The writers

Fri, Dec 14, 2007, 00:00

Rock review of the year:The very best and worst of the past 12 months, according to The Ticket's own muso journos.

Brian Boyd

It was odd that Prince gave away his new album with the Daily Mail, odd that Madonna inked a lucrative contract with the Live Nation corporation, odd that Paul McCartney signed to Starbucks and odd that Radiohead passed around the digital busking hat. Oddest of all, though, is how the band of the year is Led Zeppelin.

Big reunion gig, the back catalogue all polished up, all the songs available on iTunes etc. The Led Zep for Slane rumour officially starts here.

Zep also provided one of the musical highlights of the year, albeit in the form of Robert Plant's album with Alison Krauss - the superlative Raising Sand. Gene Clark songs never sounded better.

Elsewhere, things took on a decidedly Scandinavian feel. Finnish duo released the most criminally neglected record of the year. "Planxty meet Sigur Rós" ran the review - and yes, it really was that good.

From Sweden, Victoria Bergsman released Open Fields. Bergsman is the best female vocalist since Beth Gibbons. And from Iceland, the magnificent string quartet Amiina got all classically post-rock on Kurr.

Elsewhere, the people behind Live Earth probably put back the cause of saving the world a good few decades with their atrocious line-up and sanctimonious eco hand-wringing earlier in July.

And can I be the first to say that I'm already so over the ibloodyPhone.

CDs of the year

1. Raising Sand - Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Bluegrass meets Brummie Blues.

2. Lady's Bridge - Richard Hawley. The indie Dean Martin.

3. Adjagas - Adjagas. Folk music, but not as we know it.

4. Kurr - Amiina. The antidote to new-age music.

5. Open Fields - Taken By Trees. The Nordic Nick Drake.

Gig of the year

John Fogerty at Wembley Arena.

High of the year

Mushrooms at Glastonbury.

Low of the year

Mushrooms at Glastonbury.


Jim Carroll

I work in a tiny room full of cardboard boxes. Every single box contains dozens of CDs waiting to be heard. I could spend every hour of every day listening to them and still not get to the end of what's here. And that's before I get around to downloads or what the postman delivered.

This is a time of plenty for music fans. Thanks to the democratisation of production and distribution, it has never been so easy to experience music. That this evolution has turned to a time of woe for the record business is a paradox for pop historians to dissect.

Albums

Standout albums from Panda Bear, Cathy Davey, LCD Soundsystem, Burial, Dan Deacon, The Hold Steady, Springsteen, Adrian Crowley, Shape Of Broad Minds, Little Dragon, MIA and Robyn.

There was also plenty of reward for time spent with Justice, White Rabbits, Super Extra Bonus Party, Operator Please (Just A Song About Ping Pong was one of the tunes of the year), Dan Le Sac v Scroobius Pip (Thou Shalt Always Kill was a delight), Bloc Party, Cadence Weapon, Simian Mobile Disco, Health, Mark Ronson, Björk, Flying Lotus, Windmill, Robert Wyatt, Holy Fuck, Josh Ritter and The Crimea.

Gigs

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band in Madrid, The National at Dublin's Olympia, The Gossip at South By Southwest in Texas, Gillian Welch at the Midlands fest, !!! in a tent in Italy, Battles in Dublin, Kevin Drew's Broken Social Scene in Toronto and Electric Picnic, still the benchmark for Irish festivals.

Lows

The decision by The Immediate to call it a day was sad, while the deaths of Tony Wilson and Lee Hazlewood robbed us of two fascinating characters. But perhaps the biggest disappointment was how many were conned by Radiohead's PR scam. Few bothered to point out that the band could only afford to be innovative with In Rainbows because of the fan base built up after a lengthy innings with a major label. With every new business model proposed in 2007 favouring established acts, it's becoming harder for new acts to get noticed.

In the rush to draft the obituary of the traditional record industry, it might be time to ask just where the investment into the next Radiohead will come from. What did you say? Live promoters? You are joking, aren't you?


Tony Clayton-Lea

It's been a topsy-turvy year, with things happening that weren't expected: Manic Street Preachers released Save the Tigers, their best album in more than 10 years. Another didn't-see-that-coming release was Cathy Davey's second album, Tales of Silversleeve. Those that were dreading the follow-up to her debut, Something Ilk, had to scrape their preconceptions off the tarmac.

The only other Irish record to make a genuine impact on me was the debut from Louth/Monaghan band The Flaws. Achieving Vagueness may have occasionally tripped over influences as close as The Killers, The Editors and Interpol, but it benefited from a fresh look at how classic pop melodies could be integrated with doleful, serious rock. Lyrically, too, the band have the skills to extend their worldview beyond the typical and the traditional.

Eschewing both of these were everyone's favourite Icelandic band, Sigur Rós, and their backing string section, . While the former released a peculiar sort-of greatest hits double album (Hvarf/Heim), the latter debuted with the year's most gently spine-tingling record, Kurr.

Two stalwart acts of the pop/Americana persuasion - Bruce Springsteen and Ryan Adams - released records that are up there with their best. Springsteen's Magic is The Boss as pop-songwriter extraordinaire - no bluster, no stirring anthems, no political pronouncements, just one classy pop song after another. Adams delivered quality straight-ahead pop/Americana - no frills, no waste.

New names were thick on the ground, but only a few picked themselves up and walked off with any shred of dignity. One was Jaymay, whose Autumn Fallin' balanced classic singer-songwriter tradition with staunch individualism.

Top 10 CDs

1. Manic Street Preachers - Save the Tigers

2. Cathy Davey - Tales of Silversleeve

3. The Flaws - Achieving Vagueness

4. Bright Eyes - Cassadaga

5. The Enemy - We'll Live and Die in These Towns

6. Sigur Rós - Hvarf/Heim

7. Amiina - Kurr

8. Bruce Springsteen - Magic

9. Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger

10. Jaymay - Autumn Fallin'

Gigs of the year

REM, Olympia; Arctic Monkeys, Malahide.

High of the year

On tour with The Flaws in Germany.

Lows of the year

The muck at Oxegen; 50 Cent at the RDS.


Kevin Courtney

This was the year you couldn't even give your music away. Well, you could, if you were or Ray Davies, whose new albums came free with newspapers.

With so much music out there, punters have been less willing to fork out, so Radiohead left it up to fans to decide how much they wanted to pay for their new album. Most paid nothing; the rest forked out an average of four quid..

With record sales tumbling into minus figures, and young hypefuls such as The View and The Twang burning out faster than a roach end, the music industry looked to the old uns to stave off the bailiffs. The Led Zep reunion ballooned into a global event; the Police reunion netted Sting and co the biggest paycheck of their careers, while the reformed Take That seem to be back in the charts for good. Money is making the go round again, and the lure of the euro has brought Boyzone back out of palookaville.

The pop kids are screaming for a new breed of Irish bands - The Flaws, Delorentos, The Immediate, La Rocca, Dark Room Notes and Fight Like Apes. Arcade Fire have ousted the Catholic Church, poaching more Irish worshippers every time their revue rolls into town, and Bruce has replaced Bono as God's rock'n'roll envoy on earth. And meet the new Apostles: Matthew, Caleb, Jared and Nathan aka Kings of Leon. Hallelujah!

CDs of the year

1. The Good, The Bad & The Queen

2. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

3. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - Raising Sand

4. Field Music - Tones of Town

Gig of the year

Daniel Courtney, Delivery Room, Holles St, July

Highs of the year

1. A free Radiohead album (oh, all right, here's a fiver)

2. Irish rock bands not being shite

3. Old rockers (Young, Plant, Springsteen et al) revived

Lows of the year

1. Reunions - thought they threw away each other's numbers

2. Mika - the new Leo Sayer

3. Amy Winehouse - oh, beehive!