The 50 Irish Acts You Have To Hear

Hot Press picks the homegrown noisemakers who are just too good to let slip under the radar. We’ve left out those who’ve arguably already made it such as Maverick Sabre and Two Door Cinema Club. Instead we’ve focused on the newcomers who may not yet be in the limelight but from whom you’ll be hearing lots in 2012!

We’re realists here at Hot Press. We understand that in terms of looks, etiquette, fitness, diet, political integrity and economical stability, the Irish are gross underachievers. If we’re kicking international butt in any area, it’s music.

Pine all you want for the swaggersome ‘70s, but there’s more original choonage flooding out of this country than ever before. Happily aware that this list couldn’t have existed five years ago, we figured it was about time we celebrated our belle époque by gathering all our favourite independent musicmakers together in one place.

Included in our rundown are; an all-male Girl Band, the most sought-after beatmaker in the country, Ireland’s answer to Lana Del Rey, a retro-styled smooth operator, a sequin junkie, a one-man band, a one-woman band, a globe-trotting spin master and a hip hop troupe so big we can scarcely remember all of their names.

“So what now, eh?” you cry. “Is Hot Press going to call around to my home with a boombox and an expertly-crafted mixtape, tailor-made to suit my personal musical preferences?” Frankly no, but we’ve made things as easy as time and budget will allow. We’ve rounded up links to the most essential streams, downloads, music videos and comedic parodies (not to be underestimated, this lot) on the interweb, so you can test-drive the acts yourselves, and when (and we really mean when) you hear something you like, the live dates are all here to help you plot your next gig. Go forth and savour!

SHAEFRI

London-born Mayo lass Shaefri (pronounced Shay-free) is probably not the first songbird to resemble a trad-raised Adele, but at only 18 years of age and already in astonishingly good voice, she’s the one you’ll be hearing the most about over the next 12 months. Dealing primarily in sweet, melodious rock, Shaefri is right on the precipice of finding her signature sound – ‘Hold Me Close’ sees her trying out some Ellie Goulding-style vocal summersaults, while ‘Love Games’ is sultry enough to take on the charts.

Listen: to her debut EP Venture at [link]www.facebook.com/Shaefri[/link], and if you like what you hear, head over to itunes to make it yours for less than the price of a pint.

See: her knuckling down in the studio at [link]www.youtube.com/user/Shaefri[/link].

NEON WOLF

“Songwriting can be tough,” begins Neon Wolf’s biography, but to hear this Kilkenny quintet’s high-pitched, hi-octane party rock, you’d never guess. Only two tracks have made it outside of their south-eastern HQ, but when the material is sprightly, polished and instantly hummable, two tracks is plenty (even if it does sound like they pieced their moniker together from bits of other band names).

Listen: to their second offering ‘No Other Soul’ at soundcloud.com/neonwolf. Meanwhile, ‘The Good Life’ is available for free download from [link]www.neonwolf.bandcamp.com[/link].

See: them performing a show in their hometown here [link]www.tinyurl.com/c8x6zza[/link]. Never mind about the shaky camera work – you’ll be bopping around like a demented sportsfan too, before you know it.

SPIES

It’s somewhat embarrassing to admit that our favourite new voice of 2011 belongs to a guy fresh out of secondary school, but try as we might, we just can’t resist the basement-skimming yelp of Spies frontman Michael Broderick. With an average age of 19, the Dublin fivesome are among the youngest bands on the local circuit, but they’re also one of the fastest-growing forces in homegrown alt. rock. While we may have Broderick pegged as the next Paul Banks or Matt Berninger, the other four players deserve a pat on the back as well, for their fearless percussion and mournful riffage.

Listen: to the superb ‘Barricade at [link]www.spies.bandcamp.com[/link], and while you’re there, nab the digital version of their ‘Liars Call Me King’ 7” for nuthin’.

See: them performing ‘Covered In The Times’ at [link]www.tinyurl.com/ch3kumx[/link].

DAITHÍ

From The All-Ireland Talent Show (ask your ma) to Must Be The Music (ask your little sister) to every Irish festival worth its salt, Clare lad Daithí Ó Drónaí has played his game-changing brand of fiddle-driven electronica for tens of thousands of people over the past three years, deservedly earning a reputation as one of the most innovative musicmakers in the country. Take for example ‘Carraroe’, a bizarre hybrid of traditional Irish rhythms and ‘90s dance anthems that shouldn’t work, but does.

Listen: to the critically fawned-over Embrace EP at [link]www.daithi.bandcamp.com[/link].

See: him showing that fiddle who’s boss in the video for ‘Carraroe’, directed by the overachieving visionaries at Feel Good Lost Films and co-starring the magical Elaine Mai (scooch down the page for her profile).

SQUAREHEAD

A perfect tonic for the recession-weary music-lover, Squarehead’s dreamy debut album Yeah, Nothing appeared last August, bringing with it a wave of extremely good vibrations that defied the crummy weather, all while defying trends with a lo-fi set-up of just guitar, bass, drums and vox. Whether it’s surf pop, slacker pop, jangle pop or garage pop, and it’s been called all four, the main thing to remember about the Squarehead pastiche is that it’s invariably exhilarating and catchier than the bubonic plague.

Listen: to their entire back catalogue at [link]www.squarehead.bandcamp.com[/link].

See: the Irish comedy performance of the year (sorry, O’Carroll, Lynch and company) when Ian, Roy and Ruan test out their acting skills in a side-splitting Classic Albums parody ([link]www.tinyurl.com/cq2n59b[/link]).

LITTLE Xs FOR EYES

Through trickling melodies, candy-coated female harmonies and an ample collection of quirky instruments (forget the glockenspiel, these guys are dab hands at mandolin, melodica and psaltery), Little Xs For Eyes have painted themselves as a pop group with a difference, and one that’s not afraid to explore the cuter side of music. Their seasonal affective disorder-inspired debut album S.A.D. is one of dozens of Irish LPs created through Fundit.ie, and in spite of its downbeat subject matter, one of the sweetest Irish records of the year.

Listen: to the fan-funded S.A.D. at [link]www.littlexsforeyes.bandcamp.com[/link].

See: them put the aforementioned melodica to use at [link]www.tinyurl.com/bm66zw9[/link].

TOBY KAAR

With a seemingly never-ending reserve of house and hip hop beats and a remarkably engaging live show (a dozen gigs later, we’re still finding it hard to believe that all that noise is coming from just one man!), it’s no surprise that Cork native Toby Kaar has become the go-to-guy for floor-filling live music on Irish shores, and all in a matter of 12 months. This perpetually-stoked soundsculptor can do no wrong in the eyes of the fickle gig-going public – when he’s not strumming up new material in the wee hours, you’ll find him bopping about a stage somewhere, and taking the whole crowd with him.

Listen: to originals, remixes, experiments and more at [link]www.soundcloud.com/tobykaar[/link].

See: him at the Eurosonic Festival in the Netherlands on January 12, along with a handful of other acts on this list, namely, Bitches with Wolves, We Cut Corners, Hello Moon, Rams Pocket Radio, Squarehead, The Cast of Cheers and The Minutes.

CARRIED BY WAVES

There’s something totally beguiling about the musical musings of Cork city’s Carried By Waves, particularly the electronically doctored vocal of its mysterious conductor. Hot Press was front-row centre for one of the very first Carried By Waves live shows at last October’s Hard Working Class Heroes festival, and we can confirm that it was a dreamy, astral treat. A debut album is due for release in the summer.

Listen: to EPs Neither Either Or and EP 01 at [link]www.carriedbywaves.bandcamp.com[/link], with free downloads available for both.

See: Carried By Waves perform live at Tower Records at [link]www.tinyurl.com/c7qu256[/link].

OVERHEAD, THE ALBATROSS

What’s not to love about a band whose repertoire includes an instrumental ode to Liam Neeson? But Oscar-nominated dreamboats aside, Dublin sixsome Overhead, The Albatross are among the most ambitious musicians north or south of the border, scoring films and packing out venues while still in their toddler years. These classically-minded post-rockers are downright dauntless in their songwriting, which is precisely why their sweeping, soaring debut EP makes for such great late-night listening.

Listen: to mini albums Lads With Sticks and Mr. Dog at [link]www.overheadthealbatross.bandcamp.com[/link], both of which are available for free download.

See: them thrill a packed-out Workman’s Club with a rendition of the serene ‘Flubirds’ at [link]www.tinyurl.com/bssh668[/link].

LITTLE GREEN CARS

Despite being comprised entirely of teenagers, folk rock wunderkinder Little Green Cars have been firm favorites of the Dublin live circuit for about three years now, which is probably why they’ve been snapped up by hypertrendy American label Glassnote Records, otherwise known as the Stateside home of Mumford and Sons, Phoenix and Two Door Cinema Club. It also could have a little something to do with their clever songwriting, chilling live shows and frankly staggering harmonies.

Listen: to virtually everything they’ve got at [link]www.soundcloud.com/littlegreencars-1[/link].

See: them hold their own against The Frames, Edwyn Collins, St. Vincent, Lisa Hannigan, Wild Beasts, SBTRKT and more on Other Voices when it airs on RTÉ 2 in the spring.

TIERANNIESAUR

Sometimes you just need to hear something different, and when that time comes, look no further than the alphabetical nightmare that is Tieranniesaur. The band’s self-titled debut album ventured deep into the alt. pop wilderness, embracing geographical subject matter, disco basslines, profanities, assorted percussive doohickeys and even a spirited rap courtesy of No Monster Club’s Bobby Aherne. Originally the home project of husband and wife Annie Tierney and Padraig O’Reilly, Tieranniesaur has since been expanded to a seven-piece, with musicians cobbled together from the ever-delightful Popical Island label. Make no mistake about it – this is the sound of cunning young music lovers pushing pop to its anarchic limit.

Listen: to the record in question at [link]www.tieranniesaur.bandcamp.com[/link]

See: the rap in question at [link]www.tinyurl.com/d4dpxzv[/link].

ALARMIST

It’s hard to think of a more accomplished live act than Alarmist, an instrumental foursome from Dublin who put precision before pride, and in doing so, have worked their way into the hearts of just about every Irish musician currently in action. This is probably not the band to recommend to everyone on your mailing-list, but for live music junkies, they’re a must-see. Marrying the sweet with the murky and the spiky with the smooth, Alarmist have presumably sauntered through every genre known to man before arriving at their signature sound, and now that they’ve found it, there’s nary a note out of place.

Listen: to the EP that started it all at [link]www.alarmist.bandcamp.com[/link].

See: them doing what they do best at [link]www.tinyurl.com/bwfru7e[/link], complete with mind-melting visuals.

PATRICK KELLEHER AND HIS COLD DEAD HANDS

As Ireland’s most treasured art rocker, Patrick Kelleher is one of the more familiar faces on this line-up, earning regular applause for his atmospheric pop both at home and abroad. The multi-faceted 27 year-old can charm a crowd just as easily with an acoustic guitar as a full band of electronic whiz kids, and is as happy knocking out a Grace Jones or Frank Sinatra cover as performing his own material. 2009’s You Look Cold saw Kelleher And His Cold Dead Hands master the art of spook, while 2011’s Golden Syrup was ghostly in an entirely new way, brimming with echoey disco beats and floor-filling hooks.

Listen: to the incredible Golden Syrup at [link]www.patrick-kelleher.bandcamp.com[/link].

See: the brilliantly bizarre ‘Miracle Candle’ music video at [link]www.tinyurl.com/cfd7u6l[/link].

LEADERS OF MEN

With a name like Leaders Of Men, these five Tallaghtfornians were never lacking in confidence, but I’ll wager even the boys themselves didn’t see 2011 panning out like it did. Just six months after their first show, the straight-up indie rockers were playing to a crowd of 2,000 in the Guinness Hopstore as victors of the Arthur’s Day ‘Play On The Day’ competition, having captivated a team of judges with their no-frills stomp rock. Early recordings don’t do them justice – for the full LOM effect, see them in the flesh.

Listen: to pretty much everything they’ve got at [link]www.leadersofmen.bandcamp.com[/link].

See: them hold their own against Paolo Nutini,The Saturdays and Stereophonics at the Hopstore on Arthur’s Day at [link]www.tinyurl.com/btwpqb2[/link].

WE CUT CORNERS

It’s eternally shocking that We Cut Corners operate with only two people, frontman John Duignan (guitars/vox) and back man Conall O’Breachain (drums/vox), especially when you hear the oversized pop they produce. Having thrashed around the Dublin live circuit for three years, WCC finally got the kudos they deserved with the release of the whimsically-named Today I Realised I Could Go Home Backwards last year, an album so chock full of hooks, team Hot Press has been humming, whistling and singing it solidly since its release in November.

Listen: to the full album at [link]www.wecutcorners.net[/link].

See: them crooning A-Ha style in the hand-drawn video for ‘A Pirate’s Life’ at [link]www.tinyurl.com/bsmwz3m[/link].

THE LOST BROTHERS

Music has taken Oisin Leech and Mark McCausland a great many places since they formed The Lost Brothers just under four years ago, including Paris, Toronto, Texas and most recently, New York, for the Other Voices tenth birthday celebrations at Le Poisson Rouge. With roots planted firmly in Crosby, Stills and Nash territory, the honey-voiced pair finally hit their stride in 2011, with the release of the critically-fawned over So Long John Fante. All that traveling has clearly paid off – The Lost Brothers can whisk you away with little more than a strum and a whistle.

Listen: to So Long John Fante at [link]www.thelostbrothers.bandcamp.com[/link].

See: them on the Certain Three Tour in January, including dates in Castlebar (12); Cork (14 & 15); Limerick (19); Navan (20); Waterford (21); Galway (26); Dublin (27) and Dundalk (28).

LE GALAXIE

You know a band is truly unique when you instinctively ask, “What’s your favourite moment?” rather than “What’s your favourite track?” In the case of floorfilling retro-futurists Le Galaxie, it could be the night they launched their album with 1,000 (ish) glo-sticks, the day they dominated Electric Picnic by turning a crummy 1pm slot into one of the hottest and heaviest sets of the festival, or the time they got really drunk, recorded a version of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ in reverse and posted it on Soundcloud for all to hear. Special lads, they are, with a very special power to make us dance.

Listen: to the monstrous Laserdisc Nights II at [link]www.legalaxie.bandcamp.com[/link].

See: many of the aforementioned memories at [link]www.youtube.com/LeGalaxieTV[/link].

RAMS’ POCKET RADIO

Peter McCauley has hit on unspoiled territory with Rams’ Pocket Radio, a mindbending musical project that has him drumming, singing and playing piano all at once. On wax, it just sounds like a lot of experimental, metamorphosing pop, but put this Lisburn lad on a stage and it’s hard not to be totally floored by his skill. Clearly, McCauley is a man who could just as easily be working on film scores, live orchestration or anything else he damn well fancies, but we’re delighted that for now, he’s setting his sights on the charts. Psst. The project is named after German industrial designer Dieter Rams.

Listen: to a selection of ambitious singles at [link]www.ramspocketradio.bandcamp.com[/link].

See: the baffling live set-up for yourself at [link]www.tinyurl.com/bo94agu[/link].

BRIAN DEADY

Falling head-over-heels for Cork-based smooth operator Brian Deady is easy – it only takes a single spin of the downright genius ‘Over Like McGyver’, a funked-up farewell ballad that uses bygone TV shows to describe a relationship that’s reached its expiration date. As you may be able to tell, Deady is more than just another silky-voiced neo-soulster. His hopelessly slick lyrics and a knack for resurrecting the woozy electronic-based R&B of the ‘70s and ‘80s set him apart from the rest. Bobby McFerrin, Roy Ayers, Cameo and Boney M are ripe for the comparing.

Listen: to the Love Out Loud EP on your iPod, after you’ve downloaded it for free from [link]www.briandeady.com[/link].

See: him performing in his jammies for some reason on Cork’s RedFM at [link]www.tinyurl.com/d87473u[/link].

THE HOT SPROCKETS

By playing a gig pretty much every week for the last five years, Delta blues aficionados The Hot Sprockets have shrewdly avoided being swallowed by their own hype and have remained the go-to band for a foot-stompin’, finger-clickin’ hootenanny in this town. They may have borrowed their sound from the Deep South, but when everything from the banjos to the mutton chops to the bolo ties match up, their dirty blues rock deserves to have an enduring home in the venues of Dublin city.

Listen: to their free mini-album at [link]www.facebook.com/thehotsprockets[/link], all for the price of a ‘Like’.

See: a mini-documentary filmed at the launch of Honeyskippin’ at [link]www.thehotsprockets.com/videos[/link].

BITCHES WITH WOLVES

While Ireland appears to have a perpetually revolving conveyor belt of singer-songwriters and folk rockers, the one thing we’ve been missing is a fabulously-attired pop star who thinks he’s Beyoncé. Step forward Bitches With Wolves mastermind James O’Neill, a man who adores sequins and vintage disco hooks in equal measures. For a sweaty night out on the tiles, look no further than this colourful showman and his band of merry beatmakers.

Listen: to all the highly-strung club pop you can hack at [link]www.soundcloud.com/bwwmusic[/link].

See: them at the Eurosonic Festival in the Netherlands on January 12, or if your pennies don’t stretch quite so far, experience the BWW live show through the video for ‘Hurricane’ at [link]www.tinyurl.com/cxrucrs[/link].

THE MINUTES

If you think The Black Keys have a monopoly on classic-sounding rock, you must have missed Marcata, the earthshaking debut album from Dubliners The Minutes. It took the Stones and Zep-referencing trio five years to produce their first LP, but there was no messing about when it came to the tunes. Demonic percussion, furious guitarplay and frenzied yelps recall a time before every song in the charts featured an obligatory dance beat and when great songwriting and great hair was enough to make you the biggest thing in music.

Listen: to a sample helping of the album plus countless radio sessions and live recordings at [link]www.soundcloud.com/theminutesmusic[/link].

See: them at the Eurosonic Festival in the Netherlands on January 12, or closer to home, at the Academy, Dublin on February 11.

ENEMIES

Ever since the Redneck Manifesto popped their heads above the undergrowth, Ireland has served as an unlikely nerve centre for instrumental rock, producing some of the best progressive guitar bands on the planet. One such band is Wicklow four-piece Enemies, whose blissed-out, groove-led rock has earned them fans in Japan, the US and many more places besides. Not that they’re lagging behind at home – the highly-skilled foursome drew one of the biggest crowds at this year’s HWCH festival and their as-yet-untitled second LP is already one of the most hotly-anticipated records of 2012.

Listen: to two EPs, one album and two ravishing tracks recorded exclusively for Record Store Day at [link]www.enemiesmusic.bandcamp.com[/link].

See: them in the videos for ‘Robert Reid’ and ‘Coco Et Moi’ at [link]www.vimeo.com/22665973[/link].

KATIE KIM

A longtime darling of the bountiful Irish electronic scene, Katie Kim is not a million miles away from 2011’s golden boy James Blake in that she possesses both a quiver-inducing voice and the power to turn that voice into alt. pop gold. Fresh from a performance on the seminal Later… With Jools Holland (the young production whiz is lesser-known as a guitarist with The Waterboys), Ms. Kim is all set to release her second record, the beautifully haunting Cover And Flood, and reclaim her spot as one of the most valuable musicians in the country.

Listen: to a sampler of Cover And Flood and cult favourite Twelve at [link]www.katiekim.bandcamp.com[/link].

See: her on the Certain Three Tour in January, including dates in Castlebar (12); Cork (14 & 15); Limerick (19); Navan (20); Waterford (21); Galway (26); Dublin (27) and Dundalk (28).

MOJO GOGO

In the quickest success story we’ve witnessed in aeons, Donegal indie peddlers Mojo Gogo found themselves on the cover of Hot Press last year, having made it to the finals of the Arthur’s Day ‘Play On The Day’ competition within months of getting together. Dealing in a uniquely chart-friendly brand of math rock, the Derry-based trio have since become famed for a raucous live show fitting of their musical heroes, Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

Listen: to the a year’s worth of material at [link]www.mojo-gogo.com[/link].

See: them live at Bound For Boston, Derry (March 10); The Retro Bar, Portrush, (January 14); NUI Arts Ball, Galway (February 15); An Grianan, Donegal (March 16); Sweeney’s, Dublin (24) and the Mercantile, Dublin (25).

RUNAWAY GO

Belfast quintet Runaway Go are equally capable of writing hushed, intimate pop ditties as stadium-ready rock anthems, but even if it’s not clear what to expect from the Northy noisemakers over the next 12 months, their forthcoming debut EP is sure to put them on the map. Memorable for their immaculate girl/boy harmonies, the radio-bound rockers have already had their music featured in films and video games, and as if that’s not enough, they also nabbed the Jack Daniel’s ‘JD Set Unsigned’ award last year. Not bad for a band with only two singles to their name.

Listen: to thundering single ‘Alligator’ at [link]www.soundcloud.com/runaway-go[/link].

See: a stripped-back version of ‘Delicate Man’ at [link]www.tinyurl.com/bmyknk7[/link].

LIZ LAWRENCE

2012 ain’t an easy time to be a singer-songwriter, unless you plan on repackaging yourself as an amorphous pop starlet, Jessie J-style, but from reggae vibes to tropical flourishes, there’s plenty to separate London-based songstress Liz Lawrence from the rest of the pack. Musically at least, Lawrence bears more than a passing resemblance to indie treasure Laura Marling (just swap that acoustic guitar for a ukulele and you’re there), so it seems only fitting that she get a similarly ecstatic reaction when her album drops at the end of March.

Listen: to debut single ‘Oo Song’ at [link]www.lizlawrencemusic.com[/link].

See: Ms. Lawrence in the flesh when she heads out on an Irish tour in February.

CARS LOVE GIRLS

With a list of influences that includes Prince, The Time, Cameo and Hall and Oates, we were expecting highly funky things from brother-sister pop duo Cars Love Girls, and the bar was only raised further when we learned that the siblings in question were Orla and, er, Brez Breslin (presumably not his given name) of Republic Of Loose. It was lucky, then, that the first musical morsel we heard from the starry-eyed pair was ‘Lose Your Mind’, a song that evokes all the dreamy epicness of Boy Meets Girl’s ‘Waiting For A Star To Fall’ – a very good thing indeed.

Listen: to tracks from their forthcoming album Skip School at [link]www.carslovegirls.com[/link].

See: the suitably schmaltzy video for ‘Lose Your Mind’ at [link]www.tinyurl.com/cspaqx3[/link].

DJ IZEM

Globetrotting spinmaster DJ iZem is different from anyone else on this list, not only because his area of expertise is Latin Soul and something called post-dubstep, but because Jérémie Moussaïd Kerouanton (lovely, but we can see why you shortened it) is equally hailed for his entrepreneurial achievements. As the co-founder and musical director of the multilingual internet radio Groovalizacion, the French-born, Irish-based DJ is privy to the hottest sounds from all over the globe, many of which have trickled into his own mind-boggling, genre-defying grooves.

Listen: to the impossibly slick Quiver/Debaixo D’Agua EP at [link]www.djizem.bandcamp.com[/link] with free download, and look out for a debut album this year.

See: him entertain some small children at [link]www.tinyurl.com/cot9lgp[/link].

GIRL BAND

Fresh-faced noise rockers Girl Band may well be the newest act in our rundown, but for three-quarters of the Dublin ensemble, this is not their first time charming the pants off Irish gig-goers. Dara Kiely, Daniel Fox, and Alan Duggan all come to Girl Band from Harrows, a no-nonsense post-punk outfit who set local toes tapping two years back before splitting in 2010. Along with drummer Adam Faulkner, they now form the un-Googleable Girl Band, specialising in erratic, vintage-sounding rock in the vein of Sonic Youth. Shouty, yes, but listen carefully, there’s melody in the madness.

Listen: to all three tracks at [link]www.girlbanddublin.bandcamp.com[/link], which are ready for downloading.

See: them in The Twisted Pepper January (14), The Grand Social (18) and Crawdaddy (27), Dublin.

THE ORIGINAL RUDEBOYS

It’s unclear whether or not hip hop/pop crossover trio The Original Rudeboys swiped their name from Rihanna’s wildly inappropriate chart-topper, but while they’re not quite at RiRi’s level yet, 17,000 Facebook fans in nine months is nothing to be sniffed at. It all started for Robert (guitar, vox), Sean (ukulele) and Neddy (rhymes) when they posted a video of their very first track ‘Stars In My Eyes’ on YouTube. Almost 300,000 views later, the acoustic troubadours have added an Oxegen slot, some monster supports and countless radio and TV performances to their rock and roll resume.

Listen: to the rather neat Original Rudeboys back catalogue at [link]www.facebook.com/OriginalRudeboys[/link].

See: the YouTube clip that started it all at [link]www.tinyurl.com/6y9xoy3[/link].

SERTONE

If the name SertOne sounds familiar, you probably know the 23 year-old Portadown producer as the man responsible for the most collar-poppingly brilliant beats of the last 12 months. His regular offerings of hip hop-infused, groove-led electronic remixes and originals have rarely left our iTunes Most Played list, not that we’re the only ones. The slicker-than-slick vibes on debut EP The View From Above earned Sert a highly unlikely shout-out from Boy George, who immediately tweeted his new find to 140,000 followers.

Listen: to The View From Above and remix albums Versions and WIDTS at [link]www.sertone.bandcamp.com[/link].

See: Sert’s sinister silhouette as he performs in the Pavillion, Cork with live visuals from Feel Good Lost films at [link]www.tinyurl.com/cbyemft[/link].

SOLAR TAXI

You’re not likely to recognise Aisling Browne from her previous gig, providing back-up vocals for ghostly songstress Katie Kim – the flame-haired guitarist is downright feral in her role as the frontwoman of Waterford quartet Solar Taxi, her soulful growl adding a much-needed human element to a fracas of scuzzy electro blips and disco-inspired riffs. Falling somewhere between Goldfrapp and The Knife, the experimental foursome debuted their throbbing dance pop on the bizarrely-titled She Dies With Beautiful Teeth EP in June, whetting appetites for their forthcoming long-player. Who says disco is dead?

Listen: to the full EP at [link]www.soundcloud.com/solar-taxi-music[/link].

See: the video for ‘Peachy Peach’ at [link]www.tinyurl.com/cfygul9[/link].

SOLAR BEARS

Channeling Bjork, Bibio and countless other musical eggheads, Solar Bears earned more than a few backpats for their atmospheric debut album She Was Coloured In, making every ‘End Of Year’ list worth a damn and catching the eye of Pitchfork, NME and Uncut. New material sees them taking their eerie, shimmering electronica in an altogether beatier direction, but fear not, longtime fans, the cosmic pair have been careful not to jettison the cinematic flow that made them so irresistible in the first place.

Listen: to the gorgeous She Was Coloured In, the Inner Sunshine EP and a bunch of remixes at [link]www.soundcloud.com/solar_bears[/link].

See: them perform new track ‘Komplex’ in the Pavillion, Cork with live visuals from Feel Good Lost films at [link]www.vimeo.com/32000897[/link].

ROISIN O

Granted, Rose O’Reilly has lineage on her side (the 23 year-old calls Mary Black ‘Mum’ and Coronas frontman Danny’s ‘Bro’), but Roisin O has made it onto this and many other hype-spreading lists without having to cling onto anyone else’s coattails. Her spectacularly limber voice is just the start – Miss O possesses a keen ear for a summery refrain, and isn’t afraid to take her tunes into trad territory when the melody takes her. Throw in a heart-stopping live show and we’ve got everything we look for in an Irish rose.

Listen: to EP The Thrill for the price of a Like at [link]www.facebook.com/roisinomusic[/link]

See: Roisin put her trademark Celtic lilt to work on Florence’s ‘Dog Days Are Over’ at [link]www.tinyurl.com/3hul475[/link].

HELLO MOON

They say you should never judge a band by its name, but before you’ve even heard their collective din, Alan, Eamon, Amanda and Alan sound like awfully nice people. As it turns out, the Hello Moon sound is every bit as impetuous and childlike as their moniker suggests – there’s something terribly exhilarating about the Dublin foursome’s carefree jangle pop, as heard in all its glory on their debut LP Only Count The Sunny Hours. Tempting as it may be to stick with the doom-laden drone rock of your youth, we reckon everyone could do well to let a little sunshine pulse through their iPods.

Listen: to the ball-crushingly twee Only Count The Sunny Hours at [link]www.hellomoon.bandcamp.com[/link].

See: them live at the Eurosonic festival in the Netherlands on January 12.

SONS PHONETIC

The universe is still getting used to hearing an Irishman rapping (it may be a while… remember when Dizzee Rascal sounded world-shakingly odd?), but with any luck, Waterford-based hip hop collective Sons Phonetic will be the group to change all that. Boasting a line-up of razor-tongued rhymers (deep breaths; Rabiah Zaruq, Kavsputin Tommy Tyler, Sammy Dozens, Mouse Hughes, Shotgun Dunne, Jimmy Penguin and Scary Eire legend Rira), Sons Phonetic debuted hard-hitting lyrics and some icy production on their 2011 LP Twelve Labours. Check your tired rap clichés at the door, this is thought-provoking stuff.

Listen: to the deliciously low Twelve Labours at [link]www.sonsphonetic.bandcamp.com[/link].

See: the suitably moody video for ‘Casino’ at [link]www.inyurl.com/d75clr3[/link].

THE RIOT TAPES

The brainchild of singer Elaine Doyle and guitarist Chris O’Brien, Dublin/London sixsome The Riot Tapes are nigh-on guaranteed to break into the mainstream in 2012 – songs like debut single ‘Photograph’ couldn’t be better suited to radio if they’d been dreamed up by Tony Fenton himself. We’ll forgive them the requisite ‘Rolling In The Deep’ cover, these pop rock pretties have enough potent melodies and stadium-ready refrains in their arsenal to give Ham Sandwich, The Kanyu Tree et al. a run for their money.

Listen: to a collection of singles and demos at [link]www.soundcloud.com/the-riot-tapes[/link].

See: them live in Sandino’s, Derry on February 3, or, save yourself a trip and watch the video for ‘Photograph’, recorded live in the Village, Dublin.

VERSECHORUSVERSE

If it wasn’t for that unmistakable crop of ginger hair, we’d refuse to believe that the Tony Wright of acoustic outfit VerseChorusVerse is the same Tony Wright who used to wrestle guitar (“play” doesn’t feel like the right word) with instrumental heroes And So I Watch You From Afar. VerseChorusVerse’s output is as different from ASIWYFA’s hernia-inducing rock as you can get – a particularly raw and intimate incarnation of wireless folk. Admittedly, seeing Mr. Wright go from tearing up festival stages to strumming tenderly in front of his webcam was a shock, but with lullabies this dreamy, he’s making it very hard for us to complain.

Listen: to the debut EP at [link]www.soundcloud.com/vcvtony[/link].

See: the product of the aforementioned webcam at [link]www.youtube.com/user/VerChoVer[/link].

DATADRIP

Feeding primarily on synth, distortion and other celestial goodies, electronic duo Datadrip are doing little to rival Katy Perry, but plenty to summon you to the dancefloor. The futuristic pair first caught our eyes early last year with their gob-dropping, instrument-swapping live show before our ears followed suit a few months later. The material on last year’s Collision EP was industrial, dynamic and wildly self-indulgent. And why not? Datadrip’s shapeshifting beats sound equally compelling pumping out of the sound system in Whelan’s and flooding through your earphones in the wee hours.

Listen: to the Collision and Works EPs at [link]www.datadrip.bandcamp.com[/link], complete with free downloads.

See: them flaunt their rather impressive live set-up at [link]www.tinyurl.com/caz3ya2[/link], or catch them live at the Twisted Pepper, Dublin on January 14.

THE CAST OF CHEERS

By gum, we told you those Cast Of Cheers boys would make good, and bang! a short time later (alright, 22 months later…), they turn up on Zane Lowe, Fearne Cotton and pretty much every other BBC Radio 1 show you can think of. An ecstatic Lowe liked their new track, the impossibly catchy and unashamedly Police-esque ‘Family’, so much, he just couldn’t resist playing it twice in a row live on air. Having broken all kinds of records with their debut download-only album Chariot, Adams, Adams, Higgins and Curran are currently spitshining their second album in London, with help from Foals producer Luke Smith.

Listen: to the irresistible ‘Family’ at [link]www.tinyurl.com/d8s4bea[/link].

See: perform Chariot favourite ‘I Am Lion’ on RTÉ 2’s When Under Ether at [link]www.tinyurl.com/cwtxvqm[/link].

SLEEP THIEVES

If you’ve already heard of Dublin trio Sleep Thieves, it’s probably down to ‘City Lights’ – a tuneful, beat-dripped piece of alternative pop that charmed bloggers, critics and many good folk in Irish and UK radio when it was released back in 2009. Vocal duties are shared by Sorcha Brennan and Wayne Fahy, whose respectively sharp and sleepy vocal stylings give all that scuzzy beatplay a solid grounding. The real genius here, though, is in the band name. Tunes this potent will be looting your subconscious for weeks to come...

Listen: to debut album Heart Waves at [link]www.sleepthieves.bandcamp.com[/link], and nab two free EPs while you’re at it.

See: the video for the surprisingly upbeat ‘Hope Is Dead’ at [link]www.tinyurl.com/bpadajw[/link].

THE DANGER IS

Long before Lana Del Rey began turning heads with her gangsta Nancy Sinatra impression, another honey-voiced blonde was breaking hearts in venues all around Ireland, under the name The Danger Is. Not only does Niamh Farrell have a playful vocal style to rival Feist, Cathy Davey and a dozen other songbirds we could mention, she’s also responsible for some of the cleverest lyrical mischief we’ve heard in yonks. Take for example, the quirkily-laden ‘Rub Who You Love’, which sees Farrell warn, “If I pack up I leave, then you’ll have no kitchen utensils” in her ravishing trademark chirp.

Listen: to the debut EP at [link]www.thedangeris.com[/link].

See: Niamh perform ‘All For Gold’ in a short film by Myles O’Reilly at [link]www.tinyurl.com/6b88sbk[/link].

THE WONDER VILLAINS

If their hyperactive YouTube podcasts are anything to go by, Derry indie pop foursome The Wonder Villains are absolutely bonkers, but once you hear their dynamite signature tune ‘Zola’, it’s pretty hard to care. An ode to Italian football legend Gianfranco Zola, its whimsical panpipe intro and Gossip-esque attitude make it one of the mentalist and therefore most essential tracks of last year. Sparkly-eyed teen pop at its very best.

Listen: to their six track-strong repertoire at [link]www.wondervillains.bandcamp.com[/link], including the unmissable ‘Zola’, a song about Heroes character Peter Petrelli titled ‘Oh Peter’ and a track inspired by ‘90s basketball flick Space Jam (guess what that one’s called…)

See: them perform on British ESPN’s footy programme Talk Of The Terrace at [link]www.tinyurl.com/cg7f8hd[/link]

THE DYING SECONDS

A good band knows when it’s time for a change, and Dublin duo David Cantan and Jack Quilligan knew when it was time to step out from behind their laptops and reach for a more organic sound. Four years on from their electro-minded debut, an expanded Dying Seconds released Glimmerers, a frantic, spooky and highly emotive record, made even more striking by the inclusion of sloshing waters, alarm bells and footsteps. No wonder they’ve got The National’s Aaron Dessner all aflutter.

Listen: to the spellbinding Glimmerers at [link]www.wemakeweapons.com[/link].

See: them live in the Roisin Dubh, Galway (January 19); Dolan’s, Limerick (20); and Pavillion, Cork (21). In the meantime, check out the shudder-inducing video for ‘Mora Minn’ at [link]www.tinyurl.com/c3b8dds[/link].

ELAINE MAI

As well as being a member of indie outfit Go Panda Go and the musical consort of the aforementioned Daithí, Galway’s Elaine Mai does just fine all on her tod, as her enchanting one-woman show proves. The 26 year-old innovator uses some expert live loopery to harmonise multiple guitar, vocal and glockenspiel melodies, building the songs right in front of the audience’s eyes. Of course, Ms. Mai’s vocals are not to be overlooked – crystal clear, full of heart and judging by the few tracks we’ve heard so far, capable of just about anything.

Listen: to ‘Softly’ and ‘IOU’ at [link]www.elainemai.bandcamp.com[/link].

See: her incredible live cover of Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’ at [link]www.tinyurl.com/cdxrxoc[/link].

FRIENDQUESTIONMARK

Part angry thrashers, part ambient tunesmiths, Dublin instrumental fivepiece Friendquestionmark cover more ground than your average rockers. In fact, the most powerful moment of their much-lauded live show is invariably one of the sporadic classical flashes, courtesy of freewheeling violinist Rachael Boyd. Filmed at Westmeath’s prestigious Grouse Lodge Studios, their eponymous debut EP showed a band not afraid to bellyflop into other genres, and through spiraling melodies and delicate build-ups, proved that, whatever song titles like ‘Slaps’ and ‘Tut Tut Tut…’ might suggest, Friendquestionmark really are big softies at heart.

Listen: to the full EP at [link]www.soundcloud.com/friendquestionmark[/link].

See: them performing live at Dublin’s Workman’s Club at [link]www.tinyurl.com/c6dflyk[/link].

AFTER THE EXPLOSIONS

There’s an awful lot to like about Drogheda foursome After The Explosions, namely, charging percussion, jagged synth bleeps and danceable melodies. They’ve also got plenty of lip, as evidenced by lyrics like, “You think I would have had enough now, but god I fucking love the attention”, growled out by vocalist Dave O’Brien without the slightest hint of irony. In fact, the thundering din that these four Nine Inch Nails enthusiasts (just a hunch….) create is so sinister, we’re inclined to look over our shoulders as we bump and grind. But then, what do you expect with song titles like ‘Firstnameunknown’?

Listen: to The Great Collapse at [link]www.aftertheexplosions.bandcamp.com[/link].

See: the video for ‘Firstnameunknown’ at [link]www.tinyurl.com/7pmyv7r[/link].

ANIMAL BEATS

You’d be forgiven for mistaking Limerick rockers Animal Beats for a group of rabid David Guetta soundalikes, but misleading name notwithstanding, this fresh-faced foursome deal exclusively in rock ‘n’ roll, straight up. Citing Biffy Clyro, Thin Lizzy and Kings Of Leon as influences, the industrious foursome will already be known to readers in the south-west, having qualified for pretty much every band competition held in the Munster region in the last three years, and winning a couple along the way. Singer John McDonnell is the lone absentee from the madness, his syrupy croon clashing brilliantly with the hearty riffs and roaring rhythms.

Listen: to their free mini-album at [link]www.animalbeatsmusic.bandcamp.com[/link].

See: the video for ‘Lights Out, Night Out’ at [link]www.tinyurl.com/cdsn444[/link].

I’M YOUR VINYL

Automata man Ken McHugh and the velvet-voiced Dana Donnelly make up Dublin electro funk outfit I’m Your Vinyl, but if you’re thinking that just isn’t enough manpower to craft an uplifting piece of dance rock, think again. Donnelly is in charge of guitar, tambourine and sultry vocal stylings, while multi-instrumentalist McHugh takes care of the rest. If their October Workman’s show is anything to go by, we reckon Ireland’s got a future superstar in Ms. Donnelly, on whom Team Hot Press has a collective crush.

Listen: to four tracks, including the brand new ‘Roll The Dice’ at [link]www.soundcloud.com/im-your-vinyl[/link].

See: the rather fetching Myles O’Reilly and Ken McHugh-directed video for ‘This Is Your Life’ at [link]www.vimeo.com/33785803[/link] (check [link]www.imyourvinyl.bandcamp.com[/link] for a free download).

 

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