It's been a tough few years for Jape, a.k.a. Richie Egan. Falling prey to the calamity most dreaded by musicians - label trouble - the Crumlin man's third album has been given a succession of green, then red lights since its predecessor's release (The Monkeys In the Zoo Have More Fun Than Me) in 2004.
Consequently, it means that many of the songs on Ritual have been Floating (ahem) around for several years - but that's of little importance when they're as accomplished as these ten tracks are. Purveyor of the dreamiest, catchiest and most refined electro-rock you're likely to hear this year, Egan's songwriting science has never been exacted as fluidly as it is here. Injecting a dose of wry Dublin wit into his lyrics - often biographical vignettes of his Crumlin childhood (see zappy Korg-tastic pop tune Streetwise), there's a healthy division of bouncy indietronica (Christopher and Anthony), anthemic dance-pop (Apple In An Orchard) and sweet-to-bittersweet acoustic numbers: Phil Lynott is a simple, smile-stimulating tribute to the Thin Lizzy star, while At the Heart of All of This Strangeness supplies a comforting measure of melancholy.
Despite there not being a single duff track here, there are two tracks that go above and beyond their counterparts. I Was A Man treads a blurry line between electro-trad, hip-hop and downbeat pop and is one of the best Irish songs of the past ten years, while closer Nothing Lasts Forever's atmospheric, almost William Orbit/DJ Shadow-esque vibe ends the album on a spine-tingling high.
Ritual is an album that will indubitably see us make Richie Egan a packed lunch, straighten his tie and wave him off into the world with a proud tear in our collective eye. Where will he go from here? It's hard to say, but it's an unbelievably thrilling proposition. A positive contender for Album Of the Year.