So here it is, and only a week late, the twenty best recommendations from your (fifty five!) recommendations. Sorry for the delay. I moved house. It eats into your schedule, moving house. And while we are on the subject, apologies for any typos etc. I’m trying to do eight things at once this weekend. You will have to forgive all the stray apostrophes and any less that should be a fewer.
As with the last category, there really weren’t any bad choices this week. The biggest surprises were the albums people didn’t pick, rather than the ones they did. No Bandwagonesque, no Glasvegas, no Rattlesnakes, no Sunshine on Leith, no Fairytale, no Psychocandy, no Male Shadow at Three O’Clock, no Held on the Tips of Fingers, no Let No-one Live Rent Free in Your Head…
The biggest surprise of all was that nobody chose anything by Urusei Yatsura. I was expecting to listen to about ten of their albums. Ten of them and three BMX bandits.
Instead, a lot of you went for the heartfelt and tender, you big bunch of softies you, all caring and lovely. I have to say, in a fortnight that started with me not entirely sure where my family would be living and ended with me typing this surrounded by possessions half unpacked and needing new homes, your choices were, largely, exactly what I needed. Cheers, you lot.
But enough preamble. Let’s get to the good stuff. The points.
BUT BEFORE WE DO THE POINTS, I WOULD LIKE TO ADDRESS THE SHENANIGANS THAT WENT ON THIS WEEK. Two people tried to recommend two albums by slightly nefarious means this week, using the fact they have two twitter accounts to double their chances of a big score. The first of these, Picky Bastards/Fran Slater, almost immediately repented and has been forgiven. The second, Fat Roland/Burgess Foundation was as brazen as shit about the whole thing and will be punished. In normal circumstances I would dock each account fifty points but I think in this case I will take the full one hundred off Fat Roland. There are a lot of great people working at or connected with The International Anthony Burgess Foundation, and they put on some brilliant events (check out their website and give them a visit some time when this whole lockdown thing is at an end why don’t you). I can’t allow Fats to drag them all down with him. It’s his web of lies so the comeuppance too shall be all his.
OK. Recommendations that didn’t make the top twenty this week were….
- Adam Farrer – Tom Waits, Glitter and Doom Live – Adam’s attempt to nominate Tom Waits in every category lasts another week as he found an album with a few bonus tracks recorded in Edinburgh. The album itself is dog shit though, by a country mile the worst album Waits ever released, so no points this week. Next week’s category will serve you better, I think.
- Burgess Foundation – The Bad Tempered Electronic Keyboard – Nominating yourself to get a bit of publicity, eh? I see you. It’s a good idea, but I already did the link to your website so….
- Fat Roland – Remain in Light, Talking Heads – It’s one of my favourite albums, and I purposely kept what could qualify as Scottish vague so there were no wrong answers but, somehow, this still feels like a wrong answer, doesn’t it? So, sorry, it’s just the minus one hundred points this week, Fats. Oh well, ay? Oh well.
- Graham Cox – Thank You For Being You – It’s a great compilation, but picking a compilation album feels a bit like spread betting (if spread betting means what I think it does) and as such I couldn’t put it in my top twenty. Soz.
- The following albums only missed the top twenty for the (slightly boring) reason that other albums did instead. I enjoyed listening to all of them and it was only the very high standards all round that cost you points. Blame me, blame them, but don’t blame yourselves. Billy Jackson, Wellpark Suite (recommended by Martin Goodman) John Martyn, Solid Air (James Beck) Vashti Bunyan, Just Another Diamond Day (Nick Portnell) Miaoux Miaoux, School of Velocity (Nick Rayney) Aerogramme, My heart has a wish that you would not go (Adam Hopwood) Teenage Fanclub, Songs from Northern Britain (Sex Police) Stanley Odd, A Thing Brand New (Sleepy) The Beta Band, The Three E.P.s (Benjo) Django Django, Born Under Saturn (Tom.) King Creosote, Diamond Mine (Robert Sharp) Blue Rose Code, The Water of Leith (Slugger) Texas, White on Blonde (Donna Morris) Win, Uh! Tears Baby (Desmond) Goodbye Mr Mackenzie, Good Deeds and Dirty Rags (Graeme) Altered Images, Bite (Adrian Slatcher) The Sea Kings, Woke in the Devil’s Arms (Danny Harrison) Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Framed (Justin Chisnall) Garbage, Version 2.0 (Weeman) Sons and Daughters, The Repulsion Box (Neal)
- Bonus points: This week there were nine bonus points up for grabs. I have decided to award two of those to Michael Conley, whose choice of Fairest Floo’er by Karine Polwart very nearly almost made the top twenty, and seven points to Sam Whyte who, in picking Philophobia by Arab Strap, managed to recommend the band that I have the most difficulty comprehending. Honestly, I’m like a dog staring at a Lynch movie trying to understand why everyone loves that band. I don’t dislike them, I just know I’m missing something. I don’t get it. I suspect it is something to do with how I comprehend music. Anyway, long story short, I know that objectively it was a good choice.
As you can see, some amazing albums didn’t make the list. You might be rightfully annoyed if you had picked one of those albums and not scored. Unless of course, the top twenty was really really really really fucking good. Friends, it’s a humdinger. Look at it why don’t you.
Georgia Boon really stretched the eligibilty rules by recommending Verdi’s Macbeth (the Riccardo Muti recording, if you fancy a listen). An opera composed by an Italian, and with an Italian libretto, that was based on an English play that fictionalised a historically inaccurate account of a Scottish king that was written by an English scholar. It’s not exactly Ben Macdui in its claim of Scottish ancestry, is it? It does, however, slap. And in a big way too. And as such it gets Boon 2 points.
I didn’t love No Luscious Life by Golden Tender from beginning to end (there is a song toward the start that features a vocal a bit too close to that ‘most of all, I love the way you move’ song for me to warm to it fully) but when it is good (Shatter being a good example) it is really good. And, in a week dominated by sensitive guitar records, the sheer mad funkiness of it all helped it stand out from the crowd somewhat, helping it get David Atkinson 4 points.
The Delgados were the most popular choice this week. Jummo70, Jim Peeeeeee and Tom A all chose Peloton and Dan Edmonds recommended The Great Eastern. For whatever reason, I didn’t hear The Delgados when they were a thing but I’m glad to be catching up now. Possibly controversially, given the three votes for Peloton and the one for The Great Eastern, I am going to award Dan 6 points and the rest of you 5, because I preferred The Great Eastern.
The fact that William Mallin and Mat Pringle both recommended Any Other City by Life Without Buildings makes me suspect that this is the connoisseurs choice this week. Those guys both know their onions when it comes to recommending the good stuff. Hopefully they won’t be too disappointed with the 8 points I’m giving them both.
In a week in which I listened to a lot of guitar bands for the first time, I couldn’t say what it was about Checkmate Savage by The Phantom Band that made it one of my favourites of them, but it was, so there we are. I suppose if I was any good at this writing about music thing I would be able to say exactly what I liked about this album, but I’m not, so tough tits, yeah? Either way, Dillon gets himself 10 points.
Sometimes what makes the recommendation great is the music, sometimes it is the conviction. Sometimes it is a bit of both. Ebba Brooks recommended Big Country’s The Crossing with the the qualification/justification “100% nostalgia, absolute classic”. That’s all I ask for in a recommendation – a heart on a plate. As for the album… well, it’s a lovely big slice of the 1980s, isn’t it? Always a good thing in my eyes. 12 points
If you want to see a man from the Black Country (i.e. me) suffer, ask him to get Alexa to play Owl John by Owl John. She* has trouble enough understanding me at the best of times, without introducing that many nebulous vowel sounds into the mix. When I did get her* to play it though, I thoroughly enjoyed it to the maximum. 14 points to Penny then.
*I know a smart speaker is an it, not a she, but it feels a tad mean to say as much.
I probably shouldn’t lump Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave by The Twilight Sad and Conflats by Out Lines together as one choice but I’m doing so, so live with it. (In fact, had Fran Slater’s choice of Kathryn Joseph’s from when I wake the want is not been removed from consideration, I would have stuck that with them too). I’m not putting them together because they sound the same, they don’t, but the shared personnel gives me an excuse to give two people (Picky Bastards for The Twilight Sad and Dan Williams for Out Lines) 16 points.
I think I might have listened to a Frightened Rabbit album last year. The album I listened to might even have been Painting of a Panic Attack, which would explain why it sounded vaguely familiar when I heard it (again?) this week. I dunno. I liked it is what I’m saying. Em, who recommended it (again?) gets eighteen points for doing so.
So, funny story, this week my seven-year-old’s home schooling involved learning about Ed Sheeran. She had to listen to two of his songs and pick her favourite (she preferred the one in which he patronises the people he grew up with more than the one that advocates speeding) and then read a bit about him and answer some questions. When we had to write about his use of a loop pedal, I explained what one was by showing her KT Tunstall’s performance on Jools Holland. There was, in my opinion, no reason why either of us should have to listen to another Ed Sheeran song. Better to listen to somebody good, eh? Anyway, Daniel Carpenter recommended Eye to the Telescope and it earned him 20 points.
There were two recommendations for Idlewild, which I found reasonably heart-warming as they are one of those bands that tend to get overlooked somewhat (not least of which by me, I haven’t played an Idlewild album for years. Paul Graham Raven gets 21 points for picking The Remote Part and Chris Bissette, who correctly suspected I would prefer the earlier Hope is Important, gets 22 points.
I have always battled internally with the existence of Belle and Sebastian. Living in halls of residence below somebody who played one (and only one) of their songs on a loop for three months set me on a mental course that has me flinching every time I here one of their more precious lyrics and spending evenings wondering why, when there are eighteen people in the band, can none of them sing? However it would be a more dishonest man than I that would try to deny that If You’re Feeling Sinister… has a certain something. And so, despite the inner workings of my broken brain, I will begrudgingly give Stephen May 24 points.
Plashing Vole hasn’t had a good tournament so far, and if he wasn’t painfully aware of my feelings on Mogwai he might have struggled this week too. He is though, so he abandoned his favourites (but not, I think, his principles) and recommended The Bones of What You Believe by Chvrches instead. I don’t know why, but I had got it into my head that Chvrches were part of the scene that has (probably a bit unfairly in some cases) become to be known as ‘landfill indie’. They aren’t at all though. The moral of this story being, maybe actually listen to music before you decide what it sounds like Ben you absolute menace. The happy ending of the story is 26 points to the Vole.
Dave Hartley and Dan both recommended Boards of Canada albums and they both struggled to pick between Tomorrow’s Harvest and Music has the Right to Children. It was a torture they didn’t need to put themselves through though because both albums are quite clearly the right answer to the problem, and as such are both worth 28 points.
Classic Scottish albums don’t come much more classic than High Land, Hard Rain by Aztec Camera. There isn’t a legitimate countdown of Scottish albums that hasn’t got it floating about somewhere in the top ten. And who am I to argue with that assessment? Eh? I’m just this guy who thinks it is a great album is who. So, 30 points to Richard Jones.
The absence of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions on this top twenty is, frankly, a fucking disgrace. Get your shit together you lot. No excuses. But David Coates’ recommendation of Let’s Get Out of This Country by Camera Obscura isn’t getting 32 points because it is the only thing on the list to even acknowledge their existence (on the perfect, Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken) but because, you know, it’s a great album in its own right.
Primal Scream were (and probably still are) a band of wildly variable quality. I remember seeing them at a festival at a time when they had about eight guitarists, most of them exiles from other classic bands, all of them playing the lead, and the noise they were making was a mess. When they are good though, like on Screamadelica, oh my were they good. You don’t need me to tell you how good Screamadelica is, do you? I didn’t think so. 34 points each to James Battisson and Chris *Wear Your Dang Mask*
Young Fathers tend to get nominated semi-regularly in this competition, so I had expected more than the one recommendation this week. As it was, only Beth Woodward suggested White Men are Black Men Too, despite the fact that nominating them was a sure fire way to some sweet sweet points. In this case, 36 of them.
Another band that only got one recommendation this week was Cocteau Twins. Who could have suspected that Rob Cutforth, who only three weeks ago was chucking Guns N’ Roses nominations like a drunken frat boy, would be the one recommending the beautiful noise of Cocteau Twins this week, and the hipster’s choice of Treasure, too! Good on him, I say. 38 points well earned.
But there can only be one winner, and this week there are two of them. Geisterhaus and Rebecca H both recommending Orange Juice. Under normal circumstances I would be giving Geisterhaus’ choice of Rip It Up a point more than Rebecca’s The Esteemed… The Very Best Of… because album trumps compilation, but back in the days before streaming The Esteemed was, for a very long time, the only Orange Juice album you could hope to find for less than thirty pounds and as such I’m counting it as a proper album and giving them both 40 points.
And that’s your lot. Next week we are back to songs and I want you to recommend ONE SONG FROM THE 1980s. Album track, single, b-side, it’s totally up to you.