We kick off 2021 with innovative Dublin rappers The Elements who reach for the stars with this single from their forthcoming EP Art Of The Vandal (top).
Daragh O’Kelly plays piano and NDLZ plays guitar, with Ricki Rawness on production duties.
David Conroy of XoZen1 Films directs and edits the trippy universe-straddling promo.
The band write:
“The Elements challenge their listeners to take the journey into their world, their songs are an abstract, objective and a somewhat psychedelic surrealist experience as an alternative to the now formulaic objective “struggles” of reality in Irish Hip-Hop.”
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.
3. 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.
Kildare singer/songwriter Ross Breen (top) gets the keyboards out to deliver a seasonal ditty for our times that was written and recorded during lockdown.
“I come from a background of family and social life where gatherings with music are intrinsic to the enjoyment of Christmas. For many, music is a tie binding us together during this period. Art can unify when restrictions keep us apart.
“[the song] envisages the close of 2020, how we will be engaging with our families, friends and partners during this time, and how it will be different to what we’ve known before.”
Singer/songwriter Fears aka Constance Keane (top) conjures a thoughtful and profound tribute to her grandmother in the form of music, video and fashion.
To quote the press release:
“Chronicling Fears’ relationship with her late grandmother, tonnta explores the experience of loving and caring for someone with dementia, while celebrating the deep connection that remains throughout. As each wave hits, the disease progresses, and it can feel difficult to stay above water. Roles have switched from childhood, the carer becomes the cared for, but the love shared doesn’t waver.
“The video, directed by Fears, is inspired by her grandmother’s love for fashion and celebrates the childhood memory of being taught how to sew in the box room of her grandmother’s house. Shot by her brother, and starring her mother and sister, the video depicts the importance of support through illness, and the healing that can come from women supporting each other. Fears designed and produced eight dresses for the video, inspired by each woman featured.”