Sinead O’Brien’s distinct and direct poetic work holds a particular kind of allure. With her anecdotal lyricism and emphatic instrumentation she astutely captures quotidian observations and experiences. We caught up with the Irish poet and performer to find out five tracks that have influenced her.

Taken from her upcoming debut EP, ‘Strangers In Danger’ sees sparse, spectral guitar lines bubble under the surface gradually swelling into bursts of resonant, driving melodies and buoyant basslines that ebb and flow with O’Brien’s enunciations. O’Brien’s incisive poetry turns prosaic detail into deeply revelatory ruminations and her idiosyncratic enigmatic artistic delivery lends to this a certain exhilarating urgency.

“I had a strange epiphany during a gig. “Plastic flowers in bloom and the sound of soccer””, she says of the track. “I couldn’t make sense of it – I wrote it down and later began to take it apart. It’s about a kind of duality where something is divided by having two apparently conflicting meanings. A feeling is mirrored in an external scene and illustrated in another language. The image simplifies the problem because it just is. It exists. With all of its complexities and contradictions. I felt connected to various images and occurrences around me and began sound-tracking these mini scenarios.”

Sinead O’Brien’s debut EP Drowning In Blessings is due for release September 16th via Chess Club.

Get to know Sinead O’Brien In Five…

NINA SIMONE: SINNERMAN

There is a ten minute long live version ‘live in New York 1965’ which I listen to at least once a week. It’s an amazing piece of music and performance. The piano and some very subtle percussive elements provide the bed and Nina soars above reaching several climactic moments, lyrically and sonically. It is almost the antithesis of ‘classic’ structure – more akin to an extended improvisation.

JEFF BUCKLEY: DREAM BROTHER

As a songwriter there’s nobody like Jeff Buckley – he is one of my favourites for his particular way of weaving entrancing melody and very vivid imagery and dialogue around the musical composition.

THE CURE: A FOREST 

The production on this is amazing, the soundscape builds up into a complete trance. I go somewhere else when I listen to this. It’s a second skin. A thinking place. I think it feels like an internal room. The last four tracks of ‘Seventeen Seconds’ album are some of my favourite Cure songs for the way they are curated and take you through into that world until you are so completely immersed that all you can do is listen again. I’m forever hooked on this one. It’s a classic.

SUEDE: MOVING 

Speed. I love the play with tempo here, it’s a dizzying whirl with so much momentum and these intermittent reflective ‘dream sections’. I really like this model, where there is extreme tension and therefore a substantial release to balance.

WHIPPING BOY: WHEN WE WERE YOUNG

I love this song, it feels like an important part of my youth. It’s incredibly nostalgic and relays all of these very descriptive scenes of growing up in Ireland during the 90’s… I think it has this power and value beyond just being Irish though. I think it will go down in history for it’s familiar and very classic sound. It’s a document of Ireland in the 90’s.

‘Strangers In Danger’ is out now. 

Live: Chats Palace – March 25th 2021

Photo credit: Siobhan Bailey Turner