PLENTY of exciting album news headlines in this week’s Northern Winds, as well as some excellent new releases and festival news to round up the midway point of the summer season.
It’s a welcome return for former Dublin post-punk act The Murder Capital. Following their debut album ‘When I Have Fears’ back in 2019, one of the better produced and written albums of the year, the band went relatively quiet in the release column. Until this week that is. A surprise drop of the new track ‘Only Good Things’, produced by John Congleton, sees the band return in a compelling new fashion, Gone are the brutal sonic highways and gothic architecture of their debut, replaced instead with lush indie tones and intent. This fresh direction has been described as “an exciting evolution” by band frontman James McGovern. Once lauded for his Ian Curtis-esque delivery, McGovern takes on a bright, noughties approach in their latest, buoyed by new luminous acoustics and ditching the heavy rhythm sections of their past.
News then emerged from the camp of Kerry folk singer Junior Brother (real name Ronan Kealy) of his second album, ‘The Great Irish Famine’. One of Ireland's most distinct voices, the singer will bring out his new LP on Strange Brew Records on September 2, the news accompanied by the release of the new single ‘No Snitch’. Brother’s debut ‘Pull The Right Rope’ was a Peckinpah-esque melée of raw, untamed folk music, blessed with imagery of cheap wine, the shadow of the church and harsh introspection.
On his newest, as well as singles ‘No Country For Young Men’ and ‘Life’s New Haircut’, Kealy looks to the country as a whole, taking in the economics of a nation sliding back into old habits, as one might see an alcoholic reach again for the bottle. ‘No Snitch’, in this style, has elements of Irish traditional and post-punk production, symbolic of Ireland's past and present. Acoustics drone and pitch, guided by the harsh nasal tones of the singer, through a dynamic and shifting tune that can only predict fierce things for his highly anticipated follow-up.
And in the final album news this week, Aoife Nessa Frances makes another return to the column. News emerged this week of her upcoming second album ‘Protector’ which she recently licensed to Partisan Records (home of Fontaines D.C., Just Mustard and IDLES), which would hit the public on October 28. Born of a move from Dublin back home to County Clare, Protector is laden with the themes of love, family and self-discovery. Of the LP, Frances says: “Writing and recording this album was a spiritual experience. Protector acknowledges the part of myself that steers me towards a brighter path.”
Festival news comes from Limerick this week, long Irelands hub for some of the most creative establishments and artists. Féile na Gréine, the festival lauded for putting its money where its mouth is curation-wise, returns for the first time since 2019 and has possibly its best line-up to date. The aforementioned Junior Brother will be making an appearance alongside cult-favourites and alternative stalwarts Girlfriend, Citrus Fresh, Post Punk Podge, Son Zept and Brigid Mae Power (to name a few).
And as always we end the column with a spotlight on some of the best independent releases of the week. We have the newest from The Swedish Railway Orchestra, an atmospheric track. ‘The Ballhaus’. Feel free to enjoy their full LP ‘Dance to the Drum Machine’ at your own leisure but this pseudo-sinister rover is the stand-out. Vocals reminiscent of alternative traditions and tight percussions keep the tension omnipresent. And finally, we have the first track from Meltybrains? in over four years, the subtly titled ‘Journey To/From The Meltyworld’. A progressive tune with freak-rock intentions, a distorted bassline and towering vocals, it's an incredibly fun return for MB.