Category Archives: album of the month

Album of the month March 2009



Neko Case – Middle Cyclone

Ms Case had a lot to live up to after the magnificent Fox Confessors Brings the Flood. Expectations were extremely high – even after the questionable artwork had leaked. Rest assured Middle Cyclone is a worthy follow up and a noble progression. One thing is for certain she has never sounded so good, her voice having developed into a force of cyclonic power itself.

Aided along the way by such talents as M Ward, Sarah Harmer, her fellow New Pornographers and more she fortunately avoided the too many cooks syndrome and made a strong, amiable confidant album. The two more instantly likable songs are cover versions which indicates that Neko is not a writer of straight forward songs. That is no weakness though as a pop singer she is not.

She clearly enjoyed making this album and it very much sounds a labour of love. On the first couple of listens it put me in mind of Astral Weeks for reasons I am not entirely sure of – perhaps it’s her meandering melody lines. With only two songs reaching over the 3 minute 20 second mark and many hovering at 2 minutes it certainly hasn’t the epic nature of Astral Weeks.

Her songs tend to age well and this album is one that will be pleasurable listening for a very long time to come. It may miss some of the melodic strength that Fox Confessor had but somehow it’s of no great loss to this great collection of songs.


Album of the Month – February 2009

White Lies – Mick Flannery



Slightly reminiscent of Closing Time era Tom Waits, Mick Flannery has created a elegant album of rich songs that seduce the listener. A little more with every listen. It’s a mature album that endears itself easily. Initially I had reservations because I felt it was nothing that hadn’t been done before and while this is still true a few more listens have proven the quality of the songs is more than enough to rise it to an album I now love. I find myself coming back to it time and time again almost subconsciously. True there is nothing ground-breaking here but there is always room for talent and clearly Mick Flannery has it spades. It’s a collection of strong, charming and touching songs – some inspired musical phrasing and a consistently lonesome atmosphere. Gorgeous stuff!

pick it up here

Album of the Month – January 2009

Andrew Bird – Noble Beast

Andrew Bird’s albums are usually of the type that steadily grow in strength for me. A slow burner if you will. They always have a couple of tracks that are immediately likable and the rest hover about patiently as you process the melody amidst all the whistling and frantic violin playing. Noble Beast hasn’t changed from this formula. What has changed somewhat is the type of songs that are presented here. Compared to his last two albums the songs here are grander and less…quirky.

The lyrics however remain as playful and fun as ever. Take the following from Oh No and try to say it three times as fast as you can.

“in the salsify mains of what was thought but unsaid
all the calcified arhythmitists were doing the math”  

Overall Noble Beast is as strong as you would expect from Mr Bird, just somewhat calmer than some of his other work. The harmonies in Effigy alone would warm the heart of any music lover. A wonderful start to the new music year.

Favourites Albums 2008

What a satisfying feeling to be able to say in mid-December, It’s been a great year for music. The only problem with so much great music is trying to pick your favourites. It’s been a very, very tough task but I’ve finally finished. From 15 to 1 I’ve compiled my favourites. It is utterly thrilling to be so confident that most of these are albums I will love forever. So raise your glass to 2008, it’s been mighty fine.

15. Neon Neon – Stainless Style

The eighties never sounded so great. Honestly, this is surely what it should have sounded like. With some extra talent this is how it could have sounded. A great spunky album thick with lively pop songs that sink their hooks into your head for weeks. This is the best possible quality pop music. Hard to work out if they are serious or just having fun. Whatever the intention these are wonderfully crafted tunes that I keep coming back to. Also they were runner up in the Title of the year award.

I saw her on Alderaan, Dream Cars and Belfast all had me searching for a pair of funky leg warmers.

14. Cut Copy – In Gost Colours

This is an album packed with energy and fun. Served with a confident slice of the 80’s and laced with endless dancing possibilities. Having been courted by Lights & Music it was a pleasant and great surprise to discover that there were lots more where that came from. This album was one of the most original of the year.  I wouldn’t know who else to compare them to. Electronic meets indie rock meets disco? Who knows? It’s just a bunch of great songs which is why I love it so much.

Lights & Music , Unforgettable Season and Hearts on Fire will have you wondering why they’re not constantly on the radio and MTV. Actually, maybe they are I never listen to such things.

13. Bowerbirds – Hymns for a Dark Horse

Friends and musical chums of the much lauded Bon Iver, the Bowerbirds did not enjoy the media love-in that he did but this is much more my cup of tea. This album has originality, melody and a voice and instrumentation that is both satisfying and thrilling. It’s the irregular drum rhythms that make it stand out to my ears from other folk albums this year.

Bur Oak, In our Talons and My Oldest Memory enchanted me so much I went to a gig and asked them to sign my CD!

Here’s what I said about it way back when I hoping someone would give me a big drum for my birthday.

12. Martha Wainwright – I know you’re married but I’ve got feelings too

Definitely wins Album Title of the Year in Conorland. This is a sixties folk album for the noughties. Instantly likable and packed with lyrics and melodies so strong you’d never even have to mention she has a brother.

Bleeding all over you, You cheated me, and Jesus and Mary had me wishing that more people would just quit posing and make more quality music like this.

Here’s what I said about it way back when I was glad I wasn’t having an affair.

11. Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew

This understated gem is a glorious series of simple songs that are deceptively good. It takes about four listens to hear beyond what is overly apparent and it’s a wonderful surprise when you realise that these are songs that are made for long-time listening rather than pleasant background music which is what one may think on first listen.

Pistachio, Ocean and a rock, and Lille had me making soft contented sighs

Here’s what I said about it way back when I was playing with my felt dice.

10. R.E.M. – Accelerate

Whether or not it was a return to form is irrelevant – it’s loud and it’s great! Each short song packs a wallop of a punch and I love to turn it up loud. It’s not an angry loud but rather a release of energy loud. And it sounds as if R.E.M. enjoyed that realease as much as I did.

Living well is the best revenge, Man-sized wreath and Horse to water had me wondering if my speakers could go even higher.

Here’s what I said when I was shrieking ‘take that everybody hurts’.

9. Mother Mother – O My Heart

Clearly influenced by Pixies these Canadians managed to avoid sounding like a tribute band and instead borrowed the best parts of Pixies; that delicious bass and the girl/boy rock harmonies and added it to their own quirky musical spice to produce a fabulous album. These songs are gloriously good with some inspired musical twists. It’s beautiful, it’s fun, and it fills part of the hole left by The Chalets. But Mother Mother are their own – don’t get me wrong, and O my heart is a gem!

Burning Pile, Ghosting and Wrecking Ball had me utterly delighted that such tasty music delights are still hiding out there waiting to be discovered.

8. The Heart Strings – Try Fly Blue Sky

Well this was an album I had to fight to get. After reading a gushing on-line review I decided to buy the album without having heard one note. All very well except this album is not available anywhere except one on-line record shop linked on their very fun website. I ordered and waited and when asked what was going on weeks later was send a replacement. This happened a total of three times until I actually finally got the CD. It was exhausting but the sounds I heard totally make up for the hassle. These songs are like a musical version of Dr Seuss’ characters. What I mean is they’re cute, quirky, inspiring and simple yet strangely substantial. I played the album non stop for weeks – I just couldn’t get enough. And when I thought I’d had enough I looked more closely at the words, and that kept me going for another good month. Very fine stuff!

Pedalo, Nina and her very long hair and Jose Fernandez had me stumped that nobody has ever heard of them. Seriously, sometimes the world makes no sense.

 Here’s what I said about it when I was looking for my pedalo

7. Santogold – Santogold

Santogold’s album sounds more like someone’s greatest hits rather than debut album. Her songs are just so strong that every one could be released as a single. This lady has one hell of a song-writing knack. She is often compared with M.I.A. which is something I don’t completely hear myself. For me Santogold has a much greater sense of melody, which is why I’m a fan. Santogold’s songs hint that she has many varying influences and she manages to make each song sound different. Interestingly the only M.I.A.esque song on this album is Creator and it’s the only one I don’t like.

Lights out, L.E.S. artistes and Say aha had me covering myself in gold glitter. 

Here’s what I said about it way back when I was trying to figuring out if you say Les Artistes or L*E*S* Artistes

6.Tegan and Sara – The Con

Rarely do I come across an album as satisfying as The Con. I find Tegan and Sara’s music difficult to describe as it is not entirely pop although has definite pop elements and not exactly folk although it often exhibits a folk melody in the midst of what is nearer to rock music. What makes it stand out for me is its quirkiness and its indefinable quality. It’s a little gritty, a little clever, exceptionally cool (whatever that means) and packed with brilliant tunes.  The Con is a truly magnificent album.

Relief next to me, Are you ten yeas ago and Like O, Like H had me wishing I had a talented lesbian twin sister.

Here’s what I said when I was thinking that they should have called it Sugar Spell it Out

5. Ane Brun –  Changing of the Seasons

When you listen to a lot of music it is all too easy not to give a full chance to some albums that fail to deliver immediate value. This is what happened with Ane Brun’s achingly beautiful Changing of the Seasons. I had decided all too quickly that these songs were not as good as her older ones. After a couple of listens I could barely remember a song or distinguish one from the other. But circumstance occurred that had me put it on once or twice a month as the year progressed –  and as the seasons changed, I fell in love. This is a delicate and wonderfuly atmospheric album. In fact in many ways it may be the most rounded collection of songs on this list. It’s just that it demands time to appreciate and that is something that people are not inclined to give.

The Treehouse Song, Gillian and The Fall had me gazing dreamily at the falling leaves.

4.Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

Just a fun bunch of catchy songs. It’s as simple as that. Nothing particularly inventive or exciting. But they’re great those songs. They are really, really great. Quite the achievement.

Oxford Comma, A-Punk and M79 had me jumping up and down and cursing with glee.

Here’s what I said when I was wishing for a Vampire Week instead of just a weekend

3. Aimee Mann – @#%&*! Smilers

An instant pop classic Mojo said at the time and I couldn’t agree more. Aimee Mann has always been a terrific song writer and with Smilers she has has managed to make an album consistently brilliant from start to finish. Having had the pleasure of seeing them performed live this year it was noticeable how well they stand up against her older classics. If only more artists could continually produce such quality as their career progressed. She is an inspiration.

Here’s what I said about it way back when I was learning to curse with symbols.

2. Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid

The first song I heard from this album was Bones of you and it appealed to me hugely. Later on  I listened to the album in full and discovered that Grounds for Divorce was also excellent, incidentally featuring my favourite line of the year ‘I’ve been working on a cocktail called Grounds for Divorce’. Some time later I fell for An Audience with the Pope only to be dazzled a day later by Weather to Fly. One day, on my own I listened to One Day Like This and was totally overcome by it. It has to be one of the most beautiful love songs written in a very long time. They manage to express without the tiniest bit of over-sentimentalism the happiness you feel when in love. I find it easy to put myself in that position when listening to this song and more than once the feeling is so strong it has moved me to tears. As did Bones of you when, six months after first listening to it, I read the lyrics. Describing how the notes of a song can transport you back to a time of love, a time that’s now gone. Exceptionally described;

And I dealt with this years ago

I took a hammer to every memento

But image on image like beads on a rosary

pulled through my head as the music takes hold

and the sickener hits; I can work till I break

but I love the bones of you

That, I will never escape

 This is a gentle monster of an album. One album like this a year would suit me right, for life!

Bones of you, Weather to fly and One Day Like This had me either laughing or running for a tissue.

1. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

This group’s debut is an unusual cross between Simon and Garfunkel, My Morning Jacket and The Beach Boys. They have made what in my opinion is the best album of the year. A modern classic! These songs sound almost timeless. Their almost overpowering harmonies guide you through melodies that are lush and spirit-lifting. The force of this album is how unusual it sounds in today’s music landscape. An excellent ,original piece of music that will be listened to for many long years to come. Stunning!

White Winter Hymnal, Tiger Mountain Peasant Song and Blue Ridge Mountains had be wondering if it really is possible to pick my favourite Fleet Foxes song.

And pipped at the post with a photo-finish for spot No. 16 are Last Shadow Puppets, Shearwater and Ra Ra Riot. Bless them.


Previous winners:

2007 –  Cathy Davey -Tales of Silversleeve

2006 – Kila & Oki – Kila & Oki

2005 – Sufjan Stevens – Illinois

2004 – The Innocence Mission – Befriended

2003 – Autamata – My Sanctuary

Album of the Month October

Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew

This is a deceptive album. On first listen I thought to myself that it was sweet, simple, easy listening music. Harmless. There were a couple of standout tracks and the rest sailed by unassumingly. It was only after accidentally listening to it a few more times that I realised that the worth of these songs is hidden. This is actually a really great album full of shining moments. Lille, Pistachio, Sea Song  and Ocean and a Rock are the best to my ears. Ocean and a Rock possesses some of the most beautiful lyrics for a love song I’ve come across in a long time. Do not let the simplicity fool you – this is a work of great talent indeed. There is only one song of which I would question the merits of. I don’t know would have made a fine quirky b-side but it’s lyrics grated on me before the end of the song on first listen and became annoying from the second listen onwards. That aside this subtle album has more than enough beauty to easily make up for that.  Hers is a talent that surely can only grow.



You can buy it here for next to nothing. So worth it!

Album of the Month September

Bowerbirds – Hymns for a dark horse

Hymns for a Dark Horse is an understated gem of an album. A gorgeous collection of folk tunes with wholesome sounding harmonies and clever rythyms. The key to their music is keeping it simple and while often the verses of songs may seem to meander a little they always nail it back with catchy choruses which leave you wanting more. You will get the overall sound of the album by listening to the first thirty seconds and it’s a sound that will largely appeal or not. I loved it from my first listen and it just shines even stronger the more you get to know these gentle songs.

Buy your own copy here

Bowerbirds- In our talons

Album of the month July

Martha Wainwright – I know you’re married but I’ve got feelings too

This is my favourite surprise of the year so far. Having listened to her last album and being left fairly cold I wasn’t too fussed to give the new one a chance. Even in light of the glowing reviews I kept on coming across – no, I was determined this was not an album for me. And then I received it for my birthday. I smiled graciously wishing I had been given one of the hundreds of albums on my wish list instead. Unsurprisingly it took me a few weeks to run out of excuses not to listen but eventually I put it on one evening while cooking. Background music – nothing too offensive. The first song came on and by the end I was hooked.  I assumed that that would be the best track and the others would be business as usual but how wrong as I was. She keeps the standard up the whole way through, without a doubt.

It’s a warm fuzzy breeze of folk tunes somewhat reminiscent of Melanie. While definitely having a sixties folk feel throughout it certainly doesn’t sound out of place in 2008. The songs still manage to sound relevant to today without sounding forced. I’m not sure how wise it was though to include a cover of See Emily Play and with the other songs being so strong it certainly wasn’t needed to add anything to this wonderful album.

The album also has one of the best titles this year which is taken from a line in the wonderful opening track. It really doesn’t take much to like this bunch of songs. A Melanie for 2008 – who’d have expected that? You can own it too for only €12.50. Who’d be without?