a listen to the song Suzie, chances are you won’t be disappointed.

The Weight Debate: Why the world is going crazy

Leafing through the magazine I glance at the latest YSL campaign, a thin model is looking back at me from the pages. Her loose-fitting clothes give her an almost childlike appearance while her cheek bones appear to be the only things giving her face shape. Underneath the image of this model is a picture of YSL’s elle perfume, a purple and gold rectangular bottle oozing femininity and glamour.

I love fashion, or to add to my dramatic tendencies, I devour it. I read through Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar as though my life depends on it, I soak up all of the lastest season’s runway looks and keep a close eye on predicitions for next season’s looks. I glance admiringly at the clothes, I marvel at the beauty tips which I think are genius at the time of reading but am just too lazy to bother doing. I judge Kate Moss and Alexa Chung’s outfits as though I know what I’m talking about and I try to think of ways to transfer these styles into my own look.

Topshop model

I’m a fashion lover, and I’m not afraid to admit it. One of the most well-known and supposedly desirable jobs in the fashion industry is modelling, but it is also the most contentious. For years the size zero debate has raged on, a furore which has given the Daily Mail many chances to complain about the fashion industry yet use headlines like “Good job she’s a size zero” too. Recently pictures of models have been used on the Topshop website who have skeletal and gaunt appearances, it’s caused outrage among eating disorder groups who appear to believe that such images can cause and promote eating disorders.

Here’s some home truths: fashion is an industry, models are an integral (but ultimately replaceable) part of that industry. Models aren’t meant to be a reflection of people you see everyday walking down the street, the majority of models tend to be very tall, striking and, well, awkward. In essence they’re just clothes horses for the designers who want their clothing collections to look high fashion and desirable.

An acceptable image?

The notion that images of models alone can cause people to develop eating disorders irritates me. Can people not be trusted to make their own decisions and not be so easily influenced by the unrealistic appearance of an airbrushed model? Could it be that this is just another attempt by the Nanny State to tell us how things should and shouldn’t be? Because the only message that I’m getting from this furore is that us, the public, can’t be trusted to make our own decisions.

There’s more to an eating disorder than merely looking at a picture of Lily Cole and suddenly deciding you’ll stop eating. In most cases there’s underlying issues, such as low self-esteem. The question that really needs to be asked is why do so many young people suffer from eating disorders, why are they so uncomfortable with who they are that they feel the need to drastically and dangerously change themselves. I get the distinct impression that models are just being used as a scape goat. While there’s a chance they may influence people I find it hard to believe that they alone should be blamed for eating disorders.

Wrestlers and body builders don’t receive as much criticism as models, when arguably they should also receive the same amount of criticism. Don’t they too promote an unrealistic body image? But wrestlers and body builders work in a specific industry, it’s expected that they have a particular appearance. Most people can accept that if someone sees a picture of Hulk Hogan they’re unlikely to drink their body weight in protein shakes, but clearly few of us possess the ability to stop ourselves if we see a picture of a waif-like model. People don’t hunt down Johnny Vegas and Phill Jupitus and accuse them of promoting obesity, but for some reason it’s perfectly acceptable to target models.

How to survive the ‘summer’ months

Ireland has three seasons; winter, winter lite and autumn. Right now, in mid-June, I’m pretty certain it’s the end of autumn nearing winter. With fresh drops of rain converging into puddles on the roadside and the early morning sound of hailstones tap-tap-tapping off the window I feel as though the weather patterns here are more confusing than Lady Gaga’s fashion choices. Half the time I shudder to look out the window incase I see a lost gondolier looking back.

Fortunately such inclement weather is common during what is supposed to be Ireland’s summer (ie a day or two in July)  so being cooped up indoors isn’t a world away from what I’m used to during the summer (read: winter lite) months, be it at a gig or Jervis Shopping Centre. But what if, similarly to me, you’re a poor student who can’t afford to go out everyday and so find trudging through the rain on a daily basis a bit pointless and unnecessary? Luckily, entertainment is never far away and can be cheap.

Teh internetz
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve watched videos of cats playing keyboards and being ninjas on YouTube. But hey, if you’ve got hours to kill there’s worse you could be doing. Apparently the internet’s educational, but all it’s done so far has made me unimpressed by the decidedly dull cats that wander through the estate I live in. YEAH FELIX, I’M TALKING ‘BOUT YOU.

Ah books, I think the majesty of books may have been forgotten in the haze of kindles and online editions but I personally think you can’t beat leafing through the pages of books, inspecting the scribblings left by previous owners and the feeling of success or sadness when you close the book after reading the final page. So go on, read a book, libraries are there to be used.

Listen to Music
It’s said that Ian Curtis of Joy Division only liked listening to music when he could sit down and properly listen to the songs with no distractions – no newspaper, no books, just appreciating the music for what it is. Most people get their music fix listening to their iPod on the commute to work or college, hearing the music through headphones which don’t really do justice to most albums. Put your iPod in its docking station, or CD in its stereo, and listen out for for every chord and key change, the nuances in the vocalist’s voice. You’ll never hear the album in the same way again.

Get Arty!
Most people stop painting and sketching when they finish school, but there’s something to be said for the sense of acheivement that comes from completing a sketch or painting that turns out exactly how you want it to. I firmly believe that everyone has some artistic talent, it just takes practice. And no matter how your artwork turns out bear in mind worse has probably been displayed in gallery exhibitions (Richard Tuttle’s ‘Triumphs’ springs to mind), so don’t lose heart.

If any of the aforementioned suggestions don’t work then you can always begin building a boat, or perhaps a plane. I’m going to get a headstart on building an igloo, winter’s coming soon!

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