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 six…
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
Part Five: Beyond Olden Acre, The Dirty 9s, Elaine Mai, Milan Jay, and the Spook of the Thirteenth Lock
- Real Estate – Days
A friend gave me a lend of Real Estate’s first album earlier this year and I fell in love with their sound. This album is tighter and more focused. “It’s Real” is such a hit, and it’s so short, every time I hear it I want to start it again. “All the Same” has been my morning anthem for the last few weeks.
- Panda Bear – Tomboy
My brother got me into Panda Bear. Person Pitch was such an amazing album so I had really high expectations for Tomboy. It’s quite different and it took me a while to get into it, but it’s really grown on me. His music is so hypnotic, it burrows into your subconscious. I like the simplicity and directness of his lyrics and I think he’s got one of the best voices around at the moment. “Alsatian Darn” and “Last Night at the Jetty” are my highlights.
- Richard Swift – Walt Wolfman
I love nearly everything Richard Swift does, he has such a good way with a melody. This EP is a mix of pop, garage, r n b, and doo wop. Lots of distorted vocals, fuzzy bass lines, plinky pianos and crackly drums. If you haven’t got his last album “The Atlantic Ocean” go get it.
- Hello Moon – Only Count the Sunny Hours
This is a gem of an album. It’s so poppy but it took me a few listens to hear it. There’s a lot of layers in the music. I like the energy in the playing and I think the album flows really well. Great lyrics too, especially “Measure of Me”.
- Land Lovers – Confidants
There’s such a confidence in this album, the songs are fully formed, the playing is sharp and sonically it’s very big. I really like Padraig’s lyrics and his delivery. “Let those eejits into your evening to give it meaning” is hilarious and incisive. “Gravedigger” and “The Pocket Orchestra’s Death Song” are my favourites.
- Glimmerers – The Dying Seconds
Full disclosure: we’ve known The Dying Seconds for years. Fuller disclosure: as horrible, cynical people, the fact that we’re friends with them actually makes our love of the album much more impressive. And like all great albums, each song is standalone and beautiful in itself, but also sets up the next creating an overall picture. It’s also an album of amazing moments, from the creepy violins in Rubbernecks and the earthquake that kicks in on the word earthquake in Lavender, to the drum freakout at the end of Mora Minn and the unexpected (spoiler) full band end to All in the Dark. Having heard these songs grow from looped sketches and acoustic strumalongs to the understated melancholy epics on display is pretty sweet, but it’s the tiny details that become apparent with repeated listens, along with watching them kill show after show all year that puts this at number one.
- Strange Mercy – St. Vincent
As massive fans of St. Vincent’s “creepy Disney orchestral flourishes with filthy distorted guitars” MO for her first two albums, the sheer skill with which she u-turned into woozy synths laced with insane solos is unbelievable. But then, the fact that she’s a genius songwriter, lyricist and guitar player probably helped a bit. And playing one of the gigs of the year didn’t hurt. And also we’re deeply in love with her – as a band.
- Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Although Holocene is absolutely beautiful, and features one of the most amazing lyric-meets-perfect-point-in-the-song moments ever (‘all at once I knew I was not magnificent’), this is an album designed to be listened in entirety. Just as the song titles deviate from real to imagined places just as the whole thing seems to use dream logic to cloud the points where the journey moves from specific experience to pure imagination. We even now love the solo in Beth/Rest.
- tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l
This album is completely in love with the sheer joy of messing. Weird song structures, clattering percussion and a voice that can go from heartbreaking to rage often within a single word. And Gangsta is the most addictive song of the year.
- Elbow – Build a Rocket Boys
Elbow have somehow managed to make 5 near-perfect albums while not giving an inch. Obviously Guy Garvey is one of the most amazing vocalists and lyricists working today, but their belief in focusing on being consistently good and assuming that eventually the world will come around should be the blueprint for every band on earth. It also features the most devastating lyric of the year: “I miss your stupid face. I miss your bad advice”
The Holy Roman Army
- The Beach Boys- The Smile Sessions. Okay, so technically it’s not a new release but I can’t think of any other record released this year that put such a smile on my face. To hear the whole record more or less as it was supposed to sound was a real delight. Brian Wilson firing on all cylinders creatively, what could be better?
- Nicolas Jaar- Space Is Only Noise. This record took me back to a lot of the music that I listened to when I moved up to Dublin first as a student. At times it’s like Super Discount (Etienne DeCrecy’s classic which is one of my favourite albums) with vocals by Arthur Russell- this is a very good thing indeed.
- Feist- Metals/PJ Harvey- Let England Shake. These albums bookended my year and in a funny way both deal with a lot of the subjects that come up in our next record. Feist’s record is a beautiful take on personal heartbreak while PJ Harvey’s is imbued with a sense of gloom about politics and history. It’s also a wonderfully imaginative record sonically, she’s a real one-off is the bould PJ.
- Machinedrum- Room(s). I’ve been listening to this on repeat for the last few months and it still floors me. On a technical level the programming is amazing, I genuinely have no idea how he comes up with the beats. As well as that it’s got a real warmth to it and in ‘Come1′ it has my favourite track of the year- a true tour de force.
- Kuedo- Severant. A modern update of Kraftwerk’s retro-futurist manifesto, and a brilliant one at that. There’s plenty of touches of Dilla-esque drops and dubsteppy bass to complement the clean, classic electronic sound. There isn’t a single dud on the whole album and for a record without a single vocal it really holds your attention through its fifteen tracks.
Last Days of 1984
- Zomby – Dedication
There’s something really special in the minimalism of this record.. Bare instrumentation of beautiful low frequencies, arpeggiated synth parts and a real urgency to the percussion to make it feel slightly on edge. It’s the perfect record to cycle to at night. The collaboration with Panda bear, ‘Things Fall Apart’ is one of the best songs of the year
- Tyler, The Creator – Goblin
This album didn’t get as much love as I thought it would. In the same way that I find David Lynch’s ‘Dune’ amazing, Goblin is amazing despite it’s flaws, for it’s moments of genius. Sandwitches and She (featuring Frank Ocean) are both very high up in my list of awesome songs this year
- Tune-Yards – WhoKill
Both Brian and myself agreed that her show in Whelans this year was one of the best shows we’ve ever been too. There was a month of the Summer this year where this rarely left my record player… Every single song is killer and Merrill Garbus has one of the greatest voices in the world
- Le Galaxie – Laserdisc Nights II
The greatest soundtrack to a movie that hasn’t been made yet. Like putting on a cold leather jacket in the morning (no shirt).. on a beach as the sun comes up
- Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact
The most tripped out synths of the year with a really beautiful Vangelis influence. This record has been a really big influence on us this year.
- Panda Bear – Tomboy
The collaboration with Sonic Boom is absolute genius. I’m starting to listen to this more than Person Pitch now.. and that’s one of my favourite records of all time. Beautiful tripped out songs
- Blanck Mass – Blanck Mass
Amazing record by Ben Power from Fuck Buttons.. Fuck Buttons are a band that are hugely influential on Last Days Of 1984.. and this solo record by Ben is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve heard all year. Beautifully references Vangelis and Ennio Morricone.. endless waves of sound.. just beautiful.
- LITE- ‘For all the innocence’
Had the pleasure of seeing these guys in cork this year, their live show is intense! So is this album!
Stand out tracks, ‘Red horse in blue’ and ‘mute whale’
- Amiina – ‘Puzzle’
Icelandic quartet of sigur rós fame, I’ve been listening to their first album ‘kurr’ for years, this one will be no different.
Stand out track – púsl
- Ten past seven – ‘Black box recordings’
Recorded in France at Black Box Studios after a successful fundit campaign. Mind blowing stuff altogether.
Stand out track – O.N.O.
- Ólafur Arnalds- ‘living room songs’
Back in October Ólaur Arnolds recorded and released one song per day for seven days. Apart from being a really interesting idea the resulting album is outstanding.
Stand out track – Day 2 ‘Near light’
- Alarmist – ‘Alarmist’
This is by far our favorite release of this year, had been looking forward to since hearing a demo of two of the songs in 2010, nods to jaga jazzist and tortoise here and there but remains completely original.
Stand out track – Giraffe Centre