How was music for you in 2022?
The deaths of Mimi Parker and Cathal Coughlan are foremost in my mind as I try to sum up the year in music. Cathal’s passing in May at the age of 61 was a huge shock. With Song of Co-Aklan, and his two albums with Jacknife Lee as Telefís, he reached new creative heights. He has left us an extraordinary body of work and I genuinely believe that we lost our greatest artist. In an article I wrote about Cathal for The Sunday Independent I mentioned that I had seen The Fatima Mansions in Cork in 1991. Within days someone had posted me the bootleg tape they had recorded of the gig – the kindness of strangers knows no bounds.
Even though Parker had discussed her cancer diagnosis her recent passing was no less shocking. It was heartbreaking. Low are a very special band and I feel so privileged to have seen them live on a few occasions over the years. Their gig in Vicar Street back in April was one of the absolute highlights
of the year.
Some of my favourite albums this year were:
Craven Faults reissued his first three EPs (Netherfield Works, Springhead Works & Nunroyd Works) as the Lowfold Works Trilogy boxset in which the landscapes of a post-industrial Northern England are soundtracked by kosmiche-inspired vintage synths. Utterly glorious.
Elaine Howley’s The Distance Between Heart And Mouth – a dreamy collection of experimental pop inspired by old mixtapes and longwave radio – has been on heavy rotation since August.
Age of Finding Stars, the second album from David Long and Shane O’Neill (former frontmen of Into Paradise and Blue in Heaven respectively), was one of the finest albums of the year and its title track is probably the song I played most in 2022.
My favourite album of the year is We Are There by Modern Studies. This was album number four from the Scottish band. Beautiful string arrangements, gorgeous harmonies, lush folk undercurrents and chamber pop infusions – a masterpiece.
Like many others, I set up a Mastodon account but I’m hanging onto Twitter for now.
#WeekendSingles, where people show photos of old 7” singles is great to follow and I love the
#5albums polls organised by Richard Shaw (@RichardS7370). Twitter’s what you make of it and “Music Twitter” can be a joy – discovering new music and rediscovering old albums and tunes.
What was your main musical highlight of 2022?
One of the highlights was getting to see Keeley Forsyth live at the Set Theatre during the Kilkenny Arts Festival in August. I’m still reeling from her performance – her choreography, her voice, the music, the lighting – it was extraordinary. Her two albums are incredible but live she is astonishing. Between songs, people didn’t know how to react and at the end the audience erupted in applause knowing that we had just witnessed something truly special. She is a unique artist.
I saw LCD Soundsystem at Brixton Academy in June and they were fantastic. It was also my first time witnessing a gig at the famed venue – bucket list stuff for me. The gig was almost twenty years to the day since myself and a friend had bought ‘Losing My Edge’ on 12” in Rough Trade on Talbot Road. We still laugh about it because it was an archetypal “High Fidelity” moment. We were flicking through the bins in different corners of the shop. A song blasted out of the speakers and we looked up at each other. We both gravitated to the counter and simultaneously asked the shop assistant, “what is this?” Giddy with excitement we left clutching the last two copies in London.
Can you recommend an album, from any year, that doesn’t get the credit it deserves?
Midnight Choir’s Unsung Heroine from 2000 was the Norwegian band’s fourth album. They released five albums between 1994 and 2003 but Unsung Heroine is their masterpiece. It was recorded in Ljubljana, produced by Chris Eckman and engineered by Phill Brown. Eckman was the main man in The Walkabouts and Brown’s CV includes engineering duties on Talk Talk’s two seminal albums Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock. Those two bands are good markers for what Unsung Heroine sounds like – and it is a beautiful sounding album.
The three-piece of singer Paul Flaata, and brothers bass player Ron Olsen and piano/guitar player Al DeLoner (accompanied by drummer Paul Kruger) deliver heartbreaking epics, their central arrangements fleshed out with strings, vibes and organ. Flaata’s voice is incredible, it’s rich and emotive; sometimes he sounds like Chris Isaak and other times his delivery is reminiscent of Stuart Staples. If you like Tindersticks, The Cowboy Junkies or Willard Grant Conspiracy you’ll love this album. Glitterhouse Records – Midnight Choir’s German label – released a lot of American alt- country bands in Europe but in Midnight Choir they came across a uniquely Northern European distillation of Americana. Unsung Heroine is an album I never tire of, it’s absolutely beautiful.
Do you still listen to lots of music? How do you listen to music these days?
I’m always listening to music – new and old. New music tends to be streamed and if it’s an album I really like then I try and pick it up on vinyl. The price of new vinyl has gotten a bit ridiculous in recent years so like everyone else – I have to be picky. I still trawl the secondhand bins in record shops and love a good find.
My best score this year was probably a 7” on Gael Linn Records called “Ceoil Na Laoi” from 1967. I’ve been looking for this since a friend brought it to my attention after he found it in a branch of Oxfam a few years ago. It’s the soundtrack to a short film called Rhapsody of a River that was commissioned by the then Dept. for External Affairs (now the Dept. of Foreign Affairs) back in 1965. The film was directed by Louis Marcus (father of director Shimmy Marcus) and was first screened at the Cork Film Festival to great acclaim in 1965. The film is a celebration of Cork’s River Lee and the beauty of the Lee valley. The soundtrack was composed by Seán Ó Riada and the 7” includes a number of Ó Riada compositions but also has him conducting the Radio Éireann Symphony Orchestra as they accompany the venerable Seán O Sé on ‘The Banks of My Own Lovely Lee’. Is it worth anything? Not particularly, but it’s priceless to me. I collect records for the thrill of finding gold like this!
What sort of year have you had yourself?
It’s been a great year. Songs To Learn and Sing, my Dublin City FM weekly radio show has been on air since 2004 and we’ve reached almost 900 episodes. I’m thrilled with the response to my podcast – To Here Knows When – Great Irish Albums Revisited. The feedback from listeners has been really positive. It’s a labour of love but people have posted photographs on social media of records that they’ve bought off the back of listening to different episodes – that’s just bonkers and makes it all worthwhile.
To Here Knows When – Great Irish Albums Revisited: : https://www.paulmcdermott.ie/podcast
Songs To Learn And Sing: 11pm Wednesdays on 103.2 Dublin City FM