Always the Same
Always the Same is available at:
The album, Far From Here is available at:
These Are the Good Old Days
Always the Same
Let You in on a Secret
You Mean the World to Me
Sweetest Tasting Kiss
Ripples into Waves
Let’s Get Curious
Far from Here
30th October, 2015
IT is sometimes hard to talk about new subjects….
When presented with a review subject. Today there are no such obstacles: Eric McGrath is an act I would not normally have stumbled upon- I was brought to his attention via McGrath’s management company. Before I introduce you to the singer-songwriter I wanted to talk about Dublin musicians- looking at heritage and nationalities- exploring Jazz and Folk blends- completing with a bit about slow-burning/non-instantaneous sounds. When reviewing musicians, I am always curious to see from whence their roots were planted. It is rare to find artists that stray too far away from predictable locales. From the Londoners across to Yorkshire- two of my most commonly assessed areas- I feel hometowns/location affects a sound and style. Maybe it is the wider music community (in that area) that enforces a particular sound. Dublin is a city I have not been to (in musical terms) for a long while now- I cannot remember the last review to come from there. Having spent a lot of time in obvious realms- the U.K. and Australia; Canada and the U.S.- it is nice to put my mind back here. Historically, the city has produced some of music’s best bands: From U2 and My Bloody Valentine; there have been a wealth of interesting acts to emanate from the city. Away from some of the dodgier examples- The Script and Boyzone hardly do the city any favours- it is the new musicians of Dublin that are more fascinating. Sleep Thieves are a mixed-gender three-piece that has been playing for a few years now. On the rise, the band is making their marks on the musical landscape. Away from them, Indie duo Darling mix heavier influences with ‘80s acts like Ultravox. SPINES are a four-piece Punk band of girls that are making all the right noise. Kingdom of Crows and Leaders of Men are attracting attention from across the water (the latter has been played on U.K. radio) and there are some hidden treasures to be found in Dublin. The Republic of Ireland, in general terms, is an attractive musical landscape that is more than its history suggests. I feel music media in the U.K. negates cities like Dublin- for the life of me I am not sure why. Whilst Eric McGrath has settled in Austrailia- having had an nomadic background- it seems a shame so many Irish musicians are relocating- perhaps they do not get exposure they deserve at home. When interviewing acts- and asking why they move to the U.K./change locations- it all comes down to that lack of attention and proper backing. I think people assume- looking at Dublin acts like The Script- the music of the city will be rather mainstream and pedestrian. It is true- as is the case with other cities and areas- there are some rather lukewarm artists. Dublin is a bustling and musical city that is seeing a lot of homegrown glory created. It is just a shame there is not a stronger communication to the U.K. - and the press here do not spend much time here. Before I raise a new point, let me introduce you to my featured act:
“Folk-Jazz singer, songwriter, and musician Eric McGrath was born to a Spanish mother and an Irish father in Dublin. Having spent his childhood growing up in Spain and Ireland, and the past few years living in Melbourne, Australia, Eric’s international upbringing is reflected in the style of music he writes and performs today. With a strong love of Latin grooves, 1920's North American song craftsmanship, and 1960's Surf harmonies, it wasn't long before Eric began to blend his diverse inspirations through his own unique compositions.
After completing an honours degree in Chemistry at University College Dublin, Eric finally succumbed to his true calling by obtaining a Masters in Music from Trinity College Dublin.
Recently signed to the prestigious Metropolis London Music Ltd., Eric has partnered with some of the world’s leading musicians and producers to craft his latest record ‘Far From Here’. Eric’s instantly catchy harmonies, unusual chord progressions, and breezy instrumental arrangements can again be heard throughout his latest record, which is already turning heads through regular international radio play.
A wider audience awaits...”
McGrath has had a busy and interesting life so far. That mixed heritage- the Spanish roots with Irish blood- is not a mixture I have encountered in a musician. McGrath has traveled wide and seen some fascinating countries and people. It is this never-sit-still attitude and zeal that has translated into music that is rich and original. Whilst the core of McGrath’s music can be seen as ‘Jazz-Folk’; that is not to say it is a one-dimensional sound. Those Latin grooves and ‘60s harmonies sit alongside modern Folk influences and bygone days Jazz motifs. I was a little skeptical reviewing McGrath for a bit: On paper, I was expected someone who was closer to Jack Johnson (an artist I do not like at all) than I would like. The truth is- it is an influence of McGrath to be fair- that is doing him a huge disservice. Our hero has his own style and range: A breed and chemical mix that has seen his latest album (Far From Here) catch the attention of international media. It is that adventurousness/cross-genre pollination that has led to such acclaim and recognition. People may balk if they saw the words ‘Folk’ and ‘Jazz’ appear next to a musician. Considered still- in this day and age- as minor genres; it would be naïve to overlook acts that go way from the mainstream and dig deeper. If you are not a fan of Folk and Jazz- and variations upon the themes- that is not to say you should ignore a musician like Eric McGrath. Not every musician that plays these genres will sound the same and be exactly similar: You need to take a chance on music and allow something new to come into the consciousness. I am not a fan of Country music yet am always willing to investigate artists that play in this genre. Once in a while, you can become surprised and pleased of the endeavor. Luckily, Jazz and Folk are genres I am not a stranger to: It was without fear I approached the shores of Eric McGrath. His music can be described as quite gentle and slow-burning. You do not have devilish riffs and slamming sounds emerging from the speaker. What you do get- something much more impressive- is music that reveals beauty and wonder after multiple listens. Upon the first study, you have sounds that elicit charm and easy-listening appeal. The older days charm and candour of the music- you imagine an artist that would be at home in the 1920s- puts you back to a simpler and easier time. There is modernity and grit to the music; plenty of uplift and passion can be found- a blend that music listeners crave and demand. The young artist has found patronage among B.B.C. Radio 2 and has struck a chord with the wider world. Not a hometown secret, the Dublin-born artist has a gilded and busy future ahead of him. His album, Far From Here, is as inoffensive and hard-to-not-love as you could get from any musician. If you are hesitant and thinking it will be too effete to really get inside the skin: Take time with a musician that digs deep and has much more than meets the eye. If we should learn anything from music- 2015 was a rather spotty affair with regards great acts- we should take chances and give artists time to flourish and seduce. Whether Far From Here manages to unite fans that prefer their music heavier and harder- tending to stick rigidly to Alternative sounds- I am not sure. The music on offer (throughout the album) has plenty of appeal and heart to it. I know McGrath will be playing around the land and meeting new fans as the year continues. Having caught the eyes and ears of some influential stations- the media are starting to champion his latest work- you have a young man that could go a very long way.
If you want a full impression of Eric McGrath’s talents; it might be worth checking out some of his ‘older’ numbers. A few years ago, McGrath started to put music on SoundCloud give the public an insight into his musical mindset. While some of the tracks released a few years ago feature on the new album- including Carousel and These Are the Good Old Days- there are some tracks that do not feature on Far From Here.
Let’s Get Curious is gentle and boasts a vocal that is calming and has its mind across the waters. Letting that voice stand out front- it is sharp and has a bracing quality to it- you have a song that has playfulness and romance at the heart. The hero and his girl are alone together- time to get curious- and the song is a beckoning call in a sense. The guitars strum and fire; there are brief blasts of horns and lyrics that go deeper than most. Our hero does not want to play possum and there is wisdom and maturity in a song that implores taking chances and making the most of life. Whilst some of the guitar sounds do recall Jack Johnson; there are elements of Norah Jones’ entrancing vocals and musical blends. That said, McGrath has a unique style and Let’s Get Curious is a song I would love to see more exposed and played across radio. It is one of those songs that could inspire upcoming musicians and has an enormous amount of nuance- I kept coming back to play it!
A Lost Romance is perhaps the most Jack Johnson-esque track- the guitar/ukulele sound especially- whilst the vocal is perhaps less direct than Let’s Get Curious. There are relaxed vibes and something borderline Reggae across a song that has a breeziness and casualness about it. The track looks at growing old and missing chances- the lost romance is the most heartbreaking and haunting- and it is another song that has relatable and universal colours. Another song that could make it onto the album- there was room only for the select few- it showcases a broad talent that has many sides to his art. Regrets are common and lamentable- we all have to deal with this- and you immerse yourself in a song that will resonate with many.
With a rare piano appearance; Before You Left has touching and unexpected opening notes. The introduction builds and creates something semi-symphonic and Classical. The vocal is quite affected and haunted- words that can be tied to many of his songs- and that swirl of electronics and piano have spectral echoes and something troubled. The brooding beauty and sunlight poke through- mixing Spanish and Irish sounds together- and you get a song that has so many working away. Vocal snippets- not sure what it is from exactly- creates dialogue and storyline whilst the composition continues to impress to the final notes.
Since these days- and the first recordings put out there- McGrath has grown in ambition and confidence. To be honest, the consistency and talent was all evident years ago. I am surprised just how authoritative and formed McGrath is in these sapling cuts. What we have in Far From Here is a continuation on a theme- some of those earliest numbers are now album tracks- and an increase in subject matter and variation. The songwriting is perhaps deeper and more impressive than some earlier numbers; again McGrath was always pretty assured and unique back then. Whilst no sonic leaps were needed; it is good hearing some non-album tracks and other sides to a mercurial musical talent. The rate of progress and passion signals a musical future with many more records and possibilities. It will be good seeing where the young artist heads and what direction he takes. Given the strength of his current output: There is going to be no huge need to change things and really alter what is already out there.
Always the Same mixes some tender percussion with some lightly strummed guitar. Right from the off you get that sun-kissed vibe and something quite tranquil and romantic. This blend of charming beats and smiling strings elicits early positivity and smile that is hard to ignore. You get those reminders of Jack Johnson- only the merest of touches, mind- and what you get is an introduction that is scenic and deeply involving. You cannot just listen to it and not have your mind taken somewhere. Provoking some gentle feet tap and finger-clicking action; the early words see the hero in strong voice and with clear intentions. It seems that tip-toeing around the issues- whether it refers to troubles in romance- has never been beneficial or solved the problem. The vocal is breezy and cool- McGrath has that natural warmth and effortlessness to his tones- and you get swept up inside the gracefulness and passion of those vocal. The lyrics are presented with plenty of heart but there is always a causal disassociation and detach. Whatever has inspired the song- if it regarding a blossoming romance or strife- our hero wants everything to be kept cool. This casualness and lack of commitment leads me to believe our lead has been through the mill and experienced too many splits and needless arguments. Perhaps he has learnt lessons from love- the way things go if you plunge in too deep- and wants something more pure and different. This girl he has is perhaps not exciting him quite the same as he’d imagined. The conversations are empty and rather wasted. Tired of shooting the breeze- that small talk and awkwardness is evident- is starting to take its toll. Sure; the girl feels blue and alone now and then: This is not ignored or overlooked by our hero. What he wants- aside from the openness and bond- is conversation and an actual connection. It seems there is this pattern that has been repeated time and time again. Unable to extricate himself from the monotony of a rather predictable love- and a day-to-day existence that is stilted- you start to yearn for our boy to find something good. Perhaps the girl herself is a nice and perfectly pleasant person. You get the feeling it is a rather listless love and maybe the two are not as matched as they once imagined. Away from love possibilities- it may just be a friendship that is feeling strains- you start to wonder how things will resolve and develop.
McGrath is always light and lacking anxiety when he delivers his voice. There is no spite and accusation when speaking of dissatisfaction and lacking inspiration. You get involved in the energy and tenderness of the song- the composition boasts some skipping strings and light beats- and start to speculate as to the truth of the matter. Things are always the same and this isn’t a casual fling being documented. McGrath has been with his sweetheart for a while- you sense history and a lot of tribulation- and there have been mistakes and problems in the past. Accounting that this bond is “forever”- showing commitment and a desire- there needs to be some fix and patching-up. Unwilling to talk away and find someone new; you have a song that pledges its allegiance to a love that could go the distance. Those minor issues and humdrum days- the sort of bland conversation he wants to get away from- seem like they can be fixed and repaired. That loyalty and commitment is there- the hero stands by every word he has said- yet there needs to be some separation and breathing. Maybe the duo has been too involved and under one another’s feet. Every day seems to bring pain and a predictable clash: The hero wants to get away from that crap and foster a healthier and less fraught love. The suggestion is this: Having some distance (for a while) whilst both can unclutter their minds and come back healthier and happier. Whatever they have right now is not really working out for the best. The love burns and goes deep and you just know they will go the distance. I guess every relationship has its stumbling blocks and quandaries: How you deal with them and move on is the test as to its purity and promise. Ensuring the song remains uplifted and positive: The vocal and composition has a smile and effusiveness that hooks the listener and makes proceedings light and casual- probably befitting of the song’s nature and desires. As the song reaches its latter moments; you get more into the story and the fates of our duo. The hero always saw this relationship being unfaltering and rock solid. It is perhaps a bad time for the two- one that is going to have to be addressed- and that regret and sadness does start to creep in. To ensure balance and romance; you get pitter-patter percussion and impishness from the strings. Your mind has one foot at the beach and sunnier climbs. That near-the-waters vibe and tranquility is an asset that few musicians employ in their music. Whereas contemporaries like Jack Johnson have little besides that sound- his lyrics do not really leave marks in your mind- McGrath is a songwriter with a lot more depth and quality to him. The rich and silk-smooth voice looks at the results of this new type of love: The heroine will come running back and want things to be the same as before. As has been explained- a mantra for the song in fact- is pain will always come through. Whatever happens during that day; the two will quarrel and end up at each other’s throats.
Eric McGrath has produced a song that stands up to a lot of listening and scrutiny. Always the Same is a song that showcases the songwriting chops and skill that run across the album, Far From Here. It is great to discover an artist that has such a sense of identity and purpose so early on. McGrath has that boy-next-door charm and a songwriting talent that does not sit still and sound predictable. Covering various themes and ideas; you have a musician with a busy mind who wants to appeal to a wide range of listeners. Always the Same seems very real and personal: A song that recounts a time in his life (maybe it is still there) and that need for something different and care-free. McGrath is not an artist that plays too safe and honed. Unlike Jack Johnson- who likes his style and does not often push beyond it- our Dublin lad has more diversity and spit to his music. Among the warmth and tenderness, there is enough to suggest something more rebellious and impure lingers. Never a bad thing- it could lead to some rather exciting sonic developments later down the line- the main strengths lie with McGrath’s voice and songwriting. That voice is rich, warm and soothing: Qualities that ensure his tracks bring positivity out of the darkest situations. Compositions melt surfing scenes with ‘20s Jazz ideals; something rooted in traditional Folk and of-the-moment Pop. I cannot wait to see how this young and vibrant talent develops in the future. Always the Same is an impressive statement from an album with plenty of firepower and quality.
Far From Here is an album that has plenty of great moments and standout numbers. Always the Same is perhaps the highlight- it is for me at least- but there are a lot of instant and memorable tracks to be found. These Are the Good Old Days has already been featured across the airwaves- being picked up by B.B.C. Radio 2- and has enjoyed minor celebrity early on. Away from these tracks, there is plenty to suggest that the restless musician will be one of our big names in years to come. It would be great to see Far From Here collect more reviews- there is a criminal lack of them I can find- as the album is testament to a hard-working and passionate musician. McGrath makes music that calms the soul and eases the strains of everyday life. Described as ‘soulful’ and ‘uplifting’ in various reviews: How could you ignore an album (and artist) that has such an attract set of qualities? I am not sure; what I do know is there will be a lot more music from McGrath. Into 2016, the hero will be taking the album on the road and seeing how it is received in the live setting. The music is slow-burning- but reveals huge promise as you listen more- but is guaranteed to put you in a more positive mood. Those compositions blend the wisdom and drive of Folk; Latin grooves and harmonies that take your mind somewhere special- topped with Jazz iconography and elements. Before completing this review- and imploring you check Eric McGrath out- it is worth coming back to my earlier points- relating to Dublin, gentler music and the blends of music available. Artists need to be adventurous and thoughtful when it comes to their music.
It is not good enough- unless you want to be forgotten about quickly- to just produce songs that have a similar sound and are predictable. I know it is very tempting- a lot of bands and artists do this- to replicate artists and produce music that is well-worn. There are far too many acts that try to fit into moulds and what the critics/mainstream want. Those that push further and are more ambitious- tying different genres together- are always going to gain more appeal and support. It is a hard trick to get right, really: If you do not get that blend correct; it can backfire and put listeners off. McGrath has a love of ‘20s artists and Jazz ideas; Folk core and modern-day Pop. He brings all this together in music that will unify ages and all music lovers. There are no borders and constraints (on McGrath’s music) and it is only right his fan-base increases. At the moment, the social media numbers are growing and McGrath’s reputation is increasing. Having originated from Dublin- he may still live there; I am only assuming he resides in London- it has given me a chance to revisit a wonderful and captivating city. Many speak of Dublin in fevered tones- I am desperate to go visit the place- and always say the same things. The warmth of the people is only matched by the wonderful streets and vibrancy. You have so much to see and do; Dublin has such a warmth and friendliness that it’s hard to refute its joy and magic. It is unsurprising musicians hear leave impression in the mind and have that comparable set of attributes. Whilst Dublin has/is producing some great Rock bands- those with genuine nuance and originality- they have always been better when it comes to more adventurous/unexpected artists. The artists in the city- that play heavier strokes- are mixing in other genres to create a more full-bodied and exciting palette. The Folk-cum-Pop artists- a regular staple on the mainstream scene- are impressive and studied. The development of McGrath- from his earliest cuts and experiments- is wonderful; the young artist has grown and matured into a musician with clear site and direction. I cannot wait to see how McGrath’s career develops and expands. Having uprooted from the home-only appeal- translating into the international realm- it is only a matter of time before more radio stations and countries are conquered. That slow-burning bliss- that sits on McGrath’s debut album- fuses with emotive performances and uplifting vibes. It would be good to see some London tour dates from McGrath- I am not sure what his diary is looking like so far- and the crowds here would embrace the gentility and captivation of the music. Far From Here is an appropriate title for an album: Our hero has traveled wide and has that heritage few others possess. With Irish and Spanish blood- the nations and people he has seen- you have a set of D.N.A. that goes into music that is just as mixed and fascinating. If you want music that puts you in a positive frame and smile…
FEW acts do it as effortlessly as Eric McGrath.
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