Thanks to the all the lockdown shenanigans my working week has been pushed to the evenings and weekends (hello homeschooling, you daft bastard). Anyway, I came up with an idea to make those long weekend shifts pass more sweetly: what if every album I listened to had to start with the same letter AND be from a different country?
So today I only listened to bands beginning with A all of which were from different European countries. Tomorrow, I will listen to bands beginning with A from countries from the rest of the world. Does that make sense? Yeah, I reckon.
And because I am hoping to find some new things to listen to, I am looking for your recommendations. You can chuck them at me via the comments section on here or on Twitter (where I am, helpfully, @benjaminjudge) and I will be then writing about what I listen to here, on this very blog, in the evening, which in the case of European bands beginning with A, is now. So here we go…
Day One – European bands beginning with A
A House – I Want Too Much (Ireland)
I started with something out of my own record collection. I liked it. Obviously.
Agnes Obel – Aventine (Denmark)
Recommended by your friendly neighbourhood music podcast, Picky Bastards (@PickyBastards). I loved this and I love that the first thing anyone recommended turned what was potentially a pretty stupid idea into one of the best ideas I’ve had in a while. I will definitely be listening to this one again. As they suggested something I liked so much it would be churlish not to point you toward their website —-> Picky Bastards
Asia – Asia (UK)
Recommended by Marv (@Marv08603063). When I came up with this idea while eating my breakfast this morning I didn’t imagine the British choice would be by a progressive rock supergroup, but it was, and you know what? I’m rather glad it was. I hadn’t heard Asia before and while it isn’t my usual sort of thing I thoroughly enjoyed its slightly over-the-top but still commercial, big-hair, guitar-soloing, sea-serpent-eating-a-moon-on-the-album-cover vibe.
Abba – Voulez-Vous (Sweden)
Recommended by Lucy Lapwing (@Lucy_Lapwing). Without any argument, the most solid gold banger of the day. Without influence I would have gone for the hipster’s choice of The Visitors. I had forgotten how good Voulez-Vous is.
Alyona Alyona – В хаті МА (Ukraine)
I found this one via a Vogue article. It’s a Ukranian rap album. I rather liked it. I think the title translates to MA in da house, but don’t quote me on that.
Aleksi Perala – Sunshine 3 (Finland)
Recommended by Fat Roland (@FatRoland). Finnish electronica, eh? I suspect that this one will grow on me if I listen to it more than once, which I almost certainly will. It isn’t a showy record. It is quite happy for you to find it in your own time. Which isn’t to say it isn’t without its moments of drama, and it ends in a big enough way, all whirry. In conclusion: I think so, yes.
Alphaville – Forever Young (Germany)
Recommended by Richard Jones (@rlwjones). I knew Big In Japan, but the rest of the album was new to me (except, it turns out, for Forever Young which I knew as Young Forever by Jay-Z). I proper enjoyed this one. It had a nice Penthouse and Pavement thing going on. It was very eighties and very German and very good. Lovely.
Apparat Organ Quartet – Pólýfónía (Iceland)
Both Fat Roland and I found this via an internet search and marked it as a ‘possible’. Turns out it was so much more. Are you familiar with Plato’s theory of forms? It doesn’t matter if not. I’m not sure I understand it myself. But say forms are abstract, perfect, unchanging concepts that transcend time and space, yeah? And say there was a ‘form’ of a 16bit computer game, yeah? Pólýfónía would be its soundtrack. It’s blooming great.
Alonzo – Stone (France)
Listening to French rap is a double edged sword. You can listen to it in front of the kids because no-one understands the swears but, on the other hand, you might be listening to something with the most appalling lyrics and not know about it. The only way round it is to learn French but I’ve tried that and it is trop difficile.
Angèle – Brol (Belgium)
The recommendations had dried up by tea time. I found Angèle on a New York Times guide to upcoming European musicians. They compared her to Lana Del Rey, which seems fair, but they aren’t that similar really. It’s a good album though.
Aphrodite’s Child – 666 (Greece)
What better way to finish off my tour of some European bands that begin with A than with Vangelis Papathanassiou, Demi Roussos, Loukas Sideras and Silver Koulouris as they explore the Book of Revelation via the medium of a prog rock double album? Well, lots of ways, probably. But, in a listen-to-it-once-and-then-never-again sort of way, I couldn’t help admiring the commitment to the absolute bonkersness of it all. The album is 87% guitar solos. It features a ridiculous amount of voiceover bits. It has a song called ‘All The Seats Were Occupied’ that is nineteen minutes and nineteen seconds long. It isn’t, in my humble opinion, a great record but it is a very silly record and I am so so glad it exists.
I really enjoyed that. I got loads of work done and heard some new stuff. Excellent. Tomorrow we do albums by bands beginning with A from the rest of the world. Recommend your faves to me.