Belfast-based composer and musician Conn Thornton has released their third LP Meteorite Season, two and a half years following their sophomore record Tragedy. In the time between records, Thornton’s new music shows that they have proliferated their soundscapes whilst maintaining core themes of the importance of connection as seen in their previous work. Conn’s alternative indie stylings live on but have become part of a wider palette of inspiration boosted by more musical and life experience. Continue Reading…

The Kneecap album is about k-holes, white lines and low times in a Belfast bar. There is laughter and distraction plus messy company. Voices are raised as the pints go down. They talk about pills and politics, cash and romance. Somebody isn’t buying their round. Always the way, right? Continue Reading…

Behold, the great presence of Christy Moore in Botanic Gardens, Belfast. The stage is draped in black and he’s up there with his guitar for the best part of two hours. You know most of the songs as this 79-year-old tilts from rage and sorrow to sweetness and levity. He sings of a nation’s difficult progress. He notes the villains and the victims. He’ll make you cry and there are moments in the crowd when friends embrace each other and the hurt passes through them. Continue Reading…

For Lucy Gaffney, songwriting has always been the best mode of transportation. It has taken her from Belfast to London, Liverpool and the Outer Hebrides while gigging across these islands alongside the likes of Wallows, Inhaler and Snow Patrol. Over the past few years, the Belfast-based artist has amassed a following from her shoegaze-inspired guitar sound and realist lyricism.

Reflecting on her career so far, Gaffney points to her move to Liverpool as the catalyst which allowed her to thrive in a music scene for the first time. “It was basically where I learned to write songs”, she says. “I picked up the guitar in a city really famous for its music. It was important to really learn the writing process and I’d say it was akin to a folk artist going to Nashville. A lot of people there were from Belfast as well, so you never felt too far from home.” Continue Reading…

Joel Harkin is the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival 2024 Artist-in-Residence. The Donegal-born singer-songwriter receives the torch from previous powerhouse artists-in-residence  such as Winnie Ama and Joshua Burnside.

I meet Joel Harkin for a chat in East Belfast not far from his studio, Aye Sound Mastering, where he mixes and masters records for fellow artists in the Belfast scene. He’s been releasing music since 2018, including the NI Music Prize shortlisted LP Never Happy (2020) and his most recent EP, Sham Supermarket (2023). Continue Reading…

Esmeralda Road profile

April 26, 2024

For Esmeralda Road, 2024 has brought a new lease of life to the band. They just never thought that a rebirth would happen so early in their career.

Under the name Moonboot, they had garnered a following that helped them to take Single Of The Year at 2023’s NI Music Prize for their debut track, and first song they had ever written together, ‘To U’. Yet within a matter of days, the band’s social media accounts were taken down due to complications with a footwear company of the same name. Eager to let people know they hadn’t disappeared after this success, the band knew they needed to rebrand. After throwing around ideas they finally landed on Esmeralda Road, named after the street where they had lived in London.  Continue Reading…

Before she was a music journalist, Carol Clerk was a teenage music fanatic in Belfast, navigating the local scene, or what was left of it, as the Troubles intensified in the early 1970s. Carol wrote her first article for Melody Maker, published May 23, 1973, when she was just 18. Ultimately, she became News Editor of the music paper in London.

In ‘Bombs, Boredom and No Bands’ she chronicled a week in her life in a music scene too barren to contemplate: a teenage Carol and her friends sorely reminisce on the days when bands actually came to Belfast, bands who at the time the article was written became deterred by increasingly frequent, indiscriminate bombings in a dirty conflict. Between exhausting day trips to Dublin where bands did play and the odd sub-par, overpriced disco, the kids rarely got a chance to go to a gig to escape what the world was coming to around them.
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Bin There, Done That

April 10, 2024

Below is an image of protesters with dustbin lids, taken at a pro-Palestinian rally on Donegall Place Belfast, 30 March 2024.

The dustbin lid has been an instrument of resistance in Ireland since the conflict with the Black and Tan forces in 1920.

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Artwork: Frances Smyth

The new record by Huartan is called ‘Fiáin’. It is a protest tune that revisits ‘The Foggy Dew’ and the revolutionary sentiments of Easter 1916. Now, it has electronic beats and a cut-up speech from activist Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, addressing the National Demonstration for Palestine in Dublin, January 13.

Her words are piercing and direct. She is outraged at the actions of the Israel Defence Force in Gaza. She calls it genocide and she laments the many breaches of the United Nations Charter. Also, she is furious at the Irish parties – Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil – for not contesting the actions in the way that the South African government has done. Further, Bernadette condemns Sinn Féin, “a government in waiting” and wants their leader, Mary Lou McDonald, to “step up to the plate, now.” Palestine, she says, is a litmus test for our conscience.   Continue Reading…

Steve Pyke takes astounding photos of faces and hands, landscapes and astronauts. He has pictured war veterans, roadside shrines, monumental thinkers and the countenance of Shane MacGowan.

An artist and an agent of mischief, he takes most of his portraits on a Rolleiflex TLR that was engineered in 1957 and still delivers detail, skin tones and fine poetry on silver halide. For many sittings, he spends a lot of the scheduled time talking with his subjects, finding a sympathetic rhythm. Then he gets in tight with close-up lenses and aims for the moment of transference when his sitters reveal a piece of their soul. Continue Reading…