By Colleen Taylor
The Irish music scene seems to have an endless supply of new talent. No matter how many bands I encounter, I always find five more to add to my “listen to” list. There must something instinctive in the Irish cultural spirit that induces this impetus for musical productivity. Whatever that special impulse might be, one thing is for sure: it keeps new musicians mustering courage to make it in the music world, and it keeps the already established artists daring to try new styles. This week, my latest discoveries were an artist named Ian O’Doherty, and a brand new single release from one of my absolute favorite young Irish singers, Róisín O.
Kerry singer Ian O’Doherty is something of a computer scientist when it comes music. This songwriter doesn’t just sing: he plays with vocal potential from inside the recording studio, distorting, altering, layering the sounds of his voice with synthesizers and other electronic instruments. The result is something unique, even galactic. His song “Woven,” for instance, creates an otherworldly feel that gives deeper emotional profundity to his dark lyrics. In this technical age we live in, O’Doherty is letting art and machine collide, exploring the potentials between sheet music and electric piano chords.
O’Doherty made his debut in 2013 with the EP “Never In Colour,” which he followed with two more singles in 2014. His most recent “Heatbeats Shifting” is arguably his best song, as it effects his most elegant blend of vocal and electro synthesization to date. Some of his earlier songs tend to over-emphasize the electronic influence, but “Heartbeats Shifting” does not let the techno style drown out O’Doherty’s interesting, raspy singing voice. Clearly this Kerry singer is on the rise with his style, maturing into a signature sound that is very innovative. O’Doherty has been busy of late, touring across Ireland, selling out gigs from Kerry to Galway to Armagh, revamping his live act, and most importantly, getting back to the studio to record his debut album. As he has hinted on his website, the singer will be involving some older, dated synthesizers in his latest original work to explore the potential in outmoded musical forms. He’ll be touring across Cork in May, treating audiences to some selections from his upcoming full debut album.
Released on April 3, “If You Got Love” is the latest from Róisín O. I’ve been in love with O’s debut album “Secret Life of Blue” (2012) for well over a year now. Her vocals represent that perfect “go-to sound,” that kind of music you know will always engage your ears and lift your spirit. Her voice is polished, mature, fresh, and electric. To top it off, her style is vigorously inquisitive, seeking out influences from pop, rock, Americana, new age, even Afro genres to set her folk music songwriting on fire. It must be in the genes: she is the daughter of Mary Black, after all.
This latest single, not even a month old, “If You Got Love” is a new adventure for Róisín O. Unlike her last album, which was earthy and folksy, “If You Got Love” takes off in another direction altogether. It starts with electro beats, matched with a distorted intro featuring O’s distinctive vocals. And then, like all O’s best songs, the slow intro suddenly breaks into a perfect, upbeat blend of her soulful voice and backing percussion. “If You Got Love” is more modern, more electro-rock in fashion than we might expect from the singer-songwriter. The chorus even feels a bit like a pop song. But these unexpected stylistic moves prove O’s versatility, bravery, and once again, her talent and vision. Róisín O knows what she’s about, and she’s not willing to make the same album twice. “If You Got Love” is a signpost of something entirely innovative and new to come from this Dublin artist, and frankly, I can’t wait to hear what’s up next.
Find out more information about these two songwriters at: ianodoherty.com and roisino.com
Colleen Taylor is the Echo's "Music Notes" columnist.