There are plenty of reasons to love St. Patrick’s Day. Like the green beer. And, um, the green beer. Ireland has also given us many great artists over the years, most of whom sound even greater after a pint or two (or three or four) of Guinness. Here are 10 of our favorites, plus the album of theirs you should be listening to during your St. Paddy festivities this week.
Morrison is the ultimate Irishman: he gets pukey-drunk onstage, he often slurs his words, and he can be a belligerent prick. He’s also one of the world’s greatest singer-songwriters, an R&B folkie who has soul to spare.
For your St. Patrick’s Day Playlist: Astral Weeks is his best album, but it’s slow, acoustic, and not very celebratory. Plus, there’s a song about scoping out high-school girls. Not cool. Go for 1990’s Best of Van Morrison instead.
If you didn’t know U2 were Irish, you’d swear they were American. They’ve explored our nation’s mythos more than once on record. But there’s a strong sense of Irish brotherhood that cuts beneath their rattle and hums.
For your St. Patrick’s Day Playlist: The Joshua Tree. It’s the album that bridges their early enthusiasm with later-day pretensions. It’s big, beautiful, and the key moment when a band of Irish punks became global rock stars.
No band says “Let’s get totally fucked up on St. Patrick’s Day” like the Pogues. You get the feeling that every page on their calendar reads “March 17.” Bonus points: they recorded the best Christmas song of all-time too.
For your St. Patrick’s Day Playlist: Rum Sodomy & the Lash. The title of their 1985 album warns you what you’re in store for: dirty limericks, plaintive ballads, and traditional singalongs to spill your Guinness to.
My Bloody Valentine
These distortion-lovin’ Dubliners pretty much invented shoegaze, which is about as far from festive Irish music as you can get. But they paved the way for noise-pop, dreampop, and other alt-rock subgenres since the early ’90s.
For your St. Patrick’s Day Playlist: Loveless, their second and final album, from 1991. Beneath all the guitar noise are some lovely melodies just aching to get out. Listen hard, and you can hear their Irish peeking through.
Sure, she pissed off a lot of people by doing un-Irish things like badmouthing the Pope. But O’Connor’s a sentimental traditionalist beneath that tough-punk exterior. Her voice aches with the spirit of her homeland.
For your St. Patrick’s Day Playlist: I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, her second album and only No. 1. It’s still an amazing record, filled with heartbreaking ballads, undisciplined rage, and scar-revealing self-reflection.
The most popular Irish traditionalists are also one of the world’s best folk groups. Their songs are filled with the sounds of Ireland: uilleann pipes, tin whistles, and bodhrán. They’re like a less-rowdy Pogues, with better teeth.
For your St. Patrick’s Day Playlist: Irish Heartbeat, the 1988 album they made with Van Morrison. Play this one for Irish old-timers: it’s filled with unpronounceable traditional tunes like “Tá Mo Chleamhnas Déanta.”
They perfected the twin-guitar attack. They sounded like Bruce Springsteen. And they were led by a black guy. That’s not very Irish. But Thin Lizzy had a hit with “Whiskey in the Jar.” You really don’t get more Irish than that.
For your St. Patrick’s Day Playlist: Jailbreak. It’s the one everybody knows for a good reason: it’s loaded with the band’s best songs, including “The Boys Are Back in Town” and the title track. Great drinking music too.
Frontman Glen Hansard is better known as the male half of NPR faves the Swell Season. But he never would have made the indie hit Once if it wasn’t for these underrated Dubliners. Way louder and cooler than his other band.
For your St. Patrick’s Day Playlist: The Cost, from 2006, the same year he filmed Once. Two of the album’s songs were recorded by the Swell Season, including the Oscar-winning “Falling Slowly,” way louder and cooler here.
These mostly forgotten punks spit out teenage anthems that weren’t nearly as nihilistic as the music their U.K. peers were making. They were from Derry, the city where Bloody Sunday went down, so there’s still some anger.
For your St. Patrick’s Day Playlist: The Undertones were a better singles band than album band during their late-’70s/early-’80s heyday. So go for the Singles = A+B’s or Teenage Kicks: The Very Best of the Undertones sets.
The Cranberries were one of the hugest alt-rock bands of the ’90s. But singer Dolores O’Riordan is Irish through and through, a nice Catholic girl from a large family (she’s the seventh kid) with a voice as big as Belfast.
For your St. Patrick’s Day Playlist: We’re gonna go with 1994’s No Need to Argue, because it contains the Cranberries’ best-ever song, the wall-rattling “Zombie.” “Ode to My Family,” an Irish alt-lullaby, is on there too.