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Limerick four-piece Casavettes follow up their string of singles from last year with the rollicking ‘Winter Smoke’. “I’m sorry I don’t want this to end,” sings Diarmuid Ó Sé halfway through – a fair sentiment. Completed by Mike Hennessy (bass), James Poole (guitar) and Stephen Ryan (drums), Casavettes are part of the DIY LK collective that are doing brilliant things in Limerick at the moment. ‘Winter Smoke’ sounds like your favourite mid-noughties alt-rock band, a slow number quickly giving way to raucous overdrive. Rachel Drennan’s strings offer something different to the pack, though. I love the hushed vocals, too. The track was recorded by Chris Quigley. ‘Winter Smoke’ is available on a name-your-price basis on Bandcamp.

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Fresh from a stellar show with Tandem Felix at Quarter Block Party, Ena Brennan aka Dowry has released her debut single, ‘In É’. Living on the edge, it comes across like a film soundtrack, something that wouldn’t be out of place in a Paul Thomas Anderson film (I really have to see Phantom Thread). I love the way it escalates. Brennan explains: “It is representative of the way I start every Dowry set; with an improvised violin piece. Over the course of the last year, the more I have repeated this opening improvisation, laying down certain rules and structure with each performance, the more the improvisation has become an actual piece. It begins with a drone on the note E, and builds from there, dipping into the major and minor, and growing into a cacophony of sound. The song drifts between sound worlds, most notably that of Irish traditional music and minimalist contemporary classical music.” Dowry play with Christian Loffler in the Sugar Club tonight in a Homebeat Presents show.

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Dublin’s Motions today reveal their debut EP, The Late Night Calls. They released a couple of singles last year but are ratcheting things up a notch early in 2018. The title track rolls along with the “lies we have to live” later proclaiming that “It’s not too late”. ‘Back & Forth’ is the highlight of the three tracks (four if you include the 13-second interlude, I suppose). There’s a real energy that fizzes through its three minutes as they rail against “playing the game”. ‘Waiting To Tell You’, meanwhile, offers an interesting glimpse at where Motions might go next, a widescreen outlook on life. Motions launch the EP at Whelan’s on Friday, March 2 (tickets €10).

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Kildare artist Eithne Ní Chatháin aka Inni-K released the underrated album The King Has Two Horse’s Ears in 2015 and returns with charming new single ‘Edges’. It precedes an album promised later in the year and a tour over the next few weeks. “I used to want the burning sun that burned itself up, now I prefer the ebb and the flow of the space ‘tween us, seems to know what I don’t,” she sings over a laidback jazz groove (Brian Walsh – drums and percussion; Cormac O’Brien – double bass). ‘Edges’ was recorded at Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, where Eithne spent a six-week residency. The video below is by Myles O’Reilly (Arbutus Yarns, This Ain’t No Disco).

Inni-K tour dates:
February 23: The Roundy, Cork City
February24: Levis’s, Ballydehob
March 2: Cleere’s, Kilkenny
March 9: The Cobblestone, Dublin
March 14: The Black Gate, Galway
March 23: Duncairn Arts Centre, Belfast

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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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