10. Aidan John Moffat – I Can Hear Your Heart: This is a truly astonishing piece of music. It was simply shocking when it first dropped wasn’t it? How could it possibly be real? We all knew Arab Strap were miserable realists writing about what life is truly all about. But this was a step further than ever before, than imaginable. It broke down the musical barricades and created a spoken word piece set against a musical backdrop. Sounds shit right? Wrong. It’s simply mind blowing. It’s absolute genius. Yes it’s rude. Yes it’s shocking. No it will never get the publicity it deserves. Yes it deserves to be in the top 10 albums. When you’re talking about ground breaking records. About pushing the boundaries of what is popular music and what is really creative genius. Of challenging music, look no further than this brilliant piece of Scottish miserablism. It really is wonderful.
9. Midlake – The Trials Of Van Occupanther: Midlake were something of a random find for me. I never had, nor do I own, their earlier records. I had just read a review of this record and decided to take a punt on it. The weird title and cover art certainly drew me in. Thankfully I was not disappointed in my purchase. From the moment ‘Roscoe’ starts, this is quite clearly a great record. Lyrically it never fails to make me smile. It’s got a really floaty feeling to it. I wouldn’t say summery, cause it doesn’t feel like sunshine pop. It’s got an edge to it. It kind of drifts into Flaming Lips, Grandaddy territory for the most part. But it has something extra. It’s hard to pin point what it is exactly that I love about this album other than it just rocks. It really just rocks. Constantly on my stereo. Cannot wait for the new album in 2010.
8. Fionn Regan – The End Of History: I first saw Fionn Regan support Damien Rice at the Carling Academy. Actually, that’s not true, because of our guitarist Graeme, I missed him. But I bought his ‘Hotel Room EP’ and fell in love with it. It’s brilliant. But this album betters it. It really does. And it was not something that I had been expecting. Early promise on EPs often leads to disappointment when a debut album is released, but Fionn Regan delivers a debut of real quality. When you talk about lyrical quality there are few who match Mr Regan. When you talk about quality guitar playing there are few who match Mr Regan. And if he can deliver a follow up album of the same quality, which excitingly is imminent, then he will firmly establish himself as a true modern folk master for our times. I know he’s touted as the new Bob Dylan. I think we’ve all heard that far too often about a variety of artists. I genuinely think Fionn Regan may actually fit the bill. Time will tell.
7. Arcade Fire – Funeral: My mate gave me this album one time after hockey. He said he really wasn’t sure what to make of it. Wasn’t sure it was very good. I stuck it on and the opening track was absolutely mind blowing. It starts slow and then builds and gets more and more frantic until the climax. This album, and indeed this band, are very good at this. They create a great racket that sometimes sounds shambolic, sometimes sounds absolutely monsterous. It’s great. There’s a real Neil Young-esque sound to the vocal as well which I love. I hadn’t listened to it in a long time until I started putting this list together. I listened to it the other day at work and all these happy memories came flooding back. The fondest memory of all is the Kays nights out in Glasgow at the ABC dancing like madmen to Rebellion(Lies). Such good memories provided by such a good album and such a good band.
6. Sparklehorse – It’s A Wonderful Life: Wow, wow, wow. This album leaves me speechless at times. Moments like ‘Gold Day’ and the amazing ‘Eye Pennies’ featuring PJ Harvey are simply sublime. Getting Tom Waits to write a track, well, at least contribute to a track, is also something pretty impressive. I was massively dispappointed with Mark Linkous’ follow up to this record and I think the reason for this was that this album is just so good. I was lucky enough to see him live touring this record at King Tut’s and it was a special gig. It’s a special album, from a special artist, who I hope rediscovers his touch on his next outing. In the meantime I can content myself with listening to this record again and again and again. And I frequently do.
5. Sufjan Stevens – Come On Feel The Illinoise: Is this Sufjan Stevens best work? I’m not definite on this but what I do know is that it’s my favourite of his albums. It scares me slightly that his out takes album ‘the Avalanche’ taken from the Illionise sessions is also simply brilliant. The young man’s output is quite sensational. This record is over the top. It’s theatrical. It’s highly flamboyant. It’s brilliant. It makes me smile whenever I hear it. Is there any more to say about it? Mmmmmm……………….buy it. Buy it now!
4. The National – Boxer: I’m a late comer to the National, I must admit. This is the first record of theirs I owned. I subsequently went back to ‘Alligator’ and ‘Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers’ but it’s Boxer which I absolutely adore. I love the words. I love the music. I love the vocal. I love the off kilter drums of ‘Fake Empire’ and I love the sublime beauty of ‘Slow Show’. I love this bands ability to really rock out and show some true aggression but then to reign it all in within a few songs and provide some of the most beautiful moments on record by any band.
3. Radiohead – Kid A: Radiohead are one of my all time favourite bands. OK Computer is one of my all time favourite albums. When this dropped, everyone was confused. I think even some of the band were confused by the direction taken on this record. I admit, I was a little confused as well. But I was excited and fascinated and more than a little willing not to dismiss it as some sort of artistic breakdown. ‘Everything In It’s Right Place’ is just an amazing start to an album. ‘National Anthem’ is a pounding attack on the senses, no vocals, a total shock for a Radiohead tune. ‘Idioteque’ is just amazing. It’s an album which undeniably shocked and challenged Radiohead fans. It pushed the boundaries. It was almost a “Fuck You” to the music industry which demanded hits, hits, hits and an OK Computer mark II. This is not an OK Computer mark II. It couldn’t be further from that if it tried. Despite the doubters, this is just a brilliant album and behind OK Computer my favourite Radiohead record. I know I’ll never convince those who just don’t get it. But I don’t care. Magic.
2. Elbow – Asleep In The Back: Elbow are another of the biggest musical influences in my life. When ‘Asleep in the Back’ came out I was just blown away. I don’t know if there are many better songs than ‘Newborn’ or ‘Scattered Black & Whites’ kicking about. If I had to name a band who influenced my own songwriting most it would definitely be Elbow. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, The Seldom Seen Kid may have earned Elbow the Mercury Prize in 2008, but it is this album which defines them as a band. Will they ever better this record? I’m not sure they ever will. Not in my eyes. It would have to be one piece of brilliant songwriting, that’s for sure. So yeah, if you are getting into Elbow or looking for a starting point, do not start with the Seldom Seen Kid, start with this absolutely brilliant record. If there is a more wonderful voice than Guy Garvey’s out there I would be surprised. Man, I’m going to listen to this right now!
1. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: Where do I start with this record? Well, I first discovered Wilco whilst surfing for porn on Sky TV’s German channels. Fact. I know, I know! Anyways, I was flicking through the channels and all of a sudden there were Wilco on stage at some European Festival. There they were playing songs like ‘She’s A Jar’ and ‘Shot In The Arm’ and there I was absolutely captivated by the performance and, all of a sudden, porn became very unimportant that evening. The following week I went out and bought ‘Summerteeth’. I was not disappointed. Absolutely amazing. It instantly became one of my favourite records and a regular on my stereo. Nobody listened to me. I kept talking about them and nobody was listening. Wilwho? I got a bit fed up of it. And to make things worse, I had to wait a while for this record.
If you’ve ever seen ‘I Am Trying To Break Your Heart’ you’d understand why it took nearly 4 years for the emergence of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. If you’ve never seen that film by Sam Jones, buy it, enjoy it, do it now! Anyways, I bought this record and sat down in my parents music room to listen. I remember it so well. I was stunned. Shocked. Perhaps a little bit disappointed? I think so. Where had the Wilco of Summerteeth gone? They’d been absolutely destroyed. Torn apart. Thrown away. Reshaped. Reconstructed almost. If there is a moment in my musical life that defines where I wanted to go with music. How I wanted the Kays to sound. A piece of music that shaped everything for me. This is it. This is the record. This is the moment. Nothing will ever compare to this record. It’s a wonderful piece of songwriting. It’s a pefectly pieced together record. It has a strong start, a strong middle and a strong end and the rest is brilliant too. It’s perfectly formed and delivered and I cannot imagine another band coming along an topping this. For me it is the definitive moment in my musical life. Not only my record of the decade, but the best record I’ve ever heard. I LOVE it. I’ve waited a long time to write about it too! Can you tell?! I reckon I could write a proper essay on the importance of this record to me. hahaha. Anyways, I hope you check it out if you’ve never heard Wilco. Enjoy.
And here’s one of my favourite tracks from the album as taken from the film ‘I Am Trying To Break Your Heart’.