A dance for feet, imagination, and emotions, the self-titled debut album from Irish band Raglans is a magnetic introduction to a band which has already brewed up approaching feverish attention around home city Dublin and the wider landscape of Ireland. That spotlight is sure to be expanded as the infectious adventure of their album takes the hands of UK passions and leads them in its thrilling melodic waltz. The eleven song blaze of captivating sounds and insatiable energy provides all the reasons as to why the indie-folk quartet has swiftly made a major mark back home and will soon have wider fields spellbound you suspect.
Forming in 2010, Raglans took little time to create a potent following and reputation for their live performances and sound, an encounter which charges up the passions as much through its flavoursome breeding from the varied heavier, punky, and folkish tastes of the band’s members as it does from the virulently addictive hooks veining the release. Multi-instrumentalist and lead vocalist Stephen Kelly linked up with bassist Rhos Horan first before enlisting drummer Conn O’ Ruanaidh and lead guitarist Sean O’Brien soon after as the band took its first steps as Raglan, its name taken from a famous Patrick Kavanagh poem, On Raglan. The first year saw their demo track Down make its entrance before the band was invited to spend a week producing and recording with Boz Boorer, renowned for his collaborations with Morrissey. That spawned the eagerly received Long Live EP of 2012 as well as a couple of videos with young filmmaker Finn Keenan to accompany songs on the release. A pair of singles, Digging Holes and Natives drew even greater acclaim and hunger for their sound helping the foursome to land support slots with the likes of The Courteeners and HAIM.
Produced by Ivor Novello nominee Jay Reynolds (Elton John, Pulp, The Verve) and mastered by Grammy award winning Brian Lucy (The Arctic Monkeys, The Black Keys, Beck), Raglans’ album is the next step on the rapid ascent of the band. As soon as the rhythmic and vocal revelry of opener Digging Holes seizes ears, thoughts and emotions similarly come under the spell of song and band. Almost tribal and certainly anthemic, the track is under the skin within seconds, continuing to forge a deeper toxicity with the rhythmic enterprise of Ruanaidh rampant within the emerging melodic guitar and keys colouring of the festivity. Vocally the band is just as potent, the great tones of Kelly perfectly backed and aided by the rest of the band. As the song evolves through changing gaits and twists around its core infectiousness, it provides one of the best rock pop encounters to bounce into and flirt with the passions over recent years.
The irresistible start is soon backed up potently by both (Lady) Roll Back The Years and the following Fake Blood. The first is again a melody soaked flame of insistently persuasive hooks and teasing rhythms aligned to sonic adventure and punchy imagination. With whispers of blues and folk rock to its feisty energy and weight, the track is an insatiably compelling stomp with a keen swagger to match. Its successor brings a more relaxed attitude to its suasion though there is still a purpose and passion to it which is of a heavier rock base, and though it is less dramatic and insistent than its predecessors, the song still adds another layer to the immense satisfaction welcoming the album. Another pleasing aspect to the songs, certainly to this point, is how the band ends them, each stepping from the ear as vivaciously and dramatically as at any other point in a track to add an additional lingering thrill in the mix.
Before Tonight saunters in next with a melodic smile in its heart, its folk pop stroll a warm summer chorus of harmonies and elegant hooks, whilst Natives uncages another anthem of virulent pop with a reserved but fully loaded temptation of guitar hooks, rhythmic enslavement, and vocal enticements. As with many songs there is something familiar playing with ears and thoughts but only to the benefit and potency of the rich thrilling bait.
The album continues to incite greater pleasure and allegiance to its inventive charm and melodic grace, the likes of the rigorously catchy blues kissed rocker White Lightning and the emotively sculpted Not Now raising more appealing weaves of thoughtful craft and delicious melodies whilst the more than decent High Road, if without sparking similar depth of ardour, pushes a wider gape to the grin inside the release and listener.
Keeping another pinnacle for its latter stages, the album then launches the brilliant romp of The Man From Glasgow on ears and passions, the track a vivacious rival to the first for best song. It is an energy pumping feast of guitar and bass endeavour alongside perfectly incendiary rhythms and similarly enslaving harmonies all drawn into a tempestuous pop song with more than an essence of pop punk breeding to its rampancy.
The album is closed out by firstly Down, the song another merciless proposition of harmonic enterprise and crafty indie coaxing stealing more of the passions, and lastly the refreshing Born In Storms, a track which does not spark the strongest rapture but certainly confirms album and band as something to loudly recommend. It is easy to see why the release of Down way back in its demo state awoke attention in so many whilst the last track simply reinforces the clever seduction of the band’s songwriting and sound. Raglans will be a small name making big impressions on the lips and thoughts of the UK as their album works its inevitable way into the hearts of a great many, becoming a presence as full and voracious as their sound.
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