Desert Island Discs

1.  Dayvan Cowboy – Boards of Canada

Few songs are truly epic.  On a day like this by Elbow isn’t epic, but Davyan Cowboy is.  BoC write music for the films that were never made – most of their songs have an air of foreboding, like the soundtrack to a Hopper painting, but Dayvan Cowboy is one of the few that are uplifting.  I like to think that it was the music going through Felix Baumgartner’s head when he made his jump from space.

2.  Waterloo Sunset – The Kinks

Reminds me of my parents, who met in London in the late 1960s.  I hope that they met at Waterloo station on at least one occasion and I hope they walked across Waterloo bridge together, arm in arm, listening to the Kinks.


3.  3 Hours – Nick Drake


His only song with a personal friend named in the lyrics (Jeremy, who I think was a friend from Marlborough).  Voice and guitar have been done to death but Nick Drake makes voice and guitar sound like this is how it should be done.  You feel like you’ve already heard the songs, you feel like you know where they are going and you get a strong sense of the kind of person he was – quiet, introverted and sad.  A man not for this world.


4.  Clash – Caravan Palace


If you could be a member of any band in the world, wouldn’t it be this one?  The nearest thing any of us will get to the soundtrack of the hedonistic 20s.  I like the fact that Baz Luhrmann went for the obvious choice of Jay-Z for his overblown Gatsby re-make.  Caravan Palace have a bit too much class for that.


5.  The Age of the Understatement – The Last Shadow Puppets


Arctic Monkeys meets David Bowie, and what’s not to like about that?  It’s the music I think Alex Turner would produce more of were he a solo artist, it’s got a touch of the epic about it, a very silly cold war video and one the best titles.  We live in an age of perpetual over-statement, at least where social media is concerned, and I think I wish that the title were an adequate description of Britain today.


6.  Requium – Mozart


Ok, it’s a bit like choosing ‘Catcher in the Rye’ as your favourite book, and it looks like it’s making a rather obvious nod to all things classical, but try watching Amadeus as a ten-year old and not being taken with the Confutatis Maledictis.  It’s even better than Falco.


7.  King of Carrot Flowers – Neutral Milk Hotel


Reminds me of my favourite person – musically spare, mostly lyrical nonsense but these two things some together to make something that is beautiful, and seems profound, even though it’s probably not.


8.  Entertainment – Phoenix


A band that makes you feel like you know them.  They don’t try too hard to make perfect pop music and their ‘Take Away’ set of videos for La Blogoteque is the best thing you’ll see on youtube.


9.  Sugar Kane – Sonic Youth


A song that you notice more things about the more you listen, musical arrangement-wise.  It’s about Marilyn Monroe’s character in Some Like it Hot and I think she’d have liked the overall feel.


10.  A day in the Life – The Beatles


Ahead of its time.  Lennon’s finest hour.  Meaningless and sad.

Face the Music (2)

Here it is, the long awaited second installment of my ‘Top Ten Albums’, this time from 2001 right up to the present day. The only feedback I had from my related post was that ‘it was a bit dull’ (thanks brother), so I’ve decided to listen to advice, and to improve things by justifying the choices, as well as putting a few thoughts down about music in general. Remember, faithful readers that these are the albums that I’ve listen to most regularly, rather than being those which I judge to be the best musically.

Just before the albums themselves, here’s some ramblings. I hope they prove cathartic for me:

  • I don’t actually seem to buy albums very much any more. Is this a bad thing? Not if you don’t like masses of filler (Raw Like Sushi still has my vote for the greatest load of rubbish outside the singles), but there was something nice about listening to a singer/band all the way through the album, especially if there was some concept to the album (Mansun, The Streets). Concept. How pretentious. Sorry.
  • You will always be judged on the music you listen to. This is unfair, but it’s going to happen. If you listen to Snow Patrol, you don’t really like music, and your opinion on what’s good or not is not worth listening to. You probably like elevator music too.
  • Why the argument about whether musicians write their own music or not? Why does it matter? Elvis didn’t write his music, and he’s pretty good. Granted, if the music is hugely emotional, and the performance is anguished, then you find out it’s been written by a load of grey suits, you might feel a little cheated, but we don’t expect actors to write the plays they appear in, and the same should apply to musicians.
  • You have a right to feel proud when a band you ‘liked before they were famous’ subsequently becomes famous. There is, however, nothing wrong with liking a popular band, and it’s not time to ditch them for something more obscure just because some other people like them too. Coldplay are good, aren’t they?
  • Why do so many bands now have the definite article in their names? I’m sure that we’ve reached saturation point on the number of ‘The….’ that are out there. Is ‘The Drums’ the worst name for a band since Hootie and the Blowfish, or is that just me?

Anyway, here’s the music:

2001: Royksopp – Melody AM. From one’s mid-20s, it’s time to start thinking ‘which music would go best with my sophisticated dinner party?’. Air and Zero 7 were early favourites, and I determined early to never go back to anyone who played Norah Jones, even if their basil parfait was to die for. After a couple of listens to Moon Safari, you can’t help wanting the washing up to come a little faster, and the only time I went to see Air, I fell asleep. Royksopp seemed a whole lot cooler, and I stayed awake throughout their Somerset House gig.

2002: The Streets – Original Pirate Material. Is this the last album that genuinely didn’t sound like anything that had gone before? I think so. Living in London at the time probably helped, and the beat on ‘has it come to this?’ always reminds me of the tube, in a good way.

2003: Goldfrapp – Black Cherry. ‘Felt Mountain’ is far better, but ‘Black Cherry’ still has its moments, and I did fall in love with Alison Goldfrapp one night in Hammersmith. So did Jez.

2004: Kasabian – Kasabian. The most swaggery bunch since Oasis, and just as exciting as Oasis when they kicked off. Coming from uber-sh*thole Leicester and still being good gains extra points. LSF, Cutt Off, Cluc Foot and Processed Beats would make it a good album even if only a couple of these songs were on there.

2005: Picaresque – The Decemberists. Must have been a pretty weak year. I like the Decemberists, and I don’t care if the singer has an irritating voice, and they’re not as cool as other such alt-country fellows, according to muso yank Ryan.

2006: Whatever people say I am… – Arctic Monkeys. Obviously. They were very exciting indeed, and if only for ‘still take you home’, the anthem of 2007’s Ireland holiday, they deserve the vote.

2007: Cross – Justice. Not sure if I’m too old for this, but ever since phantom no.2 was used on channel 5’s awful football Italia, they’ve had a hold over me. French music is cool these days. Who knew?

2008: The Age of the Understatement – The Last Shadow Puppets. The Arctic Monkey’s chap’s other band, and definitely more of a grower, even if it’s not so catchy. Sounds a bit like the AMs meets Bowie, which can never be a bad thing.

2009: West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum – Kasabian. Kasabian’s second album wasn’t much cop, and they seemed to be a real one album wonder (at least in my eyes). I can’t describe the sadness with which I watched ‘shoot the runner’ on the Friday Night Project, thinking how incredibly awful it was. WRPLA is even better than the debut album, and even though Noel Fielding was in the Vlad the Impaler video, it’s still a great album.

2010: One Life Stand – Hot Chip. Only for ‘I feel better’ really, and I probably haven’t even listened to the whole album more than once, but 2010’s not even over, and I’ve had enough of this list, and you have too. Probably.