THE LAST 12 months have seen Galway musicians produce some outstanding work, but three in particular stood apart from the rest.
Best solo artist: Ultan Conlon
What a year it has been for Loughrea's Ultan Conlon, with Ireland finally waking up to what County Galway has known for a very long time - that this man is a first class singer-songwriter. His album, Last Days Of The Night Owl, won him wide exposure, becoming an RTÉ Radio 1 Album of the Week, while 'The Measure' proved one of 20187s great earworms, and was hardly off the radio. And consider the respect in which musicians hold Conlon - Bryan Ferry chose him as the special guest at his Trinity College Dublin concert in July, while in October he played the 3 Arena in Dublin as special guest of the former Creedance Clearwater Revival singer, John Fogerty. It deserves to be the start of sustained success.
Ultan Conlon plays the Black Gate Cultural Centre, St Francis Street, on Friday December 14. Tickets are €10.
Best band: The Clockworks
The last 12 months have been an exciting period for The Clockworks. In November 2017, there were selected as one of few Irish bands to play at Canada's prestigious Indie Week festival in Toronto; they released the single ‘Rumours In The Stockroom’ in February, played shows in London and Brighton, released their debut EP, At The Greasy Spoon, in August, and appeared at Electric Picnic in September.
At The Greasy Spoon is a powerful showcase for The Clockworks' signature sound - taut rhythms, sharp metronomic riffs, stripped back, gritty atmospherics, and a knack for an anthemic hook. And they have something to say, being one of the few indie bands - or, more accurately, one of the few all-male bands (female led, or all-female bands have been examining such issues for a while now ) - willing to grapple with the impact of politics, economics, and societal expectations on life, and how they can hinder and beat down individuals, rather than advance them. The hype around this band is justified. Greater things surely await.
Best album: Dott - Heart Swell
The second album from Anna McCarthy's indie-pop/garage rock quartet proved worth the wait, being everything you want a follow-up to be, and everything you need it to be. Heart Swell retained the vocal harmony driven pop and garage/punk fusion of their debut Swoon, but in both scope and execution, Heart Swell found those elements flowing together more smoothly, and with more confidence. Dott also found space to introduce new elements, which both complement and expand their sonic template. The title track has a Krautrock vibe with its insistent beat and atmospherics, while elements of psychedelia and dream pop are also apparent - all hinting at interesting possible future directions.