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The Best Irish Albums, 1999 to 2009

As voted by the CLUAS Writers



Simple Kid 'SK2'10: Simple Kid
'SK2'
(read the original CLUAS review of this album)
(2006)

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



The Frames 'Dance The Devil'9: The Frames
'Dance The Devil'
(1999)

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



Róisín Murphy 'Overpowered'8: Róisín Murphy
'Overpowered'
(2007)

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 Róisín 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 Róisín 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 Björk (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



Cathy Davey 'Tales Of Silversleeve'7: Cathy Davey
'Tales Of Silversleeve'
(2007)

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



U2 'All That You Can't Leave Behind'6: U2
'All That You Can't Leave Behind'
(read the original CLUAS review of this album)
(2000)

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




Ash 'Free All Angels'5: Ash
'Free All Angels'
(read the original CLUAS review of this album)
(2001)

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



Jape 'Ritual'4: Jape
'Ritual'
(read the original CLUAS review of this album)
(2008)

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



Damien Rice 'O'3: Damien Rice
'O'
(read the original CLUAS review of this album)
(2002)


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. Máire Robinson



Bell X1 'Music in Mouth'2: Bell X1
'Music in Mouth'
(2003)

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


 

The Frames 'For the Birds'1: The Frames
'For the Birds'
(read the original CLUAS review of this album)
(2001)

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



(Check out the 86 albums that did not make the top 50 as well as some crunching of the numbers behind the poll)

<-- Back to albums ranked 20 to 11 in the top 50 <--

Check out as well the results of CLUAS.com's "Best Irish Album of All Time" poll

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