WITH the dust settled, stockings stuffed and the crackers cracked, a full stock of 2021 can be accounted for. We’ve had some incredible albums, singles and (believe it or not) shows throughout the year that speak to the resilience and endless creativity of the musicians of the island. This week’s column is dedicated to those musicians we think will be dominating headlines for the foreseeable future. These are the ones to watch in 2022.
John Francis Flynn
Flynn is a folk singer with magnetic qualities. His debut album, which we’ve discussed in both of the two previous columns, was one of the highlights of the year. And that's not all he’s got going for him. Emerging as a key face and activist in preserving Dublin’s culture and the grassroots fight against gentrification, Flynn has got the will of the people and the voice of the angels on his side. Watch this space.
A bold and adventurous producer who's unafraid to get her hands dirty. With only one track released to date, this northern DJ has already begun to turn heads with her relentless brand of garage-infused house and dark drum and bass. When the dance floors re-open, it’ll not be long before HY:LY is dominating them.
Probably the most prolific act on the list, it’s hard to escape NewDad’s influence over the last year. With a recent run of headline USA dates announced around their SXSW appearance, a new EP set for release midway through the year and their biggest Irish shows to date already selling out, the Galway dream-poppers have tapped into a zeitgeist. Their headline Ulster Sports Club show was one of the better gatherings of the year, and this band is only going to get better.
With groove-heavy tracks, a unique voice and a tongue-in-cheek devilment about them, Bricknasty quietly had a fantastic year.
Appearances at Other Voices in Dingle, a headline debut in Belfast and several great shows in Dublin (before the bad times returned) has set them up to make serious strides next year, buoyed by their irresistibly fresh take on carefree hip-hop and funk.
Versatility and diversity are the name of the game and Monjola has it on tap. Dancing effortlessly between introspective wordplay and dark imagery into wholesome, sunny R&B, the singer/rapper is custom-built to turn heads and hearts in modern music landscapes. With lyrics and metaphors that straddle intimate and universal and an effortlessly likeable chill about him, there’s no telling what the ceiling for next year will be.
Not quite indie-folk, not quite roots rock, but something in-between that is uniquely her own. Living in the same worlds as Julia Jacklin, Big Thief and Joni Mitchell, Toner sings far beyond her stature. A nostalgia trip from a place you’ve never been, and maybe never even existed, her debut single ‘You’re Not Thinking Of Me’ displayed a songwriting talent that puts her on par with some of the best independents about.
Grunge is not dead yet, not if Lauren Ann has anything to say about it. Tight pop melodies belie the sharp edges on her writing, but work in tandem with the rough, garagey riff work. One of the better hook crafters of the year, her music is dripping with slack malice and barely contained contempt for her targets. With support for NewDad under her belt and a string of headlines to expect in the New Year, Ann is leading the rock revival for the North.
Indie-poppers who aren’t afraid to show they cry, Big Daisy made a considerable amount of noise for a band unable to make their debut during the lockdown. There's a good reason for that – their tunes are cracker. With nowhere to go but up, we can expect this three-piece to continue their run of high-quality tuneage throughout the coming year. Coming to a festival near you, one would hope.
Girl For Sale
Coming from seemingly nowhere, songwriter and long-time industry head Candice Cathers used 2021 to launch her solo musical project. The debut EP ‘Seaspeak’, a pop saga that uses samples, dreamy synths, 60s pop harmonies and the voices of a few friends, was one of my favourite releases of the year. What started as a bedroom project has grown to a formidable engine, and the debut show in 2022 is sure to be one of the years unmissable events.
Miyagee staked his claim as the north's most singular rap talent this year, capping everything off with a packed out headline show in the Empire. His latest album, Act III, saw a noticeable shift in songwriting and production, a mature piece that trumped all those previous. And he’s only getting started.