The music industry continues to flounder - major record companies are desperately trying to wrestle back control of how music is delivered to the consumer but they are fighting a losing battle. The ready availability of 'free' music through online streaming services and illegal file sharing has decimated sales of compact discs, and suddenly, profit hungry majors are being forced to face up to the sobering reality that they no longer maintain the vice like grip they once had.
Chasing the pirates will not change the fact that the traditional ways of delivering music to the consumer have changed, and changed for good. New and novel thinking is required if record labels are to survive in their current guise - enter Out on A Limb and Popical Island, two of Irelands most progressive and innovative independent labels.
They have taken a concept that was not uncommon in the DIY days of punk, the idea of a split, double A-side seven inch single and given it a fresh, modern reboot. These two labels have joined forces to release this split album featuring two very promising Irish bands, Windings and Land Lovers and boy, does it work and work well.
First up is Windings, a Limerick based five piece that have been quietly building up a reputation for themselves on the local scene. They contribute four tracks here, each very different in terms of style, each equally impressive in its own right. From the slow burning rock dynamics of opener 'Bladerubber'to the Smiths like howl of 'Neverwood’, Windings make a noise that owes an obvious debt to nineties alternative rock, but invest it with just enough of themselves to make it stand out from the crowd. The grunge guitars and dream pop vocals of 'Bang Bang Normal Man'is another twist on the Windings formula, and a very satisfying one at that. This four track offering whets the appetite for more - expect Windings rise to continue unabated on the back of this slice of guitar rock nirvana.
Land Lovers are a beautiful surprise. From the very opening notes of the giddy pop rush of 'Vittima di Cucina’, this Dublin based outfit display a handy knack for knowing exactly what is required to make great pop music. Timeless melodies that instantly sound familiar, clever, witty lyrics and short, snappy arrangements that don’t outstay their welcome - all the elements are here in this intoxicating mix that grabs the best bits of the Undertones, Vampire Weekend, Belle and Sebastian and the 80s indie pop of the C86 generation. Two listens in, and a song like 'Close Embrace'sounds like a long lost friend and while at times they could be accused of drifting into the realm of the twee, they are capable of baring their teeth. 'The Lonely One'opens with a naggingly catchy intro guitar riff before a flurry of chords usher in yet another memorable chorus. Land Lovers don’t sound like just another Irish band - there is something a little more-ish about their throwback pop, a sweet and delicious treat for those who like their pop delivered with energy, wit and exuberance. Fantastic.
Windings/Land Lovers is an album that showcases the very best that the Irish music scene has to offer right now. Two great bands on one great album - listen without prejudice and you might just fall in love.
Review by Paul Page | THREE POINT FIVE STARS