Saturday, 16 December 2017

Playlist: Remy's Top 10 Irish Albums 2017

Info: I'm delighted to share the Top 10 Irish Albums of 2017 that floated my boat over the last 12 months, the thing about albums is that they leave an enduring imprint on you when you love them, not just the music, but the memories attached, some of those memories completely unrelated to the music itself. It's possible that this is a result of you spending more time with them in your head than other types of release, and therefore you remember a fairly vivid snapshot of your year with each of them. All ten of these LP's are special to me for varied reasons, and revisiting them all over the past few weeks has been an enriching experience, that they retain their hold and immense pleasure is really what means the most to me. I hope you find something new you enjoy on the playlist at the end of the post, I've included two tracks from each album to try and give a decent summary of what you can expect on each.

10. Columbia Mills - A Safe Distance To Travel

(Reviewed 12/11/2017)

"Some elements of A Safe Distance To Watch will pop out at you straight away, others will require a few more listens, and therein lies the reward and evidence of a well-thought out collection of songs which click neatly together and musically flow from start to finish, something which seems to be a bit of a rarity nowadays on contemporary albums. As far as Columbia Mills are concerned, they can sit back with great satisfaction that patient building has produced such a highly enjoyable album for music lovers."

9. Emma Langford - Quiet Giant

(Reviewed 22/10/2017)

"To cross-over so many genres with such ease, from jazz to soul to folk, tie them all together as if they were the one, and write such competent poetry into them is a joy to experience as a music fan. The stories Langford shared with us on Quiet Giant leave you wanting more and that is what will lead to great anticipation of her future releases, and critical acclaim for this one."


(Reviewed 28/09/2017)

"OTHERKIN sign off OK with a dystopian rock vision of their future, they could easily repeat a slight variation of the album and get away with it next time round, but you're left in no doubt that that is not going to happen. There is so much to enjoy on this album and in a way it's an album Irish music fans need. Whilst it's not why we love independent Irish music, every now and again we need the bands that we see playing small venues we love around the country to go a step further, we've all wished it, many a time. OTHERKIN are filling those boots admirably right now, and they're in them on merit with OK."

7. Sive - The Roaring Girl

"The swathe of instrumentation and genre-spinning continues on the jazz-club meets lo-fi funk of 'You Are Only Your Own', there can be no doubt by this point that the artist has fully embraced all of the ideas and thoughts which lead to the writing of The Roaring Girl, and such carefree abandon is a delight to witness. It's never too much or disorientating as a listener, it's the perfect amount of intrigue for what might come on the next track from start to finish. Another vibrant classical piece comes on 'When You Come Down For Me', before the album signs off with a soft refrain in the form of 'Hoverfly' to leave us with that is without doubt one of the best independent Irish album releases of 2017 so far."

6. Arvo Party - Arvo Party

"After the uncanny atmosphere of 'Hydraulis Bellow' we have 'Thirty Five', it's like an orchestra of the dead, playing symphonies that the rest of us can't and never will hear, in a deep cavern underneath the underworld, its simplicity is its unfolding beauty. The album closes with 'Wasted Days & Sleepless Nights', equally if not moreso haunting than its predecessor, in its final third it sounds like a bellows, a strange yet calming end to a majestical album. Easily one of this years most creative and best Irish electronic albums."

5. Jiggy - Translate

"It's a lot to take in in your first listen or two, and Translate isn't merely an album to be listened to, it's a journey to be undertaken, at times dizzying as a result of the many worlds we are brought to (this is a very good complaint), here Jiggy have created one of the most adventurous, experimental and imaginative Irish albums of 2017."

(Although not on Translate, this was a wonderful live video of Jiggy in The Harbour Bar in Bray 3 years ago which I stumbled across when reviewing the album, their live shows are currently entering folklore status)

4. Alien She - Feeler

(Reviewed - 29/07/2016)

"Finishing with 'Death Sentence' which opens with a gorgeously bending echoed guitar riff, Alien She want to remind you why you're here, just in case you didn't get the memo by now. They save their ultimate moment of abandon for the curtain raiser, again, at the 2-minute mark the bass takes over from that opening riff, as thick as you'll hear, I could listen to that 13 second progression on loop for days. You're not a real punk band unless you know how to wield the anarchy within in an adept manner that transposes itself onto the listener, and bully me and you, Alien She have got it down on Feeler and then some."

3. Cat Palace - Why Don't You // Why Don't You, Go Off

(Reviewed - 02/05/2017)

"The moody 'Ding Song' paves the way for the calm and spiritual experience that is 'Ghost', distantly plonking piano chords, a laboured and mechanical bass-line and an almost baritone vocal are all hypnotic when combined. It could be argued that this is the crowning moment of the album for Cat Palace, everything that has come before has led to this moment, has been poured in with care and passion. Closing with a rumpus of a song in 'The Bastard In Me', reggae and ska influences pepper the track, and doesn't that sum up Why Don't You // Why Don't You, Go Off essentially? A wild concoction of styles and genres all masterfully pulled together towards one focal point by Blaney, a key Irish album for 2017 which is a must listen."

2. Bear Worship - WAS

(Reviewed - 25/06/2017)

"Following the swagger and dramatic intensity of 'Stoicism', WAS concludes with the beautifully titled 'A Wondrous Waste of Time'. This is a lovely shift right at the end of the album, yet another string in his bow, it's a chiiled out house vibe, like a mash-up of Todd Terje, Tycho and again Bowie on the chorus. An emotional and exhilirating vocal performance from Knuttel feels like some kind of inner release of tension, a relief from something that only he knows. 

If you are a fan of any of the artists Bear Worship cites as influences, or you are partial to joyous electronic dream-pop, you will love WAS as much as it wants to love you, and instantly. One of the Irish albums of the year so far for me due to it's swash-buckling adventurousness, wall to wall solid tracks and how it lightly tickles your happy and sad emotions all along the way."

REMY's Irish Album of the Year for 2017 goes to RO GANG's H.E.R.

The collective of two and label collaborators at Herzog TV, Henry Earnest and Isaac Clarke, have been making music for a long time now, both solo and together under monikers such as Mr. Rosso (read a 2015 interview with GoldenPlec here), Dr. Duloc (Earnest), and now RO GANG. Each project sways further than the previous in what can only be described as the most care-free and uninhibited song-writing you could possibly come into contact with. In addition these projects may only last a few months, or a few years, and the name changes aren't really that important, ultimately it's the end product that matters. The Dublin pair very rarely play shows, which has nothing to do with an aura of mystique, and perhaps more to do with their laissez-faire attitude to everything.

Dr. Duloc - Lady Lou

With H.E.R. Earnest and Clarke threw a grenade on lackadaisical and turned it into a hyper-ventilating extravaganza of Beastie Boys self-deprecation, West Coast / East Coast hip-hop clich├ęs with a burning satirical twist, and of course their trademark lo-fi funk stylings. I've also been thinking quite a bit lately as I've been listening to this album how these chaps would have killed it even more if they had been birthed on time to take advantage of the unlimited samples that acts were able to avail of during the 70's & 80's before the record labels clamped down with copyright. Their own releases are also housed on underground Dublin indie-label Little L Records which also hosts the likes of Myles Manley, THUMPER, Naoise Roo, Mr. Soden, Wastefellow, and Meltybrains? to name but a few. 

The reason I chose RO GANG's H.E.R. as my Irish album of the year can be summed up in one word, delight. To expand on that, I've always laid out a personal criteria for albums I love; (a) at least 80% of the tracks are brilliant (to me, we are in subjective territory!), (b) I will come back to it again and again, it won't be 'of a time' or be left behind in terms of durability, (c) how unique, arresting and standalone it is amongst it peers, and (d) the goddamn feels being endless and real.

(Reviewed - 19/04/2017)


"H.E.R. is, well it's just as glorious as you'd expect from the duo had you heard their previous outputs, a ridiculous whirlpool of DIY that doesn't sound DIY at all, I'm blown apart inside by second track 'Love Me', listen to that rambling bass-line and squeaking electric guitar riff, the lo-fi buzz of the vocals, and then the masterful introduction of 90's idiot-rap at the 2:40 mark, powerhouse genius.

'Oisin Goes To The Dogs Alone' is the definition of wonky, a completely mundane piece of conversational hearsay turned into a vividly droll tale of modern Dickensian despair. 'Best Friend' is a must listen on the album, is this an Irish Beastie Boys funk jam with added Badly Drawn Boy and a blast of heyday Republic of Loose, damn those boys can rap.

On 'Punk Rockers' the duo bring hip-hop satire to another level, the lyrics may as well read 'we can rap any words we want and you aren't even listening because, the music'. But we can't denigrate the comical beauty of the actual rhymes; 'I'm coming up like a new erection, going back in time like a Two Direction (sic, for me)...a RO GANG for the new election, I'm a no gang like a gang of boys, I put away my corduroy and bought myself a new toy, it's a little thing called credibility, you think I'm funny, I'll use you up like a Duracell'.

Another piece of high-grade beauty arrives on 'Boys Club', probably what you'd end up with if Mac DeMarco and Eels decided to do a collab together following a bag of skank after listening to the Mr. Rosso / RO GANG back / nu catalogue. 'Your lips when they kiss are like a gyrating bliss' sneaky. The album pulls the curtain down with the intention of being calm and failing via 'World Star', filtering jangle-pop through a sonic flux capacitor, screeching vox and wild guitar solos crash to a stop, pause, Hank Williams in mono singin' through an empty silver bean can, amateur back-garden shed math-rock, FIN. 

RO GANG are wild-southside cowboys, riding roughshod over everything you think you know or feel about music, and H.E.R. is about as inventive as it can get."