Morgan McIntyre and Gemma Doherty, from Belfast and Derry respectively, formed Saint Sister in 2014 after meeting in Trinity College Dublin. A recently shared screenshot of a Facebook message from Morgan to Gemma saw Morgan express a desire to move “towards a more alternative, cleverer sound”.
After the release of their ‘Madrid’ EP in 2015, the term “atmosfolk” followed them around. It was easy to see why. Their natural, authentic and singular take on Irish folk music has seen their instrumentation include synths, keys, drum pads and vocoders. ‘Shape of Silence’, their acclaimed debut album, was marked by shimmering layers of vocals and ambience. Their growth was rapid and exponential.
‘Where I Should End’ sees the band inject even more of themselves into the whole package. Appearing on the front cover dressed in matching custom suits made by up and coming designer Aideen Gaynor, the duo handled the arrangement, writing and production of the album in its entirety. The end result reflects their independence, maturity and comfort with the roles of songwriter and producer.
The album opens with the subdued organ of My Brilliant Friend. It steadily builds to include gorgeous harmonies, Doherty’s harp, piano and pedal steel guitar against a backdrop of drums and acoustic bass. It’s earnest in its hopefulness, a feeling that permeates the album as a whole. Karaoke Song, inspired by an actual karaoke session, is pure unabashed pop music, leaning heavily into the duo’s ear for a killer hook. The album also sees the group lean further into the electronic components of their sound, with tracks like Any Dreams and Date Night bordering on synth-wave.
The album is imbued with a keen sense of dynamic and contrast. While these tracks are more lush, Dynamite and the Lisa Hannigan guest spot The Place That I Work, open with stark acapella. The former is driven by a cyclical piano and harp pattern and drum pads, the latter leans on the third voice and Doherty’s ethereal harp, proving that even at their quietest moments, Saint Sister’s music holds tremendous power. The duo’s vocal harmonies remain the most potent weapon in their arsenal.
‘Where I Should End’ is the sound of Saint Sister firmly grasping their career trajectory. It showcases the scope of their cinematic artistic vision like never before. Layered and vibrant, it’s a deliberately precise and enduring record.