On Saint Sister’s Soundcloud page, they include the description “easy listening”. This conjures up images of twee yacht rock, revolting elevator music and cheesy MOR hell. Thankfully, this Northern Irish duo are emphatically none of these things.
Where I Should End does contain some easy listening elements, but in the much more palatable form of gentle acoustic and electronic dream pop blended with Irish traditional elements and what the duo themselves have dubbed “atmosfolk”.
Morgana MacIntyre and Gemma Doherty hail from Belfast and Derry, respectively. They met while studying at Trinity College Dublin. Their debut album, The Shape of Silence, met with much acclaim and a Choice Music Prize nomination in 2018. They performed an a capella version of Dreams by the Cranberries at the funeral of the murdered journalist Lyra McKee in Derry in 2019, which they later recorded for Safe Ireland to highlight the rising prevalence of domestic abuse during lockdown.
A capella is one of their chief strengths. On the single Manchester Air, the duo document the journey taken by countless Irish women before the repeal referendum (and sadly still). “Writing this song felt like a cry for help,” says MacIntyre, recalling hearing the referendum results on Inis Oírr, the smallest of the Aran islands. “The weekend the results came through, we celebrated by screaming into the sea, feeling the weight of it all wash off us. We performed the song for the first time that weekend and it no longer felt like a cry for help, but rather a cry for every woman who was betrayed by the State and simultaneously a cry of relief, a nod to the future.”
The duo also tackle a bitter-sweet pop song with aplomb on the marvellously catchy Karaoke Song. “Somewhere in between you and the television screen I got down on my shaking knees,” they sing, harmonising beautifully. “And serenaded you with a Britpop dream.”
Splendid electronic flourishes feature throughout, making Where I Should End a fully realised and superbly executed album. Saint Sister write about a changing Ireland from the viewpoint of a progressive generation, or in the late Lyra McKee’s words, they explore the trials and tribulations of the “ceasefire babies”.
There’s plenty to admire here, from The Place that I Work, featuring Lisa Hannigan; to the synth, harp and strings extravaganzas with Crash Ensemble. Where I Should End is a triumph. And you don’t have to file it under easy listening.