Top 10 Irish Albums of the Year

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AS the Christmas season enters its crescendo, so does our column. Listmas is in full swing, and those of you who read last week’s column have hopefully filled your ear holes with some of the sweetest sounds from Irish artists in 2021. But for those who are interested in a meatier bite, this week’s column will look at some of the best albums and LPs released this year. With that in mind, here are the Top 10 Official Northern Winds Irish Albums of 2021, for your reading and listening pleasure.

Ra Gerra: new ships
A unique collaboration between producer Kobina and rapper MuRli taking ethereal arrangements over rapped/spoken vocals. An alternative disc which pitches and twirls on an anxious, often dangerous trajectory. Kobina’s signature distortion of the natural world alongside MuRli’s fiery spit makes them a dynamic duo.

New pagans: the seed, the vase, the roots and all
Alternative rockers grabbed 2021 by the throat early and didn’t let go of the rest. An urgent album, covering motherhood, loss, religion and other equally light topics, the sonic architecture of New Pagans’ debut album is grand and gothic. With nods and praise from Tim Burgess (The Charlatans), BBC6 Music and legendary publications Kerrang! and NME, it’s clear the quintet is doing something right.

Hannah Peel: Fir Wave
One of the only Nordic artists to make the Mercury Prize shortlist, and certainly the first independent to do so, Peel’s latest is the culmination of years of writing and inspiration. Fir Wave rejects the static and the stagnant, flowing endlessly on a bed of hypnotic arrangements, crisp, experimental sounds and neo-classical compositions. One of the most unique releases of the year, Fir Waves gives you something new every time you listen to it.

Declan O’Rourke: Arrivals
A performer hailed by artists like Christy Moore and Paul Weller, O’Rourke’s seventh studio album is a songwriting colossus. Spider-strings in the arrangement bring together the smoky vocals and warm acoustics as immigration, both forced and chosen, comes under the microscope.

Bicurieux: (Re)Built
Reminding listeners that post-rock can cut through beyond the atmosphere, the two Bicurious instrumentals are some of the loudest and most spirited performers we have. Their debut is a raw sample of their math/post rock avalanche, perfectly encapsulating the madness and gomorrah of the live shows they became known for. Think And So I Watch You from Afar, but with the brakes off.

Dani Larkin: Notes for a Young Warrior
While some artists blindly blunder into trends, Larkin fearlessly sticks to his guns. With roots in the land of outlaws, traditional Irish folk singer-songwriters, Larkin’s debut album is an ode to oblivion and ferocity. A natural storyteller who carries on the bardic tradition of Irish folk, battle songs, bloodlust, mother and daughter and hopeless romance line the gnarled, dark hedges of ‘Notes For A Maiden Warrior’. Oscillating effortlessly between expansive coldness, dark intensity and anxious joy, always guided by a powerful vocal performance, Larkin scratches at the surface of something huge.

Biceps: islands
Peaking in the Top 2 of the UK charts, Bicep followed up their iconic debut with a more experimental record, which took them out of their comfort zone. Building on their beloved house, but with exotic new sounds: jungle-infused trance and a dark, sinister rhythm section. The Belfast duo are some of the finest electronic talent in the world, with highlights on this album such as “Apricots” sounding downright religious at their best.

Sorbet: it was heaven
One word: Breathtaking. A few more words: Producer Chris Ryan’s debut album is a breathtaking journey through the abstract, the absurd and the formless. Drawing inspiration from the natural and created world, Ryan weaves stories and landscapes that trace the journey from the Champs Elysees to Tartarus. Through the LP we examine disaster, rebirth, inevitability, endless cycles and the apocalypse. Told via a medium of buzzing, distorted bass, bright neo-classical composition, hazy electronica and alt-pop, there was no better, or more idiosyncratic, release this year.

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Saint Sister’s ‘Where I Should End’ was crowned with awards and accolades this year

Holy Sister: Where I Should End
Already hailed with awards and accolades this year, the indie duo’s second album saw them push the established boundaries into bright and exciting new places. With their folk roots intact, elements of disco, soul and pop all played enhanced roles, leading to a truly moving record. Ignoring the bog in favor of the intimate and the small, Where I Should End is a universal record.

For those I love: For those I love
What else can be written about David Balfe’s magnum opus that hasn’t already been written? Simply put, it’s an ecstatic LP, capturing the dynamism and trappings of love and loss like no other release this year. Propelled by an utterly euphoric instrumental performance and a magnetic, driving delivery from the producer, Balfe transports you effortlessly to the alleyways and bleachers of his childhood in a swirling, rhythmic cacophony of rhapsodic electronica.

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