Ten Things I Know

Aibhe Reddy / Jade Bird / Sam Fender

I know a lot of things, not all of them interesting. But what I do know a lot of interesting things about is music! I could write one hundred things I know but you’d be bored and let’s face it, I’d probably still be going “and oh yeah” at #1,142. So let’s leave it at a do-able ten. Because I do waffle on, and on, and on …

Sam Fender has a Critical Eye Wise Beyond His Twenty-Two Years
Writer of lyrics sharper than a kitchen knife, Fender is a word-turner of the highest order playing out real-life scenarios through crisply tailored songs. Whether full-on rock’n’roll turbo or pared back to a barely audible appendage, the Geordie’s music hits all the right notes without ever bowing to conformity.

With his full-metal voice, Fender has the power and strength to fully vocalise his socio-political storyboard. His commanding live performances are as intense as they are energetic especially when Fender plays with his full band.

A staple on this year’s Summer festival circuit, Sam Fender has stoked the attention of 6 Music star-makers such as Lauren Laverne. Now signed to Polydor, go to one of his lives before he explodes onto global playlists and tickets become a commodity.

Sam Fender

ROE is 24 Carat Musical Gold
Pint-sized, flame haired, Derry lass Roe’s infectious chirpiness belies her ‘grump pop’ tag.

Sailing the circuit for nigh on three years, Roe already has a firm foothold on the music ladder. With a bevy of festivals, a string of well received singles, and countless hours of airplay under her multi-instrumentalist belt, the teenager – she is only 19 – has ticked more off her bucket-list than most of her peers could dream of.

With a voice more powerful than her slight frame would suggest, and more instrumental strings to her bow than Paganini, this all-in-one artist has got it all. She covers all the musical elements of her songs, in addition to laying down all the vocal layers and writing the lyrics. Speaking of which, Roe is genius at taking the starkest of themes and shaping them into well tailored, compelling indie-pop beats.

The singer has caught the attention of mainstream music media, with radio sages in particular showing her darkly-lit songs the light of day, and having already amassed a strong following, it’s fair to say that Roe is destined for great things.

ROE

Guitar Music is Far From Dead
Media types have long been bleating on about guitar music being dead in the water. Coachella goes all hip hop ’n ting and the merchants of music doom turn into indie naysayers.

Well here’s the thing – guitar music is very FAR from dead. In fact if anything, it’s having a ‘moment’. A period of resurgence courtesy of acts like Wolf Alice, Black Honey, The Wood Burning Savages, Estrons, Bitch Falcon et al blazing a scorching trail through the music scene like rampant wildfire.

Admittedly, UK&I post-90s guitar music in particular was pretty much kept alive on a ventilator powered by recent defectors Arctic Monkeys and Coldplay, as well as those leaders of every other musical zeitgeist in the last thirty years Radiohead who, having crossed-over to a genreless meld of arty-jazz cum outer-body-experience-electro, finally had the good grace to return to the guitarsy fold with their best selling album In Rainbows.

With a raft of new guitar-based bands rising like meteors through the stagnating mists of teenies detritus, suffice it to say that guitar music is alive and well and living in the British Isles. If the weighty currency of the current crop of fender benders is anything to go by, it will continue to do so for a long time to come.

The Fontaines are Leading a Post-Noughties Beat Generation Zeitgeist
Dublin-based five piece Fontaines DC have, since their critically-acclaimed debut single Liberty Belle was released in May 2017, been on the lips of the great and good of music media. Their star has risen faster than your average meteorite, the quintet having quickly secured regular spots on the playlists of national broadcasters BBC and RTE.

By taking the culture, character, and indeed characters of their home town Dublin, and weaving them into the context of the Irish capital of today, Fontaines have struck lyrical gold. But what sets this band apart from their peers is their brand of idiosyncratic spoken word delivered in the irascible Dublinese of frontman Grian Chatten, who wields his heavy Dublin inflection like a cutter scoring through the dense kerrang of the band’s own searing marque of rock ‘n roll.

Fontaines have gone from Dublin 8 pubs to lining out for Electric Picnic in just over a year. What the future now holds is up to them. As the pundits say, the game is theirs to lose.

Fontaines DC

Female Music Artists are Leading the Irish Pack
Without question, the Irish music scene is currently being dominated by women. The list of female artists rising above the parapet into what has been up to now a male controlled market, is beyond impressive. Aine Cahill, Laoise, Lilla Vargen, Aislinn Logan, Roe, Ailbhe Reddy, Sorcha Richardson, Aoife Mc Cann (AE Mak), Rosa Nutty, Soule; the list is seemingly endless. In addition, there’s a raft of bands such as Bitch Falcon and Wyvern Lingo that are either fronted by, or made up solely of women.

It’s taken a hell of a long time for Ireland to follow in its British neighbour’s footsteps, but we finally got there. While the heavyweights of the local scene continue to be predominantly male – U2, Picture This, Kodaline, Hozier – it remains to be seen how much further up the greasy pole these female hard hitters can climb. They have the wherewithal and the talent, it just remains for both the media and punters to give them that much needed leg up.

Jade Bird is Unashamedly Keepin’ It Country
Like early Taylor Swift did before her, Jade Bird has embraced country with open arms. Unlike Swift however, the twenty-year old English girl has woven her Americana magic with threads of soulful indie and dark humour, to create evocative, charismatic songs.

Earlier this year, I saw Jade Bird play to a full-house at the Eurosonic festival in Groningen, Netherlands. That blew me away, as did her performance. Here was a still relatively unknown young music artist, packing out one of the largest venues at one of Europe’s leading showcase festivals, and she did so completely unfazed. If anything, Jade was the picture of ‘girl chatting to her mates’ comfort. Her easy charm, relaxed manner, and narrative style had the crowd eating out of the palm of her extremely competent hand.

2017 saw the release of the Hexham-born singer/songwriter’s debut Something American EP. Produced by Simone Felice in a studio in upstate New York, the 5-track EP is adorned with heartbreak motifs, delivered with full spectrum emotions from wistful to scorn. Her 2018 releases have all been met with critical acclaim, and with a first full-length on the cards for 2019, Jade Bird looks set to cement her fast-growing reputation as the next “indie-pop sensation” (Rolling Stone Magazine).

Jade Bird

There’s a Lot More to Scandinavia Than Snow
Trust me on this one. I wrote about Scandinavian music and little else for nigh on three years. I’ve been around the Norwegian block more than a few times, parleyed with flu-ridden Danes in hotel basements, and thawed the Ice in Icelanders on occasion. For me it all started with Depeche Mode, Susanne Sundfor and a stonkingly great Ice Machine cover. That was some years ago. When Nordic acts were a rarity and the only Scandi artists to have cracked the international code were Abba, A-ha, Bjork, Sigur Ros, and Lorde (of the Eurovision Rings – haha). 

All changed, changed utterly a wonderful Nordic beauty was born in the forms of Tove Lo, Sigrid, Zara Larsson, OMAM, Robyn, Kygo, Alan Walker, Aurora, and Lykki Li, who’s probably still following whoever she was following down the river.  While these high-risers have been busy love-bombing the international charts in the past two years, a new generation of emerging artists has started snapping at their heels. 

Alma, Amanda Tenfjord, Slotface, Highasakite, JFDR, Soleima, Samaris, Lydmor, Pom Poko, Hildur, Ider, Palace Winter … these are just some of the names of Nordic music acts teetering on the brink of ‘greatdom’. As diverse as they are talented, Nordic music acts bring more than their own six pack to the international music party. Flex your feelers and get in the Nordic know. You won’t be disappointed.

Ailbhe Reddy is a Leading Light in the World of Narrative Folk-Pop
Ailbhe Reddy’s website proudly boasts a quote from The Line of Best Fit which reads as follows: ‘Ailbhe Reddy stands head and shoulders above the folk mainstream’

I, along with many others, couldn’t have said it better.

Just two years on from the release of her debut Hollowed Out Sea EP and already the young Dubliner is a regular on the line-ups of some of the biggest music festivals including Glastonbury, Body & Soul and Electric Picnic.

It’s no surprise that her debut single Distrust has alone had over 2 million streams on Spotify. Set in the shadows of moody melancholia, her songs, with their clear, honest delivery and minimalist soundscapes, are utterly compelling.

Ailbhe Reddy’s songwriting skills are unequivocally on-point. Tight, stark, raw, and deeply evocative, they lay bare a narrative to which the listener can relate, engage, digest, empathise. Add to that, the pristine voice that effortlessly conveys the gamut of emotional inlays that dominate Reddy’s powerful works.

With sublime vocal choreography, the magic of which is augmented by her sheer virtuosity as a lyricist and hallmark light-touch instrumentation, Ailbhe Reddy is without doubt, a music artist who “stands head and shoulders above the folk mainstream.”

Ailbhe Reddy

Hak Baker is an Indisputable Talent With a Predilection for Tight Lyricism and Hard Partying
That’s not to make light of the man. No, this young Londoner is a ferocious talent. 

Hak Baker’s lyrics paint pretty sordid pictures of real-life London. No Mayfair glamour here, just some incredibly raw, sharp songs about the East-end people and places of his formative years. His infectious line in musical chat is a flotsam and jetsam of influences ranging from reggae to ska, while Baker’s conversational patter is the perfect vehicle for real-world storylines that have all the look and feel of a personal diary.

Music without boundaries, Hak Baker’s sound borrows heavily from a mixed bag archive in which late 70s and early 80s vibes feature heavily. Previously a member of the B.O.M.B. Squad grime collective, the twenty-seven year old made the successful transition to solo storyteller with relative ease. With a penchant for switching between spoken-word and singing, Baker’s delivery is pure raconteur. Anecdotes, real-life stories, hard-hitting chronicles are all pitched with a raw and true tone that paint an almost visible picture. 

Baker’s observational songwriting, minimalist multi-ethnic sound and rough around the edges vocalisation combined are the perfect storm. Infectious, irresistible and invigorating, Baker’s brand of unique sets him apart from the mainstream, which let’s be fair, is no place for ‘Misfits’.

Hak Baker

New Music Needs Support Hubs Like Bbc Introducing and Fresh On The Net
Ask any musician, established or nay, and they’ll tell you in no uncertain terms just how difficult it is to break through music’s glass ceiling. All too often, artists whose music scores highly in trusted online and print media, remain unheard and unknown within a scene that is heavily laden with slickly produced mainstream sameness.

At a time when the charts are dominated by American male rap and hip hop artists, and female popstrels a la Ariana Grande, it doesn’t augur well for off-beat, quirky, left-field or just plain different. A look at the most recent Top 40, will leave you in no doubt that there is little room for anything other than the A&R person’s dream ticket.

This is where the likes of BBC Intro and Fresh On The Net step up to the new music plate as platforms for emerging acts who have little or no other means of airing their music, bagging professional reviews, or simply getting some much needed air-time/blog space.

BBC Intro has played ‘mammy’ to a host of hugely successful artists such as George Ezra, Blossoms, and Florence & The Machine, as well as a raft of ‘just under the radar’ newbies such as Jade Bird, Estrons, Nilufer Yanya and Pale Waves.

Fresh On The Net, alongside Tom’s BBC Introducing Mixtape, plays to a wide gallery of music fans, bringing them a weekly 25-track strong playlist, as well as a Decameron of music reviews featuring those artists whose songs have been most favoured by FOTN’s diverse fanbase.

Without these platforms, many new music acts might have failed before they’d begun. These support sites are as integral to the music business as international showcase festivals if not more. For without them, the artists plucked to fill their ranks, might have passed unnoticed. In supporting BBC Introducing and Fresh On The Net, you support new music artists, and in turn the future of music.

Derval

Devotee of Music, Books, Art, Fashion & all things cultural. Keen interest in IT/Social media. Currently trying to plug musical gaps. With a special fondess for Nordic music, Derv has written for The Monitors, Ja Ja Ja and The 405, and blogs at DervSwerve.

3 Comments

  1. Wonderful article, so much depth to it. I am going to have to read and research a lot of the artists. Thank you Derv :)

  2. Sue

    Great playlist – and well said!!

  3. Steve Harris

    So many good observations and great tunes here, and an engaging read as always Derv!

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