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There’s something about September that always makes me feel like it’s the real “new year”. It’s the returning back to school vibe that has a sort of starting over feel to it, and the changing weather changes the sort of music I want to listen to too. As a result I’ve been buying up  bunch of new albums over the last week that I wanted to share – hope you enjoy.

1. First up is a beautiful mini album from Nils Frahm called Screws. 

He’s a spectacular pianist with a minimal sound that I adore. I hadn’t realised that he had recently broken his thumb, and can only imagine how devastating that must be for any musician, let alone a pianist. Like so many others though he seemed compelled to write through his recovery and has released a stunning mini album called Screws. His comments about what it meant to have to “stop” int he midst of a busy whirl really rang true for me, and it’s worth reading the story on his site here. He concludes with the following thoughts about these 9 little tunes:

 “they have helped me feel less annoyed about my accident and reminded me that any good is something i can only achieve, when i am making the most out of what i’ve got”

Best of all- the album is available free to download from the link above.

2. As it happens Nils Frahm also appears on Efterklang‘s new offering Piramida, which came out just last week. (He appears on Black Summer, Monument and to great effect on Dreams Today)

It’s a beautiful album that grew from a wonderful core concept  and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I’m a big fan of Efterklang’s joyful tunes and orchestral leanings and it’s giving me a badly needed lift at the moment. It’s picked up the obligatory negative Pitchfork review but I disagree with pretty much everything they’ve said. I love to see a clear concept or originating point for an album and I think the atmosphere of the very specific geographical location they inhabit for Piramida really comes through on the album. I saw them perform the album live just  a few days before its launch – they were brought over by the brilliant Mary Hickson from Cork Opera House in association with Absolut Fringe- and that’s really the way to experience it if you can catch them live at all. I think I counted a 20 strong orchestra with all manner of sounds and voices in the mix and for me the whole thing soared. You can pick Piramida up on itunes with a rather lovely digital booklet that has photographs from the arctic town that inspired it. You can delve into videos and stories from their trip on their site here>

3. And then, as they say, on to something completely different.  Possibly the best collaboration conceived of late – David Byrne and St. Vincent with Love this Giant. 

Whoever dreamt this collaboration up is a genius- their voices were meant to be heard together. While I admire them both hugely I find this album somehow is even greater than the sum of its parts. Together, they go to a new place, and the brass provides a compulsive swing to the record that I love. There’s a great little review on the NY Times if you want to know more about those brass players here>

4. and to end – an irish offering. I finally got to spend some time with Maria Doyle Kennedy‘s beautiful new album Sing this week.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Maria’s unique voice, way back since the Commitment days, and it’s no cliche that she’s found her voice on Sing. The songs are all terrific and her voice is outstanding throughout, but the addition of the swooping banjo is the winner for me. Stand out tracks are The Silence, Am I Choosing Right and The Most Beautiful People are Broken, and having heard the latter performed acoustically with Kieran Kennedy to staggering effect at an event I was involved in last week, I’d get booking tickets for Vicar Street next week pronto – she’s launching the album there on Sat next and it’s so worth hearing her live. No word as to whether any of the album’s male guests – Paul Brady, Damien Rice and John Prine – are joining here though.

If you miss the launch though it looks like she’ll be back in Ireland in November with dates in Limerick, Cork and a host of other places. See her site for more here>

The rest of my listening time has been going to Donal Dineen and his recent Body and Soul set – totally appeasing the need for some down and durty dance – listen to the set and see the track listing here>

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It’s been great to see how much more time and effort is being invested into the creation of music videos here in Ireland of late, and a few I’ve come across recently have prompted this little friday post. Here are 5 of my current faves.

Slow Place Like Home – There Go the Lights Again (dir Jules Hackett)

this was released a month or so ago and I love the animation on it. I’ve always loved the movement in that Julian Opie installation and this plays with the magic nighttime possibilities in a great way.

Sean Mac Erlaine – Amhrán na Leabhar (dir Donal Dineen)

Beautiful piece of music, and a beautiful piece of film – very meditative all round.

Band of Clouds – In Need of Repair (dir John Haggis)

this is an older vid but a recent release of their Electric Picnic set (see the lovely live vid here) reminded me how much I loved this one.

The Villagers – Waves (dir Aidan Volney*)

This is relatively simple but really compelling, and I love the retro pyscho sci-fi feel

Mmoths – Over You (dir FeelGoodLost)

Brand new this one. Love MMoths so it’s great to see him being picked up by Annie Mac, and the FeelGoodLost boys do great work from Cork

*Possibly not irish, but the track is

It’s no secret that stranded is a big fan of artist Mark Garry’s work; of both his visual and his music output, but most especially the Sending Letters to the Sea project, which has been listened into the ground. For me it’s one of the best irish albums of the past decade, and one of the very few that I prefer listening to as a complete album, rather than to individual tracks mixed up in playlists – which is my usual modus operandi.

That particular project came about through an innovative application of the Public Art Commissioning fund by Fingal County Council (read more about it on Donal Dineen’s Fresh Air blog here)  so I assumed it was a once-off project. To my great delight I discovered earlier this year that a second album was in the offing with predominantly the same team (and a few extras I think); namely Mark Garry, Karl Burke (aka Karl Him), Daniel Bracken, James Broder, Slim Cessna, Sean Carpio, Eileen Carpio , Lucinda Chua, Nathan Hall, Nina Hynes, Jeffrey Inscho, Simon Jermyn, Fabien Leseure, Benoit Leseure and Karla Stauffer. It’s officially released today and I had to share it immediately, even though I’m only half way through my first listen. I’m already a little bit in love with it. See what you think:

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If you want to get a great online guide to what's on in Sligo then head over to Sligo Events or if Music is your bag head to Sligo Music

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