Monday, 22 March 2010

My Top Ten... Albums

I pride myself on finding more and more varied way of killing time every weekend; I normally call the result a blog. My latest idea for how to fill a couple of pages of a word document with my opinions is to do a series of top 10s. As you know I like to go on and on and on and on about music that I enjoy, so I thought I’d start off this adventure into a brave new world of procrastination with a list of my top 10 albums and an explanation of why I like them. These are not necessarily in precise order because I find it difficult to order things precisely.

So without further ado:

  • In Absentia (Porcupine Tree) I said they weren’t in order, but if I had to name my favourite album of all time this would probably be it. The thing about this album is that is brings together a whole host of different musical styles and genres, without ever feeling overcrowded. Blackest Eyes, the first track of the album exemplifies this; it combines a Heavy Metal-style opening with an indie rock-esc acoustic guitar which plays through dark and disturbing lyrics which echo beautifully. The chorus is almost like a pop song; it’s so memorable and the lyrics are so catchy despite retaining the foreboding of the verses. The pinnacle of the song for me is towards the end when it switches to full on psychedelic reminiscent of their earlier work. The rest of the album continues in the same vein, combining styles beautifully and retaining a dangerous, dark edge to the lyrics. The end of the album bring Collapse the Light into Earth, one of the most beautiful and mournful songs I have ever heard. Overall this is one of those albums which every self respecting fan of alternative music must listen to at some point. I guarantee it will not disappoint.

  • Picaresque (The Decemberists) This album is a true rollercoaster ride of emotions. The Decemberists have a knack for tugging at the heartstrings and with songs like Eli the Barrowboy and We Both Go Down Together, this album is a great example of this. However the tone is not all about love and loss. The Decemberists have a satirical side too, as shown by songs like the Sporting Life and 16 Military Wives, mocking jocks and the arrogance of American foreign policy respectively. Possible most bizarre and ingenious song on the album however is The Mariner’s Revenge Song, and full blown tale of a mariner who hunts down a miscreant who ruined his family when he was only a child. One of the most striking things about the album is the variety of different instruments used, notably the use of accordions and violins give the album (and indeed the band) a unique sound.

  • The Soft Bulletin (The Flaming Lips) I have a feeling I’ve mentioned this one before, so I’ll keep this short. The Flaming Lips are possibly the happiest band I have ever heard, and this album is possibly the happiest album I have ever heard. Right from the start it’s bubbling with pure, unadulterated joy that never lets up until the album finishes. Despite its joyful exterior the lyrics do not always share the same happiness. They can be painfully sorrowful and macabre. A good example of this is Waiting for Superman, which is wonderfully tragic, while still sounding extraordinarily happy.

  • The Wall (Pink Floyd) Probably the best Rock Opera I’ve ever heard. It has everything one expects from one of the best psychedelic band in history. The Rock Opera has always been a difficult thing to take seriously, but Pink Floyd manage to get over this, mostly with the addition of some brilliant individual songs like The Thin Ice and Comfortably Numb, which stand up as song in their own right. The story if the Wall is amazing; a wonderful tragedy which provides a critical examination of society and culture. It’s also musically astonishing. Some of the best psychedelic music ever recorded.

  • Absolution (Muse) One of the albums (and bands) that got me into Alternative Music. Simply amazing. Some absolutely brilliant songs, like Butterflies and Hurricanes and Time is Running Out litter the album, in fact I don’t think there’s a bad song here. Matt Bellamy’s piano playing and brilliant song writing make this album truly outstanding. Absolution has an amazing variety, from warnings about mankind’s effect on the environment to beautiful love songs to song about fear of death.

  • In the Aeroplane over the Sea (Neutral Milk Hotel) Another groundbreaking album in my own personal musical development. This album introduced me to the wonders of Indie Rock, with its acoustic guitars, distortion, impenetrable lyrics and tradition of using as many unusual instruments as possible. Fortunately what this album has, which is sadly lacking in many Indie Rock albums which I have mentioned extensively previously, is raw emotion. In the same way as with the Flaming Lips, you get a real sense of joy from the album, despite the more complex and melancholy nature of many of the lyrics. The album clearly has a sense of humour and, despite what people say, it doesn’t always take itself too seriously; the King of Carrot Flowers II is a prime example of this, as the band professes their love for Jesus Christ. I know this album has a reputation for being Indie Rock Snobbery personifies, but that’s worth ignoring because this is a fantastic album, despite the reputation.

  • Wish you Were Here (Pink Floyd) the first band to get a second album on the list is inevitably Pink Floyd. I said that The Wall had some of the best psychedelic music ever recorded on, but this is even better. I would put this album on the list on the strength of Shine On you Crazy Diamond alone, but I don’t need to, the other three songs are unbelievable as well. Shine On is a wonderful tribute to Syd Barrett, but the rest of the album deals with the difficulties of fame and the tragedy of loss, universalising the trauma that the band felt with the loss of Syd.

  • Stupid Dream (Porcupine Tree) Another band with a second album, but this one is so unlike In Absentia that you’d have difficulty realising that they’re the same band. Stupid Dream is another brilliant psychedelic album (the third of this list). It lacks the variety of In Absentia, but has much more by way of psychedelic experimentation and all round madness. Despite this it is more reserved that some of their earlier, more extreme work. The lyrical quality of the album is outstanding, dealing with death, guilt and drug abuse, themes which seem to be pretty common to this list actually. The highlight of this album probably comes at the end with Stop Swimming, as song much like Collapse the Light into Earth in that it is mind numbingly beautiful and tearfully sad.

  • F#A#infinity (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) Post-Rock, music in the style of classical music, using instruments usually associated with rock music. Godspeed You! do it brilliantly. F#A#infinity is their darkest album and some of the best sampling I’ve ever heard. They use no lyrics, but the voiceover at the start of Dead Flag Blues is heart wrenching, it sets the tone for a wonderfully atmospheric and dark album. However there is a glimmer of hope in the album, especially at the end of Dead Flag Blues, adding to the complexity. The perfect placement of notes, interspersed with samples from all over the place simply cannot be described. Go listen to it; it will blow your mind.

  • Puzzle (Biffy Clyro) If you’re listening to this album skip past the first minute and a half. The rest is pure gold. Despite listening to the album literally hundreds of time, I can barely say why it is I like it so much. As with most of these albums it has astonishing variety and the lyrics are extremely intelligent. As usual the album is searing with passion and emotion. It’s upbeat, while still having a darker side. Those last few statements could apply to almost all of these albums on reflection. I guess that’s just what I like.

1 comment:

  1. Mr mason . I worry about the Psychedelic theme running through your blog, followed by the drug law blog. They seem to have elements in common. I do however like your choice of albums and will try that group I have never heard of that have 2 albums in there (not Pink Floyd). What do you think of the new Billy clyro? It has grown and grown and grown on me and I cannot seem to stop listening to it.