Saturday, 9 December 2017

Playlist: REMY's Top 20 Irish EP's 2017

REMY Top 20 Irish EP's 2017

Info: Continuing our end of year lists here at REMY I'm delighted to share a genre-bending collection of my favourite Irish EP's of 2017, from electronic to folk, rock to jazz, soul to shimmer pop, all feauture across 20 extended play releases from the past 12 months. You'll find our customary Spotify playlist at the end of this post.

20. Gnarkats! - Waves Collide

Although it was released at the end of 2016, Waves Collide was reviewed in 2017 on REMY. There is a lot to like and enjoy on Gnarkats! debut EP, a gentle opening to 'Running From You' is quickly betrayed by the distorted hum of electric guitar sustain in the background at the 10 second mark. Gnarkat! get down to business with a cross-over between lo-fi and classic rock sounds, with, dare I say it, a dash of 70's glam swagger. It's (...) quite a lovely experience from a clearly thought-provoking act who are firmly making themselves part of the growing independent Belfast music establishment.

19. Bob Skeleton - If This Isn't Love

I have to hold my hand up here and admit I found 'If This Isn't Love' a strange experience, all three tracks are very distinct from one another, they don't run naturally into each other in terms of sound unlike previous EP Shade. Somehow this didn't matter or take away from my enjoyment one bit, the surprise was turned into reward, I wouldn't call it a challenge as a whole, as that would infer a negative which does not exist, but it was something new for me to grapple with, and it worked on every level for me, for the second EP running.

18. TUATH - Things I Don't Know

'Things I Don't Know' is doomy and gloomy in all the right ways, ticking all of the right boxes. Opener 'Stoically, I Ran Through The Rubble' mixes late 70's and early 80's post-punk moods with further down the line mid-90's rock, Therapy? meets The Cure whilst chatting to Depeche Mode, and strangely it's darkness is unusually calming. The crux of Things I Don't Know is atmosphere, everything else spins away haphazardly from that central point, and Tuath craft all of those elements so well on their third EP.

17. Thunderblender - Last Minute Panic

'Last Minute Panic' is 100% the type of mood-driven jazz that I would reach for when looking to both zone out and find a bit if headspace. It subtly covers many styles at once and it is so easy to see why these three musicians have received both awards and accolades for their craft, I'm not sure they could have improved on any aspect of this collection of songs. 

16. Sarah O'Gorman - Concrete Rain

'Concrete Rain' is a breath of fresh air, it fills so much of a void in not only Irish music, but even internationally. There is a distinct paucity of bone fide soul music which grabs you and makes you feel moved inside, on her debut EP Sarah O'Gorman achieves this and so much more across its four tracks, which for me combine to make one of the stellar music releases of 2017. 

15. NC Grey - Magic The EP

Oh damn there are so many levels I love NC Grey's 'Magic the EP' on. From the opening bongo beat to the majesty of the upright bass straight away at the 10-second mark I'm in soul-jazz heaven with 'Holiday', and on my first listen, was desperate to peruse the remaining tracks without delay. The curl of Grey's vocal at the end of each chorus line, the shaker percussion, the free-style keyboards and the delightful swing of everything as one is joyous.

NC Grey - Adonis


'Dem Devi' is the apex where all of RMCK's styles converge, the parts which were hitherto locked away and kept in check unleashed in a wild and perfectly off-beat manner, magik. As the EP closes on '7 And Inbetween' you reach the conclusion that the traditional sounds on RMCK's EP were not part of the experiment, but the focal point of it. The banjo is integral, somehow acting as the medium and key that led to these five tracks being created. The labour of love and creative force put into the EP is self-evident, the fact that both contributed to making a great piece of music is unsurprising.

13. Rosa Nutty - Pips

Rosa Nutty is showcasing two things here as well, a vocal ability most people would dream about sounding like, and a highly tangible and ever-improving knack for thought-provoking lyrics, all that is required for her to succeed in an artistic sense is to fully embrace her musical impulses, because everything is aligning so well so far for her and us...'Pips' will simply mesmerise you of it's own volition, and it's very much a being in the moment collection of songs, absorb, disconnect and be rewarded.

12. Fehdah - Like No Other

As a massive fan of 70's music, a decade I feel music was at its ground-breaking creative and experimental zenith, I was never going to not love 'Like No Other', it would have been impossible. But the best thing is knowing that I've enjoyed this collection of songs because they stand on their own in terms of quality, not because they sound like something I might like. I love this EP, and I know I'll find even more reasons to with every listen.

11. Proper Micro NV - Colours

...while many have remarked positively on his vocals before, I do feel it's necessary to commend them here once more, they are such an integral part of how the whole EP behaves and works so well. 'Colours' is electronic composition at its absolute finest, it reminds me of a much much better version of London's Ghost Culture matched with the natural talent of Cork's Bantum, and it's easily one of the best Irish EP's to be released this year, in any genre.

Montauk Hotel

10. Montauk Hotel - Montauk Hotel

I wouldn't quite go as far as saying that the combination of the guitar and vocals are bordering on heart-breaking here, but they come close, and I would struggle to avoid referencing once again that it feels like there is a deep sadness to the music on this particular track, and in small pockets on others. Interestingly, if you zoned out whilst listening to this collection of tracks and just let the music wash over you, you would probably feel quite elated, the music over-rides any sense of melancholy. To misquote Orwell, just like in Oceania, with Montauk Hotel, nothing is quite as it seems, and therein lies the intrigue. It's early doors, but a finer debut EP will be hard to come across before the year is out.

9. Mr. Billy Fitzgerald - An Introduction

It's been a long time since I've heard a collection of tracks where the acoustic guitar is so central yet in the grand scheme of the whole, almost becomes incidental due to the bristling rhythm and nature of the rest of the instruments. I quite simply, really enjoyed 'An Introduction' an awful lot, and tickle me pink, I can't wait for the album to come around now.

8. Pat Dam Smyth - Goodbye Berlin

The wonderful thing about 'Goodby Berlin' and Pat Dam Smyths song-writing, is that he can remind you of artists of yore through mood without really sounding like them at all. I feel like I felt when I first heard The Velvet Underground & Nico, again Leonard Cohen, and Richard Hawley's Late Night Final, but it's just a feeling, a nice one mind. It's atmospheric, a portal to another decade, and a poignant and strong finale to a truly heart-warming and perfectly crafted EP.

7. No Monster Club - Hiccup / Kalimanko

What is this voodoo? To my own utter disgust, despite being told on numerous occasions over the years to check out the music of No Monster Club, the sixth EP in Bobby Aherne's series of 12 for 2017 has been my first introduction to his music, but what an intro for me personally, the within the opening 10 seconds of first track 'Birthday Cake' I felt an even greater personal loss that I'd missed out on his music up until this point.

6. Emma O'Reilly - Fractures

If you are looking for one of the most original-sounding Irish EP releases from the past few months then look no further than Emma O'Reilly's truly delightful 'Fractures'. There is no escaping the highly enjoyable mania and drama of single and opening track 'Shake', with an emotion and power that comes across as nothing but genuine, the off-beat yet admirably structured percussion wraps an assertive blanket around O'Reilly's vocals and piano playing.

5. Niamh Regan - Niamh Regan

My introduction to the music of Niamh Regan was towards the end of 2015, when she shared her track, 'The Sweetest Drop', listening to it again today has been such a pleasant experience yet again, and I'm not sure I entirely captured just how good it was at the time. Move on 10 months later when Regan released her second single, 'She', and that early soirĂ©e started to become something entirely different. The impact rose immeasurably, and the realisation that something really genuine was unfolding made the heart sing. For an artist who is so understated in many ways, the power of her song-writing and inherent talent can be quite breath-taking. 

4. BODIES - Soak

'Soak' is a beautiful and dark construction by BODIES, tender yet soul-stirring, it's music that makes you feel and acknowledge things you would sometimes rather not address, which are easier to ignore, and McGeown certainly knows how to transpose that uncomfortable sensibility through his song-writing.

3. Alex Smyth - The Utopian Dream

One thing you can say for sure about Alex Smyth and The Utopian Dream EP is that he is totally at ease melding different sub genres into the instrumental electronic aesthetic of his music. This is succinctly tied together in the opening track, 'Weathered' (above), where Smyth blends differing types of guitar riffs with both contemporary and 80's synth-pop and electronica, and here they all make perfect sense together.

2. Leila Jane - Decision Maker

I really can't praise this EP enough, the varying moods, the musicianship, production and of course Leila Jane's song-writing and vocals, as well as how it resonates with my own personal tastes all work perfectly in conjunction together. She is without doubt an artist we need to celebrate and her third EP 'Decision Maker' is very easily one of the best Irish EP's of 2017, I hope an awful lot of people hear it.

REMY's Irish EP of the Year for 2017 goes to THUMPER's Pop! Goes The Weasel

A retro 70's sci-fi transmission heralds the opening minute and a half of 'Pop! Goes the Weasel', culminating in a minimalistic ear-bleed. We then tear into first single, 'The Loser', it's unsurprisingly raucous, and we'd be devastated if it wasn't, the chorus line of 'I am a loser baby, lose yourself with me' is simple yet genius in equal measure, and then there's that bass solo at 2:05, Christ on a bike. 

'The Circles' has a very DIY garage-band feel to it, disillusioned grunge and teenage apathy are the order of the day, again THUMPER are keenly aware of when to drop a break into a track and use it as a platform from which to escalate the tempo and mania. Sun-kissed Californian neo-psychedelia rears its head on 'The Part That I Always Leave Out', and at times feels like the closest you will get to previous EP Magnum Opuss. It's a thoroughly enjoyable highlight on this collection, and you start to fully appreciate the overall use of vocal effects at this point. 

We finish with latest single 'Fear of Art', in the review of which I noted that I was getting strong Dandy Warhols debut album vibes from it, it was only a couple of weeks ago but I'm still in that space, and I'm glad I am as it is still a classic album from the Oregon band. Here THUMPER make everything seem and sound so easy, rolling rhythms both musically and vocally get their claws into you with no resistance. Pop! Goes the Weasel wrestles more with the listener than its predecessors, as THUMPER evolve their sound we get to witness distinct changes taking hold, creatively they are a band that refuse to stand still, and we will be the primary benefactors of that defiance.

Want to hear more great independent Irish music? Check out REMY's Top 50 Singles of 2017 here

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