Best band: Ten Ton Slug
FROM THE soil of Connemara to the stages of Europe, what a year it has been for Ten Ton Slug. The sludge/doom metal, stoner rock, quartet have flown the flag high for both Irish, and County Galway metal.
The band’s attitude, artistic vision, work ethic, and clear sense of ambition have seen them play the prestigious Bloodstock festival - with this year seeing their highest billing to date; play the main stage of Metaldays in Slovenia; perform at the O2 in Sheffield in September as part of the HRH Doom vs Stoner festival; and begin work on what might become their debut album.
Previously they have supported Black Label Society and Corrosion of Conformity; toured Britain; and released a slew of EPs which attracted critical acclaim. A truly independent band, brothers Seán and Micheál Sullivan, Ronan Ó hArrachtain, and Pavol Rosa, are surely on the cusp of further achievement. They are well capable of it.
Best solo artist: Anna Mullarkey
WHILE ANNA Mullarkey originally came to prominence as a member of the folk-prog band My Fellow Sponges, in more recent years she has stretched her wings into solo territory.
This year saw her release the single 'Sometimes', exploring themes of personal growth, confusion, uncertainty, and self-acceptance, via Strange Brew Records, and perform at the opening of the Galway 2020 programme launch.
Described as "a sultry ménage of Björk/Billie Holiday/Philip Glass” by Irish Theatre magazine, her compositions range from folk to jazz to electronica, and her music has featured on numerous documentaries, and she has composed soundtracks for theatre productions. A great start from a growing talent, and the best is yet to come.
Best Galway album – Daithí – L.O.S.S.
ON HIS recent EPs, Daithí explored what it means to be Irish as a young person in the 21st century, and revealed the depth and breadth of his artistic growth and evolution.
The culmination of that growth was revealed on his superb second album, L.O.S.S. (Strange Brew Records ), which moved from the cultural-political to the deeply personal, exploring the end of a long relationship. A ruminative nature suffuses the entire album, as does a sense of sadness, but also, traces of hope.
It opens with his greatest song to date, ‘Take The Wheel’, with vocals by Bell X1’s Paul Noonan, which has echos of Nick Cave. Other highlights include 'Nobody New Around You', the pulse and hum of its beats bathed in a kind of sighing melancholy, and 'Oranges', a break-up song by turns bitter, generous, and hurt, with an excellently judged vocal performance by Sinead White, her seeming wistfulness capturing the sense of loss and regret.