In no particular order, here are some of the acts I’m looking forward to hearing a lot more from in the next 12 months. Some are already established artists while some are just starting out and haven’t even released a single yet. So hopefully you’ll find something new with which to fall in love. I think 2016 was a very strong one for an increasingly varied Irish scene, so let’s hope for more of the same this year. I was on The Irish Jam (Facebook | Twitter), along with Chris Jones, talking to Kealan and Niall about some of our tips for the year. You can listen to that show here, and remember to tune in 2pm-4pm for new music Friday every week.
Lakerama (Facebook | Twitter)
Senita Appiakorang has one of the best voices in music – as Le Galaxie, Daithi and Ruairi Bantum can attest. Shookrah, her funk/soul band, takes up most of her time, but we should be hearing a lot more from Lakerama, her collaboration with Limerick producer Graeme S, in 2017. They have one EP to their name, the skittering One, which you can currently download for free – it was released 18 months ago – but say, “We have VERY EXCITING news for you husslah loving dance freaks and many good things to share. These times have been questionable, raw and beautiful but we’ll have more.”
Anna Mieke Bishop (Facebook | Twitter)
I came across Anna Mieke Bishop when she supported Rozi Plain in the Kino in December as part of Southern Hospitality Board’s Sudden Club Weekender. I imagine I wasn’t the only one in the room listening to Bishop for the first time – and it’s testament to her beguiling onstage presence that she easily won the crowd over. She borrowed gloves from an audience member to play the cello – only using it for percussion. She has a song with 11 references to Stoneybatter. She’s currently recording – her Soundcloud offerings are a year old – and Myles ‘Arbutus Yarns’ O’Reilly is already a fan. Anna Mieke will have lots more soon enough.
Caoilian Sherlock (Twitter)
You might know Caoilian Sherlock as the frontman of the Shaker Hymn or one half of the excellent Cork promoters Southern Hospitality Board. He’s pulling back from them in 2017 to focus on his solo stuff. He has plenty tracks already – he supported Roy Harper Live at St Luke’s at Cork Folk Festival – but has only released one so far, the woozy ‘I’ll be a fool for you’ – it’ll be fun to hear what he comes up with if this is indeed his sole focus.
Soule (Facebook | Twitter)
Born in London and living in Balbriggan, Soule has already featured on Nialler9’s best new Irish artists of 2016, based off the strength of her irresistible debut single, ‘Love No More’, and her association with the impressive Word Up Collective (bonus tip: Super Silly). So you should probably expect to hear a lot more from the young singer over the next 12 months. I saw her set at Hard Working Class Heroes in October and I think I was one of the few people disappointed – it lasted barely 15 minutes and suffered from sound problems, yet I still came away thinking that Soule is a bonafide star. I expect that she’ll easily show us all why this year.
Pale Rivers (Facebook | Twitter)
After the demise of the Walkmen-esque Superblondes, Eoin Hally went away for a while to work out some kinks and after some finetuning and secret/rehearsal shows in Cork Community Print Shop (another RIP in 2016), debuted Pale Rivers in the second half of last year. One song is enough to whet the appetite and that’s exactly what ‘August 6th’ does. Niall Jackson, talking to him for New Music Friday on the Irish Jam, likened them to U2 – there are also hints of the Walkmen, still, and, closer to home, Bleeding Heart Pigeons: so big voice, stirring guitar lines and rousing choruses. Pale Rivers tick all the boxes – plus they’ve got the Feel Good Lost seal of approval.
Talos (Facebook | Twitter)
Talos are not a new band, really. They’ve played HWCH a couple of times, and Eoin French has been performing with the name since 2013, out of the ashes of Wild Beasts-adjace Hush War Cry. It started as a solo project and has slowly morphed into a six-person experience, honed at Connolly’s of Leap – and featuring Sam McNicholl, who runs that most idiosyncratic and storied of venues (my hot venue pick of 2017). Their show at the Chocolate Factory at HWCH was a statement of intent, established with debut EP O Sanctum, and they could scale any heights they wish in 2017. Expect the biggest things for the biggest sounding band on this list.
Ae Mak (Facebook | Twitter)
I had written off Ae Mak as Tune-Yards-alike. But ‘I can feel it in my bones’ is irresistible. It wore me down and got me dancing. And that seems to be the MO of Aoife McCann and Ellie McMahon, based in Dublin. They’re BIMM graduates and are bursting with ideas. I don’t know what they have planned in 2017 but I’m looking forward to finding out. I also want to experience a full room singing back, with joy written all over their faces and bodies, “ooom-ba-goom-ba”.
Le Boom (Facebook | Twitter)
I caught about two minutes of Le Boom at HWCH, wandering upstairs in Tengu and wondering why nobody had told me there was gonna be the party of the weekend. Chris Leech and Aimie Mallon have only been going since last summer but have played Iceland, New York and the hottest gigs going at home. ‘What We Do’ is a subtle showstopper, but it’s live where Le Boom will blow you away (ahem). Catch them before it’s too late.
Sam Clague is a virtuso, mastering the guitar while busking with his dad in Clonakilty, beatboxing at the Pavilion, and now doing about 27 things while fronting Oose. A three piece completed by Eden Ray (sound soundguy) and Josh Sampson (Talos), Oose do a lot of improvisation, mastering in funk and dance, seemingly conducted by Josh on the drums. They’re an unsuspecting party band with only one EP to their name. They played a Christmas party with Donal Dineen in the Triskel – they’re gonna win over a lot more musos this year.
Barq (Facebook | Twitter)
There are a couple of stars-in-waiting on this list, and perhaps none have a voice that can soar like that of Jess Kav. She’s the frontwoman of Dublin four-piece funkers Barq. They slowly but surely built up a loyal following in 2016, releasing one of the songs of the year in the form of the layered, skyscraping ‘Bear’, and have big plans for 2017. She’s played with Zaska and done backing vocals for a host of Irish groups, as well as playing the NYE Turning Pirate show at Vicar Street. So Jess is at home on the largest of stages already – imagine what she’ll be like doing the rounds on the smaller ones! Barq also have the best tagline of any of the acts on this list: “This is music to dance dangerously to.”
Beauty Sleep (Facebook | Twitter)
Featuring members of Wonder Villains and Pleasure Beach, Beauty Sleep have previous. Aimee Williamson, Ryan McGroarty and Cheylene Murphy have only been playing together for a year, but this dream-pop trio sound so fully formed. The presser: “Cheylene, Ryan and Aimee met at a Belfast house party spelling out naughty words on a fridge-magnet-crossword. Post hangovers, they decided to make music together and Beauty Sleep was born. It was in their home studio they really honed in their sound, creating a synthy, guitar-riff and pop-hook haven that Two Door Cinema Club, Phoenix and Chvrches fans will fall in love with.” The songs – two to date – are beauties. A debut EP is expected soon.
Thumper (Facebook | Twitter)
Hyped by Windings, Otherkin, and Bitch Falcon, Thumper, a five piece from Dublin, are the loudest band on this list. Their second EP, the tongue-in-cheek Magnum Opuss, featured Otherkin and Bitch Falcon, and Thumper also played the former’s NYE gig at Whelan’s. So they’re making all the right noise (ahem). They say they play “bubblegum pop through a wall of sonic death”. We say, bring earplugs.
Farah Elle (Facebook | Twitter)
You’ll have heard Farah Elle on ‘Feel It Out’, the best song on Bantum’s second album Move last year. Farah’s from Libya (she’s singing in Libyan at the start of ‘Silk’, below) and moved to Ireland when she was two. A graduate of BIMM, she’s got a brilliant voice (“aiming to reveal something of the beauty in the ephemeral everyday”) and her party trick seems to be bashing her piano yet somehow producing the perfect sound. So yeah, Farah Elle’s impossibly talented. She’s currently recording her debut album – easily one of my most anticipated releases of the year.
Junk Drawer (Facebook | Twitter)
Led by Stevie Lennox and his brother Jake, this Belfast four piece say they’re “driven by the near-telepathic sense of chemistry and harmony that comes only from a sibling rivalry at the helm”. As you can guess from that statement, and the name of their debut EP, below, Junk Drawer don’t take themselves too seriously. But the actual music is a serious deal – it’s like the Horrors swirling around with the best of the American alternative scene in the early nineties.
Nialler9 called Riza “the sound of contemporary Irish/African music”. They’re led by the ridiculously talented Niwel Tsumbu (if you’ve seen the first episode of Donal Dineen’s new show with Myles O’Reilly, This Ain’t No Disco, you’ll have already been converted to Tsumbu’s talents, his acoustic guitar plucking floating around beats set down by Sunken Foal, who he’d only just met. It might be my favourite bit of music television of the year, their playing together) and feature Eamonn Cagney (Treelan), Emma Garnett (Feather – bonus bonus tip for 2017), Sallay Garnett (Loah) and Paddy Groenland (Ensemble Eriu). Riza sound like nothing else on this list. Expect a debut album, dealing with some big themes behind the big tunes, soon.
Switzerland (Facebook | Twitter)
It’s always disappointing when one of your favourite bands breaks up – but it’s heartening when you see said name in parentheses listing the members of a new group. Step forward Shane Murphy (Land Lovers), one-quarter of Dublin-based Switzerland, releasing debut album Long Gone at the end of January. The other members are no slouches either: Brian Walsh (Drunken Boat) on vocals and guitar, Al Condon (Hello Moon) on guitar and keys, Enda Canavan (Paddy Hanna) on drums and backing vocals. Switzerland – yes, yes, I know, it’s not going to be easy to google them – reference the Byrds, the Cars and REM in their PR, so that should give you an idea of what to expect. They also sound like Real Estate and they might be the soundtrack of the summer…
I’ve been waiting increasingly impatiently for Sillk, a trio from Cork comprising Orla Travers, Julian Halpin, and Chris Schmidt Martin, to release some music. They’ve been a going concern in Cork for a couple of years now, their baroque-pop and Travers’ vocal ticks and tricks enticing all watchers. But there’s been no music uploaded. That’s all set to change this weekend as Sillk release their debut EP, Time is a Clock, at the Village Hall. I’m very excited. You should be too.