2020 will surely be the first time in living history that St Patrick’s Day hasn’t been celebrated in all it’s green-wearing, flag-flying and Guinness-chugging glory. If, like me, you’d usually spend this evening in the pub, take this time to be sensible, don’t head out anywhere. Instead, grab some cans of the black stuff from the corner shop or make yourself an Irish coffee and settle into these top quality tunes from the mother land.
Ballymena-born Lilla Vargen came to my attention late last year, when she supported (my favourite) fellow Irish song-maker Dermot Kennedy on tour. Kicking myself for turning up just as she was finishing, I made sure to keep tabs on her every release since. The Swedish name translates to ‘Little Wolf’ and ever so aptly describes the vulnerable, yet undeniable strength lurking within every evocative note of her folky brand of “sad pop”.
Having previously highlighted the housing crisis in Ireland on ‘Why Wait’, Vargen now delves into the emotional abuse of a toxic relationship in the visuals for latest release ‘Cold’. With spellbinding vocals and deeply personal song-writing already racking up millions of streams online, there is no doubt that 2020 will be a big year for her.
If you’re already in self-isolation, be sure to check out her previous single Solitary.
Somebody’s Child (aka Cian Goddo) is a repeat-player here at Shake the Static. Having previously featured on last year’s list, his dynamic sound continues to find it’s way into my ears, pretty much on the daily. Abstract photos and elaborate videos may have kept his face hidden in the past, but his music has never shied away from the important issues. With an undeniable chemistry and 5 praised singles in less than 16 months, it’s clear that Cian, his band and their stadium-sized sound belongs on the bigger stages.
The face behind the scenes might be taking more steps towards the limelight, but the focus is still very much on that sound. And boy, do we love it.
Listen to his latest release below.
Rising from the ashes of Little Green Cars, new venture Soda Blonde return to Dublin’s booming music scene with blissfully sad, somewhat Eurthymics-styling eighties pop. Fronted by Faye O’Rourke and featuring LGC alumni Adam O’Regan, Donagh Seaver O’Leary and Dylan Lynch, the band may have shuffled around their sound, but have kept that transitional material that works.
Soda Blonde’s debut album, should be released later this year.
Listen out for the clip of John Wayne discussing Maureen O’Hara after filming The Quiet Man, in the video for latest release ‘Terrible Hands’.
If you like your hip hop cut from a different cloth, then Neal Keating aka Nealo may be just what you are looking for. Having spent 10 years touring the hardcore punk scene, his new blend of soulful introspective hip hop may not be exactly what you would expect, but it has certainly gained him a large loyal following in Ireland. Light-hearted, but socially conscious, you can hear strains of his punk roots in his lyrical content, of which flow with an unmistakable Dublin accent.
Following some impressive releases in 2019, a debut album should be on it’s way later this year.
Keep a look out for Nealo’s Irish Hip Hop Against Homelessness project in Dublin, which will *fingers crossed* be rescheduled for later in the year.
Hailing from Dandalk. Just Mustard are building a reputation as one of Ireland’s most compelling new bands. With a sound that has been referred to as ‘doomgaze’, the five-piece muster hazy industrial-tinged soundscapes and reverb-drenched vocals to create a heady modern sound. Their debut EP ‘Wednesday’ was released in 2018 to critical acclaim and they have been handpicked by Robert Smith to support The Cure. The future looks just wonderful for Just Mustard.
From the Drake-like trap pop of ‘Moodswings’ to the lo-fi bedroom sounds off ‘Lost’ and ‘Hold Me Down’, producer and MC Daire Patel has quickly become one of my ones to watch from Ireland this year. With very little information online, bar these three releases, he has certainly kept my sad song-loving soul wanting more.
2020 should see him drop new material leading up to an EP. Let’s hope he raises his profile and becomes a bit more consistent over these next few months.
Esoteric outfit Happyalone, come from a galaxy far far away…via Cork town. The bleached bots landed on planet Earth’s Irish music scene back in 2017 and have continued to gain recognition for some weirdly wonderful and genre-fluid gems. Off the back of a recent collaboration with British metallers Bring Me The Horizon, Happyalone return with another eclectic track. Moody trap-infused electronica that will make you wanna dance, even if you are screaming from the inside. I dig it.
With a headlining tour announced and an EP due out in coming months, Happyalone are ready to take over the planet.
2019 was a great year for Waterford rapper/drummer/producer Alex Gough. With the release of his debut EP 80% and the massive levels of hype surrounding his hip/hop and jazz fused performances, he has quickly become one of the most talked about artists in Ireland’s new music scene. Latest release ‘Fool’ is an instant earworm of a track, with bouncing melodies and a laidback quick-snap delivery that we have come to expect from the 21 year old.
Sure, Alex Gough may have 2020 figured out musically, but this year is certainly playing the rest of us for a fool.
Usually one to steer clear of acts with the famous dad tag, I can’t help but be curious about Dublin-based band Inhaler. No surprise they are being backed by the industry, having ranked at number 5 on the BBC Sound of 2020, but praise for their live shows makes me think that there may be more than meets they eye. Pounding rhythms and psychedelic soundscapes on tracks like ‘My Honest Face’ instil me with faith, although some track lyrics still leave a lot to be desired. “I’m easy like an Ice Cream Sundae” anyone?
Let’s hope they shake off those U2 comparisons and are known in their own right, rather then just being ‘that band with Bono’s son’.
Have a listen to their latest track ‘We Have To Move On’, because well, we all eventually have to.
Technically, my final act is more of a collective. God knows may be known as a solo artist, but there is nothing solo about his output. Ireland is loving homegrown hip hop right now and the Zimbabwean-Irish MC is bringing some of the most exciting Irish talent together in a continued effort to break down cultural, racial and geographical barriers.
Last month, the Limerick rapper dropped a high energy EP ‘Who’s Asking’, with it’s title track featuring epic bars from Denise Chaila, Hazey Haze, Citrus Fresh, Gavin DaVinci and Strange Boy Nature, with production by SertOne.
God Knows says of the EP: “’Who’s Asking?’ is a direct answer to the questions I’m asked all the time about Irish rap. I believe in my county; I believe in my country. Irish music has always punched above its weight on the world’s stage and put its own stamp on popular music – why should rap and hip-hop be any different?”
Turn this absolute banger up and keep pressing that repeat button.
I have started a Spotify playlist that features all the tracks from Irish artists i have loved in the last year or so. As you start streaming, remember all the artists who have put everything into these songs and are now no longer able to play them. Everything is uncertain right now and the music industry is completely heartbroken. Now is the time to be a fan. Buy merch. Buy records. Stream songs. Show them you care. After all, their music has always been there for us.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!