It will be tricky trying to see everybody at the huge Stradbally event next weekend, so Ed Power selects the ones you definitely shouldn’t miss.
Florence Welch was in reflective mood on 2018’s High As Hope LP, a wistful look back on her decade-long career in pop. But she was still a force of nature playing Dublin’s 3Arena last year. Fans will also wonder if she will perform ‘Jenny Of Oldstones’, the Game of Thrones song she recorded for the TV series.
The Wicklow singer’s second album, Wasteland Baby!, went to number one in the United States (and Ireland, obviously). Reviewers were split, with some cheering his commitment to uplifting folk pop, others wondering if the formula hadn’t started to run slightly dry. Either way, he is sure to receive an enthusiastic welcomeat Electric Picnic after his having put in surprise cameo at last year’s festival, coming on to sing with Mavis Staples.
This chart-topping “goth-pop” singer, whose music unravels like a thrilling hybrid of Nine Inch Nails and Britney Spears, is a true grassroots phenomenon. The 17-year-old Los Angeles native, of distant Irish heritage (her real name is Billie O’Connell), had notched up 1bn online streams before the mainstream heard of her. Then her debut album,
When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go?, zipped to number one in Ireland and elsewhere.
Eilish’s music, it goes without saying, is extremely catchy. But it is also dark and dissonant, while her lyrics delve into climate change and night terrors rather than teen romance. For that reason, she has been hailed, in the Kurt Cobain tradition, as a spokesperson for her generation (Dave Grohl, also of Nirvana, was an early fan). She has reacted to the hype with a shrug and an eye-roll— a response that has, if anything, further endeared her to Generation Z.
Heloise Letissier’s RDS date was cancelled with hours to go last November when she took ill. But now fans have a second chance to cheer as the gender-ambivalent French star brings her imperious electro-pop to Ireland. They can look forward to a bleeding-edge performance from an artist whose tour has blended avant-garde dance with twinkling songwriting.
As with all the best artists, Letissier has little interest resting on her achievements.
She adopted a new persona and musical identity on 2018’s Frank— a 23-part tour de force that showed she can command an album format as impressively as she knows her way around a pop single.
With fourth album Assume Form, the English songwriter has pulling off the daunting feat of grafting love-lorn lyrics to formally challenging music.
The LP functioned both as a love letter to his girlfriend (The Good Placestar Jameela Jamil) and an experimental electro odyssey. It’s one of 2019’s outstanding records, so it will be fascinating to discover how it translates to the stage.
Buzzsaw punk-pop from long-running cult favourites. On record, the New York quartet’s output has a snarling energy.
They take it to another level live, with music that, in the best sense, teeters constantly on the brink. They come to Stradbally 18 months after a knockout fifth album, Wide Awake! Raw, gut-punching rock acts are all too rare nowadays.
Parquet Courts tick the box for rapturous rebellion with a flourish.
Mitski Miyawaki became an overnight success after a decade of trying with last year’s Be The Cowboy, her fully realised fifth LP. The record is both imperious and inscrutable — and after a sold-out concert at the now-demolished Tivoli last year, the New Yorker returns with her reputation as a dizzying live performer buoyed by rapturous reviews.
Top-of-the-range slacker pop from an Australian singer who imbues lyrics about getting up late and sloping around her apartment with Joycean profundity. She sold out Dublin’s Olympia with zero promotion again she had become hugely popular without anyone really noticing and last year — expect an equally adoring audience at Stradbally.
The 1975’s frontman Matty Healy can be mildly irritating, to put it gently. However, his band finally caught up with his ego on their third album,
A Brief History of Online Relationships. Their Radiohead-as-annoying-millennials soundscapes make them perfect Picnic headliners.
How fast the years clip by. Once The Strokes were the sound of the future. Now they are rock elder-statesman and tick the nostalgia box at this year’s festival. None of which will detract from the timelessness of their stately jangle-pop. The real question is whether they are back because they are passionate about their music or if they have come down with some early-onset Rolling Stones syndrome and are happy to be lauded as living fossils.
Six You May Not Know
Sons of Kemet
Jazzy odyssey touches down in Stradbally in the form of saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings’ multi-headed supergroup, featuring the dazzling drummer tag-team of Seb Rochford (Polar Bear, Babyshambles) and Tom Skinner (Met Yourself Down, Mulatu Astatke).
The Belgian DJ and producer has won acclaim for her sublime, cosmic sets. Mixmag has described her as a “techno phenomenon”; fans are so devoted they shower her with gifts (from flowers to football tops) at gigs.
She’s already sold out the Olympia in Dublin and Cyprus Avenue in Cork. Yet Ridings remains very much a cult star, with songs that exist somewhere between Florence and the Machine and a lonely lounge crooner from Twin Peaks. Bonus nugget: Her actor father is the voice of Daddy Pig on Peppa Pig.
Top-notch indie pop from much shouted about London-based quartet. There has been some hype around them, but they have side-stepped it to focus on releasing a string of engaging singles that brim with brio and naivety.
Lilah Denton is an acclaimed electro singer who has worked with Jessie Ware and Athlete’s Joel Pott. She grew up in Manchester, the daughter of a Russian actress mother and English documentary filmmaker father. In 2016 she released her debut album, Nothing’s Real, to great acclaim. This won’t be her first Picnic. She also graced the 2015 festival.
In her native Los Angeles, Sasami Ashworth has composed for the screen and sidelines as a music teacher. Her solo material has a gorgeously gauzy quality — shoe-gaze for the 21st century.