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2022 Best of | Best albums | Best songs | Irish albums | Irish songs | Best Of Podcasts | Guest lists | Best New Irish artists
The Scratch‘s drinking song that typifies the band’s high-energy acoustic buzz, featuring “the world’s worst patron saint of stout.”
of all living things
A Dublin band formally known as nicetry, of all living things follow up last year’s On Familiar Ground EP on Any Other City (which featured ‘If I Go’) with song that leans on the slowcore sound they’ve established to date. ‘Mostly Timing’ is somnambulist in its clip and somehow retains some centre-focused that leaves a gentle calming presence afterwards.
49th & Main
Never Gonna Stop
Kilkenny duo 49th & Main’s second EP of the year on Counter Records Must Be Nice EP featured this shimmering slice of twisted vocal and piano-house music that once again shows that the duo have some multi-faceted smarts in the sonic department.
Play It by Ear
‘Play It By Ear’ has Libyan-Irish powerhouse Farah Elle‘s distinctive sngwriting and keys at its hearth, with the song’s middle eight line of “I do this to remove it from my bones,” serving as a mission statement for the artist’s work. It features on the artist’s debut album Fatima.
“It” represents the pain that comes with the gift of being alive. In polarity to that pain, is the beauty that motivates us to keep going. Music is one of the most moving aspects of my human experience and helps me see the beauty in the bigger picture.”
“Where have I been all my life ? / Watching myself from the sidelines / Won’t you wake me up sometimes.”
Derry artist Bridie Monds-Watson’s third SOAK album If I never know you like this again was inspired by 90s college rock and bands like Broken Social Scene and Pavement.
‘Swear Jar’ is a fine example of how SOAK’s music has developed over the years, with an internal confidence, matched with lyrics about depression and the breakdown of a relationship. It’s got some wonderful string and backing vocal flourishes.
Mango X MathMan, MC Creed
Mango X MathMan’s ‘Vibes’ is an uplifting house and garage banger with a guest verse from a don of UK garage – MC Creed, built on ravey piano chords and a pitched-up vocal melody.
Technically, this came out last year first, but it features on the mini-album The Quiet Life, and more readily suits a first proper year of open late-night events after two years of closure. So, I’m pinging it in the list, as it manifests good times.
Jordan Nocturne, Le Boom
Belfast producer Jordan Nocturne and Meath electro-pop artist Christy Leech aka Le Boom teamed up on revered German electronic label Permanent Vacation. It’s all acid-tinged tension-filled electronica with a full acid version on the flip of the three-track release.
Narolane and Limerick rapper MuRli’s The Sky Has Windows EP featured ‘Rocks’, a dynamic production that got a Jafaris verse version later in the year.
‘Kiwi’ is a bright and summery pop tune, all melodics and twinkling instrumentation, a lovely bop, from bedroom pop artist Anita Ikharo.
EFÉ says she resonated strongly with Rachel Chinouriri’s recent open letter about being wrongly stereotyped as an ‘RnB’ artist.
When I saw Rachel Chinouriri’s tweets, I was like ‘this has been my exact thoughts for so long!’. Getting labelled as just straight up RnB was definitely something I was quite shocked by as I feel like my music has strong elements of indie/alternative and bedroom pop. I even made jokes about how a black person could make full on metal music and it would still be called ‘alt-RnB’. I always questioned myself, that maybe I was just reading into it too much – so when Rachel put it into words, it was so nice and reassuring to know I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.”
‘2:00am’ has an indie-rock glow in the vein of stated influences Japanese Breakfast and Dayglow with its guitar in soft and bony mode, from indie singer-songwriter and producer Sarah Crean.
Co-produced with Adam O’Leary, the song is a confident stride for this up and comer, with a plea for clarity in a relationship – words sometimes mean more than actions.
I also loved ‘Tears In Costa’, the first single from Belfast band Junk Drawer’s 2022 The Dust Has Come To Stay EP Art for Blind, and ‘Railroad King’ edged it with a gleaming art-rock song with bright guitars spiking off the grid.
“I’d written the lyrics to this song before I’d realised I was on the autistic spectrum, but the lyrics made total sense once the realisation hit. It’s about not wanting to be away from the public world, adventuring happily with my imagination; walking by myself and making up songs etc. It also references the autistic feeling of feeling like my body is just a vessel that I want to ‘zip off’ to be my true self.Jake Lennox, singer and songwriter, Junk Drawer.
Dublin indie-rock band Banríon’s new song ‘Fooling’ addresses songwriter and singer Róisín Ní Haicéid’s experience with “cancer within her family through the lens of her own disability, and dealing with catastrophe through humour – how she approaches the shift from being cared for to carer and working out a coping mechanism are reflected in the tongue-in-cheek lyrics and songwriting style”.
Side A of a 2022 release from Kilkenny label Moot Tapes from their Signs of Life series is this beautiful track with billowing string synthesizers and faraway stabs from Irene Buckley. Like an echo of Enya.
Whatcha Gonna Do
Nicole Lyons, Ruairi Forde, Noelle Duffy and Gregory Kearns are Dublin indie band Still Blue who impressed with their second single, and subsequent followup. ‘Watcha Gonna Do’ is a melodic indie track that bursts with energy and verve.
Wicklow songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Anna Mieke released a fine album this year called Theatre, that was stacked with gorgeous lilting alt-folk songs, not least ‘Twin’ which features playing from Rozi Plain (This Is The Kit) on bass, Matthew Jacobson(ReDiViDeR) on percussion, Ryan Hargadon (Kojaque, Rachael Lavelle) on synths & piano,and Cora Venus Lunny on strings.
“The song for me, brings me back to the intensity of my early twenties, new people, relationships, places, and also the craving to be constantly moving, to be somewhere different… a perpetual unsettledness. The song touches on memory vs reality, and the romanticisation of certain memories. We have a tendency to over-analyse and over-describe moments too, which can take away from the actual time/event/experience we’re wanting to remember.”Anna Mieke
Dundalk five-piece rock band Just Mustard’s second album Heart Under is a collection of songs that encapsulates the band’s foreboding industry rock sound pretty well. No more than on the iced textures of ‘Still’.
U GET HIGH / I GET NOTHING
Spider is the London-based Tallaght artist who first appeared here as Jenn back in 2019, before a name switch with the release of ‘Water Sign’ into more alternative bedroom pop, before releasing ‘I’M FINE! I’M GOOD! I’M PERFECT!’, which was one of my favourite Irish songs of last year.
From this year’s C.O.A. mixtape (Coming Of Age), ‘U GET HIGH / I GET NOTHING’ demonstrate’s the artist’s off-kilter alternative pop style, a product of her unique experiences.
‘Eight Fivers’ has probably the most iconic opening lines of any of the songs on this year’s list.
” I spent all my money on shit clothes,” is how the song starts with references to retail outlets like Eason’s, Debenhams, Spar, Aldi and Lidl.
In doing so, it easily sends up fast fashion consumerism, notions of coolness, and being in fashion, while embracing being apart from the zeitgeist.
No Country For Young Men
Kerry alt-folk artist Junior Brother’s ‘No Country For Young Men’ is one of many songs this year from Irish artists reacting to living in Dublin, the high cost of living, hostile housing situations and a lack of opportunities for young people in particular.
“Can’t tell the goons from the guards,” is the chorus, recalling the evictions at North Frederick Street, in Dublin where hired security thugs and the Gardaí appear to be working together to evict tenants, with Ronan Kealy following that train of thought into the toxic masculinity at the root of Irish society.
‘Inhaling’ features on Ailbhe Reddy’s upcoming album Endless Affair, and is built on a loping bassline with Ailbhe reflecting on her past singing “I was inhaling, I was always living / Six rows from the back, kicking and screaming.”
“’Inhaling’ is all about feeling drained and restless in life and looking back on my younger self and thinking that, even if it was a totally chaotic disaster at times, at least I had feeling; At least I was experiencing new things and living in the moment. It’s about missing being out with my friends partying and feeling alive and free. It’s ultimately a song about freedom. “