Good Life – Soulé

The unbelievably good weather calls for a feel good tune. Even though ‘Good Life’ by Irish artist Soulé was released back in February it has summer written all over it! I love the positive energy of this song and her vibe in general.

Pronounced Soul-A, she was born in the UK and raised in Balbriggan where she’s now based. She cites her influences as Erykah Badu, Macy Grey, ASA, Chrisette Michele, and Nneka. She says she only got serious about singing a year ago but it looks like she’s already set for huge success with her latest single ‘Troublemaker’ racking up 500,000 plays on Spotify in two months, and a Choice Music Prize nomination for ‘Song of the Year’ in 2016.

Diffusion Lab are behind this video, as they were with the Jafaris video I posted recently.

Here she is chatting to Stuart Clark from Hot Press after her set at Forbidden Fruit. You can catch her live at Sea Sessions this weekend and on the Other Voices stage at Electric Picnic.

Room Little Darker – June Caldwell

There was a moment last week when I was reading on the bus and I angled the pages away so that the person beside me wouldn’t accidentally cast their eye over them and move seats in outrage. The book in question was June Caldwell’s collection of short stories Room Little Darker and the story was ‘Leitrim Flip’. It’s about a couple who are into kink and so they meet with a like-minded couple to enjoy swinging and S&M. However the tables are turned when the second couple imprison the first and force them to behave like pet dogs. It sounds creepy and bizarre and pretty close to the edge, and it’s all of those things, but it’s also very very funny.

Caldwell takes on many subjects in the eleven stories included in the collection. ‘The Glens of Antrim’ is more S&M, with salty descriptions of kinky sex amongst virtual strangers. ‘Imp of the Perverse’ depicts how a woman unravels as a result of rejection by her manipulative lecturer: ‘Cheek of that philistine citing my behaviour as inappropriate when he uses the course as fanny fodder all the time and no one blinks an ethical eyelid!’

‘SOMAT’, previously included in Sinead Gleeson’s Long Gaze Back anthology, is one of the strongest and most emotionally affecting of the stories. It is told from the point of view of a foetus and was partly inspired by the death of Marlise Muñoz as well as our own Eighth Amendment.

Caldwell has a way with language, a style of writing completely unlike any other Irish female writer I’ve read. It’s acerbic, confrontational, hilarious, very sexual but not in a coy or titillating way, and it’s filled to the brim with idiosyncratic vivid descriptions: a loved one’s mouth with a ‘seagull-in-flight upper lip’, a laugh ‘like he’d swallowed an antique television full of static’, an old man described as a ‘sack of crumpled grey maudlin’.

Room Little Darker is Caldwell’s first book. She worked as a journalist for many years and is a prize-winning short story writer with a raft of achievements to her name. She’s just signed up with Rogers Coleridge and White, one of the biggest agencies in London, so I’m sure Room Little Darker will be picked up for international publication and will mark the start of a long and brilliant career.

Mo Kelly’s exhibition ‘Contrast, Light + Illuminated Dusk’ at The Red Bank

Mo Kelly is currently exhibiting her most recent work in The Red Bank on Dublin’s Duke Street. ‘Contrast, Light + Illuminated Dusk’ marks Mo’s twentieth solo show, a huge milestone. Brava!

Mo’s work is inspired by opera, literature, film, and especially travelling. Her other hugely successful career as a DJ also plays a big part (she’s played at clubs, events, private parties and festivals in Ireland, Europe and Dubai). DJs tend to be night-owls (if anyone knows, I know!) and this influence is clear in her paintings: shadows at dusk and twilight trickery, city nightscapes, pale trees illuminated by silver and gold moons. I went to the exhibition opening and loved her new work, especially the vivid red lanterns suspended in the night sky inspired by her recent trip to Thailand.

The exhibition is running for the next few weeks so pop into The Red Bank and check it out. If you see a painting you like and it’s sold, give Mo a shout as she has other work available outside of the exhibition.

Totally Irish and Jafaris

Last Sunday the lovely John Barker asked me to be a guest on his show Totally Irish on 98FM. As the name suggests, the show is focussed on Irish music, from up and coming and established artists. Ham Sandwich did a live acoustic set followed by a set from Rocstrong. After that I joined John, together with Martin Byrne from Other Voices, to talk about three tracks from three Irish artists: James Vincent McMorrow, Jafaris, and The Fontaines.

I already knew and loved James Vincent McMorrow, I wasn’t such a huge fan of The Fontaines, and Jafaris was by far my favourite track of the evening. You might recognise Jafaris from his role in the award winning Irish movie Sing Street. As well as being an actor, he’s an accomplished rapper and has just released a four track EP called Velvet Cake available on iTunes. My favourite track from the EP is ‘Keep Your Head High’.

Jafaris is working with Diffusion Lab (who are doing some amazing work with Irish hip hop artists) and they have created a couple of videos for this EP, including this gorgeously shot one for ‘Love Dies’.

If you want to check out the whole podcast of the show, here’s the link.  I’m on in the last half an hour. Hope you enjoy!

Vinyl Love for Repeal

I’m very proud to be DJing this Sunday May 14th at Vinyl Love for Repeal, a charity gig with all proceeds going towards the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment.

The Vinyl Love collective has brought together DJs and music lovers to play eight of their favourite vinyl records in eight different cities on Sunday May 14th. The cities and venues are South William/Wah Wah Club in Dublin, 40ft Brewery in London, Gulp’d Cafe in Cork, Mojo Lounge in Waterford, Ormston House in Limerick, Roisin Dubh in Galway, Tricky’s McGarrigles in Sligo and Common Edge Street in Manchester.

There’s a suggested donation in each venue but you can donate whatever you can afford. It starts at 2pm and continues on until late. Hopefully the weather will be gorgeous and we can all enjoy a drink and great tunes in aid of a great cause.

Here’s Nialler9 explaining a bit more about the event.

 

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

A fellow bookworm and I were talking about books a few weeks ago. He said that one of his favourite things about reading is how it allows us to experience worlds we don’t inhabit and so contributes to our understanding of other people and their lives, something that I’ve also always loved about reading.

Then last week I read an article in the Guardian by Jessa Crispin which really resonated with me, about reading beyond our bubbles, in which she observes, ‘For a very long time, the literary gatekeepers pretended their taste was objective, not subjective. And because the traits of those gatekeepers, who were not just white men but Ivy League-educated, upper-middle-class white men located in cultural centres like New York and London, were predictably consistent, they often reached consensus. These are the books that are important. No really, just these ones. Those other writers are “minor”.’

I’m sick of books about straight white men finding themselves (SWMFT), i.e. the literary ‘canon’. Whether they find themselves in New York or London, or in college, or through drug experiences, or in a bad marriage, or through their work, is now beside the point. I can’t muster a fuck to give anymore. And so I have sought out books that are emblematic of my friend’s statement, about different lives, varied lives, protagonists from different countries and cultures and religions and races.

I heard about The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas a few months ago when it became a publishing sensation and topped the bestseller lists. As soon as I saw it in Hodges Figgis I flicked through it then bought it; reading random pages is always a great gauge for me.

The title comes from Thug Life by Tupac Shakur: ‘The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone.’ The book is about sixteen-year-old Starr who witnesses the murder of her friend Khalil by a police officer. Starr and Khalil are unarmed and black. The cop is trigger happy and white. The story takes place in urban America and so The Hate U Give mirrors real life, and Khalil becomes synonymous with Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner and Mike Brown and Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland.

Starr is already conflicted, going to a private school and having a rich white boyfriend while she and her family live in the ghetto. When she was only twelve years old her parents told her how to behave if she was ever stopped by police; a conversation her white friends have almost certainly never had. And she has to think just as strategically when she is in school: ‘…I never know which Starr I should be. I can use some slang, but not too much slang, some attitude but not too much attitude, so I’m not a “sassy black girl.” I have to watch what I say and how I say it, but I can’t sound “white.”‘ Starr is ‘other’ no matter where she is.

After Kahlil’s murder Starr is called before a grand jury and her two lives collide. She wants to bear witness to her friend, to do right by her community, to speak the truth but nothing is straightforward in her world. Starr comes up against the gangs and violence in her neighbourhood and racism at school, all of which coalesce in a riot, bringing to mind Watts and Ferguson.

The book has been classified as Young Adult fiction but that’s a facile label. There aren’t many writers with the guts to take on such an emotionally charged topical subject, and Thomas writes with sensitivity, insight and grace. And amongst all the misery, there are genuinely funny moments, like Starr’s dad claiming that the Hogwarts Houses are really gangs: ‘They have their own colours, their own hideouts…Harry, Ron, and Hermione never snitch on one another, just like gangbangers. Death Eaters even have matching tattoos…’

The Hate U Give is an important book and Starr is a voice I won’t forget.

 

April Random Round Up

The Drinks Business did a feature on A Drink of One’s Own, a book of cocktails inspired by great literary ladies. I like the sound of the Virginia Woolf and the Zelda Fitzgerald.

Here’s a terrifying article on Vanity Fair about Elon Musk’s billion dollar crusade to stop the AI apocalypse: ‘Many tech oligarchs see everything they are doing to help us, and all their benevolent manifestos, as streetlamps on the road to a future where, as Steve Wozniak says, humans are the family pets.’

As a result of that article I started following the brilliant Twitter parody account Bored Elon Musk, ‘thoughts and inventions from Elon in his downtime’: ‘News app that connects to a blood pressure monitor and adjusts your feed accordingly.’ and ‘Podcast app that connects to Google Maps and finds you a perfectly timed episode based on your commute.’ have been two of my recent favourites.

These floor plans of famous TV homes are kinda fascinating. If I could choose to live in any of them it would be Frasier’s, and not just because it’s one of my favourite shows.

I reviewed Big Little Lies on the blog yesterday and the always brilliant Anne Helen Petersen talks about Nicole Kidman and her performance in this article for Buzzfeed: ‘There’s a subtle implication that when a woman, especially a beautiful one, makes her way onscreen, it’s usually because of her looks or her body — not her talent. When a performance speaks truth to that lie, it’s a revelation.’

I adore stationery and collect notebooks, justifying it to myself because I need them for writing. I may also have to justify a couple of these sets of pencils from LZPENCILS on etsy. The sets are themed and each pencil has a different saying engraved on it. The Beyoncils are a great gift for any Beyonce fan but I want the Harry Potter and Heathers sets.

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Colossal hits our screens in May. It’s a science fiction comedy whereby Anne Hathaway manifests as a giant monster terrorising South Korea. It sounds bonkers, it looks bonkers, and I can’t wait!

That’s all from me for April. For those of you in Ireland have a great Bank Holiday weekend!