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. Continuing on from where I left off, here’s part five…
Part One: The Casanova Wave, Toby Kaar, Eleanor McEvoy, Storyfold, We are Losers
Part Two: My Pilot, The P Affection, The Riot Tapes, Tenaka, and Youth Mass
Part Three: Alarmist, Bantum, The Debutantes, I am Not Lefthanded, and Yeh Deadlies
Part Four: Captain Kennedy, Come on Live Long, Datadrip, Drunken Boat, and The Gorgeous Colours
- Squarehead – Yeah Nothing
One of the best live bands that I’ve seen in Dublin. It was interesting to see how their undoubtedly great tunes would translate onto record. I think in the end it came out really well, because the essence and energy of the songs were kept intact and didn’t rely on a super polished production to sugarcoat something that was already great.
- Hello Moon – Only Count The Sunny Hours
I should preface this by saying that I know the guys from Hello Moon very well, but their debut album is crammed full of some of the smartest pop music you could hope to hear. Songs are developed so well, and weave effortlessly between bright layers of lustre and enduring melody and sharp lyrics.
- PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Another great album, the melodies and lyrics are so rich, and she makes great and clever use of components borrowed from elsewhere, as well as implementing the autoharp as her main instrument, and developing a new singing style and voice.
- Ginnels – Mountbatten Class
Ginnels go from moments of striking tenderness to frantic pop. Loads of shimmering layers and some really incessant vocal lines that I could recall for days even after my first listen. Also a great live band, if you get the chance to see them.
- Yeh Deadlies – First Book of Lessons
I really like how Padraig and Annies’ voices fit together, over invariably great guitar parts. I love the lyrics as well. The opening song ‘The Present Perfect’ is one of the best choruses of the year for me, and also my favourite song title.
- Tieranniesaur – Tieranniesaur
Really funky record. Sometimes when a band is made up of some really great musicians, as Tieranniesaur is, the danger is they might be used to overcompensate for any shortcomings in the songs. Fortunately the songs are also excellent. The lead vocal lines are gorgeous and the harmonies equally so.
- Land Lovers – Confidants
Sometimes the best pop music always seems kinda obvious after you hear it. Sometimes I’ll listen to a song and curse the fact that I didn’t think of the premise first. In some ways, when this happens, the music is kinda ruined afterwards. It’s truly sad on my behalf. Thankfully this didn’t occur when I listened to Confidants. It is an awesome collection of songs, that I could never have possibly conceived of, but dearly love. Great lyrics also. There’s a great imagery within these songs.
- Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Wonderful songs and lovely vocal arrangements, without sounding the same as their debut. There is definitely more of an edge to the band and a bit more attitude.
The Dirty 9s
- The Decemberists – The King is dead
As soon as I started listening to this album, I felt a deep affinity with it, but I didn’t understand it. Sure, the melodies were exquisite, the lyrics constantly fascinating, but there was something else. Then listening to ‘Rox in the box’ one day, I noticed that the violin part had extraordinary similarities to our own ‘Raggle-taggle gypsy’. I realized then that I loved the album for its essentially Irish soul which rears its heads consistently on this excellent album.
- Noel Gallagher – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
I will always have an affinity to Noel Gallagher’s music, having been hugely influenced by him all throughout my formative years, and you can never let that go. The last few compromised years of Oasis provided little joy for me however.
I think the ‘bird’ reference in the title is significant, because it sounds to me like Noel has been set free, and long may it continue if the songs are to be this good.
- John Spillane – A Rock to Cling To
John said that he wanted to write an album of love songs, without the ‘mad’ stuff. And I guess i’m glad he did, just once.
Its a really lovely album, where John showcases his gift for melody consistently throughout. ‘Passage west’ is the standout for me.
- Bill Callahan – Apocalypse
Listening to Bill Callahan isn’t really a passive experience. You are sucked into his mood, his pace, his words. You submit, and let these unpredictable songs take you on their journey. The detail is stunning, and his lyrics swim around in your head for days after.
- Lisa Hannigan – Passenger
Another album that speaks often of birds, and again I wonder is it her repressed voice expressing the joy of feeling free?
Lisa is now a bona-fide success in her own right, and her hushed voice on Sea Sow is nowsoaring on ‘Passenger’. ‘Nowhere to go’ is as touching a song you are likely to hear.
- Jamie xx + Gil Scott Heron, We’re new here. I seriously could not, and still cannot stop listening to this album. I love hearing other people’s interpretations of things and Jamie xx is gifted at keeping things fresh and interesting, always with unexpected twists. Love it.
- Radiohead, King of Limbs. This band can do no wrong in my eyes, and I love the fact that the more you listen to this album, the more you love it.
- Bjork, Biophilia, I heard a really apt description of Bjork once.. ‘peerless’… too true I think. Always fresh, always amazing.
- Le Galaxie, Laserdisc Nights 2, Without a doubt, one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, class.
- Lisa Hannigan, Passenger, Only needs one word really, Gorgeous.
- Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee Part 2
Released a year behind schedule, and almost 30 years into the beastie boys career and yet it was the freshest sounding album of the year, and the video for “make some noise” was quite possibly the most entertaining and downright bizarre video ever.
- Radiohead – The King Of Limbs
You hate it, you love it, you hate it, you love it again. Not the best Radiohead album by any stretch of the imagination, but still way better than most of what was released this year.
- Gil Scott Heron & Jamie XX – We’re New here
Very sparse and cold sounding beats coupled with the always fascinating voice of Gil Scott Heron. This was a record that I enjoyed more and more with every listen. Its got little bits of everything from hip hop, jazz, dubstep & drum ‘n’ bass that make it an album that never gets boring.
- Lisa Hannigan – Passenger
Voice, melodies, lyrics. The sound of musicians in a room doing what they love. Like any great album it takes time to unfold and reveal all that’s hidden within.
- tUnE-YarDs – w h o k i l l
Fresh, funky, off-kilter music. Sounds amazing with great vocals and lyrics. Someone making a record on there own terms with no limitations. You can’t teach this stuff.
The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock
- Donnacha Dennehy– Grá agus Bás
- Jape – Ocean of Frequency
- Iarla O’Lionard – Foxlight
- Whirling Hall of Knives – Green Glow Bridge/Red Glow Bridge
- Large Mound – Another year of rock
- Captain – A new country
- PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
- Tenore de Orosei – Amore
- Cian Nugent – Doubles
- Big Monster Love – Game Over