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The Best Irish Albums, 1999 to 2009

As voted by the CLUAS Writers


David Kitt 'Small Moments'40: David Kitt
'Small Moments'
(read the original CLUAS review of this album)
(2000)

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


 

Damien Dempsey 'Seize the Day'39: Damien Dempsey
'Seize the Day'
(2004)

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


 

Alphastates 'Made from Sand'38: Alphastates
'Made from Sand'
(read the original CLUAS review of this album)
(2004)

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


 

Dry County 'Unexpected Falls'37: Dry County 'Unexpected Falls'
(2007)

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


 

The Immediate 'In Towers and Clouds'36: The Immediate
'In Towers and Clouds'
(read the original CLUAS review of this album)
(2006)

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



The Tychonaut 'Love Life'35: The Tychonaut
'Love Life'
(read the original CLUAS review of this album)
(2004)


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


 

JJ72 'I To Sky'34: JJ72
'I To Sky'
(2002)

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



Ham Sandwich 'Carry The Meek'33: Ham Sandwich
'Carry The Meek'
(read the original CLUAS review of this album)
(2008)


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


 

The Thrills 'So Much For The City'32: The Thrills
'So Much For The City'
(read the original CLUAS review of this album)
(2003)

 

 

 


 

66e 'Fall Down 7 Times Stand Up 8'31: 66e
'Fall Down 7 Times Stand Up 8'
(2005)

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



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