Monday, 13 December 2004

Top 10 Years For Album Releases - #4

And so the countdown continues...I'm not sure how many people are actually reading this blog, but if you are out there reading this and I don't know you, please drop me a line. I know I am opening myself up to a world of spiced ham by linking to my email address on a webpage. That's why I gave my Hotmail address...the abused email address. Anyway, the reason why I ask you to email me is because without a counter or statistics on my page (which I should probably put in), I have no idea who is reading it. It would be good to know that I am reaching a wider audience, but why would anyone go to my blog? Just a humble blog discussing music and other meaningless crap. I need to entice more people in. Maybe I'll start spamming a wider audience about it?

Anyway on to the fourth best year for album releases...

#4: 2001

I'm sure that future generations will look back on this year as a very important year. The 911 attacks on the United States cast a shadow over the entire year, of course. 2002 saw the obligatory "musical responses" to this tragedy. But associating 2001 with the September 11 attacks is wrong, because there were at least 8 months of the year that had gone by before they even happened. So we can't pretend that world felt that way the the whole year, when it was really only after September 11 when fear really started to set in.

Just like many baby boomers know where they were when they found out Kennedy was assassinated, I still remember where I was when I found out about the September 11 attacks. I had actually gone out to a pub in Hawthorn with a few friends, and I came home close to 11:00pm. I remember my parents were watching TV in their room and I went in to say hi to them, and there was an image of the burning WTC tower on the news. I can't remember if it was the first or second plane, but I remember going to bed without really thinking about it much more. It was only when I woke up in the morning that it really hit me what had happened. It was obviously all over the news, people at work were discussing it...very scary times indeed. A few years later, obviously things have calmed down a bit, but the world definitely feels like it's changed.

Anyway, I didn't mean to bring the mood of this blog down, but it was an important world incident that needed to be mentioned. Now on to happier topics -- like the music from 2001! Here's a little bit of trivia that nobody except for me would be interested in -- 2001 is the year that I have the most CDs from. At the time of writing, 35 of my CDs are from the year 2001. So this may be a long post :-) But does having 35 CDs from that year make it the best year for music? Obviously not. What a stupid question. It's #4. You see, quality is more important that quantity.

And of course there were many quality releases in 2001. Let's start with the creme of the crop:

  • Art Of Fighting released their brilliant debut album Wires. Now if you haven't heard of these guys, and you like beautifully written mellow indie folk music, then I highly recommend this album. But don't see them live! For me, they don't work in a live setting. Their music is best heard in a relaxed mood, lying down and letting the beauty of the music envelope your soul (Doesn't that sound like a wank? Yeah it does). Anyway, it's one of the best albums of 2001.
  • Bob Dylan released his most joyous and upbeat album since The Basement Tapes in 1975 -- Love and theft. This guy released his first album in 1962, and he's still going strong. Sure he's had his ups and downs, but you gotta respect a guy who is still keepin' it real after 40 years.
  • The Soundtrack of our Lives released their excellent album Behind the music. This Swedish 7 piece band are relatively unknown downunder, and many can argue that their music is derivative (they is definitely a huge Pink Floyd influence here) -- but there are some amazing tunes on this album. My favourites are Nevermore and Sister surround.
  • Ben Folds released his brilliant solo album Rockin' the suburbs. If the only song you've heard from this is the title track, and you don't like it, don't let that track put you off this album. In my opinion this is better than anything Ben Folds Five released. A superb collection of piano-driven indie pop tracks. And I even quite enjoy the title track now -- there's nothing like taking the piss out of bands like Limp Bizkit.
  • Machine Translations released their breakthrough album Bad shapes. Pete gave me this for my birthday. Initially I'll admit that it didn't do a lot for me, but over time it has grown on me a heap. Many beautiful tracks on this album, and every time you listen to it a new track stands out. They would continue to evolve on their next 2 albums Happy and Venus traps fly.
  • Muse released their best album Origin of symmetry. Yes, they are pretentious. Yes, the lead singer has an incredibly whiny voice. This is an excellent album and a huge improvement over their patchy debut Showbiz. Their newest album Absolution doesn't hit the heights of this album either. Give a listen to Micro-cuts, a crazy song and one of my favourites.
  • Ed Harcourt released his debut Here be monsters. His first album, and the only one of his 3 which is not copy-controlled. It's a great album, similar in style to the late Jeff Buckley but not a complete ripoff. Ed sounds so much like Glenn Richards (the lead singer of Augie March) at the end of Wind through the trees that it's spooky! My personal favourite on this album is God protect your soul.
  • Rock dinosaurs REM released Reveal to mixed reviews. Q magazine gave it 5 stars (!). Many other critics raved about it. Many panned it. Many old-skool REM fans disowned the band at this stage. Personally, while I prefer early REM, I quite enjoy this album. It's easily the most "beautiful" album they released. Just remember that they changed significantly after drummer Bill Berry left -- this was REM Mach II. Still a worthwhile band -- just a different one.
  • Super Furry Animals released the excellent Rings around the world. SFA never disappoint and this album is no exception. They couldn't write an uninteresting song if they tried. And I believe this was the first album ever to be released simultaneously on DVD in Dolby 5.1 -- together will filmclips. Which makes it quite a milestone.
  • Something For Kate released their best album Echolalia. Previous album Beautiful sharks was a giant leap from their debut Elsewhere for 8 minutes. This was another leap, albeit not as big as the last one. The production quality improved a lot on this album -- if there was going to be any album to make them huge this would have been it. Of course it didn't. But do they want to be huge? Probably not.
  • Neil Finn released his excellent sophomore solo album One nil. While I don't seem to love this album as much as some of the readers of this blog, I'll have to admit it's an excellent album. It's just not something I find myself spinning that often. Or playing for that matter. But I'm sure the sheer volume of CDs that I own has something to do with that.
  • You Am I released their 5th album Dress me slowly. This is a unique You Am I album in that it is the only one which Brett likes! For anyone who knows Brett well, this is an amazing achievement by Tim and the boys, because Brett isn't the biggest fan of Tim Rogers. Anyway, it's a very solid album with lots of great tunes -- but it still doesn't quite reach the peaks of their masterpiece Hourly, daily in my opinion.
And of course 2001 was also the year where the overhyped bands starting coming out in droves. I don't mean coming out in a Freddie Mercury way either.
  • White Stripes released their 3rd (and breakthrough) album White blood cells. Many consider Elephant to be their best album. In my opinion White blood cells shits all over it. Sure, the style of music is very similar (in fact Elephant is probably more developed) -- but White blood cells has the better tunes. Hotel yorba, Fell in love with a girl, lots of superb tracks on this album. I do enjoy this album, but I still think they are incredibly overrated.
  • The Strokes released their incredibly hyped debut album Is this it?. The press almost killed this band by overhype, but this is all in all a fantastic debut album. Sure, there's nothing particularly innovative here. But this is simply a fun album, nothing more, nothing less. There's an amazing array of tunes here - the classic anthem Last nite, the complex (by Strokes' standards anyway ;-) Hard to explain and the powerful New York City Cops, which was cut from the US release of the album after the 9/11 attacks in the US.
There were several albums released by established bands in 2001 which the critics (and many fans) panned:
  • Manic Street Preachers released their sprawling 6th album Know your enemy. To this date I still don't know why this album was received so badly. I agree that a few songs could have been trimmed from this album (I could easily do without the Spinal Tap-esque Intravenous agnostic and the grating Wattsville blues sung by Nicky Wire) but there's an amazing array of great, heartfelt tunes on this album. Ocean spray is a beautiful song written by James Dean Bradfield for his dying mother. So why so sad is a Phil Spector wall of sound that would make Brian Wilson proud. Epicentre is an epic piano-driven ballad. There are many more great songs on this album.
  • Air released their "difficult 2nd album" 10,000 Hz legend. Their debut album Moon safari had set the benchmark for chillout music. Rather than releasing Moon Safari Part II, this French duo released a much more experimental follow-up. While the single How does it make you feel really resembled their debut, elsewhere they toyed with everything from cheesy pop (Radio #1) to heavier techno tracks (Don't be light). Personally I don't mind this album, but I agree it isn't anywhere near as good as their debut.
Some other notable releases from 2001:
  • Perth band Eskimo Joe released their debut album Girl. Claiming to boast "12 songs about girls", this is an enjoyable indie-pop album. There are many great songs on this album -- my personal favourite is Planet earth.
  • British veterans Pulp released their 7th album We love life. This album was originally destined to be their self-titled one until the 9/11 attacks, after which it was quickly renamed. It's a solid album which finds a happy medium between the Britpop of Different class and the darkness of This is hardcore. Jarvis Cocker is as sleazy as always.
  • The Shins released their debut album Oh, inverted world. Many prefer this album over its successor Chutes too narrow but not me. There's much more of a late 60's vibe on this album, with a lot of reverb and sound effects in contrast to the directless of Chutes. Unfortunately this detracts from the power of a lot of the songs for me.
  • Zero 7 released their debut album Simple things. Mark and Matt (regular readers of this blog) are big fans of this album. Like most of my other chillout albums (Moon safari, Lost horizons) I enjoy it when I listen to it, but don't get the urge to listen to it a lot. There's something about chillout music that I still find incredibly redundant -- it's easy listening but my attitude is, why have 4 chillout albums when 1 will do the job? Controversial, but that's how I feel.
  • Bjork released her 4th album Vespertine. This is probably her most beautiful sounding album, moving away from the dance beats of Debut, the industrial sound of Post and the techno aspects of Homogenic. I still haven't fully gotten into any Bjork album -- they are slow burners but they grow on me each time I listen to them.
  • Britpop veterans The Charlatans released their "soul" album Wonderland. While not one of my all-time favourites, you have to respect a band who tries something different. Better than releasing the same album over and over again. And there are many great cuts on this album, including Judas and And if I fall.
  • Aussie legend Paul Kelly released ...Nothing but a dream. Together with Eskimo Joe's Girl, this was another album I got for free for filling out the EMI music survey. It feels so good to know I got heaps of freebies from EMI prior to them destroying the CD format with the copy control disc.
Wow, I told you I have a lot of albums from 2001 in my collection. Now to some of the more obscure albums from 2001:
  • I am Kloot (who????) released their debut album Natural history. The lead singer from this band kinda sounds like Tim Freedman from The Whitlams. The music was part of the "new acoustic" movement, coming out around the same time as the debut album by Kings of Convenience from Norway. While I can't remember the last time I listened to this album, it is a decent if forgettable effort. But I picked it up for $5.99 so can't really complain :-)
  • Life without buildings released their debut (and only) album Any other city. They guys are pretty unique -- it's pretty intense music with a young cockney woman almost rapping over the top of it. Apparently she's a bit of a hottie as well. It's a decent album but nothing groundbreaking.
  • Ex-Pavement lead singer Stephen Malkmus released his eponymous solo debut. Quite a quirky album with lots of great songs, but falls quite short of being brilliant. Still, this was another bargain at $5.99.
  • Guided By Voices released their critically acclaimed Isolation drills. Even though I've only gotten into GBV recently, I much prefer their earlier lo-fi albums over their polished studio efforts like this one. Still, this album has more than its fair share of great tracks -- but they are simple indie power-pop songs while their early stuff had a lot more quirky charm.
  • Ben Harper released his double live album Live from Mars. This double album contains a lot of his hits but it more notable for the brilliant cover versions including Sexual healing, Whole lotta love and The drugs don't work.
And finally, the disappointments for me in 2001:
  • Travis released their follow-up to the brilliant The man who with The invisible band. There is nothing really wrong with this album other than the fact that they didn't evolve from their previous album and they didn't push themselves out of their comfort zone. Oh yeah, and the quality of the songwriting did drop a little from the previous album. So I guess there are things wrong with this album.
  • Radiohead released Amnesiac. Many fans love this album. There are some wonderful tracks on this album -- Pyramid song, You and whose army, I might be wrong and the brilliant Knives out rank up there with some of Radiohead's best songs. Then there are the songs like Pulk/pull revolving doors (mainly electronic blips without much melody), Morning bell/Amnesiac (a completely redundant slower version of Morning bell from Kid A), Dollars and cents (just not very interesting) and Hunting bears (a pointless instrumental) which just feel like offcuts from Kid A. Disappointing.
  • Ash released their 3rd album Free all angels to a set of brilliant reviews. Yes, there are some great songs on this album. Shining light, Burn baby burn and There's a star are all brilliant. But many of the songs just don't work -- I can sleep very well knowing I will never have to hear Nicole, World domination or Submission again.
  • Elbow released their debut Asleep in the back. While there are some exquisite songs on this album (Red, Powder blue) -- it loses a lot of momentum by the end of the album. Their second album Cast of thousands improved upon this one.
  • David Mead released his 2nd album Mine and yours. Many well-written songs let down by his voice which is way too polished. He needs to smoke and drink a bit to roughen it up a bit ;-)
  • Spiritualized released their 4th album Let it come down. This album has heaps of potential, and there are some superb tracks on this album -- but unfortunately it is let down by overproduction. I'm not sure why Jason Pierce felt the need to drench every single song in huge string arrangements. Sometimes less is more.
  • Semisonic released their album All about chemistry. I remember reading a review of this in Q magazine, and it was given 5 stars (!). I saw it at JB Hi Fi for $3.99 and decided it was worth the risk ;-) Very commercial album which does kinda tarnish the CD collection. Some decent songs, but generally not my cup of Dilmah. Can be found in bargain bins at most JB Hi-Fi stores now :-)
That's 2001 for you. Now you'll have to excuse me -- I'm tired and I need sleep!

The absolute peak of musical ecstasy

I see your eyes light up at the interesting title of this blog posting. Well allow me to elaborate.

It's pretty obvious that the level of enjoyment one experiences when listening to music depends on a wide variety of factors:

  • The music :-)
  • Your mood
  • Where you are when listening to it
  • State of mind (drunk, stoned, [insert state here])
  • Lots of other factors

Over my many years of musical appreciation (and obsession), I have discovered that one of the best places and times to listen to music is driving alone late at night, when I am in a happy mood (i.e. not thinking about work or anything else which may put me in a lesser mood). Some albums which normally sound average when listened to in other circumstances take on a whole new meaning when listened to under these conditions. There's something incredibly peaceful about listening to some brilliantly composed music when driving alone at night.

Why not driving during the day? Well it's definitely not as peaceful. There's more other cars to deal with on the roads. More stopping at traffic lights. Avoiding the brightness and glare of the sun. Why not driving with someone else in the car? Well a lot of my music is an acquired taste, and I love to listen to my music LOUD. And if there's someone in the car with me, it would be very rude if I cranked the music up loud and didn't talk to the person with me :-)

Anyway, some of my most memorable "peaks of musical ecstasy" have been while listening to great music while driving late at night. I remember listening to Stevie Wonder's Innervisions, driving down the Eastern Freeway on the way back to Lorin's from the city. I remember hearing the brilliant songs -- there was Jesus children of
America, All in love is fair, Don't you worry 'bout a thing, He's Misstra Know-It-All. All brilliant songs -- and all after each other. I knew from that listen, in the car, late at night, played loud -- that this was a brilliant album. Yet when I listen to it nowadays, while I still enjoy it immensely, I never reach the same peak of musical ecstasy.

Another time was driving to Lorin's house at night, listening to REM's Fables of the reconstruction. Green grow the rushes came on. Without the distraction of other people, without the distraction of other cars, without the distraction of ANYTHING really (ahem...except my concentration on driving), I started to notice things. I listened to Green grow the rushes, and was overtaken by its immense beauty. Right here, right now, in the car on the way to Lorin's -- Green grow the rushes suddenly became one of my favourite songs of all time. What beautiful jangly guitar! What a sensational vocal performance from Michael Stipe! What a melody! Then there was Kohoutek. Under any other circumstance this would probably be considered an ordinary song. But in the car, driving alone late at night -- this was another moment of exquisite musical beauty. What's this song Good advices? What's this crazy lyric about looking at a stranger's shoes when you greet them? In the immortal words of Tony Martin of the late show -- "What is [Michael Stipe] on about?". Who cares?

All these amazing songs were just waiting for me to discover them. They were waiting for that perfect opportunity for to come out and slap me ever-so-gently in the face and tell me "I am an amazing song! Listen to me! Discover me for my brilliance!". They were waiting for the late night drive alone.

Yet, as good as all of this is, if I was to go for another late night drive alone with either Innervisions or Fables of the reconstruction playing on the car stereo, they will never have the same effect on me again. Why? Well, in both of those moments of musical ecstasy, it was only my 3rd or 4th listen of the said album. And, here comes the next point of this blog posting. I'd like to argue that for most albums (note that I italicised most), the 3rd or 4th listen will undoubtedly by one of the most enjoyable listens of the album. For true grower albums, the first listen is a complete waste of time. My attitude is that if I really enjoy an album on the first listen, I'll get sick of it fairly quickly. Then there are the albums which take 10+ listens to really appreciate. A lot of albums by Tom Waits fit into this category as many of his later period albums are very surreal, avant-garde and difficult. But most albums take about 3-4 listens for the pieces to start to fit together. By the 5th or 6th listen, you can start to differentiate between tracks. But on the 3rd and 4th listen, there is still the element of surprise when a hidden gem can come out and bite you on the ass (in a good way) when you least expect it. And the spontaneity of these moments that is true musical ecstasy. So with the aforementioned albums, I may already be on my 20th-30th listen. The moment is unfortunately over for these albums. I'm out of the honeymoon period now. I'd never reach the same level of enjoyment for them again. Unless, of course, I shelve them for many years and pull them out again -- to emulate the feeling of my first love for them.

So next time you are about to give a new album its 3rd or 4th listen, go for a late night drive. Or alternatively, if you can foresee a late night drive, listen to an album that you have already listened to 2 or 3 times. I'd be interested to know about people's experiences with the late night driven phenomenon, so please reply if you have any stories. A final note -- Tom Waits' The heart of Saturday night is my definitive driving-late-at-night album. Even after many listens, this is how I try to listen to it. And it's even better when driving around on a Saturday night.

Saturday, 4 December 2004


Coolest new musical chunk o' software - Audioscrobbler!

So I bet you're asking "OK Matt, so what the hell is it?" Glad you asked! It's a system that monitors all the songs that you listen to.

[Then they send that list to the RIAA and perform a check to ensure that you've bought the music you're listening to. Yeah, that last sentence was baloney - but I hope it sent shivers up your spine because one day it'll happen...]

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, so it monitors the songs that you listen to and can recommend other songs that you may like based on what other people, who've listened to songs like yours, have listened to. It's like one big music-fan group hug.

Plugins are available for a whole swagger of applications (Winamp, WMP, iTunes, foobar2000 etc).

On top of recommending songs it displays the most popular artists (currently Radiohead - oh yeah! Masses with music taste!) and songs (U2's newie, Vertigo) and many other "charts" polled from what the entire community is listening to. Speaking of community, there's a number of features that allow you to mark users as friends, publish a list of recommendations, join a group of users and a whole swagger of other features designed to make you feel part of the Audioscrobbler movement.

Anyways, check it out it looks pretty cool.

Wednesday, 24 November 2004

Brett's Birthdays on Friday 13th

Many know that Brett's birthday is on 13th December. Those of us who know Brett well know he is also a bit obsessed with his horror movies, and Friday The 13th is one of his favourites.

The question is now posed -- how many of Brett's birthdays to date (and which ones) have fallen on a Friday 13th? I was (very) bored the other day so I figured it out.

I'd like Brett to answer this post, without cheating :-)

The rest of you can just reply with a standard insult: "get a life", "who cares", "go home to your Granny"...

Elvis Costello Gig - Palais - 23rd November 2004

The Elvis Costello gig I went to last night was absolutely awesome. Easily one of the best gigs I've ever been to. Amazing what sitting in the 3rd row does to the enjoyment of a gig.

I was actually sitting next to the guy who created The Elvis Costello website. Amazing who you get to meet when you are in the good seats. I was having a bit of a chat to him, chatting about his music etc. Apparently he had a plant in the audience recording a bootleg of the gig :-) Even got some earplugs off him (Lorin and I were getting our right ears blasted from being so close to the speakers). Yes...I know I'm soft! Well the earplugs were more for Lorin than for me, but I put one in one of my ears as well, made it more enjoyable.

I was very close to meeting Elvis afterwards as well, there was a meet & greet session and he walked right past me to get into the cordoned off area where you needed to have a VIP pass to get in :-( He seemed very down to earth, chatting with the people casually like they were his old mates. Well, maybe they were (probably record company folk). I'd actually bought a T-Shirt in anticipation of getting him to sign it, but unfortunately the security people asked us to leave when they realised we didn't have VIP passes :-(

I'm going to make it my mission to get great seats to any future gigs I go to, it makes such a difference. The first time I saw Elvis Costello was at the concert hall and it was ok, but this time it was SO much better.

He played 11/13 songs from his new album -- the only songs he didn't play were the last two The Judgement and The scarlet tide. The judgement is probably my favourite track from the album, so I was a bit annoyed he didn't play that. Kinda like the last gig where he didn't play Episode of blonde which was my favourite track from When I was cruel.

Of his older hits, he played these:

(I don't want to go to) Chelsea
Pump it up
Radio, radio
(What's so funny 'bout) peace love and understanding?
Oliver's army
Accidents will happen
I can't stand up for falling down
High fidelity
Good year for the roses
Everyday I write the book

Some of his lesser known earlier songs he played:

Blame it on cain
Waiting for the end of the world
No action
13 steps lead down
Hidden charms
Tear off your own head (It's a doll's revolution)

He also played a couple of rarities:

The monkey (B-Side, inspired Monkey to man from his new album)
Suspicious minds (the Elvis Presley song, he segued Pump it up into this)

I think that covers everything he played, can't think of any of the other songs. The guy who I was sitting next to wrote down the setlist and he'll be publishing it on his website.

What a legend...I'm still on a high from it!

Tuesday, 16 November 2004

An Open Letter To Super Parma

Here's a letter I wrote to the friendly folk at the Super Parma website.

Hey Super Parma Dudes,

My name is Jeremy Young and I am a long time lurker first time writer. I am just writing to describe some parma experiences that some friends and I have had.

Last night a few workmates and I were in Richmond attending a gig at the Corner Hotel. Before heading down to Richmond, we knew we had to grab a bite to eat, so we decided to do some research on the definitive parma encyclopedia of

We checked out the "Parma Specials" section of your website, and noted that the Richmond Club Hotel had a Monday night special of a $10.00 Pot 'n' Parma. Clicking on the link, we subsequently discovered that you had rated the Richmond Club Hotel parma an impressive 16/20, so all was looking good -- we would going to get a good bargain parma, a free pot, some great music. The night was looking up!

Imagine our disappointment when we arrived at the said hotel and discovered that the special of the night was a steak sandwich and pot for $10.00! We didn't have a laptop handy, so we couldn't check out We decided quickly that even though we weren't going to get the bargain we were hoping for, we would try the parma anyway -- after all, the standard price was only $13 which was pretty cheap anyway. Unfortunately the hotel was pretty packed and they said there would be a 50 minute wait for meals -- 50 minutes we didn't have. So we decided to take a raincheck and return at some other time (hopefully on a Tuesday night when the real special was on). I guess the fact that it was packed out is a pretty good sign. Anyway, please update your website and move the special for this hotel to Tuesday night -- we don't want to see other disappointed folk turning up on Monday night expecting a bargain basement parma.

Luckily, we had a contingency plan from the start, and we noted that another pub in Richmond had a Monday night pot 'n' parma special -- The Vaucluse. We did recall that you guys had only given this a 12.5/20, but we weren't in any position to find another place at this time, so we decided to settle for merely a "good" parma.

When we received our parmas, we noticed that the chicken "breast" was a perfect heart shape -- it was obvious that this was manufactured processed chicken. Of course, you can deep fry anything and it will taste good, but that's missing the point of what a chicken parma stands for -- a chicken parma should be made from a REAL chicken breast.

Which takes me to my next point. I notice that you have only allocated 3 points to "quality of meat" in your ratings. On the other hand, I notice you have allocated 5 points to the size of the parma, and 4 points to the quality of the SAUCE. Now this may be a very controversial comment, but don't you think that the quality of the meat is more important than the sauce and the size of the parma? I mean sauce is very integral to the whole parma experience, but it's not called a PARMA chicken, it's a CHICKEN parma. The chicken forms the root of the whole parma experience, and because of this, I think the chicken should be allocated more points than the sauce. And what's the point of having a HUGE parma if the quality of the chicken is poor? Anyway, just personal opinion. But I'd be interested to know your rationale in coming up with the weighting of the points when rating parmas.

Also, a few notes about the chicken parma at the Burvale in Forest Hill. It truly is a horrendous parma -- you have to try it. It is an insult to everything a parma stands for. I guess my unflattering comments aren't going to make you rush out to Forest Hill to try it, but as the experts in the domain of chicken parmas, it should be your duty to inform people of the parmas to avoid just as much as it is to inform people of the superb culinary experiences. Finally, another note about the special at the Burvale, the price has moved up to $6, and it's only a Friday LUNCHTIME special, not a Friday DINNER special. So please update your website to indicate this. Not that anyone should really be eating the Burvie parma at all (or anything from the Burvie mind you). That place needs to be avoided like the plague.

All in all, great website, and keep up the great work!


Music Is Not a Loaf of Bread

Wired interviewed Jeff Tweedy of Wilco fame about how the Internet is changing music distribution. Finally, a refreshingly intelligent opinion - from an actual artist - about how musicians and labels must figure out new ways to harness technology, rather than trying to dictate how music is to be distributed.

So take note big nasty music mega-corporations, the Internet is not evil and, if you were to embrace technologies like peer-to-peer file sharing, you might be surprised at the results...

Now, I think I might go listen to my (legally purchased) copy of A Ghost is Born on my iPod. (Though I will skip the over-indulgent extended guitar solos!)

Monday, 15 November 2004

1976 vs. 1977, Leap Years & More

1976 vs. 1977? Ahhh many a man have had this debate before, and it's certainly a toughie. I've pretty sure a certain young man with the initials BM will disagree with me here, but I'm going to go with 1977.

Granted, 1976 has its fair share of classics: Stevie Wonder "Songs in the key of life", Peter Tosh "Legalize it" (a great concept album on the pros and cons of jay-walking) and Billy Joel's underrated "Turnstiles". And who can forget the debut album Mental Notes from NZ art-rock outfit Splut Unz? Tom Waits released his superb Small Change this year, and Queen released A Day At The Races, which was the follow up to their masterpiece A Night At The Opera (also named after a Marx Brothers movie). All solid albums in their own right.

1977 saw the release of Television's Marquee Moon, of which the title track is still one of the biggest goosebump raising guitar songs of all time. Elvis Costello released his debut album My Aim Is True, coincedentally released the same year a relative unknown "other" Elvis kicked the bucket. Billy Joel released his most critically acclaimed album The Stranger. Kraftwerk released Trans-Europe Express, considered a pinnacle album in the electronic music genre. On the punk side of things, The Clash released their self-titled debut and Sex Pistols released their only album, Never mind the bollocks. David Bowie released Low, which Pitchfork recently named the number one album of the 70's. On the disappointing side of things, Tom Waits released his weakest album Foreign Affairs. Meat Loaf also released his infamous Bat Out Of Hell album, hated by many but also loved by a certain man with the initials DW.

So while 1976 was a good year for music in its own right, I'd have to go with 1977 based on the anecdotal evidence outlined above.

And then the old question as to whether leap years produce better music because of the extra day, giving the potential for more great albums to come out. One thing to observe -- you will note that out of the all the years in my countdown, only 1968 was a leap year. Of course, the countdown isn't complete yet, so you will need to wait and see if leap years tend to be better years for music or not. One _could_ argue that albums which are released on February 29th age a lot better, simply because they age in a quarter of the time. If anyone knows of any well known albums released on a February 29th, please let me know. It could be a new blog posting all of its own.

Friday, 12 November 2004

Top 10 Years For Album Releases - #5

Another unmotivated Friday, another blog post :-)

Time to continue the controversial countdown. Good to see more interactivity from the readers lately -- it seems the years I am discussing are bringing back lots of good (and sometimes bad) memories. If you haven't contributed yet, feel free to do so. Just remember - opinions are like assholes. They stink if they are not kept clean.

#5: 2000

Ahhh...2000. The dawning of a new era (as "The Specials" once sang on their eponymous album from 1979). The year when everything was supposed to end. The millenium bug, which turned out to be nothing but propaganda from IT companies wanting to make a quick buck "securing" your system against the possibility that the world was going to end when the clock ticked over to midnight on January 1st. As anyone who lived through this knows, nothing terribly exciting happened at midnight. Hopefully we will be prepared for the Y10K bug. Imagine what will happen when they discover that 4 digits for the date isn't enough! I can see the futuristic scare tactics now...

Anyway, it was still the dawning of a new millenium. This was also the year that Jarvis Cocker of Pulp planned to meet up for a disco, thinking that it would be pretty strange when everyone was fully grown. I was there at 2 o'clock by the fountain down the road, but Jarvis didn't turn up. I was heartbroken. Anyway, it was quite amazing that we actually lived through the changing of a millenium. Not many get to experience this. This was also the year I started full time work, having completed my uni degree the previous year. As you could imagine, my music consumption increased by a huge amount at the dawning of the noughties. More money == More music. So without further ado, let's start talking about the music.

There was two classic debut albums released in 2000. One was by the local Shepparton band Augie March, who released their breathtaking Sunset studies album. These guys are truly one of the most talented bands around at the moment, and this was an amazingly mature album to be released as a debut album. Many bands would take 5-6 albums to release this level of brilliance. The 'March only had 2 EPs, Thanks for the memes and Waltz. Anyway, Sunset studies is not an easily listen (at 76 minutes), but it's an album which grows on you and embeds itself into your soul. You will quite literally fall in love with this album. Each listen will reveal a new track to be your favourite. Some tracks which you initially hated will astound you with their beauty on the 12th listen. It's a tragedy that these guys probably won't get the worldwide recognition their deserve, because they are up there with Radiohead as one of the great bands of today. If you ever get the chance, see them live -- they are sensational, and the witty banter between Glenn (the singer) and Dave (the drummer) is priceless.

Another album which came out of the blue in 2000 was Badly Drawn Boy's debut The hour of bewilderbeast. I remember reading about this album in Q magazine (as I was an avid reader at the time), and really admiring the cover art. Thanks to Kazaa (or maybe it was Napster at the time), I downloaded Once around the block and was very impressed. I decided to take the risk and it certainly paid off -- a masterful indie-folk debut album which was completely original at the time and stood out from a lot of crap that was being released at the time. Unfortunately, BDB (aka Damon Gough) has never been able to top this debut album, although he has released 3 more albums of quality varying from superb to below average.

Another artist I got into in 2000 was Elliott Smith. I purchased his album Figure 8 after a friend (who I don't really keep in touch with anymore) raved about this artist. I had a JB voucher and decided to take a risk and buy Figure 8, which had just been released if I remember correctly. Even though Figure 8 didn't absolutely blow me away at the time (and it still doesn't impress me as much as most of his other albums), it did a very important thing -- opened me up to the genius of this young singer/songwriter. I subsequently purchased all of his albums (in reverse order and at increasingly high costs ;-) and he became one of my favourite solo artists of all time. When I first heard about his death in September 2003 (via an SMS from Matt) I was quite upset. it was a first for me -- the first time an artist had died in their prime while I was a huge fan of their work. Now I know how people must have felt when Jeff Buckley and Kurt Cobain died. I know that Badly Drawn Boy knew what he was doing the night those two gentlemen died.

Then there was Radiohead and a certain controversial album known as Kid A. This was the first time Radiohead had released an album while I was a fan of them. I had purchased all their albums up to this point, but long after they had been released. I was very much into Radiohead and had heard rumours that their new album was going to be difficult, but nothing could have really prepared me for the first listen. Triple J played the album all the way through several days before it was released, and I remember Pete, Andy and I (maybe others but I can't remember) sitting around at Andy's house listening to this new music unfold in front of our ears. I'm not sure if this is how people felt when they first heard Revolver or Sgt. Pepper's, and I can almost guarantee that Kid A will never been considered a classic like those albums, but there's no doubt that I felt like we were witnessing musical history that evening. Maybe I'm being melodramatic here, but it's quite interesting how whenever a band releases a "difficult" album (e.g. Wilco with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), it is termed "doing a Kid A". Another more sombre memory of this album was listening to it on the way to the funeral for a former schoolmate who had died from a heroin overdose in 2000. When I listen to this album, it does bring back memories of that. All in all, not a great album -- but still an important album in the big scheme of things.

Then there was a young up and coming band known as Coldplay, and their debut album Parachutes. I bought this one on Pete's recommendation -- I remember his comparisons between the lead singer and Jeff Buckley. Anyway, there are certainly some great tracks on this album -- notably opener Don't panic and Shiver, but it's a very lightweight album which doesn't really reward that much repeated listening. I preferred their sophomore release A rush of blood to the head, which I feel was a nice evolution for them and it took them out of their comfort zone. And that's more than can be said for Travis, who haven't really changed for 3 albums.

Then there was U2, who released their best album in 9 years -- All you can't leave behind. This is a really really great album. There's only 2 tracks I would consider weak -- Peace on earth (a bit too preachy) and Grace (which doesn't seem to go anywhere). Other than those, it's an extremely solid album with some great tunes. Even more considering they were still releasing albums this brilliant almost 20 years into their career.

Belle & Sebastian released their critically panned album Fold your hands child, you walk like a peasant. Wow, that's a mouthful. Most critics dismissed this album because it was a much more democratic album compared to most B&S albums -- instead of Stuart Murdoch writing all the songs, several other band members put in contributions. Their criticisms seem to be ignoring several facts. Firstly, their previous album The boy with the arab strap had 4 songs written/sung by other band members. Secondly, Peasant is full of some brilliant songs. It has a little bit of filler (Beyond the sunrise is probably my least favourite B&S song) but it also has some of my favourite B&S songs: The model, Waiting for the moon to rise and There's too much love.

And now to some other notable albums from twenty-dickity-zero:
  • Cosmic Rough Riders - Enjoy the melodic sunshine (there certainly is a lot of melodic sunshine to be enjoyed here. These Glaswegians, like Teenage Fanclub, sure know how to write a nice tune.)
  • The Cure - Bloodflowers (considered to be the final installment in their gloom trilogy started with Pornography and Disintegration, luckily this wasn't a Godfather Part III. Quite a beautiful album in parts, even if it's not the masterpiece it was trying to be.)
  • Placebo - Black market music (there are some excellent songs on here including Special K -- which was originally titled Fruit Loops before Brian Molko decided it was too autobiographical. I can't help but feel that their formula had been overused by this point though.)
  • Super Furry Animals - Mwng (SFA release their all-Welsh album! There's only one thing that can be said about this album. Ond ar y cyfan roedd y camau yn weigion, Y swigod coch yn llosgi fel gwreichion, Um cam ymlaen am ddwy aneffeithlon!)
  • Dandy Warhols - Thirteen tales from urban bohemia (many may be tempted to call their guys a novelty band, but this is a really solid album with some great musical moments. It has its fair share of novelty moments as well, many of which are brilliant -- like Get off.)
  • Doves - Lost souls (the debut album from this Manchester band is a beautiful one but they would reach their full potential on the follow up The last broadcast.)
  • Grandaddy - The sophtware slump (some great play-on words in the album title, luckily this wasn't a sophomore slump for Grandaddy. In the vein of OK Computer, this was a concept album on mankind vs. the fast paced world of today -- albeit in a much more direct way. This album has a song on it called Jed the humanoid, about a home-made robot who drinks himself to death. Need I say more?)
  • XTC - Wasp star (Apple Venus Volume 2) (the follow-up to the excellent Apple Venus, this is a harder rocking album -- relatively speaking. Some great songs on this album, but I can't say I have listened to it for a while.)
  • Ed Harcourt - Maplewood (Ed's first EP, this is very different from his first album proper Here be monsters. He seemed to be much more influenced by Tom Waits on this album, while on HBM he showed off his beautiful singing voice more.)
  • Gomez released 2 CDs this year. There was their B-Sides and rarities compilation Abandoned shopping trolley hotline which had a lot of interesting stuff, and a lot of filler as well. Then there was their EP Machismo which had its moments, but nothing to write home about.
  • PJ Harvey - Stories from the city, stories from the sea (this one was very critically acclaimed and while I appreciate it for what it is, it's not something that I have the urge to listen to very often.)
  • Powderfinger - Odyssey number five (this is their most commercial album to date, and I think it may also be their highest seller. In a similar vein to their previous album Internationalist, it has a much more polished production but unfortunately the songwriting quality isn't as good.)
  • Goldfrapp - Felt mountain (a very moody and atmospheric album. Not one of my absolute favourites, and not something I find myself listening to very often, but still rewards me when I do listen to it.)
And finally some of the disappointments of 2000:
  • Oasis released 2 albums this year. Firstly, their was their 4th album proper -- Standing on the shoulder of giants. After their 2 classic debut albums, a solid yet overlong and self-indulgent follow-up Be here now, and a superb B-Sides compilation in The masterplan -- fans were expecting more. What really peeved me about this album was their reluctance to change -- this was simply Oasis-by-numbers. But even Oasis-by-numbers would be okay if they had the songs to back themselves up, and this album is severely lacking. Way too much filler on this album. They also released a double live album Familiar to millions. I think I've listened to this once since I purchased it. Maybe twice. I think that pretty much sums it up.
  • St Germain - Tourist (I know some of the other guys who will be reading this are much bigger fans of this album than I am, but this album has never really done it for me a heap. It's got some amazing songs, notably So flute, but as a whole I find it has a bit of a yuppie cafe feel to it. When I say that, I mean it reminds me of something they would play in a trendy establishment to make the place seem hipper than it is. If I get an urge to listen to jazz, I'd prefer to listen to something by Miles Davis or John Coltrane, rather than the electro-jazz on this album.)
  • Billy Bragg & Wilco - Mermaid Avenue Vol. II (Billy Bragg & Wilco's first collaboration was a brilliant album that came out of the blue - a superb wedding of alt-country tunes and Woody Guthrie's lyrics. When listening to this sequel, one can only feel like these were the offcuts from the first album. Kinda like Amnesiac to the first album's Kid A.)
  • Primal Scream - Exterminator (this one got rave reviews. I am a huge fan of their '91 album Screamadelica. While that album successfully fused rock with the dance culture of the Madchester scene, Exterminator can be summed up with a simple word -- ugly. The music is heavy, the lyrics are dark -- but unlike The holy bible by the Manics', this album simply doesn't work for me.)
  • Bluetones - Science & Nature (this album is too novelty for my liking. I actually bought this without hearing anything by the band, and unfortunately it was one of my risks which didn't pay off. Their first album, Expecting to fly, is much better. But even that album has its faults.)
  • Muse - Showbiz (a decent debut album, but quite patchy. By their second album Origin of symmetry, they would improve immensely.)
  • Embrace - Drawn from memory (quite a nice sounding album in parts, but this band is really let down by Danny McNamara's weak vocals which need an injection of character.)
  • Tom McRae - Tom McRae (some stunning songs on this album, but lots of filler. And his voice is definitely an acquired taste which, like licorice, I have yet to acquire.)
  • Rivertribe - Journey (this album has the most interesting story on this list. I was at Knox Ozone shopping centre, and there was a chillout jazz/rock band with a definite Aboriginal influence playing there. I was very impressed with their music, so I decided to buy one of their CDs on the spot for $25. I asked one of the musicians about which CD I should buy, and after some discussion I purchased this one. It's a decent CD, but it's simple chillout music and thus nothing groundbreaking. But I guess $25 for a cool story is [kinda] worth it :-)
And that pretty much sums up the year. 'Twas certainly the dawning of a new era -- the noughties.

Monday, 1 November 2004

Top 10 Years For Album Releases - #6

And here we are again. I've been a bit slack with posting lately. I realise now that once I start one of these lists, I need to finish it -- so time to pull the socks up and continue the countdown.

*** DRUM ROLL ***

#6: 1994

Ahhh...the early nineties. So many memories of these years. 1994 was Year 10 for me, and not a particularly good year. Not as bad as 1993 the year before, which was probably one of my most depressing years of all time, but that's not a discussion for this forum. No, this forum is all about the muzak, and there was lots of great music this year. In grand tradition...let's start with the classics.

Who can forget Jeff Buckley's masterpiece Grace? Gorgeous is the only way to describe this album. I didn't get into Jeff Buckley's music until after he had died, and this occurred on May 29th 1997, which was many years after the year we are discussing here. So I guess you could say I jumped on the bandwagon just like many other people who didn't discover the genius of Grace until after he was dead and buried. I wish I could go back in time and hear this album when it first came out, basking in its beauty and being astounded by the talent of this brilliant young singer/songwriter. But that would have made me very depressed when he drowned... so maybe it's for the better that I didn't get into the music until later. Anyway, this album is a true gem, one of the best albums ever (and even more amazing when you consider it was his debut). His posthumous release Songs for my sweetheart (the drunk) is as good as you would expect it to be - it has its moments, but it was an unfinished album and you can really hear it.

A relatively unknown band called Oasis released their debut album Definitely maybe this year. I didn't get into this album until after their 2nd album, (What's the story) morning glory? was released in 1996 -- but it's an amazingly energetic debut album. Probably not the kind of album one would love if their heard it for the first time nowadays, but it just felt so bloody right in the mid-90's. Also, Live forever and Slide away are two of their finest cuts ever released. I actually heard this album first when my brother bought it (and later returned it). I remember listening more to the bonus single (Whatever) which came with it, mainly due to the amazing B-Side Half the world away, which is possibly my favourite Oasis song.

And then there was a certain live album by a relatively unknown band called Throwing copper. Wait a second, that doesn't sound right. Although I'm sure there's a lot of people who thought that at the time. Of course, the band was Live, and the album was Throwing copper. But you can easily see how many made that mistake. Interesting story behind me getting into this album. I remember hearing a few songs by this grungey sounding band on the radio (I listened more to radio back then), and liking all of them. They were some great tunes...and then I remember finding out that all of the songs were not only by the same band, but from the same album! The songs I remembered were Selling the drama, Lightning crashes and All over you. It took my a while to find out the name of Selling the drama, because the lyrics don't actually say that anywhere -- and this was before the days of google! Anyway, even when I give this album a spin nowadays, I consider it a very solid album. There isn't a bad track on here (even the bonus country track Horse is superb). Like the Oasis album, this is probably not an album I would like if I heard it for the first time today (because my musical tastes have changed a lot, and a heap of other bands sound like Live now) -- but this album has the memories.

Of course, in 1994 we were knee-deep in Britpop. Here's some notable albums from 1994 that fit into this mould:
  • Blur - Parklife (probably the quintessential Britpop album, this is simply a fun album that never fails to put a smile on my face when I listen to it. So many great tunes, and an epic [almost]-closer in This is a low)
  • Suede - Dog man star (their first album was pure Britpop. This was a very pretentious follow up which has aged the best out of all of their albums, and it still sounded amazing when I gave it a spin recently. A very ambitious, theatrical album.)
  • Pulp - His 'n' hers (together with Different class, this is Pulp at the peak of their Britpopness. Just a fun album!)
And then there was the genre which some affectionality named trip-hop. Some notable albums from '94 which fit this mould:
  • Portishead - Dummy (together with Blue lines, this album practically defined the genre. A classic album which includes one of my favourite songs of all time, the haunting Roads.)
  • Massive Attack - Protection (their follow up to Blue lines didn't quite have the consistency of their debut, but it's a very solid slab of triphop. Includes what is possibly my favourite Massive Attack song, the instrumental Heat miser.)
A few more classic albums from '94 which don't fit into any marketing mould:
  • Manic Street Preachers - The holy bible (Pete got me into this one. I'd heard their follow up albums Everything must go and This is my truth tell me yours. Those albums are like a walk in the park compared to the utter darkness and despair of this album. Possibly one of the darkest albums ever released, this is a harrowing listen, but nothing less than brilliant. I was hooked from the opening track Yes.)
  • Pavement - Crooked rain, crooked rain (I only recently got into these guys. While their debut album Slanted & Enchanted seems to get more of the acclaim, their second album CRCR does it for me a lot more. This has been classified as slacker music. I'd describe it as sloppy early 90's alternative rock/pop. Whatever you call it, it sounds awesome.)
  • Pulp Fiction soundtrack (another soundtrack which I'll allow, simply because it's very much of its time and a fantastic collection of songs chosen by an up and coming film director Quentin Tarantino -- as he was at the time. What was great about this soundtrack was how it brought many brilliant songs such as Son of a preacher man by Dusty Springfield into popular culture.)
And some other good albums from 1994:
  • The late Elliott Smith released his debut album Roman candle this year. Together with his eponymous second album, this is Elliott at his most lo-fi. Luckily, lo-fi doesn't mean lo-melody or lo-beauty. The guy never put a step wrong in his 10 year career.
  • Green Day released their classic album Dookie. Yes, it's Green Day. Laugh away. But I'll never be ashamed to say that I enjoy this album. It absolutely reeks of early 90's. But the memories that this album brings back. Do you have the time to listen to me whine?
  • Weezer released their self-titled debut album, affectionately known as The blue album. So many brilliant tunes on this one. Who can forget the Happy Days film clip for Buddy Holly?
  • Elvis Costello released his album Brutal youth, which was his first with his old backing band The Attractions since Blood & Chocolate in 1986. Definitely a return to form, if not quite the form of his earlier work.
  • Radiohead and Suede released their respective EPs, My iron lung and Stay together. My iron lung was a good taster for what was to come the following year with The bends, while Stay together had the brilliant title track (not available on any of their albums) and some great B-Sides including The living dead and My dark star.
And finally some honourable mentions:
  • R.E.M. released their critically panned album Monster. I've always considered this album to be terribly underrated. Sure it has a few duds on it, and it was definitely hurt by being released after the brilliant Automatic for the people, but it's really not a bad album. They should be praised for trying something different and releasing an alternative rock album -- at least they tried something different which is a lot more than can be said about some other bands.
  • Grant Lee Buffalo released their second album Mighty Joe Moon. Many consider this to be their best album. There are many beautiful cuts on this album (including Mockingbirds), but I don't get an urge to spin it a lot. Although when I do, it usually rewards me.
  • Ben Harper released his debut album, Welcome to the cruel world. This is probably my least favourite Ben Harper album as it's a bit too mellow and bit too preachy. He would really start to get brilliant with his 2nd album Fight for your mind.
  • Stone Roses released their 2nd album, appropriately titled Second coming. Has there ever been a more eagerly anticipated album in the history of music? Their self-titled debut album (released in 1989) is a work of genius and my favourite album ever released. Fans had to wait 5 years for a follow up. And yes, they are some good songs on this album. But it can only disappoint in comparison to their brilliant debut. I'm sure Pete will disagree with this entry, and I hope to see a retaliatory post :-)
  • Tori Amos released her second album, Under the pink. Some great songs on this one, but doesn't top her debut Little earthquakes.
  • Nick Cave released his album Let love in. Many choice cuts on this one, including Red right hand, Do you love me? and the title track. I remember loving this album when I bought it (second hand, a few years after it was released). I gave it a spin recently and didn't love it as much. But it's not without its charm.
  • Dream Theater released Awake. Ahh Dream Theater. How much money you guys have made me on Ebay. Anyway, out of the Dream Theater albums I have, this is easily my least favourite. Maybe it hasn't grown on me enough yet. I'll see how it goes.

Sunday, 17 October 2004

Top 10 Years For Album Releases - #7

Well here we are again...time for another post. And most importantly, time to continue the countdown to #1 on my top 10 favourite years for album releases.

Without further ado, allow me to proceed to the discussion of my 7th favourite year of all time.

#7: 1999

Ahhh...1999. This was my 3rd (and final) year of university. It's pretty common to look back on the past through rose coloured glasses, and uni is no exception. I'll always say to myself how I miss the old times at uni, and there's definitely a lot of nostalgia there, but I don't think it was quite as "fun" as I remember it.

Now what about the music? Well in tradition of the previous posts, let's first talk about some of the classic albums released in 1999.

Travis released their brilliant 2nd album The man who this year. Recently they have completely lost the plot (simply by refusing to change and re-releasing the same album a few times), but there is no denying that The man who was, and still is, a superb album. Now before you start shouting Travis?!?! Brilliant album!?!?! What are you thinking?!?!?! I'd like you to think back to 1999. Coldplay weren't even on the scene yet. Their debut album Parachutes was still a year away. Jeff Buckley had drowned a few years earlier in 1997. OK computer was still being hailed as one of the greatest albums ever released, and that had been released in 1997 as well. Travis were definitely influenced by Jeff Buckley and Radiohead, but this was long before the market had been saturated with soundalike bands. Travis were quite unique at the time, and The man who was a breath of fresh air, a true melodic gem of an album with beautiful falsetto vocals by Fran Healy and practically no filler. Unfortunately, Why does it always rain on me? got overplayed on the radio and it has lost a lot of its appeal now, but I'd like to say that I enjoyed this song long before it was even played on the radio. What really makes this album is the power of songs such as the opener Writing to reach you, As you are and Driftwood. The hidden track, The blue flashing light, is a brilliant closer -- lyrically and musically.

Another superb album of 1999, which I only got into this year, is a little known album called I see a darkness by Bonnie "Prince" Billy. Who? I hear you say. Yeah, I hadn't heard of him either, until I saw this album in at the #9 position in Pitchfork's Top 100 Albums of the 90's list. I had (or had heard of) most of the other albums in the top 10, but I hadn't even heard of this album, let alone this singer. It was enough to intrigue me to purchase the album, and it's a true masterpiece. Very dark (lyrically and musically), it's a stunning lo-fi folk/country album with unique vocals and minimalistic instrumentation. Granted, it's an acquired taste, and it did take me about 5-6 listens to start appreciating it, but I'm glad I gave it a chance. Definitely a risk which paid off.

Some other great albums from 1999:

  • Dream Theater - Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a memory (what can I say? This album is superb. Their music is best classified as "progressive metal". This is a concept album which must be listened to from start to finish to properly understand the story. Its the story of a woman's murder, told to some of the most stunning music you will ever hear. The guitar and piano work on this album is simply amazing. Sure, it's a prentious album, and the lyrics sometimes get a bit daft -- but it's all part of the appeal)
  • Ben Harper - Burn to shine (I know a certain young man who may be reading this who will be cheering right now - he's looking at you Brett. Yes this is one of Brett's Top 5 Albums Of All Time. It's a very diverse, often brilliant album by one of the most talented performers of the moment. Beloved one is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard.)
  • Flaming Lips - The soft bulletin (my brother is a big Flaming Lips fan. He actually bought this at one stage but returned it, because he prefers their earlier lo-fi stuff and wasn't able to make the transition to their most elaborately produced albums like this one. However, after reading glowing reviews of this album, I had to get it -- and I'm glad I did. Superb songwriting, superb production, great stuff. A true masterwork.)
  • Something for Kate - Beautiful sharks (Pete got me into this one. I bought it purely on his recommendation. First few months I had this album, it did very little for me. Then, one day, it suddenly hit me -- it was a great album! Subtle melodies, great lyrics, and the infamous "vibe" shone through, making it another favourite of mine from 1999)
  • Supergrass - Supergrass (their eponymous 3rd album wasn't received very well by critics. But it's probably my favourite Supergrass album to date. This album includes their brilliant singles Moving, Mary and Pumping on your stereo. But it also includes some excellent lesser known tracks such as Jesus came from outta space, What went wrong (in your head) and the haunting Mama & Papa.)
  • Augie March - Waltz (this was their 2nd EP after the mediocre Thanks for the memes in 1998, and it included the brilliant Asleep in perfection which was also on their stunning debut album Sunset studies. Many live favourites are included on this EP including Rich girl and The mothball)
Some other notable albums from 1999:
  • Suede released their 4th album, and their 2nd "pop" album Head music. I remember loving this album when I bought it -- it was actually the catalyst to one of my major Suede phases in 1999 -- but this album definitely hasn't aged as well as their self-titled debut or Dog man star.
  • Ben Folds Five released their swan song, their concept album The unauthorised biography of Reinhold Messner. Wow, that's certainly a mouthful. This album didn't do a heap for me in 1999, but its has grown on me heaps on the last few listens and I probably consider it to be their best album now.
  • Gomez released their 2nd album Liquid skin. There are some superb cuts on this album (in fact the highs such as We haven't turned around and Devil will ride outshine anything on their debut Bring it on) -- however the songwriting consistency isn't as solid as their debut.
  • James released their solid album Millionaires. Unfortunately that isn't what they became.
  • Super Furry Animals released their 3rd album, Guerrilla. I think you'd be hard pressed to find an SFA fan who considers this their best album, but it's certainly not a bad album by any accounts. This album amazingly has a hidden track before track 1 on this disc. Yes, that's right, you have to rewind to before track 1 to hear it. And it's a choice cut as well. Amazing, hey?
  • Alex Lloyd released his debut album Black the sun. I have definitely gone off this guy now (in fact I can't believe there was a time where I actually bought one of his albums). I do remember really enjoying this album when I got it, but it doesn't do a lot for me anymore.
  • Jebediah released their 2nd album Of someday shambles. While not up to the stature of their classic debut Slightly odway, there's some notable choice cuts on this album, including one of my personal favourites Run of the company.
  • Wilco released their 3rd album Summerteeth. This was their first album where they finally strayed away from their country roots, and it's continually growing on me with each listen.
  • Gorky's Zygotic Mynci released their album Spanish dance troupe. The best way to describe these guys would be a cross between Belle & Sebastian and Super Furry Animals. So why weren't they called Super Belle & The Furry Sebastians? This is a very enjoyable album anyway.
  • Tom Waits (one of the true geniuses still releasing music) released his great album Mule variations. This was actually the first Tom Waits album I purchased. It took me a long time to appreciate it. But now I have all of his albums. It's a bit like that with Tom Waits.
  • Tim Rogers & The Twin Set released their debut album What rhymes with cars and girls. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-ha!
  • The Charlatans released their album Us and us only. Yeah it's okay. Can't remember when I listened to it last though.
  • Bernie Hayes (brother of late Whitlam Stevie Plunder) released his debut album, Every Tuesday Sometimes Sunday. Some nice country-folk ditties on this album, including You made me hard (*snicker*) which the Whitlams recorded on their Love this city album (see below).
  • Blur released their experimental album 13 this year. While their last album (the self-titled one from 1997) was a transition album, by this album they definitely made the full transition into art-rockers. There's not many accessible moments on this album (Coffee and TV being the most) and I'd like to say the whole album works, but it doesn't all work for me. That's not saying there aren't some amazing cuts on here, including No distance left to run.
  • Silverchair released their 3rd album Neon ballroom to a set of glowing reviews. They youngens really started growing up on this album. Their evolution would continue on their next album, the brilliant Diorama.
  • Electronic, who were made up of the singer from New Order and the guitarist from The Smiths, released their 3rd album, Twisted tenderness. Definitely influenced by New Order more than The Smiths, this is nevertheless a solid collection of dance/rock tunes.
And finally some of the disappointments of the year:
  • Ahhh the Whitlams. They released their masterpiece Eternal nightcap a few years earlier, after Stevie Plunder died. In 1999 they released Love this city. Now picture this for a moment, if you will. The Whitlams had released 2 albums of underground aussie garage pop followed by a sombre (but stunningly beautiful) album. The expectations were high for Love this city. A fan has just returned from the CD shop and put the shiny metal disc in their player while their quivering hand pushes play in antipation. Then the opening lyrics hit them like a stab in the heart: I know they all want you with your Desdemona's eyes. I'll keep you from danger. Save you from prying eyes. I can make the world safe for you. As a certain character said many times in A mighty wind - What HAppened?!?!
  • Longpigs released their sophomore slump, Mobile home. Their first album was a slice of Suede-influenced Britpop brilliance. Their second album rambles off in streams of consciousness with no sense of melody. Unfortunately I have to agree with the AMG review of this album.
  • Echo & The Bunnymen released their 2nd album after reuniting, What are you going to do with your life? With the exception of a few choice cuts, like Rust, this album just bores me. Yawwwwwwwwwwwwn.
  • Aimee Mann and David Mead released their respective albums, Bachelor no. 2 and The luxury of time. Decent albums, but way too polished for me to truly enjoy. Both write in similar styles to Elvis Costello, but Elvis has the rougher and unique voice to add a bit of character. They guys are just lacking character.
And that's 1999 for you. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.