Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Reeking of overkill...

MCD have finally confirmed one of the worst kept secrets in music with the announcement that Kings of Leon are to headline Oxegen for the second year in a row, leading many to fall off their seats in excitement.. Ehh..

Seriously, what the ? They were good last year (I was there) and recently in the O2 (and there too) but three major gigs in the space of 12 months? And a second headline in a row? Come on now.

Meanwhile, over on the Hot Press website they are reporting a "world exclusive" that Snow Patrol and the Killers are to headline the other two nights of the monolith festival, which takes place this year from July 10-12. What a scoop.

Not the most innovative of line-ups, but it'll probably sell a bucket-load of tickets, so who cares what I think, eh?

Hands up for free tickets..

In these recessionary times (I hate that phrase) you can't beat a good freebie. And that, dear On the Beat readers, is what we have for you. We have two pairs of tickets to give away (thanks to Cillian in Lakota Media) for the Innercity Pirates gig taking place in Dolan's next Wednesday, February 4. First two emails in win my friends. (alan[dot]owens[at]limerickleader[dot]ie)

Lots of buzz about the Innercity Pirates in the blurb sent to me by Cillian (and, going by the acts this man usually handles, we are already pricking up our ears). The Cardiff punk/pop band were awarded NME vinyl of the week for their EP 'Ear Sex' - great title.

Had a listen to the band's Myspace and it all sounds pretty good in a bouncy, punky, male/female vocal vein.. I like the titles - Let's go DISCO (which sounds not unlike our own We Should Be Dead) and Cockey Sparra..

Check it out, and beat the depression with a few free tickets.. hands up..

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mid West Arts, Media and Culture Awards

The nominations are in for the Mid West Arts, Media and Culture Awards, which take place in the Radisson on Saturday night. The Limerick Leader received a whopping 18 nominations, whoop!!

Got me a nomination in the Best Entertainment Piece category for a piece I wrote last year in respone to Hot Press magazine's decision to feature local Limerick rapper(!) Nailerz in their magazine. Needless to say I was less than impressed. It's reprinted below, truly I thought some of the other stuff I entered was better, but what can you do? Looking forward to a good old knees up now!

From the Limerick Leader, printed April 18, 2008.

Too hot off the press?

LIMERICK rapper 'Nailerz' - real name Martin Patrick O'Neill from Moyross - featured in an interview with one of Ireland's foremost music magazines last week as Senior Editor Jason O'Toole travelled to the estate to discuss "guns, drugs and life in Moyross". ALAN OWENS asks why Hot Press took everything the young rapper said at face value?

READERS may or may not remember when the Limerick Leader originally carried the story on February 15 last about Nailerz and several other rappers who performed at the recent Unfringed festival in the Belltable and caused a significant number of the people in attendance on the night to walk out in protest to the "offensive lyrics" being used.
On the night Nailerz (pictured below) lyrically documented his own brushes with the law, the death of his friends and claimed that a certain crime novelist put a picture of his three month old daughter in his book.
In the aftermath of that incident, Nailerz himself called into the Leader offices on several occasions looking to tell "his side of the story" - but we decided not to give him a pulpit from which to make his unverifiable claims.
On that occasion a small media storm brewed as national media organisations carried the story about the controversial rapper, but the dust seemed to settle in the aftermath, until last week that is.
In the midst of one of the worst weeks this city has seen - two young men were brutally executed - Hot Press decided to join the media bandwagon and carried a photograph of the self-styled Limerick rapper on the front cover under the tagline "Drugs, Guns and Hip-Hop in Limerick".
The 24 year old father of three claimed in the Hot Press interview that several attempts had been made on his life.
"The gun jammed not once but twice," he said. "They came back the next night and tried to do the exact same thing. The two of them got stabbed in the arse, I only got slashed in the face."
The young rapper, who has songs with titles like "This is where it hurts" and "My name is Nailerz", also claimed that he doesn’t believe carrying guns is a good idea, "because you’re gonna get ten years straight away in prison. A small little blade can do the same job, know what I mean? I still have guns but I have a license. I like stabbing people in the arse. I don’t like shooting people at all."
The focus of the piece was to ostensibly portray the troubled young man as having discovered rap music and how it changed him from a drug dealing thug into a bone fide musician - but the underlying, and unwritten, sentiment of the article was one of joyousness on the magazine’s part that they had secured an exclusive with someone from Limerick’s troubled estate who was willing to "reveal all".
While the veracity of the young man’s claims cannot be accounted for, the fact that Hot Press would willingly accept everything he said at face value is not a pleasant one.
Also, the article began with a dynamic statement that the troubled Moyross estate would later be "thrust back into the national headlines after a drive-by shooting in which the facades of seven houses were riddled with machine-gun fire" - an interesting claim considering that this incident in fact took place in the estate of St. Mary’s Park, which is of course across the River Shannon from Moyross.
The piece was an unfortunate exercise in lazy journalism, merely an excuse to grab some of the bright media spotlight shining on Limerick in the current climate, and while it may have boosted Nailerz already semi-notorious profile, it did little to serve anyone else’s interests outside of the magazine that carried it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sometimes I love this job.. most of the time..

Sometimes I love this job. At least three-quarters of the time I get satisfaction from what I do, and I count myself lucky for that. Of course, like everyone else, the long days and Mondays in particular, are nearly enough to drive me to the depths of a bottle of whiskey, but hey, the week gets better as it rolls on...

This afternoon I spent approx 20 minutes on the phone with Joe from Cork band Fred. Most of the 20 minutes were spent chuckling at the witticisms he had to offer, far removed from the bog standard anecdotes/quotes offered up from some of his peers, both national and international.

Like many people, I was surprised at the band's omission from the recent Choice Music Prize shortlist for their third album 'Go God Go'. Maybe the judges, like me (and I hold my hands up here) thought the album was released in late 2007, rather than 2008. Woops. If I had realised the album was actually released last year, it would have made my top 5 Irish albums of the year, no contest.

It is a joyous, soaring album of pop/rock and roll tunes, full of epic harmonies and lung bursting vocals from the man himself. Joe was diplomatic about the album's omission, noting his disappointment, but acknowledging that the band weren't surprised not to make the list. Politics and all of that.

Anyway, read all about it in next week's Leader. And go check out Fred here. They are playing in the Belltable next Saturday week, January 31, so no excuse for not checking them out. I'm reliably informed that there will be a full bar licence in attendance, but don't hold me accountable if not. Go here or here for more information.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bell X1 tickets sell out in a few hours

DESPITE the poor economic climate, it seems there is still a huge appetite for gigs in Limerick, as Irish band Bell X1 sold out an upcoming gig in Dolan's Warehouse in a matter of hours today.
Due to the demand for tickets, a second date has now been added.

Tickets for the March 27 gig sold out in a matter of hours, leading the promoters to announce a second date, the following Saturday, March 28, for the band's first Limerick gigs of the year. The band are due to release their fourth studio album Blue Lights On The Runway, on February 20.

"We put tickets on sale this morning and they were gone by 11am, so we have put a second date on sale," explained Dolan's general manager Grainne Aspell this Tuesday.

"We're obviously delighted and the shows are the strongest selling gigs after the band's Vicar Street shows, so that is great to see."

Bell X1 played an acoustic gig in LIT's Millennium Theatre late last year, giving fans a chance to hear material from their new album, and the early signs are extremely positive, the band seemingly retaining their flair for inventive lyrics and infectious melodies.

It was with 2003's Music in Mouth, and the follow-up two years later of Flock, that saw Bell X1 explode in popularity in Ireland, boasting multi-platinum sales and sold out shows in the country's biggest venues.

They marked their departure from the Island record label with a hugely successful Live CD / DVD package, Tour De Flock, released on their own label (BellyUp Records) that captured them at a pivotal point in their career.

These gigs will offer Limerick fans a chance to see Bell X1 in a fully electric show, playing all of their hits as well as the new material.

Tickets for the remaining gig on Friday March 28 in Dolan's Warehouse are available now on 061-319866, or through the website here.

Get in!

Photos from the Belltable Sessions last Thursday (January 15)

Opener Emma Small from South Africa. A bit nervous to start, but finished strongly. A song in native African language Xhosa (full of clicks) was a highlight.

Dave Irwin - notably of the Million Dollar Swing band, here laid bare as a fantastic jazz guitarist with a wonderfully soulful voice, reminiscent of Jeff Buckley. Get into that studio Dave.

The Swingettes, special guests on the night, a three-part, jazz vocal, harmony group. Delightful.

Headliner Vertigo Smyth, full of funny throwaway remarks and strong tunes, aided by the double-bass player from the Brad Pitt Light Orchestra (struggling with a name, apologies).

This was the third series of the Belltable Sessions, a wonderfully diverse acoustic night, featuring acts from Limerick and around Ireland, indeed the world. Unfortunately the crowd didn't it justice, people need to get in and see this space, which is ideal for a gig of this nature. Come on down folks....

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Arlo, you legend

ARLO GUTHRIE has done tours before. Damn, this man has been touring for more than 40 years. The last time the iconic folk-singer - son of the equally iconic singer Woody Guthrie - was in town, he was here with his son and grandson.

For almost the first time since the early '60s however, Guthrie is coming to town, and he is alone.

This is the "Solo Reunion Tour: Together at Last", offering Limerick music fans the chance to see Guthrie live and flying solo.

"I really haven't toured solo since the early '60s," confirms Guthrie. "When you have other people to work with, it is obviously a little more complicated, and this is so much easier. On the other hand I have to actually play. When you have great guitar players on stage with you, you tend to let them do everything. But if it is just me I have to reach back and remember the chops that I learned over the years."

Niceties dispensed with, I jump in with both feet, unable to contain my enthusiasm at this chance to pick the brains of a genuine Woodstock legend. I'm a fan - both of Guthrie's and that festival - and, while I'm not of an age to remember it or say I was there, I have devoured every frame, scene and tune on the DVD.

One of the most iconic moments from the Oscar winning documentary of the festival is Guthrie arriving by helicopter and speaking to the crowd - "I was rapping with the fuzz earlier, there is a million and a half people here, can you dig it?" - before launching into the classic tune Coming Into Los Angeles (which contains the memorable lines "Coming into Los Angeles / Smuggling a couple of keys / Don't check my bags if you please, Mr Customs man").Arlo takes it all in his stride.

"Well if I was to do it over again, I probably wouldn't have smoked that joint before I went on stage," laughs the singer.

"There are two sides to it; on the one hand it was great to know that I was never going to play in front of that many people again in my life, and on the other, I should have had my act a little more together."

"Any other day of my life, that song would have been played better, except for that one time at Woodstock. It is not entirely my fault, there was nothing to drink, no water, there wasn't even beer, all they had was cases of Champagne backstage, so we drank that all afternoon. So with everything that was going on, it is no wonder that my performance was what it was."

As a result of the song he still receives suspect stares on passing through customs.

"Still to this day when I am coming back home to the US from overseas, there is always one customs guy who looks at me and says (adopts a stern tone) "Arlo, are you bringing in a couple of keys?" - The truth is I could bring in anything these days and no one would stop me," he laughs.

1969 was a groundbreaking year for Guthrie; he performed at Woodstock, married his wife Jackie (still together), and released the classic album 'Alice's Restaurant', which contains the same title track - a free-wheeling, 18-odd minute anti-war song that he is chiefly remembered for.

While '69 was an important year, it seems dwarfed by the consequences of the year he took the decision to found his own record label, one which holds his complete back catalogue. That was Rising Son Records, and the year was 1982.

"We decided we were not going to be a part of the entertainment industry, we were going to make music and not worry about whether it was played on the radio or on tv - just do it ourselves.It has been great for us, and not just for me, but my kids and even my grandkids are all playing music, and we all have a family company we can work with so that the material gets out there and you don't have to sell your soul to anybody."

The involvement of his family is important to him - he will take all 17 family members on tour later in the year - as is keeping his father Woody's considerable legacy alive, that, and touring, whether by himself or with anyone else.

"Yeah, not just his legacy and his politics, but I think his heart, which is the most important thing. Songs that are hopeful have always been important in our family. They were important to my father, they were important to the guys that I grew up with, like Pete Seegers, and they are important to my kids and grandkids. After that, I just want to keep on playing and touring, because that is the only thing I know how to do."

Arlo Guthrie plays in Dolan's Warehouse this Wednesday, January 21.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday blues...

I'm told that today is statistically the most depressing day of the year, and it is hard to argue. After the highs of Munster trouncing those upstarts from across the water on Friday, plus one hugely enjoyable night out in Salthill, Galway on Saturday, we found ourselves close to the depths of despair on a random Monday in January. Snow. It actually snowed today.

Fear not fellow strugglers, hope is on the way. I'm on my way shortly to the launch of this year's UnFringed festival, which promises much raucous theatre and music over a busy ten days, starting next week. High on the list is an acoustic Fred gig. The Cork band, who also boast strong local links, released one of the best pop/rock n' roll albums of last year in Go, God Go. Nuff said.

Also hovering over the horizon are the Wailers, Thomas Kitt, Franz Ferdinand, Bell X-1 and more. This week we shall be attending Mr Arlo Guthrie's solo performance in Dolan's (Wednesday) at the very least. Plus the MAMCA awards on Saturday in the Radisson, but more on them anon.

On top of all of this, Niall Colgan and friends launched their Living in the City project today, which promises to be fun. See here for more info.

I'll be in better form tomorrow, you'll see....

Thursday, January 15, 2009

One seriously cool mofo, plus a seriously good gig..

Pictured above is iconic folk singer and Woodstock legend Arlo Guthrie, who is Limerick (Dolan's) next Wednesday for a gig. EXCLUSIVE interview in the Limerick Leader this weekend.. read about Woodstock and Arlo's solo tour. In the shops now.

Heading to the Belltable Sessions on this fine evening, Limerick's premier acoustic/music-lovers gig.. No mics, no amps, just performers in the spotlight of the Belltable's off-site venue of 36 Cecil Street (the venue formerly known as Red Cross Hall).

Featured tonight are the rather good Vertigo Smyth, the Swingettes, Dave Irwin and South African Emma Small.

On at 8pm, admission a recession busting 10 bobs. For four acts? Come on, you won't do better than that...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Choice Music Prize yo

The nominations for the fourth Choice Music Prize - sorta Ireland's answer to the Mercury Music Prize - were announced today, good list too from the 180 odd Irish albums released last year, except of course for the inclusion of The Script (you know how we feel about that album), who have immediately been installed as favourites by Paddy Power.

Here's the list:

Fight Like Apes “Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion” (Model Citizen) Mick Flannery “White Lies” (EMI)
Halfset “Another Way of Being There” (Casino Gravity Records)
Lisa Hannigan “Sea Sew” (Own label)
David Holmes “The Holy Pictures” (Canderblinks)
Jape “Ritual” (Co-Op)
Messiah J & The Expert “From The Word Go” (Inaudible)
Oppenheimer “Take The Whole Mid-Range And Boost It” (Fantastic Plastic)
R.S.A.G. “Organic Sampler” (Psychonavigation)
The Script “The Script” (Sony Music)

Not entirely unpredictable - the list includes four of my five Irish albums of the year, which you can see in a previous post here, no Autamata(?) - but that is not necessarily a bad thing. No mention for Colm Mac Con Iomaire's solo debut The Hare's Corner, pity too.

Lisa Hannigan a good bet at 9-2? Better Jape at 5-1, I likes that. Even better is MJEX at 12-1.

There was all sorts of controversy last year when Super Extra Bonus Party won and lots of moany f*ckers gave out about the competition/judges, which was frankly ridiculous as it is was one of the strongest entries on that list. Look forward to this, winner will be announced on March 4 in Vicar Street and most of the acts are expected to perform on the night. Tickets on sale next Monday from Ticketmaster, 29 bucks.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Finally, something worth going to...

January is usually a depressing month but this particular January tops the lot. On top of all the doom and gloom - I'm not going to mention that ubiquitous four letter word, think job losses - there hasn't been a single show worth going to in the first two weeks of the year.. plus I'm nearly finished series five of the Wire, to top everything off.

Well, things are about to change in the coming days and weeks with the arrival of several good shows including the return of the Belltable Sessions this Thursday (more on that shortly), and legendary folk-singer/activist Arlo Guthrie next week, with whom I have an exclusive interview in this weekend's Limerick Leader.

In the meantime, opening this Thursday in the Limerick City Gallery of Art is internationally acclaimed artist Clare Langan's art/video installation (I hope that description is correct) The Ice Above, the Fire Below, and Other Works, 2007-2009. I managed to get a sneak preview from Clare this week in the LCAG when I interviewed her for the paper, and I was blown away, even with the exhibition barely set up properly.

Essentially there will be three separate rooms housing three different works, the centrepiece of which is The Ice Above, the Fire Below - Clare's latest work - a film of the sea shot with high speed digital camera, enabling the use of slow motion. Set to atmospheric music by local composer Jurgen Simpson, this is a sensational piece from the Dublin artist, who apart from exhibiting pieces all over the world, worked as Art Director on, among others, Braveheart and Far and Away. Not only that but she created a video for Sigur Ros' song I Gaer (released on the recent double album Hvarf/Heim) that can be viewed here

This exhibition opens at 7pm this Thursday in LCGA and deserves to be seen. I'll be there anyway.

A still from The Ice Above, The Fire Below. See for more.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

There's no-one as Irish as Barack Obama you know

Who knew? Sometime early last year I took a call from a local man who told me he had written a song about Barack Obama's Irish heritage. Sure, I thought... Who would have thought that the Corrigan Brothers, hailing from Castletroy, would go on to become an internet phenomenon, and appear in various forms of high-profile media on both sides of the Atlantic. Not me.
Their latest appearance was on the Andrew Marr show, the BBC's flagship political programme, performing their song 'There's No-one as Irish as Barack Obama', watched by Neil Kinnock and William Haigue, among others. Next stop is the inauguration party on January 20th in Washington. After that, who knows?

Watch The Corrigan Brothers on the Andrew Marr show

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Best of 2008...

Haven't done much with the blog since I finished work on Christmas Eve, and since I'm not back in work until this coming Monday, I don't have much of a preview for this year worked up.. be patient, it's coming.. However, I have assembled a list of bests of from 2008, gigs, albums, dvds, books - you get the picture... Enjoy. Oh, and happy new year!

Ten Best Gigs of the Year:

10 The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra - Limerick City Gallery of Art (October 17): Theatrical and exciting ensemble - and one of Limerick’s best up and coming bands - performed in the Gallery’s main collection room. Priceless art and superb musicianship equals a winning combination.

9 Hot Chip - Trinity Rooms courtyard (May 13): Felix Martin and Al Doyle took control of the decks in a heaving courtyard on a balmy June night (the rain almost stayed away entirely). ‘Over and Over’ and ‘Ready for the Floor’ in particular, will live long in the memory.

8 Roisin Murphy - Dolan’s Warehouse (December 2): Dozens of costume changes, stunning visuals, a two hour set and the backing of a full band and even still Roisin Murphy’s star power shined through. Superb.

7 The Infomatics - Baker Place (April 4): Five-piece Irish hip-hop oufit launched their excellent debut album ‘Kill or Create’ in the Tait Square venue, and almost blew the roof off the place.

6 Dolan’s 10th Anniversary festival - Limerick Docks (May 2-4): Limerick joined the Irish festival circuit as Sharon Shannon, Shane McGowan, Mundy, The Zutons, Delorentos and The Sawdoctors arrived in town to celebrate ten years of music in the Warehouse. Abiding memory will be of three Ban-Gardai dancing to the Sawdoctors among thousands of happy fans.

5 Lisa Hannigan - Belltable (August 8): Jaw-dropping performance by Lisa and friends in the Belltable Arts Centre, the former Damien Rice collaborator’s first solo show in Limerick. A bunch of artists playing with broad smiles on their faces - and why not? Superb songs and a girl with talent to burn. Would go on to repeat the same magic in the Jean Monet theatre in UL in September.

4 Norman Jay - Augustinian Lane (September 27): This DJ - considered a legend in his field and the only DJ to receive a knighthood - played not one, but two gigs in the first Sol-sponsored End of Summer Carnival in September. It was the second, on a Saturday night in the laneway outside Mickey Martin’s that was the highlight, a ‘festival set’ that blew everyone away.

3 The Belltable Sessions (September 4) - Hard to pick one gig from the six that have taken place, but the third Belltable Sessions - and the last in the Belltable before the relocation to Red Cross Hall - was the moment the acoustic gig came of age. Featuring elegant harpist Sí, local rockers Walter Mitty and the Realists, Nick Carswell and the Elective Orchestra, and the excellent Juno Falls - all live and unplugged. Look forward to the new series in January.

2 The Swell Season - St. John’s Church (November 28): Almost the best gig of the year, just narrowly beaten. Nonetheless a superb gig by Oscar winners Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova (plus band) in the atmospheric surroundings of St. John’s Church, surely the best indoor venue in the city. A two hour set - they played 20 songs, I counted - that contained songs from the movie, Frames songs and a solo-Hansard finale called ‘Limerick Town’ that brought the house down. Simply put, we demand more gigs of this standard in a venue that befits the strength of the music.

1 Brasilintime - Trinity Rooms courtyard (May 4): The second courtyard gig on this list was also the best of the year, hands down. Also the best outdoor venue in Limerick, hands down. Organised by local man done good, Brian Cross, the gig saw a mixture of beats, samples and breaks from world class DJs Madlib, J-Rocc and Nuts, who were joined by corsucating drumming from the legendary Tony Allen and Brazilians Conti and Paryhba that had the crowd whipped into a frenzy. We can’t wait for Summer ‘09 and a return to this courtyard.

Best Albums (Irish): Very difficult to narrow this list down from the minimum 15 albums that were all in contention. A bumper year for Irish music.

5 Rarely Seen Above Ground - Organic Sampler: A one man tour de force, Jeremy Hickey, presents a Talking Heads-esque offering that is as dark and multi-layered as it is disparate and imaginative.

4 Autamata - Colours of Sound: Multi-instrumentalist Ken McHugh’s impressive electro-pop album. Features guest vocals from Cathy Davey.

3 Halfset - Another Way of Being There: Beguiling album from Dublin collective Halfset. If you thought Dramanalog was good, wait until you hear this.

2 Jape - Ritual: Jape - aka Richie Egan - comes of age; rocky, dancey and witty in all the right places. A superb follow up to laid-back debut album 'The Monkeys in the Zoo Have More Fun Than Me'.
1 Lisa Hannigan - Sea Sew: Excellent solo debut from Damien Rice’s former muse, without a doubt the best Irish album of the year and a shoo-in for the Choice Music Prize. Subtle and tender, yet bursting with vitality and the sound of a bunch of musicians enjoying themselves.

(Honourable mentions: Colm Mac Con Iomaire - The Hare’s Corner; Messiah J and the Expert - From the Word Go; Armoured Bear - Honeycomb Moons; Fight Like Apes - ..and the Mystery of the Gold Medallion; Giveamanakick - Welcome to the Cusp; Chequerboard - Penny Black)

Best Albums (Rest): Two newcomers, one Mercury Prize winner and two of the most original bands in world music, almost impossible to choose between them.

5 TV on the Radio - Dear Science: If you manage to achieve the near-impossible and stop yourself from listening to opening track Halfway Home on an almost constant loop, you’ll discover an album that is inventive and surprising - and one that carries real weight.

4 Sigur Ros - Med Sud í Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust (or With a Buzz In Our Ears We Play Endlessly): The closest the Icelandic outfit have ever come to a pop or rock album. Superb and mystifying in equal portions.

3 Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid: This Mercury Prize winner pushed hard for the number one spot, just losing out to two exceptional albums. This album saw Guy Garvey and his mates finally receive deserved recognition after a decade in the wilderness.

2 Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago: A haunting album that stemmed from Justin Vernon’s sojourn to a deserted cabin, following the breakup of a relationship. Surprisingly uplifting.

1 Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes: What can we say? No contest, this is the best album of the year. An eye-opening pastoral folk-rock album, stuffed with Americana and the sort of intertwined harmonies that Messrs Crosby, Stills and Nash would be proud of. Simply superb.

(Honourable mentions: David Holmes - The Holy Pictures ; Last of the Shadow Puppets - The Age of the Understatement ; Joan as Policewoman - To Survive; Nick Cave - Dig, Lazarus Dig!!!; Glasvegas - Glasvegas; Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree)

Five of the worst (in no particular order):
The Script - The Script: Don’t make me laugh.
Snow Patrol - A Hundred Million Suns: Formulaic. Try something new, please.
Guns ‘n Roses - Chinese Democracy: How many years were we waiting for this again? Yawn. Razorlight - Slipway Fires: Someone arrest Johnny Borrell for crimes against music.
New Kids on the Block - The Block. Good lord, they must have been broke to even contemplate releasing this trash. Give me Boyzone, Take That or Westlife any day.

The Dark Knight: Sprawling and confusing, yet Heath Ledger’s stunning performance saves this movie.

The Wire: Best piece of advice this year? Buy the box set of all five series of this gripping and hard hitting television show, the fifth and final series of which finished this year. More addictive than caffeine and that is putting it mildly.

Band of Brothers: Technically not released this year but a collector’s edition was with all sorts of special features. Available in shops for just more than €30, a bargain.

Wall-E: Funny, moving, sad, vibrant - all about a robot that can’t speak. Would love to have heard that idea being pitched to movie executives.

Man On Wire: Dizzying (literally) documentary about Philippe Petit's 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of New York's World Trade Center. Try not to look down.

Blade Runners, Deer Hunters and Blowing the Bloody Doors Off - Michael Deeley: British film-producer Michael Deeley tells a warts and all tale about his time in the film industry.

John Lennon, The Life - Philip Norman: Yoko Ono disapproves, so it’s a thumbs up from us.

Up Till Now - William Shatner: Hilarious autobiography that reveals the level of Shatner’s hugely inflated ego. The funniest book of the year.

Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets - David Simon: Written in 1991, but re-released this year as a result of the growing success of The Wire, the tv series which spawned from David Simon’s year on the streets of Baltimore with three police detectives. Eye-opening.

The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga: Brilliant debut novel by Adiga, dealing with poverty and injustice in India, which scooped the Man Booker Prize this year.