Saturday, 7 April 2018

Irish Playlist #025: Sleep Thieves, Maria Kelly, Hilary Woods, Lisa Canny, Leisure Theory & more

Sleep Thieves - Aching Bones
Sleep Thieves - Photo: Remy Connolly

Info: As per usual the volume of single releases by independent Irish artists continued apace over the last few weeks and REMY brings you a collection of his favourite tracks across varied genres and styles all in one place on the latest Irish Playlist.

We open with the dark atmospheric electronic sound of Dublin's Sleep Thieves and their latest single 'Aching Bones', whose previous single 'Is This Ready?' was a diamond piece of magic that still gets the spins on a regular basis round here. As is their wont, it's a slow-burner, but not in a necessarily passive way, the sound and pace recalling Fever Ray's 'When I Grow Up', the vocal incantation compounding the sense of past, present and future all rolled into one.

What can I say about Maria Kelly's music that I haven't said before? Her new single 'Small Talk' is that very over-used word, beautiful, there is rarely another word that most accurately describes her song-writing, so we'll just have to remain stuck with it. Kelly addresses social anxiety and perhaps the pointlessness of much of our interactions with each other, not revealing our true thoughts and feelings and lumbering the regret around afterwards. Her ability to relay her observations of human behaviour into lyric continue to grow.

The new single from Hilary Woods, 'Inhaler', aims to rain down a deliberate sense of calm and contemplation, which it achieves on both counts. You feel a paranormal pressure exerted on your chest, pushing you backwards through the dark as you attempt, unsuccessfully, to move forwards. The percussion and piano feel like they're played by machine and not human, and this adds to a contradictory feeling of willing submission and foreboding. 

(Incidentally here's me caterwauling through JJ72's 'October Swimmer' at the age of 19 in 2000 ripped from a cassette, reminding me of why I was better suited behind a laptop than a microphone, murdered).

Leisure Theory - Gambler
Derry boys in Manchester - Leisure Theory

Beginning as a bedroom project in 2016 having moved from Derry to Manchester, synth-pop trio Leisure Theory are now spreading their wings as evidenced by the highly enjoyable single 'Gambler' which was released last week. A bone fide dancefloor shuffle, 'Gambler' mixes the groups affinity for guitar riffs and lively popping groove sounds.

A timely theme arrives via Mayo's Lisa Canny and her single with accompanying video 'Freedom', you can't escape the fact that Irish women have crossed the threshold in the last 12 months in terms of saying enough is enough. Granted this has happened in previous generations, but the message feels louder now and is much needed with all that is going on, the events of the last few months have been the storm and the articulation of this honourable anger through music has been the message. Along with peers Wyvern Lingo, Canny strikes a blow against a status quo which clings through the pain of breaking finger-nails for dear life. The video by Max Barry and Ronan Cooper synopsis's this struggle very well, and the banjo playing is extraordinary, it also gives a sense of the link between the past and today.

London-based Irish noise merchants Tayne have released a raucous and energetic single in the shape of 'Alive'. The image of a killer whale flipping its prey in slow motion springs to mind (we're the prey btw). I was never really a fan of Depeche Mode but did like individual songs, and 'Alive' makes me think about those tracks I did enjoy, but with a bubbling industrial rock at its core. 

Regular readers of the blog here will have noticed my ongoing enthusiasm for the Northern Irish rock scene which keeps spawning great bands who sound nothing like their southern brethren, I love the idea that geography in some little way shapes your sound. Belfast's Gnarkats are one of the bands whose music I have thoroughly enjoyed over the last year or so, and whose debut EP featured in our Top 20 Irish for 2017. With new single 'Enigma' they wrap indie-rock, grunge and contemporary punk into one delightful ball of noise.

We stay in Belfast for our next single, 'Heather' by The Mannerly Hoods, you know when you know a sound from long ago and you can't quite put your finger on it? And you can't (yet) Google your own memory? The Mannerly Hoods are a fine example of this first world problem. Is it The Jam? Buzzcocks? Phil Collins? Dire Straits? Aagh! I know I'll get it, but in the meantime their single 'Heather' is a wonderful modern remake of a rare breed of sound which is executed perfectly. I love this sound.

A singer-songwriter I have a lot of time for is Dublin's Graham Mitchell, he seems engulfed with the whispers of all of the classics, and on new single 'Maybe You Can Call Me Sometime' this epoch comes to a head. There's Simon & Garfunkel, that intriguing period when the Beatles were crossing over from Rubber Soul to The White Album, a pop sensibility that veers into Pet Sounds territory and more. 

Current BIMM students *ROGUE! seem to revel in the anarchic harder edges of grunge-pop, counting among their fans Hot Press who pointed to the deeper message in their lyrics beyond the upfront fun of the music, the Wicklow act blast our ears with latest single 'Sober'. These guys know how to execute a rock grind, with the lead vocals by Sadhbh O'Brien beyond on the slay here, with the bass, vocals and drums I think of Heart's 'Barracuda' with even more rock. Footnote: I'll never tire of seeing *ROGUE!'s stickers above urinals and lamposts around Dublin.

Only released on Thursday just gone we finish with Roisin El Cherif's new single and video 'Half a Life'. The Galway artist shifts from her (until now) more sombre and haunting pop sounds to an unabashed and anthemic vigour. On the surface this is a dyed in the wool contemporary pop song, but El Cherif's vocals and the interplay between acoustic guitar and soft percussion also hark back to a mid-80's sound รก la someone who never existed, that's the key.