After Sean’s guest post on Swear I’m Not Paul here, Ronan decided to return the favour. You can also catch him on Culch.ie. Here’s his Top 5 Irish Career Artists i.e. ones whose whole discographies are worth getting.
Although not around as long as some of the other artists on this list, Bell x1’s output so far (as well as the singles and the Manna EP they released as Juniper) has been extremely consistent. Debut album Neither Am I was a triumph for a band who had just lost their frontman (Damien Rice). It was a much more sombre record than the radio singles we hear now, but their new direction has not taken from their artistic endeavour. The highlight for me so far is Music and Mouth, an album full of enchanting melody and brilliantly clever lyrics.
The Divine Comedy
Neil Hannon has been masquerading as the Divine Comedy since 1989, but peaked in the mid- to late-90s. At least that’s what we all thought until last year’s Duckworth Lewis Method album and this year’s phenomenal Bang Goes the Knighthood. He’s definitely back on form, and this latest album ranks alongside Casanova and Fin de Siecle. The Divine Comedy have some of the best Irish singles of all time, just check out the tracklisting for their Greatest Hits. Who can argue with songs like ‘National Express’, ‘Generation Sex’, ‘Alfie’, ‘Gin Soaked Boy’, ‘Everybody Knows (Except You)’, and ‘The Certainty of Chance’. I dare you to find a better Irish singles band.
Glen Hansard gained widespread attention when he won the Academy Award for Best Song with the Swell Season, but he’s been a national treasure for a long time before that. The Frames were founded in 1990 and alongside Hansard, there’s a merry cast of rogues, including the supremely talented Colm Mac Con Iomaire and Graham Hopkins. Their mid-career three-album run of Fitzcarraldo, Dance the Devil, and For the Birds is as good as any I’ve ever seen. For me, however, their greatest release so far was 2003’s Setlist which combined songs from these records as well as their amazing live stageshow. If you get the chance, pick up all these albums and go to see Glen Hansard live in his proper environment – with the Frames.
No list of Irish music would be complete without U2. The people who say they hate U2 are the kind of people who think they’re too cool for them. You’re not too cool for U2. It’s impossible. Fair enough, their recent album is a travesty, and the 1990s had a blip or two, but since the 1980s, they’ve regularly been putting out fantastic albums and singles. The Joshua Tree, The Unforgettable Fire, Achtung Baby, and more recently, All That You Can’t Leave Behind are all essential Irish albums. Who cares if Bono is a bit of a smug git? Doesn’t he deserve to be after making three decades worth of great albums?
The only act to have two albums in the top ten of my Best Irish Albums Ever list, Van Morrison is Ireland’s greatest ever solo artist. If he had only made Astral Weeks, he’d be regarded as a legend. But add Moondance, It’s Too Late to Stop Now, Tupelo Honey, Saint Dominic’s Preview, and countless more records to that list. The Belfast man is extremely prolific, and many of his albums aren’t as good as those early records. But what albums are? Even Radiohead would have a hard time comparing themselves to that discography. And that’s not even counting the albums he made with the band Them.