Welcome to the second in our new Discover Ireland series featuring the best contemporary music from both emerging and established stars of the Irish scene. In our inaugural instalment – Irish Music Under The Microscope – we ventured on a ten-track journey that took us from the folk-pop world of Hudson Taylor through the country-roads of Catherine Mc Grath to the Balbriggan ‘good life’ imagined by R&B diva-in-waiting Soulé.
This week, we deep dive into the world of yet another ten Irish artists whose music crosses every social, stylistic and musical walk of life, to give you a multi-flavoured megamix by more of the best of our indigenous talent. As always, you’ll find a Discover Ireland #2 Spotify playlist at the end of our piece. In addition, over on Spotify, you’ll find a new all-inclusive Discover Ireland Top 20 to which we’ll keep adding new tracks week on week.
“bain ceol as an saol“
Who? Áine Cahill
The 22-year old Castletara native who has already stormed every TAM rated radio show across the UK&I not to mention wowing throngs of festival goers from Body & Soul, to EP, to the mother of all fests, Glasto. Fresh from a stint at Cruinniú na Cásca where she played alongside The Academic, Áine Cahill will embark on a nationwide tour on 20th April kicking off in Dublin’s Sugar Club – full details here. Her itinerary also sees her take in some UK festival dates including Glastonbury – ‘all hail!’.
With a sound that occupies the liminal space between baroque pop and jazz, the young Cavan woman has been likened to both Lana del Rey and Adele, although personally I can hear more of the former and less of the latter in the way her vocal confidently mines rich and pitch-dark, mysterious underground caverns. There’s a touch of James Bond suaveness to her latest single Plastic, redolent of Planets by The Clear.
A sassy yet classy two-fingers to unfeeling no-marks, it’s a slickly produced affair with as much style as it has substance. Cahill effortlessly walks her smouldering vocal up and down the breadth of its range, while in the background guitars growl, sinister basslines lurk, strings sweep theatrically and there’s a profusion of jazz cum r&b style percussion that gives Plastic an infectious, palpitating heartbeat.
The youngster has just brought out an accompanying video which you can watch here. With a chutzpah similar to peers like Bryde and PJ Harvey and a talent mature beyond her years, Áine Cahill is more blazing comet than rising star. One to watch with binoculars …
Love child of a fast and furious fling between Cockney Rebels The Clash and NYC’s brashest The Strokes, Otherkin is a Dublin based four-piece putting grit into grunge and punk into pop.
Producing adrenaline-charged rocket-fuel trading as ‘garage rock’ that refuses to go gently into any good night, Otherkin have rapidly become one of the success stories of the current Irish music scene. Two EPs in, and their searing sound has gained them a fanbase which has grown exponentially since their 2014 inception.
While their style is unfussy and vibe beyond energetic, their songs swing off more hooks than Tarzan doing the rounds of a concrete jungle. Their sound is ‘loud’ but without the ear-scraping screech-factor to which many of their peers fall foul. Ensuring a line in melodic pop sensibilities remains firmly embedded in their rad-leaning brand, has kept Otherkin within reach of commercial whilst at the same time keeping a respectful distance from mainstream pop.
Ahead of the release of their debut album, due out later this year on the Rubyworks label, the guys recently dropped the lead track Bad Advice. The musical equivalent of stormtroopers crashing your local open mic, its a compelling sonic energiser replete with the strident guitars, punchy beats and confident vocals on which Otherkin have built their indisputable rep. One, which will see them cosy up to Axl & co when the Not In This Lifetime Tour hits Slane on 27th May 2017 (see here for tickets). Something tells me Ax will have his work cut out for him keeping up with these frenergetic rockers.
Who? Lisa Hannigan
Lisa Hannigan is an icon of modern Irish indie-folk-pop – period.
A gifted multi-instrumentalist Hannigan has long been at the forefront of that wave of musicians who successfully managed to transform the genre of folk-pop, once seen as pop’s poor relation, into an accepted art form within modern musical society.
In addition to a plethora of film work, the multi-award winning Irish woman has released three highly acclaimed studio albums – Seesaw (2008), Passenger (2011) and most recently At Swim (2016) for which she was Choice Music Prize nominated.
The title, which is drawn from the watery metaphors that flow through At Swim’s lyrics, is similarly suggestive of the fluid sound of the album itself, which in many ways make it as intangible as it is transparent. Described by The Telegraph as an album “to drown in”, At Swim is a truly emotionally immersive recording which serves to highlight not just Lisa Hannigan’s exceptional songwriting skills. It also serves as a testament to her ability to craft intimate and feather-light music which she then gently offers up with the most delicately emotive of deliveries.
Lisa Hannigan is currently on an extended World tour with our next featured artist – Saint Sister. Full details of all remaining dates//tickets – here. She plays the Royal Hospital Kilmainham on 5th June.
Who? Saint Sister
Saint Sister, was formed in 2014 by Trinity alumni Morgan MacIntyre and Gemma Doherty.
Drawing inspiration from traditional Irish and folk music on the one hand and electro-pop on the other, the duo have concocted their own unique brand of ‘atmosfolk‘. Blending wistful, subtle synths with electro-acoustic harp, the pair have managed to take the best of both traditional and modern worlds, resulting in a finely balanced musical menagerie at the heart of which lies their perfectly synchronised, visceral vocal commix.
Clocked by media within a blink of their formation, Saint Sister have opened for Arcade Fire, been playlisted by the Beeb and RTE, and toured extensively selling out venues from Ireland to the Finland Station (that might be a bit of an exagg but you get the gist). They’re currently high-bindering around Europe with the afore-mentioned Lisa Hannigan ahead of a stint around the UK&I.
With its minimally arranged, unfussy perfection, their sensational Madrid EP blew the socks off reviewers and music fans alike. Most recently, the duo have released Double A Tin Man / Corpses (link here). A finely textured weave of the warmest threads of electronica adorned with delicate gauzy folk, this is music with which one makes an immediate, subliminal connection.
Saint Sister take their instrumental finery and add a layer of perfectly chiming vocals to create immaculately delivered and sympathetically arranged songs that only the most gifted lyricists and naturally talented of musicians can aspire to.
Saint Sister play Dublin’s National Concert Hall on 7th June and Latitude (UK) on 15th July. Full details of their tour dates//tickets – here. Click your heels and set ye off for Blind Date over the rainbow style with their wonderfully original video for Tin Man below.
Who? Imelda May
There’s very little left to say that hasn’t already been said about the ‘transformation’ of the artist fka the Queen of Rockabilly.
Sporting a new look while embracing a bewitching new sound filled with heartfelt soul and punchy blues, Imelda May has returned with a fifth album that has exceeded our wildest expectations by more than a country mile of the English heartland in which she now lives.
Life Love Flesh Blood is a T Bone Burnett produced masterpiece comprising strands of country, jazz, R&B, pop and more. An indefinable triumph which, like May herself, refuses to be boxed in by labels or genres, it has had both reviewers and May’s fans in thrall to its visceral power and raw to-the-bone honesty (mea culpa – you can read my review here). Editors of glossies and TV hosts alike, have been tripping over themselves to book the Dubliner for ‘chats’ (Image Mag, The Late Late Show, The One Show) – if anyone out there didn’t already know who Imelda May was, they must surely know now (mea maxima culpa, read my interview with Imelda here).
With her ten-strong team of musicians, Imelda May is due to hit the ‘circuit’, starting in Derry on 30th May. The singer will play over 25 dates across the UK including St. David’s Hall in Cardiff and the exquisite London Palladium. She will play four Irish dates – three sold out shows at the BGE Theatre in May and an extra date at Dublin’s 3 Arena on 22nd December. The month of June will see Imelda take her new sound to music venues across North America where she will also hook up with the legendary Elvis Costello. We wish her well.
Check out the new video, just released, for Imelda May’s latest single Should’ve Been You here.
Who? Bad Sea
Alan Farrell and Ciara Thompson aka CMAT, are Bad Sea – a trippy, country ‘fluenced duo who recently supported Australian hitmaker Julia Jacklin when she pitched up at Whelans for a night (and got clamped for her troubles). They were, in the words of that great musical legend John Peel – ‘fucking amazing’.
With a confidence that belies her 21 years, Ciara has all the poise of June Carter Cash fused with the pop sensibilities of KD Lang whilst paralleling the idiosyncrasies of Lana del Rey. Comparisons not easily made. Farrell for his part is an intuitive guitarist with more than an ear for a seductive riff.
On stage, Thompson and Farrell are in complete symmetry with one another; a synchronicity more than apparent in their studio recordings, which sound more like the results of an afternoon of easy going musical indulgence rather than the meticulously rehearsed and precisely crafted soul crusted country-pop gems that they are. It’s not easy to make such good music seem effortless!
Their latest single Tell Me (What I Mean) is a homage of sorts to love (and Tinder) in which Ciara’s glorious vocals twirl and whirl around and through Farrell’s resplendent throwback guitar playing.
The duo played So Far sounds last month, a live recording of which you can watch here. They play a sold out Yala event 21st April, return to Whelan’s on 16th May to support Overcoats before hooking up with Rosa Nutty for her EP launch in The Workman’s on June 1st! BE THERE!
Who? Katie Laffan
Dubliner Katie Laffan is another slice of that batch of Irish newbies taking the media world by storm.
Her new single Tastemaker scored massive acclaim for its journeying in a direction perpendicular to the well worn trend of most chart-poppers. Dressing itself in the fluorescent PJs of ‘bedroom funk’, its a dynamic melee of funk, jazz and hip hop spliced with some reggae vibes all wrapped up in a layer of glistening disco-pop.
Produced and mastered by studio Yodas, Liam Caffery and John Flynn, it’s as slick a glitter-ball of a production as you’ll hear since the walls of NYC’s Studio 54 reverberated with Nile Rodger’s Chic. In fact if you told me Rodgers himself was on guitar duties it wouldn’t surprise me.
There is something very carefree and wild about the vibe of this song, which is more sonic fizz-bag than commercial candyfloss. That’s not to say it isn’t radio and market-friendly – it is in spades, but without the try-too-hard plasticity of the likes of Pixie Lott or triteness of Little Mix. It’s disco-pop with the sassy abandon of Donna Summer that hints at the best of Roisin ‘Bring it Back’ Murphy (before she slid down the experimental rabbit hole).
Tastemaker showcases Laffan’s coy but street-wise vocal, sparky and unbridled, blurry around the edges, softened by a hint of breathiness. Musically, this ‘fabulousness’ is a riot of cowbells, funked out bass-lines and highly-strung, tight knit retro 70’s riffs. More addictive than Haribos, if you don’t fall prey to Ms. Laffan’s bedroom charms, then you’re either tone deaf or dead.
The video, which you can watch below, features the singer’s 82 year old Grandad – go him!
Who? New Pope
Galway native David Boland has been performing under the New Pope moniker since 2014. Hugely popular, this immensely talented singer/songwriter has diligently distilled his own home-brew of dream-pop infused folk that while drawing from an indigenous traditional well, owes much in the way to the indie/jangle of mid-90s America.
New Pope has released two excellent and buy-worthy albums, Youth which was released in December 2015 and Love which came out on NYE one year later.
If you put a gun to my head and forced me to make comparisons, I would automatically lean towards Beck. There’s more than a trace of the American’s sun-kissed Californian ease in the leadránach almost soporific quality of the Irish man’s gently hypnotic vocal.
Somewhat of a confessional songsmith, New Pope wears the varying shapes of his heart on his sleeve – humourous, romantic, nostalgic, observer of life, dreamer. His song-crafting skills are exceptionally on point – thought and emotion provoking poetic essays on the world with which the Galway native surrounds himself. Observations on the natural world, the changing face of Irish landscapes, soundscapes and culture, love won and lost, nostalgic odes to youth and its blushing romances. They’re all in there like pages torn from a collection of diaries.
New Pope’s third album Home, is due out later this year. An album firmly set in the ‘now’ of his life, it strolls down more folksier byways than its somewhat more ‘wistful’ and nostalgic predecessors.
Renowned for his wonderfully orchestrated and imaginatively arranged and thoughtful compositions, Home should prove at least equal to if not superior to the charming ingenuity of its two older siblings. If his Instagram is anything to go buy, New Pope is a constant on the Galway live scene. Check in with his FB to stay in the loop.
Favourites of Tom Robinson’s crew over at Fresh on the Net – see the groovy review their single Back To Where I Begun inspired back last November – “the beauty of the song is the superb build right from the start with its occasional picking guitar through to its almost anthemic finish”
The trick of producing really good music is when you find a bloody good formula, stick to it like Elastoplast. That’s what Dublin based duo Motions have done, nailing a slow build to gradual crescendo, culminating in an all out explosive finale full of musical theatrics festooned with fireworks.
Motions was formed in late 2015 by Tom Daly (vox) and Dave Nulty. They describe their sound as ranging “from shimmering soundscapes to anthemic rock”. Yup, just about sums it up perfectly. Bold and daring rock-god vocals are at the helm here – waspish, raspy, edgy, you can almost feel the veins bulging in the Daly’s throat. Strong and confident vocal shots laced with Jameson and a few puffs of Woodbine. Elsewhere, in the back seat, Nulty’s strident guitars are screaming to be unleashed so that they can drive unfettered through the anthemic storm that lies ahead.
Their latest single, All I’ve Ever Known is another killer track that will leave your nerves jangling. The song which “centres around the traces left behind after losing someone close to you … is reflective of the chaotic elements we experience in the grief of loss”. A continuous build of layer upon layer takes the track from soft melodic balladry to epic bombast, with Daly’s gritty vocal, a fine balance of angst and anger, sitting in the eye of the perfect storm of contorted, frenzied guitars underpinned by insistent, driving percussion.
Unfortch, there’s no video, so here’s a shiny new Motions Soundcloud link instead.
Who? Le Galaxie
Le Galaxie are a 21st century band who like Norwegian beatmasters Röyksopp imagine pulse-filled space-age electronica light years ahead of its time.
A four-piece who submerge their collective talents into the dark and mysterious void that is contemporary electronica, they produce pulsating disco swagger filled with an array of electronic textures, a cavalcade of 3D samples and synthtastic lane hopping. Their latest single Pleasure is just that.
Like an irresistible and experienced seducer, it holds you firmly in its thrill-seeking clutches and mesmerises with its hypnotically propulsive beats. New age techno rife with carnal desire it’s like les liaison dangereuse for the dancefloor. The track features the sensual vocals of Flight Like Apes’ front woman May Kay, whose dreamy, languorous delivery is seduction personified.
A powerfully compelling dance track with a more than ‘colourful’ personality and an addictive groove, Pleasure is a Le Galaxie masterclass in innovative experimentation. An accomplished production with an inter-galactic sheen. Pleasure is released today … go get it on!
Le Galaxie are lined up to play several live dates including a Night in the Key of 8 (23rd April) and the Drogheda Arts Festival (29th April) – full line up of events here.
Well, that’s a wrap. Thank God says you, is the bar still open? I’m all worded out. Nothing left to say except, here’s your Spotify playlist. Enjoy.