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.
I’ve answered a similar question elsewhere for your site and I chose Peng Weng, who is a brand new artist (or are they….!?), so for this one I’ll pick a more established act with big plans to push on. I’m choosing Mob Wife. Their “comeback” single ‘Petri Dish,’ was, to my ears, one of the most exhilarating tracks of 2021. Marrying 90s alt rock with a millennial mindset, this bruising fusion of punk and hardcore was a big moment for them and saw them come of age. I can’t wait to see where they go from here.
It’s impossible to narrow it down to one artist, the scale of potential out there, across a range of genres, is vast. I’ve loved everything Lucy Gaffney’s released so far but that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what she has recorded. The electronic music scene is thriving here with waves of phenomenal new talent popping up everywhere – I was knocked out by the debut EP by Derry 2-piece SETS. The emotional breakbeat of the title track “Do U Feel This?” is enough to signal that big things are on the way from them.
One of the records I’m most excited for in 2022, is the forthcoming 2nd album by The Wood Burning Savages. If Paul Connolly had decided to take a different career path in life, he could have been a novelist, a professor, a poet, a politician or a philosopher. Maybe, in time, he will be all of those things, but right now, he is an alchemical frontman who can distil piercing intellect into raw power! The band don’t simply rattle out unidimensional punk either – they are explorers. Where will they take us next?
Riley Holland – a brilliant pop writer. Don’t sleep on that.
Main artists to watch are; Orla, Holly Lester, Kessler (Eddie Kennedy), Swoose and Hammer.
In terms of brand-new and just getting started, I’d love to see and hear more from YINYANG. It’s still early days but I think there is something really exciting going on there. Also I know that Hannah Peel is very much established now, but I think there is way more to come. She’s such an innovative artist and an absolutely brilliant ambassador for NI and for musicians everywhere
Too many exciting acts across multiple genres to single anyone out – but I would say it’s a cert the majority of the next acts to really push on from here will be women or bands fronted by women. Debut albums (when they arrive) from the likes of Roe, and Wynona Bleach all kicked up a storm, while Dea Matrona, Reevah, Lucy Gaffney, Rebekah Fitch, Cherym (and numerous others) are all making waves. And my favourite album of 2021 was by New Pagans – these are all female front acts!
Given the criticism in the south and across the rest of the UK about gender imbalance / lack of women on radio playlists and at music festivals – it’s interesting that here in NI – at least with regards to the actual musicians onstage – it’s suddenly now the men who are in the minority!
Rebekah Fitch is one to watch, multi instrumentalist with a fascination of experimental electronica, she creates these intense sonic world with her ability to combine her love of poetry and powerful vocals with her vast skill of playing many instruments at once. The visual experience that she creates at her concerts lure you into a space to really absorb the words and melodies of her songs. I’m fortunate to say I have had the pure joy of recording her in my studio at Q Radio, her vocals are breath-taking, flawless to the core. Her control is outstanding, never a second take with her. I really cannot wait to hear more of her music and even better see her performing live again as this is where she shines brighter that any.
Can I cheat and pick two, from different fields? The first is Amy Montgomery. She is one of the most incredible artists to have emerged in the past ten years. Her voice is by turns as delicate as a Fabergé egg and as strong as the H&W cranes. She’s Janis Joplin reincarnated.
The other is Michael Smyth. His bands, Virgins, Paper Tigers and THVS, plough different musical furrows, yet both reflect his creativity, dynamism and passion while also producing some of the most exciting music I have heard in recent years.
Travi the Native
Aside from the amazing artists that I already work alongside there are so many acts that I really can’t wait to see develop over the next year! One act in particular that I’m always keeping an eye on is Travi the Native. I think there is always a huge emphasis on new being the best or most exciting thing happening, but I have really loved watching Travi develop from his previous guise into the artist we are presented with now. An act that has definitely stepped into their own, his gig in May Street Church was a sensation and showcased a self-assured performer ready for big things along with having one of the best aesthetics and styles going!!