The latest CD releases reviewed

The latest CD releases reviewed

Canyon Songs Reekus ***

The Sligo singer known to his mammy as Kieran Gorman has enjoyed celebrity status in France, but so far the home crowd have remained stubbornly impervious to his tuneful charms, and immune to his Warholian dandy persona and Divine Comedy stylings. But, just as Duke Special declares his baroque, romantic intent, Blake has taken a wild left turn and ended up deep in the Grand Canyon. Blake's new album is influenced by such Americana touchstones as Glen Campbell, Lee Hazlewood, Harry Nilsson and the theme from The Big Country, and he distils these into a fine malt widescreen sound on such tunes as Gemini, The Ballad of Billy Bob and If You See Mary. Admirably, Blake stays in dusty character for most of the album and interprets the genre with all the assurance of Howe Gelb.

Download tracks: Gemini; Do We Only Fall in Love in Lovesongs?


If This Be Love Tara **

Galwegian singer Michelle Lally's solo debut teeters dangerously on a precipice between languid and soporific, never quite sure whether its target is the discerning listener or the hordes who hanker after a muzak-laden backdrop to life's daily routine. With Frankie Gavin (in whose latest venture, Hibernian Rhapsody, Lally is the lead singer) taking the role of executive producer, it's as if Lally's voice has been wrapped in cotton wool for fear of injury. Her handling of the title track is adequate if unexciting. Jimmy McCarthy's Ride On is particularly jaded, and Wonder Child oozes so much goodness it should come with a heaven's gate guarantee. In fact, the sheer volume of safe choices jostling for attention is a test of the patience of anyone outside of a novitiate.

Download tracks: If This Be Love, Wild Mountainside

Our Earthly Pleasures Warp ***

One measure of a debut's success is the size of the producer who helms the "difficult" second album. Step forward Gil Norton, studio maestro, who shaped The Pixies' sound. Maximo Park's sound was already defined (razor-sharp, start-stop guitar hooks), but with Norton's help they've grown up a little, ditching their angular style. This turning down of the dial leaves some of the rockier tracks sounding slightly pedestrian, but mostly it's solid stuff. New single Our Velocity is a floorfiller of Krautrock synths with a classic chorus, and Your Urge pays coy lip service to Yo La Tengo. This stomp-and-wink approach perfectly suits Paul Smith's beguiling lyrical style - he thinks deeply about what he says and how he says it. Who else gets away with discussing architecture and using the word "tesselate" in post-punk pop? Satisfyingly edgy.

Download Tracks: Our Velocity, Nosebleed

These Truly Are End Times
Covert Bear Records ****

In the grown-up pop world, So Cow doesn't even register a blip on the radar. But in the minds of savvy internet bloggers and close family relatives, he could well be the future sound of Ireland. So Cow is

a Galway boy living in Seoul who juggles a teaching day job with a secret life making ridiculously good - if unpolished - pop music. He recorded this record with a cheap eight-track mixer, €16 headphones, some Casio keyboards and a DVD audio unit he got free with his internet subscription. What he didn't skimp on is imagination. So Cow deals in delicious vocal harmonies, clever percussion ideas, sweet stereo tricks and scorching sounds that skim the skyline of great modern guitar music, from the MBV blitz of Ping Pong Rock to the Pixies groove of The Last Big Thing.

Download tracks: Casablanca, So Cow vs the Future

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist