Belfast Telegraph

St Vincent will be so huge that she blots out the sun

By Eamonn McCann

The musical highlight of the year came, again, at the Electric Picnic in Stradbally in Laois where I bumped into St Vincent and we shared a few words.

St Vincent, who is Erin Annie Clarke from Oklahoma by way of Texas, took the name from a Nick Cave song.

Her cunningly titled 2014 album, St Vincent, is every good judge's album of the year: enigmatic, sometimes baffling, always beautiful. St Vincent is her fourth album, the first to crack the mainstream market.

"How does success feel?", asked a reporter on one of the snobbier Sundays.

"Well," came the response, "the real gauge is when your mother's friends don't think you're homeless".

Her line on religion is light-heartedly profound. Texas, she reckons, is "full of an ambient religiosity which internalises a culture of fear".

Personally, however, she's "done with all that Catholic guilt".

Referring to the "bizarre intensity of the confessional box", she said: "I write songs so I don't have to go."

She sang lead vocals with Nirvana this year - the real Nirvana, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear, marking the 20th anniversary of the death of Kurt Cobain, driven to death by unmanageable genius (now there's a fact to shudder your sense of the passing of time - 20 years since Kurt Cobain).

She played a storming set at the Electric Picnic, then waded through the mud-strip through the woods to play late at night to perhaps 150 people at the Other Voices tent.

In action just before her came Cavan band of genuine teenagers The Strypes playing with sage inflections in the rhythm and blues of 50 years ago.

She edged shyly out from backstage, obviously entranced, to sway and shimmy. I was standing right behind her doing my disguised arthritic twitching and she bumped into me.

"Sorry," she said. "OK," I replied - which obviously entitles me to say I bumped into St Vincent at the Electric Picnic and we had a few words.

Not as cool, maybe, as having a smoke with Chuck D, but then what is? St Vincent will be so huge in 2015 that she will blot out the sun.

Another band which will emerge as mighty in 2015 will be The Waterboys, 33 years after Red Army Blues, The Whole Of The Moon and This Is The Sea. The Waterboys are one of the greatest bands of any of our lifetimes, with a clutch of songs that will last forever.

Call up Red Army Blues, the story of a 17-year-old from Ukraine who bites his lips against the snow and goes off to fight the Nazis, reaches Berlin, "met my first American/he looked a lot like me/same kind of farmer's face/said he came from a place called Hazzard, Tennessee," never makes it back to Kiev but, because "comrade Stalin says we've become too westernised", is sent with thousands of others on "the great Siberian road which goes on and on and on and on," to the gulag where - now here's a line-and-a-half - "only one thing remains/the brute will to survive".

They don't write songs like that any more. In fact, they never did.

Bridie Monds-Watson, SOAK, will be in everybody's blood by the end of 2015, wispy songs of wildness, studded with poetic lines of soulful illumination: "They don't know what love is/throw it around like it was worthless."

The Wood Burning Savages, head on, hard driven, nailed down ready, album-ready for unleashment. Dublin outfit Little Green Cars, The Lost Brothers, Malojian aka Stevie Scullion. I first knew them as a two-piece, Cat Malojian, which I rather liked on the ground that nobody outside the North would have a clue what this meant.

These will all come to the fore in 2015. The Gloaming, traditional Irish meshed with modern jazz, will make the breakthrough that eluded Moving Hearts, Martin Hayes from east Clare playing the violin like Charlie Parker playing a sax note arising like billows of diamonds, will dizzy your soul.

None of this is to mention The Amazing Snakeheads, specialising in head-butting an audience into submission.

Did I mention Little Matador?

The mighty JoJo Fegan, probably the most beautiful woman in Ireland.

Oh, and a dozen, dozen others.

Praise them that will bands past, this age best pleaseth me. And there's more and better to come in 2015.

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