HeadStuff Picks | The 16 Best Irish Albums Of 2022
It’s that time once again! We’re making a list and we’ve checked it twice, but all of the stuff below is definitely nice. As is tradition here at HeadStuff, before we get to our international picks from this past twelve months, we are celebrating the finest LP’s from our own green shores over the last year. It’s been another bumper year for Irish music, with cracking debuts and returning favourites below from far and wide across the country – so without further ado, sit back and enjoy our selection of The 16 Best Irish Albums Of 2022.
And while you’re at it, why not follow along with our playlist featuring all of the best tracks hand picked by our writers below.
Aoife Nessa Frances | Protector
Protector was the sound of an artistic evolution as Aoife Nessa Frances bloomed into an entirely new animal on her enthralling second record.
With a fuzzy psychedelic twist on the ruminative folk rock that landed Frances’ debut on this list back in 2020, Protector unleashed its songwriter with a newfound swagger as the Dubliner mixed in groovy jazz numbers and extended seven minute baroque ballads alongside her most introspective songwriting to date.
The results were undeniable, and based on the light speed at which Frances is advancing her sound and scope, you get the distinct sense that Protector‘s spectacular wall of sound is just the start of a thrilling new direction.
Best Tracks: ‘Wave To Say Goodbye’, ‘This Still Life’, ‘Only Child’
Anna Mieke | Theatre
Was there a more magical album throughout all of 2022 than Theatre?
The second album from Anna Mieke delivered an enchanting collection of escapist fairytales that gently expanded on her 2020’s Idle Mind both in terms of narrative and instrumentation, with a shimmeringly rich backdrop to Mieke’s whispered vocals that gifted the wondrous world of Theatre both an expansive and intimate feel at all times.
It’s a privilege to witness Mieke taking the next step towards becoming the internationally recognized folk star that she deserves to be.
Best Tracks: ‘Twin’, ‘For A Time’, ‘Mannequin’
CMAT | If My Wife New I’d Be Dead
February brought around such a surprisingly fresh indie-pop record in If My Wife New I’d Be Dead.
CMAT (Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson) has begun what will undoubtedly be a glorious pop career with this debut. The Dubliner, whether intentionally or not, has effortlessly created a new sub-genre. With its country inspired self deprecating style parallel to the most uplifting choruses you’ll hear, this record has no skips.
The tongue-in-cheek lyrics heard throughout, give it a genuine sense of humour which reminds you that this rising popstar is not really from Nashville, but from the Fair City itself.
Best Tracks: ‘I Don’t Really Care For You’, ‘Every Bottle (Is My Boyfriend)’, ‘I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby!‘
Daithí | I’m Here Now
It’s been coming a long while, but Daithí is very much here now as the man himself proclaims with his expansive third record.
The producer has been slowly but surely making a name for himself as one of the forefront figures on Irish electronic music over the past decade, and I’m Here Now is the crowning achievement of this building momentum. With a variety of ingenious samples and avant garde beats mixed into an equal parts eerie and euphoric collection of dazzling electronica, Daithí takes us on a mesmerizing journey while delivering his most personal and best record yet.
I for one can’t wait to see where the Clare man goes next.
Best Tracks: ‘Sunset (featuring Ailbhe Reddy)’, ‘Walking Home Alone’, ‘Keep It For The Next One (featuring Neil Dexter)’
Fontaines DC | Skinty Fia
With three albums in four years, Fontaines D.C.’s consistency is to be admired.
And with their latest record, the Dublin band have delivered their most ambitious album to date, moving through ominous Irish language choral openers, accordion-led ballads, brooding ’90s alt-rock and dreamy indie pop.
On Skinty Fia, Fontaines have little else to prove and they’re truly in a league of their own in the current brand of popular post-punk acts.
Best Tracks: ‘Jackie Down The Line’, ‘Roman Holiday’, ‘I Love You’
Gilla Band | Most Normal
The band’s first release under its new moniker, Most Normal sees Gilla Band at its most stripped back but by no means its most direct or accessible.
Its onslaught of buzzsaw guitars and overmodulated bass is woven around song arrangements as frenetic and unpredictable as the delivery and lyrical content of vocalist Dara Kiely. Wrapped around musical left turns, studio trickery and eardrum shattering noise are some of the group’s biggest earworms and solid hooks to date.
It could be said that we’ve come to expect organised, angular, Dadaist chaos from the Dubliners but it’s never more of the same. The proof lies in Most Normal.
Best Tracks: ‘Backwash’, ‘Bin Liner Fashion’, ‘Post Ryan’
Ispíní Na Héireann | The Hard Working Men
Kicking the Irish trad scene up the arse as though it were Len Brennan himself, Ispíní Na Héireann truly arrived this year on one of the most characteristic and colorful debuts of 2022.
The hardest working men have been earning their moniker over the past number of years with mighty trad sessions around the capital and the country in iconic venues such as their beloved homestead The Cobblestone, so it was a wonderful thing to hear the duo’s bold brand of trad-punk translate so well to record on a rambunctious debut that captured the wild spirit and sly wit of Tomas Mulligan, Adam Holohan and the wider Ispini family.
And we’re singing da da dada da da…
Best Tracks: ‘The Hard Working Men’, ‘Talk To Joe’, ‘Please Don’t Start The Fun’
Just Mustard | Heart Under
The second full-length release for the Dundalk based quintet take their listeners on a late night drive.
Noisy, chaotic and inventive; on Heart Under, Just Mustard create a world that is every bit as exhilarating as it is dark and menacing.
Through swirling, swarming guitars underpinned by insistent rhythms, the band are at their most cohesive to date, offering the perfect foil to lead vocalist Katie Ball’s ever-captivating vocals. With meticulous attention to sonic detail and persistent tone, Just Mustard move above and beyond modernising shoegaze.
Best Tracks: ‘Seed’, ‘Blue Chalk’, ‘Early’
Neil Dexter | I’ll Be Ready
Deftly blending 80s pop, Eno inspired ambient jams and modern indietronica in a delectable palette of synths, Neil Dexter delivered one of the standout debuts of the year back in October with I’ll Be Ready.
Dexter’s open hearted electronica was a joy not only for its smorgasbord of sounds and an impressively executed range of guest features, but also its celebration of family and friends, as the Dubliner pays touching tribute to his partner and newborn daughter on some of the albums most tender arrangements.
Best Tracks: ‘Robert Wyatt’, ‘Loving You’, ‘I’ll Be Ready’
Oisin Mod | Honeycomb
Everytime I dive back into Honeycomb, I find some new small piece of magic that I missed on my previous listen.
The layered sonic beauty of Oisin Mod’s immaculate debut is well matched by confessional lyricism and delicate delivery, as the Galway native channels the iconic Elliott Smith while adrift in a hazy mish mash of shoegaze tinged soundscapes.
Honeycomb perhaps hasn’t received the wider acclaim that its due, so don’t let this one slip past you – this is a special first album from a deeply engaging mind.
Best Tracks: ‘Luminator’, ‘Honeycomb’, ‘Moments Notice’
Pillow Queens | Leave The Light On
Always fascinating and ever-evolving, Pillow Queen’s Leave The Light On finds the Dublin quartet exploring oppression, abuse and connection through a ten-song vibe-fest.
There’s not as many singalongs as you might find on In Waiting, now replaced with layers of atmosphere and soaring, punching vocals. It’s my personal pleasure to see Pillow Queens evolving and finding new ground, they’re a credit to their hometown.
Best Tracks: ‘Well Kept Wife’, ‘Historian’, ‘Try Try Try’
Siomha | Infinite Space
It isn’t rare to hear artists talk about how much they were influenced by the records their parents listened to, but it’s not often that the resulting debut album comes along sounding as confident and fully-formed as Síomha’s Infinite Space.
Clare-born Síomha Brock grew up on a diet of trad, blues, gospel and jazz, and with the help of an all-star team of musicians and engineers, the result is as catchy as it is cosmic.
Best Tracks: ‘Right From The Start’, ‘Spéir Rua’, ‘How To Change Your Mind’
SOAK | If I never know you like this again
After their brilliant Mercury Prize nominated debut Before We Forgot How To Dream and its equally impressive follow-up Grim Town, Northern Irish singer-songwriter Bridie Monds-Watson, Aka SOAK, released their third and arguably best record to date back in May this year.
In moments fuelled by raw grunge energy and in others blissfully meandering guitar passages, it is SOAK’s expert penmanship and personal, often wryly honest stories that patch it all together into a tight and darkly creative listen.
Best Tracks: ‘neptune’, ‘pretzel’, ‘last july’
Sorcha Richardson | Smiling Like An Idiot
Having reviewed Sorcha Richardson’s latest album when it was released in September, I could still write reams and reams about it.
Richardson brings us across the Atlantic only for us to find our way and back home to Dublin again over the course of eleven songs. The journey brings heartache, new love, and deep, unyielding friendship, as well as pints, dancing and good times.
Best Tracks: ‘Shark Eyes’, ‘Hard To Fake It’, ‘Jackpot’
Trick Mist | The Hedge Maze And The Spade
As someone far across the pond, a combination of curiousness and recommendations is essential in keeping up with the latest and most significant Irish releases. While I enjoyed many this year, Trick Mist’s The Hedge Maze and the Spade is my favorite Irish release and is also towards the top of every record that has crossed my headphones in 2022.
Gavin Murray, performing as Trick Mist, brilliantly builds loops based on field recordings and samples, presented as a uniquely Irish record in sound and delivery. At the same time, Murray explores universal themes of loss, nostalgia, and optimism during difficult times culminating in one of the most cathartic auditory experiences of the year.
Best Songs: ‘Flagbearer’, ‘Boring Bread’, ‘Willingdon Island (featuring Elaine Howley)’
Ye Vagabonds | Nine Waves
Ye Vagabond’s Nine Waves turns my seaside homeland into thread and weaves a sonic tapestry. Beautiful harmonies & exceptional instrumental work make for a well-crafted but perfectly understated record at the forefront of the Irish music scene.
At times energetic, at other times leisurely, this album took me on a few journeys this year and still had me coming back for more.
Best Tracks: ‘An Island’, ‘Lord Gregory’, ‘Máire Bhán’
Feast your ears on this immaculate collection of Irish highlights for 2022 with our Spotify playlist, featuring all of the best tracks from our above selections: