Saint Sister Made Me Cry in a Bagel Shop

By Madeline Redding
Subject to Change

image via Twitter

As I was looking for an artist to write about for this week, I was immediately attracted to a video of two women with a giant harp. I immediately dove through all their music. Saint Sister is the latest gem gifted to us from the Irish music scene, blending Irish folk with a modern electronic sound.

Saint Sister contains Gemma Doherty and Morgan MacIntyre. The two are from the North of Ireland, went to Trinity College Dublin together and soon became friends after knowing each other from the Trinity Orchestra. The duo soon started experimenting with music together and formed their own unique sound that blesses us today.

They coined the word “Atmosfolk” to describe their music. The term encompasses the ethereal sound mixed with folk influence and what they call “minimalist electronica”. Are you sold yet? You should be. The duo has only been releasing music since 2015 with a few singles, an EP, and a 2018 album. Their pieces are extremely homogeneous, complementing each other in the best ways and contrasting each other in the most interesting ways.

Shape of Silence, their 2018 debut album, exquisitely exemplifies the artistry these women put into their compositions. This is one of those albums that is an experience to listen to. I definitely recommend devoting time to listening to the album, not while multitasking, but really sitting down and absorbing the soundscape that Doherty and MacIntyre have crafted. The album starts with more of a pop sound and you can hear more of the minimalist electronica that blends with their delicate vocalizations and harmonies.

As the album continues, there is a gradual tonal change from delicate and ethereal to eerie and ghostly. I don’t think there is any particular track where it shifts, but it definitely culminates in the interlude, titled “Shape of Silence”. The duo has mentioned in interviews that they intended to play with the concept of using silence as a key element of this album. I was apprehensive of the concept but the execution is totally astounding, just like everything else these women create.

image via Irish Times

Saint Sister has such a talent for absorbing your mind into their music, embracing what you may think should be filled with sound, piquing your interest, and keeping you there. While in that state, they take the opportunity to consume you and fill you with their heavenly sounds. Trust me, it's an overwhelming and beautiful state.

One of my favorites off this album is “Corpses,” which sits around the middle of the album. After you can feel the tone of the album shifting. This track sounds like a type of melodic lullaby that uncovers contrasting emotions to the innocence of a lullaby. Eerie echoes and the deathly lyrics of the song inflict an uncomfortable yet beautiful contrast that envelops you in the music. The harp is a big factor in the unique mood of this song.

Gemma Doherty on the harp is such a standout to me. The instrument and the way they use it shows the influence of their home country and Celtic tradition. In live performances and videos, Doherty plucking on her harp as they perform is absolutely mesmerizing, and it obviously creates some insanely complex soundscapes for Saint Sister.

image via Hot Press

Finally, their last track “The Mater” is the absolute culmination of everything this album is and everything Saint Sister is. Delicate harp and vocals, folk-indie blend, and (my favorite) their ability to trap and consume you.

This album brought tears to my eyes in a bagel shop. I hope it touches you in the same way.

Their newest single from this past May is called “Is It Too Early?” which is such a delight and brings me so much excitement for possible new music from this power duo.

Of course, my opinion is subject to change. But I truly doubt it will. Please allow yourself to get absorbed by Saint Sister’s musical creations.