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Top Ten Best Debut Albums (That Don’t Usually Make Best Debut Album Lists)

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Top Ten Best Debut Albums (That Don’t Usually Make Best Debut Album Lists)

Posted on 28 February 2014 by Dorian

A good debut album is a tough ask. Most bands starting out are mere songwriting and production novices who use their debut to test the water before unleashing a killer second or third album. Others just nail it first time. There has already been a fair few best debut albums lists but when we were looking through these we noticed a fair few noticeable absentees. We thought it was about time to give credit where its due and pay tribute to those that do not always make such lists. We’ve got lost albums that were only really heard decades later. We’ve also got popular albums that were perhaps not cool enough for some lists. We’ve also got others that were overshadowed by later releases. So what is our benchmark? Its simple, if it’s a great debut but not on the NME or Rolling Stone’s existing debut albums lists then its in. Anyway enough of the rambling, on with the list…

10. Tigercats – Isle of Dogs (2012)

 

tigercats

On this most recent debut on our list London based indie-popsters Tigercats show that they have more about them than a penchant for an afro-beat guitar lick and smart lyric. Here they present a frantic road trip around their East End home, visiting record stores, laughing at hipsters in trendy bars and drunkenly staggering home lamenting on the social divides of the capital. Of course that’s our interpretation. When we asked lead singer Duncan Barrett about how they managed to come up with the concept, he revealed that the tracks were merely the best ones they had at the time. In fact he  looked somewhat puzzled when I even suggested it was a great ‘concept album’  for Coalition government era London.  Happy accident or not, we urge you to check this out. (JL)

9. The Specials – The Specials (1979)

 

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I didn’t live in Coventry in the late 70s but amazingly this album almost makes me wish I had. Combining covers of 60s ska classics with a host of original material, there isn’t a duff track to be heard. Who can listen to Nite Klub without thinking it must have been written about somewhere they’ve been? Concrete Jungle combines social commentary with some amazing guitar playing, the lyrics should be depressing but instead are amazingly uplifting. Dawning of a New Era perfectly captures both the hope and despair as the 70s slipped away into what would be the Thatcherite 80s. The whole album combines great musicianship with thought provoking lyrics. Some of the characters in songs such as Too Much Too Young and Little Bitch are at face value pitiful yet somehow one can’t help but think everyone was having so much more fun back then. (MB)

8. The Go! Team – Thunder, Lightning, Strike (2004)

 

goteam

Thunder, Lightning, Strike is to all intent and purposes a solo album by bedroom recording artist Ian Parton. He cleverly records it under the Go! Team moniker (complete with esoteric punctuation) as he knows. as an obvious music geek, that the mystique of the “band” is part of the appeal. It is one of the most infectious albums of the last quarter century, immediate and energetic. It also performs a pretty neat trick of sounding unlike anything else, whilst being, partly through ingenious sample use. instantly familiar. Even the song titles make you smile and even if you don’t get the references, for example the  motorbiking TV show Junior Kick start is unlikely to be well known these days, they all sound pretty cool. As punky as it is funky, as much in thrall to film soundtracks as hip hop beats, it really is as much fun as you can cram on a CD. The current issue is great even if the extra track is unnecessary and the version of ‘Bottle Rocket’ isn’t as perfect as the original. (DR)

7. John Howard – Kid in a Big World (1975)

 

John Howard -Kid In A Big World

We’ve written about John Howard and his excellent debut album a lot since we were introduced to his music by Neonfiller.com favourite Ralegh Long. Snapped up by CBS in the 1970s he was sort of the next Elton John, but had more of an alternative, melancholy edge to his music. In the end his record company and mainstream radio didn’t really know how to market him to the masses. He made a few more records, but quit to became a music executive only to emerge in recent years with a second prolific recording career, with around a dozen releases since his 2005 comeback. It’s understandable why this album is not on other debut album lists, people quite simply never really got to hear it. But they were missing out. Here are some superb glam pop tracks and piano ballads, such as Family Man and Goodbye Suzie,  that in a more discerning alternative universe would have made him one of the biggest acts of the 1970s. (JL)

6. Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Searching for the Young Soul Rebels (1980)

 

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Like so many others I first got into Kevin Rowland and Dexy’s Midnight Runners because of the song Come On Eileen and the album Too Rye Aye. I became obsessed with them in a way only teenagers do and started to seek out their earlier material which soon led me to Searching for the Young Soul Rebels. Recorded only two years previously with a largely different band it’s a harder, edgier sound, swirling organs and storming brass overlaying  bass, drums and guitar are a marked contrast to the violins and banjos of the Eileen era but for me it is Rowland at his finest. There’s anger and passion a plenty in songs such as Burn it Down, Tell Me When My Light Turns Green and Seven Days Too Long, a number one hit in Geno, and my personal favourite There, There, My Dear. (MB)

5. Hefner – Breaking God’s Heart (1998)

 

Breaking Gods Heart

Darren Hayman has stated that Breaking God’s Heart is his least favourite Hefner album. It isn’t my favourite either, that is an accolade that swings regularly between The Fidelity Wars and We Love The City,  but it is a pretty perfect statement of intent and is an essential album in Hefner’s near perfect back catalogue. In fact it is the elements that make this such a good album that most likely bother Hayman, the rough edged recording, the adolescent lyrics and the far from perfect vocals. It sounds like a band starting out, like a band that is raw and passionate and a band that is bursting with brilliant songs they want to get on record. ‘The Sweetness That’s Withi’ is wonderful; not many bands start their first album with a song as strong as this. In fact the first four songs on the album, through The Sad Witch and the Hymn For The Postal Service are as good a quartet of album openers as I can remember. The last of the four Love Will Destroy Us In The End probably has the best opening 40 seconds of any indie pop song in the 90s. I suspect the same song also offers up the most cock-sure guitar solo of Hayman’s career. (DR)

4. The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band- Gorilla (1967)

 

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Formed at art college in the 60s the Bonzos struck upon the decidedly odd idea to reinvent traditional 1920s jazz in a then modern age of psychedelia and kaftans. The result is funny,  inventive and above all superb. The key to the Bonzo’s success and the greatness of this, their best album, was the songwriting of Neil Inness and the late Vivian Stanshall. Liverpudlian Innes, the genius behind The Rutles, was arguably as good a song writer as Lennon and McCartney. His track Equestrian Statue is a real high point. As for Stanshall, the east end lad with a knack for lampooning the English upper classes like no other, he delivers vocal treat after treat on tracks such as Cool Britannia, the Intro and the Outro and I’m Bored, which to this day are regularly used on TV, film and advertising. (JL)

3. Blondie- Blondie (1976)

 

blondiepsfront

Perhaps opening your debut album with a song about a sex offender isn’t the most commercial of moves but in the long term it doesn’t seem to have done Blondie much harm. It’s an excellent start to an excellent album that sadly over the years has been overshadowed by the more fully realised new wave pop sound of their later albums Eat to the Beat and Parallel Lines. Tracks on this debut, such as Little Girl Lies have much more 60s rock ‘n roll influence but the new wave attitude is bubbling away nicely on Look Good in Blue, In the Sun and Rifle Range. Debbie Harry’s vocals, churning out these sassy and funny lyrics, sound amazing and the whole band is clearly reveling in the chance to leap out of the New York punk scene of clubs such as CBGBs and Kansas City for a short time and into the recording studio, where they continued to improve for the rest of the 70s. (MB)

2. Supergrass – I Should Coco (2005)

 

supergrass-i_should_coco-frontal

Why on earth doesn’t Supergrass’s  debut I Should CoCo take pride of place on other best debut albums lists?  It’s a glorious rollercoaster of a debut, packed with great guitar pop and above all fun. Just listen to one of its singles Caught by the Fuzz or Alright, and marvel at the cheeky chappie thrill ride of a three minute pop track that they are. I challenge you not to get up and start running across the nearest beach arms flailing around and declaring your adoration for life itself after listening to it this album. And it’s not just us that love it, even if it has been cruelly overlooked by the likes of NME and Rolling Stone. It reached number one in the UK album charts and is now platinum selling. The best Brit pop album of the 1990s? Well, its hard to find one that’s more fun certainly. (JL)

1. Sparklehorse – Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot (1995)

 

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Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot seemed to come out of nowhere when I first purchased it in shortly after its release. I knew nothing of Mark Linkous and his time in the Dancing Hoods or even that he had co-written a song on one of my favourite Cracker albums, even though Cracker frontman David Lowery is a secret contributor on this album under the name David Charles. This was purely an on spec purchase that sucked me in from first listen and instantly gave them “my new favourite band” status. Linkous’s  issues with mental health, and his eventual suicide, cloud his music now but at the time (although there is obvious sadness on the album) it is a very uplifting recording.

Songs move from delicate, such as Homecoming Queen to the noisy, such as Rainmaker via surreal noise interludes, most notably 350 Double Pumper Holey, without sounding at all unnatural or lacking cohesion. This is an album that covers so much ground whilst retaining the unique Sparklehorse identity. You want a banjo driven country epic? Well, listen to Cow. You want an indie disco classic with crunching guitars? Well, there is Someday I Will Treat You Good to scratch that itch. This outstanding debut is oddly left off far too many debut albums lists and we are delighted to give it top billing here. (DR)

Written and compiled by Martin Burns, Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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Documentary Special

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Documentary Special

Posted on 06 March 2013 by Dorian

We appear to be in the midst of a bit of a golden age for music documentary, with films about interesting and surprising subjects coming out or being announced with increasing regularity. The reduced cost of making films in the digital age and the new crowd sourced methods of getting funding make creating a film about a relatively obscure artist achievable without the need for cinema showings or guaranteed DVD sales to support the endeavor.

Last year was a good year for the music documentary at both ends of the success and attention spectrum. At the top end was the Oscar winning ‘Searching For Sugarman’ which took an artists that was both obscure and hugely famous (depending on where you live) and coupled it with a fascinating story to great effect. Also notable was the epic homage to George Harrison, ‘Living In The Material World’, that was perhaps too comprehensive but was certainly a labour of love for Martin Scorsese.

TV has been another good source with BBC4 and Sky Arts leading the way in showing interesting and well produced documentary films on a wide range of artists. Sky Arts tends to show archive films but the BBC have made and shown excellent films on the likes of Squeeze, The Kinks and a surprisingly in-depth look at the work of Chas and Dave. They also have a film about David Bowie in the pipeline which features world renowned Bowieologist Nicholas Pegg in a consultant role.

Lawrence of Belgravia

Lawrence of Belgravia

Last year saw two of British music’s greatest curmudgeons celebrated in film, Felt/Denim/Go-Kart Mozart main-man Laurence and former Auteur Luke Haines.

‘Laurence of Belgravia’ was perhaps the better film and showed Laurence as an increasingly delusional figure, clinging on to concepts of stardom that  would never come, although it is all wrapped up in a self-perpetuated myth by the artist himself. (You can watch a trailer for the film here).

‘Art Will Save The World’ shows Luke Haines as a figure who is increasingly affable and comfortable with his place in modern music. At odds with his (again self-perpetuated) image as the most evil man in Brit-pop it sees him moving towards becoming something of a national treasure. It is perhaps best viewed as a companion piece to his excellent memoir, ‘Bad Vibes’. (You can watch a trailer for the film here).

Pitchfork has also entered the music documentary arena  and done some sterling work as part of their Pitchfork Classic series of films. These films are similar in concept to the 331/3 series of books focusing on a single album by the band in question whilst offering up some biographical details about them. These films to date have been of a very high quality and managed to get all the principle players interviewed for the films and included some excellent archive footage. Best of all is the recent film about Belle and Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister, and managed to make a brilliant record seem even better. (You can watch the whole of the film on the Pitchfork TV site here).

The Sad and Beautiful world of Sparklehorse

The Sad and Beautiful world of Sparklehorse

Below I preview four films scheduled for release, or in development, most of which have been made possible by crowd funding (the pros and cons of which I will not discuss here, although it is much debated).

‘The Sad and Beautiful World of Sparklehorse’ is a film about the music of the late Mark Linkous, one of my favourite recording artists. The UK interview filming has been completed and the producers are currently trying to raise funds for interviews in the US and Europe on this crowd-funding website. I have mixed hopes for this film based on the interviews captured to date, with some like-minded musicians such as Jonathan Donahue and Ed Harcourt included as talking heads. More worrying is the appearance of TVs Matthew Wright in the film, he may be a big fan but this doesn’t add credibility.  Hopefully the remaining interviews will include collaborators like David Lowery, Dangermouse and PJ Harvey and the archive footage could be what lifts this film.

‘Song Dynasties’ has already managed to get full funding through Kickstarter and looks set to bring out the story of Kevin Barne’s Of Montreal on DVD later this year. The film has been put together from hundreds of hours of footage from throughout the band’s career and has been 16 years in the making. If it is anything like as entertaining as Of Montreal are live on stage then it will be captivating viewing. (You can read more about the project and watch a trailer for the film here).

In February we posted a review of a little-known (in this country at least) album by the South African punk band National Wake.  We now have an opportunity to find out more about the African punk scene thanks to the forthcoming release of ‘Punk In Africa’, a film made by Deon Maas and Keith Jones in South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Kenya. (No UK showings of the film are currently scheduled but more details about the film and some footage can be found here).

Best of all is ‘Are We Not Men?’, a film about Devo. And  if you watch the trailer (above) you’ll see what an exciting film it looks to be. Devo were colourful, subversive, different and had some ideology to support the ideas in their songs. The perfect subject for a documentary film and one that should appeal to those unfamiliar with the band as well as their fans. The film was made possible by a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $70,000 and is scheduled for a release in August this year.

If you have any favourite music documentary films, or know of any interesting projects in production, please post a comment below.

By Dorian Rogers

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Top Ten Olympic Songs

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Top Ten Olympic Songs

Posted on 23 July 2012 by Joe

With Olympic fever taking the UK by storm, we thought we’d run another of our topical top tens featuring our favourite indie and alternative Olympic and sporting  themed tracks. Sit back, order a McDonalds, drink a Coca-Cola or other Olympic endorsed junk food product and enjoy Neonfiller’s Top Ten Olympic Songs

1. Flaming Lips – Race for the prize

 

2. Belle and Sebastian – Stars of Track and Field

3. Pavement  – Gold Soundz

4. Gene – Olympian

5. Super Furry Animals – Rings Around the World

6. The Vatican Cellars – A Palpable Hit (features on the WAIWYA compilation It’s The Taking Part That Counts )

7. Foals – Olympic Airways

8. Sparklehorse – Gold Day

9. New Order – Run

10. Aztec Camera – Jump (Van Halen cover)

Honourable mentions: The National – Racing Like a Pro, Queens of the Stone Age – The Bronze, Guided By Voices – Keep It In Motion, LCD Sound System – Sound of Silver, The Decemberists – The Sporting Life, Beck – Loser.

Compiled by Joe Lepper, Dorian Rogers, Rob Finch, Vanessa Thompson, Barnaby Salton, Nick Parker and Leon Cox

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David Lowery on Artists Rights

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David Lowery on Artists Rights

Posted on 23 June 2012 by Dorian

In a recent article for the Trichordist website David Lowery wrote an impassioned response to an article by an NPR intern, Emily White. Her article was about how she didn’t pay for music (apart from around 15 CDs) and posed the question “All I require is the ability to listen to what I want, when I want and how I want it. Is that too much to ask?” Lowery’s response was a lengthy exploration of the impact of music theft and supporting the artists’ rights to fair compensation.

David Lowery

David Lowery

Lowery’s piece isn’t perfect (his views on Spotify are open to question), and I don’t agree with everything he argues, but it is an intelligent and passionate article that raises some very valid points and highlights the dangers of a system where artists are not financially rewarded for their work. It is also pretty hard hitting in places. Music piracy may not have directly lead to the deaths of Vic Chesnutt and Mark Linkous, but if two artists of their caliber (and not forgetting the brilliant Jason Molina)  can’t make enough money to pay for their healthcare then something isn’t quite right.

Crucially the article isn’t an attack on Emily White (as many critics have claimed), it is explicit in being a response to her challenging some of her beliefs. It has also had a very positive effect in the amount of discussion it has raised, many people saluting Lowery for writing it and many others publishing counter arguments.

A different Emily White writes a clear and intelligent defense of her namesake and makes some very valid points about the changing face of music consumption and the other ways that Emily Whiten (and those of her generation) support artists. Crucially she misses the key point of the article, the issue of payment. Lowery isn’t saying people should buy CDs, he is saying they should pay for downloads, and that point is ignored in the article. She also gives an effusive “yes” to the questions “All I require is the ability to listen to what I want, when I want and how I want it. Is that too much to ask?” but ignores that fact that this is already the reality for people. If you change the question to “All I require is the ability to listen to what I want, when I want and how I want it and not have to pay for it. Is that too much to ask?” then things get a bit less black and white.

There have also been a whole raft of articles from the poetic to the passionate which argue that music should be free and artists should play for the simple gift of having an audience that allows them to express themselves. This argument sounds good, but troubles me for a number of reasons. Firstly I am not convinced that a world with only amateur musicians would be a good thing, for artists or fans alike. How would bands pay for tours and recording, and the music would have to play second fiddle to the day job. It would make international touring impossible for most artists, and our venues would be filled with the same sets of local artists. Secondly it suggests that someone who works hard on their art doesn’t deserve to be paid for it. I enjoy reading books, watching films and listening to music, I am very happy to pay money to support the people who create the art that I enjoy.

It is also a fact that somebody is making money out of the illegal download industry. Why should the Pirate Bay earn an estimated $14 million annually for the distribution of files and the artists don’t get a penny from their consumption?

Travis Morrison (of the Dismemberment Plan) writes an amusing piece looking at the  ways in which people used to steal music. There is a lot of truth in what he says, and Lowery can sound like the old “home taping is killing music” campaigns of the 1980s. However, the scale of things is fundamentally different now and the impact much greater. You would need a team of people to create enough mixtapes to contain the quantity of songs that people exchange in one go on a portable hard drive. You can get as much music in one hit, for free, as [people used to spend a lifetime collecting.

Jay Frank makes some interesting points and points to the sad fact that major labels are still winning when in comparison to the struggle that independents have to make money. However he, like several others, points to Lowery’s declining musical status as the real reason he is making less money. This may be true (and it is a crying shame as he is one of the best songwriters in the world) but it is not the point that Lowery was making. If an artist sells less then of course they make less money, if an artist is popular and all their music is downloaded illegally then that is a legitimate problem for them.

Lowery is a brilliant musician and passionate about artists rights to be rewarded for the great work they do, and not make money for ISPs and file-sharing sites instead – I find it hard to disagree with him on that. He may have some views that are open to question, but he has opened up a fascinating and challenging debate and for that he should be commended.

By Dorian Rogers

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Top 100 Albums (20-11)

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Top 100 Albums (20-11)

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Joe

We have been releasing this list ten at a time every Friday. Hope you enjoy this latest instalment. The rest of the Top 100 can be found here.

20. The Flaming Lips – Soft Bulletin


Soft Bulletin from 1999 marked a change of direction for The Flaming Lips from their experimental  earlier albums to a more conventional  rock sound. Although  coming after Zaireeka, their four disc album to be played on four separate stereo systems simultaneously, arguably anything would have seemed conventional. ‘Race for the Prize’ and ‘Waiting for Superman’ are among many highlights on their ninth album Soft Bulletin, but perhaps our standout is ‘The Spark That Bled’, a perfect example of how the band managed to merge their sentimental charm with a psychedelic edge. This commercial direction for the band was to continue for the next two albums, with great effect on album number 10 Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. By their 11th album At War with the Mystics this focus on pop music seemed a little tired and they made a welcome return to  their experimental roots with the sprawling 2009 double album Embryonic.

19. Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker

On his first solo outing after splitting Whiskeytown Ryan Adams recorded a surprisingly honest and sensitive album considering his alt-country bad boy reputation. The album is a homage to the good and bad side of relationships, moving between celebratory and despairing over 15 brilliant tracks. After an opening conversation about Morrissey albums it kicks into the rollicking country-blues of ‘To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)’ before settling into a quieter acoustic feel for the remainder of the album (excepting the Stonesy ‘Shakedown On 9th Street’). Backed by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch (two of the best players in rootsy Americana) the playing is never less than excellent and the singing (including duets with Emmylou Harris) is top notch throughout. Great singing and playing coupled with the best set of songs in Adam’s, never less than interesting, career add up to a great album.

18. Belle and Sebastian  – The Boy With The Arab Strap


For us aged, fey indie-kids at Neon Filler picking the best Belle and Sebastian is a tough call. Sometimes 1996’s If You’re Feeling Sinister is our favourite, other times Dear Catostrophe Waitress whets our appetitie. But after having a good trawl though their back catalogue in recent weeks the one we keep coming back to is their third album, 1998’s The Boy With the Arab Strap. The production is pitch  perfect allowing the subtle instrumentation to work around lead singer Stuart Murdoch’s stories. There’s some great tunes as well. Among our highlights are the title track, ‘It Could Have Been a Brilliant Career’ and ‘Dirty Dream Number Two’. Guitarist Steve Jackson’s turn on lead vocals on  ‘Seymour Stein’ is another highlight on this much loved album by this much loved band.

17. American Music Club – Mercury

American Music Club - Mercury

Most critics name the previous American Music Club, Everclear, as the bands finest hour but we think that Mercury just pips it as the band’s true masterpiece. Mark Eitzel paints a pretty bleak picture lyrically on many of the songs here but his soaring vocals, lush instrumentation and warm production soften the blow. It is the most varied album of the bands career mixing slow paced ballads (‘I’ve Been A Mess’), indie pop (‘Keep Me Around’) and loose noise (‘Challengers’). Guitarist Vudi sounds like he is fighting the urge to let rip at all times, but it is this forced restraint that adds tension to the quieter songs. The album contains the bands greatest and best known song ‘Johnny Mathis’ Feet’, a deserving entry into the great American songbook. Eitzel is a confusing and oblique character, but anyone who writes a song with the title ‘What Godzilla Said to God When His Name Wasn’t Found in the Book of Life’ deserves our attention.

16. The Mountain Goats – Sunset Tree


The Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle is a master story teller. On latest album All Eternals Deck the focus was on other’s lives, including Judy Garland and even Charles Bronson. But on 2005’s The Sunset Tree Darnielle looks to his own life with dramatic effect as he recalls his teenage years in an abusive home. Across the album these deeply personal tales chart his escape into a world of video games, music, drink, drugs and storytelling away from the grim reality of his homelife and his drunken step father. It’s harrowing stuff, but never depressing. The tracks from ‘Dance Music’ to ‘This Year’ are about survival and are full of hope.  Final track ‘Pale Green Things’ provides a  fitting conclusion with Darnielle recalling his step father’s death and remembering a rare nice day out at the race track. For more about The Mountain Goats read our Top Ten Bands That Changed Our Lives article here.

15. Sparklehorse – Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot

The late Mark Linkous released four albums as Sparklehorse in his too-short life and Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot was a dazzling and mesmerising debut. Played largely by Linkous alone (with a handful of musicians including David Lowery in support) it is an eclectic, sad and beautiful collection. Despite moving between the soft elegance of songs like ‘Homecoming Queen’ to the catchy alt-rock like ‘Someday I Will Treat You Good’ and the dischord of ‘Tears On Fresh Fruit’ it always sounds cohesive and natural. Linkous came from a traditional folk background and moved into alternative rock music, the album suceeds in bringing these styles seemlessly together. This works perfectly on the banjo lead ‘Cow’ with the memorable refrain “Pretty girl, milkin’ a cow, oh yeah”.

14. REM  – Murmur


Back in 1982  executives at record label IRS were keen to send their recent signing REM on the road to rock stardom. Only problem was that the band were having none of their methods. Shunning the label’s choice of producer Stephen Hague and pressure to incorporate guitar solos and synthesisers into their music, they instead wanted to create a timeless feel. With producer Mitch Easter, who had worked with the band on their first EP Chronic Town, on board the band managed to get free rein to turn the tracks they’d been touring for a year or so into the album they wanted. From start to finish this is packed with great tracks with first single ‘Radio Free Europe’, ‘Talk About The Passion’ and ‘Catapult’ among many highlights. Musically it’s a mix of The Byrds, particularly through Peter Buck’s guitar style, and Pylon, the eccentric new wave band from their home town of Athens, Georgia. REM’s approach was proved right in the end. Wthin a few months of its release they were well on their way to superstardom, supporting The Police at Shea Stadium and producing a fine run of commercially and critically acclaimed albums throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.

13. Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings And Food

Talking heads - More songs about buildings & food

Picking the best Talking Heads album is tough, most of their albums (including either of their live albums) could claim a place in this chart. One of the most important American acts of the 1970s and 80s they mixed soul and funk influences into their jittery new wave sound. More Songs About Music And Food takes a measured step forward from their 1977 debut and embraces David Byrne’s interest in the people and landscape of middle-America. Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth provide a tight simple backing to the wired frontman and neat guitar interplay with Jerry Harrison adds texture to the bands sound. The album contains few of the band’s best known songs, only their cover of Al Green’s ‘Take Me To The River’ was a hit, but it is their most rounded collection. ‘Found A Job’ stands out in particular, with a great instrumental outro, and is as good a song as you’ll find by any of New York new wave acts.

12.Blondie – Parallel Lines


Has there ever been a better female fronted band than Blondie? In our ears and minds the answer is a clear ‘no’. Take Blondie’s third album, 1978’s  Parellel Lines for example. It boasted a ker-ching making six singles among its 12 tracks. What’s more  the album tracks that didn’t make it on to 7” were pretty fine  too. Blending rock, new wave, and even disco on ‘Heart of Glass’, the tracks echo the sixties at times, such as on ‘Sunday Girl’. Under producer Mike Chapman  it was musically inventive too, with the guitar work of King Crimson’s  Robert Fripp  on ‘Fade Away and Radiate’ still capable of sending shivers down our spines to this day.

11. The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead

As the album opener ‘The Queen Is Dead’ kicks in with punchy bass and drums you are immediately aware you are listening to something pretty special, and equally aware that Morrisssey was wrong to dismiss the role of Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce in the band. The Smiths were one of the most important bands of the 1980s and it is difficult to overstate tyhe fanatcism of their fanbase at the time. Morrissey is a fascinating figure and, like him or not, their has never been another singer like him and his lyrics are witty and erradite here. Jonny Marr shines on the album and the arrangements are uniformly excellent throughout, it is also a little surprising how subtle and restrained his playing in. Only ‘The Boy With The Thorn In His Side’ showcases his signature jangle and it isn’t until the end of ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ that he lets rip (and then only for a short burst). ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ is the highest peak on an album of peaks and deserves a place on every best of the 80s collection.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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Top 20 Albums of 2010

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Top 20 Albums of 2010

Posted on 20 December 2010 by Joe

We usually compile a top ten albums of the year list, but in recognition  of 2010 being one of the best years in recent memory for indie/alternative releases we’ve decided to double the size.

The year started well with ambitious albums by the likes of Field Music, Los Campesinos! and Owen Pallett and got better with stellar releases from the likes of The National, the welcome return of Belle and Sebastian and some surprises from the likes of Janelle Monae. Some familiar names return to our end of year countdown on a list that features some excellent new UK music. Sit back, get your emails to Santa ready and enjoy Neon Filler’s Top 20 Albums of 2010.

1. Field Music Measure

Measure, a double album no less, sees the band move on yet another level. There are aspects of the sweeping, mazy songs on their eponymous debut as well as the jerky, more structured pop of second album Tones of Town, but a whole lot more has been added. Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, even ELO, XTC, The Move and 10cc are thrown into the mix. This album came out at the beginning of the year but its breadth and ambition continues to astound as the year comes to an end.  Read our full review here.

2. The Miserable Rich – Of Flight and Fury

Of Flight and Fury is the second album from Brighton’s The Miserable Rich and it picks up from where their excellent debut left off. Part of Brighton’s Willkommen Collective they are the most compact and focused of the bunch. One of our top ten bands to watch out for in 2011, we are expecting big things from this band. Read our full review here.

3. Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern – Essex Arms

The album is the second part in a trilogy about Hayman’s native Essex and continues with a warts and all nostalgic look at working class England. Like its predecessor Pram Town (which topped our Top Ten Albums of 2009 list) Essex Arms is wonderfully evocative of a place and time, without descending into sneering or cloying sentiment. Surely Hayman has earned national treasure status by now.  Read our full review here.

Essex Arms

Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern - Essex Arms

4. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

Deerhunter have named their fourth album Halcyon Digest for good reason, as once again the US band serves up an unusual and effective mix of music that takes a range of influences from the golden years of rock n roll to the 1990s shoegazers. Halcyon Digest is lush, layered and timeless. Deerhunter’s most focused and accessible album yet. Read our full review here.

Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest

5. Janelle Monae

The debut album from former stage school kid and Outkast collaborator Janelle Monáe could well be the most eclectic album of the year so far. Mixing orchestral pieces, hip hop, soul, pop, psychedelic rock, folk and even a collaboration with Of Montreal into 18 tracks. It is ambitious and mesmerising as it effortless travels between genres. Read our full review here.

6. Belle and Sebastian – Write About Love

It’s been a long wait for such adoring fans, but the band are now firmly back after a four year hiatus touring and with a sparkly new album, Write About Love, a concept album of sorts about, well, love. So where does Write About Love sit in its catalogue?  For us its one of their best yet. Welcome back Belle and Sebastian. Read our full review here.

Belle and Sebastian - Write About Love

7. The Walkmen – Lisbon

With Lisbon US band The Walkmen have delivered a perfect follow up to their last album You and Me, which topped our Top Ten Albums list for 2008. Retaining You and Me’s stripped back, timeless production with nods to the 50s and 60s, Lisbon has plenty more goose bump moments and once again offers a perfect showcase for lead singer Hamilton Leithhauser’s stunning rock vocals and the band’s love of vintage instruments. Read our full review here.

8. Owen Pallett – Heartland

With the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Arcade Fire’s Jeremy Gara involved, Heartland is at times pure Brian Wilson  as it effortlessly takes in aspects of classical music, electronica, pop and indie-cool. Read our full review here.

Owen Pallett

9. Surfer Blood – Astro Coast

As debuts go Astro Coast is already a modern indie classic. Full of  a marvellous mix of riffs, indie rock influences such as  Sonic Youth and Pavement, passionate singing and some neat tricks as well. It is all that is good about the best of modern US indie rock. Read our full review here.

10. The National  – High Violet

How can a band this good, this radio friendly, this professional not be bigger? Why is it that the likes of Muse, Radiohead and Coldplay play in front of multi-zillion seater stadiums and headline major festivals and not The National? After the release of High Violet The National are well on their way to similar success. Read our full review here.

11. Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago.

When the end of the world comes, as pollution lays waste to the Earth, Shearwater’s leader singer Jonathan Meiburg will be on a nuclear  ravaged tropical island somewhere screaming bloody murder in his haunting baritone at the corporations and politicians. This indie/folk/rock album is powerful stuff. Read our full review here.

12. Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt

Swedish folk singer Kristian Matsson, who takes to the stage under the name Tallest Man On Earth, must be bored to tears with being compared with early Bob Dylan, especially when in many respects he is actually better than the great man at the same stage in his career. Read our full review here.

13. Broken Bells – Broken Bells

Opening track and lead single ‘The High Road’ kicks things off beautifully on this debut album from Shins frontman James Mercer and producer Danger Mouse and is a sign of the good things to come. By the time you’ve listened to ‘Vaporise’ and Mercer’s surprisingly good falsetto on ‘The Ghost Inside’ you know that the duo have produced something worthy of an end of year best of list. Read our full review here.

14. Beach House  – Teen Dream

The slicker production and attention to detail  on Teen Dream  compared to previous releases unsurprisingly coincides with a move to the label Sub Pop, which has a strong track record of getting the best out of its eclectic mix of artists ranging from The Fleet Foxes to Postal Service. Read our full review here.

15. Los Campesinos! – Romance is Boring

Los Campesinos! are among the most divisive of bands. A bunch of shouty students, spouting immature teen angst to some, one of the most innovative British bands around for others. Their 2010 release Romance is Boring is a pretty good case for the latter’s cause. Read our full review here.

16. New Pornographers – Together

When we first heard the song ‘Your Hands (Together)’, from the fifth album by The New Pornographers, we were disappointed. So much so that we avoided the album and didn’t review it on this site. But after hearing another track from the album, the brilliant ‘Crash Years’ (one of our songs of the year) we realised we were missing out. Building on the more subtle styles of 2007’s Challengers with a return to the more bombastic power chords of their earlier albums this is classic pop music at its best.

The New Pornographers - Together

17. The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night

After the first 30 seconds of opening track ‘Like The Ocean Like The Innocent’ we were sceptical. We’ve heard enough meandering drone rock to last a lifetime, but nine minutes later at the end of the track we were converted. This is music with genuine substance and power. Read our full review here.

18. Allo Darlin’

Allo Darlin’s self titled debut is a near perfect slice of British “twee” pop played by associates of Amelia Fletcher and Darren Hayman. Melodic, sweet and sensitive it has possible singles from start to finish. The more jaded listener might find songs like ‘Heartbeat Chili’ a little hard to stomach, but if you keep your mind open there is much to love here. One of the discoveries of 2010, and very much a band to watch in 2011.

Allo Darlin

19. Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul

Second appearance for Danger Mouse in our top 20, this time his long awaited collaboration with the late Mark Linkous, aka Sparklehorse. Unreleased for some time due to contractual wrangles it was originally intended to accompany a book of visuals by David Lynch. The book was published, but the album itself was shelved and emerged some months later during 2010. It features contributions from a number of singers and musicians including the Flaming lips, Suzanne Vega, Iggy Pop, can be a difficult listen in places but as you would expect from Linkous and Danger Mouse, stunning in others. Read our full review here.

20. Fang Island  – Fang Island

Imagine if you will Bill and Ted’s band Wyld Stallyons, but better, speeded up and backed by members of Primus, Faith No More and The Descendents. It’s a heady mix of humour, power chords and squealing solos that Fang Island pull off with aplomb. Read our full review here.

To hear more by the bands above (and some other great acts from the year) listen to our best of 2010 Spotify playlist.

See Also – Top Ten Albums of 2008, Top Ten Albums of 2009

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul

Posted on 20 September 2010 by Joe

Dark Night of the Soul is the long awaited collaboration between Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse. Unreleased for some time due to contractual wrangles it was originally intended to accompany a book of visuals by David Lynch. The book was published, but the album itself was shelved and has now emerged some months later

The album is a star studded collection with contributions from a number of singers and musicians including the Flaming lips, Suzanne Vega, Iggy Pop and the aforementioned David Lynch. The project is somewhat overshadowed by the suicides of Mark Linkous and Vic Chesnutt between the recording and release of the album. As a long time fan of Sparklehorse it is hard for me to give the album a totally objective review in the light of his death.

The opening three tracks make the reviewer’s job easy however, being some of the bests songs released so far this year. ‘Revenge’ sets a perfect tone for the album, dark and beautiful. It is also the best thing that the Flaming Lips have contributed to for some years. ‘Just War’ manages to be downbeat and bouncy all at once, with Gruff Rhys turning in one of his best vocal performances. The last in the opening trio, ‘Jakob’, is another standout and shows that Jason Lyttle has more to offer than latter-day Grandaddy releases had me believe.

The album comes a little bit unstuck for the next trio of songs. Julian Casablancas’ effort ‘Little Girl’ is fine, but the Strokes style guitar doesn’t seem to fit the mood of the album very well. Frank Black’s ‘Angel’s Harp’ is better but manages to be a bit plodding. Iggy Pop’s ‘Pain’ is the album’s weakest link, his mannered vocals are grating and it is a fairly passionless performance.

Normal service is soon resumed however as David Lynch turns in his first effort, and proves to be the perfect vocal accompaniment to Sparklehorse, his voice fragile and bathed in effects.
The second half is pretty flawless, with Jason Lytle and Lynch both getting a second song and Suzanne Vega and Vic Chesnutt turning in excellent efforts. ‘Insane Lullaby’ features James Mercer, the sweet melody swamped in Linkous discord to beautiful effect. The song is now a part of the Broken Bells live set.

The standout song from the second half is Linkous one vocal contribution ‘Daddy’s Gone’. It is a beautiful Beatlesesque pop ballad with backing vocals by Nina Persson. It is melancholy and sweet and tragically may be the last new Linkous vocal contribution that ever sees the light of day.

8/10

By Dorian Rogers, July 2010

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