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

Everyone’s a fan of lists. Channel 5 in particular. List shows seem to have spawned from programmes such as ‘I love 1973’, and the public’s love of nostalgia in general. They started with the ten best films, or albums, which seemed fair enough. Suddenly ten wasn’t enough, and we moved into the top 100 best…, and the categories became rather more desperate too. I’m pretty sure I’ve spent a Sunday night watching the countdown of the ‘Top 100 love scenes in family movies from the 1980s starring Molly Ringwald’. Whereas the original list shows meant that some pretty big decisions needed to be made, nowadays it’s more tricky just finding enough examples to cram into the list. What’s left to do? ‘Top seven days of the week’? ‘Top 100 colours’? I, for one, am on the edge of my seat.

This all acts as an introduction to this particular entry, which is a list about albums. Ten year’s worth of albums in fact. Starting in 1991, purely for the fact that it’s a palindrome, and for someone as ‘curious incident-y’ as me, that’s where you need to start.

In a bid to remove all controversy, these aren’t necessarily those albums that I think are the best of that year, simply the ones I reckon I’ve listened to most often. They’re probably the albums that I liked most in each particular year, though I seem to remember that as an angsty 15 year old, music was one of the main ways that you fitted in, and if you carried round a vinyl copy of ‘blood sugar sex magik’ in an Andy’s records bag, a reasonable amount of cool would be heaped upon you even before you opened your zit-encrusted mouth in front of a moderately attractive girl.

1991 – Nirvana, Nevermind
1992 – Tie: Pavement, Slanted and Enchanted and Sonic Youth, Dirty
1993 – Suede, Suede
1994 – Portishead, Dummy
1995 – Oasis, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (of course)
1996 – Cake, Fashion Nugget
1997 – Tie: Prodigy, The Fat of the Land and Ben Folds Five, Whatever and Ever Amen
1998 – Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane over the Sea
1999 – Moby, Play (and may I be forever damned for this, especially given the number of times I played porcelein)
2000 – The Avalanches, Since I Left You

What a very depressing list. I wasn’t aware that I’d spent my time from the age of 15 to 24 desperately trying to fit in with the crowd, though my listening tastes would suggest differently. 1998 represents a high point, with 1999 the nadir.

When I’ve recovered from my despond, I shall compile a 2001-2010 list, which will hopefully be less predictable and formulaic.