Saint Sister Mark the Anniversary of Repeal with Heartrending New Single “Manchester Air”

Photo by Ellius Grace

By Clare Martin

Like many people in Ireland, I always had a plan should the worst happen, should I become unexpectedly pregnant. My friends and I would go to the UK — London or some other big city — and have a girls’ weekend so I could just tell my Catholic parents I was travelling instead of getting an abortion. 

Thankfully I never had to put the plan in action, but so, so many on our island have over the years. They’ve had to deal with stigma, trauma, and so many other shitty side effects of the puritanical, patriarchal agenda pushed by the Catholic Church and politicians. 

Three years ago today, the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment passed in a landslide victory, finally giving people with uteri in Ireland access to abortion. It was an emotional time for so many, including songwriter Morgana MacIntyre and harpist/arranger Gemma Doherty, who make up Saint Sister. In the lead up to the referendum, the pair were inspired to write “Manchester Air,” an account of a young couple who, like so many before them, travel to Manchester to have an unwanted pregnancy terminated. “From the back of your bike I told you I was late / You said ‘I can’t go much faster’ / I said ‘No not like that,’” they sing. The lyrics are simple and heart wrenching, made all the more impactful by the duo’s soulful vocals.

The track is by far the most trad-inspired of the singles released from their forthcoming album Where Should I End, out on 25 June. MacIntyre says it “harks back to the old Irish ballads of leaving home, the constant tramp of the Irish across the water.”

A low drone builds in the background, growing more uplifting as the song continues — much like how slowly over time, things have begun to look brighter for people across Ireland. Boot stomps and claps make you feel like you’re in a pub, emphasising the communal pain experienced by Irish people over the years thanks to draconian laws. “Manchester Air” invites us to gather and share our stories, because only that way can we begin the long, continuous process of healing.

“Writing this song felt like a cry for help,” the band says of the song. “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 on Inis Oírr island 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.”

Watch Saint Sister sing “Manchester Air” against the backdrop of Dublin Bay — a point of departure for so many who went to the UK for basic healthcare — below.

March Music Roundup: Our Favourite Tunes This Month

March may have felt like another shitty notch in the COVID belt, but the one silver lining has been all of the brilliant music by Irish artists. From the RTÉ Choice Music Prize broadcast to the numerous St. Patrick’s Festival live streams, we weren’t left wanting for entertainment. A closed-set performance may not quite itch the same scratch as in-person gigs, but they’ll do for now.

Even more impressive, though, is the sheer output by musical acts that soundtrack our daily walks or dances around the kitchen. Check out some of our favourite music releases from March below, which are also on the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

AE Mak — Class Exercises EP

The new EP Class Exercises by Aoife McCann, better known as AE Mak, serves as a tribute to the house-parties-that-never-were, thanks to the pandemic. McCann pushes herself on her self-produced release, heralding the start of a stranger and even more wonderful era from the avant-garde pop artist. — Clare Martin

Ailbhe Reddy ft. Sacred Animals — “City Unfolds”

Ailbhe Reddy, whose debut album Personal History received an RTÉ Choice Music Prize nomination, teamed up with Wexford native Sacred Animals on “City Unfolds” to add some moody synth pop to her folk-infused sound. Reddy conjures up the image of a lonely cityscape at night—“Oh, street’s empty / Back of a taxi / Stretching before me”— on the melancholic track. — Clare Martin

Awkward Z. — “TRAPPED”

Awkward Z.’s latest single may be called “TRAPPED,” but the South Africa-born, Wexford/Waterford-based rapper proves that his creativity is anything but stymied. Over guitar and robust trap beats, the Anomaly Collective member recalls triumphing over personal struggles: “I was trapped in a dark place / and I made it / I can’t tell you how much I spent / now I save it.” — Clare Martin

Babylamb — “Mister Magic”

If you’re hankering for some colourful bubblegum pop euphoria, look no further than Babylamb and their effervescent single “Mister Magic.” The queer four-piece—made up of Tobias Barry, Rían Stephens, Laoise Fleming, and Cian King—bring their playful attitude to this sugary, incredibly catchy tune. — Clare Martin

Clannad ft. Denise Chaila — “In A Lifetime”

Celtic pop group Clannad’s re-release of their song “In A Lifetime” featuring Denise Chaila (filling in Bono’s role from the original 1986 single) is a moving intergenerational musical effort. Over haunting harp and with Poison Glen as their atmospheric backdrop, Moya Brennan and Chaila’s voices weave a beautiful tapestry. We’re so used to Chaila’s quick-witted rapping, but “In A Lifetime” reminds us of her impressive vocal chops. — Clare Martin

DYVR — “Holding Back”

The electro-pop track is the first off DYVR’s upcoming EP Part 3 and serves as a lush, thoughtful look at “the masks we wear in order to feel like we’re part of the world,” they explain. Glittering synth propels the melody forward and the thumping beat rattles in your chest, urging you to move. — Clare Martin

Gender Chores — “Night in the Woods” 

Landlords are bastards,” shouts grunge-punk band Gender Chores on their latest single “Night in The Woods.” Drawing influence from the riot grrrl manifesto, the Co. Down group blend loud guitars, hard-hitting drums and direct lyrics to bring awareness to socio-political issues. The track nails that familiar feeling of not being able to afford rent in an accommodation market designed to exploit: “For 1000 a month / you could live in this shoebox.’’  — Ellen Pentony

HAVVK — “No Patience”

Led by frontperson Julie Hawk, HAVVK return with the second single from their upcoming album Levelling. No stranger to political and social themes (“Always the Same,” “Glass,” and “Once Told”), the grunge-rock trio’s song “No Patience” is more introspective and personal. — Ellen Pentony

Lenii — “Straitjacket”

Lenii’s dark, heady pop single “Straitjacket” is both hypnotic and unsettling, with the melody on the chorus careening off the tracks. “Zip me up just to shut me down / Too loud so you shut my mouth,” the Cork artist sings in her high, crystal-clear voice, recalling how society often treats those who dare to break the mould. — Clare Martin

Maria Somerville — “Seabird”

For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to have the sea within 5km, Galway artist Maria Somerville has you covered with her atmospheric cover of Air Miami’s “Seabird.” Just put on your headphones, close your eyes, and drift off on imaginary waves as Somerville serenades you with her gorgeous voice.  — Clare Martin

M(h)aol — “Asking For It”

Intersectional feminist band M(h)aol—made up of Róisín Nic Ghearailt, Constance Keane, Jamie Hyland, Zoe Greenway, and Sean Nolan—tackle rape culture head-on with their powerful single “Asking For It.” All proceeds from the song will be donated to Women’s Aid. — Clare Martin

NewDad — Waves EP

NewDad—made up of Julie Dawson (vocals, guitar), Áindle O’Beirn (bass), Sean O’Dowd (guitar), Fiachra Parslow (drums)—weave together Waves shoegaze-tinged tracks with hazy guitar and drums that oscillate between laid-back and stirring. Their dreamy slacker rock has arrived just in time as we’re getting that grand stretch in the evening. — Clare Martin

Pat Lagoon — “Put It Away”

Snappy drum machine and pensive guitar open up Waterford artist Pat Lagoon’s latest single “Put It Away.” The rapper and singer gets vulnerable on the track, opening up about his own self-doubts and the self-destructive desire to compare himself to others with lines like, “I’m just surfing a wave / Don’t know if I’m paving a way / I got some friends that are local / Got some feens going global.” — Clare Martin

Susie Blue — Boys Boys Boys EP 

Derry native Susie Blue mixes dream-pop with grit and emotion on the EP Boys Boys Boys. This is the first release to be self-produced by Blue, working alongside Jonny Woods from alt-rock Belfast band Wynona Bleach. The result is a crossover between SOAK, CHVRCHES and Ailbhe Reddy. Boys Boys Boys is packed with thick synth, layers of guitar, electro-drums, and a lot of proud queer yearning. “May God Forgive You” and “Pretender” are particular stand-outs.  — Ellen Pentony

Saint Sister — “Karaoke Song”

Saint Sister (Morgana MacIntyre and Gemma Doherty) have released their poppiest single yet, “Karaoke Song,” inspired by a night out two years ago when the pair celebrated MacIntyre’s birthday by singing Tom Jones’ “Sex Bomb” in a Parnell Street karaoke bar. The track comes from their sophomore album Where I Should End, out on June 25th. — Clare Martin

Soda Blonde — “Small Talk”

“Small Talk” throbs with ‘80s-esque synths, reminiscent of other retro-inspired acts such as Tennis. O’Rourke’s voice is the real show-stopper here, though, beautifully conveying yearning and evoking the likes of Caroline Polachek. — Clare Martin

sohotsospicy and darkmavis — sodarksospicy EP

It would have been easy for Irish DJs to feel disenchanted with the closure of venues and to stop producing altogether, but sohotsospicy and darkmavis have delivered a body of work that makes one hopeful for the state of the Irish electronic scene. The insatiable beats hit off some neural groove rendered in a basement club pre-pandemic. — Doireann Ní Dhufaigh

Sprints — Manifesto EP

There’s something so familiar and authentic about the music Sprints make. Their lyrics are to-the-point, unpretentious, and accessible.  While their EP Manifesto doesn’t make explicit references to Dublin or Irish culture, Sprints offer relatable observations of what it’s like to live in the capital right now. — Ellen Pentony

Tolü Makay — “Used to Be” 

Since the release of her cover of the Saw Doctors’ N17, the Nigerian born Offaly artist has captured the heart of the nation with her rich, soulful vocals. She brings much needed diversity to the Irish singer/songwriter landscape, which has been largely dominated by white men in recent years. Her latest release “Used to Be” is a heart-breaking piano ballad about letting go of someone you once loved. — Ellen Pentony

Saint Sister Make Us Miss Nights Out on “Karaoke Song,” Announce Sophomore Album

Photo by Audrey Gillespie

By Clare Martin

The list of activities we miss could span the island, but karaoke is near the top. There’s nothing like rushing up to the mic with your mates a couple pints deep and belting out your favourite tune, or realising part way through the song that maybe you didn’t know the lyrics quite as well as you thought. Either way, you’re all up there together, sweaty and dancing and revelling in your moment onstage.

Morgana MacIntyre and Gemma Doherty, better known as Saint Sister, know this feeling well. Today they released their poppiest single yet, “Karaoke Song,” inspired by a night out two years ago when the pair celebrated MacIntyre’s birthday by singing Tom Jones’ “Sex Bomb” in a Parnell Street karaoke bar. Over heavenly, strummed harp and zinging synth, the pair recall, “Somewhere in between you and the television screen / I got down on my shaking knees / And serenaded you with a Britpop dream.” The track comes from their sophomore album Where I Should End, out on June 25th. 

“Gemma had this gorgeous instrumental and I was trying to work in a load of grandiose lyrics that always felt clunky and out of place,” singer/songwriter MacIntyre says of her and harpist/arranger Doherty’s process crafting the single. “At the end of a particularly tiring day spent writing, I started using the song as a way to make fun of the night we had recently shared singing karaoke. I kept thinking ‘no one will take this seriously’ and then I realized maybe I don’t want them to, that’s not the point of the song.” 

That sense of carefree fun bursts through on the glittery music video made for “Karaoke Song,” directed by Janna Kemperman and Kevin Freeney. MacIntyre and Doherty are having the time of their lives, with coordinated dance moves and a whole host of flamboyant costume changes. The candy-bright colours and iridescent, kaleidoscopic visuals pull you into the party atmosphere. The video is an ode to nights out, drunken sing-alongs, and friendship. 

Check out the music video for “Karaoke Song” below, as well as the album artwork and track list further down. Saint Sister’s self-produced and self-released record Where I Should End can be pre-ordered here.

Where I Should End album artwork

Photo by Ellius Grace

Where I Should End track list:

  1. My Brilliant Friend
  2. Dynamite
  3. Karaoke Song
  4. The Place That I Work
  5. Irish Hour
  6. Date Night
  7. Oh My God Oh Canada
  8. Manchester Air
  9. House 9
  10. Any Dreams?