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Image / Living / Culture

Looking for new music? Get ahead of the curve with these Irish acts to look out for in 2021


by Louise Bruton
20th Jan 2021

Róisín Ní Haicéid

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Culture maven Louise Bruton has the best Irish acts to look out for this coming year.


Laoise

If dysfunction wrapped up in sugar is your bag, then Laoise can sort you right out. A fiend for simmering synths and catchy choruses, the 22-year-old from Galway regularly delivers three minutes and 30 seconds of melodrama like her life depends on it. Taking a slower pace on recent singles Movies and Healthy, she has shown major growth as a songwriter, growth that will be clearly laid out on her upcoming EP that is to be released on January 29.

Fears

Like a ripple that builds into a wave, Constance Keane provides the full spectrum of emotions on her ambient, post-punk project Fears. Tonnta is the first release on TULLE, the record label she launched last year to support underrepresented voices in music, and it is a tribute to her grandmother who lived out her later years with dementia. With a debut album scheduled to arrive in early 2021, Keane makes music to listen to as you search for clarity on cloudy nights.

Tolü Makay

It’s very possible that you caught glimpses of the Nigerian-born, Offaly-raised singer Tolü Makay on telly over Christmas and it’s no doubt that she will soon become a face you’ll look forward to seeing even more. With her debut album coming together for late 2021 release, you can sink your teeth in Being, her debut EP that provides life lessons and inspiration in waves of melodic R&B and confessional neo-soul.

Smoothboi Ezra

Hailing from Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Smoothboi Ezra is the 18-year-old songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist who makes sweet n’ salty bedroom pop for the deeply cynical but all-feeling among us. Drawing inspiration from Phoebe Bridgers, Mitski and Elliott Smith, last year’s lockdown single My Own Person is the perfect balance of self deprecating and relatable. With an EP lined up for March 2021, it’s going to be smooth sailing for Smoothboi Ezra this year.

Biig Piig

Releasing music since 2016, bilingual Cork singer and rapper Biig Piig (Jessica Smyth) has been refining her style of low-slung R&B to create a truly unique and distinctive sound. The soon-to-be 24-year-old is currently putting together the pieces for her debut album but her hefty back catalogue of singles – including the drum n’ bass sated Switch, the trippy Feels Right and the truly delicious Don’t Turn Around – will tide you over until then.

Shiv

With almost every Instagram story update, Shiv provides the sneakiest of peeks into the music she’s currently working on and… whew boy! It’s gonna be a good time. With a background as a house music DJ, the Kildare (via Zimbabwe) singer-songwriter is feeling her oats on her debut EP Me 2 Me, where she documents the fun and fragility of young adulthood in carefree but beautifully complex songs.

NewDad

Making it very clear that none of them are actually dads (“as far as they know”), the Galway indie dream-pop quartet NewDad is made up of Julie Dawson, Áindle O’Beirn, Sean O’Dowd and Fiachra Parslow. Sounding like they rummaged through the CD collection of older siblings, they manage to make the pass-me-downs look cooler than anyone else who went before them. With a string of gorgeous shoegaze singles like How and I Don’t Recognise You available to stream (or purchase on Bandcamp) now, let them ease you into 2021.

Fehdah

On December 8, 2020, Fehdah (Emma Garnett) celebrated her birthday by gifting us with her debut EP Kinematics. Featuring collaborations with Galway rapper Celaviedmai and Limerick legend Denise Chaila, the four tracks weave electronic pulses and jagged neo-soul verses together with messages of confidence and authority. The younger sister of Loah, the Kildare singer, songwriter and producer has long been making waves in Ireland’s late night Afrobeat and Caribbean music scene but with less time spent in the clubs lately, the silver lining is that we get to hear more music from her home studio instead.

Banríon

Fronted by Róisín Ní Haicéid, the indie-rock outfit Banríon make nonchalant pop songs for inquisitive minds on despondent days. Joined by drummer Michael Nagle, bassist John Harding and guitarist Ivan Rakhmanin, their debut EP Airport Days was recorded in Connemara and through the skill of Ní Haicéid’s songwriting, we absorb her heartbreak as if it’s our own. With new music already in the making and a belated EP launch gig in the pipeline for whenever we can gig again, Banríon is the only monarch we can bow down to.

Alex Gough

While BBC’s Normal People is largely credited with introducing us to Paul Mescal and his lovely Maynooth GAA shorts, the show’s soundtrack did an incredible job of introducing Irish music to a wider audience. One such act is Alex Gough, the 21-year-old drummer, producer and rapper from Waterford. Displaying a laidback grandeur on his 2020 hip-hop and jazz fusion mixtape Forever Classic, he shares an eloquent kind of introspection that could only have been tapped into during quarantine. With some tricks up his sleeve for 2021, he’s a name to keep tabs on from here on out.