After so many half-hearted band reunions, it can be difficult to summon enthusiasm for yet another ’90s institution on the comeback circuit.
However, the return of Blur is different in so far as the group is touring a genuinely engaging new LP, The Magic Whip.
Recorded on the flying visit to Hong Kong in 2013 and painstakingly honed by guitarist Graham Coxon late last year, The Magic Whip is reflective, tuneful, and shot through with mid-life melancholy — and thus about as far removed as possible from the group’s days as Britpop ‘oi!’ merchants.
That isn’t to say they have entirely spurned their past —the set for their current tour is generously furnished with Cool Britannia classics.
We were among the first to champion Chvrches in early 2013.
They’ve since become proper mainstream pop stars, album The Bones Of What You Believe achieving worldwide sales of almost a million (a vast success by contemporary standards).
Led by the outspoken, dulcet-voiced Lauren Mayberry, below, the Glasgow trio are about to release a greatly anticipated second LP, Every Open Eye, a project that doubles down on the shimmering formula of their debut.
Expect lots of new tracks at Stradbally.
Away from the group, Mayberry has becoming a lightning rod for the debate about internet trolling, having penned an essay for a UK newspaper about the horrific online misogyny directed at her.
With a voice that suggests Antony Hegarty fronting a Prince tribute act, Las Vegas teenager Shamir Bailey is one of 2015’s buzziest newcomers.
Debut album Ratchet was a thrilling salvo of avant-garde pop — catchy yet deliciously challenging too.
If you discover one new artist at Picnic 2015, make sure it is Bailey.
He channels some of the outstanding chart mavericks of the past three decades and yet sounds like nothing you’ve heard before.
4: FKA TWIGS
Just a few months ago, Tahliah Barnett was an obscure r’n‘b singer whose music married the eerie and the irresistible.
But with rumours swirling about her relationship with actor Robert Pattinson (they are shortly to be hitched, the tabloid media would have you believe), her artistic achievements have been eclipsed by celebrity.
Don’t let that put you off — on songs such as ‘Two Weeks’ and ‘Figure 8’, Barnett carves a haunting niche as a 21st century Bjork.
Live, she ratchets up the weirdness with with feverishly odd dance routines.
5: TAME IMPALA
A vehicle for cryptic Australian songwriter Kevin Parker, Tame Impala have been a word of mouth success for several years.
However, there is a sense that the group has taken a significant step forward as a commercial proposition with new LP Currents, a sophisticated break-up album in which Parker mourns a relationship he was instrumental in ending while around him swirl hazy beats and candy-cane melodies.
Seldom has emotional flagellation felt so moreish.
Having brought his LCD Soundsystem farewell tour to a packed Picnic tent in 2010, shaggy disco-funk proselytiser James Murphy has become a Stradbally regular.
He’s DJed at the festival on several occasions and this year hooks up with 2manyDJs’ Dewaele brothers for Despacio, a block-rocking , state-of-the-art soundsystem which stresses skull-rocking audio fidelity and top level audience participation.
The trio are reportedly performing across all three nights of the festival.
With all respect to Blur, Ride’s is the reunion most ageing indie devotees are looking forward to.
Contemporaries of the Stone Roses and My Bloody Valentine, in the early ’90s the Oxford quartet demonstrated that dreamy, droning music could be allied to cracking pop tunes (though their copybook was rather blotted when half of them later joined Oasis).
With their final days haunted by a whiff of unfinished business — farewell LP Tarantula was an underproduced mess — they appear to have reunited for the right reasons and, judging by reports from the US, are even more formidable than in their youth.
A must-see for anyone keen to party like it’s 1991.
8: FUTURE ISLANDS
Fun is always to be had watching a moderately overweight middle-aged man dance badly.
However, there’s so much more to Future Islands than eccentric figurehead Samuel T Herring’s patented belly waggle (as famously unveiled to the world on Letterman’s Late Show in 2013).
On latest LP, Singles, the Baltimore, Maryland four piece combine emotiveness, cranked-up beats, and old-school tune-fulness.
Add a giddy festival atmosphere and it promises to be an unmissable combination of heartfelt pop and comedy choreography.
9: JON HOPKINS
One of the most credible dance producers working today, Londoner Hopkins splices spectral rhythms with song structures that feel forever on the brink of conventional but inevitably fly off somewhere weird and loopy just when you think you’ve got them nailed down.
He’s composed soundtracks (Monsters, How We Live Now), penned heart-breaking future folk with King Creosote, and in 2013 released perhaps his best collection to date, the sleek Immunity.
Are we lame and predictable in listing this deeply conventional and rather long-in-the-tooth alternative band? Very probably — nonetheless, 2014’s El Pintor was a classic ‘return to form’ for a group which, in a good sense, continue to sound like Joy Division trapped inside a Strokes song.
Can be enjoyed either as brooding poets of urban malaise or besuited rockers who know their way around a killer riff.