THE EASTER VIGIL (2017)
Juliette Walking in the Rain is genuinely breathtaking and the haunting Valley Of Tears is truly transcendent. A hugely rewarding album.
- Hotpress Magazine
Chester’s fifth album is yet another reason to wonder out loud just how and why he isn’t much better known. Chester’s stylistic traces have rarely been better outlined. Dark Mornings is melody incarnate, brimming with chiming guitar chords and wistful lyrics, while Valley Of Tears is as beautifully sorrowful as the title indicates. The pleasures of the remaining tracks unfurl somewhat more slowly, but are no less rich or rewarding.
- Tony Clayton-Lea, The Sunday Business Post
With some heavy-duty guests, including cellist Vyvienne Long, in tow, the respected Dublin producer's fifth album, an exploration of faith, love, discovery and belief, is deep, personal and intriguing.
- The Evening Herald
Archbishop McQuaid, Julliette Binoche, the “national razor” and the Swastika Laundry all get mentions on Joe Chester’s haunting new album, The Easter Vigil. "Spy Wednesday" bristles with lyrics worthy of Elvis Costello. The Easter Vigil is his most profound and moving work yet.
This fifth album is another beautifully produced collection. From the string-driven Spy Wednesday to the gentle venom of the title track The Easter Vigil with melodies that linger and lyrics that prod and provoke. Recommended.
- The Sunday Times
A songwriter’s songwriter, he’s had praise for his alt-pop melodies heaped on him but… his career hasn’t been forged with those aims. Instead, he’s trying to do something different: challenge himself and continue to make music that feels original. There are touches of Beck’s The Golden Age on his new album The Easer Vigil, alongside the kind of elegant, minor-key flourishes reminiscent of The Blue Nile’s Paul Buchanan. The tone is intimate, warm and vulnerable.
- Nadine O'Regan
Eight songs long, and softer and more spartan than much of Joe’s previous output, ‘The Easter Vigil’ is simply another chapter in a body of work that’s as impressive as that by any contemporary Irish artist.
From the peppy opener that takes place on ‘Spy Wednesday’ to the magnificent closer, ‘I’m Not A Christian Anymore’, located on Easter Sunday, the record’s central figure concludes a passage from confident believer [‘I know that my Redeemer lives’] through self-doubt, uncertainty and onwards into disbelief. When, over the album’s concluding bars, Joe sings ;- ‘that night in the sleeping house of God, I was a phantom walking in the corridor. I was a Christian then, I’m not a Christian anymore’.
But it had all been so different back at the beginning, seven songs earlier. ‘Spy Wednesday’ has an innocent Waterboys feel – appropriately enough, it could sit easily on ‘A Pagan Place’ – that springs to its capstone off of a saxophone solo by Anthony Thistlethwaite. Another packing considerable Waterboys history, Steve Wickham, lends the violin and viola parts while cellist Vyvienne Long decorates the room with deeper tones throughout. Elsewhere, ‘Dark Mornings’ – a first-class graduate from the Matthew Sweet/Ryan Adams/Lyndsey Buckingham finishing school – is still the closest concession to the all-out, Cars-inspired finish that’s distinguished much of Joe’s previous work. And after that it’s just the magic of the soft hush ;- and it’s beautiful. Because for all of it’s allegory and bespoke references [‘the feast of Corpus Christi’, ‘Swastika Laundry’ and ‘the valley of tears’], Joe still finds the real wonder in the smaller, far less abstract moments. The single, ‘Juliette Walking In The Rain’ is about exactly that, a chance encounter with the French actress Juliette Binoche as she makes her way across Meeting House Square in Central Dublin. While for all the swagger on ‘Dark Mornings’, the song ultimately – and maybe invariably? – finds itself dissecting matters of the heart as Joe points out that he’s ‘just looking out the window, waiting for you to wake up’.
And that’s where Joe’s gift lies. The devil may indeed always lurk amidst the detail but it takes the confidence of a master to allow the magic flourish deep inside the quiet.
- Blackpool Sentinel
Album of the week - Marty Whelan, RTE Lyric FM
Album of the week - Tom Dunne, Newstalk FM
HOPE AGAINST HOPE (2012)
PRODUCER TO THE STARS DOES IT HIS OWN WAY
Joe Chester may be best known for his production work on albums by The Coronas, Ryan Sheridan and Mundy, but his solo work is distinguished by a rare intelligence and attention to detail. And so it proves on his fourth album (arriving barely ten months since his last release), which is as intriguing as it is enjoyable. The opening instrumental, 'Love Pouring Down Like Gravity", with its repeated loop, is a hypnotic, trance-like tune that someone like Massive Attack certainly wouldn't have kicked out of bed. For its part, 'Subway' is a more Eno-inspired sound collage than a song in itself. While there is always an experimental undercurrent of this kind at play within his work, he has an ear for a memorable hook and radio-friendly melody. Thus, switching tack completely, 'Which Way is Out' (featuring vocals from Gemma Hayes) comes across as a Teenage Fanclub meets The Cure, power-pop gem. And the jangly 'Somewhere for the Animals' is a swirling, psychedelic, indie-guitar tune with a driving rhythm that isn't a million miles from The La's.
Elsewhere ' Dark Haired Mistress' is a gorgeous mid-tempo tune with a compelling melody, while the title track, with its ominous piano, bass and drums interplay, sonically recalls the kind of atmospheric territory explored in the '80s by the likes of Talk Talk (on Colour of Spring) and The Blue Nile (A Walk Across The Rooftops)
Well worth investigating. - Colm O'Hare Hotpress Magazine
SHE DARKS ME (2011)
"Joe Chester has become one of the finest songwriters in the country. Each of the nine originals carry the kind of tunes that other bands would kill for. With a voice like a tempered Rufus Wainwright, stripped of theatricality and lowered a pitch or two, it would still sound good if he was singing the phonebook. That said, it’s the lyrics that keep you coming back time and again. Themes of jealousy, heartbreak and desire are given a fresh twist, his mature outlook mixed with images of murder, villains and “sistine chapel faces”. It is stirring stuff. She Darks Me is elegant, measured and all the better for it. High time the listening public caught up with Joe Chester. She Darks Me has all the makings of a sleeper hit." - Hotpress Magazine
With two superb albums (2005’s A Murder of Crows and 2008’s The Tiny Pieces Left Behind), Chester is one of those meticulous types for whom compulsion or irrationality is a rarity. Under these terms (which are by no means limitations), Chester triumphs, as his songwriting clearly benefits from such diligence. Several tracks (notably Acid Rain, Foreign Correspondent and Heart of Stone) bear his hallmark attention to observant detail. Musically, it’s Chester’s usual mix of innate melody and carefully prepared arrangements. - The Irish Times
"Chester’s magic power is the ability to make intricacy seem effortless; to make sounds that are simultaneously singular yet don’t draw attention to themselves. In short, this is elegant music. Josh Rouse and the Avalanches would kill for these hooks. A Dylan cover (“Most Of The Time”) almost slips past unnoticed, so strong are the tracks that surround it." - groovelovesmelody.com
THE TINY PIECES LEFT BEHIND (2008)
"The good news : Joe Chester has followed up 2005's acclaimed debut, A Murder of Crows, with a humdinger of a second album. Chester provides a welcome antidote to all those vacuous singer-songwriters who for all their emoting don't seem to know what the word emotion means. I am reminded of John Lennon and Neil Young. It's that good. The Tiny Pieces Left Behind is a great album." - Adrienne Murphy - Hot Press.
"Chester's latest work is crammed with sweetly-simplistic, robust pop-rock gems. Maybe This is not Love is a synth- gilded and virile beauty, while The Bodies Start to Move is both butter-smooth and bewilderingly addictive. In all, The Tiny Pieces Left Behind is a delight that should propel Chester towards his rightful spot at the top of our musical food chain." - Tanya Sweeney, State Magazine.
A MURDER OF CROWS (2005)
'As a songwriter, I look back at those songs now and, even though I had been writing songs in various bands for years at that point, I would say I was pretty green. There's a certain naivety about them, I suppose. I'd say I'm a better songwriter now than I was then, or (at least) that I know more about songwriting now than I did then. But I'd still say that "Charlie for a Girl" is the best song I've ever written. Sometimes it makes me a little sad, knowing that if I was ever asked to write something like it now, I honestly wouldn't know how.'
Some musicians have to go around the block several, if not many times before they stumble onto one of two life-changing facts. The first is that they might as well give up - that, for various reasons, things aren't working out for them, and so why waste even more time on something that just isn't going to happen, even though it's passionately hoped for.
The first is that they might as well give up - that, for various reasons, things aren't working out for them, and so why waste even more time on something that just isn't going to happen, even though it's passionately hoped for. The second is that, even in their darkest, deepest and most truthful moments, they can make out a glimmer of light that gives them hope.
Joe Chester is not for giving up. This Dublin songwriter and producer might not even be a muted blip on the radar screen for virtually 100 percent of the population, but for years he has burrowed away under the skin of bands such as Sunbear, Tenspeedracer and Future Kings of Spain, as well as being one of the primary go-to guys for better-known musicians if they need some producing or some shape of sonic accompaniment. In short, he's a grafter, a man with some skill. You can sense this without even knowing it, for A Murder of Crows, Chester's debut album, is full of graft - and craft. To know that it was recorded in midwinter, solitary, in a ramshackle farmhouse in County Wexford is to go some way towards understanding the album's dual senses of joy and sadness, tension and release.
In a manner akin to a singer-songwriter from the wilds of Borneo, Chester's days consisted of gathering wood, lighting the open fires in the kitchen and the studio, working on his songs until early morning, then climbing the groaning staircase to his bedroom, his mind cross-wired with ideas for the next day's recording. That A Murder of Crows didn't turn out to be a collection of songs as desolate and chilly as its surroundings is surprising. Songwriting dynamics is all, though, and by switching creative dispositions, Chester has created something that resembles cutting wire: deceptively light but full of serious intent.
'Like a seaside town in winter', Chester sings on the first (and title) track, 'or that moment when the summer sun gets covered by a cloud'. This pretty much sets the tone: regret and resignation leavened by simplistic, often sumptuous melodies delivered not with egocentric frills but with a modesty that never tips over into lack of confidence. Rarely for an album of such self-effacement, the quality just doesn't dip: 'Charlie for a Girl' is pure heartache wrapped in a melody that refuses to budge, 'A Safe Place to Hide' is a noble duet with Gemma Hayes, the elegiac, piano-led 'A Drop of Rain' is imbued with a velvety texture that leaves the listener almost lost for words, and 'I Always Think You're Leaving Me' gets away with such a morose title (snap out of it man, for God's sake!) by being one hum-dinger of a tune. Chester even covers a Fleetwood Mac/Lindsey Buckingham track ('Bleed to Love Her'); like every other song on this vivid, delicate, perfect-pop record, it touches on the elusiveness of love, but Chester nails it (and the rest) with all the certainty and precision of a shipwright.
from 101 Irish Records (You Must Hear Before You Die)