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Old 10-18-2011, 05:50 PM   #41 (permalink)
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Absolutely love that Drop Nineteens album. I've only gotten into it in the past month, it kinda passed me by beforehand and I've no idea why. Great list thus far!
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Old 10-24-2011, 02:24 PM   #42 (permalink)
 
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Felt - Forever Breathes The Lonely Word (1986)



Along with The Smiths, Orange Juice and a few select others Felt were one of the pioneers of British indie music throughout the 80’s and were also one of the biggest influences on indie pop and dream pop bands that followed. The album is characterised a lot by jangly, chiming guitars reminiscent of early Byrds, the bright sound of the Rickenbacker guitar is pretty much unmistakable here. But the excellent use of organ is what makes this album stand out, both the guitars and the organ complement each other remarkably well and interweave with each other to create a bright and colourful sound. The album as a whole has a very lively and upbeat feel to it, especially on songs such as the carefree opener ‘Rain Of Crystal Spires’ and the super catchy ‘Grey Streets’. But the album also has a small underlying sense of melancholy in places as well, especially on ‘September Lady’ and the beautiful ‘All The People I Like Are Those That Are Dead’, the latter being the most downbeat on the album as probably indicated by the title. Vocalist Lawrence Hayward’s distinctive yet somewhat limited voice seems to be at odds with the music itself but in a good way similar to Tom Verlaine of Television. His lyrics are also quite excellent and give their music a very smart and intellectual feel.

Another thing I really like is the warm and inviting album cover, it’s the type of album cover that actually makes you want to listen to this album. The cover itself is in fact a photo of their keyboard player Martin Duffy. Belle and Sebastian owe a lot to this band and Stuart Murdoch has indeed cited them as a major influence. In an ideal world this is what pop music should sound like and what a wonderful world that would be.

Recommended Songs: ‘September Lady’, ‘Grey Streets’, ‘All The People I Like Are Those That Are Dead’


The Field Mice - Snowball + Singles (2005)



Snowball + Singles is basically their 1989 debut mini-album Snowball repackaged and reissued with their early singles circa 1988-1989. The Field Mice played a great role in updating the indie pop sound for the 90’s, giving it a softer and more intimate feel that the music didn’t quite have around the C86 era and even adding electronic elements to their gloriously washed-out sound. The first eight tracks here make up the Snowball mini-album and although it is not a concept album all the songs seem to focus on love and the heartbreak and introspection of love gone wrong, as summed up nicely in the opener ‘Let’s Kiss and Make Up’ (covered by Saint Etienne not long after) and the beautifully downbeat ‘End Of The Affair’. Snowball itself unfolds remarkably over the course of its eight tracks right up to the slow-building epic finale of ‘Letting Go’, charting the highs and lows of a relationship. Things get even more interesting with the additional singles, which seem to slightly overshadow Snowball itself. The excellent ‘Sensitive’ is probably the highlight of this entire collection for me with its somewhat shoegazey feel and breath-taking climax while ‘When Morning Comes To Town’, ‘Emma’s House’ and ‘Fabulous Friend’ show that the band are capable of writing brilliantly memorable pop-infused songs.

Snowball + Singles manages to stay on the right side of twee and these songs, along with the rest of their material, have had a lasting effect on indie music. Their influence can be heard through bands such as Belle and Sebastian (surprise, surprise), The Radio Dept., The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, The Depreciation Guild and many others. Snowball + Singles, along with the rest of their short discography, make for an ideal soundtrack for lovesick twenty-somethings but is well worth anyone’s time and attention and deserving of a place in your music collection.

Recommended Songs: ‘Let’s Kiss and Make Up’, ‘Sensitive’, ‘Emma’s House’
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Old 10-29-2011, 02:23 PM   #43 (permalink)
 
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The Flaming Lips - Transmissions From The Satellite Heart (1993)



The Flaming Lips have a discography that the vast majority of bands could only dream of having. While their albums from 1999’s magnificent The Soft Bulletin up to their more recent 2009 album Embryonic feature slicker production and more experimental moments, their earlier albums before that were leaner, meaner and just that little bit more enjoyable to me. Transmissions From The Satellite Heart, the band’s sixth album and second for Warners, still had a more guitar-driven alternative rock sound but had the memorable and accessible tunes would become associated with the band from The Soft Bulletin onwards. Opener ‘Turn It On’ captures the mood of this album perfectly, a positive and uplifting record that manages to be both accessible and in tune with the underground at the same time. ‘Pilot Can At The Queer Of God’ and ‘Superhumans’ in particular show a hook-filled side to the band and also show the commercial potential that band had at the time. There are still plenty of experimental moments scattered throughout the album that the band retained from their psychedelic past, such as the tripped-out slacker vibes of ‘Oh, My Pregnant Head’ and ‘Slow Nerve Action’.

If you were to ask me which is my favourite Flaming Lips album it would be a tough choice between this and 1995’s Clouds Taste Metallic. Both of these albums represent my favourite Flaming Lips era and both feature a great combination of crunching guitars, memorable uplifting songs and some spaced-out moments. But Transmissions From The Satellite Heart just wins by a whisker due to more enjoyable songs and a slightly shorter running time. Both of these albums however are true 90’s alternative rock classics worth hearing.

Recommended Songs: ‘Turn It On’, ‘Pilot Can At The Queer Of God’, ‘Superhumans’


Flying Saucer Attack - Flying Saucer Attack (1993)



This is the debut album from these enigmatic Bristol feedback-mongers. Their self-titled debut, along with their early albums, is a relatively lo-fi affair recorded on home recording equipment. Their sound here on this album features sheets of fuzzy guitar noise reminiscent of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s early material along with melodic, submerged vocals and bears a strong resemblance to a lot of the shoegaze that was around at the time. Songs such as ‘My Dreaming Hill’ and ‘A Silent Tide’ are shrouded in layers of thick fuzzy guitar that overpower the listener and allow him or her to pick their way through it and find the melodies for themselves. It’s certainly not all noise and feedback though, the band have some really peaceful yet completely out-there moments such as the ambient, repetitive and possibly improvised drones of ‘Moonset’, ‘Popol Vuh 2’, ‘Popol Vuh 1’ (yes both tributes to a certain German krautrock band of the same name). These three tracks would make the perfect music for staring out into the night sky in a complete world of your own, drugs optional of course. The most unusual and surprising moment on this album however is the cover of Suede’s ‘The Drowners’. The song doesn’t differ too much from the original apart from being more lo-fi and cloaked in sheets of fuzzy guitar but the band almost make it their own and it did a lot to attract some media attention at the time.

The quiet and delay-heavy closing track ‘The Season Is Ours’ offers an indication of what was to come on 1995’s more ambient follow-up Further, an album which features less of the noisy guitars and more emphasis on atmospheric and otherworldly textures. Flying Saucer Attack however represents a better entry point to this remarkable band, a band that offers many great rewards for those who have the patience to listen to them.

Recommended Songs: ‘My Dreaming Hill’, ‘A Silent Tide’, ‘Popol Vuh 1’
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Old 10-30-2011, 10:46 AM   #44 (permalink)
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^^ Top choices, wish I had been able to see Flying Saucer Attack in their heyday. I love every one of their records -- Further is probably my favourite but my god they're all amazing.

On another note, I had no idea that The Drowners was a Suede cover (never listened to Suede) -- that is indeed surprising!
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Old 10-30-2011, 11:11 AM   #45 (permalink)
 
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Yeah Further is a really amazing album. I didn't realise it was a Suede cover either until I started listening to Suede not so long ago. It is a pretty cool cover though.
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Old 10-30-2011, 03:19 PM   #46 (permalink)
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I'm gonna check the original out once I'm home from work. The FSA version is a cracking song though, regardless of what the original's like!
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Old 11-01-2011, 04:11 AM   #47 (permalink)
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great list!!
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Old 11-06-2011, 08:51 AM   #48 (permalink)
 
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Galaxie 500 - This Is Our Music (1990)



Galaxie 500 are more widely known for their stunning 1989 album On Fire, which is indeed one of my all-time favourite albums. Following up On Fire however was going to be no easy task but they did an excellent job in crafting an album well capable of standing up to it. This Is Our Music does however seem to stand in the shadow of On Fire and is seen by many as inferior, but it doesn’t deserve to be seen that way. I see it as the last instalment in the great indie rock trilogy that was Galaxie 500’s three studio albums. Being the band’s final album there is that bittersweet feeling when you’re listening to it of something great coming to an end. This seems to show through on the fragile and melancholic songs ‘Spook’ and ‘Sorry’, both great insights into frontman Dean Wareham’s soul. ‘Sorry’ even seems to have a glimmer of hope to it where the dark clouds of the song give way to a wonderful and uplifting instrumental break. Where the album really comes alive however is on the unforgettable opening song ‘Fourth of July’ and their incredible interpretation of Yoko Ono’s ‘Listen, The Snow Is Falling’, the latter where Naomi Yang’s thin yet haunting vocals give way to Dean Wareham’s astonishing lead guitar break and show what incredible places their music can take you to.

This Is Our Music benefits from slightly better production than their previous two albums and gives their sound that little bit more clarity, but really it’s the great music on offer here that makes it stand up well against On Fire. Galaxie 500 burned fast but bright and they left three studio albums behind that are each amazing in their own way. A perfect legacy left behind by one of the greatest and most unique indie rock bands. This was their music.

Recommended Songs: ‘Fourth of July’, ‘Listen, The Snow Is Falling’, ‘Sorry’


The God Machine - Scenes From The Second Storey (1993)



The God Machine occupied the heavier end of the alternative rock spectrum, perhaps even touching on alternative metal. They were a band ahead of their time and perhaps if they had come along ten years later or so they could have reaped the rewards of their forward-thinking music. Their two studio albums, this and their final album One Last Laugh In a Place Of Dying, are both sprawling albums that take you on a dark and sometimes uncomfortable journey with many twists and turns and feature a well of depth. Scenes From The Second Storey seems to invoke the feeling of some sort of post-war apocalypse at times, perhaps predicting the final outcome of war in the Middle East. The use of Middle-Eastern-tinged samples on ‘Home’ and the paranoid samples on ‘The Desert Song’ combined with the overall feeling of doom seem to invoke this feeling, but that’s just my interpretation. Songs here range from pounding yet progressive alternative rock (‘Dream Machine’, ‘She Said’), to industrial-tinged experimental tracks (‘The Desert Song’, Temptation’), to quiet and deeply introspective pieces (‘It’s All Over’, ‘The Piano Song’), all tied together by an end-of-world feeling, the bands’ ambitious vision and frontman Robin Proper-Sheppard’s dark and cryptic lyrics. The album is perhaps overlong but its sprawling one-hour eighteen-minute length doesn’t prevent this album from being an immensely enjoyable listen.

The death of bassist Jimmy Fernandez from a brain tumour put a tragic and premature end to the band’s career, if they had gone on who knows what they could have achieved, they could have given Tool or The Smashing Pumpkins some serious competition. I could have easily included 1994's One Last Laugh In a Place of Dying instead of this as they are almost equally as good, but by listening to both these albums you get the sense that these guys were on to something. A real forgotten gem from a sadly forgotten band.

Recommended Songs: ‘Home’, ‘It’s All Over’, ‘The Piano Song’
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Old 11-13-2011, 02:59 PM   #49 (permalink)
 
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Green River - Dry As A Bone/Rehab Doll (1990)



If you were to trace the evolution of the alternative rock scene that sprang out of Seattle in the late 80’s and early 90’s, or grunge as some people like to call it, Green River would be one of the key bands in the evolution of that sound. But don’t worry Green River don’t sound anything like some of the more commercial bands that became associated with the ‘grunge’ tag as the 90’s wore on, their sound was a good bit closer to punk and had all the raw production and snotty vocals associated with it. But what set Green River apart from being just another punk band was that a lot of their songs were slower, darker and displayed Black Sabbath and classic rock influences. This album is a compilation of their Dry as a Bone E.P. (1987), the band’s only studio album Rehab Doll (1988) as well as a couple of b-sides and unreleased songs. This collection contains some great Sabbath-influenced songs such as ‘P.C.C.’ which could have slotted seamlessly into Nirvana’s debut album Bleach or Mudhoney’s early releases. This song clearly displays the formation of a sound that the city would become associated with and what other bands would later become more famous for. You also have the moody punk meets classic rock sounds of ‘Baby Takes’ and the menacing ‘Rehab Doll’ which go completely against the grain of popular 80’s music. There is plenty of punk rock energy on offer as well such as the snotty ‘Ain’t Nothing To Do’ and ‘Ozzie’ which give a clear indication of where the band’s roots lie and where their sound evolved from.

Dry as a Bone/Rehab Doll is a messy and often tuneless affair but that’s all part of its enjoyment. Band members Mark Arm and Steve Turner went on to do better things with Mudhoney, while Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard went on to form Mother Love Bone before hitting the big time with Pearl Jam. But Green River remain one of the essential bands to listen to if you are looking for more to Seattle than just Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

Recommended Songs: ‘P.C.C.’, ‘Baby Takes’, ‘Rehab Doll’


Guided By Voices - Bee Thousand (1994)



While a lot of 90’s indie rock bands dabbled with lo-fi production values, some sounding uninspiring such as Neutral Milk Hotel, Guided By Voices were a cut above the rest. What set them apart was that they basically had great memorable songs that effortlessly shone through their murky production, plain and simple. Bee Thousand stands up as probably the greatest lo-fi indie album of the 90’s and it was all due to the quality of the songwriting on offer here. While some of the songs on this twenty-track album sound like rough home demos, and that’s basically what they are, you also have bona-fide indie rock classics such as ‘Buzzards and Dreadful Crows‘, ‘Tractor Rape Chain’ and ‘Gold Star For Robot Boy’ which contain effortless pop hooks that will lodge themselves quite deeply in your brain. Mainman Robert Pollard also sounds just at home with only an acoustic guitar on ‘Yours To Keep’ and ‘Awful Bliss’ and demonstrates the wide range that his songwriting has. With such a large number of great songs on this album it’s very difficult to pick favourites but ‘I am a Scientist’ just seems to float above the rest. Effortless melody and wonderfully inventive and gifted songwriting combine perfectly to create the ultimate lo-fi indie rock song.

One might feel that a lot of the songs here would benefit greatly from better quality production but it’s difficult to know what the final results will be and I can’t really imagine the songs sounding any other way. You could argue that capturing the songs in their raw form captures the true emotions of the songs and that could very well be the case here. Regardless of whatever production quality what they did record was one of the landmark indie rock albums of the 90’s that still sounds brilliant to this day.

Recommended Songs: ‘Tractor Rape Chain’, ‘Gold Star For Robot Boy’, ‘I am a Scientist’
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Old 11-16-2011, 03:29 PM   #50 (permalink)
 
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Hüsker Dü - New Day Rising (1985)



Following up the magnificent Zen Arcade was going to be no easy task but Hüsker Dü pretty much equalled it with this masterpiece. New Day Rising saw the band more towards a more melodic and song-based sound but still retained a lot of the distortion and emotional intensity that was evident in abundance on Zen Arcade. Songs like ‘Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill’ and ‘Celebrated Summer’ are very much classic Hüsker Dü songs and their place on this album help make this the shape of alternative rock to come. It was very much evident that the band were straying further and further away from their hardcore-punk roots and helping to define the sound of alternative rock that would have such a huge impact on the musical landscape at the end of the 80’s and well into the 90’s. The band also dip their toes into avant-garde territory with the repetition and mumbled, rambling vocals of ‘Perfect Example’ and of course the bizarre ‘How To Skin a Cat’. There is still some evidence of the band’s punk past with the angry, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it charge of ‘Whatcha Drinkin’’ and the angry noise of the final song ‘Plans I Make’.

Bob Mould’s fuzz-drenched guitar tone is also worth noting and really adds to the enjoyment of what is probably the best-produced Hüsker Dü album. With New Day Rising the band managed to control their passionate intensity and channel it into deeply melodic songs that made the band’s emotions seem more convincing and relevant. As one of the best albums of the mid-80’s and one of the albums that shaped alternative rock this is essential listening.

Recommended Songs: ‘Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill’, ‘Celebrated Summer’, ‘How To Skin a Cat’



Idlewild - The Remote Part (2002)



With their second full-length album 100 Broken Windows the band shrugged off their punk past and set themselves up as one of the most promising alternative rock bands in the UK at the time. That promise was realised on the follow-up album The Remote Part which earned this Scottish band quite a lot of critical and commercial acclaim. The Remote Part further built on the quiet-loud dynamics of its predecessor and introduced more depth and a greater songwriting scope than before while also showing what a great lyricist frontman Roddy Woomble is. ‘American English’ is a good demonstration of the beautiful, sweeping melodic rock that this band can do and this song contrasts quite well with the noisy and anthemic rock of ‘Modern Way Of Letting Go’ and ‘Stay The Same’. The final song on the album, ‘In Remote Part/Scottish Fiction’, is a very ambitious attempt but the band somehow pull it off. Featuring a spoken-word recital by Scottish poet Edwin Morgan the result is a very widescreen song that sends shivers down your spine and makes for a great ending to the album. The album was recorded in the Scottish Highlands which seems to add a feeling of remote, rural beauty to their sound and ties in perfectly with the album title.

By the time of 2005’s Warnings/Promises the media’s attention had been shifted over onto the new wave of British bands that had emerged such as The Libertines, Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys, leaving Idlewild to fade into the background yet still release some solid albums. By listening to The Remote Part and indeed its predecessor 100 Broken Windows you get a great glimpse of a band that could have been a lot bigger had the timing been right.

Recommended Songs: ‘Modern Way Of Letting Go’, ‘American English’, ‘In Remote Part/Scottish Fiction’
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