A Smyth: Last Animals – The first great Irish debut of 2021

Former Vann Music man delivers a haunting rumination on nature and the meaning of life

Last Animals
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Artist: A. Smyth
Label: Lover Records/ Republic of Music

Badly Drawn Boy, actor Robert Carlyle and BBC presenter Huw Stephens are just some of the admirers that Aaron Smyth has won over for his solo project. After attracting much praise for his work as Vann Music, Smyth delivers a highly impressive debut with echoes of progressive folk mavericks such as Bray’s Fionn Regan and Radiohead’s Phil Selway.

Recorded in Wexford, Last Animals is a haunting rumination on nature and the meaning of life. On the curtain-opener Rain Boys, Smyth notes buzzards hunting over Meath on a track about “friendships with big dreams that changed along the way and are now just moments frozen in time”.

What sets his debut apart is that there is no wallowing in folk miserabilism or slavishly sticking to any tried-and-tested singer-songwriter scripts. Electronic embellishments are peppered through Last Animals.

Yeah You Said is the latest track to be inspired by Orwell’s masterpiece 1984, joining illustrious company such as The Jam, Radiohead, Muse and David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs.


Smyth’s lack of fear in confronting the big ideas is refreshing. The final track, Tempt, channels the immortal words of Leonard Cohen, with Smyth calling it “a look at how robust the human spirit is. No matter how dark it might get, we have a failsafe switch that always believes there’ll come a crack of light.”

As debut albums come, this is as promising as it gets. The first great Irish debut album of 2021 has arrived.