‘Beethoven blasting through the speakers is sometimes just the ticket’

Singer-songwriter Susan O’Neill shares her Spotify playlist of tracks she’s been listening to lately

Sense of peace: a detail from the painting Beethoven with the manuscript for Missa Solemnis, by Joseph Karl Stieler

Sense of peace: a detail from the painting Beethoven with the manuscript for Missa Solemnis, by Joseph Karl Stieler

 

Music is a way of life. I feel something when I hear it that makes it seem like sound is alive. These songs were the soothing company I kept this year. I was reminded time and again how lucky we are to have sound in our world. When I listen to music I am searching for truth, something I believe in.

After that, the lyrics, while incredibly artful, are secondary. It’s the tones and expression of a voice/instrument that hits me first and foremost.

Everything Jon Hopkins and King Creosote have done together is stunning. I first heard First Watch while driving from Doolin to Connemara on a misty moody day, and it caught me right off guard.

In Piano Concerto No 5 in E-flat major 73, it’s the second movement that gives me a real sense of peace. Sometimes, Beethoven blasting through the speakers is just the ticket, and this one induces a case of gentle sways around the house

My eyes were drinking in the colours of the landscape when this track began, and there it was: a timeless feeling. It’s a delicate and peaceful piano piece accompanied by a recording of cafe sounds, cutlery jingling and general chatting from humans. It’s a soundscape that was missed by many this year.

Jon Hopkins is a frequent listen on my Spotify account. Feel First Life in particular knocks me out. He packs one heck of an ambient experience into a short 5:33 minutes. At 2:48 the sound of an angelic choir slowly grows into a swell of etherealness. It makes me feel more spiritual than I perhaps am.

Mulatu Astatkle is a legend, and Tezeta appears on New York – Addis – London: The Story of Ethio Jazz, which is a compilation album from his 1965 recordings in the UK. The sound hits me somewhere deep. It penetrates into places in my soul that I forgot about. I’ve listened to Tezeta in the kitchen this year more than any other track, and it really feels like my culinary skills improve when these frequencies are swimming around the house. That vibrato …

In Piano Concerto No 5 in E-flat major 73 by Beethoven, it’s the second movement that gives me a real sense of peace. Sometimes, Beethoven blasting through the speakers is just the ticket, and this one induces a case of gentle sways around the house.

Dancing for the Answers by Nick Mulvey is one of the most pleasing use of synth and electronic elements in folk that I’ve heard lately. Apparently it’s described as folktronica, which is a new concept to me. I can’t keep up with the new list of subgenres that are popping up at the moment, but find it fascinating all the same. It became soundtrack to cycling around Doolin and the cliffs in Clare last year, when there wasn’t another human in sight.

I remember when I was out walking on a beach in Lahinch just before the world had changed as we knew it. During this windy day on the beach, Pundela by Titi Robins came on shuffle, and it was one of those sweet algorithm moments when you get recommended the most perfect fit by phone wizards. I didn’t know what they were singing, but it sounded so joyous to me.

Susan O’Neill: ‘I’m a big fan of The Staves – they have vocal harmonies that feel like sweet honey and caramel.’
Susan O’Neill

I began to twirl and dance while splashing around the puddles on the shore. I looked a bit mad, but not one sh*t was given. This song stayed closely by my side during the last year. It came on to remind me to dance and move and feel free.

I’m a big fan of The Staves – they have vocal harmonies that feel like sweet honey and caramel. I got to watch them perform live at the Set Theatre in Kilkenny a few years ago. Facing West often pops up on my playlist, and I gladly quieten myself to take it in. I chose this track because it is the one that I reconnected with recently. It reminds me of the strength and power in shared voice and harmony.

I love Samhradh Samhradh by The Gloaming, as well as that whole album just called The Gloaming. When the pandemic kicked off, I had just flown to Australia and was two weeks into a two-month tour.

I flew home in a rush, and during quarantine I tried to keep my sanity intact by planting vegetables and fruit in my garden. The Gloaming were the soundtrack to this endeavour, so they will always have a place in my gardening heart.

Susan O’Neill and Mick Flannery release the single Trouble on all digital platforms tomorrow. Their album In the Game is released in September 2021. See son.ie for tour dates

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