Like last year, I got in touch with many Irish bands and artists to ask them to countdown their top five albums of the year. For the next week or so, I’ll be unveiling five lists a day, coming from the biggest and best names in Irish music.
- M83 – Hurry Up We’re Dreaming
Continues his channeling of 1980s nostalgia, somehow transcending the cheese potential of stadium drums and blistering sax solos and coming up with something brilliant.
- Lonely, Dear – Hall Music
Very enjoyable, very Swedish, falsetto-laden indie pop. Really impressive live; a couple of us saw him at the Sugar Club recently, kept everyone hooked by looping guitars, vocals and drums live without ever breaking the flow of the songs.
- Gold Panda – Companion
Strikes a Four Tet-like balance, electronica that borrows a lot from dance genres without losing its organic warmth. Lots of bizarre cut-up melodies and pulsing synths jarring with homely acoustic samples, a pleasant mix indeed.
- Geotic – Mend
This is the side project of Will Wiesenfeld, the man behind Baths who released the excellent Cerulean last year. Fourteen tracks of ambient guitars wrapped in a lush fuzz, an impressive achievement for something written and released for free in the space of five days. Also deserves the accolade of best song title of 2011, ‘Beaming Husband’.
- St Vincent – Strange Mercy
She used to be touring guitarist for Sufjan Stevens and Polyphonic Spree, and you can see that the grandiose songwriter-composer-auteur thing has really rubbed off on her. The arrangements are incredibly busy with some very strange guitar sounds and flashes of John Barry-like orchestration, but it’s all neatly moulded into really compact, catchy songs.
SBTRKT manages to bring in some new rythmic ideas while maintaining the obligatory low end basslines throughout this magnificent album. There are some great guest vocal performances with the likes of Yukimi, Roses Gabor, Jessie Ware and Sampha adding an array of hooks to this elegant and innovative club production. I like it, a lot.
- Jape – Ocean of Frequency
A more ambient but rounded affair than previous Jape recordings, the new tracks really translate live having seen him countless times over the last few months. “The Oldest Mind” is one of my songs of the year.
- Jamie XX and Gil Scott Heron
An unlikely pairing but some very smart ideas by Jamie XX, the vocal/sample trade off at the end of “I’m New Here” still blows me away, and “NY is Killing Me” has one of the best yet most unconventional basslines of the year.
- Modeselektor – Monkeytown
A bit of a mish mash of techno, rap, bass and what can only be categorised under “Other”. Opener “Blue Clouds” has a simple but beautiful melody repeating throughout the song which I keep coming back to, and the phone call interlude in “Pretentious Friends” still makes me laugh.
I was a huge metal fan as a kid and Mastodon are one of the few current metal bands that I still check out. There is less of a “concept” to this as opposed to their previous albums, though this might have brought a bit more focus to the songs themselves. Seeing them on Jools Holland earlier in the year was an unexpected highlight. Out and out prog/trash metal at its best
- PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
To be honest I didnt check this album out in full until after it won the Mercury Prize. I had seen PJ Harvey live over the summer and heard a few of the songs but still didnt take much notice. Needless to say I was blown away when I finally got into the album. Its not the easiest of listens for sure but that was never meant to be the case, with the lyrical content, odd melodies and unusual register of her voice at times creating a haunting, dark atmosphere thats very hard to forget. I never pay much attention to lyrics when listening to music, but this album is an exception. “Written on The forehead” still freaks me out.
The Debutantes (Top Tracks)
- Hunx & His Punx – “If You’re Not Here” (from Too Young To Be In Love album)
In short – overtly camp dude fronts 60s girl group. Hunx used to be a member of electro band Gravy Train, and co-owns Down At Lulu’s, a hair salon in California with fellow Hunx band member Tina Lucchesi. Also, the bass player is Shannon Shaw, from Shannon & The Clams, another awesome band.
- Crystal Stilts – “Shake The Shackles ” (from In Love With Oblivian)
New York band on Slumberland Records, home to a lot of other good shit, like Veronica Falls and Girls Names. This is their second album. Lots of reverb, fuzz and tambourines. Turns out the singer is a bit of a ride.
- Cults – “Abducted”
Much like the Ravonnettes I was first drawn to Cults because of the girl boy vocal and lo-fi production that reminded me of Vaselines and bands from the Postcard label of Glasgow. With the opening melody sung out in glorious reverb before the full rhythm section kick in Abducted is a great way to start an album.
- James Blake – “Measurements”
James Blake’s classical training allows for beautiful pauses which are brave and give the lyrics and melody space to resonate. This coupled with his dub step production techniques make for wonderful arrangements and smothering sub-bass. Measurements is the last track on his debut LP and rounds it off beautifully with a course of loops and gospel tones rounding off an astounding album
- Katie Kim – Heavy Lighting
This is one of the best songs I’ve heard in a long, long time it’s taken from her new album Cover and Flood, due for release in January. It’s stunning. The music is simple which allows you to tune into the lyrics and amazing vocal and harmonies. I dunno, I can’t really describe how good it is, it’s that good. It’s not a song you’d tire of.
- Yuck – Rubber.
I found it hard to pick a second favourite song of the year, but this song is taken from one of my favourite albums. I do really love this song, it’s 7 minutes of nice vocal and guitar noise, and it’s all slow and melty, kind of atmospheric with nice backing vocals, i do love that kinda thing. The video to go with it is pretty fucked up though.
1&2 Choosen by Paula, 3&4 by Leon and 5&6 by Sarah
I Am Not Lefthanded
- Fox Jaw Bounty Hunters – The Devil In Music
We met these charming Limerick gentlemen in Toronto at IndieWeek, and were blown away by their live set. Cunningly getting a free CD out of them by swapping it for one of ours, we put it into a laptop on the flight home and haven’t taken it out since. Watch out for big things from them.
- Jamie Woon – Mirrorwriting
Daniel knew Jamie from university days in London, where he was playing much more acoustic, folky material. But it was Jamie’s a capella, looping youtube performance of Spirits (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZfDbEQAfOY) that really won our hearts. The long-awaited album is really sweet, soothing, minimal, with delightful overtones of Seal (if you like that kind of thing).
- Wye Oak – Civilian
The new album from Baltimore’s Wye Oak is a bit more grown up than their previous ones, but that’s no bad thing. Lovely echoes of My Bloody Valentine, and some great vocal performances from Jenn Wasner.
- Slow Club – Paradise
We’ve been enjoying Slow Club for a while now, they’ve been building really nicely in the UK, and this second album was just as good at their first. Honest music, a great listen.
- Oh No! Yoko – Pau Pau
If you ever want to see a ridiculously manic drummer, Vancouver’s Oh No! Yoko are the band to see. We saw them purely by chance while we were waiting to soundcheck in Toronto, and the words shockingly good came to mind. The album, Pau Pau, is full of catchy, bouncy, smiling tunes – think of a Canadian Two Door Cinema Club.
- Special mention: Twitter single “Winter Song”.
We watched the story of this unfold on Twitter over the space of a week. It’s not a full album but it’s a Herculean effort from a group of people, most of whom have never met or done anything like this before. And the proceeds go to a great cause – it was definitely a track that was trying to make us homesick in time for the holidays.
Padraig, Yeh Deadlies
- Big Monster Love : Game Over.
I was in a band with BML years ago so I know first hand how incredible a songwriter he is. This record reduced me to a blubbering fool more than once. It’s recorded live but I wouldn’t call it lo-fi. It’s more minimalist than lo-fi. It’s got So Cow on drums and it’s a really warm, no frills record. It’s a rare thing. BML himself is a complete bollix though.
- Land Lovers : Confidants
This album is so well arranged and so well crafted it makes me jealous of bands who work that hard on the bells and whistles and tweaks and minutiae in the jamming room. The songwriting is super. It’s all in tune and Cooney is obvioulsy ripping off Tears For Fears as he mentioned them in song.
- Squarehead : Yeah Nothing
I think I love this record so much because I’d seen Squarehead live so many times and loved the songs so long that the first time I listened to it the effect was something like finding one of your all time favourite (yet long lost) records in a second hand shop and finally being able the play it loud in the comfort of your own home. The lads are complete tossers though.
- Patrick Kelleher And His Cold Dead Hands : Golden Syrup
I love this record. It’s got a great and really consistent feel throughout. It’s pretty bold to stick so much to a certain mood, plus it’s not easy to keep the little variations on a theme so fresh and interesting. Little things mean a lot here. When his voice goes into falsetto it’s mega. His voice is great all the way through, actually. He should deffo start saying hello to me at parties.
- Retarded Cop : You Have The Right To Remain Retarded.
Choon after choon after choon. Get over it should have been a mega hit. Popicalia made me very happy. Gaz is a gent.