Thursday, December 15, 2011

best Irish albums of 2011

Kind of got bored of numerical rankings but this is pretty much more-or-less in a rough order of preference.

Catscars - Construction     (White Plague)

Catscars' debut album is characterised by submerged, evasive compositions that flicker in and out of focus. The weightless, spectral synthpop of 'B-Song' and the off-kilter robotic groove of 'No Fun' are two of the more direct moments; while eerie, shadowy effects and reverberating chimes echo in and out of the mix on tracks like 'Toying With Me' and 'Monsong'.

B-Song by catscars

Laura Sheeran - Lust Of Pig & The Fresh Blood     (Flaming June)

A stunning record that combines mysterious, sometimes sinister lyrical imagery with exquisite gothic-tinged folk arrangements. Divided into two parts, the second ('The Fresh Blood') sees a shift towards electronic loops and ominous, abrasive sound effects, but overall the record remains remarkably coherent, all the more so given the differing ages of the songs included. Standouts include the hypnotic 'I'm Sorry Son' - with an understated, yearning vocal from the singer and sublime violin playing from Cora Venus Lunny - ,  the malevolent carnival-esque vibe of 'An Apple For You' and the darkly dramatic swell of 'A Wake'.

I'm Sorry Son by L A U R A S H E E R A N

SertOne - Versions

"If you ain't bringing nothing to the table then leave..."

This collection of remixes from the young Liverpool-via-Portadown producer showcases his willingness to tackle source material as disparate as Irish post-rockers (Halves), 'future-garage/bass/whatucallit' producers (Koreless) and hip hop stalwarts (DOOM, Busta Rhymes). Outstanding production throughout as he consistently takes the original and completely flips it, infusing it with his own unmistakable sound. Highlights include the appropriately-named 'Blissful mix' of Starfawn's 'Greenlight' and a sublime take on JR & PH7's 'Fast Lane Speedin''. The don.

Fast Lane Speedin' (ft. Oddisee) (SertOne Remix) - JR & PH7 by SertOneMusic

Le Galaxie - Laserdisc Nights 2     (Battlepulse)

01 - Earth by Le Galaxie

Patrick Kelleher & his Cold Dead Hands - Golden Syrup     (Osaka Recordings)

Golden Syrup is frequently a disorientating, spooked-sounding listen - whether it's the vortex-like momentum of 'Miracle Candle', the ominous low-end rumble of 'Too Many Harsh Words' or the haunted-disco of 'Contact Sports'. It's an effect heightened by Kelleher's changeable vocals - veering from austere baritone to showy falsetto on the gothic synth-pop of the title track and the excellent 'Seen Me Blue'. But there's also a wistful warmth to more low-key tracks like 'Broken Up Now' and 'Still In School'.

03 Patrick Kelleher and his Cold Dead Hands - Seen Me Blue by Patrick Kelleher

Raising Holy Sparks - Beyond The Unnamed Bay    (Fort Evil Fruit)

A core member of experimental folk collective United Bible Studies, David Colohan has released music under the Agitated Radio Pilot moniker since 1993, but a new approach taking influence from field-recordings, shapenote singing and Hasidic mysticism saw him adopt a new identity. Beyond the Unnamed Bay takes in spectral avant-folk ('Here Begins Our Lasting Joy'), steadily pulsing synth pieces ('As Far As We Can Go') and hypnotic loop-based compositions ('Diamonds In The Water Where You Swam'), as well as the abstract 20-minute number 'The Depths Of Bailey Point' which builds to a cacophony before ebbing again. Despite the range of styles the record has an unmistakable coherence to it, no doubt partly due to its distinctive ambience - a result of recording in unconventional locations such as an abandoned, flooding car park.

Diamonds In The Water Where You Swam by Raising Holy Sparks

Lorem Ipsum - Between Hospitals

A delirious-sounding mesh of dissonant lo-fi electronica from the anonymous producer, which followed up on his Good Friday Disagreement EP. Taking in wired, off-kilter grooves on 'An Astral Body', hypnotic fuzz-and-static-infused washes on 'St. Vincent's', and pop-song-in-a-blender tracks like 'Knight's Tour' and 'Crushed'.

An Astral Body by *Lorem Ipsum

Ilex - Old Din

Collecting most of the music she's made since she started in 2005, Old Din is 33 tracks long but those tracks are consistently excellent. Varies between hypnotic, intricate electronica and grittier, more up-tempo tracks; while 'Orkid' and 'Strings' have rich and evocative arrangements.

Mantua by ilex_

Hired Hands - My Heart Hung     (Any Other City)

Deceptively complex and supremely catchy folk-pop from the seven-piece who include former members of the sadly short-lived Feed The Bears. With a lilting sound characterised by off-kilter harmonies and woodwind/brass-bolstered arrangements, Hired Hands have a deft handle on subtle melancholy as well as vibrant, upbeat melodies - indeed the line is often blurred, as is the case with so many great bands.

The Quay Wall by Hired Hands

Popical Island - Popical Island #2     (Popical Island)

The sequel to 2010's acclaimed compilation from the Dublin-based collective completely lives up to those high standards. Despite the overall 'bockety' indie aesthetic, there's a wide and diverse range of sounds: the Mary Chain-esque early-90's vibe of Pantone247's 'Hello', the warm jangle-pop of Goodly Thousands' 'Kiss Me Upside-Down', the garage/surf-pop vibes of Squarehead's 'Candle', and the chiming and hypnotically off-kilter sound of Hello Moon's 'Barefoot'.  All the colours of the rainbow.

02-Pantone247 - Hello by popical_island

The Driftwood Manor The Same Figure (Leaving)    (Rusted Rail/Slow Loris)

The Same Figure (Leaving) was originally released as a limited edition CD-R on French label Ruralfaune in 2010, but this year saw it brought to deservedly wider attention. Eddie Keenan is as ever joined by a number of collaborators and kindred spirits from the folk/underground scene. Less influenced by psych/drone than the Found Photographs of Ancestors EP, this record is relatively concise and song-based, but those avant-folk tendencies are still in evidence: 'Each Day Has Bettered Me None' is backdropped by eerie, disquieting noises before being enveloped by rising squall, while 'To Be Done' sounds similarly creaking and distorted. That approach is mixed with the hypnotic folk simplicity of 'On A Corner of Athlone' or the title track, while the trad-influenced 'That Lasting Final Hurt' raises the tempo. The Same Figure (Leaving) is frequently brooding, even bleak in tone, but ultimately there's a warmth that wins out.

On a Corner of Athlone by The Driftwood Manor

Ginnels - Ginnels

The work of Grand Pocket Orchestra's Mark Chester, Ginnels is a boisterous collection of lo-fi pop songs whose addictive melodies are drowned in fuzz. Veer from the thrillingly frantic ('Best in Town') to the noisy ('Yama and Terio') to the more laidback ('Herdwick Bonez').

Best In Town by ginnels

Sea Pinks - Dead Seas     (CF Records)

'fountains, fossils, phantoms and faded seaside glamour' describes it pretty well: Sea Pinks is the project of Girls Names' Neil Brogan and Dead Seas is the follow up impressive debut Youth Is Wasted and the Peripheral Vision EP. Wistful, sun-kissed songs that nod to vintage 60's garage/girl-group influences - there's a washed-out vibe to it but not in the chillwave sense, as Dead Seas is characterised more by straight-up, robust rhythms and jangly guitar riffs (the title track nods to '(Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame').

Fountain Tesserae from Sea Pinks on Vimeo.

Bitwise Operator - Samurai Hack

Partly inspired by the Samurai Jack cartoon series, this record from Galway's Simon Kenny mixes glitchy chip-tune and hip hop influences with abrasive electronic textures and infectious, multicolour grooves.

The Dying Seconds - Glimmerers      

Exquisitely brooding melancholy mixed with tuneful hooks - an expanded line-up saw The Dying Seconds step up a level. Highlights include the ominous-sounding 'Mora Minn', the sparse, forlorn-sounding 'Greenhorns' and the charmingly off-kilter 'Rubbernecks'.

Rubbernecks by thedyingseconds

Tieranniesaur - Tieranniesaur      (Popical Island)

Exuberant, irreverent lo-fi funk-pop from Annie Tierney and co. Mixes the sunny bubble-gum hooks of 'Sketch!' and 'Candy' with the disco-tinged rhythms of 'In The Sargasso' and 'Pretty Girl String Quartet'. Not to mention the unstoppable 'Here Be Monsters'.

Rhino Magic - Get Going     (Tender Objects)

Fuzzy lo-fi bedroom-pop, at times sounding a bit like a hazy cross between shoegaze and slacker-rock. Elsewhere there's high-pitched, buzzing keyboard sounds, sunny hooks and some bleary melancholy ('The Best Possible End').

home with you by Rhino Magic

Sunken Foal - Mother Of God    (Acroplane)

Disorientating and shadowy, like some kind of hall-of-mirrors where disembodied vocals float through a mix of imposing-but-muffled beats and eerie samples.

Sunken Foal - Gift Knee Pads (clip) by Acroplane

Hello Moon - Only Count The Sunny Hours     (Any Other City)

Mixes sweepingly melodic sugar-rushes ('Vanity', 'Here I Am') with dreamier, chiming numbers ('Measure Of Me', 'Sievehead'), jaunty instrumental 'The Calculus Affair' and gorgeously swooning closing track 'Awkward Hugs'.

Awkward Hugs by Hello Moon

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