WITH awards season firmly over, we can take stock of some of the winners of last week’s ceremonies before breezing over the last busy release period on the calendar before Christmas.
On the 16th and 17th respectively, the RTE Folk Awards and the NI Music Prize (NIMP) took place in Vicar Street, Dublin and the Ulster Hall, Belfast. With Ye Vagabonds and John Francis Flynn cleaning up in the South, the NIMP saw the industry come together for a celebration of native talent after one of the most brutal years in recent memory.
Nominations spanned folk, psychedelic, electronic, pop, rock and more, indications of a healthy scene that survived the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic. Performances on the night came from NI music legends such as ASH and the next wave of headliners. Ryan McMullan, New Pagans, Sasha Samara and Dani Larkin all took to the stage to the delight of the audience, who sold out the room on the evening.

Viral blues-rockers Dea Matrona, behind the weight of their high online fanbase, swept up double honours on the night by claiming both best single for ‘Stamp On It’ and ‘Best Newcomer', sponsored by BBC Introducing. Meanwhile, final honours on the night went to indie duo Saint Sister, whose second outing ‘Where I Should End’ was awarded Best Album for the year by a panel of independent judges that very evening. I urge you to get the record from your local independent, as it lives up to its award.
Amidst a week of celebration, however, came the news that the Irish Government would engage in their favourite activity – a U-turn. Nightclubs, live events and the hospitality sector will  be forced to close at midnight from Thursday the 18th (as we all know, Covid-19 only works the night shift), throwing four weeks of planning, rescheduling, flights, accommodations, ticket revenue, bookings and employment out the window. The constant battering of the entertainment sector now comes as no shock, but to see the brazen disregard for problems that don’t affect the Dáil is as heartbreaking now as it was the first time. One can only hope there's no sleep lost in the run-up to the next election.
But as the last 22 months have shown, industry and creativity will thrive despite this pseudo-puritanism. One has to only glance at some of the new releases teased this week for evidence of this. Shoegaze stars Just Mustard released the shifting, nightmarish new single ‘I Am You’, hinting at the new spacious production to be expected on their upcoming 2022 second album. On the opposite end of the spectrum comes the powerful blend of gospel, hip-hop and industrial pop from Irish supergroup The X Collective. ‘Ascension’ is the second record from the group and features signers Jess Kav, Senita and Toshín on its booming, state-of-the-nation-style declaration. More is sure to follow from the group.
And while Dáil Éireann continues to neither pay for antigens or their nurses, Ireland continues the prove just how vibrant and necessary our arts are.

Ríona Sally Hartman takes us on an odyssey on her new single Fód,  which is a delight to get lost in

Ríona Sally Hartman takes us on an odyssey on her new single Fód, which is a delight to get lost in

The spotlight this week now falls on some of the best releases from independent artists in recent days. First is Fód from Ríona Sally Hartman. With Irish lyrics, gorgeous layered piano, light percussion and a complex arrangement, this track is an odyssey to get lost in. Perfect easy listening for a Sunday morning recovery.
We also have the gorgeous lo-fi pop of ‘Easy’ from Laura Duff, whose minimalist production, vocals and chip-tone acoustics give this track night-time ease. Smooth in every sense of the word, Duff glides effortlessly through this, her best track yet.
And finally, we have the newest from Galway rapper/singer Celaviedmai. Teaming up with producer Alan McKee, Mai departs from the plosive, direct style of previous releases for a new,  stylish, chill approach that she has no problem killing. One of the better performers in the country with a diverse writing style to boot, her new track ‘UPSET’ is everything you want from a modern rap tune.