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Top 100 Albums (90-81)

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Top 100 Albums (90-81)

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Joe

Everyone has their own Top 100 Albums list, but this is ours based on our love of alternative and independent music over the years. There are some albums here that you will have seen on many lists before but we’ve also opted for some obscurities with the aim of highlighting some different music for you to seek out.

We have been releasing this list ten at a time every Friday.  Here’s the first instalment (100-91) We hope you enjoy this second instalment. Also, for  more great albums visit our  Classic Albums section

90. Pere Ubu – The Modern Dance

Pere Ubu - The Modern Dance

Pere Ubu were one of oddest punk bands to come out of the scene in late 70s America. Lead by the caterwauling vocals of Oliver Hardy lookalike David Thomas they made a noise unlike anyone else. The rhythms were tight, the guitars fierce and the songs absurd and poignant at once. They have released a dozen excellent records through a long career, but their debut is still the best of the bunch. They manage to set a standard for punk, art rock and avant-pop in one fell swoop. From the fierce yet catchy assault of ‘Non-Alignment Pact’ to the more challenging ‘Humor Me’ this is a groundbreaking and fascinating record.

89. Darren Hayman – Pramtown

Ex-Hefner frontman Darren Hayman is one of the UK’s best folk artists, although as he points out on his Facebook site “everybody else would say indie”. This first part in a trilogy about Essex, which topped our Albums of 2009  list, focuses on Harlow. The town provides an excellent backdrop for his  stories about love on Essex commuter trains and those living in its sterile new town estates.  The follow up Essex Arms, which focuses on the county’s rural life, is wonderful as well, but as the first in the trilogy this will always have a special place in our hearts.

88.  New Pornographers – Twin Cinema

The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema

Carl (AC) Newman is the best songwriter you’ve never heard of. With his band, the New Pornographers, he has released a string of power pop classics that have delighted the critics but evaded the public consciousness. Twin Cinema followed two brilliant albums but managed to raise the bar in terms of quality alternative guitar pop. Aided by Neko Case (who is the best guitar pop singer since Debbie Harry), Destroyer’s Dan Bejar (who contributes a downbeat counterpoint to Newman’s sweeter melodies) and an ensemble of superb musicians the quality stays high from start to finish. There isn’t a bad song on the album but the coupling of ‘We Are The Fables’ and ‘Sing Me Spanish Techno’ takes some beating.

87. Howe Gelb – Sno Angel Like You

In 2006 Giant Sand frontman Howe Gelb travelled to Canada, teamed up with Arcade Fire drummer  Jeremy Gara and the Voices of Praise gospel choir and made this breathtaking album. Blending gospel with Gelb’s more traditional bar room Arizona tunes was a masterstroke as Voices of Praise’s vocals drift in and out, even taking the listener by surprise at times. Great tunes, great vocals and one of the best mixes of genres in our list.

86. Thin White Rope – Sack Full Of Silver

Thin White Rope - Sack Full of Silver

How Thin White Rope didn’t end up being an alternative household name like Nick Cave or The Flaming Lips is one of the mysteries of modern music. Lead by the fierce vocals of Guy Kyser they produced a desert rock sound that fitted with the mood of Green on Red or Giant Sand, but was altogether darker and more psychedelic. Sack Full of Silver, their fourth album, was their most coherent and fully realised set of songs. The album sounds like it was recorded lost on the road in a desert, and the feeling of loss and desperation make it a challenging listen. This is tempered but a beauty to the music and a sense of hope. ‘Triangle’ is the centrepiece of the album and one of the great lost songs of the 1990s, sad, weird and beautiful all at once.

85. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

This 2009 album catapulted Animal Collective into the big time, giving their oddball take on electronic music a whole bunch of new fans and  mainstream credibility for the first time. It is a  success  that is well deserved as tracks such as ‘My Girls’ and ‘Summertime Clothes’ emerge as wonderful alternate reality pop hits. Warm and melodic amid the bleeps and swirling loops this album is part Flaming Lips, part Beach Boys, part Ibiza club and is another example of how well genres can be merged.

84.  Super Furry Animals  – Guerilla

Super Furry Animals  - Guerilla

Super Furry Animals came along at the tail end of Britpop but their distinctly Welsh mix of psychedelia, 60s pop and dance music had little in common with their contemporaries. Guerrilla is an eclectic mix of all their influences which manages, against the odds, to sound like a cohesive album. The trio of singles, ‘Do Or Die’, ‘Fire In My Heart’ and (best of all) ‘Northern Lites’ are as good as anything that hit the charts in the late 1990s. The fact that this album has another 10 top quality songs shows how strong a record it is.

83. That Petrol Emotion Manic Pop thrill

Formed in 1984 and including former Undertones brothers Damien and John O Neil, Northern Ireland’s That Petrol Emotion were one of the most exciting bands to emerge from the UK alternative music scene at the time.  It took a couple of years for this their debut album to be released but it was worth the wait. Pop savvy song writing, matched with inventive guitar playing and lead singer Steve Mack’s energy made this a stunning debut. Highlights include the single ‘It’s a Good Thing’ and centrepiece track ‘Lifeblood’.

82. Beulah – When Your Heartstrings Break

Beulah - When Your Heartstrings Break

Beulah are part of Elephant 6 collective (read more about that here), but they stand apart from the other bands by demonstrating a talent for simple classic pop. The first song I heard from this their sophomore album was the brilliant ‘Emma Blowgun’s Last Stand’ and I was blown away by what I heard. A slow dreamy intro moves into fuzzy guitars, before a Dexy’s style horn section ties everything together. The rest of the album is just as good and manages to achieve the feat of sounding completely new and classic all at once.

81. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – Hearts of Oak

US punk/indie rock outfit Ted Leo and the Pharmacists have released six studio albums since 1999 but Hearts of Oak from 2003 remains  their best, most consistent album. There’s some great singles on this, such as ‘Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone’, but it’s the power and passion of Leo’s writing and vocals as well as the mix of reggae, ska, politics and punk across the  tracks that make this such a stunning listen.

by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

Top 100 (100-91)Top 100 (80-71)


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Six Classics From The Elephant Six

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Six Classics From The Elephant Six

Posted on 23 September 2010 by Joe

The Elephant 6 Recording Company was a loose musical collective that formed in the early 90’s in Denver Colorado. The collective was principally headed up by Apples In Stereo front man Robert Schneider. Wikipedia has a goodpotted history of the collective.

To coincide releases in 2010 of new albums by Elephant 6 artists The Apples In Stereo  and Elf Power, Neon Filler presents our favourite 6 albums by Elephant 6 artists. (Apologies to those who are surprised not to see anything by The Olivia Tremor Control in the list. There is no denying their place in the collective, or some excellent songs, but in general I find them to be rather hard work).

The Apples in Stereo – The Discovery Of A World Inside The Moone

Robert Schneider’s The Apples In Stereo are the best place to start when listening to the Elephant 6 and The Discovery Of A World Inside The Moone is their finest hour. From horn blasting opener ‘Go!’ to the acoustic whimsy of ‘The Afternoon’ it never puts a foot wrong.

The album manages to be a great retro homage without ever falling into the trap of being a pointless exercise in nostalgia. Vocal harmony, handclaps and a genius command of melody runs throughout the album. Classic pop, psyche, garage and even white funk (‘The Bird That You Can’t See’) make for a really enjoyable set.

Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

This is probably the most influential album in the list, and the only Elephant 6 album that regularly appears in “Greatest Album” lists. Jeff Mangum’s band are not always an easy proposition managing to be primarily acoustic but also incredibly noisy and abrasive at times.

In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is influenced by 60s psychedelia but also has a strong folk sound in terms of vocals and instrumentation. ‘The king Of Carrot Flowers, Pt.1’ is a genius off key pop song and sets the tone for the album perfectly.

Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

The band has a slightly sinister sound and songs like ‘Two Headed Boy’ are fairly warped stories. ‘Holland, 1945’ is a great noisy pop piece filled with nonsense poetry and inventive instrumentation.

It isn’t the kind of record that people immediately click with but it rewards persistence and is the kind of album that you come back to again and again.

Dressy Bessy – Little Music

This choice is a bit of a cheat, being a collection of singles rather than an album proper. However, it is probably the best collection of their music and perfectly demonstrates all that is great about this band. Lead by Tammy Ealom the band stands out from the predominantly male collective.

The band, also featuring Apples In Stereo guitarist John Hill, has an aesthetic is rooted in 60s beat pop but also the slightly bored and detached vocal sound of some of the 60s girl groups.

It is a singles collection and as such it is a very poppy, ranging from cute ‘Lipstick’ to whimsical ‘Gloria Days’ to punkey ‘All The Right Reasons’ but Ealom manages to keep things the right side of cloying at all times.

Recent Dressy Bessy releases have adopted a drab heavier sound, but this is a great place to discover a much underrated act.

Beulah – When Your Heartstrings Break

Beulah are a real loss to the music world, releasing four excellent albums before giving in to the public’s indifference and calling it a day in 2004. Their second album, When Your Heartstrings Break, is probably their finest moment.

Despite a clear 60s influence, some eccentric production and great use of pop horns and strings, they are probably the most conventional Elephant 6 band. With a bit more luck they could have been the first Elephant 6 act to break through into the mainstream.

Songs like ‘Sunday Under Glass’ and the excellent ‘Emma Blowgun’s Last Stand’ are simple pop classics and closer ‘If We Can Land A Man On The Moon, Surely I Can Win Your Heart’ has brilliant, if slightly off key orchestration and sounds like a snotty disaffected Beach Boys.

Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer?

Of Montreal had released several whimsical and fey albums before front man Kevin Barnes went through a transformation over the course of the Satanic Panic In the Attic and The Sunlandic Twins albums.

By the time he recorded Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer? he was operating solo, with the concept of the band existing live only, and the sound was much darker. Imagine Prince as a cross dresser who grew up listening to Kinks records and you are some way to understanding the Of Montreal sound at this time.
He is the master of the quirky retro pop song as opener ‘Suffer For Fashion’ shows, but the album is much more than just 60s influenced pop music. Elements of electronica, krautrock, garage and even Prince style funk (‘Labyrinthine Pomp’) permeate the album.

Some of the songs would almost fit onto earlier releases by the band but tracks like the epic repetitive ‘The Past Is A Grotesque Animal’ mark a real departure. Lyrically it is dark and bitter, none more so than the excellent ‘She’s A Rejecter’. This is probably the best Elephant 6 related release of the 21st century.

Elf Power – Walking With The Beggar Boys

For their 6th album, Walking With The Beggar Boys, Elf Power dropped most of their psychedelic tendencies in favour of a more conventional alternative pop/rock sound. They sound all the better for it, the quality of the songs shining through.

Elf Power

Opener ‘Never Believe’, the title track and ‘Hole In My Shoe’ are pretty straightforward pop songs, but they are as good as that kind of song gets, direct and full of fizzing energy.

It isn’t an entire change of style for the band. The lyrics are still littered with obscure references and a psychedelic sensibility. There are also still several examples of their quirky instrumentation and production sounds, particularly ‘The Cracks’ but these songs sound better in the context of this album.

By Dorian Rogers,  May 2010


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