Saturday 16 December 2017

Get Lost in Music with John Meagher with albums from FKA Twigs, Jenny Lewis, Sinead O'Connor and more

FKA Twigs (formerly known asw Twigs) performs during Pitchfork Music Festival at Union Park on July 19, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
FKA Twigs (formerly known asw Twigs) performs during Pitchfork Music Festival at Union Park on July 19, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
John Meagher

John Meagher

A lot of new music is released in any given three-week period, and a veritable mountain of CDs and streams have built up on my desk and in my inbox in that time that I’ve been on leave. And what a remarkable period it has been for new music, with several albums that are worthy additions to any collection.

Three of the ones I’ve been most taken with have been made by women. Chief among them is LP1, the bewitching debut from English newcomer Tahliah Barnett, whose stage name is FKA Twigs. (The FKA stands for “formally known as”.) A near seamless blend of garage, grime and R‘n’B, Barnett is an original in a sea of clones. And it's the presence of so many great songs that truly makes her stand out from the pack. You would have to worry about anyone who could listen to lead single 'Two Weeks' and not be thrilled by its shimmering beauty.


Then, there’s Jenny Lewis’s effervescent second solo album, The Voyager, which boasts some of her most compelling work since her old band, Rilo Kiley, were in their pomp. From the arresting opener ‘Head Underwater’, which appears to reference the death of her father, to the gloriously jaundiced ‘Just One of the Guys’, Lewis has delivered a smart, eclectic collection that suggests the six years that have elapsed since her last solo album haven't stinted her songwriting gifts one bit.


And then there's Sinead O'Connor's fantastic latest offering, I'm Not Bossy, I'm The Boss. Originally set to be called The Vishnu Room, this is a worthy follow-up to 2012's comeback album, How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? Whether fixated on carnal pleasures or the trials of affairs of the heart, O’Connor’s straight-up lyrics make you hang on to her every word. And her voice is still incredible – one of the most potent instruments in Irish music history. O'Connor plays Dublin's National Concert Hall tomorrow (Saturday) night. It's one of the few high-profile gigs taking place in this lull period before the last major festival of the year, Electric Picnic, pitches its tent at the beginning of September.



It’s a toss-up between two very different albums – the blues-rock debut from southern US newcomer Benjamin Booker and the eighth long-player from well-established Scottish folkie James Yorkston. The latter wins, just. A lengthy collection, featuring 16 tracks, The Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society boasts many of the hallmarks that have thus far proved so engaging when it comes to this singer: meticulously textured instrumentation; lyrics that steer well clear of cliché; and a careworn vocal that draws the listener in. The clean, spare production is from Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip, who’s usually associated with synth-led electro-pop. But he has managed to make Yorkston’s brand of melancholy particularly notable.

Have a look at a short film on this album made by Yorkston’s label, Domino:


The self-titled Benjamin Booker album, meanwhile, is a glorious exercise in retro blues rock. Jack White would surely approve of the pulsating ‘Violent Shiver’ while ‘Have You Seen My Son’ is cut from the same cloth as Rough Trade label-mates The Strokes. A striking vocalist and an even better guitarist, this is a 22-year-old on the cusp of something special. Have a look at Booker raising the roof on Letterman here:



Being included on the BBC’s Sound Of… poll can be the kiss of death for some: let’s hope it doesn’t hamper the rise of young English troubadour Luke Sital-Singh, whose debut The Fire Inside will appeal to those patient folk who are waiting for Damien Rice to release a new album. Sital-Singh, a self-confessed Rice nut, is part of a long tradition of confessional singer-songwriters, and his intimate ruminations are well worth investigation.





It’s been quite a year from much-loved Dublin venue Whelan’s and thanks to its ongoing 25th anniversary celebrations, it has lured plenty of big names to play its cosy confines. Martha Wainwright is the latest to announce shows there (November 3 and 4). Tickets (€25) went on sale on Wednesday and should sell out. I caught her at the Pepper Canister Church, Dublin, last year and she was wonderful. Incidentally, the aforementioned Luke Sital-Singh supported her that night.


Lost in Music – John Meagher


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