Our music editor Zara Hedderman selects her top ten for Ireland Music Week.
It’s hard to believe, but one of the annual highlights in the Irish music calendar is already upon us. Ireland Music Week (formerly Hard Working Class Heroes) returns for its twentieth year showcasing some of the country’s finest talent from October 4 through 7.
Across the festival-meets-industry-conference’s history, hundreds of acts have been given a platform to garner the attention of music fans, press, promoters and every one in between. From Delorentos to David Keenan, Gilla Band to Gavin James and let’s not forget Fontaines D.C., Ireland Music Week is the quintessential event for networking, catching the most anticipated acts live, and gathering essential industry insights to kickstart a career in music.
As ever, the Ireland Music Week team had the impossible task of narrowing down over 500 acts into a concise and comprehensive selection of 50 artists and bands who will demonstrate the incredible calibre of emerging talent across Ireland. This year also welcomes audiences back into the venues (Lost Lane, The Grand Social and The Workman’s Club) to soak up the atmosphere for the first time since the festival went online over the pandemic.
We’ve highlighted 10 acts from this year’s Ireland Music Week showcase that we strongly recommend you check out before they become household names.
The last twelve months have kept Pretty Happy pretty busy, and if their trajectory thus far is any indication, 2023 is going to be an exciting one for the Cork-based art-punk trio. Exhilarating live performances and rousing arrangements are integral to unlocking the magic ingrained in their artistry. Their idiosyncratic style was perfect to get the crowds going when they opened for Kim Gordon on her European tour this summer.
Stick On: Salami
Dublin-based garage-punk quarter released their brilliantly raucous Modern Job EP, produced by Daniel Fox (Gilla Band), earlier in March of this year and it was quickly picked up and praised by press at home and overseas, notably NME awarding it four stars.
Once again, that collection of songs demonstrated the compelling and infectious ferocity across their performance from their unrelenting instrumentation to vocalist Karla Chubb’s impassioned cadence.
Stick On: Delia Smith
Chi Chi (vocalist, songwriter) and StrangeLove (producer, multi-instrumentalist) began collaborating in 2021 and quickly established a sound brimming with personality that feels like they’ve been building for several years. Operating within the realms of Neo Soul, RnB, funk and rock, Negro Impacto made a great first impression with their brilliant self-titled debut EP in 2021. StrangeLove’s production across their material is exemplary, especially when it’s coupled with Chi Chi’s honeyed vocals. This Dundalk duo arrived fully formed and ready to take over.
Stick On: Anomaly
Wicklow alt-pop artist Bobbi Arlo began releasing music back in 2019, but since releasing her hook-laden single Feel It, which received a coveted Song of The Year nomination at this year’s Choice Music Prize, Arlo has continued to build a solid portfolio and fanbase with sophisticated synth-pop arrangements that refuse to leave your head hours after listening. With the strength of Bobbi Arlo’s output in the last twelve months, there’s no doubt she’s set to become a global superstar.
Stick On: Fever Thoughts
If ‘90s-influenced lush, reverb-drenched dream-pop instrumentation is your thing then Of All Living Things are more than worthy of your time. Early in their existence, the Dublin quartet are on solid ground as their debut EP On Familiar Ground was released in 2021 via revered independent label Any Other City, who put out early material from the likes of Gilla Band and Villagers. Layered throughout Of All Living Things textured sound is an instantly welcoming sense of nostalgia that will make you feel instantly familiar with them.
Stick On: Gone
Across Ria Rua’s claustrophobic and darkly intoned hyper-pop sensibilities, is a space to relish in the singularity of her sound. Her musical career began as a drummer before deciding to explore a different route with her recorded material and focus on songwriting and production. That shift has paid off as her debut EP Chaos /Control is a deeply captivating and immersive body of work that often recalls elements of Billie Eilish and Zola Jesus.
Stick On: Boss
With his aptly titled debut single Beautiful, which arrived in 2020, Dublin-based vocalist and producer F3miii (Femi to his friends) demonstrated an incredible aptitude for mournful melodies that you cannot help but feel a wistful pang when listening. At times, F3miii’s production style and vocal performances herald Frank Ocean, this is most apparent and effective on his most recent single, Baby Crumbs. Fresh from leaving behind his teenage years, it’s astounding that F3miii has asserted his position with such artistic assuredness.
Stick On: Baby Crumbs
In Meath-based songwriter and musician Ellie O’Neill’s work, there’s a depth of lyrical deftness that many artists can only hope to grasp after several decades of practice and experience. Sifting through O’Neill’s spellbinding collection of folk songs on Soundcloud, O’Neill’s already accomplished artistry (and stunning vocals) transports you to another era. Amidst the simplicity of her thoughtful acoustic guitar melodies, are terrifically storied lyrics that pull you into the world of the songs and make you want to stay for a long time.
Stick On: Little Sister
The phrase “bedroom pop” gets thrown around a lot when trying to put a label on particular styles of music, yet it’s often the case that the songs wearing the title were created in a studio and laced with effects. In the case of Dublin-based artist EFÉ, she recorded her 2020 EP What Should We Do This Summer within the four walls where she formed her musical identity. From the bold and bright artwork adorning her releases to the equally vibrant melodies coursing through her most recent offering Vitamin C, EFÉ exudes authenticity across her dynamic material.
Stick On: Kiwi
Keeping audiences on their toes with extended song titles such as I didn’t love you when I said I did and I don’t now, which received not only national radioplay but spins across the water in the UK and US, Pixie Cut Rhythm Orchestra have steadily built a strong standing in Dublin’s underground scene. Melding ‘90s rock and grunge motifs, the trio often recall Pillow Queens in their arrangements and there’s no doubt they will be embraced with a similar outpour of warmth from audiences both home and away.
Stick On: Empty Envelope
A full list of Ireland Music Week 2022’s featured artists and events can be found at irelandmusicweek.com. Ireland Music Week takes place from October 4 until 7.
Words: Zara Hedderman