I can’t remember when I first got into Graceland. It certainly wasn’t in the 80’s when I was much more into dance music and rave culture! The singles that charted give a flavour of the South African musical contributions and influences of this album, but the real gems sit on the album itself. Simon’s lyrics are cleverly constructed but it is the musical and vocal performances that make this album worth listening to. The drums, percussion, accordions and guitars create rhythms and tunes that are uplifting and joyful, even when the lyrics aren’t quite so. The harmonies are just great and are wonderful to listen to. If you haven’t listened to Graceland and “world” music isn’t your thing then you should give it a listen if you want something different. It still holds up fantastically after 30 years.
Standout track: Under African Skies
Alongside Blur and Oasis there were numerous other Britpop bands, of which Sleeper were one of the best. This album is there finest in my opinion and is a brilliant collection of songs. It is intelligently written and has the classic 90’s Britpop sound of catchy melodies and jangly guitar riffs. Louise Wener has one of those wonderfully distinctive voices that purrs the lyrics with a slight huskiness. This is a great album to listen to, particularly on a sunny day like today. Some are the tracks are less than 3 minutes, so you get that “hit and run” feeling, where the songs just arrive, do what they gotta do and bang, they’re gone. Sadly I never got to see them live, but I might get the chance now they have reformed earlier this year. If you have never checked out Sleeper this is a great album to start with.
Standout track: Statuesque
I have always liked U2 but never enough to really invest in their albums. I owned the Joshua Tree once but other than that I mainly listen to their singles that I like. I probably bought this on the strength on Vertigo, and it is my favourite track on this. The thing about bands that have been around a while is that their musicianship shows through so the music just sounds good. The Edge’s guitar is always great to listen to and this album is a consummate rock album. Its a good album to listen to on the tube, as you can almost zone out of the vocals and just enjoy the music. The instruments all seem to have room to breathe and not be overwhelmed by production. The fact that I can’t say any more probably sums up my attitude to U2 albums!!
Standout track: Vertigo
A lot of artists have one big album that projects them into mainstream consciousness and for Peter Gabriel this album was ‘So’. As is typical of the mid-eighties the album is full of synthesisers and electronica and is an album for the MTV generation, with some of his biggest singles featuring. I saw him in concert around this time but, as what can happen with live shows, only have a fleeting memory of the light show during “Big Time”. It captures a mood of the time where many people faced the reality of unemployment while others grew wealthy. Despite its commercial feel his experimental side still appears on some of the tracks which makes it an interesting album to listen to. It manages to do what good albums do – convey a range of emotions to the listener and draw you into to the lyrics.
Standout Track – This Is The Picture (Excellent Birds)
50 years on it’s easy to see why some people don’t get Sgt. Pepper. It’s not just about the music, it captures the spirit of a particular time in 60’s British culture that can be hard to appreciate. Hearing this music for the first time back then was revolutionary and whatever you might think of the lyrics the music is spectacular. What we take for granted at the click of a mouse today the Beatles invented with customised equipment and tape loops literally sped up or slowed down. I love catching the little things that are easy to miss when you are engrossed in the melodies, like a little guitar flourish or Ringo’s squeaky seat. It’s difficult to pick my favourite between Paul’s bass lines or Ringo’s drumming. It is an album where you can close your eyes and let it fill your minds eye, perfect for the tube!
Standout track : How can you pick one? Whichever I pick you are probably going to disagree anyway!
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.
Wendy and Lisa are Prince’s greatest collaborators and with him are responsible for some of his greatest work, whether credited or not. It was always going to be difficult for W&L to step out of Prince’s shadow but I don’t think fame and fortune were necessarily their goal. W&L are musicians at heart and Eroica, their third album, has a more mature feel about it as they seemed to have grown into their sound. It really is a listenable album from the view that there is depth to the music. Whether its the layered guitars on one track, or layered vocals on another or the little guitar licks that hop between the stereo channels there is always something interesting to listen to.
Standout track: Why Wait For Heaven – those guitars!
Dan Smith has such an unmistakable voice. It seems that whatever the song his vocals just lift it, whether its an upbeat dance track or lower key song. Maybe its a result of Dan writing all the songs himself, a possible subconscious attitude with an air of positivity seeping into each one. Bastille have a great sound combining a synth sound with guitars and drums creating songs that are meaningful rather than just throwaway pop. Some albums can sound too repetitive if the band has a particular style, but I don’t feel it with Wild World. I didn’t know what I wanted to listen to today and just scrolled through my recently added albums, and it wasn’t a bad way to suffer the trains after a long weekend.
Standout track : Good Grief, mainly for the “Weird Science” soundbites!