Pure Bliss

Fri, Jul 27, 2012, 01:00

We asked TONY CLAYTON-LEAto pick his top-five must sees at next weekend’s Liss Ard festival in Co Cork. In the end, he managed to narrow the list down to 11 – and that’s just for starters . . .


HÜSKER DÜ? Sugar? Bob Mould? If your music-loves checklist includes at least one of these aforementioned names, then you’d be well advised to beat a path to Co Cork, for Mould is currently touring the 20th anniversary of Sugar’s superb Copper Blue album.

For those who may not be fully aware of this man’s pedigree, Mould’s first band Hüsker Dü laid the foundations for 1990s US alternative rock (that’s Nirvana to you, mate), while his second band, Sugar, developed the mix of power chords and pop melodies that still sound great to this day. It isn’t all guitars and surges, though, for Mould. His solo output includes a truly elegiac debut album, Workbook (1989), which blindsided his fan base by replacing wall-of-noise pop/rock with a collection of low-key, pastoral acoustic songs. Less successful perhaps, were Mould’s detours into electronica and dance music. Copper Blue, then, in it entirety? Some people have waited a very, very long time for that.

What we want to hearYes, we know it’s a Sugar gig, but will Mould delve into the nether regions of the Hüsker Dü’s often indelible back catalogue?


You might be more familiar with the Scottish band that Paul Buchanan was at one time associated with – The Blue Nile – than anything Buchanan has released himself, but don’t let that give you any excuses to avoid one of the most supremely serene listening experiences you’ll ever have the opportunity to catch. No longer in official existence, The Blue Nile were never the most prolific of bands, releasing just four albums in a 20-odd year career that started in the early 1980s. Buchanan still sporadically soldiers on, however, keeping the music of the band alive not just by performing tracks from their albums (1984’s A Walk Across the Rooftops, 1989’s Hats, 1996’s Peace at Last, 2004’s High), but also by occasionally popping his own name on the music via his recently released solo album, Mid Air.

Expect, then, a gentleman’s approach to music; in other words, just take time to listen to hushed, intimate songs. No pushing or shoving at the back, now, folks, if you don’t mind.

What we want to hearThe new solo album is pretty darned good, but we have a soft spot for the sheer sublimity of A Walk Across the Rooftops.


Is this 71-year-old British singer-songwriter one of the best of his kind that you’ve never heard? Quite likely, you’ll have read of his influence on the likes of Kate Bush, Johnny Marr, Fleet Foxes and Joanna Newsom (whom he has supported at various live shows); less likely, you’ll be familiar with his associations with Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, and his early experiences of being on just-about nodding terms with the likes of Paul Simon, Nick Drake, Bert Jansch and Joni Mitchell.

In other words, Harper has seen ’em come and go, and yet he remains something of an enigma. To say that he has followed his own idiosyncratic path from the get-go is an understatement; here is a guy who has consciously avoided sleeping all night, every night with the music industry, yet who has still managed to release more than 40 studio, live and compilation albums. And he’s been living in West Cork for quite a long time.

What we want to hearTwo songs, if you don’t mind – Circle (from his 1967 album Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith), and One of Those Days in England (from his 1977 album, Bullinamingvase).


Six years ago, Galway’s Julie Feeney wasn’t a name you’d hear being bandied about in too many circles outside Irish contemporary classical music. She burst fairly quickly into the rather grubbier rock/pop music scene, however, with her 2005 debut album, 13 Songs (the winner of the inaugural Choice Music Prize), and her 2009 follow-up, pages (which received a Choice nomination). That she’s been a busy bee in the interim is a given – imminent works include her debut opera (of which we’ll get a sneak preview during the Dublin Theatre Festival in October), choral arrangements of her songs (for a 10-day national tour in November), and a crowd-funded new album that has recently been completed and which is scheduled for release in October. And we won’t even begin to list her other plentiful talents – there really isn’t room. What three words appear on the front of her favourite T-shirt? Little Miss Clever.

What we want to hearOh, anything . . . Doesn’t matter. It’s all good. Really.


Portland, Oregon, you have a lot to answer for, and thankfully, one such issue is Chromatics, a once self-professed noisy and chaotic quartet that has morphed into one of the most accomplished electronic acts of recent times. Although newer fans would know them from Tick of the Clock (their inclusion to the soundtrack to the movie Drive), they really landed four years earlier with their third album, Night Drive, which replaced noisy/chaotic with synth-pop. Radically rehauled and revalued, the band have since gone on to bigger and better things, notably with their latest album, Kill for Love, which blends insomniac fug with gorgeous melodies, and killer hooks with lively words.

What we want to hearChromatics doing their lonely, lovely version of Bruce Springsteen’s I’m on Fire.



If there was a contest for the nation’s favourite female singer-songwriter, then surely Lisa H would walk away with the gong. Some people don’t like her, apparently. These people are daft – Hannigan is effortlessly one of Ireland’s most gifted singer-songwriters.


More people probably know award-winning writer Howard as Ross O’Carroll-Kelly, the fictional Dublin southsider who just can’t get the hang of this recession lark. Howard tweaks and fine-tunes his characters for maximum laughs, so prepare to giggle your way through his readings.


Joan Wasser has a voice that could melt granite, and if she performs her version of The Smiths’ This Night Has Opened My Eyes (from Setanta compilation album, The Separate, Orchestral Variations, Vol 1), then we predict world peace.


Who’s something of a prodigy, then? New Yorker Jaar is the young master of what he himself terms “blue-wave”, which is nice’n’slow beats weaving their way through warped pop music and accessibly avant-garde melancholia. We like.


We like Joe Dunthorne too; not just because he apologises for being on Twitter, but because he wrote Submarine, which was made into one of our favourite movies of recent times. If we’re lucky, Dunthorne will be reading from his excellent most recent book, Wild Abandon.


Twins Louise and Ellie McNamara have graduated in the past five years from Leaving Cert ingénues to aren’t-they-quite-good? contenders. Expect to hear a batch of new songs from their forthcoming album, Kingdom.

Liss Ard 2012 Festival of Music, Literature, Drama & Food takes place at Liss Ard Estate, Co Cork, on Saturday August 4th and Sunday, August 5th.

See lissardfestival.com