Top Ten Irish Albums of 2012
Originally published in the Irish Sun on Friday, December 21st.
1. Lethal Dialect – LD50: Part II (Stream)
Lethal Dialect’s first album, 2011’s LD50, announced the Dublin rapper as a serious talent, and the follow-up confirms 23-year-old Paulie Allwright’s place as arguably the most talented writer and emcee this country has produced. Producer GI’s jazzy beats recall the likes of DJ Premier while the overall atmosphere is reminiscent of Illmatic-era Nas. In contrast to the gloomy, murky street vibe of LD50, Part II is less heavy and more accessible with tracks like ‘Keep it Real’ and ‘Get to My Dreams’ achieving deservedly crossing over to the mainstream. With Magnum Opus, the final part of the LD50 trilogy, on the back-burner for now, Lethal Dialect is preparing to release his third record, 1988, in the summer.
Listen to: The Four Commandants, Snakes & Reptiles
2. Therapy? – A Brief Crack of Light (Interview)
Therapy? had been unfairly written off as a bog-standard rock band in mainstream circles, but their recent 20-year anniversary heralded a resurgence of interest in the Belfast trio. This culminated in the release of A Brief Crack of Light, their most vital release in over a decade, and an album bristling with bone-shaking punk riffs, memorable choruses and subtle electronic undertones. As Andy Cairns explained to Something for the Weekend earlier this year: “When people are comfortable, that’s when bland music seeps through. Whenever people are disaffected, agitated music eventually creeps onto their radar again.”
Listen to: Living in the Shadow of a Terrible Thing, Get Your Dead Hand Off My Shoulder
The Sleep of Reason is the follow-up to 2009’s Red in Tooth & Claw, and is very much a development on the propulsive, science-themed post-hardcore that made the latter one of that year’s most exciting heavy rock releases. Speaking to Something for the Weekend before Electric Picnic this summer, frontman Rupert Morris said: “Our mission statement is that we’re taking a stance for science and stabbing the traditions of religion and pseudo-science and superstition, and we’re doing it in the form of danceable metal and exotic post-punk.” In equal parts catchy and challenging, The Sleep of Reason certainly succeeds in its mission.
Listen to: Astronomy Astrology, The Sleep of Reason
4. Mumblin’ Deaf Ro – Dictionary Crimes (Stream)
Dubliner Mumblin’ Deaf Ro doesn’t release many albums – Dictionary Crimes is his third in a decade – but when he does they tend to be gems, and this is no exception. Written in fits and spurts over the past five years, during which his mother succumbed to cancer and his sister survived a serious illness, Dictionary Crimes is a heavy but ultimately uplifting exploration of life and death. As Ro explained to Something for the Weekend upon its release: “Where there are very dark songs about cancer, I hope there’s also a lot of love and intimacy that comes across in the relationships.”
Listen to: Cheer Up Charlie Brown, Cade Calf Call
5. Jogging – Take Courage (Stream)
Jogging’s debut album Minutes was one of the surprise releases of 2010, a short and sharp burst of Fugazi-influence hardcore that was completely different from anything anybody was doing in Ireland – and little has changed in that regard. Shifting stables from the now-defunct Richter Collective to progressive Cork label Out on a Limb, Take Courage has everything that made its predecessor such a fun listen – dense, mathy riffs, a thumping low-end, as well as Ronan Jackson and Darren Craig highly-strung vocals – but brings an extra layer of sophistication too with These Arms Are Snake’s Chris Common’s masterful production.
Listen to: Deadweight, Stand Still
Costello makes absolutely no effort to hide who his favourite rapper is – the beats, the title, right down to the cover art scream the fact that the Dubliner really, really likes Nas. And so he should. That’s not to say Illosophical is derivative, though – it’s a vast and diverse record from the same stable that brought us Lethal Dialect’s LD50, with production from GI and an array of guest performers including LD, Jambo and Willa Lee. It’s a slow-burning record that flits between moody, downbeat productions and bright, uplifting tracks about love and life but is rarely, if ever, dull.
Listen to: The Representatives, Chess Game
7. Logikparty – Oh Cult! (Stream)
Four-piece Logikparty had been kicking around Dublin for a few years with a couple of EPs to their name before belatedly dropping their first album proper in April. Record company trouble delayed the release somewhat, but it’s a fitting ode to the virtue of patience as Oh Cult! is above all else a collection of meticulously crafted, studiously assembled set of spiky post-punk jams, from the Gang of Four-like thump of opener ‘Anti Omerta’ to the funk, psychedelic and krautrock influence that bleed out of tracks like ‘Blonde on Blonde on Blonde’ and ‘Drop City’.
Listen to: Anti Omerta, Drop City
8. Croupier – Croupier (Stream)
‘Criminally underrated’ is a term we’ve become used to using in connection with Irish acts, but with the success of Adebisi Shank, Enemies and And So I Watch You From Afar worldwide, it’s a touch surprising that Wicklow act Croupier haven’t gotten a little more critical praise following the release of their debut album. Led by foppish wordsmith Oisin Murphy-Hall, whose dense lyrics and overwrought yowl underpin the band’s dancefloor-friendly math rock, Croupier have followed up their brilliant We, The System EP with one of the year’s under-recognised beauties.
Listen to: Creo Beast, It’s Not The TV
A collapsed record deal and a crisis of confidence led north Dublin foursome Delorentos to call it quits in 2009 during the record of their second album. They soon came to their senses, however, and You Can Make Sound was one of that year’s underrated gems. Little Sparks, is easily their most accomplished to date, a nuanced and intelligent indie pop record that draws from impeccable influences like the Cure and early U2 without sounding derivative. Singer Kieran McGuinness explained to SFTW during the summer: “[It’s] about the drudgery of going through your twenties and trying to figure out where you are. It’s OK to have light and shade on an album.”
Listen to: Bullet in a Gun, Care For
10. Cast of Cheers – Family (Stream)
2012 was a watershed year for Dublin math rock quartet the Cast of Cheers. No strangers to brave decisions, the band had already released their debut album, the Choice-nominated Chariot, for free download from Bandcamp before uprooting to chance their arm in the saturated London indie rock scene. Support slots for the likes of Django Django and Blood Red Shoes have helped the band build a live following across the water, and their first proper label release Family shows why. The band sound infinitely tighter than they did on Chariot, which was pieced together on laptops, though comparisons with contemporaries Foals and Bloc Party remain just as valid.
Listen to: Goose, Human Elevator