We all know how good the Irish music scene is, but the last decade has proven particularly fruitful for Irish bands and artists.
Across all genres, there has been a serious number of world-class albums released. The Irish hip-hop scene has come into its own with acts like Rejjie Snow and new life breathed into trad by acts like Lankum. The indie scene continues to flourish. Even our contemporary pop acts have gone some way to making amends for the boyband sins of the past (we blame Louis Walsh for that one).
In other words, it's been exceptionally difficult to narrow it down to a list of ten albums.
We made a longlist, crossed names out, added some back in and basically spent a lot of time agonising over what to include. In the end, it came down to this: what are the albums that we have a) gone back to time and time again since their release b) have stood the test of time and will continue to do so and c) work as a consistent album, and are not just two or three excellent singles with a lot of filler?
Without further ado – and in no particular order – here are our Top 10 Irish Albums of the 2010s.
Villagers – 'Becoming a Jackal' (2010)
To tell the truth, every Villagers album could probably have made this list. In order to keep things fair, however, we've limited Conor O'Brien to just one entry. While his most recent album 'The Art of Pretending to Swim' is undoubtedly superb, there is a timelessness to his 2010 debut. From the title track to the mournful 'The Meaning of the Ritual' to the eerie waltz of 'Pieces', O'Brien set himself apart from his peers both musically and lyrically, and proved that there is so much more to a voice and a guitar.
The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock – 'The Brutal Here and Now' (2012)
They're far from a household name, but this Dublin band remain one of Irish music's best-kept secrets. While there have been some superb modern trad acts over the past decade, The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock incorporate the genre into their rock-based sound in the same way Horslips did in the 1970s. The result is a sound (and an album) that is at times menacing, poignant, beautiful but always compelling.
The Divine Comedy – 'Office Politics' (2019)
Putting a relatively recent album on an 'end of decade' list is always controversial, but we're pretty confident that The Divine Comedy's 12th studio album will stand the test of time. The fact that Neil Hannon is still making albums of this calibre, twelve deep into his career, says it all: this was a reinvention of-sorts for the Enniskillen-born songwriter, sliding electropop, spaghetti western music, disco and grimy pop-rock astride his trademark chamber-pop style. One of the most entertaining Irish albums you'll hear this (or any other) year.
Two Door Cinema Club – 'Tourist History' (2010)
They may never make another album like it (in fact, they haven't) but Two Door Cinema Club's superb debut remains an absolute gem. The record that propelled the Bangor trio to international fame still sounds box-fresh nine years after its release. Pretty much every song here could have been a single; it's a 32-minute blast of indie-pop brilliance.
Paddy Hanna – 'Leafy Stiletto' (2014)
File this under 'Irish albums you may not have heard of, but really need to listen to'. A hidden gem of the Irish music scene, Paddy Hanna began his career as a member of various bands in the Popical Island indie-pop collective. He struck out as a solo artist in emphatic fashion with this brilliant album – a collection of scuffled, oddly charming and melodically fantastic songs that deserved to be heard by a much wider audience. It's an album you'll return to time and time again.
Cathy Davey – 'The Nameless' (2010)
You probably already know that Cathy Davey is one of the most underrated musicians in Ireland; by rights, she should be an international star. Her third album proved her talent and versatility as a songwriter, while also managing to shoehorn some damned catch tunes in for good measure. 'Little Red', 'In He Comes' and 'Dog' are all world-class pop songs, but the whole album is eminently listenable from start to finish.
Little Green Cars – 'Absolute Zero' (2013)
They are sadly no longer a band (viva Soda Blonde), but Little Green Cars showed just exactly what they were capable of with this set of glorious, harmony-infused, supremely accomplished songs. The fact that it was the Dublin band's debut made it all the more astonishing – it's little wonder they were earning comparisons to Fleetwood Mac with songs like 'Please', 'My Love Took Me Down to the River to Silence Me' and 'Them'. They ought to have been huge. Why weren't they huge?!
You might argue that Hozier has lost the run of himself these days, but even the most die-hard cynic would find it hard to call this album unimpressive. In another world, the Wicklow man could have been resigned to one-hit-wonder status off the back of 'Take Me to Church'; luckily, he had a whole album's worth of songs that were arguably better than his breakthrough world-beating hit. Songs like the soulful 'Jackie & Wilson' paid homage to the past, but knockout tracks like 'From Eden' fiercely claimed the pop-rock genre for himself. And that voice. What a voice.
Girl Band – 'The Talkies' (2019)
It's another album from this year, but we'll be talking about – and listening to – this album for years to come. Girl Band are one of those once-in-a-generation bands, and it just so happens that they're Irish. It's easy to see how the Dubliners are not for everyone; their chaotic, primal, absolutely bonkers rock sound can be a challenging listen. Nonetheless, their second album (which to our ears is a better, more experienced album than its 2015 predecessor 'Holding Hands with Jamie') is the most original record you'll hear in 2019 – and undoubtedly one of the best of the decade.
Rusangano Family – 'Let the Dead Bury the Dead' (2016)
In recent years, Irish hip-hop has really found its feet – and Rusangano Family have been at the vanguard of that movement. Formerly known as Godknows + mynameisjOhn, the Afro-Irish act's debut album as a trio was both musically diverse and lyrically engaging, with MCs Godknows and MuRli incorporating social issues into their rhymes without sounding preachy. It made for a thought-provoking album – but also a record that's simply fun as hell.
Cashier No. 9 – 'To the Death of Fun'
We Cut Corners – 'Today I Realised I Could Go Home Backwards'
Bell X1 – 'Chop Chop'
The Gloaming – 'The Gloaming'
Ginnels – 'A Country Life'
All Tvvins – 'IIVV'
James Vincent McMorrow – 'Post Tropical'
O Emperor – 'Vitreous'
Lankum – 'The Livelong Day'