Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Joel Meets Mathcore

File:Dillinger Escape Plan - One of Us is the Killer.jpg

Okay, so last week I bought One of Us is the Killer by The Dillinger Escape Plan. The album, which only came out this year, was going for a meagre £1.50 in my local Scope, so I thought I might as well grab myself a bargain. I knew nothing about the artist, admittedly, but a quick Google search on my friend's phone revealed TDEP to be a "mathcore band"...which, y'know, sounded like fun.

In retrospect, I may not have paid enough attention to the 'core' part of that genre's name. I thought mathcore would be like math rock only, y'know, more so. Faster and louder, perhaps.

But mathcore, as it transpires, is basically hardcore with less focus. 'Spasmodic' was the first word that reached my brain when Prancer splattered out of my speaker. It's rather exciting in its way, but crikey Moses it's all over the place. Here, listen for yourself:

The problem here is that I don't really dislike this music. If the whole album was just a big, jerky mess then I could write it off without a second thought, but there are good bits, bits that are relevant to my interests, if you will. When I Lost My Bet opens with some pretty sweet drumming, and while the terrain gets somewhat rockier from there, I do like the cool widdly guitar bits.

And hey, some of the choruses are pretty rad. The title track is strangely calm to begin with (boy was that a refreshing change of pace), and this eventually gives way to a cool chrous about how one of us must die and how the killer won't survive. I'm not entirely sure it makes sense, but hey, it sounds good.

But see, I've only touched on the first three tracks here. I'm yet to get all the way through this album, and I really can't imagine what kind of mood I'd have to be in to do it all in one sitting.

So here's my appeal to Dillinger fans, and mathcore fans in general: please get in touch, and tell me I need to stick with this album. Please appreciate that this heavy stuff is some way off my beaten path - I've always kept a little bit of metal close at hand, but never very much and never anything quite like this. I'd really like to see some arguments for One of Us is the Killer, so if you've got one to make, leave a comment or tweet me.

As a barely related side note, what the hell is up with Wikipedia's list of math rock bands? It's the only place where you'll find Bloc Party, Dirty Three, Fang Island and The Mars Volta under the same umbrella, I'd wager.

Monday, July 29, 2013

It's Only the End of the World: A Tribute to The Crimea

crimea square moon 300x300

Square Moon, The Crimea's jumbo-sized third album, was originally meant to be released on the 31st of October, 2011. It was actually only released today, and at some point in the intervening 21 months, the band decided that this would be their last hurrah. After one final gig in London tomorrow night, they're packing it in, which is a very great shame indeed. I love The Crimea with a fervency that's reserved for brilliant bands that nobody else seems to have heard of, and so I thought I'd share some thoughts on their work before the curtain falls.

I discovered The Crimea at Cardiff's Big Weekend in the summer of 2006. I had been watching a band called Cord, and I was all set to wander away from the stage and track down my friends when two chaps in Crimea T-shirts asked if I was staying to watch them. I hadn't intended to, but they assured me that it would be well worth my time, and by Jove, they weren't wrong. Standing next to two people who were joyously singing along with every lyric probably heightened the experience, but it was pretty amazing anyway, and Lottery Winners on Acid in particular made such an impression that I was compelled to track down its parent album, Tragedy Rocks.

I spent the rest of that summer singing along to the likes of Girl Just Died and White Russian Galaxy, and when I stumbled upon a new Crimea album in Spillers one year on, I couldn't part with my cash quickly enough. I needn't have bothered, of course - this was Secrets of the Witching Hour, which has now passed into legend for being arguably the first ever free-to-download album - but the price was more than justified, and just as Tragedy Rocks had been my soundtrack for Summer '06, Secrets... was a loyal friend in Summer '07. My family took me on holiday to Newcastle that year, and since my MP3 player had recently conked out, I dusted off my portable CD player and nearly wore out the Secrets of the Witching Hour disc in the space of a week. Songs like Don't Close Your Eyes On Me and Light Brigade were everything I needed at that point, and as you'll notice if you look to the right, the album is now a permanent fixture in my All-Time Top 10 list. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - if you haven't already downloaded this record, do it now.

I attended my second Crimea gig in Summer 2008 (an intimate affair at The Gate, which is a converted church in Roath) and the setlist was packed with previews of new songs which promised big things for their upcoming third LP. I was dizzy with anticipation; I listened to the demos on their myspace page a lot, and I keenly awaited the big announcement.

And eventually, after years of agonising silence, came Square Moon. It was actually only three years, rather than five; I and other fast-moving Crimea fans have secretly had these 22 songs on our iPods for some time, having bought it on a limited pre-order back in 2011. While many will only be purchasing this album today, we already have nearly two years of memories attached to it. I've already realised how much Shredder sounds like Cows and Cows and Cows and Cows; I've already smiled along to Mid-Air Collisions, shouted along to We Stand Alone, wondered whether he's singing about 'Adam and Eve' or 'Saddam and Eve' in Lupara Bianca.

And yet it still keeps me hanging on. I was listening to Square Moon this afternoon, and I'm surprised that an album I've had for almost two years can still make me feel so many feelings. But sure enough, those themes of loss and separation and sudden, unexpected estrangement - as heard throughout the album but especially on Lovers of the Disappeared - hit me right in the heart to this very day.

Ugh. I'm sorry to bore you with extracts from my tedious life story, but the point I'm trying to make is that The Crimea are an intensely personal band, the polar opposite of background music, and it's impossible not to get wrapped up in them while listening. Better still, their massive melodies and sharp hooks make them pretty accessible, which means that more or less everyone can get up close and personal with these tracks. They're a band to live by, and just listening to them is a huge experience in itself. I can't make it to their farewell gig in London and that makes me very sad, but even if you've arrived after the end, I'd implore you to check The Crimea out ASAP. Buy Square Moon from Alcopop Records today, and pretty soon, you'll have your own story to tell.

At least that way, you won't have to listen to mine.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Clouds Taste Metallic

I'm having a bit of a rest this week, but rather than neglect The Album Wall entirely, I thought I'd take this opportunity to share with you some blog posts from the past. For my final post of the week, I thought I'd air out my thoughts on Clouds Taste Metallic by The Flaming Lips. These words originally appeared on my journal, back in October '06:


My Flaming Lips collection started in the summer of 2005 with what was then their latest album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Do You Realize?? became my anthem of the summer, and I hailed the album as a classic.

However, that didn't prepare me for the next 'Lips album I would get.

Fast-forward to December of the same year, and as the sun goes down for winter, I browse eBay looking for one last kick before the Christmas haul.

What I ended up with was Clouds Taste Metallic. Considering I only paid about £3 for it, I couldn't have made a better choice.

Of course, this album's sound is radically different from Yoshimi. It is from the band's nuttier days, and contains such bizarre wonders as This Here Giraffe and seasonal oddity Christmas at the Zoo, in which Wayne Coyne goes to the zoo on a snowless Christmas Eve and opens all of the cages. Strangely, the animals are reluctant to leave.

The bizarre themes (including watermelon guns, thunderstruck postmen, and a place called Brainville where they 'enlarge your space') are the album's beating heart, while the trippy sounds are the icing on the cake.

Highlights include opener The Abandoned Hospital Ship, with its soaring solo, Kim's Watermelon Gun (love the insane riff), They Punctured My Yolk, which details a couple of astronauts in love who are torn apart when only one of them is chosen to go on the mission, and the uplifting closer Bad Days, encouraging us all to sleep in more.

CTM is highly recommended, but be prepared for a surprise if you started with Yoshimi... or The Soft Bulletin. It sounds very different, but in a good way. As Amazon put it, 'this isn't music to take drugs to, the music is the drug'.

'You gotta sleep late when you can,
And all your bad days will end!'

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tindersticks: The Turns I Took

I'm having a bit of a rest this week, but rather than neglect The Album Wall entirely, I thought I'd take this opportunity to share with you some blog posts from the past. Today's post was first seen on Gaxa & Lerberg, my short-lived music blog that began and ended in early 2012:

When you discover a band who a) are good enough to be worth investigating, and b) have been around for long enough to have a fairly extensive back catalogue, working your way through that catalogue can be an adventure that takes months, even years. R.E.M. were my first, and I've come across several other  bands like that since first I devoured their discography. I think Tindersticks are the most recent one; they've been going since 1991, and their eight studio albums are just drops in an ocean that's swimming with singles, live albums, compilations, side projects, and film scores. I've still got a long way to go, but here's my journey so far... 

1. The Hungry Saw

My first taste of Tindersticks came in the summer of 2009, when I bought The Hungry Saw from Fopp in Bristol. I'd heard their name mentioned a lot on the internet, and while I wasn't really sure what to expect, the album was only £5, so I decided to give it a go.

It was a good introduction. The album doesn't exactly slap you in the face; it takes its time, slowly unfurling as you gradually realise how breathtaking it is. After a wonderfully tense introduction, the highlights come thick and fast: there's the grandiose uncertainty of Come Feel the Sun; there's The Other Side of the World, which starts out quiet and fragile but eventually grows into the album's swooping centrepiece; there's Mother Dear, which has this crazy, no-rhythm guitar bit in the middle but then suddenly goes all pretty and nice. And then, at the end of it all, there's The Turns We Took, which I'll always remember as the song I was listening to as the sun set on the long coach ride back home from Germany.

2. Falling Down a Mountain

So I liked The Hungry Saw, and when its successor, Falling Down a Mountain, came out the following year, I wasted no time in checking it out. I wasn't quite as enamoured as I was with The Hungry Saw, but that's not to say I didn't enjoy it. It has some classic songs, all right - Harmony Around My Table is great fun, and the beautiful Factory Girls might be my favourite 'Sticks song of all, even now that I know some of their earlier stuff. But the ten tracks are over all too quickly, and while it's usually good for an album to be concise and leave me wanting more, I feel that Falling Down a Mountain takes too long to get going, and ends just as it's getting really good. There's the aforementioned Factory Girls, the unspeakably lovely instrumental Piano Music, and then that's your lot. Off you go.

3. Live at Green Man

A few months after the release of Falling Down a Mountain, it was announced the Tindersticks would be performing at that year's Green Man Festival, for which I had already secured tickets. 'Great,' I thought, 'although I don't suppose they'll do many songs that I know.' By this point, it had come to my attention that I really didn't know anything about Tindersticks at all. Their Top Tracks on were completely unknown to me, and nobody seemed to have anything to say about the two albums I had. Unless, of course, someone was saying how much they preferred their earlier work.

That said, I needn't have worried about the Green Man setlist. Every other song was taken from Falling Down a Mountain, and while I suspect that the band's more diehard fans were a little miffed, I was thrilled. It was a great show, all the songs (including the ones I didn't know) were brilliant, and they even played The Other Side of the World!

They would have been my favourite act of the festival, had I not been blown away by The Flaming Lips the night before.

4. Waiting for the Moon

In retrospect, the Green Man set was probably what turned me from a casual listener into a fully-fledged Tinderstickler. When I left the festival site that night, I was eager to dive head-first into the Tindersticks back catalogue, and I knew exactly where to start.

Of the older songs Tindersticks had played at Green Man, one in particular had caught my ear. I didn't know what it was (I probably should have asked the man stood next to me who knew every word), but upon returning from the festival I Googled the scrap of lyrics I could remember:

"You're wasting your time...something something something...a different song"

And up popped the lyrics for Sometimes It Hurts. I found the song on YouTube, listened to it, The studio version turned out to be a boy/girl duet, and while it was just as emotional as I'd come to expect from Tindersticks, it was also pretty damn catchy! Y'know, in a sad sort of way.

So the next time I found myself in Bristol (my dad takes me there every so often; he buys a tonne of books, I buy a tonne of CDs), I bought Waiting for the Moon, also from Fopp, also for £5, on the strength of Sometimes It Hurts alone. I put the CD on in the car on the way home, and while my dad was a bit perturbed by the opening song's first lines - "My hands 'round your throat/If I kill you now well they'll never know" - even he seemed to like Sometimes It Hurts. Just to be clear, my dad finds most of the music I listen to completely unbearable, so the simple fact that he didn't just turn it off is pretty high praise.

Still, Waiting for the Moon was - and probably still is - my least favourite Tindersticks record yet. It has its moments, but for every Say Goodbye to the City or My Oblivion (both of which are electrifying for entirely different reasons), there's something like Trying to Find a Home or the title track. Everything on the album is very pretty, but a lot of it isn't much else.

Besides, I was still in fairly recent territory - Waiting for the Moon was the album before The Hungry Saw - and everyone on the internet seemed adamant that if you were going to get a Tindersticks album, it had to be one of the Tindersticks albums.

5. Tindersticks

'08 February 2011', informs me, is the date on which I ordered the band's eponymous first album. The first thing that struck me upon its arrival was the sheer number of tracks. There are twenty-one! I suspected that I wouldn't have any issues with this one being over too quickly.

Accustomed as I was to latter-day 'Sticks, starting again at the other end of their career was a bit of a shock. This album is a lot more guitar-based than the albums that came afterwards, which results in some surprisingly catchy, straightforward indie numbers like Nectar and Patchwork. On the other hand, there's also a handful of jazzier, discordant tracks - Tyed, for example.

There's a lot of variation throughout the record, so it keeps you interested throughout its seventy-five minute plus runtime. Although - and I'm slightly ashamed of this - I've only made it all the way through once. Not because I get bored, because it's not boring at all, but...I guess I keep putting the album on from the start, getting up to maybe 'Tie-Dye' (Track 14 of 21), and then I have to go and do something else for a bit.

It's a very good album, but remember how I said that it's usually good for an album to be concise and leave me wanting more? I wouldn't have minded paying for two albums here. These songs are a lot more self-contained than the ones on Falling Down a Mountain, so splitting it into two sets of ten or eleven tracks would have been fine with me. It's heresy, I know, but seventy-seven minutes is a long time. It's too much to get through in one sitting, like a Sunday roast followed by a pizza.

6. Tindersticks II

By this point I felt like an expert. I'd spent ages poring over the titles of songs I hadn't heard, wondering what lay beneath. I could tell you that Tiny Tears was one of the band's best and probably a good place to start, in spite of having never heard a note of it. I did this when I was getting seriously into R.E.M., too; I remember buying Document off eBay and then being very disappointed when 'ITEOTWAWKI (AIFF)' was just an abbreviation of 'It's The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)'. I think I was hoping that they'd named a song by just leaning on a typewriter.

Anyway, I got Tindersticks II as a Christmas present in 2011, and it might well be my favourite Tindersticks album yet. The songs are lyrically affecting and musically stunning, and Stuart Staples has never sounded better. In fact, I shouldn't have allowed myself to get this far without mentioning the guy's voice; it's a lovely, deep voice, at once indifferent and utterly utterly miserable.

As this neat little track-by-track review would suggest, there are a lot of gems on this album, from the brooding and then SUDDENLY QUITE LOUD strings of Talk To Me to the horribly depressing* spoken word of My Sister.  But you know what? A lot of those gems weren't the ones I was expecting. Before I'd heard the album, I'd assumed that She's Gone and No More Affairs would be the high points. Given those names, I expected soaring, emotionally wracked mini-epics that would have me falling in love with music all over again while simultaneously making me want to throw out my entire, inferior CD collection in disgust.

Such can be the suggestive power of song titles, but I suppose nothing could have lived up to what I'd imagined. No More Affairs is good, but a little less epic than I'd hoped for, and I barely even noticed She's Gone. It's just too understated compared to the other stuff.

And yet my hopes for the album were dramatically realised in songs like Travelling Light and Mistakes. Who knows why those titles hadn't caught my eye, but holy heck you can't ignore material like that. The former is a duet, not unlike my beloved Sometimes it Hurts, while Mistakes constitutes the album's climax - the last, wretched hurrah before it winds down. Just listen, and feel your heart skip a beat when he sings:

"Mistakes I've made, like the know the one."

7. What next?

So it's been two and a half years since I forked out £5 for The Hungry Saw and I've still only got five of their eight albums. It's been a slow-burning journey of discovery, which is rather fitting given the music I've been discovering. Third album Curtains seems like the next step, being as it contains their most listened-to song, 'Another Night In'. Then again, they're supposed to be releasing a new album this year, so perhaps I'll end up getting that first. Either way, it looks like I'll be discovering Tindersticks for a while yet.

(Update, July 2013: As it turned out, The Something Rain was the next Tindersticks album I bought, but I have recently acquired Curtains as well. In fact, you can find out what I thought of that here.)


* Someone on has suggested that 'My Sister' is a sort of self-parody, a tongue-in-cheek reaction to the people who said their first album was too miserable. But even if that is the case, it's still hella depressing; the titular sister goes blind, kills her cat and mother by accidentally (?) starting a house fire, falls down a well (which might actually be a good thing because it somehow causes her sight to return), has a relationship with a gym teacher who is subsequently sacked from his job, gets beaten up by said gym teacher to the point that she loses the use of the right-hand side of her body, gains a lot of weight from being in a wheelchair, and eventually dies at the age of 32. Oh those wacky Tindersticks.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Concept Albums

I'm having a bit of a rest this week, but rather than neglect The Album Wall entirely, I thought I'd take this opportunity to share with you some blog posts from the past. Today's update was originally posted on my journal back in August '07:

Confession: I am a total concept album freak. If I so much as hear the same word in two songs on the same album, I'll set about looking up lyrics and drawing somewhat fanciful lines between them.

Okay, so we've got the ones that everybody knows are concepts - The Wall, Tommy, and so forth - but I'm talking more about the excitement you (well, I) draw from spotting recurring themes and ideas nestled in the records that didn't otherwise scream 'concept album'. Let's look at a few examples, shall we?

1) Attack Of The Grey Lantern

File:Mansun - Attack of the Grey Lantern.jpg

I've only recently got into Mansun. Apparently, when they were big, there was a big debate between their fans over whether or not ...Grey Lantern does, in fact, stow a concept. Yes, all the tracks flow together perfectly (I feel sorry for the Americans who had the whole thing minced up), but does it tell any kind of story? Well, one look at the lyrics should at least persuade the naysayers to reconsider their position. The title character from Dark Mavis pops up in several songs, as does the Stripper Vicar. Mansun's lyrics are pretty oblique, mind, so it's hard to work out exactly what's going on. Don't let the chorus of the hidden track, An Open Letter To The Lyrical Trainspotter ("The lyrics aren't supposed to mean that much/They're just a vehicle for a lovely voice"), put you off; apparently, lead singer Paul Draper has since admitted that the song was meant ironically.

2) Secrets of the Witching Hour

File:The Crimea - Secrets Of The Witching Hour.jpg

If you haven't heard of The Crimea, I would first advise you to hop over to their website (here) and download this album for free. Yes, free! I suffer from a serious case of CD scruples, so I had to get the physical version, but I'm sure the less ridiculous of you will happily take it for nothing, especially now that it has my "Seal of Approval". Download it now, I'll wait.

Now then. Secrets... is an altogether different beast to the Mansun album. Whereas the tracks of ...Grey Lantern all run into each other, some punchy with big choruses, some widescreen experiments, Davey and Co. give us 11 relatively compact pop songs-gone-bad (like a neurotic, self-loathing Beach Boys with more complex arrangements and a less camp Brian Molko doing vocals). They seem to document a) the breakup of the relationship between the narrator and his girl, and b) the end of the world. Whether these two are happening simultaneously, or if the latter is simply a metaphor for the former, or if it starts as a metaphor and then actually happens, or WHATEVER, the songs are certainly deeper than your average 3-minute pop song. Just to pick out some pivotal moments in what might be the plot: Bombay Sapphire Coma sees our protagonist regretting "disown[ing]" the girl, Don't Close Your Eyes On Me is a sort of "We ain't finished here yet" song, while Wierd [sic] is the epic final curtain (as a sidenote, it also contains the darkly brilliant line "Rapunzel above me, recieving chemotherapy/Throw down your- oh, sorry, how stupid of me").

3) Beautiful Freak

If you thought I was clutching at non-existent straws up 'til here, just wait 'til you've read this one. I reckon, right, that all Eels albums have at least an element of concept to them (most notably Electro-Shock Blues, which is pretty definitely about the death of his sister and mother). This one, however, requires a bit of imagination. I first imagined this a concept album when I noticed the similarity in theme between Beautiful Freak and  My Beloved Monster; both are about E's affection for a social outcast. Most of the other songs also deal with the narrator's OWN status as a bit of a pariah (Mental sees all of his peers describing him as such; Rags To Rags documents a down-on his luck loser's arduous struggle to the same exact spot). If you're like me, and willing to claw at whatever tiny links you're given, you might say that the borderline agoraphobia experienced in Not Ready Yet is caused by the events of Susan's House, or that the girl to whom the lyrics of Manchild are addressed is the titular "freak". Or you might not. Up to you.

4) Fevers & Mirrors

If the mock interview at the end of An Attempt To Tip The Scales is anything to go by, Conor Oberst - Mr. Bright Eyes himself - was deliberately using a lot of repeated imagery in the writing of this record, if not actually telling a story. Fevers, mirrors, scales, clocks and calendars all crop up multiple times, not to mention this enigmatic Arienette lady. Now, I have to admit, if there is a straight concept here, then I'm not entirely sure what it is. I've often considered that Arienette (who, remember, is made up, and yet "as real as you or I") may be a mental manifestation of Conor's "dream girl", who, even in his head, can make his life miserable one minute and bring him great joy the next (although, admittedly, the "great joy" to be seen in these ditties is sparse). At any rate, I'm going to leave the gaps in this one for you to fill in yourself, as I'm tired and I'm obviously unsure what I'm on about here.

5) Through The Windowpane

Last one, promise! I like to envisage this one as a sort of musical, if you will, featuring Guillemots main man Fyfe Dangerfield as our overly romantic protagonist. The album documents his (ultimately fruitless) attempts to woo his girl (a lot of girls in this list, ain't there?), including "leaving [his] best friend" (Redwings) and embarking on some big journey with her (Come Away With Me; not in a creepy rapist way, of course, more a romantic trip kinda way). Eventually, however, her constant rebuffs get to him, and he goes a bit mad (Sao Paulo). Bless. The whole "musical" idea works best if you imagine the curtain opening after the interval to reveal a lone, despondent-looking Fyfe, who bursts into Blue Would Still Be Blue, accompanied only by those weird boopy noises. Magic.

* * *

So those are my thoughts. If you're not a "lyrical trainspotter", you might just view all of this as the ramblings of a crackpot who ought to get a job. Hopefully, though, you'll have at least partially understood what I'm getting at, and you'll have some could-be concept albums of your own at the ready.

P.S. If anyone could explain to me the concept behind Modest Mouse's We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, that'd be great, 'cause I've got no idea.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Great Discography Binge

Above is a screenshot of the Twitter conversation that spawned today's blog post. Having never really listened to Hot Club de Paris, I can't express much of an opinion on them, but what I can do is take a look at my own library and think about which back catalogues I would happily gobble up in the space of an afternoon.

R.E.M. were my obvious first thought, and while they do have a rack-flexing fifteen albums* to get through, I'm not sure it would be all that challenging. That said, if we assume that I have to listen to all the albums in the order they were released, I would probably start losing interest in R.E.M. around the turn of the millennium. I think Reveal and Around the Sun get more criticism than they deserve, but considering what came before (not to mention how long I'd have been listening by the time Reveal came on), I think the chances of me turning off at The Lifting would be pretty high.

So I tried to think of bands with slightly slimmer discographies**, but the recurring problem is that one album that isn't as good as the others. Mansun have Little Kix. Guillemots have Walk the River, which is mind-blowingly amazing at times but does drag a little in the middle. Regular readers will already know where I would call it quits in an Arcade Fire marathon.

And then I realised that I'd known the answer all along. Eels didn't initially strike me as a particularly binge-friendly band; they average about 14 tracks per album***, and I was looking for lean, mean, bite-sized records that I wouldn't get bogged down in.

But yesterday, I listened to Shootenanny!, Beautiful Freak, Souljacker, Blinking Lights & Other Revelations, and Wonderful, Glorious all in one go, and I wasn't bored once. That's got to be at least four and a half hours of music (let's not forget that Blinking Lights... is a double album), and I never even considered switching it off. And while that admittedly isn't the order they came out in, it's not like I was only listening to the cream of the Eels catalogue; Electro-Shock Blues and Daisies of the Galaxy are E's twin masterpieces as far as I'm concerned, and I didn't even need to resort to them!

I think it's because each Eels release has such a unique, distinct personality. Souljacker is the fuzzy garage rock one. Beautiful Freak is the weird debut. Blinking Lights is the aural equivalent of an autobiography. They've all got their thing; the same could be said of R.E.M. albums up until about the mid-noughties, but Eels have yet to release their Around the Sun. Even E's less brilliant albums remain fun and colourful, adding another layer to the discography as a whole.

So if you've got some time this weekend, treat yourself to an Eelathon. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll have the time of your life.

*I'm not counting best ofs, live albums, B-side compilations, or EPs. Full-length studio albums only.
**Although I decided that less than three albums would hardly count as a 'binge'.
***And it's only that low if you count Blinking Lights & Other Revelations as two.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Revenge Songs

This post is mainly going to be about Revenge Songs, an album by Jacob Golden, but since I don't want to be accused of writing misleading blog titles, here are ten songs that are (kind of) about revenge:
  1. I Spy - Pulp
  2. The Mariner's Revenge Song - The Decemberists
  3. Rime of the Ancient Mariner - Iron Maiden
  4. Revenge - Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse (featuring The Flaming Lips)
  5. Living Well is the Best Revenge - R.E.M.
  6. Can You Forgive Her? - Pet Shop Boys
  7. ....uh...
  8. Iron Man - Black Sabbath
  9. You Said No - Busted
Okay, I can't think of any others. Let's forget about that and get on with the blog, shall we?

Like many great albums, Revenge Songs is a break-up record. Most of the songs are about a recently-ended relationship, and Golden spends a lot of the album trying to think up a way to make it all better.

All of which has been done a million times, of course. What really sets Revenge Songs apart - in my mind, at least - is its author's preoccupation with music. The eleven tracks that make up this LP display a rock solid belief in the power of song; whoever Jacob Golden is, he seems utterly convinced that music is the solution to his broken relationship. Even if his compositions won't actually bring her back, they'll at least make him feel better.

The result of all this is an extremely intimate-sounding album (with all background ambience left in; here's an article about Jacob Golden's recording methods, in case you're into that technical stuff) with a rather tragic character at its centre. Music is everything to this protagonist, and he's desperately trying to repair his love life with the only tools he has available: his songs.

Below, you'll find the music video for On a Saturday (as featured on The O.C., no less!), followed by some choice lyrical snippets. This album cost me about £1.50 from my local Barnardo's, but you can probably find it for less if you have a look around. I'd definitely recommend it.

"I tried to write the perfect song/To let you know that I was wrong/And fix the bloody hole in the roof/Where the hammer fell"
from Shoulders

"The church of new song came/And my headphones lifted me up again/Buzzing on the radiation/Of my secret radio station"
- from Church of New Song

"I'm a microphone/I'm a tambourine/I'm a record sleeve/I'm a Mellotron/I'm your man"
- from I'm Your Man

"My favourite Daniel Johnston song/Was recorded on a tape deck before you were born/There's a lyric in the chorus where he talks about joy/And it held my hand through an infinite void"
- from Shine a Light

"I took out my revenge/I wrote a postcard to unite my fractured friends"
- from Revenge Songs

"I'm man enough to get with you/I'll kill my poetry and write myself anew/A fresh identity, devoid of sentimentality/An artist of integrity, I'll give that lonely, broken boy to you"
- from Hold Your Hair Back

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Fifty Songs for Summer

Summer wouldn't be the same without music; for me, walking around in the sun with headphones on is the very definition of summertime. There are several albums that I've already earmarked as this year's Summer Favourites (La Costa Perdida, Partygoing, AWOO), but it's also nice to equip the old iPod with a summer playlist, a mixture of stuff that I can throw on whenever I'm feeling sunny.

So here's my summer mix for this year. Put this badboy on shuffle and it'll be sunshine and smiles a go-go. It's 50 tracks long, but don't worry - while they're all highly recommended, I won't talk about all of them.
  • Please Don't Kill Me by Reptar (from Body Faucet)
  • George by Suckers (from Candy Salad)
  • California English by Vampire Weekend (from Contra)
  • Queen of Hearts by Fucked Up (from David Comes to Life)

    Can a song this angry-sounding really be described as 'summery'? I think so. I love the boy/girl vocals, and was a little disappointed that David Comes to Life didn't have more of that going on. In spite of the shouting, this is actually one of the album's more cheerful tracks, about two people meeting and taking a liking to each other. "Hello my name is David!/Your name is Veronica!/Let's be together!/Let's fall in love!"

  • California Girls by The Magentic Fields (from Distortion)
  • Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh! by Sunset Rubdown (from Dragonslayer)
  • 3's & 7's by Queens of the Stone Age (from Era Vulgaris)
  • Still Young by Allo Darlin' (from Europe)
  • Red Light by The Strokes (from First Impressions of Earth)
  • Meet Me in the Basement by Broken Social Scene (from Forgiveness Rock Record)
  • A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More "Touch Me" by Fall Out Boy (from From Under the Cork Tree)

    What can I say? This takes me back to the Summer of '06, when I did two weeks of work experience in a Save the Children charity shop. They always had Radio 1 on, and this song got played a lot. See also: Smile by Lily Allen, Smiling Faces by Gnarls Barkley, that really annoying Busta Rhymes song.

  • Mrs Playing Dead by The Crocketts (from The Great Brain Robbery)
  • Hang the Noose by Woodenbox with a Fistful of Fivers (from Home and the Wildhunt)
  • It's Over Already by The Murderburgers (from How to Ruin Your Life)
  • Tanks by Let's Wrestle (from In the Court of the Wrestling Let's)
  • Theme from PSB by Public Service Broadcasting (from Inform-Educate-Entertain)
  • Peaches in the Summertime by Camper Van Beethoven (from La Costa Perdida)
  • In a Small Body by Titus Andronicus (from Local Business)
  • Breathless by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (from Abbatoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus)
  • Make Me by Fang Island (from Major)
  • Despair by Yeah Yeah Yeahs (from Mosquito)

    "My sun is your sun/My sun is your sun/My sun is your sun/My sun is your sun..."

  • Without a Backing Track by Kid Canaveral (from Now That You Are a Dancer)
  • Olé! Tarantula by Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 (from Olé! Tarantula)
  • Sensitive New Age Guy by John Grant (from Pale Green Ghosts)
  • Sleep Forver by Motorifik (from Secret Things)
  • Banging Camp by The Hold Steady (from Separation Sunday)
  • The Only Living Boy and Girl by The Crimea (from Square Moon)
  • Steel Your Girl by Neon Neon (from Stainless Style)
  • Clone by Metric (from Synthetica)
  • Bocata de Sangre by Siesta! (from Terroruterino)
  • ESP by Hooded Fang (from Tosta Mista)
  • In The Now by Edwyn Collins (from Understated)
  • Saturday by Sparklehorse (from Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot)
  • Gator by Cave Painting (from Votive Life

    That's a live session in the video, but it doesn't deviate too far from the album version. I love the xylophone sound that kicks this song off; it makes me feel like I'm on a tropical island. Or it makes me wish I was on a tropical island, at least.

  • San Francisco by Foxygen (from We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic)
  • New Alphabet by Eels (from Wonderful, Glorious)
  • Light And Day by The Polyphonic Spree (from The Beginning Stages of...)
  • Disenchanted by My Chemical Romance (from The Black Parade)

    I know, I know. I felt that way too, once, back when I was the right age for My Chemical Romance. Instead of joining the army of dyed-black fans, I joined the army of people who made jokes about the dyed-black fans, thinking that I was clever and cool for disliking a band who sang about having emotions. But dislike turned to guilty pleasure, and now that I've grown up a little, that guilty pleasure has turned to unencumbered enjoyment. The Black Parade is brilliant, and this track in particular makes me feel like a fourteen-year-old in the height of summer. If you wrote MCR off years ago, give them another try today. Go on, the video's right there; give that play button a click.

  • All The Small Things by blink-182 (from Enema of the State)
  • Tell Me What's Shaking (Except This Building) by Spencer McGarry Season (from Episode 1)
  • Maureen by Young Knives (from Oh Happiness)
  • Juxtapozed With U by Super Furry Animals (from Rings Around the World)
  • Blood Orange Sun by Cherry Poppin' Daddies (from Susquehanna)
  • Living, Loving, Partygoing by Future Bible Heroes (from Partygoing)

    I've talked about it before, but I definitely think that this is my song of the summer. A lot of people I know have come back from university for the holidays, and this little ditty complements my sudden increase in social activity rather well.

  • Pretty Pink Ribbon by Cake (from Comfort Eagle)
  • Am I Wrong by Mikal Cronin (from MCII)
  • Brooklyn's On Fire! by Nicole Atkins (from Neptune City)
  • Learning the Lie by The Hidden Cameras (from AWOO)
  • No Tic, All Tac by Tullycraft (from Lost in Light Rotation)
  • Let's Pretend by Tindersticks (from Curtains)
Which songs are heavy in your headphones this summer? Suggestions in the comments, or you can tweet them to me if you'd prefer. I'm @TheAlbumWall.

Friday, July 12, 2013

First Impressions: Curtains by Tindersticks

First impressions may not be everything, but they're certainly important. This week, I'm listening to three recent purchases for the first time, and blogging my initial thoughts, track-by-track. After a solid showing from AWOO on Monday and a slightly disappointing first glance at Tallahassee by The Mountain Goats on Wednesday, it's time to round off First Impressions Week with a listen to Curtains, the third full-length album by Tindersticks.

I'm already a pretty big Tindersticks fan, so this album does have a slight advantage over AWOO and Tallahassee. Where those albums were bought on the strength of one or two songs, Curtains is the latest in a long line of 'Sticks albums I've stumped up for; I knew more or less what I was getting when I bought this, and the worst thing it can really be at this point is a bad Tindersticks album. That said, it's also the only CD of my First Impressions trio which doesn't contain a single song that I've already heard. Anything could happen, so let's get on with it...
  1. Another Night In
    I'm curious to hear this one, because according to, it's their most popular track of all time. It kicks things off with a nice orchestral flourish, so that's promising. Actually, the strings are the best thing about this; the brooding piano line is cool, and Stuart Staples is in good voice, but this would never be their most listened-to track without those big, dramatic strings. A pretty good start, though.

  2. Rented Rooms
    This is interesting. It's got a slightly Spanish feel to it. Yeah, I really like this; the strings are still toting a lot of weight, but not nearly as much as in track one. The string guys even step back to let some brass poke through towards the end. "Through the doors of that rented room." How cool does that bit sound? One to nod your head to.

  3. Don't Look Down
    After that menacing but still reasonably upbeat second track, it sounds like we're heading into slightly darker territory on this one. Clicking waltz rhythm and, yep, a healthy slice of stringwork, which becomes utterly all-encompassing around the two-minute mark. And then it drops down again. I wasn't sure about this one to begin with, but the loud bits are really awesome, scaling dizzy heights from practically nothing. 'Don't Look Down', indeed.

  4. Dick's Slow Song
    We've got atmospheric organ sounds, we've got some slightly aimless glockenspiel, we've got Stuart Staples all the way in my left ear. Frankly, you can probably glean a pretty good impression of this song from the title - it certainly is a slow song. There's a second Staples in my right ear now. This is making me slightly uncomfortable. The musical backdrop is pleasant but not much else.

  5. Fast One
    Getting a bit lazy with the song names, eh Tindersticks? Unsurprisingly, this is pretty much the polar opposite of Dick's Slow Song; where that was plodding and inoffensive, this one is pulsating and screechy. Oh, and short, apparently. That was fun.

  6. Ballad of Tindersticks
    Ah, it's one of their famous spoken word tracks. It's not really a ballad, is it? And while I don't mind a bit of spoken word, I don't see that this is in the same league as Tinderstick speak-songs like My Sister and Chocolate. The story isn't as engaging, and nor are the sounds behind it. This seven-minute roadblock will be quite annoying on future listens, I don't doubt.

  7. Dancing
    Much better. Soft, sparing, but instantly affecting, this puts me in mind of Leonard Cohen, for one reason or another. And it doesn't outstay its welcome, unlike the previous non-song. Lovely.

  8. Let's Pretend
    Another slightly Spanish-flavoured moment, this. The strings are back at the forefront of things, although it's the glorious, spaghetti-Western brass that rides into town at about 2:20 that really steals the show here. It's sort of a shame that it just fades out after that, but blimey - that bit will be hard to top.

  9. Desperate Man
    In fact, they're not even going to try. This is a laid-back, clip-clop song, not really aspiring to much but  giving us a nice little rest from all of the drama. There's some sweet sax music playing in the background, there. It's not a lighthearted song, really - just look at its title - but it certainly feels more jolly than the songs that preceded it. It reminds of Just a Dog from Waiting for the Moon.

  10. Buried Bones
    Ooh, a duet! I love their boy/girl duets! This is kind of similar to Travelling Light, the duet from Tindersticks II, but that's certainly no bad thing. It sounds a little happier than that song, for what it's worth; not nearly as sinister as its title suggests. The strings are prominent as ever, although the dual vocals actually manage to outshine them on this occasion.

  11. Bearsuit
    "I'm a tired, hungry bear/Spoiled and sleepy." As Tindersticks songs go, this one's actually quite good fun; a tooting organ parps out a waltz, and Stuart Staples croons about...I don't know, dressing up as a bear, possibly?

  12. (Tonight) Are You Trying To Fall In Love Again
    This is another one that's among their most popular tracks, and another one that's taken to another level by its string arrangement. This album is actually a lot like AWOO, in that it wouldn't be half as good had the violin never been invented. I wonder why Tindersticks eventually started to concentrate less on the string section? It certainly gives their music an extra bit of bite. Anyhow, this is good, especially the chorus/title drop bit.

  13. I Was Your Man
    Talk about your average Tindersticks song. Bells and glockenspiels abound, along with a dragging  3/4 drum beat and a gloomy-sounding bass underneath it all. Stuart Staples pushes his vocals a little higher than usual here, mind, so that's something. This actually has something of the Eels about it, particularly the outro.

  14. Bathtime
    Oh my. Who'd have thought that a song called 'Bathtime' could sound so ready for action? That low, low piano line is infectious, and we get another taste of sweet Tindersticks brass. There's even a cool call-and-response bit in the chorus, where the string and brass sections have a little conversation with each other. I'm loving this one - it really does sound like it's raring to go. I wish every song had an orchestra behind it, although if that were the case, it would kind of ruin the impact of the songs that already did.

  15. Walking
    Fifteen tracks is a lot, isn't it? But I've thoroughly enjoyed this album; where AWOO and Tallahassee confounded my expectations to varying degrees, this one gave me everything I wanted and plenty more besides. This song isn't all that interesting, incidentally - if it were, I might be talking about it rather than summing up my thoughts on the album as a whole. Hold on, though, because it sounds like the stringed instruments are slowly swooning their way in for one last hurrah...or perhaps not. Nothing much happened there, but I suppose it works well enough as a quiet, slightly creepy closer.
That's just about it for First Impressions Week. It's been quite good fun, actually, and I'm excited to look back at these three blog posts in a little while and seeing how much my opinions have changed. As I mentioned on Wednesday, I'm already far keener on AWOO than I was at first, and even Tallahassee could well win me over in the end. We'll have to wait and see!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

First Impressions: Tallahassee by The Mountain Goats

First impressions may not be everything, but they're certainly important. This week, I'm listening to three recent purchases for the first time, and blogging my initial thoughts, track-by-track. Monday was AWOO by The Hidden Cameras; today, it's the turn of Tallahassee by The Mountain Goats.

Here's what I've got going into this album. Firstly, I've heard No Children before, and I love it. It's the reason I bought the CD. Secondly, I make music under the name Shiny Tiger, and at least one person has told me that my stuff reminds them of The Mountain Goats. Thirdly, several people on Twitter have told me that
Tallahasse ranks among their favourite albums of all time.

I'm hoping for big things here. Let's do it...

  1. Tallahassee
    This is a gentle start. The bassline is nice, but this doesn't seem like it's going anywhere. Maybe it's about to explode...nope. Quiet opener, ease us in.

  2. First Few Desperate Hours
    Bit more invigorating, bit more pointed, rising and falling a little more than the rather static first track. Still no No Children, mind...

  3. Southwood Plantation Road
    Ooh, electric sounds! This one's got a slightly kooky feel to it, although it could do with some drumming to drive it along a little more. The vocals are kind of choppy too, coming and going at their leisure; I was hoping that every song would have an elegant, brutal cascade of words running through it, and right know he sounds like he's just singing things as they pop into his head.

  4. Game Shows Touch Our Lives
    Aha! That was a cymbal! Clearly you've got a drumkit in that room with you, Mr. Mountain Goats, so why don't you hit it? This track is slower, and calmer; it's got nice moments, but it's not so amazing as a whole. Oh god, I'm really not that bothered about this album so far! Does the whole internet hate me now?

  5. The House That Dripped Blood
    I like 'the cellar door is an open throat'. That's a good line. It's a pulsating, menacing song, to be sure, but it's still not doing all that much for me...

  6. Idylls of the King
    Oh good, a calm, quiet track. I might have needed that, if the first five songs had blown my mind even slightly. Ugh. This is okay, the 'all of them/all lined up bit' is cool, as is that xylophone bit underneath, but then I just spend the rest of the songs waiting for that bit to come back.

  7. No Children
    See, why couldn't every song be like this one? I was worried that this wouldn't sound as good as I remembered, but it does. It's amazing.

  8. See America Right
    OH MY GOD DRUMS. THANK JESUS. This is a ballsy bit of fuzzed-up nastiness, isn't it? It's also one of the best songs so far. Reminds me of The Hold Steady, a bit.

  9. Peacocks
    ...And we're back. This is a 'sittin' on the back porch, strummin' a guitar' song, and it's...uh...kinda pointless. Sing No Children again!

  10. International Small Arms Traffic Blues
    No, don't get quieter! asdfagfhrgu

    This is another one that's not giving me much to hang onto. It reminds me of Isobel by the Brakes, and Josephine by The Magnetic Fields, except it's not as pretty as the former and not as lyrically enjoyable as the latter.

  11. Have to Explode
    Maybe I've entered into this album with the wrong expectations. I wanted a man spilling his guts, loudly and passionately, but it's all so GENTLE. If I wasn't paying attention, I wouldn't have even noticed that this, ISATB and Peacocks were three different tracks. I'm bored, and this album is running out of time to turn that situation around.

    Three tracks to go. Seriously, Mr. Goats, I really don't want to tell everyone how disappointed I was with this album. I don't care how you do it, but please please please pull a few good songs out of the bag here.

  12. Old College Try
    Okay, this is better...nice organ, the words are flowing more freely than in previous songs, I'm actually kind of interested in what he has to say again. Ooh, and a cool organ solo! This whole ordeal might have a happy ending yet.

  13. Oceanographer's Choice
    Oh my goodness, we may actually have a comeback on our hands here. Against all odds, this one's got a really good groove behind it, and things suddenly sound like they're building to something. It's got drama, it's got tension, it's got an EVERLOVIN' DRUMKIT...and he just did a title drop and it sounded really badass. "Night comes to Tallahassee!" This is great; I've almost forgotten how little I cared about this album a couple of songs ago.

  14. Alpha Rats Nest
    Please be a good one, please be a good one...oh, well, it's upbeat, at least. You could almost dance to this song if you wanted to. My heart still hasn't been ripped out and shown to me, which is kind of what I wanted from Tallahassee, but this certainly has some good stuff going for it. A slightly strange choice of closing track, but at least it was a decent tune.
So a good finish, but overall this struck me as something of a let down. Joking aside, I don't really care about how little drumming there is. It's more what the drumlessness represents, and that's an album that should have been absolutely gut-wrenching but turned to be surprisingly ho-hum.

This is nothing more than an initial impression, of course. I've just taken a peek at Tallahassee's Wikipedia page, and it's apparently a concept album (I did wonder - a lot of these songs are about marital breakdown and falling out of love) so I'm interested to have another listen and see how knowing about the story changes my perception of things. And hey, I was a bit indifferent towards AWOO when I wrote Monday's blog post, and I'm loving those songs now.

So maybe this will grow on me too. I guess we'll see, eh?

Monday, July 8, 2013

First Impressions: AWOO by The Hidden Cameras

First impressions may not be everything, but they're certainly important. This week, I'm listening to three recent purchases for the first time, and blogging my initial thoughts, track-by-track. I'm starting with AWOO by The Hidden Cameras; let's jump in...
  1. Death of a Tune
    Okay, so I've actually heard this one before. I wouldn't have bought this album if I didn't like Death of a Tune and the title track so much, although I am a little worried that this will turn out to be one of those records that starts out awesome and then gets really dull. I guess we'll see, eh?

  2. AWOO
    Again, I don't really have a first impression to share on this one because I already knew it. It's still damn good though, if not quite as good as track one.

  3. She's Gone
    Okay, here's where the real test begins. Is this a good album, or just a crap one that's hiding behind a couple of happy accidents? She's Gone certainly bodes well, with a good flow and some nice, Eastern-sounding strings in the background. As simple as it makes me sound, I especially like the bit where he sings the name of the song. The breakdown at the end is pretty cool, too.

  4. Lollipop
    Ooh, bit faster, this one. The stabby strings are great, although goodness knows what he's yelping over the top. It's just frantic, monosyllabic nonsense: HEY! SAY! THIS! WHAT! HAM! SHOP! ICE! FLAPS!

  5. Fee Fie
    We all need to calm down a bit after Lollipop, so here's a softer one. It's pleasant, and a good showcase for this guy's voice, but it's certainly not as engaging as anything from that opening quad. A grower, maybe?

  6. Learning The Lie
    Tense, scary movie strings...and then, a reassuring, jangly guitar. He likes his wordless choruses, doesn't he? It's like he writes all these amazing melodies and then can't be bothered to add any words. It still sounds wonderful, though.

  7. Follow These Eyes
    The strings are doing most of the work on this one. It's very intricate and brooding and all that, but I don't think it's as interesting as the preceding stuff. Which is a shame because it's somewhat longer than any of the first six tracks.

  8. Heji
    What does 'heji' mean? Is it the name of this annoyingly clangy percussion instrument at the start? Things get better when the rest of the band comes in, but it's still pretty stop-start. I don't think this is going to have any vocals, is it? Aside from the guy shouting "HUT!" every so often. Let's wait and see...nope, we've got some oohs and some aahs but not much else. Basically a tense instrumental interlude, then, with a man hitting a saucepan in the middle of it all.

  9. Heaven Turns To
    That gentle caress of an intro is doing a lot to soothe the headache the last track gave me. This song is nice enough, but it doesn't feel like a highlight...although I reckon I'll catch myself absent-mindedly singing "heaveen...turns to heaveeen" in an hour or so. I like the big string 'n' vocal swells, too. The strings really do carry a lot of this record, huh?

  10. Wandering
    Nice transition from the last song. Another gentle, slow-ish one; these songs sound lovely (especially the piano, and the singing! I'm so in love with his voice) but we could really use another Lollipop or Death of a Tune to kick the album into a high gear as we head towards the final stretch.

  11. For Fun
    That string intro makes for slightly uneasy listening. I hope this isn't going to be like that Animal Collective song that makes you feel like you're going to throw up. Ah, there we are, the strings have stopped, and we've got a hard-hitting little verse instead. Another chorus with no actual lyrics - just tuneful cooing. That teetering string bit does come back, by the way, but it sounds better this time, victorious rather than nauseous. He's really giving the vocals some welly here, too. I've decided I really like this one...although it's probably longer than it needs to be.

  12. Hump From Bending
    Heh, 'hump'. Lol, 'bending'. Like a few of these songs, it starts off sounding all dramatic, and then when it actually starts properly, it becomes quite jolly. This isn't quite as quick as tracks 1 and 4, but it is pretty fast-paced, which is good because it stops the album from feeling like it's getting bogged down towards the end. I think I've resigned myself to the wordless singing now. Those parts might actually be my favourites.

  13. The Waning Moon
    Ah, it's a moon song! I'd heard that THC were kind of like The Magnetic Fields, and while I haven't really been hearing it thus far, the presence of a song with 'moon' in the title does kind of seal it. This sounds like a sort of inverted version of the title track, although it's missing the killer hook. Bit of a weak ending, actually.
While this definitely wasn't "crap" by any stretch of the imagination, the songs weren't quite as immediate as I'd hoped. I wanted a baker's dozen of instant indiepop classics, and I got some semi-orchestral songs that were indeed big on melody (yay!) but also a little more complex than I'd expected. I suspect it will grow on me rather dramatically given a few more listens, but for now, only modified rapture.

Come back on Wednesday to find out what I make of Tallahassee by The Mountain Goats (or, now that it's the future, you can just click here).

Friday, July 5, 2013

My First, My Favourite

Allow me to paint a picture for you. You're browsing through the CDs in a charity shop, as you do, when you come across an album by That Band You've Heard Are Good. You're thrilled - you've been meaning to get into this band for ages, and this second-hand album is the perfect opportunity to do so. And hey, even if it's crap, you've only lost a quid or so.

So you buy it, and you take it home, and it's great! Each track is it's own little symphony, and yet the whole thing flows together seamlessly, with barely a note out of place. What a purchase this was! You make a beeline for The Internet, eager to read the opinions of like-minded people who enjoyed this album as much as you did...

...and nobody on The Internet gives a shit, because you've bought that album. You know, that album; the one that's doomed to forever live in the shadow of the band's other achievements; the one that nobody ever talks about because, well, it's a small fish in a big pond. It could be that it came out during the band's formative years - before they really hit their stride - or it could be a more recent release that didn't live up to expectations.

It's hard not to feel disappointed when the best thing anyone has to say about your new favourite album is that it's 'underrated' or 'just as good as their more popular stuff'. But context makes a big difference; as far as you're concerned, the tracks on your charity shop album are that band's Greatest Hits, but the long-time fans on the interweb are privy to the bigger picture. They were there when the band released this lacklustre imitation of their former glories, and they haven't thought up a kind word to say about it since.

Of course, you're now free to explore the band's back catalogue, and you may well discover that The Internet was right: the album you bought was merely the tip of that sexy iceberg. But even if these new discoveries utterly dwarf the album you came in on, you'll probably still have a place in your heart for that record. After all, it was your gateway to this world of sonic delights. Heck, you might even decide that, having heard everything the artist has to offer, you still like that charity shop one the best.

In short, I think that the first album you hear by a band will more often than not prove to be your favourite of theirs. At the very least, you'll think higher of it for having been your cherry-popper where that particular artist was concerned. Here are some examples from my own crooked path...

My first Suede album: Dog Man Star
Bought it for about 50p at a car boot sale, thought it was a work of genius. A lot of people think that their debut is better - after all, that was the one with Bernard Butler - but I couldn't disagree more. This is their best, followed by Coming Up. The self-titled album is third.

My first Clinic album: Winchester Cathedral
Found this in D'Vinyl Records and snapped it up after seeing Clinic support Arcade Fire in Cardiff. I think it's a damn cool album, but apparently it pales in comparison to their earlier work. Notice how the most positive review of this album on Amazon was written by someone who had never listened to Clinic before.

My first Pavement album: Terror Twilight
This one came from Oxfam, I think. Ignore that ugly-butt cover and there are some seriously sweet tunes inside. The other Pavement album I own is Wowee Zowee, but I much prefer this one. The songs are just...better.

My first Cosmic Rough Riders album: The Stars Look Different From Down Here
Bought from Fopp in Cardiff (remember when that existed?), simply because they were doing an instore gig and signing copies of the new CD. This is another case of  'they lost a member, now they suck' - I've got Enjoy the Melodic Sunshine, and that's really good too, but for entirely different reasons.

My first Tindersticks album: The Hungry Saw
This was the first album that I thought of when I decided to do this blog post. I bought it for a fiver, having read on the web that Tindersticks were really good, and after one listen I completely agreed. But then the web turned around and went, 'Hm? Oh no, not that Tindersticks - the old albums are the ones you want.' Now that I've got those older releases, I can confirm that the web was right, but I still think this is a masterpiece.

File:I Hope You're Sitting Down-cover.jpg
My first Lambchop album: I Hope You're Sitting Down
Like The Hungry Saw, I bought this one because I wanted to see what the artist was like and this was the cheapest option. But where THS is considered a disappointment compared to earlier albums, this LP is seen as the tadpole that eventually turned into a band capable of creating Nixon. Again, I like the critically-acclaimed album, but I like this just as much - it's more lo-fi, and the songs are a lot more direct than the roundabout, string-laden stuff on Nixon. Just listen to this one:

There are loads of other examples. My girlfriend Sarah and I can't agree on which of Rufus Wainwright's Want albums is better. I heard Want One first, and that's my favourite, whereas she prefers Want Two, which was the first one she heard. Coincidence? Perhaps, perhaps not.

What do you think? Do albums sound better when you've got no previous experience of that artist? If you'd care to weigh in on this, drop us a comment. And have a good weekend!