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My Top 100 Albums

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Interesting stuff, look forward to your updates.

The Albanian Vocal Polyphony is incredibly striking, there's something about a really resonant harmony that hits you right in the gut. It's not something I was aware of before, so cheers for bringing it to our attention.

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No problems mate.

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97

Th Microphones - The Glow Pt.2

2001

Lo-fi indie/Indie folk

Best tracks: 'The Moon', 'I'll not contain you', 'I felt your shape', 'The Glow Pt 2', 'I want the wind to blow'

Rubbing quilt in between the fingers, you follow the fallen leaves and the forgotten echoes of scents to deep childhood. Staring from the mountain peak beneath the purple skies at the white fizz of the shore below where the plumes of foam search like serpents for the cracks and crevices of caves. You enter this luminous corridor of dissolving rocks and deserted time as the winding steps crumble under your feet and this house has always been here. Ancient and imposing, same as it ever was. You enjoy a moment with the familiar features - the smooth marble of the dining table, the blackened carpet by the smouldering oak fireplace, the high white walls that reach into forever - and then you wait for the appearance of that tall silent figure. The chalky grey spectre that watches over you never to be reached, always receding, face shadowed and obscured, creeping into the fading light between the curtains. Your stomach churns at the thought of ever seeing that face. But you follow anyway. Follow follow. Into the light, into the glow.

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96

Marine Girls - Lazy Ways

1983

Twee pop/lo - fi

Best tracks: 'Falling Again', 'Sunshine Blue', 'A Different Light', 'Love To Know, 'Second Sight'.

In theory, twee may be my favourite genre in the world. I find the fundamental characteristics of it very attractive. In practice though it's all too often the kind of awful, syrupy, cutesy shit that you get in TV ads for phones and dating sites. Of course, it's all a matter of taste, and some might see the twee albums in this list as exactly that. I guess I prefer my artists in the genre to never sound like they're genuinely happy. There has to be an underlying feeling of loss and melancholy in there to make it feel human, or at least so I can relate. A sense that, hey, you may be as miserable as fuck now, but this chiming guitar and this sunny melody hint at the joy and content that will soon find you. Being happy is boring. But hoping to be happy is something I can dig. And this feeling always has to come from the vocalist. Twee lives or dies by the vocalist. If she (and it almost always has to be a she) lacks them intangibles in the grain of her voice that char my heart then you can do one. And that's something that connects all the twee pop/rock I have time for.

Lazy Ways has all that fun stuff as well as holidays, deckchairs and elastic bass guitars that you could bathe in. The songs are brief ditties with two or three scratchy guitar chords and the odd bit of woodblock tap or tambourine shake. Tracey Thorne's (soon of Everything But the Girl) voice is steady, sure and always mournful whilst Jane Fox stays cheerful, her words haphazardly flutter like a butterfly on the breeze. They’re a wonderful contrast in vocal timbre and the twin vocals for ‘Falling Again’ are a wobbly delight. Every moment of this album is perfect for lounging around in the garden, weightless under the June sunshine, the melodic basslines crawling up your spine or as Fox sings, “playing the perfect summer melody”. Yeah, not ideal for winter really but hope has no off seasons.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aadJ22t0Pu0

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Aye, what he said. Good stuff so far!

I assume it's being put somewhere slightly neater and more permanent as well as this thread?

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I'll be putting it up on Rate your Music once I've finished and I'm putting it on my blog cos I never put anything else on there. I been wanting to do this for a while but kept putting if off because I'd always discover something new that I wanted to add. And my slightly ocd tendencies meant I couldn't live with myself if I completed the list and couldn't add a new find. So I just said fuck it and finalized the list content and order last month, ignoring any urge to add anything new.

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95

Exuma - Exuma

1970

Freak Folk/Caribbean Folk

Best tracks: 'Seance In The Sixth Fret', 'The Obeah Man', 'Dambala', 'You Don't Know What's Going On'.

Stoned voodoo vibes from the Bahamas. Exuma came to this Earth through a lightning bolt, bringing with him his old folk tales of zombies and sorcery and a record that pretty much invented freak folk, this effortless mash of calypso, Caribbean folk, soul, blues and whatever else is in the medicine bucket. A haunting, funny and darkly magical lost record. All Beefheart fans should check this out. In fact - and I'm not going to make a habit of saying stuff like this as I realise music is a personal thing - I don't see how anyone could not dig this. Succumb to the Obeah man.

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94

Madness - Absoulutely

1980

Ska pop/2 Tone

Best tracks: On the Beat Pete, Disappear, Baggy Trousers, Embarrassment, E.R.N.I.E.

"The essential singles band" they call 'em. Bollocks to that. I've always seen that as a hacks way of saying a particular group has never produced a quality album, lest they upset the sacred cows. Madness did release a lot of great, memorable singles, but no Madness hits collection holds a candle to One Step Beyond or the follow up Absolutely. The ska-tinged stuff is what they thrived at and the later, 'not mad' sombre stuff lacked the personality and likeability of the earlier hits.

Absolutely is up there with The Clash, Boy In Da Corner, Up The Bracket and Black London Blues in terms of possessing the SPIRIT OF LONDON. Absolutely is that dishevelled old geezer at the end of the bar in the Ship, Anchor, Hope and Henry IV Albert Arms, his eyes darting every which way, marked by the occasional flash of violence. His skin of old leather creases around a cheeky, perverted grin as he relives his past of vespa's, petty crime, daddy - done - left - me angst, tits and current buns. Then pearly hints of loss fill each eye as the wistful 'Disappear' blasts through the pub jukebox;

Organ tinkling organ

Marriage planning, children

Spinning round and round

Rusty swings and roundabouts

Disco's full of layabouts

Nowhere to be found

A stab in the back, the smoke and the black

As it smoulders to its grave

Disappear with the fun and the fear

Another chance to misbehave.

The city was once alive and full of colour - its decaying beauty and graffiti ("Walls signed with autographs, ceilings full of echoed laughs") and the aimless energy of youth ("Let's go to the local ash tray, let's see if we can be happy"), all gone and replaced with a mortgage and a beer gut. 'Disappear' may be Madness's most underrated and beautiful moment.

We go from dodgy Camden boozers to smoky jazz bars ('Overdone'), bingo halls and betting shops ('E.R.N.I.E') the school playground ('Baggy Trousers') and tacky sea side towns ('Return Of Los Palmas 7') on a cheap bumpy ride around Blighty. But yeah, mainly it's a London thing. The albums best moment, 'On The Beat Pete', is a garbled rush of finger snapping cock - neeey joy. 'Baggy Trousers' and the three minute sigh, 'Embarrassment' ("YOU'RE an embarrassment". . . . DUN DUNNNN.) bring the hits, the weird time signature of 'Take it Or Leave It' brings awkward dancing and there's even time for a bit of the ol' existential despair with 'Shadow Of Fear'.

Their fun loving, wacky videos were great but ensured that people often overlook what great musicians they were and are. Here they play an array of styles - ska, motown, rock n' roll, jazz, boogie, and whatever "Take It Or Leave It'' is - all with their boyish charm.

Singles band my pipe and drum.

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93

Kool and The Gang - Best Of Kool and The Gang 1969-1976

1993

Funk

Best tracks: Give it Up, Chocolate Buttermilk, Hollywood Swinging, Funky Stuff, Summer Madness.

Vintage Gang, vintage funk. 'Funky Stuff', 'Jungle Boogie', 'Summer Madness' and 'Hollywood Swinging' have rightfully become standards, and for me in particular, 'Swinging' is an infectious blast of how it feels to be young, black and lost in the possibilities of the big city (even if 'London Swinging' sounds slightly less glam). 'Summer Madness' is every car journey I've spent watching the setting sun blend in to the neon lights of the metropolis as the city's animals roam in search of the nights perfect excess. 'Funky Stuff' is hard as nails. The two most funkalicious funktastic funking tracks though are the lesser known 'Give it Up', which I CHALLENGE YOU to sit still to, and the chirpy but tough 'Chocolate Buttermilk', whose sax saunters and swaggers at the same time, always sure. And then there's the drums. AHH, them drums . . I'll happily lay here with a ditzy smile while you pummel at my skull.

1976 is a perfect cut off point by the way, hinting at a sleazy Sly Stone/George Clinton direction but cutting off before their dodgy disco adventures began.

Challenge!

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92
Peter Brotzmann - Machine Gun
1968
Free Jazz/Improv

Best tracks; Machine Gun, Music For Han Bennink, Responsible

Loud, reckless free jazz. It's the sound of German saxophonist Brotzmann turning a gatling gun into the direction of the jazz scene and blowing it to smithereens. It's the sound of a band in a state of non-stop tension, from twitchy unease to full on ruckus. It's like they've been locked inside the studio with the violent chicken from Family Guy. Except this one's LOUD, and its panicked screams and squawks fill the room as it tumbles over the drum kit, fists flying. Machine Gun is far more visceral than any other 'noise' record I've listened to. Yet there's these wonderful, fleeting moments where the fists drop and the musicians band together. They are battered and bloody but you feel that the chaos is finally over. The session ends and they ride home like brothers, into the sunset.

Nightfalls, and the silence of the studio is eerie. The chicken lies torn an twisted inside the bass drum.


Its eyes open.

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91
Silver Apples - Contact
1968

Psychedelic Rock/Early Electro
Best tracks; A Pox On You, I Have Known Love, Ruby, Fantasies, You're Not Fooling Me.

I couldn't put it any better than some bloke from Wire magazine, "a four-track recording fusing layered oscillators, sustained chords, frantic skitterings of unearthly insects and Dan Taylor's metronomic drumming. It is the sound of the American dream dissolving into a nightmare."

Except, more importantly, it's one of the few albums that brings out my trusty set of air drums. And if I close my eyes tight enough during 'Water', I swear, I can actually teleport across my living room. And that wibbly wobbly thing during 'You're Not Fooling Me' gets me shaking my head from side to side until my neck's sore. In fact there's a lot of wobbly oscillator bits and it's luvly jubbly. The hypnotic drones of Contact set the foundation for fellow pysch/electro adventurers Suicide, Kraftwerk, Can, Neu! and virtually everyone that made the early seventies so exciting. It's also funny and funky and pretty and spooky. Now let me join you gadgeteers!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BseXjDRTYqc

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bump!

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90
Bob Marley and The Wailers - Trenchtown Rock (Anthology 1969-78)
2002
Reggae

Best tracks: 'Mr Brown', 'Keep On Skanking', 'Trenchtown Rock', 'Lively Up Yourself', 'Sun Is Shining', 'Duppy Conqueror', 'Jah Is Mighty' , 'Back Out', 'Fussing and Fighting' . . impossible to limit to five!

It's a bit sad that the sterile, westernised sounds of Legend and Exodus are what Marley's most famous for. This is how any good music snob should get their Marley fix. This compilation of the Wailer's non-Island, largely Lee Perry produced work is simply one of the most joyful collections of music there is. It's warm and rough around the edges and has the most impassioned vocals that Marley ever laid down. I tend to skip half of the tracks on it to be honest, but there is over 50 of the damn things! Something I should tell you before we continue . . I struggle to get through an LP that's over 45 minutes. You won't see many other comps or double albums on my list. I'll always take a concise, very good album over an occasionally great long album.

But what highs! 'Back Out' is a stern but upbeat plea to that person who often turns up to the party. You know, the one that brings unnecessary tension, shifty eyes and a whiff of violence to dampen the fun. The person that is "making things go slow" as Marley wonderfully puts it. 'Duppy Conqueror' is an impossibly pretty sounding thing that has the Wailer's making bird coo noises for backing vocals. 'Sun Is Shining' isn't the summer pop smash you think it is. It's the sound of a storm brewing in a spooky shanty town. There might be a shootout tonight. The glorious fairground skank of 'Mr Brown' contains the greatest chorus I've ever heard. (The cruelest too. You only get to hear it one and a half times). Bunny Livingstone's 'Dreamland' is a ballad so touching that it isn't even ruined by its association with an ex-lover, even if the "surely we'll never die" fadeout is a challenge. That's the good thing about music. When it hits you feel no pain.



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89

Gilberto Gil - Gilberto Gil

1968

Tropicalia/Psychedelic pop

Best tracks; 'Domingo no Parque', 'Luzia Luluza', 'Procissão', 'Ele Falava Nisso Todo Dia', 'Pega a Voga, Cabeludo',

Sunny 60's pop gem from Brazil. When your very art is seen as a threat to your county's military regime and you're on the verge of getting locked up and exiled, surely your work shouldn't be this . . carefree? This playful and breezy? The Brazilian tropicalia scene - which meshed traditional Brazilian music with the sounds of them evil Yanks/Brits and their rock n' roll - is some of the happiest music to ever come out of such political unrest.

Gilberto is backed by psych heads Os Mutantes and they play samba and bossa nova but choose to muddy it all up with garage rock, psychedelia and all the other good bits from late 60's rock. There's also a lot of gorgeous George Martin style orchestration. It's way ahead of its time, even for 1968, which I'm starting to believe is the greatest year in rock history.

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88

Various Artists - Southern Prison Blues

1965

Blues

Fave Tracks; Guitar Welch - 'Bad Luck Blues', Hogman Maxey - 'Duckin' and Dodgin', Cool Cats - 'Goin' Home', Otis Webster - 'Standing At the Greyhound Station', Joe Henry Jackson - 'Tell Me Pretty Baby'.

The tracks on this lovely little collection were captured by American musicologist Harry Oster during a visit to the Louisiana Sate Penitentiary.

There will be a few blues LP appearing on this list but this may be my favourite 'pure' blues record. I mean, Robert Johnson's King of the Delta Blues Singers is excellent and could have easily been on here instead. Hell, I might even find that I enjoy it more than Southern Prison Blues if I listened to it right now. But that's music. It's not football. It's not judged by trophies and league standings. There's no winners or losers. Sometimes the drug you've just taken or the girl you've just met or the temperature of the room you're in or that extra hour of sleep this morning can make the difference between the greatest album you've ever heard and just another mp3 pulled from fuck knows which blog taking up space on your hard drive. That's why I had to force myself to find an order for this list and stick with it no matter how tempted I may be to reshuffle stuff around, because, outside of the top four, nothing is concrete. It's more about capturing moments in time than anything. Southern Prison Blues caught me at a time when I was pretty apathetic about music, and the world in general. But the harmonica on Jesse Butcher's 'They'll Miss me When I'm Gone' reminded me of how the sound of some con blowing into a piece of metal in the 1950's can feel like the most vital thing in the world right now. Guitar Welch's masterful finger picking reminded me of how I've always wanted to learn how to play the blues (properly), and how the guitar can be such a joyful instrument in the right hands. Otis Webster's voice crackling through the speakers with the line "why should I cry, the bus is going that same old way" filled my head with half memories of being drunk too early, drifting around town, lost, going nowhere and anywhere, anywhere but home. Then Hogman Maxeys beatific 12 string guitar chords brought sunshine. The smoky closing time fumble of 'Goin' Home' brought the sexy back too. Listening to this that day made me feel hugely optimistic. And a blues LP recorded in the nick shouldn't make me feel that way, at least not on paper. But that's music.

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