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Two of my favourite singer-songwriters, Maria Kelly and Ailbhe Reddy, have joined forces for the expectedly swoonsome ‘Threads’. “How can you be so indifferent, won’t you even try to lie,” implores Kelly, Reddy later admitting “it’s so pathetic I can’t be alone”. Their tale of a not-quite-there relationship unravels as the lovely, sad track swells. “We just continued with this theme of someone having one foot out the door and how heartbreaking that can be to experience” says Reddy. Of the writing process, Kelly explains: “We felt that our styles complimented each other well and decided to try out co-writing. We’re both influenced by similar artists but we have a completely different way of approaching our writing. We thought it would be cool to stick the two together and see what happened.”

***Maria Kelly ft Ailbhe Reddy – ‘Threads’ has been added to the TPOE New Irish Music playlist on Spotify. Subscribe here***

Listen back to Ailbhe Reddy on the TPOE podcast (#66)

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Dublin act Katie Laffan was one of my highlights at Other Voices in December and she’s starting 2018 off strong with the first track off a new EP. ‘Aversion’ sees the loquacious Laffan declare: “I don’t want to be that person anymore, suddenly I feel aversion.” It all plays out over a synth-funk groove that seems more restrained/refined than ‘Tastemaker‘. ‘Aversion’ is taken from Katie Laffan’s forthcoming Spacer EP (amazo artwork above by Joe Lynch), being launched at Whelan’s on February 22 (FB event). Video below by Laura Sheeran.

***Katie Laffan – ‘Aversion’ has been added to the TPOE New Irish Music playlist on Spotify. Subscribe here***

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Galway artist Laoise is among a slew of really exciting female acts who are going to dominate Irish music in 2018. ‘Bother’, which follows the single ‘Rich’ and the Halfway EP last year, is just more evidence of this, a slow pop song that oozes confidence and a chorus filled with ideas that’ll have you coming back for more. The 21-year-old (!) says: “’Bother’ was probably the hardest song I’ve ever written, but also the quickest. I wrote it about a relationship that was ending; it had been over for quite some time actually, and it was bumping into that person a while later that made me write the song. I sat down at the piano and within 20 minutes I had ‘Bother’, and it said all the things I wish I had said a long time ago. It was a slow piano song for a long time before we worked with the amazing producer, Chris Bubenzer, and he really helped transform this track into the confident electro-pop track that you hear now. ‘Bother’ feels like a massive cleanse for me, and I especially can’t wait to perform it live.”

Laoise – ‘Bother’ has been added to the TPOE New Irish Music playlist on Spotify. Listen here

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Ae Mak return with a new lineup and their first single since last year’s stellar ‘I Walk‘. Aoife McCann is the sole frontperson now, Ellie McMahon having departed. A four piece now, the Dublin group is completed by Daniel McIntyre, Dylan Povey, and Peter Kelly. “I finally understand you but I don’t want to, I see myself in you, a struggle inside,” reveals Aoife on ‘Glow’, as hums eventually escalate to a euphoric outro. Aoife told Earmilk:”I wrote ‘Glow’ after one of the irrational fits of irritation I sometimes get when arguing with those closest to me. It comes from recognising traits in others that I see and dislike in myself. So it’s about denial, self-acceptance and turning to the ones that you love to accept the good and bad parts of yourself again. I brought the song to Daniel in the band who created the soundscape and made it come alive. Through our shared musical vision and love of dance music, we created ‘Glow’.” [Picture above by Brid O’Donovan Facebook | Twitter | Instagram]

Bonus content: I talked to Ellie after Ae Mak played Hard Working Class Heroes last year. Listen here

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‘Rabbit Hole’ is the first single from new Dublin dream pop band Sandy Kim. It sounds like your favourite Postcard Records band (Orange Juice) listening to Beach House. The three piece – Darragh, James, Glebsy – most definitely fit the genre: the chiming guitars enter slowly, the hushed vocals declaring “there’s so much more about you” before things go in an MBV direction. ‘Rabbit Hole’ was produced by Gareth Desmond in Loop Studios Dublin. I can’t wait to hear a lot more from Sandy Kim in 2018.

Sandy Kim – ‘Rabbit Hole’ has been added to the TPOE New Irish Music Spotify playlist. Listen/subscribe here

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Northern Irish singer-songwriter Lilla Vargen continues her unreal run of singles (‘Hold On’, ‘Downtown’ – a collective 2.2m streams on Spotify) with the beautiful ‘Believe Me’. Fresh from playing her first London show last week, it’s safe to say that Lilla’s going to have a great 2018. “I’ve never felt like this, so close to happiness, and I never thought you’d feel the same, but now I know it was always this way,” she sings in the new 3.42-minute track. It’s reminiscent of Wyvern Lingo (debut album imminent), the track built around stunning escalating vocals, the music slowly swelling all around. The class artwork is by Nicholas Stevenson. Listen to ‘Believe Me’ on YouTube and Spotify.

Lilla Vargen – ‘Believe Me’ has been added to the TPOE New Irish Music Spotify playlist. Listen/subscribe here
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Yenkee is Cork-based artist Graham Cooney, ably abetted by Eoin Conway on keys (The Careers) and Meg Cronin on sax. Cooney has released music under his own name in the past but has gone pop in a big way under the Yenkee moniker. ‘Are You Alright?’, their debut single, written, recorded, produced, mixed and mastered by Cooney, features a call-and-response chorus – “Are you alright? Cos I’ve been feeling better” – and familiar refrains about not getting a job and lovelife frustrations. It all plays out over a twitching fuzzy guitar and RnB backing track. It’s infectious. Download ‘Are You Alright?’ from Yenkee’s Bandcamp page or listen on Spotify. Yenkee play their first live show upstairs at the Roundy on Saturday, with Andy Wilson and the Toys, Pale Rivers and R Kitt, as part of Quarter Block Party (FB event page).

Yenkee – ‘Are You Alright’ has been added to the TPOE New Irish Music Spotify playlist. Subscribe here

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O Emperor stomp back into our lives with this bass-storming track, ‘Make It Rain’, their first new music since the Lizard EP in November 2015. They’ve all been pretty busy since, though, Brendan Fennessy recording all of your favourite Cork acts, Phil Christie releasing one of the under-the-radar albums of the year in the Bonk’s debut, Paul Savage making music videos, alongside various other sideprojects. Instantaneously one of their grooviest tracks, ‘Make It Rain’ is peppered with oohs and aahs as guitars squall and squeak throughout, Christie’s lyrics spitting of rapturous men, stinging eyes, scratching hearts and miserable dogs with everybody’s oh so slick. O Emperor play Amp as part of Quarter Block Party on Friday, February 2, with Tandem Felix (FB event page), and Bello Bar in Dublin on February 17. You can download ‘Make It Rain’ from their Bandcamp page.

Listen to Phil Christie chat about the Bonk on TPOE 67

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Dublin four piece Pillow Queens are in all of the ones to watch lists for 2018 – ‘Favourite’ is the start of what should be a very busy year for Sarah Corcoran (guitar/bass/vocals), Pamela Connolly (guitar/bass/vocals), Cathy McGuinness (guitar/vocals), and Rachel Lyons (drums/vocals). It’s the first single taken from their new EP, State of The State, released on Bristol-based Specialist Subject Records on March 16. A scuzzy track, ‘Favourite’ (already a live favourite, ahem) features a glorious chorus in a Dublin drawl. Pillow Queens have only been together for little over a year – the fact they’re writing such infectious singalongs bodes very well for the future. You can hear it live at Quarter Block Party on February 2 – they play Spailpin Fanach at 11.15pm.

Pillow Queens – ‘Favourite’ has been added to TPOE’s New Irish Music playlist on Spotify