The lack of gigs and festivals have meant it’s been tougher than ever to make a living from music, but the passion remains, and the releases continue.
My last gig before the pandemic was the Electric Picnic launch in March, and on the line-up that evening Dublin rapper Nealo and his full band were one of the big highlights.
The same band ably assist Nealo on his All the leaves are falling album, which recently dropped on the Diffusion Label. It’s a fantastic album and one of the finest this year, as Nealo raps about his generation, those who had to leave Ireland during the last recession.
The interludes are central to the whole concept here, and are far from throwaway, as can sometimes be the case with some albums. The record is bitter, poignant, hopeful and beautiful at the same time, and Nealo’s delivery is on point throughout. The superb Molly Sterling and JehNova, both on stage that night in Dublin, add their own voices to the mix, and Uly is amongst the fine ensemble of jazz and soul musicians who provide a mellow platform with some beautiful melodies. This is one of the albums of the year!
Also on the Diffusion Label, Jafaris has proved himself to be one of Ireland’s finest artists time and time again. His latest EP, I love you but i’m in a bad.....mood, is a six track mix of music and visuals that is again very strong, and singles such as “Glue”, “Haunted”, “Frustrated” and “Mood” fully capture the excitement of one of Ireland’s most exciting artists. Both Jafaris and Nealo are getting lots of airplay this winter, and as I’ve mentioned regularly here, it’s a welcome change hearing Irish rap on the radio in 2020.
It’s not all guys though, and I’m delighted to again be playing yet another superb single from Shiv on air right now. “Hold me” is another cracking single from one of my favourite singers in Ireland, and I’m really looking forward to seeing her career develop. All of her singles so far have been absolute crackers.
Meanwhile, Elaine Malone will be known to many in Cork, and she’s been very busy gigging and recording over the last few years too. Cork producer 1000 Beast has gone back to her previously released debut single from a few years ago, and reworked it into a more soul pop vibe. “You” is out now and it’s a wonderful showcase of the diverse music scene here.
Cork based artist Yesunia has teamed up with Kildare’s Low Gee for an afro-pop banger that has gone straight into my sets, and it’s got me lamenting the fact that the clubs are still a no go area.
This is a great hint of what we are gonna get going forward from both of these artists, and it’s a catchy tune that will remain in your head. I’ve written about Carrie Baxter a few times already here recently, and the Waterford born soul singer has just released a jaw dropping cover of “My Future” by Billie Eilish, and this is one of my favourite tracks of the moment.
Another of our finest soul artists, and former cover star here on this column, Tolu Makay, has just dropped a self-affirming and breezy “Wild Thang”, continuing her own fine 2020. Her recent EP remains one of the this year’s finest.
On the soul pop tip excellent recent singles from Donna Bissett and Michelle Grimes are performing really well In Ireland, while Cork’s own Lenii is proving to be potentially one of our biggest stars with another catchy release called “Black Bow”.
Meanwhile CMAT has propelled herself into the big time with the huge hit “I wanna be a cowboy”.
On a completely different tip, Irish beatmaker An Cárthack, formerly of Shookrah, releases his own low-fi exploration into hip-hop territory tomorrow.
Inspired by the likes of Knxwledge and the late great Ras G, An Cárthack uses the the SP-404 and Rhodes as the backbone for some wonderfully chill textures, and some wonderful humour too. I don’t think “Vlogging a dead horse” will be beaten this year for song titles. It’s a good time for new music here, hopefully next year we can see more of these artists live!