Author Archives: Nick Kelly

Broadsheet music editor Nick Kelly

It’s been a year we’ll remember for all the wrong reasons. So where would we be without all this wonderful music to keep us sane and put a smile on our face?

A heartfelt thanks to all the brilliant musicians who, despite the bleakest of circumstances, made this one of the best years for Irish music ever.

The Top 10 Irish albums of 2020…

1. Una Keane – Collaborations

I count myself very lucky to have been seated in a pew for Una’s concert in Dublin’s Pepper Canister Church on March 5. It turned out to be the last live performance I attended before lockdown. And it was unforgettable, as a roll call of esteemed musicians including Stephen Shannon, Liam O’Maonlai, Lowli, Vyvienne Long, Gareth Quinn Redmond and Ronan Conroy all wove their magic in and around Una’s ambient neo-classical piano pieces in what was improvisation of the highest calibre. Una has now released this concert as a live album. The perfect Christmas present. (As is her studio album In The Deep.)

2. Arborist – A Northern View

Another artist who I feel blessed to have seen perform live this year, Arborist aka Belfast’s Mark McCambridge has the songs that do my world the world of good.

. Aoife Nessa Frances – Land Of No Junction

What a debut! Ethereal and highly atmospheric, Aoife Nessa Frances created soundscapes to escape to… and fall in love with.

4. BK Pepper – Territories

Another marvellous pianist and composer who has collaborated with Una Keane, Brian Pepper is, truth be told, a bit of a genius.

5. Malojian – Humm

It all came together for Stevie Scullion aja Malojian on Humm. Featuring guest musicians Gerry Love (ex-Teenage Fanclub) and Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, this album is an absolute Humm-dinger.

6. Brigid Mae Power – Head Above The Water

The spirit of Sandy Denny is alive and well and living in the West of Ireland. A modern folk classic.

7. Ailbhe Reddy – Personal History

Dubliner Ailbhe has it all: the songs, the poise, the videos, the indie cool. She’s a star.

8. Luan Parle – Never Say Goodbye

Kilkenny-based Luan really found her voice on this collection of brilliantly crafted songs of romance and heartbreak that also showcase the guitar wizardry of Clive Barnes.

9. Eileen Gogan & The Instructions – Under Moving Skies

One of Dublin’s most popular singers (who has sang with The Would Be’s, The Drays and Microdisney) assembled a crew of all the talents to produce another gem of an album, including her performance of a Michael Hartnett poem linked here.

10. John Blek – The Embers

There’s something in the water down in Cork. John Blek is a songwriter’s songwriter and his videos are some of the best I’ve seen this year.

Irish EP of the year:

The Next New Low – And As For Loss…

Out of the depths of sorrow… When I saw former Idiots frontman Brian Mooney perform these 5 songs in a bar in Stoneybatter last winter, I felt them deep in my gut. A requiem for his late wife Aoife, Brian put his heart and soul into this EP. It’s an astonishing record, overflowing with love and grief and courage.

Irish Single of the year:

The Wha – Blue For You

A blast of old-school power-pop heaven from the most melodic teenagers in Kilkenny.

Best Grammy-nominated Irish album of the year

Fontaines DC – A Hero’s Death

It’s fair to say that opinion is divided among our readers regarding Grian Chatten and his crew. But they sure do have that rock’n’roll swagger. And a Grammy nomination to boot!

Best song written during lockdown:

Malojian and Jason Lytle – The Singularity.

The first Covid-inspired classic as Stevie Scullion and his favourite Grandaddy collaborated across the ocean.


Best International newcomer: Bob Dylan.

Nick says: Happy Christmas all.

Gemma Dunleavy – Setting Son

Come dance with me in Dublin.

The pride of Sheriff Street, Gemma Dunleavy (top) impresses with her soulful tones in the latest song to be taken from her critically acclaimed Up De Flats EP.

The atmospheric monochrome video was directed by Rosie Barrett and features expressive choreography by Jessie Thompson and Adam O’Reilly.

Gemma’s recent gig at The Workman’s Club is available to watch on YouTube.

Nick says: Rising star.

Gemma Dunleavy

Grand stretch, in fairness.

Ruairí McKiernan, host of the Love and Courage Podcast

Got the winter blues?

Don’t despair.

The programme of events for January’s First Fortnight Mental Health Art & Culture Festival 2021 has dropped.

Among many highlights is A Community Conversation About Hope In A Time Of Upheaval.

To quote the programme notes:

“It’s a time of great change and huge uncertainty. From the pandemic to politics, there’s lots happening and often not enough space for us to step back, reflect, and join others in meaningful conversation.

What has the past year taught you? What does the future hold? What are your hopes and dreams for ourselves and for our country and planet?

You’re invited to join us for an evening of inspiration, reflection, and connection through a community conversation that welcomes participants from all walks of life. The evening will be hosted by Ruairí McKiernan, host of the chart-topping Love and Courage Podcast and author of the acclaimed bestselling book Hitching for Hope – A Journey into the Heart and Soul of Ireland.”

Nick says: It’s good to talk.

First Fortnight Festival 2021

Thank Fergus it’s Friday.

That means another weekly music competition. With the solstice almost upon us, it seems an apt time to ask: What’s your favourite song about or which mentions winter?

Reply below to be in with a chance of winning a tinsel-strewn €25 Golden Discs voucher.

Here’s mine.

The winner will be chosen by my good elf.

Please include video links if possible.

Lines close at 5.45pm 10pm Saturday 11am.

Nick says: Good luck!

last week’s winners here

Golden Discs

The Floors – She Floated Into Heaven

Concluding our series of underrated Irish music since 1960, put your hands together for 1990s art-rock acolytes The Floors who were led by Carlow-born renaissance man David Donohue.

The Floors major releases were their debut Truths And Distortions (top) on the legendary Setanta label in 1992 and Superbe on the Dead Elvis imprint in 1996.

This live recording was filmed by Darragh Byrne in the Hole In The Wall bar in Kilkenny and features Donohue in great form alongside Luka Bloom and Ken Nolan who accompany him on guitars.

Nick says: And we all float on.

Nick adds: Thanks for a great series.

Earlier: You May Stream This

Praise be to Pipkin!

Reader Andy Pipkin has very kindly made a Spotify playlist featuring most of the songs featured in our You May Remember This series.

We are humbled and grateful.

Andy writes:

“With only a week to go before the big guy arrives, look at it as an early Christmas pressie. I’ve called it, Now That’s What I Call Underrated. Hope your readers enjoy it.”

Now That’s What I Call Underrated (Spotify)

Nick says: Santy Pipkin.

Previously: You May Remember This on Broadsheet