The Irish Sun’s Top 10 Albums of 2015
Therapy? – Disquiet
“The whole point of it was supposed to be the protagonist from [Troublegum] looking back,” Therapy? frontman Andy Cairns told Something for the Weekend upon the release of Disquiet, 20 years out from its iconic predecessor.
“That’s the kind of strand of Therapy that we could make every album like. It’s in our bloodstream. I don’t know what it is, because we grew up listening to Big Black, NWA, punk bands from Ireland and US hardcore bands.”
The Belfast-bred trio’s fourteenth record is, on the face of it, derivative by design, but it’s clear despite the opening bars of Still Hurts – which channels Troublegum’s first track Knives – that Disquiet is an update rather than a rehash, and it’s as vital a record as they’ve made in a decade or more.
Explicitly and implicitly, Diquiet challenges the notion that rage and self-loathing are preserves of the young, and tracks like Good News is No News and Idiot Cousin rank among the very best that one of Ireland’s most inventive and under-appreciated rock bands has produced.
Le Galaxie – Le Club
Overnight success rarely happens overnight – to put a spin on the annoying cliché – and it’s certainly true in the case of Le Galaxie, who were all set to release their second album independently when they discovered their progressed had been carefully followed by Warner Bros.
The Dublin electro-pop quartet spent more than half a decade developing into the complete package so coveted by major labels, cultivating a substantial following through a thrilling live show and honing their sound to the point where the album replicates the same euphoria.
“Our live shows are all about getting the crowd into it and dancing around. We really wanted to catch that joyousness on the album, and that’s why the album has that very positive, summery vibe,” guitarist Anthony Hyland told SFTW during the summer.
In contrast to their introverted, sci-fi-inspired debut Laserdisc Nights II, Le Club bristles with club-friendly chorus and a relentless energy encapsulated by the title track and Put the Chain On, and the group’s New Year’s Eve outdoor show in Dublin’s Stephen’s Green promises to bring a fitting end to the band’s momentous year.
The Drays – Look Away Down Collins Avenue
Anybody lucky enough to have lurked around the independent music scene in Ireland during the late Eighties will have fond memories of the Stars of Heaven, one of a plethora of Irish bands of the era who hold the curious distinction of never having achieved the lasting success the esteem in which they’re held suggests.
The Stars had the ear and the backing of the great John Peel, who was captivated by frontman Stephen Ryan’s keen pop sensibilities and distillation of that laid-back, Burrito Brothers-style California rock vibe.
With his latest project, the Drays, Ryan draws on similar influences, heightened by the sharing of vocal duties with Eileen Gogan, and tracks like You Say the Same Thing Twice neatly complement the more abrasive Crazy Horse-inspired rock sound of The Fourteenth Floor and The Seven Years War.
New Order – Music Complete
Before the release of Music Complete late in 2015, most music fans could have been forgiven for thinking New Order had ceased to exist. It had been 10 years since the band’s last proper album, and longer still since they’d been any good, and Peter Hook’s acrimonious departure in 2007 had appeared to spell the end of the direct lineage of Joy Division as a creative force.
Without their ever-present fulcrum Hook in situ, expectations for Music Complete were muted across the board but, in spite of the less-than-whelming contributions of Iggy Pop and Brandon Flowers, it’s the best thing the band have done since the Eighties, with Hook’s replacement Tom Chapman a particularly positive influence.
Between the Buried and Me – Coma Eliptic
Prog rock has never been to everyone’s tastes – and 50 years down the line it may never be – but what’s good enough for the dear departed Lemmy should be good enough for all of us, and in Between the Buried and Me prog possesses one of the great heavy metal bands of our time.
The Tommy Rogers-fronted band are a much-changed beast from the aggressive and pathologically difficult band that produced the masterpiece Alaska, but their move into more accessible and saccharine textures has breathed new life into the formula, and Coma Eliptic is the pinnacle of their latter-day work, an album that proves dense and challenging music can be catchy and euphoric at the same time.
Lakker – Tundra
If Lakker is an unfamiliar name to many, even within Dublin’s small electronic music scene, it’s one that is increasingly making waves in the wider world of techno. Dara Smith and Ian McDonnell have been plugging away for over a decade, first as part of the Prodigy-aping Undermine and later as a duo, but it’s with the aptly-titled Tundra that they’ve found their sound, a stark and somewhat standoffish whose dense layers only begin to reveal themselves with repeated listening.
Lamar Kendrick – To Pimp a Butterfly
Rarely a year passes when a black artist doesn’t capture the imagination of predominantly white mainstream audiences with a style steeped in the old school hip hop, with just enough bite and self-confidence to thrill said audiences without alienating, whether it’s the brash egotism of Kanye West or the juvenile vulgarity of Odd Future. What is unusual is for an artist to handle conservative old-style rap with the respect it deserves while adding something unique and lasting to the canon, and to those ends the now-veteran Compton rapper has achieved something remarkable.
Colm Mac Con Iomaire – And Now the Weather
Dubliner Colm Mac Con Iomaire is best-known for his association with Kila and the Frames but the Gaelgóir violinist has many more strings to his bow. As the ironically dismissive album title suggests, And Now the Weather is something completely different for Mac Con Iomaire, in that he intentionally shied away from making a fiddle album, written primarily on an old family piano inherited in recent years. In contrast to his first record, it’s a collaborative affair featuring many of the musicians he’s worked with over the years, but the cinematic, almost post-rocky feel to the album is a success owed purely to the artist himself.
Leo Drezden – Multi-Moment
With the demise of Adebisi Shank and the Redneck Manifesto’s continued hibernation, there was a danger the east coast of Ireland might cease to be the epicentre of post-rock, an unimagineable thankfully unimagined by the return of Enemies and the emergence of Leo Drezden. Featuring Rian Trench – half of cinematic electronica act Solar Bears and brother of Enemies’ Oisin – Leo Drezden fuse mathy instrumental rock with Trench’s sci-fi soundtrack-influenced synth production, and excellent musicianship abounds on their impressive debut.
Jape – This Chemical Sea
Ireland’s foremost adopted Swede Richie Egan produced the first great Irish album of 2015 with January’s This Chemical Sea, taking the concept of pollution – of the environment, of the body, of the soul – as inspiration for an album that’s as much a commentary on consumerism in the modern world as it is a cautionary tale on the dangers of drink and drugs, all contained within the electronic-backed folky sound that has made the Dubliner one of Ireland’s most recognisable modern musicians.