By Edward Burnett
Indie music is a genre heavily influenced by the United Kingdom and when we think about indie music in the UK, we talk about Manchester, Liverpool and London predominantly. Acts such as Blossoms, Circa Waves and Wolf Alice have all hailed from the big trio of cities. With the hypersonic rise of Sam Fender, the North East too has become a breeding ground for alternative talent.
Ireland, on the other hand, often gets left out of the conversation oddly. Irish indie music has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years with the introduction of bands such as Kodaline, The Academic and most recently, Inhaler.
Let’s be honest though, how many Irish artists do you actually have on your indie playlists? Is it a country of whose musical exports you actually search through on purpose to listen to? If the answer is a no, you are missing out on some cracking tunes that can change your party, mood or occasion in a heartbeat.
Fear not though, I’m going to now highlight some Dublin talents from across the water that are perfect for your drinks, parties and relaxation.
First up we have the cool, calm and collective Gemma Dunleavy, whose debut EP ‘Up De Flats’ was released in 2020. The six track compilation features refreshing urban beats alongside slower and more thoughtful songs, showing incredible musical range.
The title track is undoubtedly the piece de resistance alongside a host of already great music, a true underground dance hit. Dunleavy’s aim with this in her own words was to “create a time capsule of our community now”. She succeeds, admirably, giving a loud and vibrant gift to the people of Dublin which radiates dance and movement.
This shouldn’t take away from the other mini-masterpieces that exist on the collection of songs. The painfully bittersweet ‘Setting Son’ with a quieter and less lively tone, which ultimately mirrors the song’s subject matter of unrelenting love, even if this is to damaging consequences.
Equally, Dunleavy’s ‘Cruisin’ manages to capture the very embodiment of chilled relaxation on a track which automatically brings a calm to its listener. The song doesn’t have a care in the world, which is the perfect embodiment to the song’s title. A catchy chorus is very much the cherry on top, allowing this small EP to be one of the most unique and refreshing sounds in recent years.
Next up on the list, we’ve got four-piece female band, Pillow Queens and their debut album, ‘In Waiting’. Consisting of co-lead vocalists Sarah Corcoran and Pamela Connolly, lead guitarist Cathy McGuiness and drummer Rachel Lyons, the indie rock band have been going since 2016.
‘In Waiting’ provides tranquil sounds alongside powerful and emotional vocals that bring an overall sense of gravity to the band’s music. Key tracks on the album include the ever-so-climatic ‘Liffey’, named of course after Dublin’s fair old river, and the album’s opener, ‘Holy Show’. The latter is a tender and gentle ballad which builds tempo as it carries on. The drumbeat clinically bringing the speed and power to the energetic choruses which line the song perfectly between the softer verses.
This powerful opener is defiantly a taste of things to come further along the album with each song oozing emotion alongside a dreamy feel throughout. The band are already active again with the punchy single, ‘Hearts and Minds’. This latest addition to the Queens’ catalogue demonstrates that their debut wasn’t a one off and that those who are willing to buy into them now will be rewarded with what’s to come next from the Dublin outfit.
Completing the collection are fellow Dublin band Soda Blonde who’s debut album ‘Small Talk’ arrived in the summer of last year. The group’s lineup include lead singer Faye O’Rourke, guitarist Adam O’Regan, drummer Dylan Lynch and bassist Donagh Seaver-O’Leary.
The majority of the songs from the masterful ‘Small Talk’ are intriguing as they often feature a darker undertone to their initial upbeat indie-pop sound. Out of nowhere, synth or deep bass tones can alter the mood of the song and keep this debut album sounding fresher than mowed grass on a summer’s morning.
Particular picks from this collection are ‘Terrible Hands’ and ‘Tiny Darkness’. Both songs have this overall feeling of contemplation and realization. Musically, they’re truly layered with both tracks bursting with so much sound coming from different sources, making the latter sound somewhat orchestral.
The aforementioned ‘Terrible Hands’ is a true indie hit. It has a few false starts, teasing its chorus to the listeners, until the long-awaited climax arrives after as many as two minutes of the song. This is reminiscent of the Stone Roses’ ‘I Am the Resurrection’, an indie classic which makes one wait after two false chorus lead-ins. When Soda Blonde’s chorus does finally land, it feels like a release and the feeling that it brings is one of mild euphoria.
The aesthetic from all of these three acts should not go without mention either. The music videos for these songs are perfectly constructed, featuring anything from a dramatic and acted out, neon thrill like that of ‘Terrible Hands’ or a culture piece documenting the very flats and their residents that Gemma Dunleavy sings so passionately about.
Similarly, in an ever-increasingly digital world whereby album artwork is often ditched on streaming services such as Spotify, it is incredibly refreshing to see such effort put into the artwork from all three Dublin acts. Soda Blonde’s debut features a tableaux scene of a domestic kitchen with coffee being poured to the point of overflow. Everything from the color to the small details give off a feeling of vibrance and story, which match the album’s musical contents perfectly.
All in all, if these Dublin artists are anything to go by, the future of young Irish music, especially that of indie and indie-rock, is shining brighter than the Emerald city itself. Whether you’re listening to the music up in the flats or you’re planning to put on a holy show next to the Liffey, I promise you that with these artists on the speaker, you’re in anything but terrible hands.