Increasing normality is good news for festivals, talent and newcomers

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IN what has come closest to normal for months, new music continues to drop, festival announcements pile up and several Irish talents, must-haves and new faces announce some of their biggest shows yet.

A sequel to a previous story, to begin with. The RTÉ Choice Awards have revealed the final nominees for its ‘Song of the Year’ category. Unlike the winner selected by the album column panel, the best song combines the judges’ and audience’s votes. With big names like Picture This and Dermot Kennedy on this year’s shortlists, my favorite is Bobbi Arlo’s “Feel It.” A tacky, dark slice of alternative pop and dance music, Arlo’s inclusion among the heavyweights is a signal of the quality to expect in the future.

Festival news comes in the form of a newcomer and familiar faces. Most of the PR went to the return of the iconic LONGITUDE festival, which is headlined by A$AP ROCKY, Tyler, The Creator and Doja Cat. On the more alternative side, we have the Open Ear Festival returning this summer, whose lineup will satisfy your electronic needs if you’re in a Cork-leaning direction later in the year.

But most exciting is the announcement of the lineup and details for For The Culture’s first Black Irish music festival in Ireland. Taking place at Fairyhouse Racecourse on May 28, the festival was founded by the Black And Irish organization and emphasizes performance and community while being open to all. There will also be a focus on showcasing Black-owned artists, entrepreneurs and businesses across the country. Names such as Sello, Tebi Rex, Abu Coulibaly and Erica Cody are among the first artists announced to perform, and this writer can’t wait to see what else they have to come.

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Derry band TOUTS make a welcome comeback with thundering ‘Shane MacGowan’s Teeth’

And while all of this news at home is exciting, opportunities are being pushed back for our creatives further from our shores. Angela Dorgan of Music From Ireland, one of our leading creative export offices, recently announced that Ireland has been chosen as one of the main partners of the Great Escape Festival. TGE is one of the most popular music showcase festivals in the world and Ireland has had a consistent performance, crowning last year with artists like Smoothboi Ezra, Soda Blonde, CHERYM and many more.

On being selected as the Lead Country Partner at this year’s event (the first in-person in two years), Angela said: “We are particularly pleased that TGE recognizes the wonderful talent we have in Ireland and highlights the unique relationship between our two sectors.”

Live performance news for artists young and young has come fast this week, with legends like ASLAN and Hudson & Taylor announcing landmark shows in Dublin and anniversary arena tours for later in the year. However, it’s on the indie side that things are consistently more exciting. Producer David Balfe, aka For Those I Love, has been announced to headline the annual “Save Tolka Park” show next month. With snippets of crowd chanting and visceral, unmistakable imagery of the stadium, club and supporters providing much of the backbone of his superb self-titled debut album, it comes as no shock. Bring tissues, it’s sure to be emotional.

Next, we have some local favorites, with show-ready slack-rocker DIY Skinner headlining and alt-songwriter Naoise Roo performing his debut EP “Lilith” in full. Both will take place at the Workman’s Club next month.

And as always, we end the column with a spotlight on some of the best indie releases from the past week. First we have Zapho with ‘Peoples’, which oscillates between dream pop and alternative pop, never too far either way thanks to a tight production technique and strong, muscular songwriting chops. No Monster Club, in the midst of a comeback, crank up the indie rock/pop volume with ‘The Trundling Path’ and Derry’s trio TOUTS make a much-loved comeback with the searing ‘Shane MacGowan’s Teeth’. What to sink.

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