Friday, 30 December 2016

Remy's Music & Film's Best Irish Albums of 2016

Irish Album of the Year 2016

Info: Our 2016 Irish Album's of the Year reflect a pretty broad range of musical genres, and artists fully at the top of their game. Without doubt this is a great thing, I love becoming acquainted with styles and genres I'm unfamiliar with, and feeling instantly gratified by their sound. All of the above albums brought me great pleasure during the year, and I have nothing but gratitude to each artist and band for creating such great pieces of art. Thank you. 

Remy's Music and Film's Irish Album of 2016 awaits at the very bottom ;) And as in previous years, bar our Album of the Year, there is no particular order.

A Spotify Playlist of all 10 acts is also available at the bottom of this post.

10) Robocobra Quartet - Music For All Occasions

Robocobra Quartet Music For All Ocassions

The first of two albums in this list which have not yet been reviewed, but have had their tracks featured during the year, but lot's of listens have been had and now is as good a time as any to share my thoughts I suppose. Opening with the thundering 'Correct' (above video), Belfast's Robocobra Quartet, with Chris Ryan at it's helm, have been one of the more adventurous and experimental acts to emerge over the past few years. Their live shows are astonishingly good (check out their YouTube channel for a flavour flav), and their sound unique, second track 'You'll Shrug' hosts their trademark deliberately nonchalant opening and build-up that leads to a screeching clash of sounds. 

On Music for All Occasions however, they don't dwell on what we thought we knew.  The driving intensity of 'Find X' and 'Dirge For Self' are surrounded by the calmer ponderings of spoken-word focused 'Problem Solver' and 'Straight Lines', the latter of which floats in a 70's sci-fi capsule, lost, in space. There's poignant observance of life itself on 'Our Very Own Version of November Rain', and closer 'Album of the Year', a beautiful crossover of instrumental Beck meets Mercury Rev as it reaches it's end. This is music for the thinking man, the thinking man who is a bit confused, and quite crazy, and it's a lovely experience to absorb.


IMLÉ - 'Críochfort'

'IMLÉ is a word that describes the mystical effects of the hours between 2 – 6am on the human spirit and the unexpected, devilish and transformative effect they can have on the people who come alive at these times.' The multi-genre Dublin group Imlé released their debut self-titled album just last month. It's a see-saw of a trip from start to finish, effortlessly mixing the abrasive with the humorous with the beautiful. From the pounding opening of 'Críochfort' and MC Muipéad's rhyming, the indie rock funk leanings of 'Buail Aríst Mé', to the heart-wrenching call of Fergal Moloney's ancient voice, that is, in sound, not age! on 'Go Deo Go Deo', and again on the warm and moving 'Síos an Bóthar', which renders language irrelevant as far as the feeling the music relates is concerned.

Heavier moods are found on the likes of 'Lár na hOíche', which precedes the old school hip-hop sounds, circa. Ill Communication, on 'Fún Orm', in describing the sounds and tracks it may appear unworkable, but when listening to the album in it's entirety, Imlé circumvent coming across as disjointed. This is done by maintaining a loose but structured framework around the album's 9 tracks, where each instrumental and vocal never strays too far from their core sound. By keeping a small piece of each song noticeably familiar they have allowed themselves great room to try multiple styles, adjusting tempo and switching between three vocalists as required. An album made by fans of multiple musical genres, for fans of multiple musical genres, and people who like to have fun, beir bua!

8) Games Violet - Tragic Milkshake

Games Violet Tragic Milkshake

Games Violet - 17th Century

"Tragic Milkshake is a thoroughly enjoyable contemporary electronic journey courtesy of Games Violet, a feeling that is instantly tangible with the album's opening title-track. It's the kind of sound you'd imagine a young Gary Numan creating if he were in his early twenties in 2016, with the track doubling up as a wry look at the banality and acceptance of modern consumerism through the metaphorical medium of the much maligned (and rightly so!) continental breakfast. And in one track, Games Violet have set out their stall for the remainder of the album thematically."

7) James Darkin - Go No Matter What

James Darkin Go No Matter What

James Darkin - Chase

"The overall feeling you are left with by the end of Go No Matter What is that Darkin had a clear plan, as with every creative endeavour, tweaks and surprises appear along the way, but the album has been patiently and carefully constructed, and that effort has paid off here on what is a fine example of contemporary Irish electronic music."

6) Eordeslajyr - HÄXAN

Eordeslajyr Haxan


"Like the intro theme to an apocalyptic film, 'Vigil' begins like a raging thunder, Thor's hammer pounds your senses, and the electronic sounds, in particular the manic beat and yet again, industrial percussion, are so well executed, it almost turns into some kind of anarchic mid-90's electronic dance explosion, with the mushroom cloud expanding and reversing frantically. Although it's theme has been touched on before now, the burning of the witches comes on final track 'Lead Me To The Steak', a subtle crackling wood sound effect flutters in the background, the sharpening of a blade, the hammering of a wooden steak into the Earth. Static overload reflects the burning, the pain, the agony and the injustice, but fittingly this makes way for a euphoric rising, the wronged individual has been set free, they've burned in the fires of Hell, but it was overground."

5) This Side Up - Full Fat

This Side Up Full Fat

This Side Up - Full Fat

"For someone who is admittedly by no stretch of the imagination an expert on hip-hop music, I managed to find plenty on Full Fat that felt familiar in relation to the many albums and sounds I have subconsciously built up over the years since I was a teen. It's hard not to think that this could be one of those albums that creates and stores memories long after it's release, this labour of love has certainly borne fruit for This Side Up and us music fans."

4) Johnny Fox - Cais

Johnny Fox Cais

Johnny Fox - Bonita Serena

by Noël Duplaa 

"Throughout, the songs are woven together with the connecting thread of field recordings from their time in Brazil, from drunken parties to chirping birds, giving the album a feeling of real intimacy, binding the tracks together, creating a palpable sense of time and place throughout the work. Listen to how single 'Bonita Serena' takes its time creating a hazy, reverb soaked mood, before finally cresting on a wave of drums and harmonies. Or the slow, approaching thunderstorm of album closer 'O Que Nunca Quis', as it swells and menaces, never breaking. The grunge logic of some of the melodies, like 'Essa Dor' and 'Exposta' makes it feel like, with a different aesthetic, some of these songs could have been loud stompers - the thing is, they manage to retain the tension of that form of songwriting, but instead of explosions of noise, deliver a sultry simmer and throb, their odd angles internalised and restrained. So instead of just being an expression of confused anger in a rock song, they become the giddy, buzzing hum of infatuation fizzing just below the surface." 

3) Plutonic Dust - Grand Delusions

Plutonic Dust Grand Delusions

Plutonic Dust - Kill for Gold

"'Rain Talk' ushers in that 90's vibe I mentioned, it's whirling through house and rave, and it's gorgeously nostalgic, but it's also pertinently modern, the funky guitar riff has an acid-jazz strain running through it, á la St.Germain, the whole package is near-perfection here and once again Moran's vocals soar to ecstatic heights. 'Kill For Gold' kills it, I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said this was one of the most appealing modern electronic tracks I've heard based on my tastes from early 80's synthpop....The keys are haunting and when the guitar comes in at 1:53 we're catapulted into full disco-funk mode, an amazingly fresh blend of styles."

2) BANTUM - Move

BANTUM feat. Loah - Take It

"Where Legion saw BANTUM's first landing, a full embracing of his musical intuition spread across a longer album, Move casts not one, but multiple nets away from that centre. There's no doubt that more people will be drawn to the album as a result, little doorways open up all across it's seven tracks for music fans of many styles and genres, but with his talent to be heard touching everything. Ruairí Lynch is probably the most competent and adventurous electronic artist in Ireland right now, and Move is easily an album of the year for 2016."

**Note to all music fans: This album's title track, dayum.

Remy's Album of the Year 2016 - August Wells - Madness Is The Mercy

August Wells Madness Is The Mercy

August Wells - She Was A Question

Noël and I simultaneously fell in love with August Wells' Madness Is The Mercy, from the scattered singles that the duo released throughout the year until finally we could feast our ears on a whole LP in September. It was a beautiful and warm path that lead us there, and I'm still falling head over heels for it, from my favourite 'She Was A Question' whose chorus has replaced Elvis' 'Heartbreak Hotel' as the song I like to holler out in the shower, to the slick coolness of 'A Little Too Real'. Beautiful sounds, lyrics, wry wit and incredible music courtesy of former Rollerskate Skinny frontman Ken Griffin and New York pianist John Rauchenberger made this our undoubted album of the year, something we knew straight away in September, below is Noël's review (and below that our Spotify Playlist!), and I couldn't have summed up Madness Is The Mercy better myself.

August Wells - A Little Too Real

- Review by Noël Duplaa

"The collaboration between ex-Rollerskate Skinny frontman, Ken Griffin, and New York pianist, John Rauchenberger, August Wells release their sophomore album Madness is the Mercy on Sept 9th through Cork’s FIFA records.  Following on from their brilliant singles ‘She Was a Question’ and ‘This Man Cries’ (both reviewed glowingly on these hallowed pages), the album expands on their established aesthetic and themes in surprising and rewarding ways.

"Here in the wild, under blue skies, time doesn’t try to pass me by."

From the very first song Griffen sets out his stall, sketching lost, sad and untethered characters whose ability to counterpunch horror with wry humour, keeps them ticking over, but just about. Look how quickly he draws you in and fleshes out the very first character: "Lucy was sad, sad to the core.  She said, ‘let’s jump out that window, sweetheart on the count of four.  Well, don’t you find it all such a bore? People like us don’t exist anymore - we’re invisible now. Sweetheart, we’re free.'"

We've previously, (and somewhat ecstatically) reviewed the album's singles 'This Man Cries' and 'She Was a Question', and they served their purpose with aplomb, highlighting the oak-barrel baritone of Ken Griffen, the subtle but luxurious arrangements, and the deft, deliberate lyricism employed to hilarious and devastating effect in equal measure. However, the album pulls off the difficult trick of maintaining a strict aesthetic while never becoming dull or predictable.  

Album highlight, 'Come On In Out of That Night' is the kind of gospel and blues tinged singalong, that Leonard Cohen mastered in songs like 'Closing Time' - soaked in booze and regret, but still full of love and fight.  Granted, the album’s gears only really move from stately to jaunty, but simple elements of colour - the electric guitar in 'Daddy', the saxophone in 'A Little Too Real'- give the album a sense of depth and variation. By the time you get to the genuinely heartfelt plea of 'Have a Good Night Everyone', you really feel like you’ve been drawn into this rogue’s gallery, and like those great character driven movies of the 70’s, you may feel the urge to jump right back in and hang out with them all over again. We would advise you to follow that urge.

The combination of Griffen’s potent, expressive baritone and the stately, controlled presentation instantly brings to mind comparisons like Leonard Cohen, Scott Walker and Johnny Cash, along with more recent deep voiced luminaries such as Nick Cave, Matt Berninger and John Grant. The thing is, when songs are as stark and stripped back as these, there’s nowhere to hide shoddy lyrics or weak melodies, so it’s a shocking and heartening fact that with 'Madness is the Mercy', August Wells show that they have the chops, heart and vicious wit to stand proudly in that esteemed company."

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