It’s been a topsy-turvy year, with things happening that weren’t expected: Manic Street Preachers released Save the Tigers, their best album in more than 10 years. Another didn’t-see-that-coming release was Cathy Davey’s second album, Tales of Silversleeve. Those that were dreading the follow-up to her debut, Something Ilk, had to scrape their preconceptions off the tarmac.
The only other Irish record to make a genuine impact on me was the debut from Louth/Monaghan band The Flaws. Achieving Vagueness may have occasionally tripped over influences as close as The Killers, The Editors and Interpol, but it benefited from a fresh look at how classic pop melodies could be integrated with doleful, serious rock. Lyrically, too, the band have the skills to extend their worldview beyond the typical and the traditional.
Eschewing both of these were everyone’s favourite Icelandic band, Sigur Rós, and their backing string section, Amiina. While the former released a peculiar sort-of greatest hits double album ( Hvarf/Heim), the latter debuted with the year’s most gently spine-tingling record, Kurr.
Two stalwart acts of the pop/Americana persuasion – Bruce Springsteen and Ryan Adams – released records that are up there with their best. Springsteen’s Magic is The Boss as pop-songwriter extraordinaire – no bluster, no stirring anthems, no political pronouncements, just one classy pop song after another. Adams delivered quality straight-ahead pop/Americana – no frills, no waste.
New names were thick on the ground, but only a few picked themselves up and walked off with any shred of dignity. One was Jaymay, whose Autumn Fallin’ balanced classic singer-songwriter tradition with staunch individualism. Top 10 CDs 1. Manic Street Preachers – Save the Tigers 2. Cathy Davey – Tales of Silversleeve 3. The Flaws – Achieving Vagueness 4. Bright Eyes – Cassadaga 5. The Enemy – We’ll Live and Die in These Towns 6. Sigur Rós – Hvarf/Heim 7. Amiina – Kurr 8. Bruce Springsteen – Magic 9. Ryan Adams – Easy Tiger 10. Jaymay – Autumn Fallin’ Gigs of the year REM, Olympia; Arctic Monkeys, Malahide. High of the year On tour with The Flaws in Germany. Lows of the year The muck at Oxegen; 50 Cent at the RDS.