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.

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