The troubled country-rock troubadour seemed in danger of throwing his career away with a string of patchy albums and some erratic public appearances (there was that notorious occasion he ejected a heckler who had jokingly shouted for the Bryan Adams hit ‘Summer of 69’). But he has redeemed himself with an impressive new LP, Ryan Adams, and visits Cork and Dublin in March. Recommended for admirers of painstakingly crafted classic rock – with the bonus that, on stage, Adams is an unexpectedly hilarious raconteur. For the discerning rock fan.
For that special someone still coming to terms with the cancellation of last summer’s Garth Brooks concerts, here is some much-needed consolation: a two-night showcase of several of the biggest upcoming acts in country. Saturday’s bill includes Lady Antebellum, and Brantley Gilbert while on Sunday Brandy Clark and Luke Bryan headline. For the Garth Brooks devotee still in mourning.
And then there were three. The departure of Jason Orange means this veteran boy-band has become an unlikely power-trio, although, with Gary Barlow the dominant presence, fans may struggle to discern a difference. Their latest album, III, has received ho-hum reviews. But, in the relatively intimate 3Arena (well, intimate by TT standards at any rate), you can expect lashings of hits, along with the inevitable new tunes. For the one-time hysterical teenager.
Much of Foo Fighters’ music has verged on creaky stadium rock. But frontman David Grohl played drums in Nirvana and so is imbued with life-long, cast-iron credibility. Setting aside the music, Slane really is a spectacular day out – something every concert goer should experience at least once. A decent support bill includes Wicklow troubadour of the moment, Hozier. For the 20-something who enjoys an old-school mosh.
Damien Rice, The Coronas , ZZ Top, Christy Moore and Dara O Briain are already confirmed for the annual festival, while Riverdance also makes its way south. For the open minded music fan.
Armed with just an acoustic guitar and a head of ginger curls, Ed Sheeran has conquered the world. Next year will see him become the first acoustic artist to headline London’s Wembley Stadium on his own while this autumn he packed Dublin’s 3Arena over several nights. Amid the hype, Sheeran’s actual music can be overlooked; however by the standards of mainstream pop, second album X was accomplished, with lots of singalong moments and a surprisingly funky undertow. You may not understand the appeal – your kids will get it immediately. For the introspective teenager.
How much ‘Bruce’ can you handle? Let’s hope the answer is ‘lots’: this box set features remastered editions of Springsteen’s first seven albums (which also happen to be his strongest body of work). An accompanying 60-page booklet contains lyrics and original press clippings. For the super enthusiast the collection is available on vinyl, though good luck fitting it into a Christmas stocking. For the classic rock enthusiast.
One of the break-out stars of 2014, Smith’s sensitive confessional balladry has seen him unofficially anointed the male Adele. There’s certainly lots of depth to his debut album, a chronicling of unrequited love that will surprise anyone familiar with Smith’s dance-flavoured hook-ups with Disclosure. How remarkable to think that, just two years ago, he was scrubbing loos in a London pub for a living. For the sensitive pop fan in your life.
Can we agree 2014 belonged to Taylor Swift? She has demonstrated pop music doesn’t have to be about single-entendre lyrics and gauche exhibitionism and released a surprisingly ambitious record, which flirted with dubstep and nu-gaze (no really, it did) while recalling the sweet brashness of 80s electro pop. For the outgoing young person.
A new Pink Floyd album? In 2014? Well, sort of. Actually The Endless River is culled from the same sessions that produced the group’s last long player proper, 1994’s The Division Bell. Nonetheless, if you have a weakness for Dave Gilmour’s soaring, sobbing guitar, the record touches on the majesty of some of the Floyd’s greatest moments. It does feel more like a collection of snippets than a suite of songs; but what snippets they are. For the middle-aged hippy.
The most popular animated feature ever, Frozen has captured the hearts of a generation of children (to say nothing of the wallets of their parents). For those who prefer their saccharine with an interactive element, this special edition DVD was created so that kids could sing along to their favourite moments. Tragically, ear-plugs for adults not included. For kids who’ve had too much sugar.
Mega spoiler alert: at the conclusion of Love/Hate season five, iconic drug dealer Nidge was dispatched to the great methadone clinic in the sky. Now you can relive his rise and dramatic, bloody fall on DVD. For those with only the faintest idea of what any of the previous sentence means, the first four seasons of the top-rating crime drama are also available, as a box set. For the fan of gritty crime.
A year out from The Force Awakens, the air is already heavy with Star Wars fever. Remind yourself what the fuss was about with this nine-disc collection of all the previous movies, plus behind the scenes documentaries and outtakes. A word of advice: don’t start with ghastly Phantom Menace – otherwise, you’ll never make it all the way through. For the science fiction devotee who hasn’t given up hope.
HP Lovecraft meets Raymond Chandler meets the ‘McConaissance’. On paper, True Detective could have been rather grim – who wants to watch a pair of hard-bitten cops driving around rural Louisiana debating the existence of God (while solving a horrible ritualistic slaying)? However, engrossing performances by McConaughey and honorary Waterford native Woody Harrelson elevated a creaky premise into much-see television. The result: a labyrinthine odyssey that stands up to repeated watching. For the connoisseur of rural-gothic gloom.
Brendan O’Carroll has his detractors – yet, who could argue with the popularity of his most famous creation? Already a hit at the cinema, this feature-length chuckle-fest is now on DVD.For anyone with a penchant for broad humour.
Though showcasing the stunning graphical capabilities of the new generation of games consoles, this shooter from the creators of Halo is, in some ways, surprisingly conventional, requiring the player to negotiate a series of post-apocalyptic landscapes, zapping everything in sight. Just what fans would want, in other words. For trigger happy adolescents.
They said it couldn’t be done: port one of the greatest console games of all time to a tablet. Admittedly, the visual sumptuousness doesn’t quite match that of the original. Nonetheless, Bioshock on iPad is compelling – a cracking shooter and a cogent argument against free-market economics run rampant (yes, this is a video game that has strong opinions on neo-Keynesianism). For the gamer on the go.
This best-selling board-game is aimed at families appreciate of a good story and an immersive experience. Up to four players take on the roles of brave mice battling wicked bugs in a vast enchanted castle. Retailing at €70, it’s pricey but an absorbing plot and top-line production values make it worthwhile. For families who want to do something together.
The world’s best selling ‘hobby’ game, in Ticket To Ride players vie to build train routes across the United States. It sounds ho-hum but the gameplay is beyond addictive and can easily be picked up by anyone over the age of 10. For anyone sick of Monopoly.
A co-operative family board game, in Forbidden Desert, players try to stay alive in an unforgiving wilderness while collecting the items that will allow them flee to safety. As everyone works together to beat the game, Forbidden Desert is perfect for those who like to gather around a board without anyone’s nasty competitive streak coming out. For those who like to exercise their brain.
The headphone market has exploded over recent years, so weeding out the best offerings can be a chore. We recommend over-ear ‘cans’, rather than finicky ‘in ear’ buds. One of the best value options is the AKG K550, now available for under €150. Forget the faddy Beats by Dr Dre: the AKG combines sleek looks and fantastic sonics.For the audiophile in your life
Available from Firebox.com, this app-controlled tube-shaped robot can perform flips, ‘drift’ stunts and reach nearly 20kmh. For the person who’s watched Wall-E 100 times.
This periscope-shaped camera is causing quite a stir and is recommended for out-doors types who wish to film from unusual angles (it is waterproof among other things). For the amateur film-maker on the move.
These bluetooth-enabled speakers stream straight to your device and work with services such as Spotify and Deezer. The sound is crisp too, with lots of low-end.For the times it’s all about the bass.
Before Apple and rivals rediscovered the humble wristwatch, crowd-funding trailblazer Pebble was mostly responsible for the renewed interest in this under appreciated technology. Check your email, browse Twitter, post to Facebook – or simply keep tabs on the time. With its gorgeous interface, Pebble will allow you do all of the above. For the individual who can’t pass 15 seconds without checking their email.