top 10 ~ best acts you've never heard (probably) ~ part 1

In the wider world of music journalism we're all too quick to praise the high flying bands and artists that rally into our pop charts and capture a nations hearts. Occasionally, these bands strike a chord far beyond a catchy melody and write a song that can transcend the constraints of time. If they do this consistently, they become heroes. If not, they become a distant memory. Either way they'll be brought to the attention of the mainstream and lauded for as long as the nation continues to adore them. For some acts however, this is simply not an option. Much too outrageous or flamboyant to break free from their niche, these artists revel in legend that only those who go looking for it will ever find. This is a subculture shrouded in myth, constantly followed by misinterpretation and confusion from many, not that it matters. They make music for themselves, often poetic and always personal, much too personal for the likes of Radio 1. Which is why tonight Encore NI seeks to bring you the top 10 best acts you've never heard. (probably).

10. Joe Echo

Sneaking into the top ten is a man who's impressive CV could sit comfortably alongside most pop superstars, yet County Down native Joe Echo's distinctive moniker barley registers with even the most passionate music journalist. That's because Joe Echo, real name Ciaran Gribbin, unfortunately only had a short solo career under his elusive pseudonym, making a real name for himself in his first band Leya, (who toured with the likes of Franz Ferdinand and Embrace amongst other established acts) and more recently after he was snapped up as the new frontman of beloved Australian 80's rock band INXS. As Joe Echo, Ciaran arguably wrote much of his best material, songs like 'Personal Alcatraz' and the stunning 'The Heart That Knows Desire' ranking among pops great lost anthems. He released very few EP's during his solo career, though 'The Billion Tree's EP' still adorn the music collections of those fortunate enough to catch the singer/songwriter at a live gig during his brief solo spell. Melodic hooks, emotive croons and a voice of clear distinction, it's no wonder Gary Lightbody invited him to sing backing vocals on Snow Patrol's  massive 'Eye's Open' album.

Download* ~ 'The Heart That Knows Desire'

9. The Remedy

Coming in at number nine is another local act, this time four parka wearing, retro loving, 'mad fer it's' from the streets of Belfast. A fairly new entity, The Remedy started life as a school boy project known as The Essentials, before changing their name and overhauling their sound massively as a result. Embracing a new found attitude, The Remedy soon added an orchestral twang to the indie-ska rock of their early days, quickly establishing themselves as a band of merit and genuine class in the process. Their debut 'Death By Groove' EP opened doors to many of the capitals top venues and for a while it seemed like The Remedy's blaze of popularity could barley keep up with itself, bands as respected as The Late Twos and The Couth raving about the next generations bold new visionaries. The release of a brand new single 'Different Class' highlighted just how far they had come, giving an exciting, though ultimately fleeting glimpse into a massive follow up record which sadly never came. The band would go on an unofficial hiatus following drummer Chris Hanna's departure and divisions within the group are reported to remain strained. Throughout Belfast there is an undercurrent of hope that they will one day reunite and finally record the rest of what seemed certain to be a brilliant EP, but until an official statement from the band is released it is looking increasingly unlikely.

Download ~ 'Different Class'

8. Kurt Vile

The ominous Kurt Vile is a man of mystery and intrigue and heartrendingly beautiful guitar. Making his name in ambient Canadian outfit The War On Drugs, Kurt, who founded the band, left immediately after the release of their critically (though not commercially) successful debut album and has never looked back. With haunting precision, Kurts prose could well be a stream of consciousness or the carefully crafted riddles and complexities of a man lost in his own dream. It's nearly impossible to tell and perhaps it's best to leave it that way. Lie back in a dark room and let Kurt's sweet shimmer guide you to sleep.

Download ~ The entire 'Smoke Ring For My Halo' album. (Though 'Peeping Tomboy', 'Baby's Arms' & 'Runner Ups' will be enough to get you started)

7. The Mascara Story

Another local band, Londonderry/Derry's The Mascara Story. Formed by songwriter and media mogul Daveit Ferris, this three piece alternative outfit rose from the back streets of the Northern Irish music scene to heights at the time only really explored by Ash and an incredibly young band by the name of Snow Patrol. The difference with The Mascara story lay in their sound and image. Quick to distinguish themselves from the early two thousands 'sk8r boi indie', the three piece soon pioneered a new age of angst ridden, emotional rock - where suddenly it was okay to sing about sadness and poetic introspection became cool again. Perhaps The Mascara Story's greatest achievement lay in their relationship with their audience. They connected in a way not often experienced on a local level and, whether they knew it or not, inspired many young bands in the process. The band's determination and subsequent fan base saw them win Snicker's hugely respected 'Unsigned Contest', where they went on to professionally record debut single 'This Is Not A Bruise', which won airplay on Kerrang TV, eventually reaching number Number 13 on the UK Rock Chart. Inevitably, The Mascara Story's melancholy heartache would merit the sort of sad ending  Daveit Ferris regularly wrote about in his songs, as they split up a year later.

Download ~ 'Conquer You', 'Cue The Violins'

6. Phoneys & The Freaks

Quietly building in the underbelly of Manchester's music scene a living legend is piecing together his return alongside a local solo artist who's distinctive croon has drawn comparisons to The Verve's Richard Ashcroft. Throw into the mix that the living legend in question just so happened to have formed one of the greatest bands of all time and that's a rather promising mix indeed. Here Oasis's original rhythm guitarist Bonehead's soft acoustic guitar is infused gently with Alex Lipinski's soaring vocal to create 'Phoneys and the Freaks', a band bursting with delicate ambiance with rock and roll overtones. Certain to be a cult favorite, expect Phoneys and the Freaks to play some of the worlds coolest venues. They wont sell out Wembley Stadium, but nor would you want them too. Music this good is wasted on the mainstream.

Download ~ The self titled monitor mix of new track 'The Phoneys & The Freaks'

Part 2 Coming soon...Who would make you're top 5?
Let us know!

Taylor Johnson

*Encore NI does not condone the downloading of any form of music, unless you're absolutely sure you can't get it anywhere else and/or you're skint x 

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