Hot Press' 250 top Irish Albums

I was reading this earlier in Tower. Astral Weeks wins it - class album in fairness. Good to see Heartworm getting a decent showing. I was looking for the top 50 online but can’t find it anywhere. The one thing I noticed from looking at Hot Press earlier was that there was no sign of Promenade by the Divine Comedy - the greatest Irish album for me. Casanova made it in the 30s somewhere.

VAN MORRISONS 1968 masterpiece Astral Weeks remains the choice of some of Irelands top musicians as the best Irish album.

U2s The Edge, Shane MacGowan, Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol, Glen Hansard, composer Bill Whelan, Sharon Corr, Gavin Friday and Laura Izibor as well as members of The Sawdoctors, The Blizzards, The Coronas, Republic of Loose and dozens more bands and musicians all participated in the poll for the 250 greatest Irish albums for Hot Press magazine.

The poll, published in the magazine yesterday, was last carried out in 2004.

The enduring appeal of Astral Weeks is no surprise.

Last year Morrison celebrated the 40th anniversary of the albums release by playing it in its entirety at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

The album entitled Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl and a DVD of the same name were released earlier this year.

In a rare interview, Morrison said he decided to play the songs live because the album had received no promotion on its release from Warner Brothers.

Morrison said the album was timeless and unchanging.

U2s 1991 album Achtung Baby at number two is chosen ahead of The Joshua Tree (number 5), which has often featured on the top of best Irish albums polls. The albums are usually reversed in best-of polls.

Thin Lizzys classic Live and Dangerous , which was voted the best live album of all time by Classic Rock magazine, comes in at number three, while the choice of The Irish Times music critics of greatest Irish album, My Bloody Valentines Loveless , is at number four.

Whipping Boys little known 1995 album Heartworm is at number six, The Undertones self-titled debut, with its single Teenage Kicks , is at number seven and The Pogues Rum, Sodomy and the Lash is at number eight.

The only new entries in the top 10 from the last poll are Ashs album 1977 and Damien Rices O .

Morrisons 1970 album Moondance is at number 11. He has 11 entries in the top 250, U2 have nine and Rory Gallagher has seven.

Cathy Daveys Tales of Silversleeve is the highest new entry outside the top 10 at number 19, followed by Fionn Regans The End of History at number 20.

Other prominent new entrants are two albums from last year Japes Ritual at number 28 and Lisa Hannigans Sea Sew at number 29. Damien Dempseys Seize the Day is at number 30.

Julie Feeneys album Pages , which was released earlier this year, made it to number 55.

I’d put Loveless ahead of Astral Weeks purely because of Beside You. A horrid dirge which spoils the album. Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak should be well up there too. And Horsedrawn Wishes by Rollerskate Skinny.

Horsedrawn Wishes was mentioned in the top 50 I think. Outside the incredible Speed to my Side, I think it is ordinary enough though.

Don’t recall seeing Perry Blake’s eponymous debut in there either. Nor anything by Martin Hayes but I can forgive that maybe.

One thing that did strike me about the list was that how relatively shite Irish music is in the overall scheme of things.

Perry Blake is fantastic. A Sligo man, I think, isn’t he?

Sligo/Leitrim border as far as I know.

Some have said that he may even be a Leitrim man.

[quote=“farmerinthecity”]Sligo/Leitrim border as far as I know.

Some have said that he may even be a Leitrim man.[/quote]

He’s worth claiming as one of your own alright.

Haven’t heard much of his later stuff. I think his debut was on Sony or some major label but they let him go after it. I am aware that he has had a few albums since but haven’t really heard many of them.

You up on his later stuff Thrawneen?

No, not at all. A Polish girl I know turned me on to him originally. I’ll investigate.

:clap: recently did their Top 50 of the last decade (including 1999 because they did it for their tenth birthday, not for the end of the decade).

50: So Cow

‘These Truly Are End Times’

Probably the greatest album ever mostly made in South Korea, Galwegian Brian Kelly decamped to Asia to teach English for a spell and returned home with something truly remarkable. It’s been said so often by Kelly’s (far too) small legion of true believers that it’s almost become an online clich on a par with alliterating the also appearing in this countdown Lisa Hannigan’s name by concatenating it with the word “lovely” but Kelly is very possibly a mad pop genius. Every note sung on These Truly Are End Times, every string plucked, every key pressed and every drum hit was exclusively done by Kelly and the resulting songs went on to become the finest collection of power pop tunes committed to CD since Weezer were good at what they did over a decade ago. Hmm, I guess that means that as far as I’m concerned this is the best power pop album of Cluas’ lifetime. Ian Wright

49. Waiting Room
‘Catering For Headphones’

Waiting Room’s Catering For Headphones emerged at a time when Cork City’s music scene was undergoing dramatic change. Legendary Cork venue Sir Henry’s had disappeared from the musical landscape and many music fans were contemplating an uncertain future. By releasing Catering For Headphones, Waiting Room deviated from many of the conventions of Cork rock music. While past Cork acts such as The Sultans of Ping and Five Go Down To The Sea? had dutifully represented the quirky and fun side of Irish music, Waiting Room embraced a more serious and emotionally tinged, low-fi sound to deliver a collection of subtle epics. Opening track Waller St sets the tone beautifully for a record that is as much about the intricate nature of music as it is about life. Another Take is a genuinely infectious track that sucks the listener into a trance like state and perfectly illustrates the talent of songwriter Nigel Farrelly. Return My Rabbits is another mini-epic, which showcases the band’s more adventurous side and benefits from the production talents of Ross O’Donovan. While Waiting Room may no longer be together, they etched their place in the annals of Cork rock history by releasing an album that left the past behind and looked confidently to the future. Mark McAvoy

48: Turn

Blending rock-fuelled musical compositions with lyrics of true emotional depth; Forward belied the myth of difficult second albums. Recorded at a time when the band lost original bass player Gavin Fox to Idlewild and released without the backing of a record label, Forward’s haphazard nature is best illustrated by the fact the song No More is listed as I Close My Eyes on the album sleeve because Oliver Cole couldn’t remember the name of the track when the artwork was being completed. However, one thing Cole did get right was the song writing and gone was the youthful cockiness of Antisocial, replaced instead by a layer of introspection and insecurity from where all great lyrics are written. That Turn are no more is one of Irish music’s great losses. However, in Forward they have left us an album of, pure song writing, real depth and yet one that still manages, to quote Oliver Cole, ‘to rock like a motherf*cker.’ Steven O’Rourke

47: Headgear
‘Flight Cases’

The album cover depicts a tightrope walker traversing a rope that stretches from the Dublin Spire to the monument it replaced: Nelson’s Pillar. It is a fitting image for an album that weaves narratives of flight, fear of flight and flights of fancy. The album was partly inspired by Limerick native, Daragh Dukes’s own fear of flying. Highlights include the harmonic ‘Mister Petit’, which focuses on Frenchman Phillipe Petit’s journey between the Twin Towers, in 1974, on a self constructed tightrope (as documented recently in the film ‘Man on Wire’). The electro flourishes of previous album, ‘Headgear’ are still very much present, most notably in the epic closing track ‘A Singsong in the Sky’; but there is also a more mature and varied instrumental approach to the songs, from the acoustic plucking and harmonica of ‘The Emergency Position’, to the guest saxophone solo from comedian Pat Shortt on ‘Icarus Girl’. Aviophobia never sounded so good. Mire Robinson

46: The Divine Comedy

‘Victory For The Comic Muse’

Ah, Neil Hannon. From the unaffected innocence of ‘Liberation’ and ‘Promenade’ to the overproduced indulgence of ‘Fin De Siecle’ and ‘Regeneration’, it’s been quite a trip. Rarely has life imitated art as accurately as Hannon actually becoming the lecherous fop he poked fun at on ‘Casanova’. But out of nowhere in 2006 Hannon dropped ‘Victory…’ into our collective lap and, suddenly, it was time for a reappraisal. That it contains probably his finest song ‘A Lady of a Certain Age’ - is as good a place as any to begin. Throwaway pop tunes 'Mother Dear and ‘To Die a Virgin’ litter the album. He’s older now and, for the most part, wiser. Sure, it isn’t perfect ‘Diva Lady’ and ‘The Plough’ are all too reminiscent of his mid-period Liberace moments - but ‘Victory’, if nothing else, reminded the world that Hannon, shorn of the burlesque excesses of old, remains a wonderful songwriter. Confucius

45: The Frank and Walters
‘A Renewed Interest in Happiness’

It was six long years between The Frank’s ‘Glass’, a criminally underappreciated work of genius, and the Dave Couse produced ‘A Renewed Interest in Happiness’. From the opening riff of ‘Fight’ to the closing outro of hidden track ‘Changed My Way of Thinking’, we are taken on a very merry jaunt of the finest, most joyous melodic guitar-driven pop imaginable. Lead single ‘Miles and Miles’ coaxes out a smile, new live favourite ‘C’mon’ makes you feel more alive than you have in years, until Linehan’s Fender Jazz-driven ‘Country Boy’ grabs you by scruff of the neck and marches you off to detention. The brakes are temporarily squeezed for the delicate and glorious ‘Learned to Love Myself Again’ before being released for ‘Keep the Faith’, ‘Guilty’, Hold On’ and ‘You’re the Greatest’. Ireland’s McCartney and Lennon, take a bow. With five glorious albums in their armoury, it really is time for the world to awaken from its slumber. This really is as good as it gets. Sig O’Doherty

44: Snow Patrol
‘When it’s all over we still have to clear up’

Before the album that blew them into every weepy moment ever on TV came this widely overlooked sophomore album. The reason ‘When it’s all over’ works is because it sounds as if Gary Lightbody doesn’t quite know what to do with such a gaping hole in his chest. From ‘Never Gonna Fall In Love Again’ to the title track it’s almost hard to believe he managed to live never mind write songs. Think of it as a mature and lo-fi brother to Ash’s 1977 that is low on the immediate pop effect but high on repeat listen findings. A great break up album that brings all the unrequited love, hate, frustration and yearning. At times it does become too wallowed and withdrawn but is picked up by some much needed punch when things become too bleak. More admirable than their current drivel. Daire Hall

43: The Urges
‘Psych Ward’

On first inspection Psych-Ward sounds like it belongs in Tower Records nugget bin. It’s a surprise then to find out it’s actually the debut album from Dublin’s finest 60s garage band. Psychedelic swirls, fuzzed up guitar, gritty drums, there all contributed to an album that plays like a napalm assault on the senses. No one ever accused The Urges of being the most original band in Ireland, but they channel the spirit of a by gone era so flawlessly it’s hard not to be impressed. In a strange new world where the search for originality has pushed rock and roll into often unlistenable territory, The Urges emergence felt like a cold breeze on a hot summers day. And that makes this a relevant album in my book. Dean Nguyen

42: The Walls
‘New Dawn Breaking’

The Walls’ music output could never be described as prolific, in the 10 years of Cluas they have released 2 albums, Hi-Lo and New Dawn Breaking. Hi-Lo, an electrifying album in its own right spawned one of the best Irish singles of Cluas’s lifetime, ‘Bone Deep’. A bass-driven masterpiece that escapes being genre defined in much the same way as Doves’ ‘Pounding’, the lyrics are as slap dash and as chaotically controlled as Beck’s back in the day, before he went and found himself. The reasons for this sparse output are a plenty; from ‘majors’ almost squeezing the life out of their artistic drive, to their accountant clearing out their account without permission to lace his own fat pocket as the track ‘Drowning Pool’ and its punchy riff details, to having an almost OCD type drive for perfection in the studio, relaying, redubbing and reworking each song again and again. You almost feel like you’re cheating by only having to listen to and be lifted by this quite beautiful record, when you think of the effort and struggle that has gone into getting it released. And with their backs firmly to the wall they graduated with flying colours in self-sufficiency… ‘To the Bright and Shining Sun’ with its uplifting licks being the summer anthem of 2005, ‘Passing Through’ and ‘Open Road’ showed the young pretenders to the throne just how a slice of guitar pop should sound, effortless. The intricate and more delicate ‘Birthday Girl’, ‘Romantic…’ ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Black and Blue’ push all the more sensitive buttons and stand out track, the soaring ‘High Wire’ elevates you to a new and wondrous place. Stunning. Sig Doherty

41: Republic of Loose

Not sure if it’s because of the fact that the Gulf Stream continues to tip gallons of rain on this country from one end of the year to the other, whether we can blame 800 years of oppression by the Perfidious Albion or whether our Celtic antecedents have made us more kooky than carnal but the fact of it is that, in musical terms at least, we Irish don’t do Sexy. As in raw, dirty, batteries required, fur handcuffs and whipped cream sell your soul to the devil Sexy. The exception to this is the Republic of Loose, a band whose entire works could and should be sold on from the top shelf. The embodiment of all this sin is their front man, Mick Pyro, a man who lives and will die convinced the world revolves around his priapus. While it’s a delusional premise common to any number of rock gods, it makes for some great music, and, in the case of “Aaagh”, some great laugh out loud fun. “You know it” is a definite highpoint, the best piece of blue eyed American soul recorded by an Irish band, but it’s only one of a number of gems here. Best heard when you’re wearing protection. Anthony Morrissey

40: David Kitt
‘Small Moments’

An album that proved to aspiring Irish songwriters that you really could do it, if not make it, from the comfort of your bedroom, using an acoustic guitar and electronic bits and bobs. Indeed ‘bedroom’ at times best sums up an album whose mood is often narcoleptic, all weary 5am cigarettes and breaking dawns. But the tunes went well beyond such stylings, with Kitt scripting beautiful mood melodies on Step Outside In The Morning Light and Sleep Comes Tomorrow. And lest anyone did doze off the insistent beats of Headphones and Sound Fades With Distance proved that Kitt could step up the tempo when he needed to. If every songwriter has one good album in him, this was Kitt’s. Pity he hasn’t matched it since. Cormac Looney

39: Damien Dempsey
‘Seize the Day’

Released in 2004, not far off the height of the Celtic Tiger years, it’s a collection of songs by a man with something to say. It’s as simple as that. Seeing Dempsey perform at the peak of powers is quite an experience and it’s captured perfectly on this album. The album is focused around Dempsey’s voice, his signature brute force guitar playing and honest and effective lyrical style. Highlights are “Negative Vibes” and the solo performance of “Factories”. Its timelessness is also very apparent. “Celtic Tiger” was a warning of what might - and in fact did - happen to Ireland and the performance and content of “Industrial School”, it should be noted, has never been more appropriate than it is now. Andy Knightley

38: Alphastates
‘Made from Sand’ (read the original CLUAS review of this album)

Produced by uber-knobtwiddler Karl Odlum, Alphastates’ Made from Sand takes the listener on a journey through a multi-layered musical landscape delivering sonic sensuality at every turn and turning it into the kind of album best enjoyed in the company of a lover (though, given the subject matter, not necessarily your own), over a glass of red wine, in front of a warm fire on a long dark winter evening. Full of smouldering electronic beats, it is an album perfectly in tune with two beating hearts, laying chest by chest. Lament, loss and longing, all delivered in Catherine Dowling’s sultry vocal stylings, define Made from Sand and make it, perhaps, the sexiest Irish album ever made. Indeed, Made from Sand oozes so much sexuality it should come with an 18 certificate. Steven O’Rourke

37: Dry County ‘Unexpected Falls’

Unexpected talent from an Irish band who have recently morphed into Alias Empire: Dry County released their album ‘Unexpected Falls’ to much acclaim and with good reason. Kevin brings across vocals that alter throughout the album, sometimes drawn and quiet, at other times personal and raw. The Choice-nominated album begins with ‘Delayed By 5’, easing in electronic, machine-like sounds that are contrasted by soft piano chords and whispers that say ‘We all fall down’. The pace picks up quickly towards the end of the track with distortion and heavy drumming. ‘Attention’ has a thudding bass-line that tingles throughout, accompanied by a full chorus of ‘Heal it! Heal it!’ The stand-out track ‘Stop Proceed’ drifts its way through electronic beats and culminates with a thunderous crescendo of noise, bleeps and distortion as the band repeats: ‘…is what you make it, not what it made you.’ Niamh Madden

36: The Immediate
‘In Towers and Clouds’

The Immediate’s highly anticipated first, and as it sadly worked out, only release, ‘In Towers and Clouds’ was released in 2006 to widespread critical acclaim. An album described as the best Irish release in many a year. An album of sublime and sometimes chaotic, but always controlled chaos mind, that took home-grown guitar bands to a level last heard in the likes of ‘Troublegum’, ‘Grand Parade’ or ‘Heartworm’. Some argued that a four piece having multiple vocalists, drummers, lead and bass guitarists would hinder the final output, that each player should stick to what they do best. But as ‘In Towers and Clouds’ surely proves, this alternating dynamic enhanced the album and kept the listener attentive, and ultimately generously rewarded. The sonic beats, spiky guitars and soaring harmonies in track ‘In Towers and Clouds’, the more laid back sound and beauty of ‘Big Sad Eyes’ to the towering guitar hungry ‘A Ghost in This House’ leave the listener with the warmest of indelible feelings. The punchy ‘Don’t You Ever’ to ‘Stop and Remember’ with its hypnotic echo to the charged ‘Let This Light Fill Your Eyes’ don’t fail to deliver. Watching The Immediate live wasn’t just a gig, but an event. Missed they will be, but ‘maybe tomorrow, maybe tomorrow…’ Sig Doherty

35: The Tychonaut
‘Love Life’

The Tycho Brahe are apparently, by their own admission, big fans of Fleetwood Mac, so perhaps this is why they appeared to have followed a similar trajectory by following up the concise masterpiece of “this is” with a double album and admittedly it doesn’t quite work and hang together cohesively as a listenable whole. However, at the very least it deserves its place here for standout opening track “Steel wheels” alone and if you pulled out the tracks that don’t quite work or cause the album to lose momentum, you’d arguably be left with an album that is better than “This is…”. After all, isn’t that what iPod playlists are for? Binokular

34: JJ72
‘I To Sky’

I To Sky was released in 2002, as garage rock was seeing its revival following The Strokes’ debut ‘Is This It’. JJ72 shunned this new scene and delved further into their own sound. The influence of Joy Division, The Smashing Pumpkins and U2 are worn on their sleeves, but JJ72 distil this into their own brilliant sound. The screaming, screeching voice of the debut is tamed for large parts of the album. Instead Greaney sings in a quiet beautiful voice. At times beautiful, at times ferocious, ‘I To Sky’ was shunned by the public on its release. While their debut may have been granted more commercial success but this is the album that defines JJ72 for me. It closes on ‘Oiche Mhaith’, which did indeed turn out to be the band’s ‘good night’. After several aborted attempts to release the follow up, the band parted ways. Garret Cleland

33: Ham Sandwich
‘Carry The Meek’

If the name Ham Sandwich didn’t irk you in some way, then their debut ‘Carry The Meek’ surely got under your skin. The five-piece indie popsters from Kells have had a Marmite effect on its Irish audience: But love them or hate them, you couldn’t have ignored the catchy chorus of ‘Keepsake’ dizzying its way around Phantom FM. Niamh Farrell joins the bass-like voice of Podge McNamee on tracks that deal with heartache and break-ups. From the sober and cumulative beginnings of ‘St. Christopher’ to the crashing cymbals and powerful harmonies in ‘Words’, the album is full of memorable moments. ‘Never Talk’ stands out for its dramatic build-ups and sweats its way to a climax: ‘Everyone says this love won’t last.’ ‘Carry The Meek’ is a throwback to a 90s grunge sound, an alternative welcome from gimmicky bands wearing bowler hats and ties. Niamh Madden

32: The Thrills
‘So Much For The City’

31: 66e
‘Fall Down 7 Times Stand Up 8’

For those who do not know who 66e is, the easiest introduction is to say that they are Le Galaxie before they were Le Galaxie and with one extra member. But 66e represent a completely different musical entity than their new incarnation: at all times restrained, considered, and with an aesthetic much more concerned with creating beauty than danceable beats. So remove the glitches and beats from Le Galaxie, take the minimalist sensibilities, harmonies and production values of Low but in a five-member texture, combine the two, layer it up and you’ve got something approximating this album. It is a glorious structure of harmonies, guitars, keys and more harmonies, all with the same ethereal glow, and equally as uplifting as its name would suggest. Anna Murray

30: Tycho Brahe

‘This is the Tycho Brahe’

Circa 2002, the Irish music scene seemed to be divided into two main factions. There was the cult of the Ginger One locking themselves into Whelan’s and being sensitive and tuneless and the knee jerk reaction to that, a smattering of abortive garage rawk bands who wanted you to believe they were already in the throes of heroin addiction and mental breakdown. Probably. Well, that’s the way I remember it anyway, I’d lost interest and too busy being anoraky and getting enthusiastic about Schneider TM records or something to notice. In the middle of this, one Irish band managed to capture my imagination, the Tycho Brahe (later renamed Tychonaut) who seemed to take path that followed neither extreme really. I guess that’s because it was a path at least two thirds of the Tycho Brahe had been following as The Plague Monkeys years earlier. “This is…” retained many of the elements that made the Plague Monkeys great, mainly Carol Keogh’s sublime voice and a certain bookish charm, but it was more playful in nature. The most striking thing about this album is how unforced and unaffected it sounds - beautiful and intelligent as it is unpretentious. It’s a shame it flies by in a mere forty minutes. Binokular

29: U2
‘How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb’

28: Gemma Hayes
‘Night on my Side’

Long before MGMT’s debut offering went global last year, the David Fridmann effect once had an eye-opening Irish twist. With Fridmann on production duties for her debut album Night On My Side, Hayes emerged as one of the last great No Disco-introduced Irish artists. From the hazy acoustica of ‘Back Of My Hand’ to the Whipping Boy-esque frenzied rock of ‘Let A Good Thing Go’ via impossible-not-to-like lead-single ‘Hanging Around’, Hayes presents a polarised range of dabblings in personal pop, alt-country, and even shoegaze-rock in the case of ‘Tear in My Side’. Although Hayes pursues a self-absorbed approach to the lyrics throughout, she succeeds in doing so in a non-whiney fashion, where many have failed. In fact, the raw and masculine edge in many of the songs balances with the introverted and feminine aspects of the album to give it the universal appeal that many albums from the singer/songwriter sorority lack. A modern Irish classic. Ronan Lawlor

27: Wilt

Rising from the grunge-tinged ashes of Kerbdog, Wilt adopted a more pop-friendly guise in 2000 with the release of debut album, ‘Bastinado’. (Interestingly, the album takes its name from a form of torture which involves foot whipping; a warning to potential detractors, perhaps?) The album has several melodic singles replete with tight vocal harmonies. ‘It’s all over now’ and ‘No worries’ are two of the catchiest and enjoyed considerable radio play on Phantom FM back in the day. Proving they weren’t a one trick up-tempo pony, Wilt also admirably tackled acoustic ballads with songs such as ‘Open Arms’ and ‘Goodnight’, leading to a well balanced album that more than holds up to repeated listening. Mire Robinson

26: Ten Speed Racer
‘10 S R’

Ten Speed Racer imploded too soon. When I interviewed the band’s former guitarist Pat Barrett earlier this year for this site, he said the band decided to knock things on the head, as they were, in his words, ‘tired’. It was a curiously prosaic reason to bring the band to a halt as things were just beginning to get interesting. They first came to my attention with the ‘Girls and Magazines’ EP, a lovely, bittersweet collection of guitar-based indie-pop that spoke of great things to come. And The Great Thing did come, in the shape of ‘10 S R’ in 2003 - an album of rollicking, propulsive rock songs and slower, pensive mid-tempo tracks like ‘Overcast’ and the utterly gorgeous ‘Fifteen’ - their finest moment. Incidentally, the band’s guitarist Joe Chester’s debut album ‘A Murder Of Crows’ also made the top fifty while Pat’s beguiling debut from last year ‘Never Leave Anywhere’, which he recorded under the moniker The Hedge Schools, should have made it in there, too. And then there was the excellent Dae Kim formed by the band’s drummer, Terry Cullen. Come to think of it, a band with so many talented individuals on board had no chance of any sort of longevity so ‘10 S R’ is one hell of a legacy to leave behind. Ken Fallon

25: The Divine Comedy


An apt title, Regeneration represented a stripping down of the Neil Hannon sound no room for 100 musicians here. What was left was a lovely selection of songs. Lost Property is simply delightful (think melody by Air and vocals by Thom Yorke). Note to Self and Love What You Do are up there with the best the band ever produced, but the sombre sound didn’t appeal to listeners used to bombast and catchiness. It was a commercial failure and, soon after, the band announced a split. Which was a terrible shame as this album rewards a little devotion. Stephen McNulty

24: Fight Like Apes
‘Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion’

Much was expected of this album and it didn’t disappoint. Although anyone with an ear to the Irish music scene will already have been familiar with many of the songs from previous releases, they were polished up and given a new lease of life for the Ape’s debut release. “Give me my hook” screams May Kay on Something Global and indeed there’s no shortage of hooks and catchy sing-along choruses on an album of delightfully off kilter pop/rock. There’s more than a hint of Pavement with FLA, particularly with the enjoyably daft lyrics which veer from name checking Simple Kid and Yo La Tengo to barking mad rants about Humpty Dumpty and Little Bo Peep getting fired. An assured debut from a class act. Paul Brosnan

23: JJ72

For whatever reason , there was a lot of people who never liked JJ72. Maybe it was because it seemed a bit rich (if you pardon the pun), for the privileged boys and girl of Belvedere to be speaking of despair and isolation. Maybe it was because they were a little too pretty and arrogant. Maybe, just maybe, it was because their singer, Mark Greaney sounded a bit like a girl. But look beyond that, and what you’ll find here is a bunch of songs, begging, nay screaming for attention. It’s not a perfect album by any means, their youthful naivet would attest to it. Yet listening to the melody of October Swimmer, the power of Long way South, the demented beauty of Oxygen, all delivered with Greaney’s impassioned, if yes, quite girly delivery, it’s hard to deny this band had something special. And whatever about inflicting upon us the travesty that is Concerto for Constantine, you’ve got to credit him for that. Mark Townsend

22: Lisa Hannigan
‘Sea Sew’

Sea Sew is the lovely debut album from Lisa Hannigan, which saw a highly anticipated release in September 2008. Famed for her collaborations with Damien Rice, this is an album that is entirely her own. Showcasing her instantly recognisable voice, the songs are relaxed and beautifully crafted with a definite eye on the overall feel of the album. “Ocean and a Rock” opens to make way for a strong set of multi-instrumental opening tracks and plenty of recurring references to the sea. Later come two other standouts, the lyrically memorable “I Don’t Know” and pretty acoustic number “Lille”. Given the homogeneity of the tracks on this album, it inspires some curiosity on what to expect from a follow-up - more of the same? Regardless, it is a polished and promising start. Christine Cooke

21: Simple Kid

Following the demise of his former group, the glam rock styled Young Offenders; Cork’s Kieran MacFeely withdrew from music for a period of reassessment. He later re-emerged as Simple Kid armed with a superior sound and a collection of versatile and enchanting songs. His debut album SK1 showcased a new musical depth, impressive production and a penchant for smart, well-crafted lyrics. A prime example of MacFeely’s new found lyrical prowess can be found on the track ‘The Average Man’ in which he explores some of the realities of modern living. In fact, SK1 is heavily laden with moments of subtle pop genius such as the tracks ‘Truck On’, ‘Staring At The Sun’ and ‘Drugs’. Without a doubt, SK1 remains a classic Irish debut record. Mark McAvoy

20: Joe Chester
‘A Murder of Crows’

Joe Chester has a wealth of experience both playing and producing and it all shows on this album. Right from the opening title track we are presented with a collection of lush, beautifully crafted pop songs with a richly textured sound. Guitar and piano are the dominant instruments and the album has a melancholy feel overall with many of the songs inspired by the end of a relationship. Despite this it never slips into maudlin singer/songwriter territory - the songs are just too damn catchy for that. The title track, Charlie for a Girl and How You Wish You Feel in particular all have great melodies and the album closes with an achingly lovely piano based ballad, Anyway, whose wistful refrain of “anyway… I kept it to myself” lingers in your head long after the song has finished. A perfect end to a cracking record. Paul Brosnan

19: Mumblin’ Deaf Ro
‘The Herring And The Brine’

Male acoustic singer-songers are a much-maligned bunch, but Ronan Hession’s music displays the imagination, subtlety and craftsmanship lacking in many of his peers. MDR’s second album features tales told by characters like a troubled detective, a doubting monk, a deposed Latin American president and a tired father of three girls. But the stories never overwhelm the songs - with his good humour and understated (though never mumbling) singing style Hession draws in the attentive listener like a seasoned angler reeling in a prize salmon. And those tales contain flashes of insight told in genuinely poetic lyrics and set to memorably lilting tunes. Not only can Hession write lines as good as “Standing in a rain that would even drown dogs/I got an itch in the bud of my eye/And oh, the day’s exhausting/All this hacking though your life”, but he can also put them to a strong tuna - sorry, tune. You’ll be hooked. Aidan Curran

18: David Holmes
‘Bow Down To The Exit Sign’

A vast improvement over the rather insipid ‘Let’s Get Killed’, David Holmes’ third solo album remains his best, though his most recent album ‘The Holy Pictures’ comes pretty close. ‘Bow Down…’ is Holmes’ tipping point, the moment he truly made the transition from Norn Iron DJ to a proper, fully-realized, internationally-recognised musician in his own right. Boasting guest appearances by an achingly hip group of collaborators in the form of Bobby Gillespie, Jon Spencer and Martina Topley-Bird, Holmes races through an eclectic mix of genres from dub to funk to soul to gritty rock ‘n’ roll and back again with effortless ease. The best bits? ‘Incite A Riot’, ‘Compared To What’ and the masterful ‘69 Police’ but what makes ‘Bow Down…’ so intriguing and so fresh sounding nine years on is its cinematic quality, which was intentional. The album was designed with a narrative in mind as it was written to accompany an undeveloped film script. No wonder Soderbergh came knocking. Ken Fallon

17: Cathal Coughlan
‘Black River Falls’

As frontman of the mostly angry Microdisney and later of the mostly angry Fatima Mansions, Cathal Coughlan (who is the greatest living Irishman), produced a string of wonderful records that were ignored by most, but which burrowed their way into the cynical hearts of a hopelessly devoted few. Black River Falls, his second solo album, marked a departure, at least in musical terms, from much of his previous work, although lyrically, his themes remain as uncompromising as ever. Where Microdisney carried Coughlan’s anger along on fluffy constructions of bouncy guitar pop, and Fatima Mansions let loose the guitars of hell, Black River Falls is, for the most part, a collection of ballads where piano, rich acoustic guitar and bits and bobs of strings are the dominant instruments. Coughlan’s velvety croon sings of the downtrodden and the despised and those for whom happy days are short lived in a manner that suggests, perhaps, Nick Cave at his most tender, but with better tunes, words and singing. It doesn’t get any better than this. Michael O’Hara

16: David Kitt
‘The Big Romance’

Around the turn of the century there was something of a proliferation of singer-songwriters in Ireland - perhaps culturally we’ve always had a predisposition to the lone balladeer but, Jesus, was it ever getting boring. With the release of ‘Small Moments’ in 2000, David Kitt harnessed the integrity at the heart of the ‘one man and his guitar’ combo while leaving aside many of the trite clichs which had become synonymous with it. 2001’s sophomore release ‘The Big Romance’ saw bedsit-based programming, samples and elements of electronica add a texture and depth to his sound that proved hugely seductive. As the new millennium gathered momentum, so too did the pace of life, however, Mr. Kitt’s tempo seemed to slow exponentially allowing him to draw attention to the little, oft ignored, things; the romance of a graffitied bench, the inherent rhythm of street steps and the kaleidoscopic shifts of light at the gloaming. This attention to detail lyrically is mirrored musically as ‘Strange Light in the Evening’ fades into ‘Whispers Return the Sun’, the most subtle of shifts in the beat signalling the dawn of a new day in London Bridge. The musical precision that underpins Kitt’s tales of love and life in his city, allow this Big Romance to be at once intimate, heady and enduring. Just as all big romances should be. Jan Ni Fhlanagain

15: Snow Patrol
‘Final Straw’

This was the Northerner’s third long player, but it was a sign of how little impression their first two albums had made, that they were nominated for best newcomer at that year’s (2004) Q Awards, and nobody batted an eyelid. For those who associate the band with contrived Grey’s Anatomy climaxes, this may appear a sacrilege, but I make no apologies. Once again let me direct the cynics in the direction of the songs; the drive of Wow, the seething intensity of Gleaming Auction, the pure pop catchiness of Spitting Games. If you can ignore the sleep inducing sentimentality of Run, and take the album, to paraphrase John Giles, on its merits, you will not be disappointed. To some hardcore fans this may have appeared a sell out, that this hitherto indie act had gone commercial. But on listening to music, who’s to say their success wasn’t thoroughly deserved? Mark Townsend

14: David Holmes
‘The Holy Pictures’

Belfast born musician David Holmes had a pretty sweet thing going in Hollywood. After a couple of well received, but rarely heard albums in the mid nineties, he began scoring major American movies and became one of the most sought after composers in the industry. He could have bounced from one film to the next, recycling the theme to Ocean’s 11 again and again, but in 2008 he returned to solo action cutting this fine collection of energetic pop rockers and moody instrumentals. Inspired by his own childhood experiences, Holmes couldn’t resist debuting on lead vocals and his voice adds a wispy texture to songs like ‘Love Reign Over Me’ and ‘Holy Pictures’. But it’s the energetic guitar driven opener ‘I Heard Wonders’ and damned piano chords of closer ‘The Ballad of Jack and Sarah’ that leave the biggest impression. Dean Nguyen

13: Cathal Coughlan
‘The Sky’s Awful Blue’

That most folk have merely paid lip-service to Cathal Coughlan’s achievements over this past decade should be a source of much debate and gnashing of teeth. For some 30 years now Coughlan, ever the outsider and, admittedly, more comfortable kicking against the pricks than giving them head, Coughlan has continued, determined to do nothing other than create great music. And ‘The Sky’s Awful Blue’ is, by some distance, the greatest Irish album of this past decade and certainly Coughlan’s apotheosis as a solo artist. Whilst ‘Black Rivers Falls’ and ‘Foburg’ contain words and music of astonishing virtuosity, they lag behind ‘Sky’s’ relentless excellence. There’s no flab here. Coughlan’s is a dystopian world where characters get exactly what the f**k they deserve. There are no happy endings on ‘The Sky’s Awful Blue’. Its appeal lies in the attention to detail, the chord changes that shouldn’t work but do, the piano accompaniment on ‘And Springtime followed Summer’ as he sings “We were out to cause explosions, a baying mortgage throng…”, but above all that voice, soaring from a Nick Cave growl to a Scott Walker croon. Lend this record your ears. Confucius

12: Fionn Regan
‘The End of History’

Fionn Regan cites Neil Young as a major influence but a listen to his engaging 2006 debut invites more obvious comparisons to Nick Drake and Damien Rice this occupied the minds of many reviewers at the time of release. Listening to the album again, the reverb-heavy, finger-picking style recalls Bon Iver (in a good way) or Lloyd Cole is it possible for singer-songwriters to be truly original these days? No matter though as The End of History gets past its portentous title to deliver an engagingly melodic selection of tunes, the best of which is Put a Penny in the Slot which makes its way onto many of my compilation selections even now. The album was shortlisted for the Mercury and made Irish Album of the Year in the Independent. Fionn Regan made an initial impact but the next chapter could be truly special. Stephen McNulty

11: God Is An Astronaut
‘All Is Violent, All Is Bright’

Like all the best ‘post-rock’ (for want of a better term) bands, it’s pretty hard to describe the music of gifted Wicklow three-piece God Is An Astronaut. You either get it or you don’t. In essence, their music is a mood, a feeling, an atmosphere, soundtracks to imaginary films and ‘All Is Violent, All Is Bright’ is probably the best soundtrack to an unrealised film you’re ever likely to hear. It’s a powerful, deeply atmospheric, dud-free beast of an album, without an ounce of superfluity across its entire ten tracks. Take opener ‘Fragile’, for instance - a majestic, sepulchral thing of wonder, equal parts Mogwai and ‘Disintegration’-era Cure. The frankly terrifying ‘Suicide By Star’ sounds like the end of the world while ‘Remembrance Day’ boasts some deliciously melancholic piano that eventually segues into an all-out guitar/synth/processed-vocal maelstrom that leaves you shocked and awed at the sheer apocalyptic beauty of it all. Make no mistake, ‘All Is Violent, All Is Bright’ is an absolute f*****g masterpiece. Ken Fallon

10: Simple Kid


Musically, the second solo album by former Young Offenders singer Ciaran McFeely marries scratchy folk’n’blues to some glorious pop songwriting - the facile comparison may be with Beck but ‘SK2’ is actually closer in spirit and execution to The Beatles’ White Album. Lyrically, it celebrates quiet pleasures (‘Old Domestic Cat’) and plain common sense (‘Self-Help Book’) with refreshing directness and detail. Emotionally, it spans the giddy ‘Lil’ King Kong’ (all rollicking banjo and joyous whooping), the brooding ‘Serotonin’ (with its wailing distortion outro) and the heartbroken ‘Love’s An Enigma (pt II)’. Each track is brimming with McFeely’s sincerity, personality, confidence and genuine love for making enjoyable music. Simplicity is genius. Aidan Curran

9: The Frames
‘Dance The Devil’

The first great Irish album of the CLUAS era. Before its release, you wouldn’t have expected the charmless and pompous Frames of preceding album ‘Fitzcarraldo’ to become the witty and swaggering Frames of ‘Dance The Devil’. But there you are: less shouty indie-angst, more catchy alt-rock. ‘Perfect Opening Line’ is the tense introduction to a set of smart, snappy songs which exude maturity and confidence. That Kool And The Gang reference on ‘Rent Day Blues’ lets Glen Hansard show a sense of humour not evident on previous Frames records. And ‘Pavement Tune’ still kicks arse. The Frames seem to have stagnated somewhat in recent years, but while Hansard now has a well-deserved Oscar for his side project, ‘Dance The Devil’ is still the best thing this man or band have ever done. Celebrate good times, come on! Aidan Curran

8: Risn Murphy

Who’d have thought that a native of Arklow could produce an arthouse disco album full of sensual, soulful songs designed solely to soundtrack the last disco on planet Earth? After her work with Moloko and the disappointment of her debut solo effort, Ruby Blue, few would have suggested Risn Murphy. However, with Overpowered, she produced an album of full of mirror ball magic. You could easily be forgiven for thinking that the quality of Overpowered stems from it’s litany of star studded producers (including the likes of Groove Armada) but it is Risn Murphy’s own personality that provides this album with its sprinkling of stardust. Overpowered sounds like a record that Madonna (circa Ray of Light) and Bjrk (circa Homogenic) would make had they the ability to invent a time machine and collaborate in the cloak room of some 70’s roller-disco. That Overpowered can combine this many influences and yet remain so sonically unique is a testament to its, and indeed Murphy’s, genius. Steven O’Rourke

7: Cathy Davey
‘Tales Of Silversleeve’

Difficult second what? Cathy Davey’s debut album Something Ilk was a promising but sometimes patchy effort but illness and a feeling that it wasn’t really what she wanted to be doing burned her out a little. Outside observers could have been forgiven for thinking that she slipped off of the radar never to be heard of again. But when she did eventually make it back into public view boy did she do it with a bang. A pop record in the finest, most classic sense of the word, jam packed with hooks without ever sounding overly polished Tales Of Silversleeve is so far beyond what Davey had appeared to be previously capable. It was almost shockingly good upon first listen and remains a wonderful listen today. Ian Wright

6: U2
‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’

It may have only been a three year gap from when they released ‘Pop’, but U2 took a sharp right off the experimental road when they unveiled ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’. With eleven superb tracks, it is one of their finest albums of recent years and one that allowed them to attract a whole new generation of fans. The singles ‘Beautiful Day’ and ‘Elevation’ are two of the most recognisable songs of the past ten years, but it also has the subtle beauty of ‘In A Little While’, the aching of ‘When I Look At The World’, and the inviting chorus that is in ‘Walk On’. It is an album that flows really well, works on a number of levels, and serves as a reminder of U2’s greatness. Gareth Maher

5: Ash
‘Free All Angels’

Downpatrick’s finest Ash cemented their position as rock favourites amongst teenagers everywhere with their fourth album Free All Angels, back in 2001. An album packed to capacity with pulsating and indulgent rock ballads, over the top guitar solos and soppy but strangely likeable lyrics. Free All Angels was a remarkable commercial success for the band, thanks mainly to the fact that there are so many engaging guitars-driven, chorus-based corkers on the record including Walking Barefoot, Shining Light and Sometimes. For the first time Ash had managed to get the balance right between ambition and execution, the result being one of the better Irish albums of the last decade. Free All Angels is the closest Ash has come to a comprehensive album, it’s more consistent than 1977 and more accessible than Nu Clear Sounds. Kevin Boyle

4: Jape
‘Ritual’ (read the original CLUAS review of this album)

It is unusual in the run-up to a prize such as the Choice Music Prize that pretty much everyone, including the other nominees, is pretty sure who the winner will be. This is because the winner this year, is a solid and loveable little album so completely devoid of arty pretension, over-consideration and self-consciousness; in their place is bald honesty, refreshing tunes and a strong sense of melodic hook. Ritual is complete with little electro-pop gems, some things a little more ballady, some things a little more dance, and some songs that should be irritating; everything, simply put, just works. Anna Murray

3: Damien Rice

The Marmite of Irish albums, Damien Rice’s ‘O’ was as vilified in certain camps as it was lauded in others. Either way, it proved a massive hit upon its Irish release in 2002, making the former Juniper singer a household name. With his intimate, conspirational and, at times, plaintive vocal style, Rice fit snugly into the tradition of the Irish solo male troubadour. However, he also pushed the boundaries of the familiar singer/songwriter model, transcending the ‘one man and his guitar’ mould. He was experimental in his approach; most notably with ‘The Blower’s Daughter’ and its haunting Gregorian chant, and with ‘Eskimo’ where he deployed the operatic vocals of Doreen Curran. He also used the cello of Vyvienne Long and the voice of Lisa Hannigan to stunning effect; creating multi-layered accompaniments, which perfectly complement his own vocals. Mire Robinson

2: Bell X1
‘Music in Mouth’

Music in Mouth, Bell X1’s second album from back in 2003, has the singles we remember from the time - “Alphabet Soup” and “Eve the Apple of My Eye” - still sounding as fresh today as they did when first released. On this album, you could be forgiven for mistaking them for a present-day Snow Patrol, but for the unconventional lyrics - “But who am I fooling/I like airline food” for example, from the track “Tongue”. They are unusual but melodic songs, which, were it not for the singles, may pass through your ears un-noticed. However as a whole, the album works to create a nice, sleepy surrounding for the few songs that make you sit up and take notice. It could easily be argued that it is an album undeservedly underrated these days as Bell X1 enjoys a more widespread notoriety for switching to up-tempo songs and singing about Cornettos. Christine Cooke

1: The Frames
‘For the Birds’ (read the original CLUAS review of this album)

The Frames had endured personnel changes, label wrangling and an extended period of ‘chipping away’ in the years leading up to For the Birds. Whilst each of their previous releases had consistently built on the one that preceded it, both in terms of quality and success, it was in the Spring of 2001 that the stars peered out from their underground home and aligned themselves in perfect synchronicity. The birth of Plateau Records brought with it a freedom from expectation, formula and the baggage that comes with business. Subtle, but nonetheless brilliant, turns from Rachel Grimes on piano and Steve Albini on the desk brought a texture to The Frames music that had been somewhat lacking in the past. But above all else, this was a record that didn’t try too hard, a record whose bones were honest. Songs like ‘Santa Maria’ and ‘What Happens When The Heart Just Stops’ offered a grit and grain that has proven elusive since, while Odlum and Hingerty deftly drove the music down interesting paths, all the while moving it forward. For the Birds is a sonic artefact of a golden age, a time when The Frames were calibrated to one another’s rhythms and headed in the same direction. Jan Ni Fhlanagain

What ever became of JJ72, folks? Big fan of that Fionn Regan album. Also liking Simple Kid, loved that Waiting Room album at the time, great description of Damo Dempsey’s Seize The Day and how ‘Celtic Tiger’ and ‘Industrial School’ are very, very apt today - #39 my hole, it’s magnificent. I did like Music in Mouth a lot back in the day - they seem to have gone for the teenage girl market with their latest stuff though. The Irish Indo music critic picked his top ten lately and had David Kitt’s Big Romance as #1, which was an odd selection for me. I’ve no in depth opinion on anything released post 2006.

A great top ten there in fairness.

Roisin Murphy is very under rated in the electronica genre, she’s up there with the likes of Goldfrapp and Daft Punk imo. I’m surprised to see Gemma Hayes and Republic of Loose in the nosebleeds of that chart.

Also, anybody else feel that The Thrills So Much for the City has a review fitting the album?

[quote=“BenShermin”]A great top ten there in fairness.

Roisin Murphy is very under rated in the electronica genre, she’s up there with the likes of Goldfrapp and Daft Punk imo. I’m surprised to see Gemma Hayes and Republic of Loose in the nosebleeds of that chart.

Also, anybody else feel that The Thrills So Much for the City has a review fitting the album?[/quote]

Funny, that and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb - it seems they just weren’t arsed re-reviewing the albums but felt they couldn’t leave them out.

That was definitely Bell X1 at their best with Music in Mouth at #2. I’d move a few things about but it’s not a bad list in fairness and they do have decent mini reviews of each album.

Big fan of that Joe Chester album too -there’s a song that Gemma Hayes guests on that’s pretty class. I’m sorry I gave up on music thinking back.

Same here, fantastic stuff.

As am I, it leaves me with a backlog of downloads/CDs to buy, where’s Farmer’s house? I might just rob his place, I know he won’t confront me:p.

Was David Kitt not good enough to have his name bolded both times Rocko? That list reads like a who’s who of college gigs from 2000 to 2006!

[quote=“Rocko”]Funny, that and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb - it seems they just weren’t arsed re-reviewing the albums but felt they couldn’t leave them out.


They should have just left it out altogether, its the worst album U2 have done, utter muck.

Good list there from Cluais Rocko, they may not be everyones cup of tea, but Dance the Devil is a very very good album, and was The Frames at their peak for me. I was a big fan of JJ72’s debut album, some great tracks on it. BellX1’s Music in Mouth was a cracking album. I definitely wouldnt be putting For The Birds no 1 mind you. Rice’s “O” deserved it for me.