IRISH artists are showing their support for Ukraine, RTÉ Choice awards have made the right and wrong decisions and homegrown talent have got adopted by international labels.
Every year, some of the country’s finest musicians and artists attend the April Sounds festival in Kilkenny. The three-day celebration runs during the second week of April, with this year's proceeds going to the Red Cross Ukraine and UNICEF Ukraine to assist with relief efforts during the conflict. Taking place in Kilkenny's St Canice's Cathedral and the Medieval Mile Museum, April Sounds features a line-up with the likes of Lisa O’Neill, Rónán Ó Snodaigh and Myles O’Reilly. A worthy line-up even without the added incentive of a heavy-hitter. Tickets are on sale now, and they never last, folks.
Staying in Kilkenny, there's something else for the locals to celebrate. DJ and producer duo 49th & Main announced this week that they have officially inked an international record deal with UK label Ninja Tune. Now peers and label mates with the likes of Bicep, Bonobo and Thundercat, 49th & Main will take their jazz-infused house music on a global scale going forward. A great day for the parish.
In awards news, the RTÉ Choice award was held in Vicar Street this week past. Its return to a full live setting should be welcomed by all as a solid move towards normality, and performances from the likes of Mick Flannery, Susan O’Neill, Soda Blonde and Saint Sister were lauded and appreciated. The winner of the Album Of The Year went to For Those I Love, which some may recall was also the Northern Wind album of the year. We’re biased, but well done to the judges on their taste and decisions.
Alas, the Best Song award remains a public vote-driven popularity contest as opposed to a testament of individual songwriting brilliance. Dermot Kennedy, backed by a major label-sized fanbase, scooped up this year's award. Not to say he didn’t deserve it, but a campaign driven by clicks rather than culture does leave one scratching one’s head.
Meanwhile, in the UK the NME awards took place on Thursday night and Dublin band Fontaines D.C. scooped the coveted Best Band in the World award on the evening. A far cry from their Grammy nomination last year, the now London-based quintet used the acceptance as an opportunity to get a dig in at BoJo, saying, “We’re gonna party like Number.10 tonight!” Frontman Grian Chatten also announced that they were in the studio with spoken-word artists Kae Tempest and had done a few tracks together. All very cheery stuff I’m sure.
In festival news, things take turns that are both new and interesting. The revelation of a new festival titled Beyond The Pale promises to be exactly that, with a line-up focused on the alternative side of electronica, folk and pop. Expect stellar performances from the likes of Orbital, Lisa Hannigan, John Francis Flynn and more. And while that's all very exciting, interesting news comes from iconic artistic gathering Body & Soul. Following its three-year hiatus, the festival announced recently that they were going smaller and more intimate and called on audiences to trust the festival to put on an “immersive and adventurous weekend full of surprises”.
And they’ve started the process by eliminating line-up announcements for the foreseeable. A bold move, but B&S has a long-standing reputation as having one of the best events staff in the business. A spokesperson simply stated: “Body & Soul has never been just about the line-up. Our philosophy is to redefine the festival format by booking an inspiring mix of musical pioneers, legendary artists and scorching hot new talent from Ireland and around the world. We refuse to simply play the hits. Body & Soul take you on a carefully-curated sonic journey of discovery on eight hand-crafted stages in unforgettable locations, with thousands of like-minded revellers”
And we now turn the spotlight on to some of the best releases from independent artists this week. Two, in particular, stood out, one mainstream and one off the rails. Lauren Ann’s new track ‘Blatant’ is a spacey, grungey number with 90s vocals and fuzzy breakdowns. One of the best young voices in the country, this is the latest in Ann’s impressive discography. And at the opposite end, long time Northern Wind favourite Comrade Hat return with the jazzy miasma of ‘From Lost To The River'. As always, it's not what you expect, slowly building from a lo-fi chilliest into a full-blown choral arrangement of strings, synths, piano and voices. Tremendous stuff.