Fountains of Wayne once sang of Barbara H - a girl who "hates songs that never seem to go away". Well, it's safe to say she wouldn't be a fan of 'Take Me To Church', a track that has been a pillar of Irish radio for the past year. It's a truly powerful song that has drawn increasingly rapt crowds to see Andrew Hozier-Byrne sing. Bravely, he throws it out as the album's opening track as if to say "now, see what else I've got".
What he has, and it's something we already knew, is a superb voice. A sensitive voice of real soul that wouldn't be all that common of skinny lads from Bray.
The influence of Bill Withers is obvious on 'Angel of Small Death', with his voice rich against an early simple backing. But it exemplifies the main issue with the first half of this record: overcrowding. The shuffling, almost rockabilly drums make the track busier than it need be. And the temptation to call in the choir adds an often needless side salad to a satisfying dish. 'Someone New' survives this, and is ready-made to be your next earworm.
Hozier is at its best when at its simplest. Case-in-point, 'In A Week', a grimly sweet duet with Karen Cowley. There's also there earthy, dusty blues of 'It Will Come Back' which works slightly better than its meandering friend 'To Be Alone'. But it always comes back to that voice, whether acting as his own ghostly backing vocalist ('Like Real People D'o) or on the live closer, 'Cherry Wine' where it's just him, a guitar and some birds chirping.
He can over-reach at times, but Hozier has made a steady first steps into the music world.
Kate Bush - Hounds Of Love
On her first four albums, from The Kick Inside to The Dreaming, Bush stretched the outline of what a female pop singer could be out into a hitherto unseen shape, broad in its scope. On Hounds of Love, she filled in that new shape with colour and texture.
Returning after three years, and devoting a full side of an album to the story of a woman lost at sea, trying not to drown, was brave. Using choral music, primitive samplers, spoken word and Irish trad to tell that tale was genius. That it contains a song as sparse and beautiful as 'And Dream Of Sheep' only enhances its value further. And then, there are the singles. The jogging tribal drums of 'Running Up That Hill' lead to that great release line of "let's exchange the experience", an imperative to a lover and to the listener. 'Hounds of Love' sounds strong, but is deeply vulnerable. While the promise of rain has never sounded as uplifting as on 'Cloudbursting'. Hounds of Love formed the spine of her recent live return and served to prove there is still no-one like her.
This Is All Yours
The follow-up to the Mercury-winning An Awesome Wave is thankfully not a grope for the mainstream, nor an anthem-laden festival crowd-pleaser. What it is, is a band trusting of one another, and happy to continue down their experimental boreen.
There is a noticeably warm, psych-folk influence on tracks like 'Nara' and 'Choice Kingdom'. But as we become familiar with our new surrounds, Joe Newman offers to lick us like we're a crisp packet, and Miley Cyrus sticks her tongue briefly inside 'Hunger of the Pine'. It's an album of many nooks and crannies that offers plenty for those willing to explore.
"I don't need you to understand, I need you to listen" sings Mike Hadreas on 'All Along', the track that closes Too Bright. By that stage, we have listened and been quite taken with an experimental and affecting album. Hadreas can be dark and foreboding ('I'm A Mother'), sound like Arcade Fire at their most paranoid ('My Body'), and can echo pale green ghosts through the throb of 'Grid'.
But the album's stand-out is 'Queen', an ominous, deliberate and powerful riposte to those fearful of The Gay Agenda. The title track explains the album perfectly, a sensitive piano ballad with its posture straightened by strong synth puppet strings.
Xbox One, PS4: €74.99
Xbox 360, PS3: € 64.99
From the creators of Halo comes this hotly-anticipated first-person shooter, reputedly the most expensive game ever made. A canny intersection of genres, Destiny is a high-octane, massively multiplayer online role-playing game, and it works very well, thanks to its incredible polish and near-perfect balancing of difficulty and progression.
The experience isn't always perfect, there are long loading screens and the compelling narrative feels thrown away sometimes at the expense of the action.
Xbox One. PS4: €69.99
Xbox 360, PS3: €59.99
The newest hockey game from EA Sports is fast-paced and has made some nice innovations, especially around the presentation, featuring live-action commentators mixed in with the computer-generated characters, and NBC-branded graphics.
Unfortunately, the new-gen (Xbox One and PS4) versions have seen some curious omissions that long-standing fans of the series will likely find disappointing, including a lack of progression and team-based multiplayer.
The 12 albums nominated for the Mercury's album of the year prize have been shortlisted. Here are 10 standout tracks from them.
Nostalgic anthemic soul by two white guys called J and T.
Bombay Bicycle Club
Hugely popular with the late teen college student set.
The most cartoonish song on a sombre album.
Lilting folk with a background in experimentalism.
Rowdy Scottish avant-garde rappers.
Histrionic blouse-featuring elegant guitar music.
Head down, amps up, rock out.
East India Youth
Looking For Someone
Too many ideas to curry favour with the Mercury judges to win it.
The literary spoken word outsider and beats collide.
The hipster's favourite to win. Eh, mine too.
Listen on Spotify:
The Two Faces of January
A sharp and paranoid thriller set in Greece in 1962, the story begins innocently enough when Rydal (Oscar Isaacs), a young American tour guide living in Athens meets fellow American tourists Colette (Kirsten Dunst) and Chester (Vigo Mortensen) while out to lunch. Things very quickly descend into chaos as the story twists and turns on itself in ways that are definitely clever and compelling, but shatter the cool, classic tone of the film's opening and lead to an ending that feels messy and unsatisfying.
Isaacs is outstanding, managing to be both dangerous and vulnerable, making the most of the sometimes chilly script.
Some movies are so bad in a self-aware way that they win you over through charm alone, but sadly this is not one of them. Set in Pompeii on the eve of Mt. Vesuvius's eruption, a young, handsome gladiator known only as The Celt (Game of Thrones' Kit Harrington) falls in love, immediately, with the local magistrate's attractive daughter (Emily Browning).
Hopelessly unfocused and derivative of superior fare like Gladiator, Jurassic Park and Titanic, this disaster, like its volcano, is to be avoided at all costs.