by Roisin Corbett
As an Irish person, there is always something vaguely frustrating at hearing the same small, rather stereotypical catalogue of songs being played over and over on St. Patrick’s Day. Of course this isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy traditional Irish music, as I definitely do. However, playing The Pogues’ ‘Greatest Hits’ on a loop is in no way indicative of the quality or variety of Ireland’s contemporary music scene.
In a small attempt to rectify this, I’ve collated a short playlist to try and showcase some of the woefully neglected artists of the Irish alternative scene. This playlist, along with some other Irish songs I have compiled, is available to stream on Spotify here:
1) Hozier – Jackie and Wilson
Hailing from Bray, in County Wicklow, Hozier’s debut album was clearly a runaway success. I could have taken the obvious route here and chosen to include ‘Take Me to Church’, but I eventually decided against it. After all, I am attempting to move away from stereotypes. I personally feel ‘Jackie and Wilson’ to be a happier and more upbeat song anyway, which is much more fitting with the celebratory spirit of the day. Hozier’s smooth vocals, and the song’s punchy bass come together here to create something that is (dare I say it) universally appealing. This makes him an excellent starting point to ease into this collection of songs, as he skilfully toes the line between alternative and mainstream.
2) Wyvern Lingo – Letter to Willow
My next choice, Wyvern Lingo, are also from Bray. To me they seem like a natural progression onwards from Hozier, as I first encountered them as Hozier’s support band when I went to see him live. However, they have recently come into their own and are a good band in their own right. This song manages to be up tempo enough to be dance-y, but still retains traditional elements, such as the harmonies which are so quintessentially Irish. It is also particularly gratifying to see women in the Irish music scene holding their own.
3) The Strypes – You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover
Moving swiftly onwards, my next choice comes from The Strypes, a young band from Cavan, who are a perfect marriage of classic and modern music. They are very obviously inspired by classic rhythm and blues, and the juxtaposition of 18-20 year olds having such a vintage sound is instantly charming. As a band, they have a reputation (with good reason) for being an unmissable live act. Even listening to studio versions of their music, is an experience in and of itself. The combination of fast-paced guitars and catchy choruses is a sure fire way to liven up a room.
4) The Coronas – Just Like That
Next up are The Coronas, from Dublin. Quintessentially indie rock, The Coronas are one of the most popular and prolific bands within the Irish alternative scene, and with good reason. ‘Just Like That’ is an upbeat and fun song that still manages to be musically accomplished. Danny O’Reilly’s distinctive voice is instantly recognisable, and songs like this explain why the band has achieved such success in Ireland.
5) Wallis Bird – Control
My final selection is Wallis Bird, from County Wexford. The most immediately noticeable thing about Wallis is her rather unusual style of guitar playing, caused by an unfortunate childhood accident. However this is not a negative point at all, as part of Wallis’ incredible allure is due to her unique nature. Indeed the best word to describe her is probably ‘intense’. She has a raw quality to her voice which instantly encaptivates the listener, and is particularly adept at building layers of sound, culminating in a stunning climax. All of her songs, no matter the tempo, are incredibly energetic, and this is particularly noticeable in ‘Control’. This energy is infectious, making it the ideal song to end my short playlist, ensuring the listener finishes on a high.
I hope this list has proven that there’s more to Irish music than stereotypes suggest, and I would wholeheartedly encourage everyone to look into Irish music further.
Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit! (Happy St. Patrick’s Day!)
You can find more of Roisin’s writing on her blog.