Sound & Vision with Junior Brother

Junior Brother – the stage name of Kerry, Ireland’s Ronan Kealy – recently released his second album, The Great Irish Famine, on Strange Brew. Varying in tone from luscious balladry to strained pleading akin to early Bright Eyes, it is both an uplifting and at times troubling listen. But his lyrical wit, and fearless nature, make him a songwriter who does not just draw, but demands your attention. A strangely enigmatic talent, we were lucky enough to recently have him detail his Sound and Vision picks for us.

Three favourite albums:

Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden

Spirit of Eden is both the quietest and harshest, most serene yet intense album I’ve encountered; The whispered projections of both the instruments and Mark Hollis’ utterly sacred vocal contain a grandeur which the greatest orchestras couldn’t match. It completely re-calibrated my approach to dynamics – sometimes the gentlest stroke paints the most profound picture.

The Residents – Duck Stab

I love the Residents, even though they often terrify me. I find their seventies output grounds these intensely strange atmospheres in instrumentation which sounds homemade yet alien. I couldn’t tell you what half the instruments on the album are, yet everything feels utterly tangible, and thrillingly D.I.Y.

Minutemen – The Punch Line

A total of 15 minutes long, this album turns the brevity of hard-core punk into a sort of modernist take-down of abstract subjects and song structure. The commitment and consistent intensity of singer D. Boon is at its peak on this record, where he sounds almost breathless delivering his strange poems. The album is a brief, thrilling burst of pure art.

Favourite film:

The Cook The Thief His Wife And Her Lover 

I love Peter Greenaway’s unapologetic obsession with grandeur, a distanced eye, moving his characters less like humans and more like chess pieces. Many might call this a pretentious approach, and I feel the director himself might agree with this – its this lack of concern with pleasing anyone but himself that I like the most about Greenaway. The Draughtsman’s Contract from 1982 is also a masterpiece, however, The Cook… matches it and then some, leaning even further into disturbing territories and imagery presented in a jarring, dream-like, bizarrely mannered flourish of pageantry and dazzling bleakness.

Favourite book:

Patrick McCabe – The Butcher Boy

To inhabit so intensely the mind of a mentally ill killer is one thing – for that mind to be the mind of a child takes The Butcher Boy into seriously daring territory. Patrick McCabe pulls this off with singular style and heartbreaking tragedy. Setting the tale in a rural Irish town which influences and is blind to the young narrator’s psychosis forms a social critique of 20th century Ireland, to add to the book’s complex mixture.

A song that means a lot to you:

Death Grips – Spread Eagle Cross The Block

Sometimes, I like to turn folk tropes up to breaking point in my songs – I am influenced in this way by Death Grips, who do the same thing even more extremely with hip hop tropes. These elements go beyond glorification here into utter mania. It’s like a hip hop song put through a blender of untamed rage and madness. And the Link Wray sample is fairly mind-blowing.

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