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Part two of Blowtorch Records' alternative to the Mercury Prize 'An Gradam Lugh'

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

With only one Irish act in the Mercury prize nominees, we bring you the second part of our alternative recommendations for the inaugural An Gradam Lugh


As we explained in part one, the Gradam Lugh is the award or distinction of Lugh, the Celtic equivalent of Mercury - Roman god of art and commerce. Thus in one fell swoop we make the award Irish and remove the commercial connotation and replace it with an artistic one.

Technically the Mercury Prize is open to UK and Irish artists but guess what? It's massively skewed to the former so we're correcting that with 11 Irish and 1 UK nominations and of our own.

Here we go then with part two and our next five Irish nominees along with one from the UK - all released in the last 12 months except Sinead O'Brien which just misses the deadline but look it's our award!

7. Search Results - Information Blip

Dublin trio Search Results provide an alternative and propulsive take on the current Irish post punk/alt rock scene with a beguiling mix of melody, harmony and spoken word all set to tight grooves which veer from post punk to pop to jazz. Sharing vocal duties, Fionn Brennan (guitar), Jack Condon (drums) and Adam Hoban (bass) formed Search Results after moving to Dublin in 2019.

Information Blip is their debut LP following 2021’s Mirrors EP and 2022’s No Punchline Arousal EP. It was recorded and mastered by the band and Darragh Hansard (of Dublin psych band Thee UFO) in his Orc's Lair studio. It's a delirious trip of giddy wordplay and off beat instrumentation with a gorgeous psych sound.

Standout tracks are Flower Rock Rain and John. In A Raincoat but the whole album deserves your undivided attention.

8. The Mary Wallopers - The Mary Wallopers

Propelled to fame by live stream gigs in their front room bar during lockdown, the Mary Wallopers are a Dundalk seven-piece centred around multi-instrumentalist frontman Charles Hendy, his banjo-playing brother Andrew and guitarist Seán McKenna. The Hendy brothers also perform as political hip-hop outfit TPM.

Following the outsider trail blazed by the likes of the Dubliners and the Pogues they take the power of traditional ballads and some originals (encompassing politics, melancholy and craic) and repurpose them for a modern, multi generational audience. The innate truth of the songs and their unadorned, unpretentious presentation firmly establishes them as punks sticking two fingers up to the entitled, the establishment and the eejits who run the country.

9. Grian Chatten - Chaos For The Fly

Chaos For The Fly is the debut solo album from Grian Chatten, vocalist of Dublin’s post punk darlings Fontaines D.C., themselves nominated for the Mercury Prize for debut long player Dogrel.

In his brief downtime from the band's hectic touring schedule, Chatten carved out a different space (with longstanding FDC producer Dan Carey) for his poetic ruminations and dark tales of failing lives and human fallibilities.

Chatten describes the album as “a horror movie with a hyperreal colour palette”. It's defiantly bleak in places, particularly on the misanthropic All Of The People. The stripped back (and richly varied) instrumentation certainly suits his world weary, Cohenesque stories.

10. The Murder Capital - Gigi's Recovery

The Murder Capital are a Dublin based quintet whose poetically dour debut album When I Have Fears was garnered critical plaudits and was deemed by many as the apogee of the 'Irish post punk sound.'

Undaunted, the band set about making an even better second album and although a first draft was deemed unsuitable for being “fucking depressing”, Gigi's Recovery extends their post-punk palette with a broader and deeper sound. Crucially they have retained their unsettling intensity and not given into the empty grandstanding which is the curse of so many second albums.

As the Guardian noted "At their best, which is often on Gigi’s Recovery, the Murder Capital combine muscular drama and skeletal grace with a confidence that Radiohead would be proud of."

11. Sinead O'Brien - Time Bend and Break The Bower

Fashion designer turned punk poet Sinead O’Brien’s focus has always been her arresting lyrics. Her way with words is evidenced by the delightfully alliterative title of her album Time Bend and Break the Bower.

Her band (Julian Hanson on guitar and Oscar Robertson on drums) supply a broody punk groove to bookend her dense prose. The minimalistic instrumentation amplifies the effect of O’Brien’s voice which realistically is the star turn on the record. Her sprechgesang style has more in common with the urgent seriousness of Patti Smith, and occasionally the deep disco of Grace Jones as on Like Culture, than the more playfully on brand Wet Leg.

12. bar italia - Tracey Denim

London trio bar italia are resolutely lower case, lo fi and somewhat shrouded in mystery. Nina Cristante, Jezmi Tarik Fehmi and Sam Fenton deal in scratchy pop songs with an edge of 90s experimental rock. Their best tracks also have a lazy urgency to them - think Stereolab meets The Velvet Underground with a dash of Aldous Harding.

Tracey Denim, is their second album and "revolves around themes of troubled identity and unstable relationships ... stumbling through the world without a sense of belonging."

Motorik, melodic and with in built meaning - we love it.

Our Spotify playlist with tracks from all the nominated artists is here:


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