Best of the Year Gone By|
By Mike Farragher
HAPPY New Year! 2005 was another busy year for Irish rock music. In the event
that you were too busy trying to score U2 tickets to tune in, here are the
10. Colm O’Brien — It Is What It Is.
With the Prodigals taking a turn down a poppy road after O’Brien’s departure,
this Dubliner provides jig punk fans with a CD that offers an opposing musical
viewpoint of Irish music that is heavy on the same snarl that put the Prodigals
on the map in the first place.
O’Brien seamlessly welds some of his great acoustic compositions with
traditional tunes. and it’s sometimes difficult to separate the old songs from
the new ones, a testament to his great songwriting. He possesses a gloriously
ragged voice that sounds like he gargled with the stale beer and cigarette butts
that were swept off the floor of the many Boston area pubs that he calls home.
Log onto www.cdfreedom.com to get your copy of this modern Irish folk classic.
9. The Frames — Burn the Maps.
Glen Hansard and the boys continue their love affair with the alt-rock gods the
Pixies, creating the same tense dynamic of gentle acoustics and sudden outbursts
of feedback. Tracks like “Fake” might rock hard, but the gorgeous acoustic
ballads like “Locusts” and “Suffer in Silence” show Hansard’s immense growth as
a songwriter. Their tour with Mark Geary earlier this summer provided the
musical moment of the year for countless Irish rock fans.
8. Van Morrison — Magic Time.
It’s aptly named; the collection finds the Belfast legend immersed in the cool
waters of jazz and blues. “Celtic New Year” and “The Lion This Time” are as good
as anything he did in the 1970s, though we could do without songs about needing
his privacy. “Just Like Greta,” is yet another attack on the prying media, which
is the only yawner on this otherwise vibrant disc.
7. AfroCelt Sound System — Anatomic.
These world beat masters have been mixing world percussion with traditional
Irish melodies for over a decade, yet this enthralling global melting pot hasn’t
lost one bit of flavor. Cork poet/singer Iarla O’Lionaird’s gorgeous prose on
“Beautiful Rain” is amplified by the electronic stormy textures underneath. The
epic “Mojave” blends uilleann pipes, relentless tribal percussion and feisty
electronic blips for an unforgettable joy ride in your headphones. Famed fiddler
Eileen Ivers joins the band on some tracks, staking a decisively Irish vibe in a
band that is sounding more global than African or Celtic.
6. The Corrs — Home.
Ireland’s most gorgeous family return to their roots, interpreting traditional
ditties like “Black Is the Colour” with their trademark pop sensibilities. They
nail Phil Lynott’s “Old Town,” im-proving on the
original with an
Abbey Road production value, giving it a classic Beatlesque feel. A huge seller
in Europe, this
CD has yet to be released in the U.S. Try Amazon.com’s U.K. site to pick this
up; you’ll be glad you did. This is the Corrs’ finest hour.
5. The Radio — The Radio.
The dreamy, nursery rhyme poetry, layered atop a lush orchestral pop landscape,
made for a contact high through your speakers that is the musical equivalent of
eating a hash brownie at a Phish concert. They shamelessly borrow the best bits
from Beach Boy harmonies, Mamas and Papas So-Cal vibrations, and REM modern rock
power chords to create an infectious electro-hippie moment. The disc was only
available in the States if you went
to one of their live
shows, but logging onto www.theradio.ie will get you onto their independent
Dublin record company.
4. Ronan Tynan — Ronan.
I know, I know. Nothing is more further away from rock and roll like this famed
tenor, but few discs moved me spiritually more than this one. His majestic
delivery on pop tunes like Phil Coulter’s “The Old Man” and hymns like “How
Great Thou Art” shows the great range of this impossibly gifted Irish treasure.
The New York Times recently reported on the pop sensibilities that are creeping
into classical music to create a new “classical crossover” genre, with bands
like Bond and Simon Cowell’s Il Divo selling boatloads of discs. Ireland’s pride
and joy is leading the pack on Ronan.
3. Mono Band — Mono Band:
Noel Hogan takes the ringing, expansive guitar rock that he manufactured in the
Cranberries and added inventive programming, icy electronic blips, and
otherworldly textures to make a chillout masterpiece. He sought out different
Irish singers to take the place of the formidable chops of Dolores O’Riordan,
and their varied styles blend seamlessly on the band’s debut. In fact, Angie
Hart’s soaring vocal on “Crazy” offers proof that Dolores can be replaced, and
the Arabic chanting on “Brighter Sky” layered atop a killer techno musical bed
is pure world beat dance hall delight.
2. Sinead O’Connor — Throw Down Your Arms.
Sinead takes us to church by way of Jamaica with this spiritual disc steeped in
island tradition. In her hands, these reggae tunes that praise Jah sound like
modern day hymns. She employs Sly and Robbie, the legendary riddim duo of reggae
yesteryear, to produce a crisp, ferocious run through of Bob Marley and Lee
“Scratch” Perry classics. “If you run to the sea/the sea will be boiling/if you
run to the rocks, the rocks will be melting,” she roars on the “Downpressor
Man,” a song written by Peter Tosh about unwelcome British rule.
We Irish know that topic all to well, proving that reggae music’s themes of
rebellion and world peace are universal. Sinead knows that all too well, and
Jamaica got a little hotter when she made this masterpiece there over the
Album of the year — Mark Geary’s Ghosts.
With little more than an acoustic guitar, Geary creates a folk masterpiece on
record and steals Frames fans right out from under the mighty band when they
shared the stage earlier this summer.
His compositions range from gentle acoustic lullabies to intense stories of love
gained and lost. He also flashes an endearing humor on the fun duets he does
with the Frames’ Glen Hansard, like “You’re the Only Girl” and “Fanfare.”
The dangerous temptress in “Morphine” has “sulphur kisses” that entice the
singer. Is he singing about drugs or a woman? He plays loose with abstract
imagery throughout Ghosts, a disc that haunted me all year.