Picture: Emma Haugh

Picture: Emma Haugh

Kool Thing
The Berlin-based Dublin/Australian trio Kool Thing had a pretty good 2012, releasing a few singles, a digital EP of remixes and winning lots of new fans with their live show. They ooze cool – I mean look at that photo up there! Theirs is a laid-back, dark and sometimes intimidating sound, but one that you want to hear again and again. Let’s hope for an album this year. Here’s my favourite Kool Thing song so far, the swirling, slow-rise ‘Plan.Life.Go’.


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Bouts High Line. Low Rent

Bouts

A split single and a trip to CMJ (for which they kept a diary for the blog) were probably the highlights for Bouts, a four-piece who always make me pine for the early 90s. Hopefully we can expect new music in the early part of the year. If it’s half as good as ‘We Tried’ I’ll be happy.

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Hidden Highways

Hidden Highways

One EP under their belts, Hidden Highways crowdfunding their debut album, which we can expect to be released via Out On A Limb in the coming months. It’s a pretty simple formula: a male and female crooning and wooing each other over an acoustic guitar. It’s Americana but it doesn’t sound stale. It’s reassuring and makes the world seem like a better place, if only for the three minutes that a song lasts. Hidden Highways are Tim V Smyth and Carol Anne McGowan and are from the Midlands/west. .

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Picture: Keith Hogan

Picture: Keith Hogan

Rest

At the other end of the Out On A Limb release schedule is Cork band Rest, the complete opposite of Hidden Highways. What a wonderfully eclectic label OOAL is in 2013. It’s been nine years since Rest released their debut album. We got our first taster of the forthcoming I Hold The Wolf late last year. It sounds like the heavier, early Queens of the Stone Age listening to the best metal bands. It’s only five minutes of the album but if they keep that speed and intensity up for 40 minutes, you’ll be left in palpitations on the floor.

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Picture: Brid O'Donovan

Picture: Brid O’Donovan

Hunk

A difficult band to Google or search for on Facebook, the three-piece girl-fronted Hunk make lo-fi pop music. There’s only been a single to date, a few live shows here and there, but hopefully we’ll see more of Sundara, Niamh and Ger over the next 12 months. “We’re all fucked up and out of luck in this messed up society,” they sing on ‘Hold Out’, summing up Ireland 2012 in one simple sentence. And they do it while sounding like the happiest people in Ireland.

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I am the cosmos cover

I am the Cosmos

Only three songs on Soundcloud, but three quality tracks that would put most acts with full-length albums out to shame: that’s I am the Cosmos. I always think of them as those two guys up there in the picture, deciding which of the myriad ideas floating around the space above their heads they’ll use on a given track. Also, when I think of I am the Cosmos, the other two acts that come to mind are Forrests and Ships, the latter of whom they released a split single with in 2012. I guess it’s just because they all make DFA-style dance music and all only have a few tracks to go on at the moment. I am the Cosmos are the most exciting, and we can expect an album sometime this year.

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Picture: Alex Synge

Picture: Alex Synge

Ambience Affair

It’s been almost 18 months since the debut album and we know Ambience Affair are in the studio working on the follow-up. Burials still continues to reveal something every time I return to it, and I think that’s testament to how much the Dublin trio put into their work. That’s why I’m excited for the new album. I don’t mind how long I have to wait though. It’ll be worth it.

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Picture: Brid O'Donovan

Picture: Brid O’Donovan

Spies

I think of Spies as an Irish answer to the National. Quite a haughty comparison and one mainly based on the singer’s voice, I guess. But they make atmospheric music that gets quite ‘big’. There hasn’t been much from them of late in terms of releases. I think they only released one single last year. I got to see them live at Hard Working Class Heroes in October. I was mesmerised by them, and the way the frontman stalked the stage. I can’t wait to hear what they do in 2013.


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Picture: Brid O'Donovan

Picture: Brid O’Donovan

The Altered Hours

Arriving in March is a 10″ single entitled Sweet Jelly Roll by Cork five-piece the Altered Hours, who I finally got to see live at the end of December in the Pavilion. A weird night – there was a club night on straight after the band and it was three days before Christmas – they announced themselves onstage by yelping into the mic. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who almost jumped out of his skin. They are mesmerising and sound like the Pixies. They’re also really, really cool. The line that stood out that night, and still does, is the nihilistic shout of “you’re a sunflower baby but you’re going to die” on the aptly titled ‘Flowers Die’. What a line. What an accomplished band. And what a 2013 they have in store for everybody. Here’s the debut EP.

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enemies

Enemies

Enemies, a Dublin quartet, already have an album under their belts, released on the sadly now defunct Richter Collective. Last year they reminded everybody why they’re so good with the wonderful ‘Indian Summer’, a track so good you’ll want to throw paint around the room. They announced on Facebook that they’re going into the studio to record their second album, which has taken them two years to write. It’s going to be one of the highlights of 2013, no doubt.

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Picture: Brid O'Donovan

Picture: Brid O’Donovan

No Spill Blood

Because they made the best EP of 2012. No Spill Blood signed to Sargent House last year and are touring Europe with Fang Island this spring. I think No Spill Blood and Rest playing a gig together would be my highlight of 2013. I’m calling that right now. Somebody make it happen, ummkay?

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Young Wonder

Young Wonder

Cork-based duo Ian Ring and Rachel Koeman make swirling electronica dipped in pop music. In 2012 Young Wonder released their first EP, comprised of five tracks and three remixes, and later in the year they released a new track, ‘To You‘. If you were after one word to describe Young Wonder, it would be accomplished. They’ve already featured on the likes of 6music, so expect to hear a lot from from them n the coming year.


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Come on live long

Come On Live Long

I’ve had a thing for Come On Live Long since I heard ‘Elephants & Time’ back in November 2011. I still think it sounds really, really fresh. And yet 2012 only brought us an EP of remixes, no new music. They’ve been working on their debut album, and have just been sent the mixes for it. Which means we will get a Come On Live Long album in the not too distant future. Hopefully.


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Picture: Brid O'Donovan

Picture: Brid O’Donovan

Wife

I don’t think many people saw this one coming. Featured on Pitchfork in October, Wife is Cork’s James Kelly, also of the black metal band Alter of Plagues. He’s signed to Tri Angle Records and is set to release more music this year. I got to see him in the Pavilion in Cork just before Christmas. Not a frontman who is totally comfortable up there by himself, without a band to fall back on, the quality of the tunes was obvious. You can listen to the Stoic EP on Spotify.

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Picture: Brid O'Donovan

Picture: Brid O’Donovan

Toby Kaar

I really hope we get to hear more music from Cork-based Toby Kaar. He’s got a great onstage presence and the live show is so much fun – you have to hear his cover of ‘No Scrubs’ if you ever get a chance. Toby’s never released any music physically, but his Soundcloud page is a treasure trove of aural goodies. Hopefully we’ll hear more from him this year.

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Jennifer evans

Jennifer Evans

Captivating. That’s the word you’re looking for when you listen to Jennifer Evans. She sings quite low, usually accompanied solely by her guitar, creating music that sounds perfect for late-night listening, preferably with a glass of whiskey. There’s a few tunes on her Soundcloud page if you want to delve a little deeper. They’re mostly demos but they hint at a big talent, and one who should be releasing an album in 2013.

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depravations

The Depravations

Galway five-piece the Depravations are so twee. And so wonderful. Their music is at odds with the name, a red herring to put you off. They amble through their debut EP, entitled Mosey, which they’ve taken down from Bandcamp, I think. You can listen to it below though. They’re set to release their debut album this year. “We’ve got each other baby,” they sing on ‘In The Garden’, a track that hints at the lighter Elliot Smith stuff. They’ve recently shared the stage with the likes of Neil Hannon and Cathy Davey, and we can expect more stars clamouring to be seen with the Depravations soon.

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My name is john

My Name Is John

My last post of 2012 was about The Focusing Effect, the second EP of the year by Clare artist My Name Is John. I knew he was good, but I didn’t know he was that good. It’s a stunning, enticing piece of work that you can delve into and still not have enough of after days of listening. I’m already looking forward to what he does next, though this will more than suffice for the coming weeks.

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Picture: AAAphotos

Picture: AAAphotos

We Cut Corners

Their debut album, Today I realised I Could Go Home Backwards, was only 30 minutes long but it did enough for me for a long time. But no more! It’s been over a year since it got released. And after seeing them live a few times over the last year, it’s obvious We Cut Corners have plenty of new tunes that they’re ready to unleash. And they sounded wonderful. So please, We Cut Corners, give me a hit this year. I’ll do anything!

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overhead, the albatross

Overhead, The Albatross

Most people in Ireland will be looking forward to the new And So I Watch You From Afar album, hence why I haven’t included them here. Same goes for Redneck Manifesto. Both of those bands are an obvious influence on Overhead, The Albatross, a six-piece signed to the Eleven Eleven label (home to Bantum, who released one of my favourite Irish albums of last year, Legion). They make mostly heavy instrumental rock music, with a little piano thrown in here and there. They have recorded an album in the Czech Republic over a few months towards the end of 2012 and should be releasing it soon. Below is their debut EP.

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Cloud Castle Lake

Cloud Castle Lake

This band is included more in hope than anything else. They’ve been my favourite new band in Ireland for at least two-and-a-half years. Almost two years ago I helped put on a gig in Limerick and chose Cloud Castle Lake to play. They were wonderful, but then, nada, zilch, nothing. Well, very little anyway. I hope they release something this year. They’ve played sparingly in their hometown of Dublin but hopefully 2013 will be the year they crack on. And if not, I’ll hold out till 2014. And then 2015…