This is a blog post that has been nearly 10 years in the making.
I first came across singer/songwriter Kacie Williams back in 2011 when I was living in the United States. I was on Spring Break in Nashville, Tennessee, and I went to a Battle of the Bands in the Mercy Lounge in the city - incidentally, it was at this Battle of the Bands where I saw Big Surr, the band that inspired me to start The Metaphorical Boat in the first place, so definitely an event that sticks in my mind. I got talking to Kacie at the gig (she was there to see Keegan DeWitt, who's gone on to score a smorgasbord of soundtracks since then), and after that made a note to check out hermusic going forward.
She hadn't released as much music since then, but as of last year she has been releasing music under the name Touma, and has been building up a reputation on the local indie scene in Nashville. Her first single under this moniker, "Bodyguard", came out last year, and has now followed this up with "Fading Out (Epilogue)". It's a song that's very much of the epic pop variety and very much a widescreen heartbreak anthem.
For those who haven't come across her work, it's a great introduction to the sound of Touma. Hopefully it won't be another 9 years before this blog writes about Kacie's music.
A new addition to the burgeoning group of "bands who have named themselves after obscure references from The Simpsons", Brighton group Thrillhousehave been releasing quite a few well-received singles over the past year or so. The song however that caught our attention is "2045". A song that ruminates on the passage of time, the song mixes the songwriting style and vocals of Talking Heads or 80s era David Bowie with a production style that calls to mind acts like Yeasayer to create a great song that toes the fine line between eclectic and overwhelming.
"2045" is available now in all the usual places, as well as some unusual places, one presumes.
Back in March when "the event" was starting to ramp up, I went out and bought a bucket load of albums from artists I was less familiar with on a whim in order to have enough new music to see me through the next few months. There were a few great artists and albums that I got my metaphorical teeth into during that time - Elma Orkestra, Porridge Radio & The Lost Brothers being some of the artists whose albums helped to keep me sane during this strange, strange time.
But of all the albums, the one that I enjoyed the most was "Fragments", the debut solo album from Welsh singer-songwriter Matthew Frederick, who had been nominated for the Welsh Music Prize with his band Climbing Trees. "Fragments" is a great, pastoral album, a thing of beauty that gets better and deeper with every listen.
The song that I enjoyed the most from the album was "Laura Jones", which stands out from the rest of the tracks with its pop-orientated sound compared to the more folksy sound of the rest of the album. It's a tale of a long-lost teenage love that will have you singing along to the chorus for days on end. To coincide with its release as a single, Matthew Frederick has offered anyone whose name is Laura Jones a free download of the single, so whilst it might not be worth getting married or changing your name by deed poll for (but only just), it is well worth getting if you happen to be blessed with said name. And if not, the album & song are well worth paying for regardless.
"Laura Jones" is taken from the album "Fragments", which is out now on various formats on Staylittle Music.
Chris McConaghy, who records under the moniker Our Krypton Son, has been one Derry's more underrated singer-songwriters of the past few years, releasing two well received albums, including the Northern Ireland Music Prize-nominated "Fleas & Diamonds", a giving us some fantastic songs along the way, our highlight being the Scott Walker-esque "Catalonian Love Song", a song that still gives us goose-pimples to this day.
Ahead of the release of a new set of material, he's released a new single which sees Our Krypton Son move in a different direction musically. "White Sun" is produced by Ryan Vail (who won last year's Northern Ireland Music Prize with his collaborative project "Borders" alongside Elma Orkestra), so unsurprisingly the track is an electronic and synth-based, something we haven't really seen in an OKS production to date. Although even with the change in direction, the focal point of McConaghy's vocals remain firmly intact, and as engaging as ever.
"White Sun" is taken from the 3rd album from Our Krypton Son, "Modern Ruins", which is due for release in July.
We're not entire sure that given "the event", if it is fortuitous or unfortunate that the debut single from Belfast 4-pieceBig Daisyhappens to be called "Go Outside". We guess it depends on your perspective, one supposes, although given the song is described as an 'agoraphobic power ballad', it could just end up being the former.
The song itself is a great piece of scuzzy, lo-fi indie-pop, inspired by the sound of Weezer & also some fantastic Alvvays vibes as well. Great music whether you want to be out in the world, or more likely that not at the moment, whether you've got no option to stay in and listen to great music with a cup of coffee and some delicious Battenberg.
One effect of the self-isolation that's come about as a result of "the event" is that we're likely to see a lot more remote collaborations between artists & musicians over the next few weeks. One team-up that we've already seen is from Northern Irish artist Malojian & Jason Lytle (of Grandaddy fame), who've recorded "The Singularity" remotely from their simultaneous lockdowns. It's a lovely song for an uncertain time.
"The Singularity" is currently available to download on a pay-what-thou-want basis, alongside an acapella version (for all your banging-remix needs), an an instrumental version for your "making up your own words" reasons.
London based singer-songwriter Jamie Johnson first caught my attention last year with his wonderful song "Christopher", a heart-rendering song which made our Top Songs of 2019, (as well as picking up love from Phil Taggart at Radio 1), and that felt like it had been written just for me, and not just because it shares its name with myself.
And with his first release of the year, it looks as if 2020 is going to be just as bright. "Old Friend" was inspired by a old classmate he met on the train, and is a gorgeously tender track that manages to create something very special using such a sparse setup of just acoustic guitar & vocals, and calls to mind a more lo-fi sounding version of Jim Croce.
Jamie Johnson has a habit of releasing songs that pull all the emotional strings, and he's done it again on "Old Friend".
All The Few are a 4-piece group from Belfast. Having released a couple of well-received singles in 2019, they are gearing up for the release of their debut E.P. Taken from it is "Remedy", a confident indie-rock single that has a touch of the Kings of Leon in their more anthemic, stadium-hugging mode, and a strong foundation stone for the band going forward.
"Remedy" is taken from the E.P "Sorry, Try Again", which will be launched on 27th March in Love & Death in Belfast.
It's been a while since we've did one of these round-ups of songs from Northern Ireland that have really taken our interest, but there's been a few songs that have grabbed us over the last few weeks that we felt were very much worth bringing to your attention - Mark Hegan - Love, Wait For Me
We've been fans of Mark Hegan on the blog for a number of years, both in his former band and now through his solo material - his song "Skyward" made the top 10 of The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2019.
His first release of the year is "Love, Wait For Me", which has all the characteristics of his solo material - the melding of the electric and rock elements, with a high level of pathos running through it. If you're looking for a less heavy Gang of Youths, then you'll enjoy this one.
Conchúr White is an artist that we first came across as frontman of Silences, whom we've had much love for over the years. He's now recording under his own name, and having released the great "Daisies" last year, and having come off an Irish tour with Villagers, he has released his first single of 2020.
"Bikini Crops" sees White taking on a more surreal quality to his lyrics - Father John Misty & Alex Turner have been cited as influences - which shows a development in his songwriting since his band days. It's also got a blissfully powerful chorus, it's the most infectious one he's done since "The Sea", and if it's any justice, it will be the song that firmly establishes his solo credentials.
The one thing we love about music videos from Northern Irish artists is that their music videos tend to be shot in places we are very familiar with, which always gives us a little sense of satisfaction. Watching the video for "Badlands" by Dark Tropics, we were convinced from the get-go that it's filmed in the Botanic Gardens in Belfast, which we had a great affection for growing up. It's funny how it's the little things that give us a lift.
But anyway, "Badlands" is the debut single from duo Dark Tropics, made up of singer/songwriter Rio and producer Gerard Sands, who's been involved in a few artists we've enjoyed over the years. The song is a slice of dark pop-noir that pulls you in from the get-go. One of fans of Lana Del Rey.
Still in their teens, our interest in The Florentinas was piqued when we saw that Gary Lightbody had been quite complimentary about them. Off the strength of their single "Stay" (which was recorded live in Start Together Studios), we can see that they're a group with a lot of potential in them. It's an atmospheric, hypnotic track that will stay in the back of your head for a while after you've heard it.
They've got a few support gigs coming up in the next few weeks, opening for The Maine and Brand New Friend, so we must make a note to see them live when we can.
It's Valentine's Day this week, so what better time to have on the blog a song about divorce? Our timing is always impeccable.
"Half of Everything" by Canadian singer-songwriter Scott MacKayis a country-inflected song that takes the idea of splitting everything 50/50 after a romantic split, and taking it to its most logical, ridiculous conclusion. The song's got a classic singer-songwriter county feel to it, sounding something a bit like Jake Bugg, if he had a sense of humour.