The Best Irish Musicians and Bands

St. Patrick’s Day is approaching, and as you prepare for this year’s festivities, why not throw some Irish music onto your Spotify playlist? After all, the holiday is about more than just green milkshakes and bowls of Lucky Charms, it’s about traditional food and awesome music, too. And no, we’re not talking about Irish jigs and Celtic music, we’re talking about the punk and indie-pop acts from the Emerald Isle. From The Cranberries to Hozier, here are some of our favorite Irish acts of the last few decades.

U2

Probably the most well-known act to come from Ireland, this four-piece group has been making music since they were teenagers in the late 70s. Since their formation, U2 has lost two members, been through two name changes, released 14 studio albums, and won a ton of awards. Despite having very little musical ability when they formed, they’ve become one of the biggest touring bands in existence and currently hold the record for the highest-grossing concert tour in history, and the highest attended tour in history. Before they came into the picture, the idea that an Irish band would become so successful seemed unlikely. They’re now among the most famous bands in history.

 

The Pogues

Although The Pogues formed in England, their sound is a unique blend of the Celtic folk and punk music genres. The band reached international prominence in the late 80s/early 90s and recorded several hit albums before the lead singer left the group to focus on his sobriety. The Pogues have influenced other Irish-influenced punk groups, like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys and incorporated a variety of traditional folk instruments into their music, including the tin whistle, banjo, cittern, mandolin, and the accordion. The group reformed from 2001 and played regularly across the United States and Europe before once again dissolving in 2014.

Flogging Molly

Even though the lead singer of Flogging Molly is from Dublin, the group built their fan base by performing weekly shows at an Irish-themed pub in Los Angeles, proving that sometimes house bands do get famous. This Irish-American seven-piece Celtic punk band incorporates a variety of instruments into their music and live performances, ranging from the fiddle and bodhran to the accordion and the concertina. In March 2015 the group began hosting an annual Caribbean cruise that has featured shows by groups like Rancid, NOFX, The English Beat, and Flogging Molly themselves.

 

Sinead O’Connor

Although her controversies and odd behavior may have kept her in the headlines for non-musical reasons for the past couple decades, when Sinead O’Connor came on the scene towards the end of the 80s her sound was unlike anyone else’s. She won the first-ever Grammy award for alternative music in 1990, and her biggest hit “Nothing Compares to U” quickly became a worldwide success. She has nine solo albums under her belt, in addition to a variety of collaborations and film soundtracks, and is an outspoken advocate against child abuse and has publicly demonstrated in favor of women’s rights.

The Cranberries

Formed in Limerick in 1989, The Cranberries are a hallmark of 90s pop-rock. Plus, they’re one of the rare Irish bands to land at the top of the charts in the United States with a number of hit singles, including “Zombie,” “Linger,” and “Ode to My Family.” Lead singer Dolores O’Riordan passed away in January 2018, and will always be remembered for her gorgeous voice. In total, The Cranberries have sold 40 million records worldwide, achieving four top 20 albums on the Billboard 200 charts and eight top 20 singles on the modern rock charts in the process.

 

My Bloody Valentine

While My Bloody Valentine has only released three albums, they’re known for popularizing the shoegaze sub-genre of indie rock (and for really, really, really loud live shows.). Several popular alternative groups have referenced My Bloody Valentine as a core influence, including Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, and The Edge of fellow Irish group U2. Throughout the years they’ve built up a cult following, and after 21 years of waiting their fans were surprised with the release of a third album, 2013’s m b v. Their debut album, Isn’t Anything, was included in The Guardian’s list of “1,000 Albums to Hear Before You Die” and listed at #22 on Pitchfork’s “Top 100 Albums of the 1980s”.

Hozier

Andrew Hozier-Byrne, better known by his stage name Hozier, is Ireland’s latest music star. His debut EP, featuring the hit single Take Me To Church, was released in Ireland in 2013 before being released globally in 2014. At the time, it was getting more than 70,000 downloads per week on iTunes. In his short career, Hozier has been nominated for a Grammy award, performed at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and Saturday Night Live, and performed at a variety of festivals, including Glastonbury. His music is part indie rock, part blues, and part folk, making him a highly accessible artist for fans of all genres.

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