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I’m not going to say it was a standout year for Irish music as that has been true every year for the last ten or so, and it keeps getting better. There were so many great Irish songs we left off this list that I was starting to feel bad about it, until I reminded myself that we put Irish music on the same level of quality and judgement as our international features, so any time a song features on Nialler9, Irish or otherwise, that means we truly love it and support it. That said, 50 isn’t actually that many songs in 2018 but what follows is Niall’s absolute favourite Irish songs of 2018. The only restriction on this list of 50, was one song per artist – such was the quantity of quality in Irish artists’ discography this year.
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Egyptian Luvr (feat. Aminé)
Snow does what he does best on ‘Egyptian Luvr’. The young Dublin MC trades bars on life and the pursuit of love with a near effortless charm. Kudos to Kaytranda for providing the perfect woozy meets melancholy beat to match Snow’s own lyrical content.
Melly, aka Young Shrub, aka Apres Ski has captained more than his fair share of dance orientated productions this year. ‘Shrubbery’ is our favourite. Dreamy lo-fi ambient house straight from the oven.
‘Like Lightning’ is the lead single from Kitt’s Yous LP. The track sounds like a move back toward the singer-songwriter aesthetic which Kitt was originally known for. The blend of acoustic guitars, Kitt’s warm vocal delivery, minimal electronic drum samples and Margie Jean Lewis’s violins make for a truly compelling song.
Lock That Heart Down
Industrial dance music graced with an effortless cool. ‘Lock That Heart Down’ is the apotheosis of everything fantastic about Le Galaxie. The dueting male/female vocal lines, techno-inspired backbeats and lush synth arrangements. A track that lends itself to headphones and dancefloors alike.
The second album from NI producer Herb Magee is laden with expertly crafted synthwave. ‘Liberté’ is the apex. The sprawling track takes nearly four whole minutes to ‘drop’, yet you never even realise you’re being taken on such a journey until the first thud of the second kick drum. Synth lines weave in and out of one another, totally immersing the listener in a world of glorious neon.
Roe’s first single of 2018 ‘Wasted.Patient.Thinking.’, is a shimmering electronic pop song about “looking after number one”. A quote that only confirms her pervasive iridescent tone. Roe calls her music “Grumpy Electro Pop” but it’s a lot less dour than that descriptor sounds. Her songs are anchored by a voice suitable for pop hooks and Donald isn’t afraid to coat her words in effects and surround it with crystalline synths, drum machine beats and guitars.
Maria Kelly has long been held in high regard over here at Nialler9. We premiered hew new EP Notes To Self last week and we’ve had it on repeat ever since. ‘August’ is the closing track on the EP and it follows the narrative of freeing yourself from the shackles that bind you to all that is holding you back, “It’s about looking forward and making decisions in the interest of your own well being, taking full responsibility for the fact that it was, and is, entirely in your control”. Dreamy guitar tones meet layers of ambient strings.
Power Over Me
‘Power Over Me’ shares the same anthemic folk-pop DNA that has galvanised Dubliner Kennedy’s huge appeal this year. Seeing him tour all over North America, the UK and grow a big fanbase back home, including two Dublin shows at Vicar Street this year and four sold-out shows in the Olympia in May. Kennedy’s larger than life vocal delivery is immaculately suited to the breed of power choruses found on ‘Power Over Me’. His BBC Sound of 2019 nomination confirms what we already know and has already happened to a degree – Kennedy is going to blowup even more next year.
A broody and powerful bit of auto-croon electronica, Cork act Happyalone’s ‘Bodybags’ is a fine example of the some of the most cutting-edge electronic music being created in the nation right now.
Don’t Hold Your Breath
Soule had a bit of quiet year release wise, with just one track in the form of ‘Don’t Hold Your Breath’, a sleek electronic pop single. Distorted vocal repeats, rounded bass frequencies and slow filter sweeps give the track its distinctive vibe. The track has a considerably stronger EDM and contemporary-pop influence than previous releases.