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Top 10 Albums – Here’s Mine, What Are Yours?

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Top 10 Albums – Here’s Mine, What Are Yours?

Posted on 10 July 2014 by Joe

We’ve covered our Top 100 alternative and independent albums, Top 10 debut albums and also compiled lists of our favourite folk and psychedelic albums. But I thought for a change I’d take away the restrictions of time and genre and present a list of my top ten albums as a way of finding out what your Top 10 Albums are. It’s a trickier task than you may think. I have constant nagging doubts that I should have included Lou Reed’s Transformer or Blondie’s Parallel Lines. You will face similar dilemmas. Feel free to tell us your Top 10 albums of all time in the comment box below.

10. Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989)

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Following their huge debut album Licensed to Ill the Beastie Boys second album went in a more experimental direction under producers The Dust Brothers and became one of the best ever examples of sampling. From Public Enemy to The Beatles through to Curtis Mayfield and film soundtracks there are hundreds of snippets that make up each track. The end product is a tribute to music and modern culture and an outstanding album from start to finish. To find out more about the songs and riffs featured on the album click here.

9. Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band – Gorilla (1967)

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As a child, back when there were record players and cassettes and MP3s were the stuff of a mad man’s dreams, this was one of a handful of albums I used to beg my parents to play. This debut by art college psychedelic 1920s jazz mash up specialists is fun thanks to the humour of songwriter and vocalists Vivian Stanshall. But above all its got great tunes thanks to the involvement of Neil Inness, who went on to form the Rutles and has an outstanding ear for a good pop song. With tracks such as Cool Britannia, the Intro and the Outro and I’m Bored regularly used in advertising, TV and film this obscurity from a silly age will be surprisingly familiar.

8. The Mountain Goats – The Sunset Tree (2005)

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There are autobiographical albums and then there’s The Sunset Tree by The Mountain Goats and its frontman and songwriter John Darnielle. Here he lays bare an adolescence in the shadow of domestic abuse where he escapes into music, romance, drink and drugs. Its an album about survival and must have taken a huge amount of courage to write. Final track Pale Green Things, recalls the death of his step father and is so emotional and personal he can’t even play it live anymore. It is an impressive piece of work that shows the courage of young people and led me to become a fan of Darnielle and his band ever since. For more about The Mountain Goats read our Top Ten Bands That Changed Our Lives article here.

7. Fairport Convention- Liege and Lief (1969)

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A running theme of the albums I’ve selected is an admiration of the effort that has gone into their writing and production. Fairport Convention Liege and Lief’s was written and recorded following a tragic motorway accident in which their drummer Martin Lamble died and guitarist Richard Thompson’s girlfriend Jeannie Franklin also lost her life. What emerged was one of the most influential folk albums of all time as their mourning, painstaking research into traditional English folk and rock roots came together to create an outstanding set of songs. From Tam Lin to Crazy Man Michael this album is to this day one of the most exciting of any genre.

6. Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

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I came late to Bob Dylan. It was something about the voice, the Christianity and whole 1980s rock star image that put me off. Then I saw Martin Scorcese’s documentary centred around his mid 1960s albums and the time he went electric. From Bringing It All Back Home to Highway 61 revisited to Blonde on Blonde it remains my favourite period of Dylan’s music. Of the three Highway stands tallest, just. Like a Rolling Stone is its most well known track but the power of Ballad of a Thin Man and Desolation Row are among those that keep me coming back to this album time and again.

5. The B-52s – The B-52s (1977)

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When Rock Lobster, one of the singles from this debut from the Athens based band, was re released in the mid 1980s, I had no idea just how talented they were. I loved Rock Lobster but after getting this debut album I was awestruck. Ricky Wilson’s guitar playing is unique and in they were also blessed with three incredible vocalists, with Ricky’s sister Cindy particularly standing out. Her emotion on Dance This Mess Around and Hero Worship alone are worth the cover price alone. For more about The B-52s read our Top Ten Artists That Changed Our Lives feature here.

4. XTC – English Settlement (1982)

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On a monthly basis I kick myself for not including this in our Top 100 Indie and Alternative Albums list. Our XTC album of choice was the excellent Drums and Wires. But as the years have gone by it is English Settlement that I now believe was the Swindon band’s masterpiece. Sure it has the singles Sense Working Overtime and Ball and Chain, but it’s the lesser known tracks such as No Thugs in Our House and English Roundabout that really shine here. It was to have opened the door to fame and fortune, but sadly coincided with a chronic bout of stage fright for song writer Andy Partridge who was unable to tour following its release or indeed since. For more about XTC read our Top Ten Bands That Changed Our Lives article here.

3. The Clash – London Calling (1979)

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Of all The Clash albums none are so perfectly executed as their third London Calling. Steeped in Caribbean and US influences this manages to expertly show The Clash for what they were a London punk band with a global outlook. This topped our Top 100 Indie and Alternative Albums list and remains one of my favourite albums thanks to superb lyrics on tacks like Lost in the Supermarket and instant pop appeal of tracks such as Train in Vain. Listening again it barely ages and remains a timeless classic. Read our full review of London Calling here.

2.  David Bowie – Hunky Dory (1971)

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Last year I detailed my surprise discovery that David Bowie wasn’t just a silly man dancing in his pyjamas wth Mick Jagger. He was in fact the coolest man in music as albums such as Low, Heroes and this pre-Ziggy album clearly show. Of all his albums that I’ve recently discovered this is my favourite due to its sheer quantity of classic, inventive pop songs. Any album that has the tracks Changes and All You Pretty Things is deserving of a place on this list. But to add in Life on Mars, Queen Bitch and Quicksand as well makes this album one of the best pop albums of all time..

1. The Beatles – Revolver (1966)

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Hey what about Sgt Peppers, Joe? Well, what about it? This seventh UK studio album from the Fab Four is by miles and miles of old George Martin infused studio tape the best Beatles album and in my view the best album of all time. You want pop? It’s got it in Taxman and Dr Robert. You want stunning orchestral melodies? Well, why not check out Eleanor Rigby. Or maybe awesome rock rifts are your thing, in that case She Said She Said will appeal. It’s even got the children’s classic Yellow Submarine, and on Tomorrow Never Knows a track that quite rightly is used to herald the start of counter culture. And then there’s the production with Martin’s backwards loops redefining music. Sgt Peppers is good, but this was the real game changer for modern music.

by Joe Lepper

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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)

 

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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)

 

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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)

 

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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)

 

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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)

 

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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)

 

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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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