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  • My Top 10 Favourite Albums (work in progress...)

    24 sep 2011, 12:26

    OK, so I thought I'd put together a bit of a blog talking about my favourite albums. It's not really meant to represent the stuff I listen to most, or a "Best Albums of all time" kind of thing... It's just here to highlight some of the albums that to me have stood the test of time, represent what an "album" should be (track ordering, concept, overall feel)... and that still keep me coming back. Feel free to listen / comment / criticise (only nicely!). It's sort of a work in progress as well.... so bear with me if it's not finished yet !! OH YES.... and it's not in a TOP 10 order either.... although if pushed I might do that later on :) Enjoy!

    Torino - Cinerama

    So I first started listening to David Gedge's The Wedding Present when they released their first album George Best and the Ukranian Peel Sessions. The thrash guitars, the unreturned desires, the jilted lover... all well and good when you're 18, but I moved on to other things and dropped out of touch with them, although the immediate buzz of George Best would occasionally grace my iPod many years later. It wasn't until I was reading a John Peel biography a few years ago that I even heard of Gedge's "mid life" project that is Cinerama. Representing a more cinematic music style than The Wedding Present would allow, Gedge continued with the brutally honest and poetic lyrcism that he'd started with, but dialed down the the thrash guitars and introduced a swooning ochestral style. You'd have expected his blunt Yorkshire accent to have grated with such a style, but instead it grounded it... removing any "tweeness" or sugar... and left something which had matured (as had Gedge) with me.

    Torino was their final album before Gedge decided he had gone full circle and returned to The Wedding Present. While Cinerama had produced some beautiful singles and EPs it wasn't really until Torino that they produced an album that achieved their full aims. The lyrical obsessions with lost love and infidelity continued but this time not from the the youth of a 20 year old, but the world weary eyes of someone reaching middle age. From the burning jealousy of And When She Was Bad through the calous disregard in Estrella and the final descent back into distrust and moodiness that is Starry Eyed. The album finishes on a peak with Health and Efficiency and one can already tell that Gedge has come full circle and why he decided to reform The Wedding Present and lay to rest Cinerama. He'd repeat some of the highlights here, notably for me with Interstate 5 but Torino as a whole for me represents the best album for appreciating why David Gedge is one of the true lyrical geniuses of the last 20 years.


    We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed - Los Campesinos!

    So I used to like indie music a lot... being 18 in 1986 probably helped that a lot, probably the peak of understanding what "indie" really meant. Indie charts, John Peel, 3 weekly music newspapers.... But of course indie grew up and so did I. And then in 2008 LC! appeared and released two albums in a year (indie!) which i missed (indie!) but picked up on them in the NME albums of the year (indie!). This charmer came in a box set with badges (indie!), a 30 minute run time (indie!), and ten tracks none of which would be released as a single (you get it by now). LC! couldn't be more indie if they got in Dr Who's Tardis and went back in time and crashed into The Mighty Lemon Drops.

    Of course LC! have grown up since and have arguably produced some far better songs since, notably The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future but it's their sophomore effort that to me represents all that is good about LC! Gareth's lyrics are about as bleak as they come... The title track ending with him screaming "Hope my heart goes first, I HOPE MY HEART GOES FIRST!"... and all the petty despairs of being 18 come flooding back. The lyrical poetry is a revelation, and Gareth's comments about loving The Beautiful South should not be taken as a bad thing. "I identify my star sign by asking which is least compatible with yours"... the 10 short songs are littered with throwaway lines of genius like this.

    I would have loved to have been 18 and have learnt about LC!, but being in my forties... well I'll just have to make do.


    It'll End in Tears - This Mortal Coil

    My music tastes were fairly mainstream when I was young. I guess Prince was one of the few admissions now that I wouldn't be overly embarassed of now, but at the age of 16 an older friend started to introduce me to a whole different set of music. The The, Rush, and then a whole load of music from the 4AD label. Some went on to become legends - Cocteau Twins, some have headed into obscurity - Clan of Xymox, and then there was TMC. I was strangely enough hooked on their second album first... but over the years their first album is the one that has stood the test of time.

    At the time they were kind of a 4AD "supergroup". But that maybe overstating things. I think it was more that a group of like minded artists paid homage to their influences while going over Ivo Watts-Russel's clearly extensive, and obscure record collection. Of course Song to the Siren, from the Tim Buckley album Starsailor is the most famous track, being used in many films, and Liz Fraser's haunting vocals probably raise this above the already incredible original; but there are many other highlights. Another Day has similar haunting vocals, Kangaroo is a tortured opener, and the second Big Star cover on the album Holocaust is incredible.

    Of course, it's a true album in the sense that you need to start at the beginning and let it run to the end for it's genius to really show. True, individual tracks are fine, but as a whole the work is astonishing. The 2 follow up albums are interesting, but neither match the shimmering glory of this. Dim the lights, pour a glass of wine, sit back and just enjoy.


    The Final Cut - Pink Floyd

    So I know this one is going to be controversial. Firstly (for those of you who know me) that I've put in Pink Floyd. How uncool ;-) Secondly (for those of you who know Pink Floyd) that I choose this - by some there most hated album. To be honest Dark Side of the Moon doesn't really do a lot for me, and The Wall has good points, but can drag on at times. Wish You Were Here then surely you say? But no, for me The Final Cut is there master work. I recognise that in many ways it could be viewed as the time when Roger Waters really started a solo career, but the band are clearly still important here.

    For those not in the know, the album is Roger's critcism of the Falkland's War, and was dedicated to his father who died in the Second World War. It's clearly a very anti-war and political piece, but for me it's also and incredibly personal and touching album. In someways, it's even understated - although a cursory listen may not give that opinion. The Final Cut is an incredibly personal search for meaning in a world that makes individuals more and more isolated, and the final track Two Suns in the Sunset talks of the fear of nuclear holocaust which was a clear fear at the time.

    For me the whole thing sits together perfectly as an album, and takes you on one man's (I admit not the band's) personal view of the world around him and the isolation it was creating. For the naysayers - listen to it again - you may be pleasantly surprised.


    Surfer Rosa - Pixies

    So I got this when it was first released along with Throwing Muses first album. I'd kind of been used to 4ad stuff being ethereal I guess... otherworldly... and my musical tastes to be fair were going a bit too soft. Then I heard these two. The muses one could see the link, but this savage attack of... of... well I'm not quite sure what of... was something else altogether. The first 5 tracks are pretty much over in 10 minutes, and you feel exhausted. Sure, the punk movement had done this sort of intensity before, but not with the intelligence of this.

    The real standout track is Gigantic with Kim Deal and Black Francis duetting a chorus, while the guitars simply rip. The second side is just as fast, but lightens up a little and even adds humour with songs like Tony's theme and the surf punk of later albums is clearly starting to emerge on this second side.

    However... the thing for me was the intensity of the first few tracks here. It's in the names.... Bone machine, Break my body, and Broken face. I saw them play this set live twice, once supporting The Muses, and second when they headlined, and their support was My Bloody Valentine. They certainly don't make them like THAT anymore.


    Hounds of Love - Kate Bush

    So this, along with Sting's Dream Of The Blue Turtles which I bought both of in 1985 when I had just turned 17, were probably the first two albums I bought that one could really view as adult. While Blue Turtles is listenable still (unlike probably the rest of his albums), Kate Bush's Opus still astounds me listening to it today.

    Split into two "pieces", the first side contains the singles... Running Up That Hill, Hounds Of Love, and the stunning Cloudbusting. Each on quite frankly is magnificent, and none have lost any of their power 25 years on. However, it's the second side of the album - a concept piece about birth and rebirth which could have aged horrendously - still sounds incredibly modern today.

    The whole album hangs together amazingly well, and is as staggering today as when it was released. Maybe back then it was too inventive even. And it's taken the rest of music a quarter of century to really catch up. It will still probably astound 25 years from now as well. I like a lot of Kate's other stuff too, but this is almost too perfect that everything else is in it's shadow.


    Loveless - My Bloody Valentine

    OK. So I've been not really been good at keeping this up to date... but I knew as I put this album down I'd probably have to wait a little bit, in the knowledge that the remaster was coming out soon... and in reality I'd be doing a lot of listening when it arrived. So finally some time for catch-up. To me it's always felt like a classic... no need for Pitchfork to tell me that it's a 10.0 album... but revisiting after all these years and you do realise how forward looking this work is. Doesn't sound dated at all almost 20 years later (except perhaps Soon). Of course, the louder you play it, the better... and the more then you just get swept along by the power of it. I recall seeing them just after(?) they released this over at Reading University and stood around 20 feet from the speakers. In many ways "feeling" these tracks is kind of half the point.

    I realise I'm not really speaking about the music on this one... but then it's somewhat difficult to say much about it unless you've actually listened to it. It's powerful (if played loud). It's druggy. It's sexy. It's.... well... just listen to it if you haven't. But... Do it on your own, when you have time to listen to it through, doing nothing else, and above else... LOUD.


    In the Aeroplace over the Sea - Neutral Milk Hotel

    ... coming soon ...
  • Top Listened to Albums of 2010

    2 jan 2011, 22:18