Six Irish Bands to Listen to in Self-Quarantine - OZY | A Modern Media Company
Naomi Hamilton of Jealous of the Birds performs onstage at SXSW 2019.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

The Pogues still reign. But here's to new Irish music, without a jig in sight.

By Barbara Fletcher

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and that often means busting out the green beer and Irish drinking songs (in 2020, that’s likely happening in your own home by yourself, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic). But the new music coming out of the Emerald Isle? Forget harps, fiddles and folk (and U2).

These six bands –– all distinctly different –– will shake your associations and assumptions about Irish music. Here, you might even find a new favorite song … that isn’t about drinking. Or maybe it’s about more drinking, because the music is just so emotive that you’ll want to raise a glass. Sláinte!

The Murder Capital 

Irish band, The Murder Capital perform at Truck Music

The Murder Capital performs at the Truck Music Festival, near Oxford.

Source Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The post-punk coming out of Ireland is, well, riveting. You may already know Fontaines D.C., the Dublin-based trio whose boisterous 2019 album, Dogrel, was nominated for a Mercury Prize. Also from Dublin, The Murder Capital is a five-piece group who “are outrageously exciting live,” according to The Guardian. The music is driving and cathartic, melodic and (loudly) plaintive, with themes of heartbreak, grief and revenge. Grab a Guinness and check out “Love, Love, Love,” “For Everything” and “Don’t Cling to Life,” an anthemic tune about moving on past grief. The Murder Capital is currently on tour in the U.S.

Just Mustard

You may not have heard of Just Mustard, a five-piece group out of Dundalk, but the Cure have. The goth legends handpicked Just Mustard to open for them at a big show at Malahide Castle last year. And while they’re definitely shoegaze –– with a pleasant, ethereal mix like that of Beach House, Cranes and Slowdive –– there’s a shiny pop side as well. NME recently named them one of their essential new artists of 2020. You would have been able to catch them at the now-canceled SXSW this year. For now, just check out “Seven,” “Deaf” or “Frank” for a taste.

Happyalone.

Happyalone. is a challenging band to classify. The music is sonic-y and synthy and definitely trippy –– yet sometimes bad-boy indie. Even a little of Billie Eilish meets hip-hop. Each song is different. The music feels a bit like it’s being beamed from another place –– not surprising considering that the Cork-based trio claims to be from “Andromeda Galaxy.” The Irish Times calls the music “delightfully odd and full of lo-fi charm.” Grab your favorite beverage, have a listen to “L U C I F E R,” “Bodybags” or “Colours” and blow your mind a little.

Jealous of the Birds

Naomi Hamilton, the melodic force behind Jealous of the Birds, might make you think of St. Vincent, Courtney Barnett or Laura Marling –– her music is singer-songwriter, indie-rock confection. In a 2016 interview with The Irish Times, Hamilton said that she wanted her music to be “down-to-earth songs that you could share with a friend.” (During this coronavirus outbreak, we don’t recommend sharing with a friend, unless it’s over FaceTime.) Sink into “Plastic Skeletons” or “The Grass Begins to Eat Itself,” with elements of Khruangbin guitar layered with bluesy-rock vocals. Jealous of the Birds will be touring the U.S. in May 2020.

ELM

Put on one of ELM‘s perfectly polished electropop tracks and try not to dance your green pants off. If the rousing, uplifting music doesn’t get you, the honest, relatable lyrics will. This Dublin-based four-member queer pop band was dubbed “a new voice in the LGBTQ community” by EQ Music last summer. Get your hands in the air and listen to “Golden,” “Fear” or “Paris.”

Alex Gough  

Waterford-based rapper Alex Gough has been playing drums since age 6, and at 21 he’s now making waves with his own brand of hip-hop –– a mix of rap and lo-fi- and jazz-infused hip-hop. Turn up the volume with “Breakfast” (which has over 500,000 streams on Spotify) and “Step to Me.”

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