We’ve got our own ideas on what some of the best tracks, albums and artists of the year are but thought it would be wise to get some external thoughts. As a result, we asked several movers and shakers within the local music scene for their opinions on the best releases from 2021 and who to be excited for in 2022. May we present to you, Outsourced: Best of 2021
Phil Taggart – Broadcaster + podcaster, Slacker Podcast/Chilldabeets
Best Song – Jordan Nocturne – Gemini Boy
Jordan Nocturne’s Gemini Boy is the plinky-plonky booofty dance floor weapon I’ve been enjoying most. When I left Northern Ireland I was a card-carrying indie boy ten years ago. I’m home now and the hair’s been cut and I’m mainly listening to electronic music. He’s such an important lynchpin of the Northern Irish dance community. Wap this one into ye.
Best Album – Saint Sister – Where I Should End
Saint Sister’s second album is right at the top of my list of favourite records from the North in 2021. Look, I know it won the NI Music Prize and you are thinking “Ok Phil get an imagination.” Well, it won for a reason. It’s been that little wholesome melancholy companion I’ve had in my pocket at all times, a little friend to laugh and cry with. They’ve excelled with this and they did it all themselves.
One To Watch 2022 – Lemonade Shoelace.
There’s been a few emerging heads doing great things this year, the time spent in solitude has clearly focused a lot of new acts. Out of the talented new bunch, my favourite would have to be Lemonade Shoelace. I’d heard rumblings of this artist before hearing anything, that level of hype before anything comes out can always send alarm bells. I wasn’t disappointed, his debut single ‘Autopilot Paradise’ was wonderful. What was even better was his support slot to Sports Team at the Ulster Sports Club a few weeks ago. I’m buzzing for him, I think he’s going to be doing great things for quite a while.
Saul Duffin – Editor, Yeo Magazine
Best Single – Kneecap – ‘Thart Agus Thart’
The West Belfast/Derry hip-hop trio put out the first tune about the lockdown that had me embrace the repetition. Playing with the idea of Groundhog Day we all just went through, the trio bring in producer BLVTH who mustered up a deep-synthy beat that’s so good that he thought, “May as well just play this bit over and over again”. Thank fuck he did. Not many can say back in March 2020 they were beginning their first American tour as three of the most promising and groundbreaking Irish musicians at the top of their game, only to be deserted in New York with cancelled gigs and with no way home. Alas, they made it back to Belfast and after a trip to the minimart, a few Capri suns and a mars bar, they found their quick-witted lyricism to cook up this 2.55 minute of pure gold that can be blasted again and again by us all.
Best Album – New Pagans – ‘The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All‘
I won’t lie, when the evil corporation that is Spotify told me my most listened to album of the year was that of northern gothic rock and rollers New Pagans, I wasn’t surprised. The outspoken record kicks off with an instant hellraiser, ‘It’s Darker’ and instantly demands you to fall to the sheer calibre of frontwoman Lyndsey McDougall. It’s a quality of performance that her band matches throughout the debut, taking each others’ energy and musical talent to raging extremes, while still nursing you back down in softer moments – gloriously dark while exceptionally warm. ‘The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All’ transports you through themes of existence, motherhood, and fear while making sure to overtake the sacrosanct. Pretty much it’s a brilliant rock and roll album that will make you want to violently kick down your own front door and give your Ma a hug before stealing a score on her for a bag of weed.
One To Watch 2022 – HY:LY
Bringing her melting pot of influences like techno, D’n’B and psychedelic rock together, HY:LY has been a real breath of fresh air in the local music scene. Having dropped her debut single ‘Secrets’, as well as a brilliant collab with fellow local PrecBoi3000 early this year, she has set herself up for a busy year on the local electronic circuit for 2022. It’s time to keep an eye out for the letters and grammar, ‘HL:LY’ when you’re heading to your next rave to witness a great talent before you’re paying big bucks for our best-kept secret.
Jo Wright, Artist Officer, Arts Council NI
Best Track – CHERYM – Listening To My head
This single from this punk-pop powerhouse has been the soundtrack of my sanity this past year! Their energy terrifies & exhilarates me in equal measures, I can’t wait to hear what they release next!
Best Album – Dani Larkin – Notes For A Maiden Warrior
I feel very privileged to have watched from afar the well earned rise of this beautiful talented soul! This album stops me in my tracks and I have to listen from top to bottom & on repeat every time I play it! Dani Larkin is a natural storyteller and this album is not only an auditory delight but a handbook for survival!
One To Watch 2022 – Lemonade Shoelace
I first spoke to Ruairí Richman a few months back and there and then I knew he was a force to be reckoned with. He is passionate, driven, music business savvy and has the talent to match! Watch this space, he is going to do great things at speed!
Liam Craig – Manager, Fictive KIn
Best Song – CHERYM – Listening To My Head
This track has been completely stuck in my head since luckily catching it pre-release on their The Great Escape livestream in March. It’s got it all. Really great songwriting, plus the hooks and harmonies go on for days.
Best Album – Dani Larkin – Notes For A Maiden Warrior
Along with being my favourite release, this is also my choice my pick for album title of the year. The entire album wouldn’t have been out of place on the Red Dead Redemption soundtrack. Absolutely gorgeous songwriting and worldbuilding.
One To Watch 2022 – Lemonade Shoelace
This guy is just too talented for his own damn good. He’s a font of pure raw talent, and stylish as hell too. Oh, and his music slaps. A superstar writer/producer/composer in the making.
Charlotte Dryden, CEO, Oh Yeah Centre
Single Of The Year – Lemonade Shoelace – Autopilot Paradise
When it came to songs or singles, that’s a hard one, I loved ‘Autopilot Paradise‘ by Lemonade Shoelace (as a disclaimer he was on our Scratch programme), ‘Aquiver’ by Hex Hue, ‘Blueprints’ by Lilla Vargen, ‘Black Mamba’ by Yingyang, ‘Beholding You’ by The Darkling Air, ‘Glimmer’ by Wynona Bleach, ‘Ancient Naturals’ by Dena Anuk$a and ‘Chrysalism’ by Ryan Vail and Ruth McGinley.
Album Of The Year
It always amazes me how much great stuff is out there and so here’s a few of my outsider picks from this year’s NI Music Prize lists. Alpha Chrome Yayo, Neil Brogan, SORBET, Strength N.I. A, The Zang, The Vendetta Suite, Dutch Schultz and Gaze Is Ghost all released brilliant albums. I also found Acoustic Dan’s record very moving in parts, in a sort of Shane McGowan and Damien Dempsey kind of way at times.
One To Watch 2022
Ones to watch, I want to see more from Winnie Ama, YingYang and I can’t wait to see Vivamagnolia on an outdoor festival stage, Open House or CQAF need to book him now!
Edwin McFee – Journalist, The Sunday Life/Hot Press
Single Of The Year – Big Daisy, Bee Mine
Earlier this year I first encountered a song that now feels like an old friend- ‘Bee Mine’ by Big Daisy. It’s one of those tunes that stopped me in my tracks from the get-go and I must admit I fell hard for this three minute slice of Shangri-Las and garage pop peppered goodness. Telling a tale of loyalty and love, it’s a swoon-some offering from a band with bundles of potential and deserves to break hearts and charts across the globe.
Album Of The Year – New Pagans, The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All
Every now and again a band arrives on the scene that just has IT and New Pagans are one such act. Despite being slightly hamstrung by a pandemic, the ever-present spectre of Brexit and of course, the misconception that “Guitar Bands” are passé (aye…), the quintet delivered what I consider to be one of the best Irish debuts ever made. Musically the opus was explosive and arresting, while lyrically it was, at times, pleasingly prickly and combative. The likes of ‘Yellow Room’ is destined to open both pits and minds, while ‘I Could Die’ reaffirms guitarist Cahir O’Doherty’s status as one of the finest fret wizards around (check out that simple but effective solo four minutes into ‘Admire’)
One To Watch 2022 – Peng Weng
In an era where a lot of artists feel compelled to tell you everything about their lives via their (un)socials, the mysterious music maker known as Peng Weng prefers to keep things shrouded in secrecy, which I absolutely adore (even if my editors don’t!). The latest member of the house of Black Tragick Records makes mostly instrumental music and their grim ruminations serve as a suitable soundtrack to a swan dive into The Abyss. Sometimes heavy and often haunting, Peng Weng’s brand of sinewy, sinister riffola features a welcome dose of menace threaded throughout their music and I’m very intrigued to see what mayhem the camera shunning tunesmith cooks up in 2022. Fans of Unsane, Early Victory At Sea and the Butthole Surfers will pick up what they’re laying down.