My Experience with the President’s Volunteer Award





I have been a student in UL since 2008, and have been volunteering with various student societies and with the SU since 2011. This year, however, I was a recipient of the President’s Volunteer Award for the first time.

The PVA is divided up into a number of categories, based on the number of hours spent volunteering and whether or not the volunteer was in UL for the full academic year. I was a recipient of the Gold PVA, which is for volunteering for 60 hours in the academic year. Gold is the highest you can go in terms of number of hours, but I can tell you I did a lot more than 60 hours that year!

The majority of my volunteering was split between ULFM and UL Science Society (I may be a history student, but I can design posters like nobody’s business). In ULFM, I spent the year co-hosting Crossing The Line, the station’s main current affairs show. Crossing The Line was shortlisted for an Student Media Award last April, and my co-host Rob and I got to travel to Dublin for a ceremony in the Aviva Stadium featuring journalists and writers such as Paul Howard A.K.A. Ross O’Carroll-Kelly. I was also involved in the committee for the year, helping to bring ULFM through a transitional period as we geared up to improve the studio and expand our activities. A promotional poster I designed for a Science Soc event was sent to the Board of Irish College Societies awards as UL’s entry for Best Poster. I also lent a helping hand to the Feminist Society and the Tea Appreciation Society.

Volunteering, for me, is about having fun while making a difference. I love getting to contribute to the campus community, and I focus on doing things that I’m passionate about. The journalistic and administrative experience I have gotten during my time in ULFM has been incredible, and as I type this I’m preparing to go into the Bank of Ireland to pitch for financial aid from their Enablement Fund in order to refurbish and improve our broadcasting studio.

The President’s Volunteer Award is a brilliant initiative, giving recognition to UL students in all faculties and at all levels for the contributions they make to the campus and wider Limerick communities. This year’s awards ceremony was the first time UL’s new President Dr Des Fitzgerald had been presenting the awards, and it was gratifying to see how impressed he was by the scale and scope of student volunteering and how much emphasis he placed on the further expansion of the volunteering initiatives on campus. After all, student volunteering can go on to have ripple-effect impacts beyond the limits of the volunteering itself. My volunteering as AHSS Rep and Faculties Rep for the Postgraduate Students’ Union led to me successfully running for Vice-President of the PSU. Closer to home in terms of this article, the history of the First Seven Weeks initiative is full of people from volunteering backgrounds. I wasn’t even the only familiar face from the HUB receiving a PVA this year; our Coordinator Lorna was also on stage getting a certificate from the President. The work that student volunteers do not only lays the groundwork for their future careers, but also contributes to the growth and development of the UL community.

By Declan Mills: F7W HUB Staff Member, outgoing Vice-President of ULPSU, President of ULFM and PhD candidate in history


7 Times to Savour in First Year


College is a time of firsts, and things you have never experienced before will, for better or worse, change you as a person. In the whirlwind time that is first year it can be easy to just float along and let some great times pass by, but it makes sense to try and make the most of them. They say it’s the little things that count and as you look back on your first year you will think the same. The things you remember fondly, laugh about and cringe at will remind you of the exciting time that is first year, so you should do all you can to savour these moments while you can.


1. Moving In

Daunting – a good word to describe the move away from home. Driving up to a new house or apartment in a cramped parent’s car it is easy to think of all the worst possibilities; not getting on with housemates, messy kitchens, cold nights without your dog. The best thing to do is accept the first few minutes might be awkward as you work out what is going on, then you can start being yourself.


Remembering that everyone is doing the same thing, starting fresh in a new place, can go a long way to help any nerves. The people you move in with could be some of your best friends for your time in UL and these first few nights are memorable, as you get used to being free to do what you want. It is worth remembering as you hit the hay on your first night that while a new place can seem scary, it also means an opportunity to be yourself and an adventure ahead.


2. First Visit to the Stables


Say “Stables” to any student in UL and it means one thing. Craic. Some of the best days and nights of your college career will be spent in here. The first time will be wild enough, probably involving UV paint or some sort of county jersey, but it’s important to get your bearings early. Little tricks like knowing what time it fills up at on busy Wednesdays and the best route to take to get served quicker are vital to making the most of a night in the Stables. These come with experience, but for the first couple of times it’s good enough to just take in the sights and sounds, safe in the knowledge you’ll be getting fairly used to the place over your 4 years.


3. Travelling Home


After a long week of going to all your lectures and studying, a trip home is a welcome thought. Nothing quite compares to the moment you land on your bed at home like a starfish and think of nothing but how you could stay there forever. If it wasn’t for the home cooked dinner waiting for you, you probably would. Little things like washing being done, dinners made and heat might not be fully appreciated until you have lived away from home so make sure you make the most of these luxuries when you get the chance. Soon enough you will be back to choosing between another pint or having sauce with your pasta for the week.


4. Surviving Exams

Exams are like death and taxes, inevitable. In first year you have a certain amount of leeway due to the fact that, for most courses, your QCA only really counts from second year. You still have to pass though, so exams bring with them all the stresses of lost student IDs, struggling to find seats in the library and severe procrastination. As important as making sure you do your best in exams is appreciating when they are over. The hard work you put in before a test means that once you hand up your script you don’t have to perform a post-mortem and you are free to concentrate on celebrating, whatever way you choose, in peace.


5. First Sight of Sun


Around March time when the first proper bit of prolonged sun breaks through the clouds the campus is transformed. The grass outside the library is full of students eating 99s and a smug feeling is in the air as the people inside the library are turned into entertainment. Most of the people sitting on the grass have given up on lectures or assignments that have to be done, but there is a way to get the best of both worlds. As painful as it might sound, getting up early and doing some work before the sun is in peak form saves a lot of hassle. It’s vital to enjoy the sun while it’s there, god knows we don’t get too much of it, and making plans to get work out of the way can take weight off your shoulders and make those ice-creams guilt free.


6. Charity Week

Charity Week is the most enjoyable week of the college year. It’s like seeing a squirrel outside a classroom window, the ultimate distraction trying to drag you away from college. There might be a few late nights, groggy morning lectures and labs spent watching the clock, but going to college can be justification for going mad after it. The best way to enjoy the madness is to embrace it, whether that’s messy sing-alongs to the Vengaboys in the Stables or running through campus in the nip (almost). Making sure you are up to date with your modules before this week helps you to make the most of it, because even though week 6 is all fun, next comes week 7, and with it the looming presence of the end of year exams.


7. Race Day


Arguably the best day of the year, the races give everyone a chance to get all polished up, pretend to know a thing or two about betting and do a good bit of horsing around. You don’t want to miss out on race day, so just buy a ticket when they go on sale. That way you can avoid the stress of worrying about getting one, not to mention the con artists and extortionate second-hand prices. When it comes to the actual day of the races, it’s really every person for themselves so eat a good breakfast, get a clear run of the day and hope for the best. The real achievement is if you can make it back with any of the money you went with.


Eoin O'Sullivan

7 Ways to Keep Homesickness at Bay

One thing I didn’t realise until I started at UL was how much I was actually going to miss home. While I immensely enjoyed my first year of college, there was always too much excitement to get on a bus home on a Friday and always too much worry of going back on Sunday. I missed the typical routine of being at home and living in my comfort zone and having the friends from home near me.

Homesickness is a completely normal thing to experience, it’s the first time a lot of us have moved away from home, some people even moving from different countries, I’m literally only an hour bus journey from home but when it doesn’t feel like the place you’ve called home for all of your life, it can be difficult to adjust. I am going to share my top tips of keeping homesickness at bay:


1. Get involved in UL activities

UL have so much to choose from, there is a broad range of activities from the student council (my personal favourite!) to joining clubs and societies. There is something to join to fit all types of hobbies and interests: every sport you could think of, comedy societies, Enactus UL, ULFM.  You’ll get to do something enjoyable and make countless new friends with the same interests of you.


2. Catch up on college work

This may seem like a dreadful one but one thing that kept my mind off home was heading to the library on a quiet evening and did some study. One of the key things to success is to keep on top of the work on a regular basis which is near impossible but it can be so useful to use to keep yourself busy. You’ll actually feel so much better when you’ve caught up on lecture slides and readings and getting assignments done instead of panicking two hours before submission deadlines. It was definitely one of the best ways I took my mind off things and had great outcomes for my QCA.


3. Volunteer

UL have a great system called the Presidents Volunteer Award, where you volunteer on a regular basis and can obtain a bronze, silver or gold award, depending on the number of hours volunteering you do throughout the academic year. It’s a great way to give something back to the community and its put on your student transcript, another benefit for when you graduate! There are opportunities all over Limerick to volunteer so you will actually get to know the area a bit better and actually get used to it.


4. Keep in regular contact with friends and family

Be sure to keep in contact with relatives and close friends from home on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be every day but it’s good to talk to the people your close with to catch up on what your family have been up to or the latest drama your friends have gotten themselves into!


5. Take regular visits home

It can be difficult for people who live far away to take regular visits home but if you can at all go home for a weekend. My weekends home were definitely what made me feel so much better when I got to go back  to see everyone and go out to my local. It makes the stretch in the week away from home that bit smaller cause you’ll be spending a good portion of your time at home and makes it easier to come back for college.


6. Socialise around UL

UL definitely has the best social atmosphere I have seen. From Wednesday nights at The Stables, to the best DJs in Habitat, there is definitely so many nights out to choose from. Or even if you’re looking for a quiet night, the cinema is about 15 minute walk from the East Gate entrance or there’s the UL Arena to go to a wide range of classes or a gym session with your fitness buddy with definitely the best range of equipment I have seen.


7. Counselling Service

Sometimes the homesickness may affect you where you may feel you need to share your thoughts. UL have an excellent counselling system in place. They have brilliant staff there who are open and caring and will help you deal with whatever problems a new setting may have. They have a drop-in service for you to explain why you called in and they will decide to go from there.


These were my best ways of dealing with homesickness when I was in first year. To all the students reading this who feel the same way, don’t worry it really does get easier! I came in as a first year who missed home every day and longed for my weekends home, now I am going into third year after spending the whole summer working in Limerick. UL is a great place, when you learn to balance home and college you’ll actually find that you’ll end up with two homes and who knows UL might become your favourite!

Elizabeth Small

Approaching Third Level – A Lecturer’s Perspective

The beginning of third level has that exciting mix of freedom, new friends, play, study and time. Mastering the freedom and time elements is essential in getting the best out of the other three.


How to achieve this? . . .

Consider time for a moment. Most fulltime programmes are made up of 5 modules of 3 hours each and therefore requiring 15 hours in class each week. Think of all of those after-class hours! Getting up at the crack of 11 a.m. some days is good! But everyday?


And here is the freedom bit – choose to live by the dictum Play when you play, Work when you work. This will make room for planning and the third level environment is ideal for acquiring and honing this skill. Buy yourself a diary or use the calendar facility on your phone.


How then to develop planning while in college?

Consider the student’s day as divided into 2 parts – in-class hours and out-of-class time.


The class or lecture hour: arrive on time at the lecture with the recommended pre-lecture materials and develop your notes sufficiently during the lecture so that you will get the most out of your study time later. Decide when this study time will be and stick to it. In this way your planning will encompass both in-class and out-of-class hours. You can go one step further and start planning for the following summer – ask yourself – what do I need to learn so that I might be considered for a summer internship?

Of course, right from day 1 – be mindful when final exams are scheduled.


The out-of-class time: 3 elements make up this time:

  • Study time – the time dedicated to reading and completing exercises required to understand the subject matter.
  • Meeting with lecturers – particularly important when not grasping the material. This interaction will become in time the basis for a reference. So, get to know your lecturers.
  • Non-study time – the time to go and have fun! Join the clubs and societies. Have a few late nights! How about jogging, soccer or any form of exercise you prefer? Volunteer.


Using the diary – Plan the work and Work the plan. 


. . . and staying with non-study time for a moment – Consider its potential for doing something meaningful.


Virtually all third levels institutions are geared up to harness students’ abilities and goodwill for volunteerism. It is remarkable how the decision to help others develops the planning skill. Why is this? It’s very simple. Volunteering involves making a commitment of time and suddenly your time becomes precious. And of course you will make new friends, beyond those friendships developed in your classes.


And lastly, if something bothers you in that first year or any other year for that matter? Perhaps your chosen course is not for you. Think it through. Decide to discuss it with somebody. Most lecturers also act as advisors. Start with them.  Take time out if need be. Whatever you decide to do, at least you will have made a decision. Third level is about the art and practice of making choices. Enjoy it!



To summarise:

  1. The beginning of third level has that exciting mix of freedom, new friends, play, study and time. Master the freedom and time elements to get the best out of the other three.


  1. Choose to live by the dictum Play when you play, Work when you work.


  1. Consider the student’s day as divided into two parts – in-class hours and out-of-class time. Buy a diary or use the calendar facility on your phone and learn to plan.


  1. Attending class: – arrive on time and develop your notes to propel your study time later.


  1. Out-of-class time is made up of Study time, Meeting with lecturers, Non-study time


  1. Get to know your lecturers. Useful when seeking references.


  1.  Non-study time is to have fun! Join the clubs and societies, exercise, volunteer.


  1. Using your diary, Plan your work, Work your plan.


  1. Volunteering. All third levels institutions are geared up to harness students’ abilities and goodwill. Hones the planning skill. And great for making new friends.


  1. Something bothers you in that first year? Your chosen course is not for you? Decide to discuss it with somebody. Most lecturers also act as advisors. Start with them.


Third level is about the art and practice of making choices. Enjoy it!


Dr.  John Heneghan is a lecturer in Accounting and Corporate Governance in UL’s Kemmy Business School.



The Regional Writing Centre is a free and friendly space open to all students (and staff!) who want to talk about their writing, or want a space to write productively. We believe that everyone can write. Students from all academic disciplines are encouraged to use the centre. We are here to share our writing tips, tricks and techniques and get you on the “write” track. We are located in C1-065 in the Main Building and are always happy to have callers!


1. One-to-One Peer Tutoring

Our peer tutors are proven writers with good habits. They are available Monday to Friday to talk to you about any aspect of your assigned written work at any stage in its development – from ‘I haven’t written anything yet’ to ‘I’m about to submit it for a grade’. They can help you to better understand assignments, as well as looking at how you approach, plan and organise essays. They can provide you with strategies for more efficient citing, referencing, revising and editing of written assignments. Tutors are also available to talk about exam technique. They won’t proofread your work for you, but with their help you can learn how to do it yourself!


Register and book online at

2. Quick Queries

Appointments with our tutors are usually a half-hour to an hour long. If you have a question that will take less than 15 minutes to discuss, you can send it to us online. You don’t even have to leave your bed! We will endeavor to respond to your query within 48 hours. If the question takes longer than 15 minutes to answer, we will advise you to make an appointment.

Queries can be sent from our website

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3. Writers’ Space

We have a dedicated Writers’ Space here in C1-065. It is a distraction-free room with no internet access. Drop in between classes or dedicate a morning to your work, the choice is yours. The Writers’ Space is open to all students from 9am to 1pm. Opening days vary each semester, and are advertised through email.

The Writers’ Space is also used to facilitate Writers’ Groups. Writers’ Groups give you the opportunity to get together with others who just want to write, but find it difficult to write alone. Groups meet once a week and are a semester-long commitment. Keep an eye on our social media platforms for your chance to register for this semester’s group(s)!

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4. Academic Workshops

We hold several workshops throughout the year addressing various forms of academic writing. Both discipline-specific and more generic workshops are offered on essay, report and FYP writing. They are a great way to learn more about writing for your discipline, and to pick up tips on your general writing style. Workshops are advertised on our social media accounts and through email.

Resources from workshops are available on our website at

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5. One Campus, One Book

This initiative is run every year. Students and staff are encouraged to read the same book and talk to one another about it during the academic year. We provide the opportunity to attend presentations, readings, book signings and Q&A sessions with the authors.

Material from previous sessions can be viewed online at

6. How I Write, Ireland

The Regional Writing Centre hosts interviews with good writers, both academic and creative, about their writing process and strategies. The focus is not on ‘what’ they write, but ‘how’ they go about it. We record these conversations in the hope that they may provide insights into what developing writers could do differently and what they are already doing well.

Listen in to how they approach writing situations, about how they deal with difficulties and about their approach to, and opinions on, various aspects of writing at

7. Writing-talk Advocates blog

Talking about writing is how the RWC helps students and staff to become better writers. We want you to join us in talking about writing by sharing your experiences of writing for academic assessment – your thoughts, your emotions, your strategies, your triumphs and your tribulations. Tell us what does, or indeed does not work for you when writing and learn from the experiences of others!

Check it out online at

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For more information on any of our resources contact us at or call us on 061 202581. You can also visit our website Become a better writer, write here!


Aoife O'Sullivan By-line


7 Recommended Reads

1. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Attwood

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, like dissenters, she will be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. However, even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.

Brilliantly conceived and executed, this powerful evocation of twenty-first century America gives full rein to Margaret Atwood’s devastating irony, wit and astute perception.


2. Dear Life – Alice Munro

Dear Life - Alice Munro

Alice Munro captures the essence of life in her brilliant new collection of stories. Moments of change, chance encounters, the twist of fate that leads a person to a new way of thinking or being: the stories in Dear Life build to form a radiant, indelible portrait of just how dangerous and strange ordinary life can be.


3. I am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes

I Am Pilgrim - Terry Hayes

Pilgrim is the codename for a man who does not exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into anonymous retirement, he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation.

However, that book will come back to haunt him. It will help NYPD detective Ben Bradley track him down. In addition, it will take him to a rundown New York hotel room where he finds the body of a woman face down in a bath of acid, her features erased, her teeth missing, and her fingerprints gone. It is a textbook murder – and Pilgrim wrote the book.

What begins as an unusual and challenging investigation will become a terrifying race-against-time to save America from oblivion. Pilgrim will have to make a journey from a public beheading in Mecca to deserted ruins on the Turkish coast via a Nazi death camp in Alsace, and the barren wilderness of the Hindu Kush, in search of the faceless man who would commit an appalling act of mass murder in the name of his God.


4. Salt to the Sea – Ruta Sepetys

Salt To The Sea - Ruta Sepetys

It is early 1945 and a group of people trek across Germany, bound together by their desperation to reach the ship that can take them away from the war-ravaged land. Four young people, each haunted by their own dark secret, narrate their unforgettable stories. Fans of The Book Thief or Helen Dunmore’s The Siege will be very absorbed.

This inspirational novel is based on a true story from the Second World War. When the German ship the Wilhelm Gustloff sunk in port in early 1945, it had over 9,000 civilian refugees, including children, on board. Nearly all drowned. Ruta Sepetys, acclaimed author of Between Shades of Grey, brilliantly imagines their story.


5. Managing Oneself – Peter F. Drucker

Managing Oneself - Peter F. Drucker

Peter Drucker is widely regarded as the father of modern management, offering penetrating insights into business that still resonate today. However, Drucker also offers deep wisdom on how to manage our personal lives and how to become leaders that are more effective. In these two classic articles from Harvard Business Review, Drucker reveals the keys to becoming your own chief executive officer as well as a better leader of others. “Managing Oneself” identifies the probing questions you need to ask to gain the insights essential for taking charge of your career.


6. Exit West – Mohsin Hamid

Exit West - Mohsin Hamid

An extraordinary story of love and hope from the bestselling, Man Booker-shortlisted author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Nadia and Saeed are two ordinary young people, attempting to do an extraordinary thing – to fall in love – in a world turned upside down. Theirs will be a love story but also a story about how we live now and how we might live tomorrow, of a world in crisis and two human beings travelling through it.

Civil war has come to the city that Nadia and Saeed call home. Before long they will need to leave their motherland behind – when the streets are no longer useable and the unknown is safer than the known. They will join the great outpouring of people fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world.


7. What We Cannot Know – Marcus du Sautoy

What We Cannot Know by Marcus Du Sautoy

Britain’s most famous mathematician takes us to the edge of knowledge to show us what we cannot know.

Is the universe infinite?

Do we know what happened before the Big Bang?

Where is human consciousness located in the brain?

In addition, are there more undiscovered particles out there, beyond the Higgs boson?

In the modern world, science is king: weekly headlines proclaim the latest scientific breakthroughs and numerous mathematical problems, once indecipherable, have now been solved. Are there limits to what we can discover about our physical universe?

In this very personal journey to the edges of knowledge, Marcus du Sautoy investigates how leading experts in fields from quantum physics and cosmology, to sensory perception and neuroscience, have articulated the current lie of the land. In doing so, he travels to the very boundaries of understanding, questioning contradictory stories and consulting innovative data.

Is it possible that we will one day know everything? Alternatively, are there fields of research that will always lie beyond the bounds of human comprehension? If so, how do we cope with living in a universe where there are things that will forever transcend our understanding?

In What We Cannot Know, Marcus du Sautoy leads us on a thought-provoking expedition to the furthest reaches of modern science. Prepare to be taken to the edge of knowledge to find out if there is anything, we truly cannot know.


Magnificent 7 – Top albums for college listening


Your days and nights at college or university will undoubtedly be ones of new experiences and challenges. For many of you it will be a time of change, experimentation and new found independence. Individual songs (and indeed whole albums) will inevitably form part of your college soundscape over the next few years. Researchers have long examined the emotional bonds we form with specific songs and the importance of fan relationships with bands and individual performers.

This year’s suggested listening combines the old and the new. Ranging from new releases from Damien Dempsey, The XX and Laura Marling. It also features Savages’ second album ‘Adore Life’ and the award-winning Rusangano Family. I have included the 40th Anniversary Edition of first ever Irish punk album ‘TV Tubeheart’ by The Radiators from Space. Top of the list is ‘New Facts Emerge’ – the 32nd album released by the mighty Manchester band The Fall. Happy Listening!


1.  Damien Dempsey – Soulsun 

Damien Dempsey - Soulsun

Now a bona fide “national treasure”, Damien Dempsey consistently makes albums that challenge and inspire. The follow-up to last year’s 1916-inspired collection No Force On Earth is a collection of duets with top notch female vocalists (or as the singer eloquently puts it, “The Mighty Celtic Warrior High Queens”). Recorded in London with long-time producer John Reynolds, it is vintage Dempsey in terms of the songwriting approach, with the odd experimental sonic flourish.

Wistful, pastoral and suitably mellow, ‘Beside The Sea’ is a duet with – of all people – Dido. It’s a blissfully laid-back affair, with the two voices blending beautifully. Even better is ‘Big Big Love’, performed with another Dublin vocal powerhouse, Imelda May. A Stax/Motown style nunber, it’s the standout moment on Soulsun. Elsewhere, the title track is a characteristically epic tune; while the incendiary rocker ‘Pretty Bird Tree’ – sung with Pauline Scanlon – has echoes of Tom Joad-era Springsteen.

An inveterate social justice campaigner, Dempsey has long explored the lives of the marginalised and down-trodden, an approach he continues on this record.
Over a splashy keyboard riff, ‘Soft Rain’ finds Dempsey embarking on a lyrical trip around Dublin: he eventually arrives at “old Marlborough Street”, where he encounters “The big gang with the rotten teeth/ who will spend their days in a haze/ hunting powders and potions.” It’s a powerful exploration of the problems of the inner city – a subject dear to Dempsey’s heart. Overall, Soulsun is one of the singer’s strongest outings yet – and could significantly swell his already sizeable fanbase.


2. Laura Marling – Semper Femina

Laura Marling - Super Femina

Laura Marling has used conversations surrounding her sixth album, Semper Femina, to disavow music of “innocent creativity”—the kind that’s “not pointed, not political,” she says. It’s an intuitive concept that sounds relatively novel coming from this folk songwriter. In the late 2000s, Marling emerged from London’s Communion scene, a coterie of authenticity fetishists who wore wounded hearts on tweed-jacket sleeves. Marling was herself embroiled in “innocent creativity,” but she released masterpieces of the form. Her identity evolved from romantic pragmatist to underdog sage to mystic troubadour; her voice became distant and supercilious, baring just enough soul to reassure you one was there. Radical honesty is now common among young songwriters, but Marling can harbor guilt, fear, arrogance, deceit, or triumph in a bottomless deadpan. It’s easy to invest in her evasion.

Semper Femina—Latin for “Always a woman,” and taken from Virgil’s epic poem The Aeneid—is no revolutionary screed. But the album’s characters, who are all given female pronouns, tiptoe outside Marling’s world of heartbreak and personal redemption. There are signs of a broader project at play. With lyrics about “warning signs” that we’re conditioned to “ignore diligently,” “Next Time” appears to preach a maternal fondness for Mother Earth: “I can no longer close my eyes/While the world around me dies/At the hands/Of folks/Like me,” she trills. While her composure hasn’t wavered since 2010’s I Speak Because I Can, there’s something new in songs like “Next Time” and “Don’t Pass Me By.” Both remind me, in their reserve and understated melancholy, of mid-career Elliott Smith—a chaotic and vulnerable individual anchored by a preternatural understanding of melody, using compassion to navigate horror.


3. Rusangano Family – Let the Dead Bury the Dead

Rusangano Family - Let the Dead Bury the Dead

An album where questions about identity, equality and diversity loom large, Let The Dead Bury The Dead is an album which feels more 2016 than other Irish release around at present. Members of immigrant families from Zimbabwe and Togo respectively, God Knows and Murli trade lines, yarns and stories about what it’s like to arrive in a new land and feel out of place.

More pertinently, they also deal with the identity crisis of feeling just as out of place in the traditional settings of their family home because of trying to fit in and adjust to new surroundings.

As producer, Lillis has found a sweet spot where the funk of the sounds and the samples is perfectly calibrated for the heft of what the MCs have to say. On Kierkegaard, Love In A Time Of War and Surviving the Times, God Knows and Murli deliver beautifully turned out rhymes about the personal and the universal. Their flow is razor-sharp, the words hitting the spot again and again. As state of the nation addresses go about the state of this particular nation after the wreaths have been laid and the speeches made, it’s quite a belter.


4. Savages – Adore Life

Savages - Adore Life

Adore Life arrives, audibly the work of a band making efforts to outrun their initial influences and trying to find a path beyond a debut that seemed so fully formed – image, sound and manifesto all neatly worked out – that it was hard to imagine how they might develop it further without tumbling into self-parody. The guitars are still serrated, but Adore Life feels looser and slightly more relaxed than its predecessor. The listener feels a little less like every song is being screamed at them, an inch and a half away from their face. The mood is, well, moodier. The lyrics are less ascetic, immersed as they mostly are in the vagaries of love and relationships. “Hit me, hit me with your hands,” ran Silence Yourself’s austere paean to sadomasochism.

Adore Life’s closing Mechanics deals with the same subject in more elevated terms: “When I take a man to sleep over, pain and pleasure will touch my hand and I will hold what is untold.” There’s even the occasional splash of dry humour, a commodity in pretty scarce supply on Silence Yourself. Above a musical backdrop in which a jagged bassline suddenly, thrillingly, shifts into something informed by warp-speed hardcore punk, TIWYG’s lyrical hook is a parody of Radiohead’s Karma Police, a song about enervated, eye-rolling despair, its defeated “tsk-typical” mood the opposite to the galvanising one Savages clearly want to conjure. The sound of I Need Something New suggests they’re going to have to run a bit faster if they’re going to escape the shock-haired shadow of Siouxsie, but the lyric is genuinely funny, depicting the singer so bored while in the throes of sexual congress that a draught from an unclosed door feels like a diverting novelty.


5. The Fall – New Facts Emerge

The Fall - New Facts Emerge

The Fall is a band that exists without precedent. For 40 years, they have remained the chief creative output for the mercurial and often combative vocalist/songwriter Mark E. Smith, and in that time, the Fall have fulfilled the promise of the post-punk movement that they emerged from. The project continues to move forward with an almost cavalier disregard for their past accomplishments. A look at recent setlists from the band’s live performances show that, in spite of a rich and varied discography, the oldest original material that Smith and the current incarnation of the Fall will deign to play are songs from their 2007 album Reformation Post TLC.

With the band’s contemporaries like Peter Hook and the Buzzcocks content to while away their careers reliving former glories, the Fall’s indifference to the sound that made them known is almost admirable. But it does put the band’s recent material—like their new album, New Facts Emerge—at something of a disadvantage, because anyone discovering the Fall through this or other recent releases might rightfully wonder what all the fuss is about.

What truth remains in John Peel’s oft-repeated comment about his favorite band (“They are always different; they are always the same”) is Smith’s love of sound. Not just the noise that a great rock group can make, but the possibilities available in the recording process. As co-producer of Emerge (with Melling), he gets especially playful, sending the last few seconds of “Victoria Train Station Massacre” into reverse and muffling the entirety of “O! ZZTRRK Man” with his voice stuck in the recesses of the song. It’s those little touches and turns, and Smith’s larger unpredictability, that keep this album from becoming another average entry into the catalog of a respected legacy act.


6. The Radiators from Space – TV Tube Heart

The Radiators from Space - TV Tubeheart

The Radiators From Space were the first punk rock band from Ireland, influencing many of those who followed including the Undertones and the Boomtown Rats, and are often cited by U2 as an inspiration. They were also one of the earliest of the class of ’77 punk rock bands. This, their first album, is full-on protest punk, with angry guitars and biting lyrics. At the time Rolling Stone magazine recognised them as “outdistancing most of the competition”. The original 13-track album is turned into a 33-track epic. Of the 33 only the album plus three non-album single sides have been available on CD before. The two alternate versions have only ever been available on an Irish cassette compilation. The 15 previously unissued recordings comprise ten ‘live in the studio’ sides made on the first day of recording and five very live tracks from the band’s debut London show at the Vortex Club. All are mastered from new high res transfers. The band never really broke up. Philip Chevron went on to join the Pogues, but there were frequent reunions and three further studio albums over the years.


7. The XX – I See You

The XX - I See You

Pregnant with potential meanings, the title of the xx’s immersive third album gradually reveals itself over the course of 10 new songs. It is not accusative – “I see you, stealing that guitar sound” – but more in keeping with the ongoing themes of this minimal, intimate band; more consolatory. “I see you”, this album says, “as you are.”

Prefaced by a series of more outgoing tracks, I See You has been touted as the xx’s least insular album thus far. If Jamie Smith’s solo outing of 2015, In Colour, constituted a successful experiment with shades beyond the minimal monochrome that originally defined the band, then I See You finds them a little gaudier of palette. Using samples for the first time, they have tweaked their sound in myriad ways, while still retaining the sense of proximity within spaciousness for which they are famous. You could say it was more commercial, if the mainstream hadn’t been biting the xx’s style relentlessly. (“Justin Bieber is doing tropical house,” noted Smith in a recent interview.)

The first song opens with a Caribbean horn fanfare, the shock of which will have you running to the track-listing to see if you haven’t accidentally hit play on a different band. Sinuous and garagey, Dangerous sounds like it could have come from Smith’s solo outing, and finds singers Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft sharing lines such as “I couldn’t care less/ If they call us reckless.”

The three-way relationships that sustain the band were sorely tested over the course of recording. Sims, in particular, has stepped back from partying as a result. (“Does the night chase me?” he wonders on Replica).

Located at the heart of the album, Performance finds Madley Croft “putting on a show” and “playing hide and seek” while Smith’s scything keyboard violin sound etches zigzags above her head. The album closer, a gospelly piano-led duet called Test Me, is more abrupt. A ghostly analogue curlicue tracks a sonar bloop. “You look”, murmurs Madley Croft, “but you never see.”