The music industry in Northern Ireland is made up of a host of wonderful individuals and companies that use their talents and enthusiasm to champion and promote our artists. We tasked nine of those individuals to think about the last ten years and tell us their favourite releases, their favourite gigs, their ones to watch for the future and what we need to do to ensure our scene continues to flourish.
Triggerman – Hail to the River Gods
There’s so many to choose from, but I’ll single out Hail To The River Gods in the hope that it might earn a few more converts to the gospel of Bap and the boys. Wonderfully feral and full of pure rock fury, not only were Triggerman one of the most ferocious live bands I’ve ever witnessed, in the studio they could get it done too, as this album so effortlessly proved. Inspired by early Clutch, Sabbath and Celtic mythology, it’s head crunchingly heavy throughout and features more diabolically good grooves than a dance party in Beelzebub’s boudoir circa 1972. With all due respect to the River Gods, I think we should all hail Triggerman instead.
Ryan Vail & Elma Orkestra – Borders
“Borders” by Elma Orkestra and Ryan Vail. The political debate that raged around the Brexit referendum in 2016, hinged (and continues to hinge) on the knife-edge of the border in Ireland. For many, it felt like the views of those it directly affected were simply not heard. Ryan Vail and Eoin O’Callaghan (Elma Orkestra) responded immediately with an audio-visual portrait of the border. It was a wildly ambitious exercise in high definition, audio/visual DIY. It was forceful, emotional and, arguably, more impressionistic than polemical – but the political barbs were most definitely there – sometimes obvious, sometimes hidden. The album felt like a candle left burning in a window, against the night sky, reminding us of where we come from.
Kitt Philippa – Human
This is tough. But if I can only give one answer it would have to be ‘Human’ by Kitt Philippa. I am inextricably linked to that record, emotionally. I gained the privileged and at times despairing insight into what artists do to create art. Every detail matters, even the things most people might not hear. It’s an honest and all consuming task and then suddenly everyone has it and that feels terrifying and satisfying. Gladly all the effort on that record was met with much love from near and afar by critics and fans. I truly believe this record will continue to find greater meaning over time.
Max Cooper – Earth
I think Max Cooper’s album Earth is stunning, and I particularly enjoy the track ‘Reflect’ and ‘Swarm’. We produced a stunning show with Max Cooper during the lockdown, where we broadcasted a projected Audio Visual show around Carlisle Church and streamed this live. You can watch the full show over on our website here. What I love about Max’s work is the hypnotic trance-like, emotive feeling his music gives, whilst coupling with stunning visuals. It really is impressive, so original and captivating both via a stream and in real life.
Our Krypton Son – Our Krypton Son
This is almost impossible to answer, to select one piece of work from across 10 years. I have so many that I love for many different reasons. It changes almost every day, but for today I think I’d like to put forward the Our Krypton Son debut from Chris McConaghy in 2014. It’s an album I keep coming back to. A lot of the songs on it were knocking about a lot longer than 2014, but when the record finally came out, I was so delighted to see it. Every single song on it is really wonderful; he’s such a brilliant songwriter.
Bicep – Glue / Kitt Philippa – Human
I tend to go for melody over lyrics and particularly love music which sounds euphoric or uplifting without using a word. Which is why I love Bicep – and ‘Glue’ is an incredible piece of music – it floors me with every listen. Someone else who has a knack for grabbing me with simple, beautiful melody is Kitt Philippa. That said, as a lyricist, Kitt is one of the best the country has ever produced and their debut album Human lived up to my (sky high) expectations.
Rainy Boy Sleep – Ambulance
Rainy Boy Sleep aka Stevie Martin was one of the most talented singer songwriters this decade produced. This E.P is truly beautiful, it showcased his incredible writing skills. Poetic, and empathetic, few musicians have the skill of cleverly writing about love, loss, hope and redemption in the way Stevie did. At only 26 years old he had already played Glastonbury for three consecutive years touring with Cyndi Lauper and James Morrison. The thing that was so wonderful about Stevie was his songs where a reflection of the lovely human being he was. He was both gentle and empathetic, and when he spoke his words held a discreetly wise strength. This E.P has a timeless quality to it. I’m just so sad that I’m not able to share some more of his wonderful music, I know for sure he would have become a massive star.
Trucker Diablo – We Stand Strong
The quality of music that Northern Ireland’s rock and metal bands have produced over the last decade has been phenomenal and seen bands from here more than able to stand nose-to-nose with some of the biggest acts in the world. The likes of Ricky Warwick, Trucker Diablo, Conjuring Fate, Maverick, Stormzone, Gasoline Outlaws, Baleful Creed and so many more have consistently proved that this wee country punches above its weight.
However, if I had to pick one song that summarizes the NI scene over the past decade, and as we move into the next, it would be Trucker Diablo’s ‘We Stand Strong’ – because we do \m/
PORTS – The Devil is a Songbird
The debut album, ‘The Devil is a Songbird’ from Derry band PORTS is a release that I have consistently returned to time and time again and actually one of the first album’s that I ever reviewed live for Chordblossom!
Bursting with passionate vocals, sweet harmonies, and poetic lyricism, the whole record is filled with personal memories and lovely moments of nostalgia. I love listening to it now as much as I did when I first heard it and I am still patiently waiting for their follow up…