PORTS – Single Review: “Swimming Pool”

Photos by SMC

PORTS is a talented four-piece based in Derry, Northern Ireland who formed in 2012 while at music college. Influenced by such acts as Phosphorescent, Big Thief, Andy Shauf, Aldous Harding and Stars of the Lid, their music is an incredibly pleasing blend of folk, indie rock and shoegaze. They released their beautiful debut single “Ancient Wave” in 2014, then followed with several more singles which culminated in the release in 2016 of their album The Devil is a Songbird, featuring 13 stunning tracks. It’s really outstanding, and I strongly encourage my readers to check it out.

The guys then toured extensively throughout the UK, the US, Canada and Australia in support of the album, garnering play and live performances on numerous BBC radio channels and MTV, which earned them a strong following. Additionally, eight of the songs from their album have been used in a number of TV shows, including Teen Wolf, Bloodlands, Awkward, Wild Ireland and Love in a Day. Collectively, their songs have been streamed more than 3.2 million times on Spotify alone.

The band took a brief hiatus after touring, then began writing and recording songs again in early 2020, before Covid brought things to a halt. Nevertheless, they managed to drop another lovely single “Reading in the Dark” in August 2020, and once restrictions against gathering together were lifted, they continued with writing and recording songs for their forthcoming second album Wild Awake, replacing some of those they’d previously written with new ones. The songs on the new album will feature a mix of folk rock, Cajun, and electronic lo-fi shoegaze soundscapes. One of the tracks to be included on the new album is “Swimming Pool“.

Band member Steven McCool explains their inspiration behind the song: “During our short hiatus, we didn’t know what we wanted from the band. We had some discussions on what direction to go and what sound we should create, but it became frustrating. When we decided to start writing again we decided we’d stop overthinking and just write. We were just messing about between takes and ‘Swimming Pool’ started to take form. The music and melody fell together within minutes, so we decided to record it. We were using a new lyric writing technique, where we would imagine a scene. So I said I can see someone diving into a swimming pool at night in slow motion. The song ultimately became a metaphor for our emotions, if you fight them they become harder to manoeuvre. So, like swimming you just go with it and it gets easier the more relaxed you are.

The song is beautiful, with a serene, contemplative vibe that nicely conveys the feeling of someone slowly gliding through the waters of a swimming pool. PORTS creates this enchanting soundscape through the use of a lush array of instruments, including what sounds like cello and mellotron, along with lovely piano keys, gently strummed acoustic and twangy guitars, subtle bass and delicate drums. The warm, soothing vocals, who I’m guessing are Steven’s, perfectly complement the music.

When you held your breath til' the sun came down
Beneath the surface a muffled sound
When you can't make out the synthetic sea
Bead of air attempt to flee

Can't stop the overflow round your body
It's just a motion, these emotions
You can let it go, let it move on
It's just a motion, these emotions
 
You sink back down and the picture slows
Projected chaos above you glows
The water breaks to reveal the sky
A road to take reflects in your eye

Can't stop the overflow round your body
It's just a motion, these emotions
You can let it go, let it move on
It's just a motion, these emotions

The beautiful video shows gauzy images of the band performing the song interspersed with those of a swimmer slowly gliding through the water, all filmed in a deep shade of blue.

Connect with PORTS:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  SpotifyApple Music YouTube

UNQUIET NIGHTS – Single Review: “In Spite of It All”

Unquiet Nights is an outstanding rock band with a somewhat unusual career trajectory. Originally started in Belfast, Northern Ireland as a solo project by singer-songwriter and guitarist Luke Mathers in 2006, he began recording tracks with help by Rodger Firmin on drums for what would become the first Unquiet Nights album 21st Century Redemption Songs. In 2010, Luke relocated to Italy, where he eventually finished and released the album.

He was later joined by Italian musicians Francesco Piciucchi on bass and keyboards, and drummer Matteo Bussotti for live shows, though Rodger still played drums on their recordings. In 2015 they released their beautiful and compelling second album Postcards in Real Time. One of the tracks from that album, “George Best City”, which was never released as a single but was used in the Federico Buffa Racconta documentary series, landed them several live national appearances on Italian TV stations. Their best known and most successful song, it’s now garnered more than 355,000 streams on Spotify. Luke moved back to Belfast in 2016, where he continues to record and release music with Rodger and Francesco as Unquiet Nights.

Rodger and Luke working their magic

I first learned about them in early 2018 when Luke reached out to me about their superb single “Promise of You”, which I reviewed. They quickly followed with “Young Believers”, then a year later they released another stellar single “Four Winds“, which I also reviewed. I enjoyed that song so much it ended up ranking #76 on my Top 100 Songs of 2019 list.

Now Unquiet Nights are back with a new single “In Spite of It All“, which they’ve released in conjunction with their third album First Ten (2012-2022). A sort of ‘greatest hits so far’, the album commemorates the ten year anniversary of their debut album 21st Century Redemption Songs, in recognition of their impressive body of work over the past decade. The album features ten songs they feel are an important part of their musical journey up to this point, including two songs from 21st Century Redemption Songs, three from Postcards in Real Time, the three standalone singles listed above, and the new one written especially for this collection, “In Spite of It All”. As depicted in the art work for the album, all ten songs are gems, written and produced by Luke, and flawlessly mixed and mastered by Neal Calderwood. 

Though not quite as hard-hitting as their last three singles, “In Spite of It All” is a beautiful rock song nonetheless, with a somewhat gentler, more melodic sound. As always, Luke’s guitars are gorgeous as he lays down an intertwining mix of urgent riffs and chiming notes over a hypnotic driving rhythm, courtesy of Francesco’s beautiful humming bassline and Rodger’s propulsive drumbeats. Francesco’s sparkling synths are the added jewel in the crown, beautifully complementing Luke’s swirling guitar to create an enchanting and exciting backdrop for his clear, plaintive vocals.

The lyrics seem to address the fact that the journey of life can be difficult and full of obstacles, and to make it, you shouldn’t follow the crowd, but instead forge your own path forward, learning from your mistakes and staying true to yourself: “You don’t have to jump just ’cause they tell you to jump. You don’t have to dance just ’cause they call you up. You don’t learn to walk before you learn to crawl. But you keep moving forward still in spite of it all.”

And here’s the full album, available for purchase on Bandcamp at a very reasonable price. I just bought mine!

Connect with Unquiet Nights:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on  Spotify / Apple MusicSoundcloud 
Purchase on Bandcamp / Unquiet Nights Online Store

New Song of the Week: UNQUIET NIGHTS – “Four Winds”

Unquiet Nights Four Winds

Unquiet Nights is an outstanding rock band based in both Northern Ireland and Italy. Begun as a solo project for singer-songwriter Luke Mathers, Unquiet Nights relocated from Belfast to Rome in 2010, where his debut album  21st Century Redemption Songs was finished and released a year later. Mathers eventually brought Italian musicians Matteo Bussotti and Francesco Piciucchi on board, and Unquiet Nights officially became a band. In 2015 they released a second album Postcards in Real Time, a beautiful work that I strongly recommend my readers make an effort to check out by using one of the links at the end of this review. One of the singles from that album, “George Best City”, recently passed a quarter million streams on Spotify. About that feat, Mathers stated “That’s really satisfying for us considering we’ve never worked with a PR company during the history of the band or had any budget to help promote our stuff.”

Mathers moved back to Northern Ireland in 2016, though he has continued recording and releasing new music with Bussotti and Piciucchi as Unquiet Nights. In February 2018 they released a fantastic single “Promise of You” (which I reviewed), then followed two months later with another banger “Young Believers.” Now they return with “Four Winds“, a superb single that keeps their perfect score of releasing excellent guitar-driven songs fully intact. The song was produced by Mathers, and mixed and mastered by Neal Calderwood, who also mixed and mastered all previous Unquiet Nights releases.

“Four Winds” opens with an ominous synth chord and pounding drum beat, then we’re suddenly plunged headlong into a gorgeous reverb-drenched soundscape of swirling guitars, dramatic sweeping synths, throbbing bass and muscular, thumping drumbeats. Mathers’ vocals are wonderful as he plaintively sings about betrayal and deceit: “Don’t leave me to the four winds. I only got myself to blame. Things like these don’t seem to change.”

Connect with Unquiet Nights:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on  Spotify / Apple MusicSoundcloud 
Purchase on Bandcamp / Unquiet Nights Online Store

UNQUIET NIGHTS – Single Review: “Promise of You”

Promise+of+You+(1000px)

I receive a lot of requests from artists and bands wanting reviews of their latest music or to be featured on this blog, and it’s fun to discover some great new music I would not have otherwise heard. So it was my good fortune when Luke Mathers, frontman of the indie rock band Unquiet Nights, reached out to me with their new single “Promise of You,” which officially drops tomorrow, February 16th.

Based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Unquiet Nights began in 2006 as a solo project for Mathers, who writes all his songs, plays guitar and sings. He began recording tracks for what would become the first Unquiet Nights album 21st Century Redemption Songs, then relocated to Italy in 2010, where the album was finished. Mathers eventually brought Italian musicians Matteo Bussotti and Francesco Piciucchi on board, and Unquiet Nights officially became a band. In 2015 they released a second album Postcards in Real Time, an outstanding work that I strongly recommend my readers make an effort to check out by using one of the links at the end of this review. Mathers moved back to Northern Ireland in 2016, though he still plays with Bussotti and Piciucchi, and has been working on new material for a third album.

Unquiet Nights Luke

“Promise of You” is the first single, and it’s a hard-rockin’ beauty! It starts off with a drawn-out electric guitar note, then an explosion of gritty guitars and fuzzy bass rain down, propelled by a crushing drumbeat that really gets the blood pumping. The track grows more intense as dramatic synths and layers of jangly and shredded guitars are added, building to a pulse-pounding crescendo. The instrumentals are phenomenal, and Mathers fervent vocals perfectly convey the unbridled passion he feels for another, and the exciting promise of a romantic entanglement.

It’s a fantastic track, and a promising (no pun intended) sign that Unquiet Nights will be delivering another stellar album for our listening enjoyment.

Connect with Unquiet Nights:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on  Spotify / Apple MusicSoundcloud / Reverbnation
Purchase on Bandcamp or iTunes