Tag Archive | "Neko Case"

Sixteen of the Best Songs of 2016

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Sixteen of the Best Songs of 2016

Posted on 29 December 2016 by Dorian

We recently published our Top 20 Albums of 2016, but this only reflected a section of the amazing songs that came out this year.  There were great albums we missed, albums that just missed out and songs that came out on single this year. So, as a bit of an end of year bonus, here are the best songs of 2016 that didn’t feature in our end of year album list.

16. ESP Ohio – Royal Cyclopean

It wouldn’t be Neon Filler without a Robert Pollard track, and this horn driven gem from his latest collaboration with Doug Gillard is one of his best this year.

15. The Wedding Present – Rachel

There are rumours that this year’s Wedding Present album may be there last, if that is the case then they are finishing on something of a high.

14. Childish Bambino – Me and Your Mama

Donald Glover is a successful comic actor, the face of the young Lando Calrissian and a Grammy award-winning singer, sickeningly talented.

13. The Shins – Dead Alive

The Shins releasing a song that sounds like they could have recorded 15 years ago may not seem that exciting, unless you think early Shins is about as good as music gets. Which I do.

12. Allo Darlin’ – Hymn on the 45

Allo Darlin’ sadly called in at day in 2016, but just as they played their final shows they released one last single. A final document, if nothing else, of why they’ll be missed.

11. Car Seat Headrest – Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales

Car Seat Headrest is the work of Will Toledo, this year’s bespectacled indie geek de jour. The album justifies the hype this time around.

10. The Avalanches – Subways

The new Avalanches album may not be much of a step forward given the huge gap between this and their debut recording, but there were enough good songs to make it worth a listen.

9. Parquet Courts – Human Performance

The New York band have been releasing consistently great music since they broke through with Light Up Gold in 2012. The title track from their latest album shows them in almost subdued mode.

8. Angel Olsen – Shut Up and Kiss Me

2016 was a bit of a breakthrough year for Angel Olsen, her 4th LP getting a lot of attention and radio play. This track showcases as much fuzz-pop as folk and is a bit of a break from the softer country vibe she’s associated with.

7. Case/Lang/Veirs – Best Kept Secret

Three of the best vocalists in country-pop come together and, unsurprisingly, the results are great.

6. Okkervil River – Judy on the Street

Every two or three years Will Sheff’s band release an album and they all range from good to excellent. This track from Away is no exception to the rule.

5. Teenage Fanclub – Thin Air

More than a quarter if a century in and Teenage Fanclub can still produce some of the best melodic guitar pop around.

4. Girl Ray – Trouble

One of the best bands that we saw at Indietracks this year and one of the bands to watch out for in 2017.

3. Field Music – Disappointed

Due to its release at a busy time we sadly didn’t get round to reviewing Field Music’s excellent 2016 album Commontime. We still loved it though and can assure you it was a typically excellent release from the Brewis brothers. This was a single and one of the best tracks.

2. Luke Haines – Smash The System

Smash The System saw Haines revisit some of his previous themes, with a number of nods to his Baader Meinhof album. The Monkees references in this song are confusing but welcome.

1. Eyelids – Slow It Goes

Eyelids didn’t have a new album out in 2016, that is coming next year, but they did release this song and showcased what we can look forward to. Excellent video as well.

Compiled by Dorian Rogers

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The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers

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The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers

Posted on 12 September 2014 by Dorian

Most reviews of Brill Bruisers, the 6th album by Canada’s New Pornographers, focus on this being a return to form “their best since Twin Cinema”. This is only half true, it is their best album since Twin Cinema but as their last two albums were both excellent as well I see it more as a continuation of consistently good form.

Brill Bruisers

Brill Bruisers does seem to be a return in some respects, retaining the slight melancholy of the last two albums but restoring some of the more high-tempo pop elements from the earliest recordings. This is widescreen pop, lots of guitars, lots of keyboards, pounding drums and LOTS of voices. You only have to listen to the brilliant title track to be sucked in by the multiple vocal tracks blending perfectly together.

AC Newman retains the bulk of the lead vocals here, and writes the majority of the tunes, but also hands vocals (backing and lead) to regulars Neko Case and Kathryn Calder. Their voices on the albums “slowy” ‘Champions of Red Wine’ being pitch perfect stuff. Additionally we get vocal assistance from Neko’s bandmate Kelly Hogan on four tracks and Amber Webber of Lightning Dust dueting with Dan Bejar on ‘Born With a Sound’.

Dan Bejar provides three tracks here and they are all excellent additions and a nice change of texture from the Newman songs on the record. Lead single ‘War on the East Coast’ being a great slice of power-pop and showing another side to the enigmatic Bejar in the process.

However, as much as this is a real band effort, and one where each member does their job brilliantly, a New Pornographers’ album is only ever going to be as good as Newman’s songwriting and his choice of arrangements. The good news is that things are looking good in both those departments, with this being an album that has no quality dips from start to finish. What it might lack in the sparkling surprises of those first three albums is an overall sound and quality throughout the run.

That isn’t to say that the album holds no surprises, even for a seasoned fan of the band. ‘Drug Deal of the Heart’, sung by Kathryn Calder, is short and simple (eschewing the more showy approach of the rest of the album) and sounds like a Magnetic Fields song (or a 6ths song at least).

It may be an album without dips, but it does have peaks, not least the double punch of ‘Wide Eyes’ and ‘Dancehall Domine’. The former showing Newman’s genius at holding back Neko Case’s vocals to a small part in a song where the obvious thing would have been to smother it. Less really can be more. The latter is just brilliant guitar pop with brilliant pop vocals and perfectly encapsulates Newman’s approach to producing a modern twist on glam rock. And by glam rock we are looking at a sweep of music that goes all the way from ELO to Sigue Sigue Sputnik, the latter being an act that are rarely quoted as influences. But if Newman wants to look to Sigue Sigue Sputnik and then produce an album this good then it is clearly a much better idea than it looks on paper.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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Top 20 Albums of 2013

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Top 20 Albums of 2013

Posted on 11 December 2013 by Joe

The first half of the year was a pretty poor period for releases but we just about scrabbled together our June feature,  Top ten albums list of 2013…so far. But since then the rate of excellent releases has picked up pace and now in December we find ourselves struggling to cram them all into a Top 20.  It is therefore with a heavy heart that we chop off some superb 2013 releases by the likes of Jackson Scott, John Howard, PINS and Josh Rouse from this list. We think we’ve got a good range for you here and urge you to read our full reviews, buy their albums and go see them live. Anyway, enough of our guff, on with the list.

20. Young Knives –  Sick Octave

Young Knives

Finally, after over a decade on the sweaty coalface of jerky punk rock,  some long overdue acclaim for this industrious trio. It’s taken a series of well received EPs, extensive tour schedules and three studio albums to get them thus far,  but this fourth offering will, our reviewer John Haylock confidently predicts, cure your jaded and cynical hearts. Read our full review here.

19. Wave Pictures – City Forgiveness

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Conceived on a US tour with Allo Darlin this latest album from the perplexingly under rated Wave Pictures is heavily influenced by the American blues. Thankfully in their stellar guitarist David Tattersall they have a musician who can pay tribute to the blues and put the band’s  very English slant on the genre with aplomb. Some say it’s a little long. But we say, who cares when the bulk of it is so good. Read our full review here.

18. La Femme – Psycho Tropical Berlin

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After watching this video for Antitaxi, the opening track on the debut album from Bairritz based surf popsters La Femme, I’m fairly convinced they are just about the coolest band on the planet, well, in France at least. Blending 60s guitar pop with psychedelia and electronica this album is among the most creative and original of the year. Read our full review here.

17. Thirty Pounds of Bone – I Cannot Sing You Here, But For Songs of Where

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This third album of folk music by Thirty Pounds of Bone, aka Johny Lamb, manages to sound traditional without ever slipping into genre cliche. It is one of the best folk albums released this year and one of the best albums of 2013 full stop. Read our full review here.

16. Mogwai – Les Revenants

mogwai

Mogwai’s soundtrack for Les Revenants, the French TV series about the dead returning to haunt a small town, perfectly matches the show’s sense of foreboding. The dead in Les Revenants have feelings too and this is perfectly formed in Mogwai’s brooding mix of piano, cello and percussion and tender glockenspiel. One of the best TV soundtracks you will ever hear.

15. Just Handshakes –Say It

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This impressive debut from Yorkshire’s Just Handshakes features many a familiar C86 sound, with whirly-gig keyboards, chorus pedals and  choppy insightful melodies, all providing the perfect backdrop to the sumptuous, earthy English folk vocals of singer Clara Patrick. Indie pop with a distinct folk twist. Read our full review here.

14. Mum – Smilewound

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Icelandic foursome Mùm’s sixth album Smilewound will draw inevitable comparisons with fellow Nords Sigur Rós. Fortunately this is for all the right reasons. Our reviewer Rob Finch says this is a damn-near perfect album, punch-packed with effortless experimental Scandi dreampop and intelligent, intelligible lyrics. Read our full review here.

13. Robert Pollard – Honey Locust Honky Tonk

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This is Guided by Voices frontman Robert Pollards self-proclaimed country album, but aside from the name, cover and one song (‘I Killed a Man Who Looked Like You’) it would be hard to hear any strong country influences on this album. Our favourite of Pollard’s many solo and Guided By Voices releases this year. Read our full review here.

12. Okkervil River – Silver Gymnasium

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The band’s first on ATO Records is the most autobiographical yet of singer/songwriter Will Sheff’s tenure as Okkervil River frontman as he takes the listener into a brief period of his childhood in the small New Hampshire town of Meriden, where his parents worked in 1986 as teachers at a local boarding school. Its full of influences from the era and the band have even drafted in Cyndi Lauper’s producer to give it that 80s sheen. Read our full review here.

11. Low – The Invisible Way

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Centred around husband and wife duo Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker Low have been fine tuning their brand of so-called slow core rock across ten albums now. The Invisible Way takes the haunting, tender ethos of previous album C’mon one step further. Gone are the overt ’50s and ’60s electric guitar sounds  to be replaced with piano, acoustic guitar and an even softer Americana feel under the direction of producer, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. Read our full review here.

10. Tullycraft – Lost in Light Rotation

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While many of their twee peers are still drinking weak lemon drink from a flask and grumbling about this and that, America’s veteran indie pop outfit Tullycraft have added a good splash of gin to this poor metaphor of a flask and are belting out optimistic happy pop as if the recession and all the other ills since their last album in 2007 had never existed. Read our full review here.

9. Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

neko-case-the-worse-things-get

Arguably the longest album title of the year, but one of the most simple albums of the year. Great songs and great voice from the peerless Case. Fans will know there is a darkness to all her albums and this is a much darker beast  than the upbeat Middle Cyclone. One of the true great North American singers. Read our full review here.

8. Mark Mulcahy – Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You

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Classic guitar pop from the former Miracle Legion frontman. Great vocals and some killer tunes here including ‘Poison Candy Heart’  and ‘She Makes The World Turn Backwards’, which our reviewer Dorian Rogers believes should be available in every karaoke booth round the world. Read our full review here.

7. The National   – Trouble Will Find Me

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Born out of the chaos of the hurricane that ripped New York state apart last year the Brooklyn based band have produced one of their most calming and satisfying releases yet. Read our full review here.

6. Southern Tenant Folk Union – Hello Cold Goodbye Sun

STFU Hello Cold Goodbye Sun Cover500

Conflict about musical direction, song choices and album themes, can be a destructive influence for some bands. Fortunately for Southern Tenant Folk Union, the Edinburgh based collective that loosely falls under the folk/bluegrass banner, the opposite has happened and pre-production disharmony has conspired to create one of their best releases and one of the year’s most innovative albums. This is folk and bluegrass like you have never heard it before. Read our full review here.

5. Matthew E White – Big Inner

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White is part of an eclectic country, rock, soul, gospel, you name it, collective of musicians in his native Virginia who are put through their paces with on this, his first album. The end result is timeless country soul at its best and fans of Lambchop’s Nixon are going to love this. Read our full review here.

4. Phosphorescent – Muchacho

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American album of the year and our favourite so far as Phosphorescent’s Matthew Houck expertly blends country, soul, electronica and rock. Perhaps the greatest exponent of sounding epic and in need of a good night’s sleep in modern music. Marvellous stuff. Read our full review here.

3. John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts

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In Pale Green Ghosts, sweary ex-Czars man, John Grant, presents an album of wonderful contradictions. In parts almost dirge-like folk rock, this incredibly raw and openly confessional record is also awash with poppy electronica. Read our full review here.

2. Rotifer –The Cavalry Never Showed Up

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Clever political lyrics mixed with some fine guitar pop make this the best album yet by Austrian broadcaster, artist and now resident of Canterbury Robert Rotifer and his band. With the track  I Just Couldn’t Eat As Much As I’d Like To Throw Up this trio has also served up our favourite song of the year. Read our full review here.

1. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold

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This US band emerged this year with a sound that has captivated us. Part Sonic Youth, part The Modern Lovers  and with a liberal sprinkling of  Pavement at their most Fall-obsessed this is a noisy, snotty album and the 15 songs fly by with several bum notes but no duff tracks. Read our full review here.

Thanks to all our album reviewers during 2013: Rob Finch, Patricia Turk, Conal Dougan, John Haylock, Scott Hammond, Kevin McGough and Matthew Nicholson.

List compiled by Neonfiller.com co-editors Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers.

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Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

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Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

Posted on 09 September 2013 by Dorian

I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t reference the album title at any point in this review, it is a difficult typing effort each time and takes up valuable words. It is a strangely verbose title on a very musically economical album, but one that does perfectly sum up the mood that Case is trying to evoke on the album, and also her mental state when composing the songs. A Neko Case album is an unmistakable thing, not just because of her peerless vocals, but also the way that she writes and arranges her songs. However, each of her albums has a very different feel from the last. There is a darkness to all her albums but this is a much darker album than the superficially upbeat Middle Cyclone.

Neko Case

Early on we get the single ‘Man’, a song that would fit in well on a New Pornographers’ album, and one that features confident lyrics which border on aggressive – make no mistake Neko Case is in no mood to put up with any shit from anyone.

That track is a little uncharacteristic, a rock/pop blast on a record that has most of its standout moments in the quieter, sparser tunes that make up most of the album’s running time. Centrally positioned on the album is the stunning ‘Nearly Midnight, Honolulu’ an acapella that has the protagonists mother stating “Get the fuck away from me, why don’t you ever shut up?” in the middle of a tour de force vocal performance.

Aside from the vocals this is a beautifully played album with Case’s band, and a selection of musical guests, laying down beautiful accompaniments to the songs. Playing that supports the softness of most of the numbers whilst being capable of creating a bigger sound when called for, such as on the aforementioned ‘Man’ and the future single contender ‘City Swans’.

This is an album that has no sags, no filler and nothing that doesn’t feel like it shouldn’t be on the album. It is telling that the final two songs featured are as good as anything that has come before. The haunting ‘Where Did I Leave That Fire’ is a complex arrangement where the vocals draw in the instrumentation for two minutes before the final minute and a half sees the song float to a strangely understated conclusion. This is followed by ‘Ragtime’, the longest track on the album, where simple rhythms and stirring horns bring a sense of positivity to the albums conclusion.

Fans of Neko Case’s previous work will not be at all surprised that this is a brilliant album, the equal of anything else produced this year. One of the best vocalists of her generation, a songwriter of considerable merit and a brilliant band is a combination that always produces exceptional albums.  This album has something just that little bit extra-special, and it deserves to be her biggest success to date.  As Case herself says, a number of seconds after the end of the final song, “That was awesome”.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

 

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Neko Case – Man

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Neko Case – Man

Posted on 13 June 2013 by Dorian

Neko Case is a bit of a Neon Filler favorite whether that be with her role in the New Pornographers, playing wonderful live sets or on her own solo albums.  The last of these was Middle Cyclone which made it in to our top ten albums list when released in 2009.

So we are very excited that she is back after more than four years to release The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You via ANTI on the 2nd September. Case says of the album:

“My brain wilderness is more dense and dangerous than I thought,” says Case. “It was an embarrassing and hilarious march, but I now feel like a more streamlined being. It’s a good feeling. Four years of my life took ten years hostage, then gave me back twelve.”

The album was executive-produced by Case and recorded at Wavelab in Tuscon, as well as Portland, Los Angeles and with Phil Palazzolo in Brooklyn. Tucker Martine, Case and Darryl Neudorf mixed the album, with backing by guitarist Paul Rigby, bassist Tom V. Ray, vocalist Kelly Hogan and multi-instrumentalist Jon Rauhouse. Other guests include M. Ward, Steve Turner, Howe Gelb, and members of The New Pornographers, My Morning Jacket, Calexico, Los Lobos and Visqueen. In addition to eleven new songs written by Case, The Worse Things Get… features a cover of ‘Afraid’ by Nico.

The first song from the album. ‘Man’, featuring M.Ward on guitar, is available to view below and gives good reason to be excited about what is likely to be one of the best albums of 2013.

By Dorian Rogers

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Neko Case, Village Underground, London (25th May 2013)

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Neko Case, Village Underground, London (25th May 2013)

Posted on 25 May 2013 by Dorian

The relatively low profile of Neko Case is something of  a mystery. She is undoubtedly the owner of one of the best voices in modern music, a voice that is equally comfortable with country, ballads and pure pop music (watch this video of ‘Crash Years‘ by the new Pornographers for evidence of that). On the evidence of tonight’s show she is a brilliant live performer with an extremely strong back catalogue, and some excellent sounding new songs coming on her next album. By rights she should be challenging Adele in album sales, but she remains a popular but relatively niche attraction.

Neko Case

Neko Case

The Village Underground in Shoreditch, a new venue to me, is packed and expectant when Case and her impressively bearded band hit the stage. It has been four years since she released and album, and although I don’t know how long it has been since she last played in England, this seemed like a big event. From the first song it is wonderful stuff, her voice (complimented perfectly by the backing vocals of Kelly Hogan) is pitch perfect throughout and the song choices are exactly what I wanted.

Songs are largely plucked from her last the albums, the majority from Fox Confessor Brings the Flood and Middle Cyclone, with three very promising cuts from her forthcoming album. Her voice is such a powerful instrument that it is sometimes easy to forget the quality of the songs she is singing. ‘I Wish I Was The Moon’, ‘Hold On’ and ‘People Got A Lot Of Nerve’ are just three of the songs from a packed set that rivals any artists for quality of lyrics, melody and vocal performance.

Case and Hogan are also very engaging and amusing hosts for the evening, their irreverent between song  chat being frequently hilarious, be they discussing the best places to go in order to catch the menopause or Hogan’s improvised song ‘Remembering’, as they ask the crowd to watch rather than film the show. And when Hogan mentions a dream she had where her vagina was full of silicate, or Case’s claim that her vagina ate her bikini bottoms, you know that it is going to be a memorable evening.

I could go on at length about how much I enjoyed the show, and what a wonderful gift Neko Case’s voice is to the world,  but my fan-boy rambling would get tired pretty quickly. Shows later this year, in support of the new album, are promised and I urge you to buy tickets the day they go on sale, you’ll not regret it.

By Dorian Rogers

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A C Newman – Shut Down The Streets

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A C Newman – Shut Down The Streets

Posted on 15 October 2012 by Joe

Of The New Pornographers many talented members Carl Newman’s solo output has arguably been overshadowed by the more complete work of Dan Bejar (aka Destroyer) and Neko Case.

Bejar’s Kaputt was a deserved fixture on many 2011 best albums lists and Case, who has delivered a number of sublime near perfect country tinged gems such as Middle Cyclone and Blacklisted during her solo career.

Sadly Newman’s two solo albums, also under the name A C Newman, before this year have been tame in comparison. Slow Wonder (2004) had a handful of good tracks, mostly at its powerful start such as Miracle Drug and On the Table, but the production suffered from Newman’s basic drumming arrangements. And while this was addressed on 2009’s Get Guilty, with the hiring of drummer Jon Wurster, the album still had too many fillers. It was also too akin to the New Pornographers weakest album to date the lacklustre Challengers.

But finally with his third release Shut Down the Streets, Newman has an album to rival his fellow supergroupers. An emotional year for Newman, in which his mother died and his son was born, provided the moving inspiration for an album that ends up being a celebration of life and makes the listener feel good to be alive.

A considered approach to production, with deliberate nods to the 1960s such as on Hostages, gives Newman’s pitch perfect vocals the chance to shine. The album does slip a little into dad rock territory at time, which perhaps is not a bad thing for a new dad like Newman. But at least fatherhood appears to have driven out his usual opaque lyrical style for a directness to finally match the punch of his music.  Lines such as “we’ve been waiting for you” on Strings about the birth of his son may sound corny, but at least they are to the point.

The crowning glory though is his decision to enlist Case for backing vocals duties throughout. Their harmonies are one of the wonders of the modern music world and in the absence of a New Pornographers album this year it’s great to hear them together again. The track Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns, in particular leaps out as if it were classic New Pornographers thanks to Case.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

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Top 100 Albums (100-91)

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Top 100 Albums (100-91)

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Joe

‘Not another Top 100 albums list,’ we hear you cry. Well, yes it is. But we hope that this one will be different from the rest. Granted, there are some albums here that you will have seen on many lists before but we’ve also opted for some obscurities as well with the aim of bringing some different music for you to seek out.

First, let us explain our ground rules. We are an indie and alternative music website so while Pet Sounds and Revolver are among our favourites you won’t find them here on this list. We’ve gone for mainly independent label artists but those on the majors with an independent and alternative slant are also included. We’ve gone for one album per artist, which has been tough for us. We have set no timeline as well, which has meant we have been able to plunder our record collections, our Classic Albums section as well as our recent reviews to bring you music from the 60s through to the last few years.

Everyone has their own list, but this is ours based on our love of alternative and independent music over the years. We will be releasing this list ten at a time every Friday. Hope you enjoy this first instalment. The rest of the Top 100 can be found here.

100. Half man Half Biscuit – Back in the DHSS


John Peel favourites, Half Man Half Biscuit, famously missed a TV recording to go to a Tranmere Rovers game and later in their career took a lengthy break to go back on the dole. This lack of professionalism didn’t stop this, their debut album, from being the best selling independent record of 1986. They are one of the few bands who have managed to do comic songs and make them work. Songs about 1970s TV stars, children’s television and The Velvet Underground make this album a pretty unique experience.

99. Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Broadcasting From Home

Classically trained multi-instrumentalist Simon Jeffes, who tragically died of cancer in 1997, left behind one of the most diverse legacies in music. He added Burundi drumming to Adam and The Ants, the strings for Sid Vicious’ My Way and some wonderful albums with his experimental-folk-classical  band The Penguin Cafe Orchestra. There were five PCO studio albums but Broadcasting From Home from 1984 is the pick of the bunch, especially as it features the, often used by movie producers and advertisers, track Music For a Found Harmonium. Simon’s son Arthur has since revived the PCO, which continues to tour. More details here.

98. Neko Case – Blacklisted

Neko Case - Blacklisted

Part-time New Pornographer Neko Case has been producing great music on her own terms for several years, and Blacklisted is a high water mark. Backed by members of Calexico, The Sadies and Giant Sand she combines the smokey allure of a bar room singer with the old-time country vibe of Patsy Cline. The songs are dark and beautiful and Case sings them with power and style.

97. The Monks – Black Monk Time

Formed in the mid 1960s in Germany by a group of former American GIs The Monks were punks before their time, experimented in feedback and even  had haircuts of actual monks.  Recorded in 1966 in the early hours of the morning during a hectic performing schedule Black Monk Time was their only album and offers a mid 60s slice of one of the greatest punk pioneer acts. For a full review of the 2009 re-release of Black Monk Time click here.

96. The dB’s – Repercussion


The dB’s are the forgotten men of the 1980s jangle pop scene, their albums received a lot of attention from the critics, but little interest from the buying public. Lead by songwriters Peter Holsapple (who would later work with REM) and Chris Stamey (who would leave the band after this release) The dB’s understood how to write quirky melodic songs as well as any of their contemporaries.  The songs are just as catchy as their debut album, but the production is better and the instrumentation more interesting. Put simply, this is a great pop album and it deserved a much bigger audience.

95. Tar Babies – No Contest

This 1980s act from Wisconson started life as a hardcore punk outfit before drifting more into funk. Here on this little known 1988 album No Contest, released on the legendary SST label,  they blend the two perfectly. Quite simply its a great punk album and an even better funk album.

94. Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production of Eggs

Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird started out playing a twisted variant on swing jazz with his band Bowl of Fire. By 2005, when this album was released, most of the jazz stylings had been dropped in place of a left-field take on folk, pop and alternative rock & roll. Live Bird plays several instruments at once and his musical virtuosity and deadpan vocals are a delight on this album.  His lyrics are oblique and the song structures are as impressive as anything you’ll hear. Few artists have managed to pull off an album this ambitious, and Bird does it with ease.

93. The Walkmen – You & Me


This 2008 album from Brooklyn band The Walkmen  is among our most recent entries and topped our Albums of 2008 list.  ‘In the New Year’ is a highlight, but the album’s true quality is its consistency throughout. Almost mariachi in places, punk in others, Velvet Underground at times all held together with lead singer Hamilton Leithauser’s fierce vocals. Last year’s excellent album Lisbon took the style and mood of You & Me further, but for us You & Me is the better of the two. It’s a tough choice though. Our tip, buy both.

92. No Means No – Wrong

No Means No - Wrong

No Means No’s brand of jazz-hardcore is like nothing else on the varied Alternative Tentacles label. The Wright brothers, along with guitarist Andy Kerr, are more skillful players than your average hardcore punks. Opener ‘It’s Catching Up’ sets the scene, charging in at 100 miles an hour of raucous abuse, and the pace deviates and varies dizzily from there on in. The bass and drums are heavy and the guitars loud throughout, it is intelligent music but never stops being a lot of fun.

91. The Dukes of Stratosphear – Psonic Psunspot

This is the second album by XTC’s mid 1980s pyschedelic alter ego band The Dukes of Stratosphear. It coincided with XTC stopping touring and shows a band throwing themselves into studio work. With producer John Leckie on board each track is a loving, beautiful recreation of the 1960s music they love. Small Faces, Pink Floyd and the Beach Boys are just some of the influences on this remarkable album. The Stone Roses were reportedly so impressed with it they hired Leckie to produce their self titled debut. Read our full Classic Albums review of Psonic Psunspot here.

by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers.

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Neko Case – Middle Cyclone

Posted on 17 September 2010 by Joe

Neko Case has enjoyed a pretty varied career with her all-girl punk band Maow, power popsters the New Pornographers and on her own country tinged releases. She is able to do the smoky old style country singing of a Patsy Cline and she also has the girl pop sass of a Debbie Harry. On Middle Cyclone, her 5th solo studio album, she gives us the best of both.

The album starts brilliantly with ‘My Tornado Loves You’, a more up-beat variation on the sound of her Blacklisted album. ‘People Got A Lotta Nerve’ may prove to be her breakthrough song, it has been getting a lot of radio play and it features as a download for the game Rock Band. As well as these poppier moments the album features some quieter, more thoughtful, songs. ‘Vengeance is Sleeping’ shows how good she is at the holding back, accompanied only by acoustic guitar and sparse piano for most of the song.

Case’s band is solid throughout, with contributions from members of Calexico, Giant Sand, Los Lobos, The Sadies and The Band’s Garth Hudson. But it is Case’s voice that is the key instrument on the record and the vocals are beautiful throughout.

The album doesn’t put a foot wrong, right through to the twanging guitar and crashing piano of the last song ‘Red Tide’. Even the final 31 minutes of insect noise, ‘Marais La Nuit’, is OK Recalling a more pastoral version of the runout groove at the end of Sgt. Pepper’s lonely Hearts Club Band.

She may prove to be too pop for country fans and too country for pop fans, but that is their loss when she is producing albums this good.

9/10

by Dorian Rogers, Mar 2009

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