Cian Ó Cíobhain presents An Taobh Tuathail on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, Monday to Friday, 10pm to midnight.
In the tradition of recent years, I’ve once more decided to compile a list of my top 10 Irish releases of the year. Actually, make that a top 20 as I took the liberty to smuggle in another ten ‘honourable mentions.’ There was so much more great music that I couldn’t fit in here, but feel free to stream my radio shows from the past year – or years, if you wish.
Mike Smalle – Andrew MCR
Disclaimer: Mike Smalle is one of my closest friends. But please trust me when I say that there is zero nepotism present as I share with you one of the many highlights from his exceptional mixtape-slash-album Pagan Pulse. I was tempted to bring your attention to ‘Peggy Saturday’, which is the obvious pop hit, but this homage to the dream-like atmosphere that we experienced in The White Hotel in Salford, when we heard Andrew Weatherall DJ for the last time, a week before his untimely demise, is very special indeed.
Honourable mention: T-Woc – Ci Vi
Denise Chaila – Might Be
Banríon na h-Éireann’s finest song to date – á mon avis – which references Muhammad Ali, Queen Medb and one of my favourite pastimes, drinking tea.
Gorgeous sounds, incredible production and a magnificently confident chorus:
‘You are not like me
Ha, unlikely I just sip my tea
High and mighty
I just upped my fee
Game is not free
“She thinks she’s that heat”
Well, I might be’
Honourable mention: Meljoann – Overtime
Súil Amháin – Lá Breá
Straight outta west Kerry, featuring poet and rapper Séamus Barra Ó Súilleabháin’s effervescent wordplay, delivered with panache, with beats and sounds from Bantum. This song evokes echoes from the past (references to old songs and old sayings) with the shock of the new (Bitcoin), whilst vividly recreating the vibe of a languid summer’s day on the Dingle peninsula. And in the fashion of certain old west Kerry sean-nós songs, there are plenty of local place-names mentioned:
“Níl póg níos deise ná do Bhéal Bán
Is tá a thuilleadh díot uaim ag Tráigh an Fhíona
Id fhochair, is Cloichear, a bhímse, agus féach
Mar a rithim le dúil síos do Choim Uí Neol”.
Honourable mention: F.R.U.I.T.Y. – U.P.S.
Tuath (feat Lunch Machine) – Mountains & Grooves
Psychedelic dream pop from the north-west coast of Ireland which has a certain ‘Isn’t Anything’-era My Bloody Valentine-esque swagger, while also reminding me of early Lush (most especially, those Robin Guthrie productions) and Mercury Rev’s sky-scraping ‘Coney Island Cyclone’.
Honourable mention: K3:lu – Ridgewood
Derek Carr – Anoat System
During a year in which new dawns faded before they ever really began to materialise, this beautiful house tune from Westmeath’s Derek Carr was the ‘dawn soundtrack’ that we craved for, at the summer raves that remained heartbreakingly out of bounds.
Honourable mention: Fish Go Deep – Back Trace Dub
Eomac – All The Rabbits In The Tiergarten
Ian McDonnell, aka Eomac’s LP Cracks on Planet Mu deserves your full attention, but when the oceans have melted and most of humankind has melted into the sands and into the clay, I would hope that some fortunate survivor somewhere will salvage this from the wreckage and recall halcyon nights where we danced with abandon in dark ballrooms to life-affirming sounds such as this.
Honourable mention: Kevin Blake – Sailing The Skies
Saint Sister – Karaoke Song
Who needs ABBA comeback records when we’ve got Gemma and Morgan wowing us with bittersweet Euro-pop ear-worms like this? A classic three minute pop song about singing and dancing at home, while making regrettable phone calls after having one too many.
Honourable mention: ZoiD – Tray Ripper (feat Jenna Harris & Aisling Ennis)
Parnell March – Winter Without You
Though I didn’t hear this till late summer, Perth-based Armagh-man Dylan Galloghly’s ‘Winter Without You’ retrospectively came to soundtrack my experience of isolating alone, without my true-love, during those lonesome, fever-dream early months of 2021.
Honourable mention: Brídín – Floating
Blamhaus – Cardinale
There is so much to admire in this outrageously addictive, wobbly techno banger from Blamhaus. Hearing it in a club on a proper sound system is on my list of things I must do before I depart this mortal coil.
Honourable mention: TR One – 27 Degrees In Dublin [available from https://shrtattn.bandcamp.com/ in mid-December)
Cubs – Tape Owl
Galway-based Rusted Rail might be the hardest working boutique record label on the planet and this lo-fi beauty from the label’s alt. folk collective Cubs, featuring Cecilla Danell on vocals, is just one of many superlative songs from their 2021 release ‘River Of Amber / Frozen Waterfall’.
Honourable mention: Captain A – Moon Years / Años de la luna