Cian Ó Cíobhain presents An Taobh Tuathail on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, Monday to Friday, 10pm to midnight.
Like previous years, I’ve gone for an all-Irish Top 10. Apologies to everyone I couldn’t fit in. You know who you are. You continue to make my radio show all the richer.
Loner Deluxe – Viral Hit
There have been many songs referencing the Covid-19 pandemic, but this was one of the first and – indeed – perhaps one of the best, courtesy of Galway’s Loner Deluxe, released shortly after the nation first locked down back in the spring. The song brilliantly captures the sense of fear, confusion and hopelessness many of us felt as we slowly began to comprehend the impact this new threat might have on our lives.
Brave Young Soldier – I Live Here
This is the title track from Inchicore-based duo Brian McNamara and Viva Dean’s brilliant début EP, which they wrote while living in New York last year. I believe this was Brian’s first time working on a vocal track and his skittery rhythms and pared-back production dovetails excellently with Viva’s voice – which manages to sound both confident and vulnerable – while also functioning as an auxiliary percussive instrument. Can you imagine how immense this would sound on a big system?
Meljoann – O Supervisor
Jacking, neon-soaked R&B jam straight outta the Janet Jackson/Vanity 6 school of funk, from Brighton-based Mel Ryan (once of Co. Meath). The whole package she brings from production, lyrics and the accompanying video demonstrate the talents of a confident auteur at work, a lady with plenty to say about the power structures and the creepy practices of the corporate world. And there’s more to come. Her hugely-awaited new LP HD is set to drop in 2021.
Automatic Tasty – Onward, Forward
Wicklow-producer Jonny Dillon had quite the prolific year, releasing two excellent albums and one very fine EP on various quality labels. I could pick any of the infectious electro-pop ditties that form his LP ‘A Farewell To Reason’, an album in which we hear him sing for the first time, but I’ll roll with this one, which brought to my mind a sweet, stripped-down paean to William Onyeabor’s synth-funk classic ‘Fantastic Man’.
Brigid Mae Power – Head Above The Water
Put simply, this was one of the most beautiful songs I heard all year: at once both ethereal folk and gossamer-like pop, from Galway’s Brigid Mae Power, who returned to the parish after a spell living in London.
Sunken Foal – Barley Stick
Countersunk’s Dunk Murphy never fails to create essential music, with no regard for the whims of what’s considered cool or uncool. That’s what so great about his many projects, his music always strikes me as something that he needs to off-burden and bestow upon the world, independent of the constraints of satisfying anything as menial and careerist as a release schedule. The twinkly, arpeggiated chords on this timeless piece of electronic music will forever remind me of when the world shut down and I first began broadcasting from home.
The Last Sound – Beamed
Barry Murphy has hundreds of compositions to his many monikers but this tour-de-force might just be one of the most overlooked three minutes of pop perfection from 2020. ‘Like an Irish Ariel Pink’, as I put it to him. ‘Or, perhaps… Ariel Glas?’, as he memorably retorted.
Dott – Extra Introvert
Galway is a city that has consistently spawned great pop groups, from Toasted Heretic to Cane 141 to the bands of Brian Kelly and the mighty Dott, who made one of the best indie tracks I heard in 2020. The dazzling harmonies and the pull/prominence of the bass on this track reminds me of the works of power-pop titans of yore, such as Throwing Muses and The Breeders. In spite of the breezy melodies, Anna McCarthy sings about social anxiety and the frustration of not being able to communicate with ease: “I don’t know how to talk to you”.
Edel Meade – Song For Bridget Cleary
One of the most powerful vocal performances of late comes from Co. Tipperary’s Edel Meade. Her song depicts the grisly fate of a fellow Tipperary woman, Bridget Cleary, who was burnt alive by her husband – a man under the delusion that his wife had been replaced by a fairy changeling – in her family home in 1895, as family members and neighbours looked on.
Solkatt – Plague Rave Death Party
Many folk were appalled at the “plague raves” that swept across southern Europe in the late summer and Kilkenny’s Solkatt voiced their disapproval with this conscientious banger. A sense of foreboding is expressed in the ominous introduction which perfect captures the first three words of the title. The unexpected piano loop that arrives midway through the breakdown (which might encourage one to wave one’s hands in the air, without a care) possibly suggest the last word of the title, but there’s no doubt that this was an urgent and visceral response to the videos that surfaced on social media of those that continued to selfishly party like it was still 2019.