I found an album by Blanket in the reduced items bin at the record shop which I picked up for the following reasons, I quite liked the cover, it was cheap. I hadn’t heard of them before other than maybe a very vague memory of something in a playlist once, maybe, so it was pretty much a blind purchase but I think I got lucky.
I don’t know much about them and there isn’t all that much online either, but I did find this on their official Facebook page:
‘blanket’ started as a bedroom project from Bobby Pook and Simon Morgan. Later recruiting Steven Pellatt and Matthew Sheldon to form a live show. ‘Our Brief Encounters’ was released in 2017 to much critical acclaim, the band then toured that EP around the UK and mainland Europe.
“a five-track sweeping euphony that runs through a gamut of textures from ambient, textural soundscapes to ebullient, cloud-nine euphoria in 26 minutes” – The Independent
The band has always directed and filmed their own visuals, music videos and content with Vocalist Bobby running a video production company (Sumo Crucial Productions), ahead of their first full length release in early 2018 they made a short film documentary entitled ‘Fragments Of A Dream’ about their home town of Blackpool and a look at the differences between the old days and new of the town. In May 2018 the band released ‘How To Let Go’ their first LP on Music For Nations / Sony Music UK.
It is essentially Post-Rock, if you want to dilute it that far, but I think they refer to themselves as Cinematic Rock, which is basically the same thing if you use Mogwai as a handy comparison. Completely unbeknown to me (for the second time) they will be playing at the BlueDot festival in July, on the Friday, which I will be at, so in all probability I will get to see them (The first one I didn’t know about is Sons of Kemet).
I’ve listened to the album a couple of times now and I do rather like the instrumentals, particularly the opening track, which is the title track, ‘How To Let Go’ starting with some nice piano and then getting really heavy rather quickly I’d say.
There’s one track, the name of which I forget now, which has what I think is a digitally altered vocal, which may or not be deliberate, but I’m not sure I liked it that much. I find a lot of digitally altered vocals disagree with the expectations of my ears and it therefore feels slightly uncomfortable. I just checked, it’s called ‘Worlds Collide’, which I listened to again and I really like it apart from the opening vocal.
Overall, a really good album I think and as it was reduced to £9 I’m pretty pleased with my purchase, which has by now had several listens and I’ve probably got my moneys worth already so any further plays are a bonus, and I do think it will get further plays.
Label: Temporary Residence Limited – TRR299LP-C1 Format: 3 × Vinyl, LP, Limited Edition, Iridescent Mother Of Pearl Limited to 1000 copies. Includes Pianoworks Vol. 2 (new recordings of classic Eluvium piano pieces).
This arrived in the post yesterday. I pre-ordered from Rough Trade, and then saw the exact same version in my local record shop on Saturday. I didn’t know it was going to be there of course and the only extra expense is the P & P.
Eluvium is one guy, Matthew Cooper, who is based in Portland, Oregon. His first release was sixteen years ago and there has been a steady release schedule in the intervening years of ostensibly ambient material with some oddities along the way. If you’ve not already seen it I talked previously about his 2016 release False Readings On and it was one of my Albums of 2016.
Most of Eluviums previous releases are centred around piano but little of it is just piano, as we have here in Pianoworks. I am not qualified to pass any comment on the piano playing, in relation to style, technique, difficulty etc. But I am qualified to say that I like it. It’s gentle, simple at times but it is music for times when that is exactly what you want. If you fancy a pogo in your living room then this isn’t the album you’d choose but for reflective moments, quiet moments when you have time to breathe, Pianoworks is an ideal companion.
I just looked at the Bandcamp page and read this, which seems absolutely right: Inspired by the quiet thoughts and solitary observations of children – and the evolution/dissolution of that ephemeral, uncorrupted wonder of simple joy – Pianoworks begins with a song about children’s piano lessons, and culminates with an etude driven by the struggle to hold onto innocence and imagination as adulthood settles in. The record’s dramatic simplicity in both execution and expression is with purpose: Cooper wants the music to be simple enough to inspire children and novices to play, and the concept simple enough to resonate regardless of age or experience.
The album is a double on mother of pearl vinyl and very nice it is too:
As mentioned right at the beginning, it comes with a third disc of previously released but re-recorded tracks, one of which is ‘An Accidental Memory in Case Of Death’, which I have been listening to pretty regularly for over a decade now.
The full list of re-recorded tracks is down below:
It’s a nice package, with downloads as well, although I never use those and if the mood is right in your world, I’d recommend giving it a listen.
I’ve been watching ‘Later…..’ since it started and it is the only music show on British television that has got it right, I really can’t think of anything else that’s around at the moment that even comes close. In fact the other show that was good also featured Jools Holland and that was the Tube, which I seem to recall started to fall apart after he said Fuck on live television at tea time. Anyway, I recently found the first ever episode so I’ve shared that below and will be doing yet another ‘Your F***cking Sunny Day’ Episode, which nobody ever watches, but that’s fine, containing some favourite performances from the show over the years.
The episode above contains performances by The Neville Brothers, The Christians, Nu Colours & D’Influence so unless you are interested in those don’t bother watching it I guess.
I found the guests in the first series to be quite interesting as in my mind there were a lot more left field acts and unknowns, but perhaps some of them were back then and it’s just now I know them so long after their careers begin. This is the first series guests:
1×01 8 October 1992 The Neville Brothers / The Christians / Nu Colours / D’Influence 1×02 15 October 1992 k.d. lang / The Rockingbirds / Loudon Wainwright III / Dwight Yoakam 1×03 22 October 1992 Baaba Maal / Tasmin Archer / Oumou Sangaré / Was (Not Was) / Smokey Robinson 1×04 29 October 1992 Carmel / Indigo Girls / Mary Chapin Carpenter / Katie Webster / Barbara Thompson 1×05 5 November 1992 Inspiral Carpets / The Tyrrel Corporation / David Gray / Joan Baez / John Martyn / Andy Sheppard 1×06 12 November 1992 Denim / Nick Cave & Shane MacGowan / En Vogue / John Prine 1×07 19 November 1992 Simply Red / Kirsty MacColl / Ann Peebles / Me Phi Me 1×08 26 November 1992 Television / John Cale / Mary Coughlan / DC Basehead 1×09 3 December 1992 Sonic Youth / Shabba Ranks / Suzanne Rhatigan / Apache Indian 1×10 10 December 1992 Morrissey / Tori Amos / Loyko / Chris Rea / Matthew Sweet / Sonny Landreth
There was talk that the series was ending but the BBC have recently retained the rights to produce it for another two years so there is plenty more to come.
There are a lot of old jazz and blues albums being re-issued at very reasonable prices at the moment, this isn’t one of them, costing pretty much the same as a new release, but worth every penny.
The album was recorded in 1964 and 1965 and released by Phillips Records in 1965, peaking at number 139 on the Billboard charts, which is interesting as it almost certainly one of the top 100 albums of the decade, in my opinion, and this chart placing re-affirms my view that charts are not necessarily a reflection of what was actually good in any given year. Popular does not necessarily equal good.
I’m always on the look out for Nina Simone albums to add to my collection, and there are plenty to add as I only have two, this and ‘Little Girl Blue’, oh, and a best of CD that I bought in a charity shop for £0.50p.
The recording of this album is a little unclear to me as, online, some tracks are listed as ‘Recorded Live’ but it doesn’t say that on the album cover, maybe they were. It’s an album of cover versions, although back in this time period this was often the norm, with only the final track, the traditional song ‘Sinnerman’, credited to Simone as arranger.
Speaking of the cover, here is a special treat, the liner notes:
Be My Husband
Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out
End Of The Line
Trouble In Mind
Tell Me More And More And Then Some
Chilly Winds Don’t Blow
Ain’t No Use
I do prefer the Billy Holiday version of ‘Strange fruit’, which would be even better if the production values were as good as on this record (not that the Holiday version is terrible), but Simone still does a really good version.
There is a certain feeling to ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out’ that comes from Simone, as though she has lived it and is just passing on her story, she’s exceptionally good at owning a song and her voice carries a depth of emotion that few other performers seem to be able to achieve.
For Fathers Day today, I received a couple of albums. By received I mean I went to the record store, chose them, paid for them and brought them home. I picked up a copy of the 2018 Mercury Music Prize winning ‘Your Queen Is A Reptile’ by Sons of Kemet. Of course they didn’t actually win, Wolf Alice actually won, but this is better than that in my view.
I do tend to always read it as SONS OF KERMIT though, and then visualise Robin his nephew.I wish this weren’t true but it is and I can’t seem to stop doing it now. Anyway, this is their third album, I haven’t heard the other two yet but really, really like this one. While it is filed under Jazz, which is quite right, I hear quite a fair bit of Ska in it as well and other influences.
Sons Of Kemet are born of many vital elements, a name that nods to ancient Egyptian culture, and a line-up that comprises some of the most progressive 21st-century talents in British jazz and beyond. Band-leader, composer and sax and clarinet don Shabaka Hutchings brings together his fiery vision alongside London-based bandmates Tom Skinner and Seb Rochford and latest addition Theon Cross. – That’s what it says on Bandcamp.
I sat listening to the album and then had a little browse to see where they would be playing in the UK this year. Much to my surprise I already have tickets to see them in July, as they will be at the Bluedot festival, which I’m going to, possibly alone now as my son isn’t going to be around, my best friend in the whole wide world refuses to go and my good lady wife is very much on the fence about it. That’s fine, I can do alone.
For reference and in relation to my earlier point, below is a list of the nominees for the Mercury Prize, in which there are a couple I don’t think should be there but otherwise it’s quite a good list, but I think it generally accepted that Wolf Alice was the safe choice of winner.
2018 Hyandai Mercury Prize shortlist in full: Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino Everything Everything – A Fever Dream Everything Is Recorded – Everything Is Recorded Florence & The Machine – High As Hope Jorja Smith – Lost & Found King Krule – The Ooz Lily Allen – No Shame Nadine Shah – Holiday Destination Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built The Moon? Novelist – Novelist Guy Sons Of Kemet – Your Queen Is A Reptile Wolf Alice – Visions Of A Life
They are playing on the Saturday at the festival but I have difficulty be able to see if they are on at the same time as Kraftwerk or not, if they are then, much as I like them, I will probably be watching Kraftwerk. There are a lot of bands at the Bluedot Festival that I’ve never heard of, but I see that as a real positive, it’s an opportunity to discover new things and if I don’t like what I’m hearing very much I can go to another stage and see what’s happening there.
Popped into town and two of the 4 charity shops had some new stock. As always, anything even remotely interesting found its way into my bag, taste doesn’t factor. Here is what I got today (Along with Genesis – We Can’t Dance, which I just realised isn’t in the picture)
I was really pleased to find the Coltrane in particular but there were several that one doesn’t see often, the Daft Punk, Sundays (which was in the wrong cover sadly), Gabriel, Nirvana, Bjork, Talk Talk, to name some, overall a really decent bag full.
Today I’ve listened to Deacon Blue, Skunk Anansie and R.E.M. Just listening to the first Daft Punk now.
Back home from London and back at the MacBook. I had about 5 hours of wandering time on Friday morning with no pressure to be anywhere or do anything so it was time to have a wander. The first place I stopped to browse through the record racks was ‘Sounds of the Universe’. Upstairs was new vinyl, and I browsed through that, almost buying a couple of things but didn’t want to blow my limited budget straight away. There was a fair bit of soul, jazz, electronic and rock upstairs but I was dripping wet from the persistent rain on the walk there and a little uncomfortable, so I moved on around the corner where I knew there were two more shops.
I went to Sister Ray first, I’ve been there before and headed into the smallish basement to see what I could find down there. It didn’t take long. I’d been looking for ‘The Epic’ by Kamasi Washington for a while (it had been on sale in a local record store and I kept thinking next time I go I’ll get it, then it was gone). It’s a triple album, in a nice box with some extra pages with a story on I haven’t read yet, nicely packaged.
It seems that this and subsequent releases are quite polarising, in that a lot of people don’t seem to see any value in it whatsover, other than appreciating the skill if the musicians. I’m much simpler than seasoned jazz listeners, I either like it or I don’t, at a high level, so I enjoy listening to it? Yes I do, that’s all I care about really.
I actually bought all but 1 of the records I got at Sister Ray, the next was from 1959, and I mentioned it before, John Lee Hooker, ‘House of the Blues’. A re-issue which was very reasonably priced at £11, as many of these 1959 albums are now, although the originals in good condition are, of course, much pricier, but I want them to listen to not as an investment so a re-issue is fine for me.
I was looking for a Howlin Wolf album as well but didn’t find it, I’m sure it’s been reissued at some point though.
There was a lot at Sister Ray that I didn’t look through, spending most of my time in the Jazz and Blues section. Last time I went through the Krautrock and some of the rock, electronic etc, indie, punk, all that, but I was still damp and uncomfortable so I just did what I felt like doing and didn’t worry about maybe missing something good. While in the jazz section I saw a John Coltrane re-issue of ‘A Love Supreme’, which was an album I’d been meaning to get for ages so that became number 3 in Sister Ray.
I was about done down in the basement but had a very quick scout around and did find one more thing that was a nice surprise. I’ve been looking for a copy of Takk by Sigur Rós for what seems like forever, and there was one just sitting there. Not the original, which I think was released as 10″ vinyl, but a repress from 2015 on 2 x 12″ with one 10″ containing a single track on one side and etching on the other. The cover is embossed and the 10″ slips quite cleverly in a pocket in the sleeve. Not that I knew this at the time as Sister Ray is one of those shops where you take a photocopy of the sleeve to the counter and they get the records for you from the shelves behind them.
So I was delighted to get a copy of Takk, and it’s a really nice re-issue, although not cheap. I had tried to get it from Canada once and the one I bought worked out about £30 cheaper than that one, so I feel a little better about it.
Just across the road is Reckless Records, so I popped in there and didn’t find much, but I was looking for rather specific things and so limiting myself, there was plenty there really. I bought another re-issue, as second 1959 album, this time from Ornette Coleman and ‘The Shape of Jazz to Come’, which I’d streamed a lot since writing the Best of 1959 post, so I was glad to find that.
This is Reckless Records, inside and out. I did see one album that I seriously though about getting and I am regretting a little that I didn’t, but never mind, too late now.
I then went to Phonica, as it was quite nearby but didn’t expect to really find anything as it is mostly for DJ’s I think, white label vinyl, electronic, not very mainstream. I didn’t find anything.
I then went back to Sounds of the Universe and had a look in the basement where there were some used records and a lot of books. I could have at this point bought the couple of albums that tempted me earlier, but I was close to having spent enough and they were both quite pricey. So I headed off to find Fopp, which would be my last record shop for the day. I was really very wet by now and getting grumpy and at the point where I just wanted to have a sit down with a coffee. Fopp was disappointing really, I bought nothing there.
And that was it. I’m pretty pleased with my purchases and, I ended up back in Leicester square where this happened:
So I find myself let loose in London, which means record shops. I’ll write about some of them another time when I’m on my laptop and not my phone. I’m currently listening to John Lee Hooker ‘House Of Blues’ that I just bought, a very reasonably priced re-issue.
I rarely have time to sit and do nothing while watching the world go by, but right now I do, on a bench in Leicester Square.
I picked up a few more records as well, but that’s also for another time as the phone isn’t great for updating. One of them was also from ’59 so I am well on my way to getting all of them. This is, of course, an entirely unnecessary venture but I find that going into record shops with a purpose can often be better than wandering in with no idea what you are looking for, although I do that as well.
Some of the 1959 albums will have to be bought online as you just cant get them here, or, there’s no likelihood of a re-issue. I’ve been looking for ‘Odetta’ but I dont think it was even released in Europe, so it’s not cheap or readily available, I’ll find one though.
I was tootling around on the internet and found a song I recorded years ago on a site I’d forgotten about. I used to write and record a lot of music, enough that I was approaching almost competent at times, though not that often. I actually sing on this one, although one’s definition of singing may be stretched to the limit here. Checking the metadata on the file it tells me I recorded in 2005, which sounds about right. That picture over there is me around then. Anyway, I thought I’d share it:
There’s a lot going on in it, much of which is very low in the mix, like me going absolutely mental on guitar on occasions. For anybody who wants to know about the recording it would all have been done on Cubase, the drums would be a programme called BFD. All instruments played by me. The guitar is probably a US Stratocaster (in Sunburst in case you wondered) with bass being an Ibanez Fretless (I still have both of these guitars). For anybody who doesn’t want to know, sorry you had to read that.
I may post some more of this stuff as I find it, but not too much, I know there’s a linit to what people can take!
I was thinking that 2002 wasn’t that long ago, but of course it’s 17 years, and looking at the albums from that year I’m quite surprised that they were released that long ago. It really seems so much closer. Anyway, I’ve left a lot out and gone for a top 54, a stupid number but 54 it is. As always with these sort of lists it is all my opinion and I’m quite comfortable with being considered wrong, because that’s the thing about opinions, mine is right.
54 – Cornershop – Handcream For A Generation
Cornershop have always been rather underrated in some quarters, but not by me, this is a really great album, and anybody who releases a single with the repeated line ” The overgrown super shit”, is ok with me.
53 – Moloko – Statues
I think I may use the word Underrated more than would initially appear necessary, but I’m not convinced Moloko received the acclaim they deserved. They produced great Dance/Pop songs and Róisín Murphy’s voice is fabulously distinctive. I like them.
52 – Moby – 18
This, of course, is the album that isn’t ‘Play’ and it was never going to repeat its success, but it has some really good tracks on it, not least ‘We are All Made of Stars’ which I find better than many of the ‘Play’ tracks.
51 – Super Furry Animals – Rings Around the World
I never took any notice of Super Furry Animals, despite them being very Welsh, and then I heard the track below on a compilation and really liked it. It’s not indicative of everything they do though.
50 – Xiu Xiu – Knife Play
I have one album by Xiu Xiu and this isn’t it, in fact I’ve never heard his album until now. It is sort of experimental but it has something about it that I really like, it’s also nothing like the album I do have, which is their re-working of the Angelo Badalamenti soundtrack to Twin Peaks. I fully appreciate this won’t be to everybody’s taste.
49 – Out Hud – S.T.R.E.E.T. D.A.D.
One of the great benefits of doing lists like this one is that I get to listen to things that otherwise I probably wouldn’t. In the 17 years since this album was released I have never tripped over it, I literally know nothing about it. I listened to it, I love it.
48 – Jóhann Jóhannsson – Englabörn
There are certain things that I can confirm as being true, one is that I like modern classical, another is that I like film soundtracks, which leaves me rather vulnerable to this. Although, I do have 2016 release Orphée so I’m not a complete stranger to Jóhann.
47 – El-P – Fantastic Damage
There are things about Hip-Hop, Rap etc. that I don’t understand but the young ‘uns seem to be all over it, talking about flow and sick beats amongst other things, frankly, most of the time I can’t even make out the words, I’m old, I can’t help it, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t like or appreciate something from within the constraints of my own understanding. I appreciate this, it’s, erm, dope.
46 – Ms Dynamite – A Little Deeper
She was the next big thing, but turned out not to be. This was partly by choice I think as she took time off for her child and her return was marred by a badly promoted second album and then being dropped by the record label. Putting that aside, this is a really good debut and, personally, I think it’s a shame she didn’t take off. I saw her DJ-ing a few years ago, I like her.
45 – Beck – Sea Change
I’ve listened to this album several times over the years and even though I know it is very highly regarded, the track ‘The Golden Age’ is the only one I can ever remember because I once put it on a mixtape. I must try it again and see if I’ve missed something.
44 – Dalek – From Filthy Tomgue of Gods and Griots
I don’t know why I like this, I just do.
43 – Aimee Mann – Lost In Space
I bought this when it was released and it is only today when I went looking for it that I realised I don’t have it now. Mann is a really good songwriter and I thought back in 2002 that she would be a bigger thing than she turned out to be, though this is not necessarily a criticism. There are a lot of good songs on this album, you should give it a listen.
42 – Craig Armstrong – As If To Nothing
This is classified as Modern Classical, Downtempo, Experimental, Ambient. Well that’s me sold on it then, how could I resist? Don’t know him? Craig Armstrong, OBE (born 29 April 1959 in Glasgow, United Kingdom), is a Scottish composer of modern orchestral music, electronica and film scores. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 1981, and has since written music for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the London Sinfonietta. He also has several film scores under his belt. I’m a fan.
42 – Groove Armada – Lovebox
Francis Rossi of Status Quo played on the track Purple Haze, the opening track to the album and in the video below, the guitar riff is from an early Quo track called April, Spring Summer And Wednesdays. The album is packed with cool, really listenable tracks, recommended.
41 – Nightmares on Wax – Mind Elevation
When I started buying vinyl again this was among the first that I bought, well, first 20 or so, I can’t remember exactly. I’d been streaming it before that and saw it in the shop, seemed an obvious choice to me at the time.
40 – Ladytron – Light and Music
‘Seventeen’ by Ladytron is one of my favourite tracks of this year. I had it on my Ipod, or whatever I was using then (Might have been Creative Labs as it had the biggest storage back then), in a playlist and it was played a lot. Oddly enough, I don’t think I ever listened to the whole album, just odd tracks, but now I have, it’s great.
39 – Morcheeba – Charango
Another album I actually bought when it was released, a double CD, one of which was instrumental versions, I only played that once. I still think their debut album is brilliant and this one doesn’t disappoint either, containing a duet with Kurt Wagner of Lambchop on the track ‘What New York Couples Fight About’, seek it out, it’s brilliant.
38 – Supergrass – Life on Other Planets
The fourth album from Supergrass, the standout tracks being ‘Grace’, and ‘La Song’ and ‘Never Done Nothing Like That Before’ on an album that could have been a classic but doesn’t quite make it. Still worth having though. I also like ‘Seen The Light’ which is so very T-Rex.
36 – Max Richter – Memoryhouse
I love the work of Max Richter and this is no exception, although it is one I don’t own yet I have listened to it several times. Memoryhouse is considered a “landmark work of contemporary classical music”. It’s an experimental album of “documentary music” recorded with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, which explores real and imaginary stories and histories. Several of the tracks, such as “Sarajevo”, “November”, “Arbenita”, and “Last Days”, deal with the aftermath of the Kosovo conflict, while others are of childhood memories e.g. “Laika’s Journey”. The music combines ambient sounds, voices (including that of John Cage), and poetry readings from the work of Marina Tsvetaeva.
35 – Jurassic 5 – Power In Numbers
I picked up a copy of this only a couple of months ago from a charity shop and have played it a lot in the car. Apparently the album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
34 – The Chemical Brothers – Come With Us
There are some really good tracks on this album, although I don’t think there were any massive ‘Hits’, I could be wrong about that though. This is their 4th album and ‘Star Guitar’ probably is the best well known track on it but despite some negative reviews I rather like it.
33 – Lemon Jelly – Lost Horizons
Lemon Jelly albums are generally their own special version of ‘feel good’. They are almost a brand rather than band with the their graphically designed images adorning the pages of countless magazines and the expensive collectors editions of their records. This is happy music made for cosy afternoons tucked up on the sofa and if you’re looking for something that’ll give you a bit of a spring in your step, then you really couldn’t do much better.
32- The Cinematic Orchestra – Every Day
Here we have a mélange of jazz, orchestral and digital samples which is primarily operating in a territory first mapped out by Bristol’s Massive Attack, if at a somewhat more rarefied and abstract level. The modern jazz and 20th century classical sensibilities are distinctive and well performed and, as Roots Manuva performs on one track, I am pre-disposed to liking it.
31 – The Roots – Phrenology
The Roots brand of hip-hop had a distinctly group-oriented musical sound and Phrenology builds from that, with the band filling their sound out and pushing it in a variety of directions for Phrenology. If you like things categorised, the band sound is a sort of tight soul/funk augmented with soul vocalists, including Musiq, Jill Scott, and, at the time, promising newcomer Cody ChesnuTT.
30 – The Coral – The Coral
Underrated is an entirely personal concept and I do say it far too often. More often or not the music is underrated by my and was in fact very popular which is usually as a result of my completely ignoring bands until many years later and then wondering why I paid no attention at the time. I picked up the CD of this in a charity shop a couple of months ago and it is really very good, and I’m only 17 years late in listening to it. There’s also something both amusing and endearing about a singer who pulls faces that make them look as though they are attempting a particularly troublesome shit.
29 – Tom Waits – Blood Money
Tom Waits is a genius, a total outsider who seems to do whatever the hell he wants and sod what people think. I rather like what’s happened to his voice, which is pretty much the sound of a man gargling a gallon of gravel, but with brilliant songwriting. He released two albums in 2002 and the other one is here too, it’s a close call between them.
28 – Tori Amos – Scarlet’s Walk
I’ve always had a soft spot for Tori Amos, another brilliant songwriter, but initially lumbered with the idea that she was the new ‘Kate Bush’, which she wasn’t. This album is 18 songs long and, perhaps, there are a couple too many, however, what to leave out? It’s an 18-track concept album that details the cross-country travels of Scarlet, a character loosely based on Amos, as well as the concept of America post-September 11, 2001. Perhaps the story wouldn’t make sense without all the songs.
27 – Tom Waits – Alice
Like the simultaneously released Blood Money, this album is previously unrecorded music from an opera production by Waits, his wife Kathleen Brennan, and longtime collaborator (“The Black RIder”) avant-garde theatre director Robert Wilson, which explored the obsessive relationship between Lewis Carroll and the little girl who inspired Alice in Wonderland, Alice Liddell. I’d never heard of this opera, the songs are fantastic and I do wonder now about the show itself.
26 – Eminem – The Eminem Show
I am not a huge Eminem fan, but I can very much appreciate the impact he has and the crossover popularity. A careful listen to this album strongly suggests that the overriding emotion is the loneliness created by fame, money, and failed relationships, which is sad, but not a unique situation and it’s much easier to be sad if you’ve got money. What it does undeniably have is bloody catchy songs from a man who was the biggest pop star on the planet at the time.
25 – Porcupine Tree – In Absentia
Here is another band that I completely missed, they weren’t even on my radar. It wasn’t until I recently went to see Steven Wilson on tour last year that I started listening to the back catalogue and I was quite confused. My understanding was that it was Prog, which is part of it but it feels like there’s a lot of Pop in there, with hooks galore and more catchy choruses than you can shake a stick at.
24 – Gomez – In Our Gun
I actually though Gomez had broken up years ago, but they haven’t, they’re most recent album having been released in 2011, which I’ll check out along with a couple of others I’ve never heard. On the sessions for In Our Gun, the band also set aside some of their Americana influences in favour of tinkering with newer technology. All five members became fascinated by samples and loops and other electronic touches that could bring some new sounds to Gomez. At the same time, the band members worked to integrate the approach into songs that had an R&B or a folk-rock feel, allowing the effects to wash over tried-and-true traditions. Give ‘Even Song’ a listen, you might like it, if you don’t you’re wrong.
23 – Röyksopp – Melody AM
Melody A.M seemed to be playing everywhere back in 2002, at a time before MTV became unwatchable drivel it seemed like every 30 minutes they had a track playing. It’s a strange album in many ways, being a sort of after-club easy listening electronica which has an unsettling familiarity about it, and somewhere in there, a sense of chirpy sorrow, which is an odd feeling to evoke. It is super catchy and, for its genre, almost perfectly proportioned.
22 – Beth Orton – Daybreaker
I’ve seen Beth Orton a couple of times now and both times reminded me of not only the high quality of her songwriting but also of how much I like her voice, it’s almost lazy, and yet precise, which I have trouble making sense of. The first time I saw her was a seated concert with about 600 people in the audience, she was heavily pregnant and sat alone on the stage with just her acoustic guitar as accompaniment. The sound was stunning.
21 – Johnny Cash – American IV: The Man Comes Around
I don’t think I really need to say much about this. If you don’t know it, where the hell have you been!?
20 – The Streets – Original Pirate Material
I have difficulties with this album, as I remember liking it on first and second listen but it had no staying power for me. It felt like listening to an audiobook repeatedly, however, going back and listening again I think I appreciate it more particularly in the context of what else was happening in music at the time. The references were instantly recognisable, mundane everyday issues of public transport, cheap drugs, fast food, and hangovers. There was no self aggrandizing, just brilliant phonetical descriptions of street life and culture.
19- Damien Rice – O
This album felt all conquering back in 2002, particularly when tracks from it were used in the film ‘Closer’. Today it is just as good as it was then, however, it does suffer from overplaying as many very popular releases often do. The songs are still incredibly good but that familiarity, over familiarity even, can, for me at least, have a detrimental effect. I do still give it a listen every now and again though.
18 – The Libertines – Up The Bracket
The Libertines were pretty casual and rough around the edges with a sound that could have come from the 66 or 76 rather than the beginning of the 00’s. The songs were brash and bold, funny at times and spoke of perfectly ordinary, mostly English things, with Sid James quotes adding to that particular Britishness. Ignore what happened afterwards, this album, a debut, was like a breath of fresh air at the time.
17 – The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
It’s quite the trick to make one feel small and insignificant but happy about it at the same time, which is what the Flaming Lips pull off with this album, which may or may not have an overall concept, it’s difficult to tell. There is a diverse array of subject matter covered, mostly melancholy ponderings about love, mortality, artificial emotion, pacifism, and deception, not the most heartwarming of subjects, but who can deny the beauty of ‘Do You Realize??’
16 – Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
An album loved by the critics and liked by me. It has been said that the album is complex and dangerously catchy, lyrically sophisticated and provocative, noisy and somehow serene. It has been called a masterpiece and was top 3 on lots of year end lists. I’m yet to figure out why, it’s good, but a masterpiece? I’m not so sure.
15 – William Basinski – The Disintergration Loops 1
Speaking of masterpieces, here’s one. Not from everybody point of view for sure, but from mine it is. The music was recorded from a series of tape loops that gradually deteriorated each time they passed the tape head, an unexpected consequence of Basinski’s attempt to transfer a collection of his old recordings from magnetic tape to digital format. The completion of the recording coincided with the 9/11 attacks, which Basinski witnessed from his rooftop in Brooklyn and the artwork features Basinski’s footage of the New York City skyline in the aftermath of the World Trade Center’s collapse. He would subsequently dedicate the music to the victims of the attacks. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve listened to it, in its entirety and it has some kind of emotional effect on me that I find difficult to explain. It is not related to the twin towers attack, it just makes me introspective and thoughtful, and, of course, I have admitted many times to my love of repetition.
14 – Pearl Jam – Riot Act
I had a CD player in the kitchen, on top of the refrigerator, and this CD was in it for several months, just playing while I did other things, sometimes for just a song and other times the whole album repeatedly. It grew on me, mostly due to my being too bloody lazy to change the CD but also because those are the sort of songs on the album, they aren’t necessarily going to hit you right between the eyes, but there’s a good chance they will get to you in the end.
13 – Iron and Wine – The Creek Drank The Cradle
Simplicity is a wonderful thing. The sparse lo-fi sound of the album is attributed to Beam recording the tracks at home on a four-track recorder initially as demos. His intention was to pass these on to Joey Burns and John Convertino of the band Calexico who would provide a rhythm section on the finished piece. However the demos were released instead. I don’t know who made that decision, but it was inspired, these fragile, beautiful songs are a joy.
12 – Mum – Finally We Are No One
Here I go again, UNDERRATED! there, I said it. Múm (Icelandic pronunciation: [muːm]) are an Icelandic experimental musical group whose music is characterised by soft vocals, electronic glitch beats and effects, and a variety of traditional and unconventional instruments. The last sentence doesn’t do them justice, they are magical.
11 – Coldplay – A Rush Of Blood To The Head
I know Coldplay are extremely popular, but personally I think they did 2 1/2 good albums, this is the second one, the next one is the 1/2. This topped a lot of year end polls, which is fair enough I guess but it was the popular choice, which is not how I judge things, after all, the best selling album of 2002 was Escapology by Robbie Williams, and it’s shit. That having been said, there are good songs on this and, for me, it’s in the correct place in this list.
Well, one must ask, ‘Do you own all the White Stripes records?’ and one must answer, ‘Yes I do, and am completely and utterly biased’. This was an album that showed progression, which continued through the next album, Elephant’ and on until they finally split. Despite the Guitar, Vocal, Drums format seemingly being limiting, it just isn’t noticeable, good songs are good songs and White Blood Cells is jam packed full of them.
8 – Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man – Out Of Season
Absolute beauty. I was already sold on Portishead and so was a tad worried what was going to happen with a solo album (sort of), I needn’t have been, tracks such as the delicately acoustic ‘Mysteries’ (below) are not Portishead, but they are Beth Gibbons and they are wonderful, like a photo album you forgot you had, opening it years later and feeling the mixed emotions of melancholy and joy and somehow being grateful for the moments you captured on film.
7 – Sonic Youth – Murray Street
This is one of my faviourite Sonic Youth albums which forced its way into my psyche by having tracks in various playlists that I listened to a lot back then. If you’ve never listened to the album I highly recommend it, great songs, and much catchier than one might expect.
6 – Godspeed you! Black Emperor – Yanqui U.X.O
It is fair to say that GSYBE are not everybody’s cup of tea, and I’m good with that as they are very much mine. I saw them a few years ago at Warwick Arts Centre, on my own, and it was quite an intense listening experience. I do love the way the tracks build, often from almost nothing into lovely repetitiveness, layer after layer, into an almost classical crescendo.
5 – Lambchop – Is A Woman
Another band I saw at Warwick Arts Centre, again on my own, anti-social bastard that I am. I like things that are a little different, in this case Kurt Wagners phrasing, it feels almost desperately sad at times, and his use of words, the songs often feel to me like poems set to words, the Bukowski sort. A gem of an album.
4 – Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights
I was given a mix CD that had no track listing and the track PDA from this was on it, although I had no idea what it was. When I finally figured it out I sought out the album and, having found it, played the damn thing to death. Interpol were compared to Joy Division a lot, and there is some of that influence there for sure, but also Echo & the Bunnymen amongst others, but they aren’t these bands, they are their own thing. Check out ‘NYC’, ‘Stella was a diver and she was always down’ and ‘PDA’ down below of course, but don’t limit yourself to those, just listen to the album.
3 – Boards of Canada – Geogaddi
A classic, which I wrote about HERE so I won’t again (because I’m lazy).
2 – David Bowie – Heathen
This is one of my favourite Bowie albums and to me it feels complete, unlike many of his earlier releases. It has none of the persona’s present that Bowie had previously used to such good effect, it seems more to be that he had found himself to be David Robert Jones, all grown up. The choice of cover versions are perfect, the Pixies’ “Cactus,” Neil Young’s “I’ve Been Waiting for You” and the Legendary Stardust Cowboy’s “I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship” all fit beautifully with the self-penned tracks. This album is a gem.
1 – Sigur Ros – ()
An album of 8 untitled tracks (though they were later named) with vocals in a made up language that nobody really understands is an unlikely resident of the number one spot, and yet here it is. () is an album of spacey, drifting ambience and brooding textural melodrama with songs that sometimes demand patient, observant listening. For me, music is more than a catchy hook or riff, it is about mood and emotion, texture and sometimes headspace, that place where you can go to get away from all your troubles, transported there on an analogue wave. An unexpected lifting of the spirits, a mild euphoria, a period of melancholy, it is all included. I love his album.
There are a lot of albums that were released in 2002 that could well have been in the 54 above, but they aren’t.
Below are the UK’s top selling albums of 2002 as promised, 2 made it into my list.
1 Escapology Robbie Williams 2 Missundaztood Pink 3 Escape Enrique Iglesias 4 A Rush of Blood to the Head Coldplay 5 One Love Blue 6 By the Way Red Hot Chili Peppers 7 The Eminem Show Eminem 8 Unbreakable: The Greatest Hits Volume 1 Westlife 9 ELV1S: 30 #1 Hits Elvis Presley 10 Heathen Chemistry Oasis 11 Come Away with Me Norah Jones 3 12 Silver Side Up Nickelback 13 A New Day at Midnight David Gray 14 Greatest Hits I, II & III (The Platinum Collection) Queen 15 Fever Kylie Minogue 16 Let Go Avril Lavigne 17 Greatest Hits 1970–2002 Elton John 18 From Now On Will Young 19 Forty Licks The Rolling Stones 20 Feels So Good Atomic Kitten
Why not reply with your own top 10 of 2002? It’s harder than you might think!