It is that time of year again where Irish all over the world creep out of the woodwork, don the green outfits, silly hats and consume vast amounts of Guinness, Irish whiskey, etc, etc...
A quick glance to any corner of the blogosphere and you will see green tinged Bostonians plugging their favourite Dropkick Murphy's track (they'd be the awful Massachusetts natives that contributed their own brand of celtic punk to the soundtrack of the Departed), an abundance of trad ceol flooding the web, and, of course, a million and one U2 and Thin Lizzy tracks...
Now don't get me wrong I actually quite like U2 (weeeell... Boy anyway...) and Thin Lizzy, and I'm not gonna make the claim that I like traditional music today if I don't every other day of the year, I just find it rather frustrating that the vast abundance of talented Irish musicians fall through the cracks and achieve, at best, cult hero status in this country.
This post is less relevant to the Irish blogging community who are doing their level best (and a mighty fine job I must say - see Swear I'm Not Paul, 2 U I Bestow, MP3 Hugger and Nialler9 for evidence!) to increase the profile of Irish musicians in this country and globally, while the recently established Choice Music Prize is helping no end. However it is still sad to see talented acts like Jape, the Frames (though Glen's profile in particular has increased abroad since the Oscar winning Once) and more failing to see their talent complemented in record sales.
I am coming across as quite bitter in this post I feel, and I guess that is the case. It saddens me that the extraordinary talent in this country is falling by the wayside and there is next to nothing being done to rectify this. Too often, some of the finest musicians in the country achieve success with one song and due to this become nothing more than a novelty - The Stunning, for example. I know they had modest success in this country, but ask anyone to name a song other than "Brewing Up A Storm" and you'll struggle to find an answer. See Something Happens, the Sultans of Ping FC, A House and many more...
Below I am going to post a list of essential Irish musicians (in the folk and alternative rock vein, rather than stadium rock and trad) that I urge you to check out. To any Irish readers these may be familiar names, though I hope that this may attract the gaze of some international music lovers eager to celebrate La Feile Padraig with a little bit of Irish.
- Adrian Crowley. A stunning singer-songwriter and the recipient of this year's Choice Music Prize. Crowley has been long overlooked in his homeland, despite extensive critical praise. His songwriting has been compared to Badly Drawn Boy, Tim Buckley and more, while his vocal has drawn comparisons with Charlie Fink of Noah & The Whale. I feel that Crowley is the pinnacle of Irish songwriting at present. Check out The Wishing Seat from 2009's Season of the Sparks for proof of this.
- James Vincent McMorrow. I have spoken extensively on this guy in recent weeks. His debut album Early in the Morning has just hit stores and is a magnificent work. Stunning, subtle vocals coupled with whimsical folk guitars - it draws inevitable comparisons with Bon Iver, though also owes much to the likes of Neil Young, Band of Horses and Sam Beam. I feel it is the finest Irish release in the last ten years, and is a forerunner for my album of the year.
- Patrick Kelleher. I was blown away by this guy when I heard the album in full. He is not a typical Irish singer-songwriter - his debut You Look Cold pays homage to everyone from the Cocteau Twins, David Byrne, Ian Curtis and Jeff Buckley. In parts, the shrill vocal and infectious drum beats almost resemble the newest release from Yeasayer (and let's not forget that Odd Blood hit stores a full two months after Kelleher's record did) It has electronic undertones and synthetic drum beats adding a totally new dimension to an oft tired genre. A really special record that begs the question - why are so few experimental albums released in this country? Check out the glorious Coat To Wear. One of the highlights of music in 2009 for me, not just with regard to the Irish music scene. This was a strong challenger to the critical darlings Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors, the Low Anthem, the xx and the Antlers for 'record of the year' come December last.
- O Emperor. The rising stars of the Irish alternative rock scene, this half breed Cork-Waterford mongrel have critics oozing over them (myself included) before a debut album is even completed (rumour has it that May could be a release date, though this is subject to change). The few tracks that have surfaced (the highlight is Po for me!) suggest that influence is drawn from Radiohead, Wilco, Pink Floyd, Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes - an ambitious quintet to emulate indeed! It results in a unique mix, rather different to most of the emerging alterna-rock scene in this country.
- Villagers. It was inevitable that Conor O'Brien would end up on this list. For me, he is an exciting musician. Looking at his second bite of the cherry (project number one: The Immediate split having barely released their first record), O'Brien has considerable hype surrounding his new project. Vocal comparisons are drawn with Conor Oberst, and early tracks indicate that the debut release will be something special when it hits stores in May.
Thanks if you stuck with me for this long, I realise that it is quite a long post. The Irish music scene is something very dear to my heart, and it really hurts me to see so many talented musicians fall by the wayside due to lack of exposure and opportunity. I urge you to check out not just the 5 mentioned above, but the ever expanding numbers of supremely talented musicians on this island.
And finally, Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Have a good one!