The fifth part of my excellent series where Irish artists pick their favourite albums of 2010. Check out the previous parts if you missed them:
Part 1 – The Dirty 9s, I Am Not Lefthanded, Bat Kinane, MilanJay, Solar Bears
Part 2 – Captain Kennedy, Ham Sandwich, James Vincent McMorrow, We Are Losers, Yeh Deadlies
Part 3 – The Cast of Cheers, Drunken Boat, The Holy Roman Army, Pearse McGloughlin, Terence Rowlands
Part 4 – Cloud Castle Lake, Fred and Bob, The Gorgeous Colours, Planet Parade, Preachers Son
- Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History
The last year I’ve focused more on Irish releases, rather than worldwide acts, so my favourite albums of the year are a little closer to home. Two Door Cinema Club’s album was an exciting listen, and seeing a bunch of Bangor lads conquer the globe was nothing short of inspiring. The album itself is full of perfectly-written pop songs, with Eliot James doing a brilliant production on the whole thing.
- Adebisi Shank – This is the Second Album…
Darren (Vocals, Guitar) and I were blown away on our first listen of this. Every song has its own unique hook which oozes confidence and energy. It’s the sound of a band who are happy with their music and are not afraid to experiment. One of my favourite bass albums of the year – songs like Century City and Genki Shank have particularly-impressive basslines.
- Lafaro – Lafaro
The debut album was released up North earlier this year and everyone seemed to go mental for it. Lafaro showed they have the ability to craft songs with both head-melting riffs and intelligent lyrics (except for that one song that’s not even a song). Seeing a few thousand people jumping about to Chopper Is A Fucking Tout, and the like, at Glasgowbury is one of my favourite memories of the year.
- Kasper Rosa – EP2
Whilst not exactly a full-length album, I feel Kasper Rosa deserves a mention on here somewhere. Having gotten to know the guys quite well in the last year, they jumped straight onto my favourite live bands list. Their second EP captures this atmosphere very well (produced by Clark Philips, who also did a great job on our own debut EP), monstrous riffs, multi-layered guitar parts et al – the whole thing flows like the soundtrack to the apocalypse. Excuse the cliché.
- Joel Plaskett – Three to One
I did a gig with Joel in Slane a few weeks back. I’ve a feeling this record is something he put together out of a larger 3 disc album called “Three”, but I’m open to correction on that score. In any case, Joel is a great songwriter and there’s some great tunes on this. Engaging and uplifting, this is definitely a record I’ll be returning to a lot.
- Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
I’ve found myself listening to this record a lot over the last few weeks in that slightly-obsessive-taking-apart-the-songs way that I do sometimes. There’s so much to like here and while I don’t think it’s without it’s slightly-less-good moments, overall there’s enough here to keep me listening obsessively for another few months at least.
- Cathy Davey – The Nameless
Less immediate but ultimately more satisfying than anything I’ve heard from Cathy Davey before. Besides the music being so good, for a bit of an artwork freak like me, I love what she did with The Nameless cover. I’ve always been a sucker for inlay sheets that fold out into a poster, although it’s not really a poster, aaah you should go buy one yourself and then you’ll see!
- Justin Grounds – The Dissolving
Groundsy is a good mate (he’s done a Bill Coleman remix!), and The Dissolving is a lovely, textured, savoury treat of a record. Looped violins, beats and synths bring a comparison to Andrew Bird to my mind, but there’s much more going on here to enthuse about and to make his next release one that I’ll very much look forward to.
- Anais Mitchell – Hadestown
There is magic in these songs and recordings, and a wonderful mood throughout as Anais her assembled crew of wonderful special guests skilfully weave their way through this perfect concept album. I won’t go into detail on what the album is about save that it is based on a tale from Greek mythology, with the likes of Justin Vernon & Ani DiFranco playing the part of two of the major characters. The huge variety of instruments and voice makes for a very unique and special journey through this outstanding 20 track album.
- John Grant – Queen Of Denmark
This is the debut solo album from ex-Czars front man John Grant. The story goes, that Mr. Grant was at a very low ebb, and generally disillusioned with his life and musical career… At this point, Midlake arrive on the scene. They hear John live, fall in love with his songs, bring him on tour and then convince him to record his solo album at their own studio! There generosity and eagerness didn’t stop there however, they even stepped up to be his backing band for the album. Nice. I really love this record, the playing , the sound, his voice, his self-depreciating humour, the honest lyrics, everything. Personal highlights for me would be “Silver Platter Club” and “Queen of Denmark”.
- James Vincent McMorrow – Early in the morning
There was a tremendous amount of good music released in Ireland this year, and James’ album is definitely among the cream of the crop. Similar to the Villagers release, James plays the majority (if not all?) of the instruments on the album. The music on here is soulful, at times stark, and always drenched in beauty. His intoxicating voice drifts through all the songs and wraps itself around you until you are completely lost in the music.
- O Emperor – Hither Thither
I’ve had the pleasure of opening up a couple of shows for this outrageously talented young band from Waterford. Live, and on this, their debut album, the level of musicianship is consistently impressive. There sound reminds me of many of my favourite bands. At times the spacey and atmospheric guitar tones recall “Dark Side” era Pink Floyd, the vocal harmonies put me in mind of Midlake, while the overall playfulness and imagination reminds me a lot of Grizzly Bear . Intricate rhythms and curious chords will keep you intrigued throughout this stunning debut album.
- Joanna Newsom – Have one on me
Joanna Newsom to my mind is one of the most gifted musicians out there today. In fact, she’s a little bit scary. I don’t quite know how she continues to create so much detailed and ornate musical works. A gifted Harpist, and lyricist , with a unique “love it or hate it” type of voice. This is her third album. The three disc collection does present a challenge to the listener, there’s a lot to get through, but if you have the time to put in, the rewards are there for the taking! Go take them!
- Boa Morte – The Dial Waltz
Maybe my favourite Irish band that’s not in Popical Island and… maybe just my favourite band. Beautiful, sparse arrangements and delicate restraint at all times. How such economy of thought fills you up so thoroughly, I don’t know. I just don’t know. But they’re amazing, and this is amazing.
- Field Music – Measure
When this came out lots of people said “shudder….double album…” and to be honest so did I, expecting not to make it through the whole lot. But this was not the case. It’s over before you know it and keeps your attention the whole way. Having said that, it contains enough variety of styles to make this a double album proper, so it’s nice to see the twists and turns that Field Music normally apply to a song applied to an entire suite of them.
- Teenage Fanclub – Shadows
So they’re not teenagers anymore and true Fanny-aficionados will tell me they’ve made better albums but the number of times I’ve danced with my kids to “Baby Lee” and “Sometimes I Don’t Need to Believe in Anything” means that this has to be on the list. Dad rock? I like “dad pop” better. I love this
- Strands – Strands
You could say I’m a bit biased with this one, what with Steve being a friend and all. But does that matter? Whatever–this album just makes me smile. It’s instantly listenable but has great depth of character and puff-pastry-like layers of tingly joy. Oh and the launch gig in Crawdaddy was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been at. Drunken/dramatic aside: I found out what a wurley burger was on the way home, and got bitten by a swan.
- The Wave Pictures – Susan Rode the Cyclone
They’re the band I’ve loved the most in the last few years and they released this their second-best album this year. It’s not as good as Instant Coffee Baby but it’s still darn good and as far as I’m concerned these guys can do no wrong. I Shall Be A Ditchdigger is a highlight: “Why would Einstein talk to a gorilla?” David Tatersall might well be a lyrical genius. Pretty great guitarist too.
- Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me
An incredible record for a multitude of reasons. I’ll be honest, it’s hard work getting to the end of this tripler but it’s a staggering work no doubt and I couldn’t not include it. Her gig in Dublin was one of the gigs of the year for me (though I haven’t been to many, what with my three small kids and all), and the Good Intentions Paving Company one of the songs of the year, both lyrically and musically. ’81 is also a stunner.
- Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
I can’t believe this isn’t featuring more prominently in end-of-year lists! Maybe we’ve started to take Damon Albarn’s genius for granted… This album is incredibly good. Almost sickeningly so. The Arabic strings into London-hip hop mesh of ‘White Flag’, the mood set by the aptly-named ‘Melancholy Hill’, and the pop clout of the Lou Reed-sung ‘Some Kind Of Nature’. And ‘Sweepstakes’ featuring Mos Def is probably my getting-ready-to-go-out track of the year… This album gives all of us interested in creating intelligent pop music something to aspire to.
- Clancy – Road To The Heart
I have to declare an interest here: I helped my friend Paul Clancy make this album, which we were due to launch the week after he died in February this year. We released it anyway and I like to keep promoting it in his absence. It’s a lovely collection of songs from a very talented songwriter. Warm, straightforward and moving with a deft lyrical touch. Check it out!
- Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can
I just jumped aboard this particular bandwagon this year. While I think she still has to fully find her voice, her delivery and arrangements are very impressive and she writes and sings with a real authority, belying her relatively young age (to echo the critics’ standby when it comes to writing about her…)