The shifting face of musical influence is intriguing; in the pre-internet days a songwriter’s influence was limited to what they could afford to buy, and what the radio decided they wanted to hear. Now freed from the shackles of a limited record collection anyone can, pretty much, listen to any musician they so choose. Previously kids were pigeon holed by the music they bought, so the metallers listened to Slipknot, the indie kids spun The Libertines and some people inexplicably listened to Craig David; almost like football fans or political party members, we had our teams and you were either with us or against us. Now people are free to pick and choose music like musical magpies on the hunt for something shiny.
What will this new-found accessibility of music mean for the music that begins to appear from the next generation? Those who’ve grown up entirely in the internet age? Some sort of horrific afrobeat-funk-metal-rap combo perhaps, or maybe they might just make something amazing.
One band who exist very much in the post-internet age, are Irish duo Saint Sister. Not actually sisters at all, though you could be forgiven for thinking they were from a distance, Saint Sister are the double act of Morgan MacIntyre and Gemma Doherty. Formed in 2014, the duo look to blend the traditional sounds of Celtic harp playing with something altogether more modern. Bringing to mind bands like CocoRosie or Let’s Eat Grandma, Saint Sister are a band of contradictions; modern electronics sit aside traditional folk influences, sweet vocal harmonies juxtapose with an uneasy sense of all not quite being well with the world.
Saint Sister released their debut EP, Madrid, last year and returned recently with a new single, Tin Man and a new record deal with the ever-reliable Communion label. Tin Man is probably their most intriguing effort to date; the percussive tones of fluttering harps pulse menacingly, as the entwined vocal harmonies swell and fall, with more than a hint of Imogen Heap. Lyrically, the track is inspired by John Donne’s poem The Sun Rising, Morgan saying of the song “Tin Man is about having a dream-like faith in a specific person. It’s about feeling the presence and weight of that person on an innate, instinctual level and trusting that despite not being able to see them, they are most certainly there.” A fascinating offering, the world might not know about Saint Sister just yet, but don’t expect that to stay the case for very long.
Perhaps Saint Sister’s versatile sound is down to the eclectic bands that influence them, as showcased on the mixtape they’ve provided us with today. Taking in bands from Scottish harpist Catriona Mckay to Wilco and Leonard Cohen to Julia Jacklin, this broad-ranging mix is a fine jumping off point into the sounds that shape Saint Sister.
1. Lisa O’Neill – Potholes In The Sky
Morgan: Every single line in this song is so beautiful and sacred but absolutely devastating in its conclusion. None more so than the opener; ‘On my way to heaven, pothole in the sky’.
2. Julianna Barwick – The Harbinger
Morgan: The vocals in this track carry such a thick atmosphere. I listened to this a lot when we were recording in the summer, hoping some of that atmosphere would rub off on me. I’d recommend this song a companion on any creative adventure.
3. Katharine Philippa – Hosanna
Gemma: It’s such a rare thing to find a song that really grabs you on first listen. This one completely knocked me sideways! It’s simply stunning. The production is understated and so powerful. The organ was recorded in a church, and you can hear the noise of the pipe mechanisms on the track.
4. James Blake – Lindisfarne I & II
Gemma: It’s hard to choose a favourite from James Blake, but hearing Lindisfarne performed at Glastonbury this year rekindled my love for these tracks from his first album. The space he creates in the tracks is really special, as is his dedication to true live performance of electronic music.
5. Leonard Cohen – Famous Blue Raincoat
Morgan: When we were first asked to create this playlist last week I had a few Cohen songs in mind. I think I was leaning towards Bird on The Wire but then the terrible news came and I knew I had to go with Famous Blue Raincoat. It reminds me of my mum who first introduced me to the magical poet. Listening to his lyrics I get the feeling that they’ve always existed. Each of his songs are so timeless and yet ancient, it seems impossible to me that they have ever not been.
6. Wilco – Radio Cure
Morgan: The magic of this song is its perfect simplicity. “Cheer up honey, I hope you can.”
7. Catriona McKay & Chris Stout – Isflak
Gemma: I fell in love with Catriona McKay and her rhythmic style of harp playing a few years ago. I always go back to this album White Nights, and to this set of tunes in particular.
8. Lisa Hannigan – Fall
Gemma: This melody is effortlessly beautiful. Lisa’s voice is just magical, so delicate yet so flawless.
9. Julia Jacklin – Sweet Step
Morgan: We first saw Julia in Texas when we were over for SXSW and instantly fell in love with her voice. Her melodies are heart-breaking and often oscillate from a place of pure fragility to one of bold strength within a single phrase.
10. James Vincent McMorrow – Cavalier
We listened to the Post Tropical record alot around the time we started making music together two years ago, and this song remains a special one to us both.
Tin Man/Corpses is streaming now, and out on vinyl December 16th via Communion Singles Club. Visist Saint Sister’s website HERE for more details and for upcoming live dates.