Seven for '07
After NI music's success in 2006, Francis Jones tips seven incoming acts
2006 was an immense year for Northern Irish music. Snow Patrol continued their juggernaut progress, ‘Eyes Open’ the biggest selling British album of the year, and a record which enabled the band to make giant strides across America.
They’re nominated in the Brit Awards in 2007 and, to the disappointment of their detractors, seem beyond the vicissitudes of musical fashion.
The story of Duke Special was perhaps the most heartening tale of the year past. Toil finally rewarded in 2006, the Duke was feted by Jools Holland and national music press alike.
He made his major label bow with the superb ‘Songs From The Deep Forest’, and now finds himself in the enviable position of being able to headline and effortlessly sell out the Ulster Hall this February.
And then there’s Oppenheimer. To watch this duo perform was to love them. Their much acclaimed debut album captured the band’s crystalline beauty perfectly and will enjoy a UK release this year.
But outside this coterie of established and unquestionably classy acts who are the Northern Irish artists the discerning music fan should be watching out for in 2007?
That maniacal, killer-on-the-highway vocal, those eviscerating guitars, ominous rhythms and neurotically tweaking keys, Clone Quartet are an exhilarating, if unnerving, dance-rock hybrid.
They are also a winningly cool live act. With an EP scheduled for March and album to follow, Clone Quartet plan to take their wares into the heart of the UK and build on their encouraging performance at Manchester’s prestigious In The City showcase.
There is quite a buzz surrounding Bangor four-piece Kowalski. So much so that they’ve even caught the attention of a certain Mr Gary Lightbody, the Snow Patrol head honcho singing their praises to all and sundry.
And rightly so. To date the fledgling outfit has already completed a UK tour, supporting the hotly-tipped Air Traffic, played alongside Duke Special, Iain Archer and The Dykeenies at ATL’s Christmas City Hall extravaganza, and acquired management.
Their 2006 EP ‘Are You Noisy Sunshine State?’ was a serotonin-boosting pleasure from start to finish.
Expect further adventures in rock melodics this year as the band craft more heart-enrapturing fare and spread the Kowalski message with a southern jaunt and second UK tour.
Sun-dappled tunes and soul warming vibes, The Elliots bring a ruddy-cheeked glow to even the most cold-hearted of listeners.
The intermingling male/female vocals work superbly, adding an enjoyable harmonic frisson to their wonderfully melodic pop-rock.
These cheeky scamps juggle the joyful stylings of The Magic Numbers and The Concretes, and add a dash of Belly’s indie-rock melancholia to provide ballast. In a word, gorgeous.
2007 should see the fledgling outfit spread their wings, playing more gigs beyond their Belfast base and continue to write and record new material.
The songs of Lurgan duo Stevie Scullion and Jonathan Toman are dreamily intense, hewn from personal heartache and a sense of ravaged humanity.
Their bittersweet ‘Life Rolls On’ EP is a slice of classic Americana, evoking memories of the greats, from Gram Parsons and The Band through to Whiskeytown and Iron & Wine.
They are currently recording another EP for early 2007 and hope to deliver a long player later in the year.
Potent hardcore from the Portadown quartet. In Case Of Fire have been working throughout late 2006 and early 2007 to complete work on their debut album for American label B& Recordings.
Produced by Belfast studio magus and certified Oppenheimer Rocky O’Reilly, this could be one of the Northern Irish records of the year.
The band will take their spiralling, demented and devastating aesthetic to America for much of 2007, but promise fans a memorable farewell fling before they depart with an all-ages show at the Black Box in early February.
LISTEN to The Winding Stair: Bandage My Hands (3.3mb)
Impeccably talented musicians, The Winding Stair utilize cello, violin, acoustic guitar and ethereal vocal to transport their audience off in extraordinary directions.
Chamber music, orchestral and gothic-folk, all are weaved into their dark tapestries; sinister or sad tales laid out for our edification.
They are an enthralling live prospect, the arrangements within the songs are endlessly inventive, the playing deft and unerring.
LISTEN to mojoFURY: The Mann (1.8 MB)
Inhabiting the hinterland between Nirvana and The Beatles, mojoFURY veer vigorously between the tuneful and the abrasive, revelling alternately in dissonance and melody.
When they play tough, they play very tough indeed, their speaker-shredding sonic escapades making them one of our most pleasingly volatile live draws.
However, whispers from their latest studio foray suggest mojoFury have added yet another string to their bow, deploying new instruments and techniques in their increasingly expansive rockscapes.
Their forthcoming EP promises to be one of the year’s most intriguing releases.