Here are his top 10 tracks in a year where he could not put on any events. Over to Emmet.
It is hard to overstate the importance of music in 2020. Has there ever been 12 months where people have reached out more to the company and comfort of the music they love to get them through tough times?
I have to say that I haven’t missed gigs as much as I thought I would, but despite all 2020 has thrown up it has gifted me the opportunity to delve back into interacting with and listening to music as a fan first and foremost, something that tends to get a little eroded when you work in music, so that has been a hugely rewarding experience.
As always, and especially so in the digital world, music is endless, so it’s very hard to leave out so many amazing moments here, but a huge shout out to all the acts, artists, and arts institutions who kept productive in the face of such daunting obstacles during the year –
2020 has proved that true artistry can’t be stifled, it will always find a way.
Two Lone Swordsmen – Glide By Shooting
I know this is essentially a new music list, but I spent a lot of time in 2020 listening to older stuff and none more so, or as crucially, as this. Weatherall had that knack that all true artists seem to have of effortlessly being two steps ahead of the game, no matter what the game. His DJing was a study in effortless excellence, and his productions tended to be just the same. In a classic Guv move he checked out before the shitshow of 2020 kicked into gear. Our very own Guv – Trev from Bodytonic – did the very nice thing of inviting us to co-promote a show with one of my heroes this time last year, and it tragically turned out to be one of his last ever shows.
His death was such a shock, but it prompted a big dive through his back catalogue and this is one that stands out.
Suso Saiz & Suzanne Kraft – Nunca
Putting together the line up for Another Love Story is undoubtedly my favourite part of the job – and as the festival has grown, having the ability to tempt some very special international guests to add to the mix alongside our own best and brightest has been a real joy. Of all the acts I was sorry not to get to see at The Manor this year – Suzanne Kraft and his often collaborator Jonny Nash who were due to play The Ballroom were top of the list.
This work with Suso Saiz is from another typically nuanced and meditative album by the Melodies As Truth stalwart.
Holding Patterns – Threshold
Speaking of Another Love Story – in his many guises Simon Cullen has been one of the great friends of the festival over the last six years – notably as a musician in Ships, but even more so as our lead sound engineer and production guru. He is, to my mind, one of the most accomplished musicians and producers in the country – and this gorgeous collection of moods and atmospheres created from field recordings of gates on the island of Inishturk is a testament not only to his talent, but the dept of emotional intelligence he is able to bestow into his compositions. Genius is an overused term, but when you got it, you got it.
A shout out to One Strong Arm for the gorgeous cover design too.
Tim Schlockerman – Locked
In a year when I have missed getting to DJ probably more than any other element of what I get to regularly do in terms of musical messing, the live stream vibe became a vital social touch point, and a nice way to focus for a few hours and to forget the troubles of the world. Coming all the way from Leipzig – Kann are one of my favourite labels, we’ve had Alex (Sevensol) over a few times to DJ and he’s one of the true good guys of the scene – doing it all the right way, and for the right reasons, and all the while not taking it too seriously either.
This one from affiliated label Long Vehicle is a typically crisp slice of modern German house, but also typically playfully put together with that classic Kylie sample. I think I played it in almost every Twitch lark I had in 2020.
Kev Sheridan – It’s Gonna Be Perfect (Map.ache Until The End Of The Day Mix)
Probably my favourite electronic release of the year was from Berlin dwelling pal but native Drogheda-onian Kev Sheridan with a remix from another Kann affiliate, and another lost booking for ALS2020 – Map Ache. Kev is such an accomplished musician across all disciplines – but he has a particular touch and feel for creating emotion tinged electronic music – this is his second release on Maeve after last year’s gorgeous Alone In Berlin, and it’s a small masterpiece – none more so than Map Ache’s brilliant hair standing on the back of your neck remix.
Close your eyes and think 4am under a canopy of moonlit trees, and feel it.
Fred und Luna – Galakto (Alex From Tokyo & Neil Flynn Cocktail Garten Remix)
Couldn’t do a list and leave out my mightily prolific and talented BFAM Neil Flynn – I’d be down a Christmas present! Neil has returned to Ireland after a decade in Berlin, and if anything the extra space of life here has made him even more prolific with a non stop stream of quality releases all year. This one with fabled Coktail D’Amour resident and legit the nicest guy in Dance Music – Alex From Tokyo is something different from Neil – a mix of Cocktail disco vibes crossed with Neil’s signature drive and balance.
Aoife Nessa Francis – Here In The Dark
What is it that makes a song, or an artist stand out? As I listen to music as a means to an end as part of my job as a booker, I often find I can be quite mechanical about the process – in general I’ll make a decision on a song really quickly to see if I have a place to fit it or the artist in question in a line up or event, and move on to the next thing. But there is a magnetism to Aoife Nessa Francis’ music that doesn’t allow this – her album Land Of No Junction is a hazy universe of atmospheres and feelings that really rewards the repeated listener.
There is a timelessness about it- and that definitely translates to her excellent live shows too.
Kelly Lee Owens – On
Ah, KLO. The really good ones are nearly always somewhat shadowy characters who need not worry about brazen self promotion – their shining talent does all the work for them. Kelly Lee Owens is up there with Four Tet for me as a master of pop-fused techno, managing to blend the hardest and most complex of rhythms with an emotional hook that has your feet shuffling to that often UK bass inspired drum gait, while simultaneously having your heart blown wide open at the same time.
The transition from slo-core ballad to romping banger in this one is mind altering.
Lambert, Hrafnhildur Melsteð – Mind No Ever No xxx
If you’ve ever been to a Homebeat gig, you’ve probably been to a Lambert gig! I’ve had the German masked maestro over quite a few times over the years, so safe to say I’m a fan. I think the Contemporary Classical thing has become a bit generic in general – so much of it now is so intently wide screen and cookie cutter cinematic that I think it has lost some of the personality of the earlier pieces – which is exactly what Lambert’s music continues to have in spades – warmth, intimacy, and personality.
Yenkee – Cannibal Tree
In a stellar year against all odds for Irish releases, this stood out for me as a slightly left field vinyl rerelease from the frighteningly accomplished Soft Boy Records – proving it’s not just about genre or chutzpah – this shows the wider breath of their musical ambition. A brilliantly crafted collection of modern lo-fi (so slightly hi-fi in reality) guitar pop.
More evidence of the insane surfeit of confidence at all levels of the Irish music scene at the moment.
Kean Kavanagh – Street Lights
Speaking of them Soft Boys – Kean Kavanagh released his album in typically no fuss forthright fashion in 2020 and it is an absolute joy of mixed influences, confident musicianship, and gloriously guided risk taking.
And, also, I love dogs, so he had me at hello basically.
Niamh Regan – Something So Good
This album was such a sweet surprise – and one which I suspect will quietly be on lots of end of year lists. Niamh Regan’s carefully observed and beautifully recorded collection of songs Hemet is one of those perfect Sunday morning listens – gently easing you into the day with the sun filtering through the window and the coffee on. But there’s a substance here that elevates it above the gentle tones – there’s shades of Lucinda Williams or Laura Marling – a really great debut.
CKTRL – Robyn
Weirdly I’ve never really connected with Spotify as a medium – I use it, but slightly reluctantly for some reason. But every now and then it comes up with the goods. So last but very much not least – this EP from Londoner CKTRL rolled into my life via the spooky Spotify algorithm and I think it is probably my favourite of the year – a stunning collection of strikingly still clarinet laced jazz pieces.
A balm for all the chaos of 2020.