Words: Dylan Murphy & Dray Morgan
Photo credits: Lewis Thomas Bradshaw
The end of year usually means best album lists for publications, but instead, this year we’ve opted to shout about our favourite projects coming out of Ireland that you might have missed. The nature of this means it’s largely, but not exclusively underground acts that feature. The intention is to showcase and highlight some incredible records that didn’t have the budgets, resources or support that others are afforded and we think deserve more shine. It’s hard to be prescriptive about what sort of projects are eligible (And comprehensive in the inclusions), but in general, no albums from major label artists, established touring acts or artists likely to be well known by most of our readers. Singles aren’t eligible but EPs, mixtapes, albums and everything else is fair game. Peep below, in no particular order, our favourite projects you may have missed.
Archy Moor – Bonnie Hill
The first of two EPs dropped by Archy Moor this year, Bonnie Hill acted as a reintroduction of sorts for the Dublin rapper. Having come through with early singles like ‘Moonboy’ and ‘The Long Road’ in 2019 and 2020 respectively, Bonnie Hill marks a new era for Archy. The six track offering is a polished project produced entirely by Earl Saga and one for any fans of introspective, heady rap.
Rhoshi – IMAGE
There’s a lot going on in Rhoshi’s debut album IMAGE, but it never feels cluttered. A project that showcases the sheer breadth of his imagination, the Dublin producer carefully balances the cinematic sounds of ‘CLOVER’ with the metallic textures of ‘BLISS BLADE’ and factory precision of ‘CHERISHING’. The features throughout are impeccably chosen, with Isaac Jones and Vaticanjail coming through on ‘LIKE I CARE’ and ‘COLISIÓN’, respectively. For the most part, Spotify stats aren’t a good indicator to go off, but the fact he’s on 100 monthly listeners is honestly jaw-dropping. One of our favourite electronic releases of the year. Run it up.
TXPE_EATER & Curtisy – BLCKMGC*
Two of the Irish underground’s finest combine on 13 minutes of smokey, nostalgic rap goodness. The project’s production shares DNA with knxwledge’s sampling style while Curtisy comes through with his trademark stream of consciousness style on a tape that can be filed next to the likes Navy Blue, MIKE, Sideshow and Diz. Shout out to TXPE_EATER’s producer tag too.
Becky McNeice & Alicia Raye – Love Letters
It really feels like the year of the joint project. Central Cee and Dave, JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown and now Alicia Raye and Becky McNeice. The pair come through with four tracks of sincere pop in a collaboration that’ll hopefully also inspire others to do the same.
Kayleigh Noble – Just a Girl
Made almost exclusively by women, Kayleigh Noble’s Just a Girl, is a powerhouse pop record that reclaims agency in the aftermath of a dysfunctional relationship. The forward-facing record melds together breaks, electronic and pop as part of an album that moves between intimate diary entry and club ready cuts in a way that makes complete sense. A few must listens come from the nocturnal reflections of ‘Meanie’ and the SZA-esque melodies on ‘Don’t Change’.
svhymns – blossom
Scratch under the surface of Irish music and you’ll find a network of underground musicmaking, embracing an online chaotic sound reminiscent of drain gang, Oneohtrix Point Never or Aphex Twin. One half of the euroworld collective, svhymns dropped a beauty of a record this year with blossom. A spacey trip through the stars that doesn’t shy away from some disruptive glitches and more satisfying basslines. Representative of a growing sound movement on our little island, the artist’s momentum doesn’t seem to be slowing down into 2024.
Uwm. – U4O SUZY
On U40 SUZY, Uwm. pulls artists from different sounds into her own orbit on a breezy project that prioritises mood over everything. Transversing hip hop, psychedelia and pop, this is best served as a soundtrack to smoke up to on a day with zero plans.
Coolgirl – Failed Reboot
Former Bitch Falcon front person Lizzie Fitzpatrick AKA Coolgirl kept us hooked on her dark, steady and sometimes chuggy electronic reflections with the singles ‘Druid’s Hood’ and ‘High Altar’. The subsequent debut EP Failed Reboot, kept that same energy but goes one further, delving deeper into her dark synthesised universe.
Chósta – Twilight Transmission
When everything felt so clinical and devoid of life during lockdown, mainstream radio’s propensity for showcasing the same offensively unoriginal artists left Chósta feeling uninspired and disillusioned. It wasn’t until he started tapping into online radio networks like Dublin Digital Radio and NTS that he reignited his passion for digging. As he delved deeper down the discovery rabbit hole, he came out the other side with a strong concept of a fictional world of his own where pirate radio still reigned supreme and even the mainstream still had a semblance of variety. Twilight Transmission is a tribute to the eclectic tastes of better times and sees sampling of radio shows coalesce with Boards of Canada-esque synths and trip hop. As we head into the darker months, these are perfect sounds to stay inside to.
Jena Keating – 9
Cork-based artist Jena Keating alongside producer S P A C E managed to create a brooding intensity which carries over numerous genres. What’s impressive is how something like the lo-fi dance track ‘PAUSE.‘ can sit nicely beside heartfelt piano heavy, fucku‘ without compromising the project’s cohesiveness. The effortless vocalism from Jena combines excellently with ethereal sounds of aptly named producer S P A C E.
Jeorge II & DIEM – Phoenix Park Prophet
Sometimes, you might be able to argue that Ireland embraces lofi and boom bap hip hop a bit disproportionately, so its nice to see some raw energy with this tape. Hard hitting 808s and trumpets courtesy of DIEM combined with Jeorge’s flow gives the record such a grandiose feel. There are few songs that can encapsulate hype like Kendrick and Baby Keem’s ‘Family Ties’, but ‘Man of the Year‘ definitely gives us our fix. More collab projects please.
Fortune Igiebor – HANDLE WITH CARE
If Fortune Igiebor was running an elevator pitch in the Dragon’s Den, I imagine it would run something along the lines of him being a punk-rap innovator that’s hellbent on building a cinematic universe online without compromising his community on the ground. Basically, he’s been ticking all the right boxes this year. So much so, that he won Male Artist of The Year at The Black & Irish Awards Gala. As for his HANDLE WITH CARE EP, it’s a dark, distorted trip that puts Fortune at the centre of his burgeoning underworld. Play it loud.
Wrestling with themes of social deprivation and vicious cycles of crime and violence in a way that’s reminiscent of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘The Art of Peer Pressure’, Joexxvincy’s Council Baby is aspirational street rap at its best. While there’s an admirable honesty throughout the tape, it still has the same cut throat energy that’d feel at home on a Giggs’ record. This is a record that can do both. Elsewhere, there’s also nods to acts closer to home, with Hare Squead being cited as an inspiration in the midst of dreams for the Irish scene at large. A criminally underrated record this year.
HART – BAKU EP
HART’s BAKU EP is the type of electronic music that induces those brief flashes of lucidity in the club before snapping back to reality. Fantastically crafted ambient tracks with a kick to them. If Overmono were enlightened, then this self-described “moon jazz” is exactly what they’d be cranking out. London born and Sheffield-raised, HART now resides on the Island and we’re here for it, as she brings more texture to an eclectic scene.
Citrus Fresh – Good Grief
Limerick rapper Citrus Fresh has been making some of the best experiment rap music on the island, period. While he’s not an unknown quantity in the music scene, this is an incredible record that is on the level of, if not better than any other rap release in Ireland this year. Executively produced by Citrus and his long-time collaborator 40Hurtz, it pulls together abstract rap, jazz, industrial sounds and anything else they fancy into an inseparable soup of underground magic.
Elsewhere, he invites Rory Sweeney and Curtisy on ‘Wrastlin’ in a cross-country collaboration for the ages. At 18 minutes, this project is one that is ready to get wheeled up and replayed.
Trá Phádhín – An 424
Trá Pháidín – An 424
Trá Pháidín blend jazz, post-punk, trad and other influences into an inseparable experimental soup of instrumental goodness. Heads on Reddit have been calling them the ‘Trad Black Country New Road’, but that’s reductive as hell. This 9 piece are a force of their own and their new record An 424 is based around a bus journey from Galway to Connemara. They recently opened for John Francis Flynn and feels like they’re set for a big year in 2024.
A brilliant example of Irish collaboration. Producer Zissou lays the mellow foundation for a litany of artists to hop on the beat and add their own flair. A project reminiscent of the likes of Kenny Beats, the tracks flow seamlessly. Sharply contrasting his 2021 album Fortune Deluxe, Zissou has managed to keep that collaborative essence to this work whilst bringing a new sound.