The Mariannes' EP's title track was selected as best song at the Clancy Brothers Festival.
By Colleen Taylor
What do W.B. Yeats and a young indie band have in common? One excellent song. This week, I enjoyed listening to alt-folk track “Wasted Love” by the Mariannes. The music fan in me was intrigued by its elegiac, mournful tones, and the literary scholar in me was doubly thrilled to discover the band wrote the song as a riff on a Yeats love poem. “Wasted Love” re-interprets the complicated, nationalized relationship of Yeats and Maude Gonne with modern sensibility. More than just a great new love song from an exciting, young band “Wasted Love” restages cultural history, mystery and romantic disappointment. The Mariannes capture all of those complexities in their own inspired style and lyricization. When I later scrawled YouTube for the live recording of “Wasted Love,” I was spellbound all over again.
Dublin-based band the Mariannes label themselves urban folk, a fitting hybridization. Their music remixes country, blues and Irish trad with alternative inflections. The group is comprised of six musicians: Lisa Loughrey, Joe Maher, Eamon Cassidy, Gearóid Ó Broin, Jack Cassidy, and Nathan Maher. Lead vocalist Lisa Loughrey had me at hello—her voice is emotive, smoky, edgy, an Irish Stevie Nicks. Loughrey’s vocals, backed by the beautiful melodies of the band’s instrumentations, never relinquish their hold on a listener’s ear or consciousness.
The band released their first EP, “Lost With All Hands,” independently in April of this year. Since then, they’ve been touring folk festivals around Ireland and hitting all of Dublin and Galway’s biggest venues. In 2014, the title track off the EP won the Clancy Brothers Festival contest, selected by High Kings member Finbarr Clancy as the best song at the festival. I would trust Finbarr Clancy’s musical taste any day, so I’m not surprised to see I echo his judgment on this score. “Lost With All Hands” is an absolutely exquisite ballad with detailed, complex instrumentation, from guitar strings to piano chords and bell chimes, all topped off by Loughrey’s ghostly vocals. The song haunts you, but you can’t stop listening to it. It’s a gorgeous, ghostly piece of music, reflective of the whole of the Mariannes’ work, which is sensitive, powerful, and musically sophisticated. As I find to be the case with the best Irish music, nostalgia grips the core of the Mariannes' songs. The sounds of the past mesh with the broken heart of today, and it’s truly captivating to listen to.
Some of my other favorites on the EP include “The Cross” and “God Fearing Woman.” “The Cross” is one of their more upbeat ones and also one of the more traditionally Irish in characterization. This song is alt-trad at its best. “God Fearing Woman” sounds more Americana or old time country, but all the while interpolates those modern-day moments of electro crossover. The instruments on this EP chime with such vividness that you won’t miss a single chord, and you won’t want to.
As the song on Yeats and Maud Gonne would suggest, Irish music and literature inspires the band’s songwriting. At the moment, they are working on a musical project related to Roger Casement to coincide with the 1916 centenary. Their 1916 song, “Black Diary Waltz,” sweetly eulogizes Casement with almost lullaby-like melodies. The lyrics, however, suggest a less naïve cognizance of historical tragedy. The band went into the recording studio in October to make “Black Diary Waltz” available for fans, and it will be out within the next few weeks.
The Irish critics are raving for the Mariannes, and I’m listing my name in that camp too. This band sounds country but modern and alternative, Irish yet global, young yet traditional. There’s something special to be heard in the combination of their nuanced, folksy instrumentals and emotional vocals. The life experience they sing about might be “wasted love,” but there’s not one sound wasted when it comes to the Mariannes. Each note they play has a story.