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Top Five Irish EPs Of 2016

  • Published in Singles


2016 has been a social and political nightmare. The Irish music scene hasn’t escaped its casualties either with The Mighty Stef and Fight Like Apes calling it a day. Thankfully the number of bands bubbling under and threatening to break through is as large and as varied as ever. Here are our favourite EPs of the last year.

HvmmingbyrdKnow My Name

Originally formed as a quintet in 2013, Hvmmingbyrd released a well-received album but broke up soon after. Founding member Deborah Byrne refused to let the dream die and teamed up with Suzette Das to resurrect the band. The pair have released two singles this year, ‘Out Of My Head’ and the brilliant ‘If Love Was Enough’ with its accompanying video directed by Crooked Gentlemen.

Hvmmingbyrd have spoken about the difficulty they have in classifying their music. They combine the vocal interplay of traditional and modern folk, minimalist electronica, and the intensity and honesty of singer/songwriters. Hvmmingbyrd strike the perfect balance between trip-hoppy electro and pop songwriting. You would never guess on hearing Know My Name that this was recently a folk group.

Those who have heard the recent singles will already be aware that the change of personnel has heralded a change of tack as Suzette Das brought in electronic instruments. Though the presentation of the songs has changed, the writing hasn't altered greatly. Byrne was the main songwriter in Hvmmingbyrd’s previous incarnation and her partnership with Das is a natural evolution. So much so that it is often tricky to tell whose part is whose.

The Pickled OnionsThe Woods

Sometimes music can surprise you. I didn’t anticipate hearing anything substantial from a Dublin-based singer-songwriter. I was prepared for self-indulgent, earnest histrionics. Instead The Woods provides a collection of five individual pop songs indebted to The Flaming Lips, Jose Gonzalez, Pugwash, the Beta Band and ‘60s bands like The Kinks and Herman’s Hermits.

Paddy McGovern funnels six decades of pop music into The Pickled Onions debut EP and whips it up into a sweet confection that is immediately familiar but resolutely idiosyncratic. Even that enemy of good music, the banjo, sounds pleasing in his hands.

Singer-songwriters are ten a penny in this country. You have to do something different to warrant any notice. Thankfully The Pickled Onions does that. It sounds like a full band and the lo-fi, homemade production gives The Woods warmth and depth. If he takes himself seriously he doesn't let it show, the five songs here are fun and pleasurable.

Screaming Giants - Found Footage  

Dogging, swinging and singing; that’s how Screaming Giants describe their perfect night. Listening to the dirty grooves on Found Footage, I’d well believe it. The self-proclaimed ‘Drop D groove engineers’ formed in Dublin in 2013 and this is their first EP.

The influence of Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Age is all over this record, particularly on opening track ‘Throb’. It’s a great stoner rock tune with twangy, lazy lead guitar, and a Josh Homme style vocal over slow, doomy, titanic riffing. It’s desert rock from the city where it never stops raining.

Directly or indirectly, there is a noticeable Misfits influence on Found Footage. It’s there in the vocal style, the Hammer horror tone of the tunes and even the song titles; ‘Nightmare’ and ‘Burning Black’, ‘No More’  are a trio of horror infused tunes.

The production is basic but efficient; perfectly suited to this type of music. There are more good tracks on here than most bands manage on a whole album and there is enough grinding riffage and ingenuity on Found Footage to promise greater things from future ventures. They’re not bad live either.

Nix MoonSoul Traffic

Dundalk’s Nix Moon are a hugely impressive live band. They bowled us over on the main stage of Vantastival, so much so that we had to go see them again later that day. They are the quintessential festival band; baggy trousers, flowing hair and beards, and a barefoot, world-travelling, bongo player.

Soul Traffic is their first studio outing since the band came together a year and a half ago. Trying to capture the sound and feeling of Nix Moon in a studio setting is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle, but they have given it a good go here. They describe their sound as “Eastern-psychedelic-folk-jazz with a hint of prog, and a bit of reggae, ambient, and fusion.” Not so easy to pin down, but easy to shake your hips to.

Lead single ‘Hitchcock’s Eyes’ is radio-friendly and the tune has a habit of staying in your head all day. After many deviations and derivations, the whole band weigh in towards the end of the song to great effect. It’s in this section and on the ska/reggae-tinged ‘Bad Seed’, with its psychedelic wig-out, that Nix Moon really get across the power they possess as a unit. Soul Traffic is an excellent start to their recording career. Further experimentation with the recording process could yield real benefits, particularly if they can capture the feel of their live shows.

Mosmo StrangeMosmotapes

Omagh’s Mosmo Strange are a four-piece band from Northern Ireland. “What began as a songwriting project for founding members Gavin Scott and Nolan Donnelly, has come to life with the addition of Eamonn Doherty (bass) and Conor Bradley (drums) this summer. Wary of genres and labels, Mosmo aim to make you dance with their own brand of indifferent rock.” They all say that, of course, but this bunch play a stoner groove that mixes the sweet melodies of Weezer with the crunchy desert stomp of Queens Of The Stone Age.  

Following on from 2015’s Art EP, Mosmotapes features a reworking of the Grease song, ‘You’re The One That I Want’ that changes the tune and tone without altering the meaning. They turn it from a saccharine celebration into a desperate plea. The guitar tones are blissful, the beats are dirty and closer ‘Vince The Pince’ is an earworm worthy of Josh Homme at his best.


Musos' Guide Meets Nix Moon


Dundalk’s Nix Moon played such an impressive set at the main stage of Vantastival that I had to go see them again in the bar later that day. They are the quintessential festival band; baggy trousers, flowing hair and beards, and a dedicated bongo player. The five piece play from a broad palette of genres and rhythms. Their debut EP is out next month and I caught up with Joycey, Fahy and Gavin from the band as they were soaking up the atmosphere at the festival.

MG: We're here at Vantastival with Nix Moon. Who have we got here?

Fahy - We've got Fahy. I'm the acoustic guitar player and one of the singers.

Gavin - I'm Gavin and I'm the percussionist and the court jester.

Joycey - I'm Joycey. I'm guitar, bouzouki and voice.

MG: How long have you been together?

J: Me and Fahy started writing music together in college.

F: Joycey wears the trousers.

J: Sometimes, unless I want to wear a skirt. Me and Gavin used to jam when we were 15 or 16 and then he went away travelling the world for a couple of years. Left me, broke my heart.

G: And then I came back and we opened up like a clam out of the sea. A musical clam. Straight out of the depths.

F: Gavin’s brain never quite came back from travelling. He's here in body with us.

G: The hands still work.

F: The band came together about a year and a half ago. We were writing tunes in college and when Gavin came back from travelling we started playing together.

G: I used to play in another band with two of the boys called The Beached Whales so we got them in too.

J: And now we're in love since.

MG: You have a bongo player.

F: That's Gavin.

MG: Ok, the bongos, the world traveller, this all makes sense.

G: I’ve no shoes on, I'm obviously the bongo player.

MG: You look every inch the festival band! You've an EP coming out?

J: First of July launching in The Spirit Store, Dundalk.

G: It's a three track EP called Soul Traffic.

J: We recorded it with Peter Baldwin up in Ravensdale. The studio is pure class.

F: Real ‘70s.

G: In a cabin.

J: Even the scenery around it. It's etched into the mountain and you're looking up at the whole bay. An amazing building. An amazing sound.

F: An amazing dude.

G: Handsome too.

J: That's why I booked him. I just get lost in his eyes, “Another take, Peter?”

MG: Describe your sound for us. There's loads going on there.

F: Eastern-psychedelic-folk-jazz with a hint of prog, and a bit of reggae.

G: Ambient dribblement.

F: It's fusion. And we don't really stick to a genre. We try and spread it out.

G: My mother, the only bands she likes are B.B. King and Alice in Chains and she says there's something there for everyone. Even if you don't like the band, there's a song you'll like. We play enough that everyone loves it.

MG: My mother is like that too, she loves Leonard Cohen and Smashing Pumpkins.

G: Leonard Cohen, worst singer ever. Great poet, no voice.

F: Tom Waits as well, I suppose you love his voice.

G: Scour! Great music, great words, great lines, muck voice.

J: You're the bongo player, you can’t be commenting on anybody.

F: We studied music, you're out.

J: Growing up, my oul’ fella was mad into everything. There's a big Eastern influence there. He went to Turkey eight or ten years ago to record an album there. It was meant to be a concept album joining the East and the Western influences.

F: My mother was in a folk band called The Limelighters. They played Christy Moore songs and stuff. What's your background, Gavin?

G: What is my background? Heavy metal. Heavy fucking metal. Give me a bit of Pantera or Metallica any day. None of this Middle Eastern shite.

F: You love it.

G: I do. With all my heart. I wish I had two hearts so I could give one to the band and the other to Pantera. You know Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers’ greatest hits? I know every lyric of that album. We were driving to France when I was about six. We left all the tapes on the back window and every tape melted apart from Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers’ greatest hits. So I know every word from every song. See if ‘American Girl’ comes on I'm throwing the radio out of the window.

MG: You're all locals?

J: Fahy and them are from Monaghan, I’m from Swords originally but we all met in Dundalk. There's a class original music scene in Dundalk.

F: Around The Spirit Store.

J: When we have the launch there I think, as a band, we want it to be a sensory experience as well as a musical experience. We'll have some backdrops and visuals, a few art pieces.

F: Gavin’s making one out of willow.

MG: You have a good stage presence too.

G: I think that's what makes us a good band. We're five musicians and five best friends. We love just being with each other even without playing tunes. We love being in the same room, having the craic and being stupid.

MG: Is this your first time playing Vantastival?

F: We played last year.

J: We've been here every year for the past three or four, when it was in Dundalk. It's gonna be a good year for us. We played here and next week we're at B.A.R.E. In The Woods and then we're playing at Knockanstockan. And I'd like to think we're going to play Electric Picnic as well. We were there last year in the Bog Cottage.

G: We were shit. Well, not shit, but we weren't as deadly as we are now.

MG: Why are you called Nix Moon?

J: Nix is the moon of Pluto and we thought we were being spacey bastards. It also turns out that Nix is the Greek goddess of darkness and light.

MG: Any other business?

J: Come to the launch in The Spirit Store on July 1st. Check us out on Facebook and Bandcamp.

G: The songs on Bandcamp are a year old now but still deadly.

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