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Mix & Fairbanks
The Kildare electronic production duo Mix & Fairbanks went from strength to strength in 2018, closing with a superb 12″ on LA label Pleasure of Love featuring an approved-Azoto edit that is a must buy for DJs. ‘Hooly’ from their earlier EP, Bavarian Nights, once again displays the pair’s deft command of dance music textures and elements, building a sprawling electronic disco track from ’80s drum hits, arp bassline and cowbell.
Kitt Philippa is undeniably one of the most compelling artists in the country at the moment. ‘Humans’ (which they recently won a Northern Ireland Music Prize for) sees the Northern Irish singer explore non-binary neutrality and compliments it sonically with lush production and poignant melodies. The track features a slight change in direction with a more prominent pop-production than previous releases. Yet, nothing has been sacrificed in terms of message and substance.
Conor O’Brien definitively maps out the tone of The Art Of Pretending To Swim with its opening track. ‘Again’ straddles O’Brien’s signature folk sound with the sort of underlying textured electronic aesthetic that features an android-like vocal sample, some subtle effective synthesizers and production nous that reinforces the track’s core message – of self-renewal and the process of beginning that feels quietly giddy with hope. The repeating robotic hook contrasts starkly against O’Brien’s expressive vocal performance.
AE Mak have become known for their energetic live performances that incorporate visuals and dance, mediums that enhance their bright style of music. ‘Glow’ is influenced by the emotions that surround arguing with those close to you and embodies a powerful energy with emotive synths, tribal beats and soul-stirring vocals from Aoife McCann.
‘Kansas’ features on Talos’ And Then There Was War EP and the song feels like a turning point for an already superb band. Layers of synth noise and voice samples combined with French’s falsetto add to majestic epic track that rivals the sonic scale of Bon Iver’s 22, A Million. A new album is due in early 2019.
A highlight from the Arklow singer’s most excellent year in a while, ‘The Rumble’ features on the last of four 12” releases produced by Maurice Fulton. As with many of the dance-friendly tracks released by Murphy this year, the song takes a while to get under the skin with its call and response vocals, but by the time the backing vocals kick in, its earworm status is complete and it feels time to let go and give in to the repeat button.
2018 marked a step up in the quality of material from Sarah Corcoran, Pamela Connolly, Cathy McGuinness and Rachel Lyons aka Pillow Queens. Their State Of The State EP was packed with vibrant guitar lines and astute lyricism. ‘Favourite’ is our, ahem, favourite from the project. Three and a half minutes of singalong guitar rock with heart.
The dance song of the summer is a hotly-contested accolade, crowned by an unspoken agreement across cultural, national and societal divides but ‘Neutron Dance’ was certainly a big contender. Dubliner Dec Lennon’s propulsive and jaunty electro-stomper has crowds across Europe singing its instrumental hook and was just one in an embarrassment of riches of great tunes for Krystal Klear this year.
What a year for Soft Boy’s Kojaque. His album Deli Daydreams topped our Irish album of the year list and ‘Eviction Notice’, with Kean Kavanagh on vocals, was an unexpected sleeper on the release, that saw mass singalongs at gigs and festivals. The song unravels male delicacy in the lyrics – “cried about you this morning on my break from the office, Susan made me a coffee, she was embarrassed and awkward… spill my guts to the bookie, I meant to reach for my wallet,” complemented and enhanced by the jazzy piano chords and smooth hip-hop beats. ‘Eviction Notice’ is a fragile triumph.
A highlight from our #2 Irish album of the year Shape Of Silence. ‘Twin Peaks’ is one of the more sonically jubilant tracks on the record. It is true to its name in taking inspiration from the surreal tones of the David Lynch TV series alongside their own, more personal influences in examining the concept of true companionship and rejoicing the idiosyncrasies of a specific friendship. The track does plenty in showcasing the phenomenal musical chemistry the duo share, filled with airy vocal harmonies and in the line “all my friends are in Berlin now / In this arcade I am home,” at once acknowledges the plight of young Irish people in recent years, while providing a sense of comfort in the escape.
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