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Favourite Irish albums of the CLUAS writers

Ciaran Wrenn's top 5 Irish albums of all time...

Frames 'For the birds'Act: The Frames
Album: "For the Birds"
Although Dance the Devil may have the killer hooks, and Fitzcarraldo the epic sprawl, 'For the Birds' represents The Frames at their most potent in a studio setting. Drawing on the considerable talents of Craig Ward, Steve Albini, and David Odlum for production duties leaves the album with a rich multi-layered sound. Although not the happiest of albums (this is certainly not one to put on first thing in the morning), this doesn't detract from the greatness of the album. The maturity of the band can be seen not only in the record's sound, but also in Hansard's lyrics. Marking a turning point in the bands' career (it is their first independent record). 'For the Birds' represents everything the band can achieve when focused enough.

Van Morrison 'Astral Weeks'Act: Van Morrison
Album: "Astral Weeks"
It's hard to talk about this album after Lester Bangs has already done so in his own inimitable style (see Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung edited by Greil Marcus, or this page), but that won't stand in my way. Coming as it does straight after his (largely fruitless it should be said) 'Bang' period, Astral Weeks represents a Van Morrison very much in a zone of inspiration, innovation, and improvisation. Rumours abound of a 45 minute song (yes, song) recorded during the sessions, but which never saw the light of day. What is on the album however, is a breathtaking document of Belfast, and the characters that inhabit it. From 'Madame George' to the character in 'Cyprus Avenue' who's 'watching' (for want of a less offensive term) girls return home from school, the record echoes with the resonances of a lost Belfast. Not only does it have possibly the greatest songs ever written in 'Madame George', it also has two of the most beautiful love songs, 'Sweet Thing', and 'Ballerina'.

Tycho Brahe 'Love/Life'Act: The Tycho Brahe
Album: "Love/Life"
The Tycho Brahe. The Plague Monkeys freshened up, and with a new name? Who cares? Although nominally coming from nowhere with This Is in 2002, in sone sense the Tychos fit comfortably alongside The Jimmy Cake/The Redneck Manifesto/Connect Four Orchestra as one of the more interesting bands doing the rounds in Ireland today. Love/Life acts almost as a continuation of This Is, in that it is a remarkable mood piece, an album made to be listened to on headphones, with lovely production touches all over the two CDs. And the fact that there are two CDs is, in one sense, what lets the album down. A double album is always going to suffer from a level of quality control, and while there isn't a song that can be regarded as complete dross, a single CD made up of the best tracks would easily be a contender for the best Irish album ever. Initiative should never be criticised, and the bands willingness to make a double album should be applauded. Especially when two tracks as haunting as My Father The Jeweller and Out of the Blue are placed side by side, and Lucky the Bee acts as possibly the greatest Irish pop single.

Martin Finke Act: Martin Finke
Album: "Untended Stories"
Martin Finke is an artist who writes songs that should be heard. He writes of matters of the heart, and if that makes him sound like every other singer/songwriter in this country and beyond, think again. For Martin's songs fall under the umbrella of what Van might call Inarticulate Speech of the Heart. The stories told, and the feelings expressed are expressed in a poetic way unmatched by any of his contemporaries. The best example to provide is to be found in 'Jetplane' - the most unselfish love song ever written. The only problem I had with putting Martin in this list was considering which album of his to include. The gorgeous debut longplayer Let it Ring is an album that should probably be approached retrospectively, such is its depth. Not that Untended Stories is shallow, far from it. But as his first studio-produced album it has a recognisable album structure, the songs breathe on their own, whereas to a certain extent, Let it Ring acts almost as a fable, to be listened to in one sitting.

Divine Comedy 'Promenade'Act: The Divine Comedy
Album: "Promenade"
Before it all went a bit, well?haywire, Neil Hannon wrote an album that basically consisted of a Joycean life in a day cycle. A couple meet, rob her father's car, talk about their favourite authors, go to the funfair, go to dinner, go to a party, save people from drowning, and watch the day end. And that's it, in all its deceptively simple brilliance. What makes the album work, is the gorgeous instrumentation and arrangement (Neil Hannon played practically everything on the album), and the unpretentious life-affirming lyrics. It's an album that reminds of the joy the simple things in the world can bring, and it leaves you buzzing with the uplifting 'Tonight We Fly'.

(bullet) Allen Conlan (bullet) Anthony Morrissey (bullet) Brano (bullet) Brian Farrelly (bullet) Brian Kelly (bullet) Celine O'Malley (bullet) Chris Ford (bullet) Ciaran Wrenn (bullet) Cormac Looney (bullet) Donal Griffin (bullet) Dromed (bullet) Gav Reilly (bullet) Hugh Tynan (bullet) Jimmy Murphy (bullet) Jules Jackson (bullet) Ollie O'Leary (bullet) Stephen McNulty (bullet)

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