Dark Days: Goodbye to Fergus O’Farrell

I’m stunned and so very sad to learn of Fergus O’Farrell’s death. The Irish singer-songwriter was truly the most humble and kind musician I’ve ever had the privilege of communicating with. Fergus was so appreciative of every little thing I wrote about his music, even after his band, Interference, gained worldwide attention through Once – Fergus appeared in the film and on its popular soundtrack performing the Interference song “Gold” with Glen Hansard.

I was astounded in 2010 when he sent me the unreleased demos of “Sail On” and “Dark Days” and asked for my “critical advice.” As if I had any right to an opinion! Let alone the ability to offer any advice or constructive criticism. I don’t think he ever realized how talented or how famous he was, even those raw demos blew my mind. That kind of genuine artistry and strong character is so rare now.

Fergus once told me Bowie was “a massive influence” on his musuc – particularly my favorite Interference song “Psycho Jill.” Fergus O’Farrell likely won’t garner the same amount of memorial tributes as David Bowie, but the music world has suffered just as big a loss of true artistic genius with his passing.

Muruch.com Reviews & Posts about Interference

Interference Official Site

Falling Slowly Cover

By: Brn

Skip forward to 8:10 in this BBC video to hear a gorgeous version of “Falling Slowly” by the band Blake with Rachelle Ann Go.





Glen Hansard: New Album & Video!

I’m excited to accounce that Glen Hansard is set to release his debut solo album. If his name isn’t familiar to you, Glen Hansard was the star of Once and the frontman of spectacular Irish bands The Frames and The Swell Season. His solo debut, Rhythm and Repose, will be released by Anti Records on June 19th and you can watch the video for the first single, “Philander,” below…

Pre-Order @ Amazon

Muruch’s Best of the Decade: Albums

In addition to my usual year end lists, I’ve also compiled Best of the Decade lists. Following are my favorite albums that were released between 2000-2009…

Muruch’s Best of the Decade: Albums

25. Muse: The Resistance

This is one of those albums that has classic potential, and I expect to move its way up the list as the years go by. A quote from my review: “Integrating classical and opera music into their theatrical electro-rock sound, Muse have created one of the most exciting song cycles I’ve ever heard.”

Buy @ Amazon

24. Gaba Kulka: Hat, Rabbit

It was difficult to narrow how Gaba’s releases to just one, but I think her latest is her strongest to date. As I said when I named it #4 on my Top Albums list, it is “probably the most unusual and creative album” of 2009.

Buy @ Amazon

Buy @ Artist’s Site

23. Soundtrack: Once

The soundtrack to the Irish independent film Once features The Swell Season’s Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. I said in my 2007 review that Hansard’s “lyrics are deeply poetic, his music is heart-wrenchingly lovely, and his beautifully raw voice conveys emotion as if the man were literally ripping his own chest open as he sings.”

Buy @ Amazon

22. Antony & The Johnsons: Antony & The Johnsons

Instead of a best of 2005 list, I deemed it The Year of the Bird and that post says everything about how Antony’s music made me feel when I first heard it. While I Am A Bird Now was their more popular release, I’ve always favored their self-titled 2000 album.

Buy @ Amazon

21. Pina: Quick Look

Pina sadly remains my best kept secret. I discovered her in the early aughts when a French pal shared mp3s of “I Loved the Way” and “Bring Me a Biscuit.” I also love Pina’s 2005 release Guess You Got It, but the rougher edges of Quick Look‘s production fit better with her “Gothic folk” style.

Buy @ Amazon

20. Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson: Rattlin’ Bones

My 2008 review summed it up: “The flawless beauty of this album is almost beyond my comprehension.

Buy @ Amazon

19. Hem: Funnel Cloud

I like this album even more now than when I called it a “nearly perfect album” in my 2007 review.

Buy @ Amazon

18. Damien Dempsey: To Hell or Barbados

As I stated in my 2007 review, the album is a “genre-hop through folk, rock, electronica, and reggae…but the genre gymnastics still take a back seat to the stunning quality of Dempsey’s voice.”

Buy @ Amazon

17. Anais Mitchell: The Brightness

My 2007 review said: “Like the greatest of classic literature, the compositions on The Brightness are the kind that softly seep through your skin and slowly make their way into your heart and mind before exploding in dazzling display of amazement.”

Buy @ Amazon

14. Xavier Rudd: Dark Shades of Blue

Xavier has quickly become my favorite male artist in recent years, and as I said in my 2008 review: “the astounding quality of his songs make me wonder if future generations might consider Xavier Rudd to be the greatest artist of this era.”

Buy @ Amazon

15. Mavis Staples: Never Turn Back

I’m almost ashamed not to put this at #1, because in many ways this is the greatest album of the past two or three decades. I simply don’t listen to it often as the albums listed below. I suppose this is because the weighty subject matter requires a certain mood. But as I said when I reviewed it two years ago: “We’ll Never Turn Back is what music should be. Gut-wrenching blues, earth shaking beats, hip swaying rhythms, deeply moving lyrics, and a rich voice that defies description.

Buy @ Amazon

14. Luminescent Orchestrii: Too Hot to Sleep

I deemed 2005 “the year of the bird,” but that’s only because I didn’t hear Luminescent Orchestrii until 2007 when I said: “there’s a definite connection between their frenzied, violent approach to orchestral instruments and the punk cabaret of The Dresden Dolls, but neither description fully captures their unique and unearthly sound.

Buy @ Amazon

13. Flogging Molly: Swagger

This album ushered in the Celtic Punk craze of the decade. There’s no such thing as a bad Flogging Molly album, but this one was definitely their best.

Buy @ Amazon

12. Vienna Teng: Inland Territory

In my review I called Inland Territory a grand “display of Vienna Teng’s brilliance, grace, and talent.” I continue to fall more and more in love with this album with each listen.

Buy @ Amazon

11. Kurt Vonnegut & Dave Soldier: Ice-9 Ballads

My #1 album of 2009. As I said in my review: “I can’t imagine a more perfect score for my favorite novel of all time.”

Buy @ Amazon

10. Mary Timony: Mountains

I had never heard of former Helium singer Mary Timony until a friend sent me this album shortly after its 2000 release. Mary’s unusual mix of Medieval folk, chamber pop, and indie-rock was unlike anything I’d heard before, and it remains one of the most strangely beautiful recordings I’ve ever heard.

Buy @ Amazon

9. Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band: The Whole Fam Damnily

My #1 album of 2008. In my review, I called it an “inebriating concoction of swamp stomp and backwoods pluck.” But in subsequent listens I’ve found myself drawn more to The Rev’s lyrics, which accurately capture the perils of modern rural life.

Buy @ Amazon

8. Allison Crowe: Live at Wood Hall

Oh that voice! Still gives me chills. I’ve posted about Allison Crowe so many times over the years that I consider her Muruch’s musical mascot. As I said in my 2007 review: “there’s really no way to convey through mere words how much the music on Allison Crowe’s Live At Wood Hall moves me” Forget Susan Boyle, Allison sang the definitive cover of “I Dreamed a Dream.” (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

7. Soundtrack: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More With Feeling

I always call it the “Buffy Musical” rather than its proper title Once More With Feeling.” Years before Dr. Horrible, Joss Whedon wrote a hilarious, poignant, and very catchy musical for an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I don’t know how well the songs translate if you never watched the Buffy series, but I still love singing along to the soundtrack. The album features vocals by actors Sarah Michelle Gellar, Allison Hannigan, Michelle Trachtenberg, Nicholas Brendon, James Marsters, and Anthony Stewart Head. This is an example of why file sharing works – I and several friends burned our own soundtracks from mp3s recorded directly from the televised episode long before the soundtrack was released, yet we all purchased the official album once it became available.

Buy @ Amazon

6. Xavier Rudd: White Moth

I could easily include all of Xavier Rudd’s albums on this list, but I tried to limit myself to just two. My 2008 review said: “Rudd deems the album his “proudest work” and it’s easy to understand why.” But it’s really only been with repeated listens over the past two years that I’ve grown to love and truly appreciate its magnificence. And nothing speaks to the greatness of an album like having a panic attack when you think you’ve lost it and knowing you must replace it immediately. Fortunately, I found my copy!

Buy @ Amazon

5. Damien Rice: O

Unlike most Americans, I heard and fell in love with O when it was originally released in Ireland in 2001. My clothbound first edition of the album is a collector’s item now, but I wouldn’t part with it for anything. Rice seems to have faced some post-hype backlash in recent years, but that doesn’t erase the brilliance of this album. Most remember it for Lisa Hannigan’s delicate harmonies, but Rice’s use of strings and opera music were also very unique at the time. And the album as a whole has withstood changing trends in music over the years.

Buy @ Amazon

4. Fiona Apple: Extraordinary Machine

This is another example of why file sharing can have a positive effect on album sales. Remember “Free Fiona”? If you don’t, Fiona recorded a version of this album with producer Jon Brion and her label initially refused to release it. Mp3s of the demos were leaked online, the fans loved them, and a huge campaign called “Free Fiona” was launched in hopes of getting the album released. It worked, though Fiona re-recorded most of the album for the official release. I was one of many who purchased the album even though I had the demo mp3s. My 2005 review also shifted the focus of this site from simply sharing music to encouraging people to purchase albums. It has since become one of my favorite albums ever, and I hope Fiona decides to grace us with another release in the near future.

Buy @ Amazon

3. Soundtrack: Hedwig & The Angry Inch

Among the 2000-04 archives of this site that have been lost were my reviewes of the movie Hedwig & The Angry Inch (which I saw in a double bill with The Anniversary Party at a local film festival) and its soundtrack. Whether or not you’re familiar with John Cameron Mitchell’s awesome musical about a German transgender rocker, the soundtrack is one of the best rock albums of all time. There are thunderous punk rock numbers like “Angry Inch” and heart-melting ballads like “Origin of Love.” Why Mitchell continues to act instead of record music is a mystery to me.

Buy @ Amazon

2. Old Crow Medicine Show: Big Iron World

In my November, 2006 review, I said “I don’t believe I’ve ever said this about an album before, but I think Old Crow Medicine Show’s Big Iron World is just about perfect.” I stand by that statement. I’ve played this album more than any other released in the past three years, and only one band could keep it from the number 1 spot…

Buy @ Amazon

1. The Dresden Dolls: The Dresden Dolls

Anyone who knows me or has been a longtime reader of this site knows that The Dresden Dolls are/were my favorite band. My posts about their self-titled debut (and the live A Is For Accident album that preceded it) were also lost with early archives of this site, but I’ve raved every other Dresden Dolls release since then. After “Over the Rainbow”, The Dresden Doll’s “Girl Anachronism” is my favorite song and this is possibly my all-time favorite album. Amanda Palmer proves without a doubt that – in the right hands – the piano is the most punk rock of all instruments.

Buy @ Amazon

*mp3 hosted by & posted w/ permission of artist

The Swell Season: Strict Joy

Strict Joy is the recently released sophomore album by The Swell Season. If you don’t recognize the name, The Swell Season is composed of Glen Hansard and other members of The Frames, along with Marketa Irglova of the film Once (the soundtrack of which was on my 2007 Top Albums list). The Swell Season derive their name from Hansard’s favourite novel by Josef Škvorecký, and the album’s title refers to the poem “Strict Joy” by Irish poet James Stephens.


there’s diamonds growing in the mountain
beneath the pressure of all time
they grow in hope and expectation
waiting for your hands to find

I’m very torn on how to review this album. I wish so much that I could gush and rave about it, because I think the band is truly talented and they all seem like such nice, humble people. And had I never heard Glen Hansard’s music before, I might have a higher opinion of this release.

But it’s difficult to avoid disappointment when comparing these new songs to his previous efforts, all of which featured dramatic, intricate arrangements and incredibly emotional vocals. Maybe I’ve been spoiled in the past by the instant gratification of songs like “Revelate” and “Falling Slowly.” I suppose I just miss the sound of Glen wailing his heart out of his chest as the music quaked and soared beneath his vocals.

This time around the heartache seeps out in a gentle, gradual manner with a much simpler, mellow acoustic sound. Songs like “Low Rising” in particular seem to imitate but don’t quite capture the breezy romantic style of Van Morrison’s “Into The Mystic,” a song The Swell Season has covered several times in the past two years. Being likened to Morrison is certainly a compliment and “Into The Mystic” is one of my favorite songs of all time, but Strict Joy is just not the immediately mesmeric and moving experience I’ve come to expect from a Hansard album.

Still, Glen Hansard at his weakest is light years ahead of every other artist, so take the preceding paragraphs with the proverbial grain of salt. I realize I tend to hold my favorite artists to a higher standard than others, and this may be a little unfair.

I think perhaps Strict Joy is a grower. The more urgent pace of “Feeling The Pull” and the quiet tension of “In These Arms” definitely have that crawl under your skin potential.

And the album is a lyrical masterpiece from beginning to end. The delicate, melancholy ballad “Fantasy Man,” in which Marketa takes lead vocal, is the stand out in this regard.

Ultimately, I hope this will be taken as a positive, but balanced review. If you can listen to the album without expectation, it’s beautiful in its own way. But if you go into it with memories of what once (no pun intended) was, it’s solid but slightly unsatisfactory.

The Swell Season – Low Rising (mp3 expired) *

*mp3 posted w/ permission of band’s PR rep

Buy @ Amazon

The Swell Season - Strict Joy (Deluxe Edition)

The Swell Season Official Site
The Swell Season Myspace