This Patrick's Day, remember there's more to Ireland than the stereotypes of potatoes, drink, and leprechauns (all of which we will still happily sell to you). With a population of just about 4.5 million, we also punch well above our weight in terms of musical talent. Here are ten Irish acts that burst with talent.
Cast of Cheers
Indie/ math rock band with accomplished and delightful musicianship. Cast of Cheers built a following when they released their debut album, Chariots, for free. Their second album, Family, came out last year. Both albums have been nominated for the Choice Music prize, Ireland's answer to the UK's Mercury Prize. The four-piece Dublin band moved to London in search of a wider audience last year. I'll be astonished if they don't get it.
This four-piece Dublin alt-rock band have played at major festivals in Ireland and abroad, including South by Southwest. Earlier this month, they were a hugely popular winner for the Choice Music Prize, which they took for their critically acclaimed third album, Little Sparks. And well deserved, too. It is easily Delorentos' best yet, expanding on their trademark dramatic and infectious sound of hooks and harmonies. Delorentos also have a small UK following, but it's well past time they acquired a global fanbase .
Picking a single standout song from the new album is tough, as there are plenty of contenders. But I'm going with "Little Sparks".
We Cut Corners
I was at the back of The Button Factory, a popular gig venue in Dublin's Temple Bar, when I first heard these guys. I couldn't see them, but I marvelled at the big, brave sound. I was genuinely astonished to get closer to the stage and find they really had managed to cut corners: this is a two-piece consisting of electric guitar and drums, with both singing. Who needs base? The name is apt.
Singer Conall O Breachain's absolutely gorgeous, astonishing falsetto may be the finest voice on any man in Ireland.
Their debut album is released in the UK on March 25.
I Draw Slow
Massive breakout folk music stars with an eager American audience gobbling up their material, as well as a strong European fan-base. Outstandingly written songs telling enthralling and often tragic stories about everything from prostitutes to lesbian ghosts to ruined villages to hermits to love to killing small birds, penned by siblings Dave and Louise Holden. Louise's rich and meliflous voice is a treasure, and second album, Redhills, caught the attention of US labels. They're already making big waves in the global folk music scene - their unique sound is a reinvention of the genre- but they're clearly on the cusp of achieving the same mainstream success of acts like Fleet Foxes or the infinitely inferior borefest that is "crossover folk rock group" Mumford and Sons.
Their debut album, Highlife, hit number two in the Irish iTunes charts and their debut single, "I Won't Worry", has been played with joyful abundance across Irish radio for the past year. All four band members are outstanding vocalists, producing some wonderful harmonies. More of Kieran Walkin's voice, please; he sounds like Gil Scott-Heron. In May, This Club will head off to LA's MUSEXPO, where artists from Katy Perry to LMFAO have showcased in the past.
Music runs in This Club's family. Singer John Holden is the brother of I Draw Slow's Dave and Louise. Louise and John also appear in a barber shop quartet called The Larkfield Four. Drummer Max Carpio is the brother of jazz musician Sean, who is widely acclaimed one of the best drummers in the world.
"What the f**k are they still doing playing in Ireland?" is the reaction of most people who watch this amazing live show. It's throbbing and brilliant electronic dance music that's grabbed us by the throat, but which could easily - easily - headline any major music festival anywhere in the world.
"You Feel the Fire" is not their best song but it's still very good, and the video is just too brilliant not to share - particularly around St. Patrick's weekend.
Up and coming "guitar loudness four-piece with strictly no keyboards", this indie rock band have been catching attention from the likes of Lauren Laverne and Irish DJ Paul McLoone, formerly of The Undertones. There's a widespread sense that Bouts are nowhere near their peak, and that there's a lot better to come. That said, their slightly unpolished edge is part of the appeal. A strong work ethic underpinned what seemed like hundreds of gigs last year. Big things expected from their debut album, which is due in September.
Hardly a breakout act, having appeared on tour with Grizzly Bear, played on Jools Holland, and been nominated for both the Mercury Prize and the Choice Prize (for which they are probably a shoo-in next year, for second album Awayland ). Conor O'Brien is an extraordinary and special musician, producing dark and evocative lyrics with a rich, detailed, articulate and diverse mix of songs.
The Waves is somewhat atypcial of Awayland, and doesn't give a representative flavour of what you'll find on the album, but it's a smashing, soaring, crashing, powerful song.
This electronic pop duo came from nowhere to gain a steady following in a few short months, and already feature prominently in some of this summer's major Irish festivals, including the very exciting new festival Longitude (featuring Modest Mouse, Kraftwerk, Phoenix, The Yeah Yeahs, Foals, Villagers, Cast of Cheers...). Young Wonder have a particular, unique sound, with a genuine collaboration between the Cork duo - producer Ian Ring and singer Rachel Koeman - bringing intriguing results. Their damn good videos are the icing on the cake.
Okay, last spot - just my opinion - goes to Windings, rock/alt/ folk band from Limerick, who were also nominated for this year's Choice prize. They're a really great live band with strong material, and frontman Steve Ryan is an incredibly gifted guitarist."This is a Conversation" will grab you right away.
Some very honorable mentions, but I don't want to go on and on:
The Chapters: I adore Ross McNally's husky, emotive, powerful voice
Nanu Nanu: Quirky, weird, creative, wonderful, probably the hardest working musician in Ireland
Little Green Cars: Looking like a surefire bet for stratospheric fame this year, with massive buzz building around them
James Vincent McMorrow: solo folk singer/songwriter, captivating vocal and very beautiful songs