A Year in Music – Jarlath Canning (Swords)


We talked to Jarlath Canning of Irish band Swords about 2016. You can see the results below. You can hear Tidal Wave by Swords on Spotify or Itunes.

What music grabbed you in the last year, can be new or old?

Funnily enough, for me, 2016 was a year for looking backwards in terms of listening to music. I’m not sure whether that’s an indictment of popular music today or whether it’s just a personal thing. I’ve found myself revisiting a lot of stuff like the Beach Boys, David Bowie, The Postal Service, Leonard Cohen, very early Beastie Boys, Deltron 3030, John Carpenter soundtracks, etc. I rekindled my love of the Beatles which, on the basis of one listen of Strawberry Fields, pretty much started the fire for me in terms of love of music. For me, the standout album of the year though is ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’. Regardless of what people think of Radiohead, there’s no denying that whatever they do, they do to the absolute best it can be. It’s so atmospheric and ambient in parts and so dramatic in others. I don’t think there’s another band like them in the world right now. Locally, Overhead the Albatross are in a league for their own, for me, followed closely by the two-piece colossus Pranks – they have to be seen live to be truly appreciated.

Anything that fell short of expectations?

Anything on daytime radio. It’s depressing as shit how bad pop music has gotten. It’s like a race to the bottom in terms of imagination and doing anything new – or just in any way good. I grew up in the 90s so going from an explosion of dance music, Britpop, grunge, gangster rap, etc to what we have on the radio today is depressing. Apart from the alternative shows on 2FM, Newstalk and TodayFM, the passing of TXFM pretty much spelled the death of general radio listening for me. The whole band were pretty sorrowful the night TXFM went off air. It’s weird to hear the static in the void that they have created. 8Radio are the only ones flying the flag so I’d love to see them go full time on FM.


2016 was a year punctuated by the deaths of significant musical figures (Bowie, Cohen, Lemmy, Prince).  Any personal thoughts about this?

It was eerie. The year as a whole – we have said goodbye to all of these legends and invited people like Donald Trump into our consciousness instead. I’m not sure what’s going on but hopefully this is just minor fault in the system which will be followed by a complete reboot, in every sense. The dumbing down of the world definitely needs to stop. I’ve been listening to Adam Buxton’s podcasts and recently saw his ‘Bowie Bug’ show in Vicar Street and his passion for David Bowie, not just as a musician but as an artist, a creative, a visionary, a commentator or even just an absolute weirdo, really made me look around and think of who we are replacing all of these geniuses with. Leonard Cohen’s passing was especially poignant for me as he died the week of our album launch and he was the last concert I was with my mum at, who unfortunately suffered a stroke a short time afterwards, she has always loved his music and seems to have passed on that love of the combination of beautiful music with dark undertones to me.

Have you come across any books, movies or other art forms that excited you in the last 12 months?

Diane is the true book reader in our group. She has a pretty impressive appetite for books in paper format. We haven’t had much opportunity to watch movies or appreciate a lot of thing outside of our own blinkered existence getting the album over the finishing line but in general art and creativity plays a massive part in our lives as a band. I think the most important thing to us is that its genuine, personal and real. We really love Ruth Medjyber’s photography and were really lucky to have her agree to let us use some of her personal images as our album and single artwork. She is a true talent.


Do musical formats (records/CDs/mp3s/streams etc) play a part in your world?

All of the above. Although, I think as a band we really love albums in physical forms. I still have questions around the concept of single releases. There’s something very lovely about listening to an album as an entire piece of work which was written and put together in a certain way so that it made sense as such a collection. I think for our album Tidal Waves we were very committed to a certain concept, that there shouldn’t be unnecessary bells and whistles – the songs should be able to stand on their own two feet if they were played purely on a piano or on a guitar. We really valued an organic, stripped back approach and I think you can hear that cohesiveness in the album. That’s what I love about albums – they are a snapshot of a position or even a more specific concept. You can’t tell that story over a single. In terms of the formats, like a lot of people, we have really embraced the vinyl revolution as it is the most tactile version of an album you can get in a world of disposable digital music right now.

How are things for yourself, any plans for next year?

We are excited for 2017. We have spent a lot of time talking, writing, producing, recording and releasing Tidal Waves, nearly 3 years in total up to this point, so we are taking Christmas to be listeners again and we will be touring Ireland and possibly England in the first half of the year. We’re just back from playing the Other Voices Music Trail in Dingle and I think we’ve found our live momentum again so we’re all looking forward to stepping that up a gear.



Categories: Header, interview, Music

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