31 August 2013

31st August - Neil Young's After the Gold Rush

Artist - Album: Neil Young - After the Gold Rush
Released: 31st August 1971
Sounds like: A comforting arm around your shoulder

One of the albums that I loved most when I was a wee bairn was a mixtape made by my Auntie for my Mum. We only ever listened to it on long journeys, so it invariably meant holidays and beaches and fun. It also meant awesome songs, but the fact that it was on a cassette (ask your parents, kids!) meant that it was soon forgotten about and lost, and I have little idea of how to track down the songs that were on it. Most are now lost to the ether, but there's a few that I've stumbled upon now that I'm older: there's Johnny Cash's cover of 'Don't Think Twice, It's All Right', and the splendidly obscure folk-samba of 'Trade Winds' by Mark-Almond (not the Soft Cell lead singer). There was also a couple from classic albums in the form of David Bowie's 'Kooks' and, my then absolute favourite, 'Til the Morning Comes' from this album.

Neil Young has an unparalleled ability to write music that is both sweet and naive, and yet interesting and beguiling.  After the Gold Rush is my favourite of his and its full of such songs. Some, such as 'Tell Me Why' and 'I Believe in You', are adorned with gorgeous harmonies; some rock out, like 'Southern Man' and 'When You Dance I Can Really Love'; and others, for example 'Oh Lonesome Me' and 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart', are deliciously resigned. All are brilliant.

Incidentally, this is also the album that I turned to during a bad break up a few years ago - the rocking 'Southern Man' aside, this is an album obsessed with love and heartache. It's not particularly objective of me to be reviewing an album which I have such personal affection for, but, in this case, I'm not sure it makes a difference: I love the album because of what it did for me, but I'm certain that I'd love it anyway. It's a corker.

Albumaday... rating: 10/10

1. Tell Me Why – 2:54
2. After the Gold Rush – 3:45
3. Only Love Can Break Your Heart – 3:05
4. Southern Man – 5:31
5. Till the Morning Comes – 1:17
6. Oh Lonesome Me – 3:47
7. Don't Let It Bring You Down – 2:56
8. Birds – 2:34
9. When You Dance I Can Really Love – 4:05
10. I Believe in You – 3:24
11. Cripple Creek Ferry – 1:34

Listen to 'Don't Let It Bring You Down': www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBG4vxi9mtk

Also released on 31st August:
1970: The Beach Boys – Sunflower
Also released on 31st August:
1987: Michael Jackson – Bad

Also released on 31st August:
2004: Jill Scott – Beautifully Human

30 August 2013

30th August - Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited

Artist – Album: Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited
Released:  30th August 1965
Sounds Like: A special day

I’ve had days on this Albumaday… journey where I’ve had a pretty tough choice between two awesome records – in June, for example, Radiohead’s OK Computer came directly up against Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On – and occasionally, say once or twice, there’s been as many as three brilliant albums released on the same day. But today is just plain ridiculous. Today I’ve had to listen to, and then reconcile not writing about, one of the Nineties best albums in Oasis’ Definitely Maybe, The Beach Boys’ forgotten classic Surf’s Up, The Byrds’ sweetest record Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Kanye West’s superstar- status-confirming Late Registration, The Libertines’ stunning self-titled debut and Björk’s majestic Medúlla. It’s just not fair is it? As difficult as it was to justify ignoring each of these genuinely great records, however, it would have been a hell of a lot more difficult to overlook Highway 61 Revisited.

The album that definitively marked Dylan’s transformation from a folk artist to a rock star, Highway 61 Revisited is bookended by two of his most iconic tracks – the sneering, bile-fest that also happens to be the most acclaimed song of all time ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, and the mystic, flamenco tinged stream of consciousness ‘Desolation Row’. An album made of just these two alone would be worthy of mention in this blog, and, at seventeen and a half minutes between them, would roughly equate to the length of the average Ramones record. In between though, there’s wit, romance and, yes, a little bit more anger. The title track is blues boogie plays like a circus act, and it’s followed by the nervous, hallucinatory ‘Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues’. Along with ‘Desolation Row’, the shuffling ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’ is probably my favourite, with Dylan filtering every bit of venom in the delivery of his put down “something’s happening but you don’t know what it is, do you Mr Jones?”. Highway 61 was seen by Dylan as the road that connected his birthplace, Duluth, to all the blues landmarks, such as the birth places of Muddy Waters and Charley Patton and the point where Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the devil, and, as such, a lot of the music within has blues foundations.  

Better writers than I have found themselves fumbling fruitlessly for satisfactory expressions when attempting to describe albums as great as this. Professors of English would struggle to decipher Dylan’s lush, abstract poetry, whilst the backdrop against which the album was released – with the US entering conflict in Vietnam and the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King still being mourned, the Sixties were yet to truly swing – is something that I’ve read about but have had no experience of. Nevertheless, even with my weak and feeble mind, living in these considerably less turbulent times, this album for me is still spectacularly good.

Albumaday... rating: 10/10

1.       Like a Rolling Stone – 6:13
2.       Tombstone Blues – 6:00
3.       It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry – 4:09
4.       From a Buick 6 – 3:19
5.       Ballad of a Thin Man – 5:58
6.       Queen Jane Approximately – 5:31
7.       Highway 61 Revisited – 3:30
8.       Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues – 5:32
9.       Desolation Row – 11:21

Listen to ‘Desolation Row’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-8KA4G4S9o

Also released on 30th August:
1967: The Byrds – Sweetheart of the Rodeo
Also released on 30th August:
1994: Oasis – Definitely Maybe

Also released on 30th August:
2005: Kanye West – Late Registration

29 August 2013

29th August - Iggy Pop's Lust for Life

Artist – Album: Iggy Pop – Lust for Life
Released:  29th August 1977
Sounds Like: Choose life

There are many iconic scenes in Danny Boyle’s landmark 1996 film Trainspotting: from Renton’s Eno-soundtracked disgusting toilet dive, to the psychotic Begbie’s one-man-and-his-pool-cue brawl against an entire pub; from the terrifying drug induced roof crawling baby nightmare to the unfortunate kitchen episode with the parents of an underage girl that Renton has slept with. The film’s opener also sticks in the mind, with a young Ewan McGregor as Renton sprinting down Princes Street in Edinburgh, his eyes bulging on adrenaline and, no doubt, heroin. The music backing it is the bouncing, thrill-seeking ‘Lust for Life’, and a more appropriate song for a film there has never been.

In March 1977, Iggy Pop had released not-a-lot-of-fun The Idiot, a glum slow burner questioning rock posturing and detailing the demise of his contemporaries (reviewed what seems like a lifetime ago by yours truly here). Five months later, Pop had clearly laid those ghosts to rest with this nihilistic and rocking album. Things quick off splendidly with the rollicking title track, and this is followed by the aggressive ‘Sixteen’, the decadent ‘Passenger’, the mocking ‘Success’ and the cool ‘Tonight’. Pop was back enjoying life, and it's impossible not to be swept up in the enthusiasm.

As mentioned in its respective blog, The Idiot may well contain Pop’s strongest set of songs, but it’s an album to respect rather than love. Lust for Life, on the other hand, is necessarily primal and brazen, and requires little or no thought at all. As with Trainspotting, it may be visceral and unrefined, but it’s exhilarating and enjoyable, even for those of who would never dream of shooting up.

Albumaday... rating: 8/10

1.       Lust for Life – 5:13
2.       Sixteen – 2:26
3.       Some Weird Sin – 3:42
4.       The Passenger – 4:44
5.       Tonight – 3:39
6.       Success – 4:25
7.       Turn Blue – 6:56
8.       Neighbourhood Threat – 3:25
9.       Fall in Love With Me – 6:30

Listen to ‘Success': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGbw-cz35qo

28 August 2013

28th August - Devo's Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!

Artist – Album: Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!
Released:  28th August 1978
Sounds Like: New wave for robots

I first came across Mark Mothersbaugh, the front man of Devo, when I was but a rugrat. Mothersbaugh, you see, was the composer of the theme tune to nineties cartoon Rugrats, a melody so simple and infectious that everybody in my high school music class would play it incessantly on the keyboard, like ‘Chopsticks’ for the 21st Century. Like Max Fischer in Rushmore, I did pretty well all round in high school (Ok, ok, I never saved Latin or wrote a hit play), and Mothersbaugh supported me all the way: he provided the soundtrack to a host of Wes Anderson films, including the Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and, indeed, Rushmore. Finally, in university, I discovered Devo, and three of their best songs – the emphatic novelty hit ‘Whip It’, the genius deconstruction of the Rolling Stones’ classic ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ and the relentless, primitive ‘Mongoloid’.

Are We Not Men… does not contain their biggest hit, but those latter two tracks are here in all their mechanical wonder. Alongside them, is a selection of the jerkiest, catchiest songs new wave ever saw. Devo sound like a mix between Talking Heads and Kraftwerk, with Mothersbaugh yelping, stuttering and caterwauling like David Byrne having a panic attack, behind a mathematically designed danceable backing track. As well as the aforementioned duo (on ‘Satisfaction’, by the way, they come across as even more frustrated and desperate than in Jagger’s legendary performance), the bursting opener ‘Uncontrollable Urge’, the Johnny B. Goode referencing ‘Come Back Jonee’ and the delightful ‘Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Gettin’) are gems. The centrepiece is ‘Jocko Homo’ , a track borne from their philosophy of the “devolution of man” and contains the persistent, insane call and response “Are we not men? We are Devo”, which probably stands as the litmus test as to whether you think these are art rock messiahs or just very naughty boys.

Albumaday... rating: 8/10

1.       Uncontrollable Urge – 3:09
2.       (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – 2:40
3.       Praying Hands – 2:47
4.       Space Junk – 2:14
5.       Mongoloid – 3:44
6.       Jocko Homo – 3:40
7.       Too Much Paranoias – 1:57
8.       Gut Feeling / (Slap Your Mammy) – 4:54
9.       Come Back Jonee – 3:47
10.   Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Gettin’) – 2:40
11.   Shrivel-Up – 3:05

Listen to ‘Uncontrollable Urge’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8UcpmUQkNU

Also released on 28th August:
1973: Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On

27 August 2013

27th August - Pearl Jam's Ten

Artist – Album: Pearl Jam 
Released:  27th August 1991
Sounds Like: The grunge-on masters

It’s rare that a genre of music explodes fully formed into the mainstream consciousness; more often than not, music styles flow from one to another, as easily as Merseybeat led to pop rock led to psychedelic pop (well, that one was all under one particular band’s duress, but still). The few singular occasions of dramatic revolution include punk’s utter devastation of the music landscape in 1977, and the unprecedented dominance of hip hop and R&B over the last decade, which is yet to be stemmed. The early Nineties saw a sea change of its own, as the Seattle sound suddenly became the popular rock form for the flannel-shirt wearing, disenfranchised generation.

Grunge, the label for the Northwestern scene that married hardcore punk, heavy metal, and indie rock, had many forefathers – Neil Young was given the moniker “the Godfather of Grunge” thanks to his Crazy Horse days, whilst influential alternative rock luminaries such as Sonic Youth, Pixies and Black Flag each had a considerable influence. The first practioners, such as Mudhoney and Soundgarden had modest success, but it was Nirvana’s Nevermind and this album, released a month earlier, that were the catalysts for the distorted-guitars-driven, angst-ridden onslaught.

Ten does a nice line in punk inspired aggression with the likes of ‘Once’ and ‘Why Go’, but as a whole Pearl Jam seem more inclined to the rock side of things. ‘Alive’ is festooned with spindly guitar riffs and solos that would make a true punk sick, whilst ‘Oceans’ and ‘Release’ are languid and experimental, as far removed from thrash or metal as possible. Elsewhere, the ballad ‘Black’ is stately and moving, with Eddie Vedder’s smooth baritone rendering the track similar to something by the indie rockers American Music Club. The highlight of the set is unquestionably ‘Jeremy’, an epic that recounts the true story of a high school student who suffered bullying and was eventually driven to shooting himself in front of his classmates.

Some, including Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, labelled this album as a commercial sell out, and its monumental success, which thereby thrust the unlikely and unwilling exponents into the limelight, would eventually lead to the genre’s grisly implosion. That may be a little unfair, as members of the group were there as Mother Love Bone in Grunge’s deepest darkest beginnings, and the music here is hardly more accessible or commercial than Cobain’s own breakthrough, Nevermind. Still, as a representation of a nascent genre on the brink of the big time, it can’t be bettered.

Albumaday... rating: 9/10

1.       Once – 3:51
2.       Even Flow – 4:53
3.       Alive – 5:40
4.       Why Go – 3:19
5.       Black – 5:44
6.       Jeremy – 5:18
7.       Oceans – 2:41
8.       Porch – 3:30
9.       Garden – 4:59
10.   Deep – 4:18
11.   Release – 9:05

Listen to ‘Jeremy’ : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MS91knuzoOA

Also released on 27th August:
2001: Bjork - Vespertine
Also released on 27th August:
2002: Queens of the Stone Age - Songs for the Deaf

Also released on 27th August:
2007: Tungg - Good Arrows

24 August 2013

26th August - The Cure's The Head on the Door

Artist - Album: The Cure - The Head on the Door
Released: 26th August 1985
Sounds like: pop: The Cure-stion

Almost four months ago I produced a typically excellent (ha!) review of The Cure's 1989 masterpiece Disintegration. I must confess to you, dearest reader, that, as it's lovely and sunny outside and it's the last day of my holidays, and as Manchester United vs Chelsea kicks off shortly and I'm a very lazy person really, I'm just going to rehash part of that blog again here.  If you fancy a read of the infinitely more painstakingly assembled original, check it here: http://analbumadaykeepsthebluesaway.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/1st-may-cures-disintegration.html?m=1

The Cure live some sort of a double life: they're known as one of the pioneers of the gothic scene and have crafted sone stunning albums of glacial, beautifully atmospheric rock; on the other hand, they were one of the great pop groups of the Eighties, delivering stunning singles such as 'Love Cats', 'Boys Don't Cry' and 'Friday I'm in Love'. Although there were relapses, for a snapshot of the transition from bleak goth kids to rock pop stars, look no further than this album. The best known tracks - Close to Me’ and 'Inbetween Days' - are belters, but the rest of the album, from the flamenco sounds of 'The Blood' to the insensible 'Six Different Ways', is similarly giddy and fun.

I may have said the same thing about Disintegration but The Head on the Door just might be the finest album of their career.

Analbumaday... rating: 8/10

1. In Between Days – 2:57
2. Kyoto Song – 4:16
3. The Blood – 3:43
4. Six Different Ways – 3:18
5. Push – 4:31
6. The Baby Screams – 3:44
7. Close to Me – 3:23
8. A Night Like This – 4:16
9. Screw – 2:38
10. Sinking – 4:57

Listen to 'Six Different Ways': www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouitmsVcXqY

Also released on 26th August:
2002: Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head

23 August 2013

25th August - Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run

Artist - Album: Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run
Released: 25th August 1975
Sounds like: The need to break away

Last night I read Douglas Adams' introduction to the final, unfinished novel of legendary wordsmith P.G. Wodehouse. In it, Adams delighted in retelling his favourite Wodehouse quotes such as "the Duke's moustache was rising and falling like seaweed on ebb tide" and "ice formed on the butler's upper slopes". How very refined. Hidden away on my Facebook profile are the Eighteen year old me's list of favourite quotes. In there, amongst those from The Princess Bride and Father Ted ("its like a big tide of jam coming towards us, but jam made out of old women!"), is the opening line of this album - "the screen door slams, Mary's dress sways, like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays". It may not quite be literary genius, but Springsteen expertly sets the scene of young heroes attempting to drive away from the rut of their working class existence.

Born to Run is chock full of lines about escaping the downtrodden, small town life, each delivered in the Boss' trademark air punching, fist clenching style. The music is almost Meatloaf-esque in it's drama and theatricality. 'Thunder Road' and the title track are stone cold classics, but every single song here is downright brilliant, from the near-Northern Soul 'Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out' to the skittering, lovelorn 'She's the One'.

Eight anthems make up the album that made Springsteen a star, and the record still stands as the pinnacle of his wonderul career. I can't explain it as eloquently as Adams could for Wodehouse but, rest assured, I really do love this album.

Analbumaday... rating: 10/10

1. Thunder Road - 4:49
2. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out - 3:11
3. Night - 3:00
4. Backstreets - 6:30
5. Born to Run - 4:31
6. She's the One - 4:30
7. Meeting Across the River - 3:18
8. Jungleland - 9:34

Listen to 'She's the One': www.youtube.com/watch?v=vw-e8GNxqKM
Also released on 25th August:
1988: Metallica - ...And Justice for All
Also released on 25th August:
1998: Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Also released on 25th August:
1998: Elliott Smith - XO

24th August - The Rolling Stones' Tattoo You

Artist - Album: The Rolling Stones - Tattoo You
Released: 24th August 1981
Sounds like: confessional

Hello. My name's Joe. And I'm a serial Stones doubter.

For as long as I can remember I have suffered from an absurd affliction, with which I struggle to take The Rolling Stones seriously. Maybe it's because of the decline in standards of their later work, maybe it's because of Jagger's ridiculous prancing about in the video to 'Dancing in the Street' (although that hasn't done David 'the Goblin King' Bowie any harm), maybe its just because they're still going to this day when by rights they should be in retirement homes (or graveyards, indestructible Keef!); whatever it is, I just can't help it. Which, I admit, is ridiculous, especially when you consider that the Stones are still the only band who can stand up next to The Beatles as the greatest rock group of all time.

I've become accustomed to earlier records being pleasant surprises, but I had my doubts about one from the Eighties. Especially, when I learnt that it's basically a compilation of outtakes from the past decade or so. First track - 'Start Me Up'... and it looks like I'm wrong again.

Split between a half of rockers and a half of ballads, the first side builds on the openers' party anthem feel to create a rip roaring mini-suite. Particular favourites are the bouncy 'Hang Fire' and the sleazy 'Slave'. There's real soul in Jagger's often comical voice, and the ballads here are expertly treated by the legendary frontman. 'Tops' is tops. There's more magic in these off cuts than there is in most of the artists I've reviewed's masterpieces.

Analbumaday... rating: 8/10

1. Start Me Up - 3:31
2. Hang Fire - 2:20
3. Slave - 4:59
4. Little T&A - 3:23
5. Black Limousine - 3:32
6. Neighbours - 3:31
7. Worried About You - 5:16
8. Tops - 3:45
9. Heaven - 4:21
10. No Use in Crying - 3:24
11. Waiting on a Friend - 4:34

Listen to 'Hang Fire': www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xbtlW16Gts

23rd August - Jeff Buckley's Grace

Artist - Album: Jeff Buckley - Grace
Released: 23rd August 1994
Sounds like: Heavenly

Here's a little debate to keep you and your otherwise socially awkward friends going in the pub over this long weekend: just who is the greatest singer in pop history? There are plenty of candidates from the soul canon - the velvety smooth voices of Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye and Al Green; the shape shifting pipes of Aretha Franklin, delicate and angelic one moment, monstrous and powerful the next; the ticks and woops of Motown stars like Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson; and older, stately contributions from the queens of the blues and soul like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. Folk has given us the beautiful singing of Sandy Denny and Tim Buckley. Recent pop songstresses such as Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston may have had a tendency to over do it, but, you have to grudgingly admit, they are pretty good. In rock though, it's less easy to pinpoint great singers - half the time it seems like not being able to sing matters, eh Liam Gallagher? Few would argue with Van Morrison, Elvis or Robert Plant (that's quite the trio), but beyond those I tend to draw a blank. That said, rock can lay claim to Jeff Buckley, son of Tim, who may have been the best of all.

Jeff only recorded one full album before he died (aged just 30, not of drugs or violence, but of drowning whilst swimming in Wolf Creek and singing Led Zeppelin - I couldn't help but love this guy when I was 14), but what an album to leave us with. Diverse influences such as Eastern raga, folk, lounge and classical music, and, most prominently, Led Zep, combine to create a record that is complex but easy, dramatic but unpretentious, and bombastic but intimate. His cover of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' helped to turn the song into a standard, whilst two of his originals - the epic 'Lover, You Should've Come Over' and the glorious'Last Goodbye' - are up there with the best rock songs of the nineties. The guitars are intricate without being showy, and the band posses an almost telepathic understanding. Above it all, Jeff's voice soars, swoops and waltzes with incredible flexibility, as you imagine his ghost does now. It's the stuff legends are made of.

Analbumaday... rating: 10/10

1. Mojo Pin -5:42
2. Grace - 5:22
3. Last Goodbye -4:35
4. Lilac Wine - 4:32
5. So Real - 4:43
6. Hallelujah - 6:53
7. Lover, You Should've Come Over - 6:43
8. Corpus Christi Carol - 2:56
9. Eternal Life - 4:52
10. Dream Brother - 5:26

Also released on 23rd August:
2005: The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema

22 August 2013

22nd August - Dennis Wilson's Pacific Ocean Blue

Artist - Album: Dennis Wilson - Pacific Ocean Blue
Released: 22nd August 1977
Sounds like: Faded seaside glamour

Blistering sunshine and salty sea air will hurriedly corrode once pristine promenades, as any visitors to Britain's ramshackle seaside resorts such as Morecambe, Margate and Rhyl will attest to (blistering sunshine, ha!). The front cover of Pacific Ocean Blue, a closeup of the shabby, haggard face of ex-Beach Boy drummer Dennis Wilson, seems to display the personification of this run down beauty. Similarly, his voice within is ragged and worn, but it remains as soulful as ever.

The album starts with the phenomenal 'River Song', a symphonic elegy to environmentalism, that concludes with the wish to run away. Delicate songs such as 'Thoughts of You', 'You and I' and 'Time' are gorgeous love songs, but they hold a slightly spent feel which makes them all the more intriguing. Dennis Wilson was arguably the most interesting of the Beach Boys anyway - his rock and roll lifestyle, dalliance with Charles Manson and early death by drowning are well out of keeping with that of his brothers - and the fact that he was the first to go solo should give him a higher status than he has. Arguably this is the best of any of the Beach Boys solo efforts.

We're exceptionally lucky to be able to listen to the album at all, regardless of how wonderul it is, as it was out of print for 14 years. Be thankful then, that this blog isn't just about one of the great "lost" records; it's about one of the great records, full stop.

Analbumaday... rating: 8/10

1. River Song - 3:44
2. What's Wrong - 2:22
3. Moonshine - 2:27
4. Friday Night - 3:09
5. Dreamer - 4:22
6. Thoughts of You - 3:02
7. Time - 3:31
8. You and I - 3:25
9. Pacific Ocean Blues - 2:39
10. Farewell My Friend - 2:26
11. Rainbows - 2:55
12. End of the Show - 2:55

Listen to 'Thoughts of You': www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQtbElnRX0g
Also released on 22nd August:
1994: Portishead - Dummy
Also released on 22nd August:
2005: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Howl

21 August 2013

21st August - Jane's Addiction's Ritual de lo habitual

Artist - Album: Jane's Addiction - Ritual de lo habitual
Released: 21st August 1991
Sounds like: The drugs don't work

Ok, so I know I'm way behind the curve here, but I have just discovered Breaking Bad. Without any TV or internet yet set up in the new flat, my flatmate and I have resorted to gorging on each other's not insubstantial DVD collections. On Sunday I watched both main series' of Alan Partridge, Monday was spent with the second edition of Blackadder, whilst in the last twenty four hours I have demolished the entire first season of Breaking Bad. It's awesome. With writing comparably to that holy grail of television, The Soprano's, the show excellently intrigues and, if I may say so, makes being a Chemistry teacher - and, yes, a drug dealer - unquestionably cool.

Luckily, today's album has come around just in time to remind me that drugs are bad, mmmkay. Although not necessarily chemistry teachers. The second half of Jane's Addiction's Ritual de lo habitual is dedicated to a close friend of Perry Farrell's Xiola Blue, who died of a heroin overdose aged 19. Blue was a beautiful young girl who the band adored, and they were clearly deeply affected by her accidental death. If that's not enough to put you off drugs, then 'Three Days' and 'Then She Did...', the glorious but sprawling and overlong epics devoted to her, just might.

Don't go thinking this is an album composed entirely of ten minute proggy jams though. The first half is fantastically funky metal rock - 'Stop' and 'Been Caught Stealing' are both excellent - and keeps the whole thing fresh. Explosive!

Analbumaday... rating: 8/10

1. Stop! - 4:14
2. No One's Leaving - 3:01
3. Ain't No Right - 3:34
4. Obvious - 5:55
5. Been Caught Stealing - 3:34
6. Three Days - 10:48
7. Then She Did... - 8:18
8. Of Course - 7:02
9. Classic Girl - 5:07

Listen to 'Been Caught Stealing': www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpRpt0ynnfA
Also released on 21st August:
1997: Oasis - Be Here Now
Also released on 21st August:
2006: The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely

Also released on 21st August:
2007: The New Pornographers - Challengers

20 August 2013

20th August - Interpol's Turn On the Bright Lights

Artist - Album: Interpol - Turn On the Bright Lights
Released: 20th August 2002
Sounds like: Well, Joy Division, kind of...

Following the huge success of the Strokes around the turn of the millennium, there was a vogue for bands with punchy guitars and oh so tight rhythm sections. Although there was a gaggle of straight imitators and Strokey-likeys who suddenly appeared on the scene - here's looking at you, The Vines - the fact that the chief characteristics were more to do with style and approach than actual genres meant that they could be applied to quite different forms of music. Case in point: Interpol, who were enamoured with Eighties post-punk and goth a la Joy Division and The Cure, but could Strokes it with the best of them.

This, their debut, turned out to be one of the best albums of the decade. It's gloomy and paranoid true, but it's also imminently accessible (opener 'Untitled' was used on an episode of Friends for God's sake) and totally enjoyable. As a counterpoint to the dreamy, minimalistic 'Untitled', 'Obstacle 1' assaults the senses. Jagged guitars stab at you like Norman Bates, whilst Paul Banks barks psychotic lyrics at you menancingly. It's an absolite belter. The third track, the ballad 'NYC', is a favourite of Michael Stipes.

Bands keep cropping up that sound like Strokey-cats, but those that mimiced Interpol have long since dried up. That may be because theirs is not an easy sound to copy, or because there's less commercial potential in it, or simply because 99% of people are more cheery than the New York mopers, but I like to think it's just because they're a bit special.

Analbumaday... rating: 9/10

1. Untitled – 3:56
2. Obstacle 1 – 4:11
3. NYC – 4:20
4. PDA – 4:59
5. Say Hello to the Angels – 4:28
6. Hands Away – 3:05
7. Obstacle 2 – 3:47
8. Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down – 6:28
9. Roland – 3:35
10. The New – 6:07
11. Leif Erikson – 4:00

Listen to 'Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down': www.youtube.com/watch?v=2s5lzcKpu0Q

19 August 2013

19th August - Artic Monkeys' Humbug

Artist - Album: Arctic Monkeys - Humbug
Released: 19th August 2009
Sounds like: cohesive rubbish (the words of my flatmate)

Not only is today the birthday of the Arctic Monkey's third album, but it's also the day of birth of another of the city of Sheffield's finest exports, Amy. Happy birthday girly! She's actually in London today, so I'm blogging about Humbug during the half time break in the Manchester City v Newcastle game.

By 2009, The Monkeys had come a long way from their The Jam inspired tighter-than-a-tight-thing beginnings. Unfortunately, not all of it was in the right direction. Some songs here - 'My Propeller', 'Dangerous Animals' and 'Secret Door' in particular - are just a touch lethargic, and lack any of the hooks and boisterousness that made their debut album such a hit. That said, there are some great moments: 'Crying Lightning' has a rolling stately elegance, whilst 'Cornerstone', the clear standout of this set, is perfect indie pop, with Alex Turner producing his best impression of fellow Sheffielder Jarvis Cocker with trademark wit and intelligence.

In truth though, for all the potential here - I've not yet mentioned that it was produced by Queen of the Stone Age Josh Homme - the album fails to deliver regularly enough. Which is not something you can say about that Manchester City front line after their rousing 4-0 victory.

Analbumaday... rating: 7/10

1. My Propeller - 3:27
2. Crying Lightning - 3:43
3. Dangerous Animals - 3:30
4. Secret Door - 3:43
5. Potion Approaching - 3:32
6. Fire and the Thud - 3:57
7. Cornerstone - 3:18
8. Dance Little Liar - 4:43
9. Pretty Visitors - 3:40
10. The Jeweller's Hands - 5:42

Listen to 'Cornerstone':  www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIQz6zZi7R0

18 August 2013

18th August - Elbow's Cast of Thousands

Artist - Album: Elbow - Cast of Thousands
Released: 18th August 2003
Sounds Like: we've been here before

Bloody Elbow again!

Analbumaday... rating: 6/10

1.Ribcage - 6:27
2.Fallen Angel - 4:07
3.Fugitive Motel - 5:51
4.Snooks (Progress Report) - 4:00
5.Switching Off - 5:05
6.Not a Job -4:23
7.I've Got Your Number - 4:48
8.Buttons and Zips - 3:57
9.Crawling with Idiot - 4:41
10. Grace Under Pressure -4:57
11. Flying Dream 143 -1:48

Listen to 'Grace Under Pressure': www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWCL_cbASR4

17 August 2013

17th August - Miles Davis' Kind of Blue

Artist - Album: Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
Released: 17th August 1959
Sounds Like: Birth of the cool

Like Christmas or a birthday, a day like today comes but once a year and promises excitement, good will and cheer to all men. Yes, today is the first day of the Barclays Premier League season.  It should be a corker.

It'd have to go some way to beat the opening day of the 1959-60 season though. Amongst other high scoring games, there was the 4-4 draw between Chelsea and Preston North End, a 4-0 romp for Blackburn Rovers against Fulham, a 3-0 shellacking of Leicester City by West Ham United and 3-2 victories all round for Blackpool, West Bromwich Albion (against Manchester United that one) and Burnley (the eventual champions. Burnley!). Imagine that lot on Match of the Day. At the end of the first round of fixtures Tottenham Hotspur would top the table though, after a comprehensive battering of Newcastle 5-1. That victory would serve as an indicator of the landmark that was to come: the following season they became the first team of the 20th century to win the Fa Cup and League double.

Another landmark of that rich era came courtesy of Miles Davis, who, with the release of Kind of Blue, submitted his entry into the pantheon of the greateat and most influential albums of all time.  Aided by one of the most impressive bands ever assembled - John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Jimmy Cobb and Paul Chambers - the sextet jammed over a set of five modal sketches, each becoming a study in scale based improvisation and elegant, sophisticated cool.

Without in any way being knowledgeable or especially enthusiastic about jazz, this, along with Davis' own Birth of the Cool and Coltrane's A Love Supreme, is easily the beat jazz album I've ever come across.  What separates Kind of Blue from the rest is that it's actually one of the best albums I've heard of any genre.

Albumaday... rating: 10/10

1. So What - 9:22
2. Freddie Freeloader - 9:46
3. Blue in Green - 5:37
4. All Blues - 11.33
5. Flamenco Sketches - 9:26

Listen to 'All Blues': www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIfdYs8WErM
Also released on the 17th August: 
2007: Seabear - The Ghost That Carried Us Away
Also released on the 17th August:
2009: The XX - The XX

Also released on the 17th August:
2009: Mum - Sing Along to Songs You Don't Know