WINTER is often the most difficult season for independent creatives, and this year is set to be more difficult than most given decisions made by the powers-that-be on behalf of the arts.
With very little to cheer for headed into the festive season, we can at least look forward to ‘Listmas’ as critics and fans around the country begin the process of tallying the year’s best albums and singles into their appropriate orders (expect our own in coming week).
First off this week is the elephant in the room, the proposed return of restrictions on events in Ireland. After a short reprieve for promoters, industry staff and performers, the arts has once again been scapegoated for the surge in Covid cases. After a joint meeting between the Covid sub-committee and NPHET, measures recommended included the closure of nightclubs, the end of bar service and indoor events cut to 50 per cent capacity, which is to say, cancelling them without saying they’re cancelled.
It’s not yet fully clear the damage this will wreak on the employment of some of those worst affected by the pandemic over what is already a difficult month, but what was clear as a whistle was the absence of a recommended support package for workers. With no concrete links between events and increased transmission, one can only hope that the Irish government finds a constructive solution, although their previous efforts leave much to be desired.
And while we're talking bad news, an update from last week’s column comes in this week from Galway. In what can only be described as an “out of the frying pan, into the fire” headline, iconic nightclub Electric is reportedly being eyed up by hospitality giant Wetherspoons as their next potential location. Give me strength.
But I digress – let’s get back to the music. Irish Music Month, an initiative between Hot Press and the Independent Broadcaster of Ireland, is headed towards its conclusion after huge support for native talent on the airwaves. Its headline event, a showcase titled ‘A New Local Hero’, delivered performances from the likes of Carrie Baxter, Leah Moran and more in the Academy in Dublin. On the night, which was broadcast on several independent stations, rising R&B singer Chameleon was named the recipient of the ‘New Local Hero Award’, which features benefits and guaranteed airplay on his next release. Potentially the start of a promising career, and an artist we’ll continue to keep our eye on.
We’ll also be shining the spotlight on a number of different artists to round out the week. With Christmas around the corner, this is one of the last weeks to release a track that won’t get swept away in the Pogues/ Mariah-mania.
First up is the latest from Robert Grace, the subtly titled ‘Hate Me’. The Kilkenny singer-songwriter has had a whirlwind year, driven by his knack for catchy pop hooks, and his newest doesn’t disappoint. Dedicated to an ex-lover, ‘Hate Me’ is a fiery, buzzing pop track that refuses to let up.
We also have the powerful new track from Adam Mohamed. An Irish/Sudanese artist who shone on his 2020 track ‘Untitled’, he returns with ‘Me and I’, a fully fleshed-out debut that tackles anxiety, mental health, self-love and expression in a tightly wound spoken-word battering. Mohamed said of the track: “It’s awkward, it’s uncomfortable, it’s terrifying, it’s real. I wanted to explore what we are most afraid of, what we crave most as humans, and the connection between both.”
And finally, we have something for you soundtrack lovers. The mighty Hilary Woods graces us with ‘Feral Hymns’, an instrumental EP that has cosmic arrangements, found sounds, electro-acoustic horizons and expansive, swirling production. A great record to lose yourself for an hour in.