Saint Sister – Blood Moon
One of the most promising new Irish acts to appear this year, Gemma Doherty and Morgan MacIntyre's self-described “atmosfolk” music made an impression on many who witnessed them live. A debut EP of great songs helped, and Blood Moon from it, with its dominant harp, percussion and harmonies, was simply one of the best songs of the year.
Maud In Cahoots - Cure For The Crazy
Maud and Zoe Ní Riordáin's music always had a sophisticated backbone to it, but this year, through a handful of singles, the sisters and their bands lifted their tunes into strident pop territory. Cure For The Crazy reaches for an ambitious atmospheric crescendo that is thoroughly of the new music zeitgeist.
Old Hannah – West
Sligo band Old Hannah delved into an anamorphic folk and roots music with their second EP and West was an easy highlight: a snaking dusty song with a country twang and a brass section on its horizon.
Rusangano Family – Heathrow
Few Irish acts are better-placed to talk about the journey of a refugee than the Limerick rap trio, whose two MCs were born in Togo and Zimbabwe. Set against a backdrop of spooked synth notes and crashing drums, the pair paint a vivid picture of immigration, through the cultural differences ("I'm living on fish and chips but deep inside I'm craving fetri"), the hopelessness (“just dry skin on the airbus / took off in Lagos / only Europe can save us”) and guilt (“Did I flee Lampedusa to die over you?”). They conclude, as we should know all too well, that it's not all black and white - “this is where history finds us / our history binds us / no blacks, no dogs, no Irish.”
Fierce Mild – Small Talk
The spirit of protest rock music heard in The Slits and Le Tigre is alive and well in Fierce Mild's danceable post-punk tunes as heard on their Yes n Yes n Yes EP this year. Along with songs about equality, biological clocks and the importance of making your voice heard, Small Talk is concerned the more light-hearted but universal problem of idle chit-chat in public and it makes that potentially awkward social situation instantly more thrilling.
Conor Walsh – The Front
Mayo pianist Conor Walsh has been playing evocative live piano compositions for a few years but a debut EP released by Ensemble Records. The Front is fine example of what he's capable of, producing emotional minimal music with some electronic edges in the style of the neoclassical vanguard such as Nihls Frahm.
Cruising – Safe Corridor
Named after a pretty terrible “cult” film which starred Al Pacino as an undercover cop trying to find a killer in the underground gay S&M scene in New York, Cruising split their time between the Dublin and Belfast music scenes and feature members of September Girls, Logikparty, Sea Pinks and Girls Names. Their Tough Love Records debut EP features the track Safe Corridor, which has all the hallmarks of musicians versed in the darkest recesses of rock: from post-punk to garage to kraut and the result is a thrilling throwback that sounds full of modern vitality.
Terriers – Believing The Crystal
The Irish duo last year, won the dance underground equivalent of a golden ticket to the Chocolate Factory, when revered producer Levon Vincent offered them a mentorship in his Berlin studio. Peter Ward and Ronan Downing took advantage and soaked up the knowledge and made this thumping spaced-out club track.
AE Mak – I Can Feel It In My Bones
Aoife McCann and Ellie McMahon met while studying music at BIMM. Their debut track takes influences from the energetic pop of tUnE-YarDs, African harmonies and jazz singer Anita O'Day. I Can Feel It In My Bones is a bright and bubbly pop song that suggests great things to come.
Planet Parade – Blue Sky
After disappearing for a couple of years, the Kildare duo Michael Hopkins and Andrew Lloyd returned with a run of singles that were easily more memorable than their early forays. On Blue Sky, the band channeled the sunny disposition of Vampire Weekend for a sun-chasing transportive summer jam.