I know I stated last time that My Top Ten was done and dusted for the year but we now officially have one lucky last! Emma Swift will be doing a run of dates in Australia in December (one of those includes supporting the great Ryan Adams). Emma has garnered a massive following, splitting her time gigging and recording between Sydney, Australia and Nashville, Tennessee. She was duly nominated for an Aria award for her debut self-titled record that you must indeed check out. She has also recently recorded a Limited Edition vinyl-only single with Robyn Hitchcock (of The Soft Boys fame). You can also catch Emma along with Robyn Hitchcock & The Soft Boys at The Tote, Melbourne on December 20. Here’s Emma’s most awesome list. Merry Xmas! LT
I’ve never been very good at absolutes, so putting together a Top 10 list is a fun way to try and stick to something, even though I know that this list belongs only to this moment in time, November 2016. I hope some of these records resonate!
T. REX Electric Warrior [Deluxe Edition] (1971 / 2012)
The shimmering galactic eroticism of this record blows my mind. From the quivering vibrato in Marc Bolan’s voice on “Cosmic Dancer” to the vampiric lust pulsing throughout “Jeepster”, each track is a joy. Whenever I feel down and out, I close my eyes, listen to T Rex at maximum volume, and think about getting a fresh perm and a silvery jumpsuit. The best part of the deluxe re-issue is the addition of “Hot Love”, my personal favourite Bolan track. I will always get a pervy kick out of the following lines:
Well she ain’t no witch and I love the way she twitch, a ha ha
Well she ain’t no witch and I love the way she twitch, a ha ha
ROWLAND S. HOWARD Pop Crimes (2009)
I love this album so much I almost want to record a cover version of the whole thing. It is however, already perfect and needs no re-interpretation. The title track is a devastating masterpiece with the coolest groove and mesmerising, howling guitar and the verses show off the very best of Howard’s sardonic wit:
The Catholic church cannot verify
That there’s a single soul in hell
It’s just a wasteland of adversity
Devoid of all but the sound of wedding bells
From this vast expanse of nothing
Nothing good will come of this
But the hole in the zero
And an open-heart-surgery kiss
I am working on songs for my new record at the moment and there’s a decent amount of weird Catholic shit bubbling beneath the surface there. I know Rowland gets it.
Listen to Pop Crimes on YouTube
MARIANNE FAITHFULL Broken English (1979)
Once upon a time, in a small country town far, far away, I lived with my parents and their very limited selection of CDs. As far as fathers go, I had the classic Australian “fuck-up disguised as a top bloke” Dad. He taught me many dubious skills, including how to place bets at the TAB and how to smoke a bong. He also passed on how to obsessive-compulsively listen to the same record over and over again until you live it and breathe it and feel like it’s in your DNA. And that’s how I came to discover Broken English. Now, I don’t know any other kids whose father blasted “Why’d D’ya Do It?” at maximum volume to their 13-year-old daughter as a rite of passage but I’m glad mine did. Among many revelations this album delivered, I’m certain it was the first time I’d ever heard the word “snatch” used in a couplet.
Marianne Faithfull – Why D’ya Do It?
THE SMITHS Strangeways, Here We Come (1987)
In fairness, I could put any Smiths record in my Top 10 but I’m going with Strangeways because “Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me” is absolutely perfect and always makes me weep. Every songwriter knows that unrequited or doomed love is the best muse and none knew it more than 1980s Morrissey. There’s enough pent up longing in this track to fill a million teenage bedrooms and yet as a fully grown adult woman I still feel that desperation acutely. And thus, Strangeways.
The Smiths – Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me
NEIL YOUNG On The Beach (1974)
My love, my one true musical love. A loner’s masterpiece rich in woozy guitars and bleak imagery, I never loved Neil truly until I played this record on repeat one summer in Sydney in the early 2000s. I remember the rain on my bedroom window, piles of clothes on the floor, a creepy landlord, an angry boyfriend and being utterly hypnotised by “Ambulance Blues” with its subtle jangle of tambourine and haunted harmonica. I listen to this record a lot.
LUCINDA WILLIAMS Car Wheels On A Gravel Road (1998)
Like The Smiths, there’s a place in my heart for all of Lucinda’s records. She’s rock and roll and sadness and beauty and poetry and sex and all life’s great offerings. Listening to her is the closest I get to going to church. I find so much comfort in her words and melodies I should pay her for therapy. I’m going with Car Wheels On A Gravel Road because I’m listening to “Metal Firecracker” right now and I’m admiring the sweetness in her voice as she sings “All I ask is, don’t tell anybody the secrets, don’t tell anybody the secrets that I told you…” What a line! There’s a very subtle harmony vocal on the chorus being sung by Jim Lauderdale too and that makes me think of people in country music with really fucking good hair and that’s a thought vortex I could stay in forever.
Lucinda Williams – Metal Firecracker
YOU AM I Hourly, Daily (1996)
I was 15 in 1997 and had never been to a rock show before I attended the Big Day Out festival in Sydney. I wore a purple t shirt, purple corduroy pants, silver Doc Martens and a goofy grin. I watched Patti Smith preach to thousands. I cried seeing The Clouds. I soaked up Tiddas and their magnificent harmonies. And… I got concussion while crowd surfing in the mosh pit to You Am I. It was the best day of my young life. Hourly, Daily makes me think of being a teenage girl growing up in Wagga Wagga, which isn’t a place I think of with great fondness usually. But when I hear this, I’m happy. I think about my suburban bedroom strewn with candles, I think about my twin baby brothers in nappies, I think about my sister playing this record on repeat, I think about having lustful thoughts about boys who played guitar and yearning to be a fully grown adult woman living in the city and going to see rock bands every night. I love that this record gave me something to grow up for.
You Am I – If We Can’t Get It Together
THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN Honey’s Dead (1992)
Since the apocalyptic US election result, I’ve been listening to the first single from this album, “Reverence” with some devotion. The noisy guitars are suitably chaotic from the get go and build to an instrumental that sounds like an amplified emergency room. This is how my brain feels when I’m walking down the streets of my adoptive American hometown at the moment. When Jim Reid sings “I wanna die” over and over again, I feel suitably adolescent and ready for the end of the world.
The Jesus And Mary Chain – Reverence
LINDA RONSTADT Living In The USA (1978)
Linda is the first singer I heard that made me want to be a singer. A lot of other ladies have followed – from Hope Sandoval and Harriet Wheeler to Sandy Denny, Tammy Wynette, Karen Dalton and Emmylou Harris, Dusty Springfield, Joni Mitchell… I’ve studied plenty of female voices… But Linda was the first one I listened to repeatedly. I was eight years old when I heard her version of Elvis Costello’s “Alison” and decided I wanted to be able to sing like that. This record not only introduced me to Linda and Elvis but also to Warren Zevon and that’s a musical crush I’ll have until the end of time, so there’s a lot of gold here. A sentimental favourite for sure but I’m a sentimental girl.
Linda Ronstadt – Mohammed’s Radio
ELVIS COSTELLO Imperial Bedroom (1982)
In the mid-1990s, I was very much into the Britpop music that dominated the charts. I imagined England as a kind of art paradise, home to my favourite young bands as well as all the dead poets my teenage heart could handle. I discovered Oasis, Pulp, T.S. Eliot and Sylvia Plath in the same year: 1996. This was also the year I discovered that the local bakery had weekend work and if I was willing to set my alarm to six o’clock in the morning every Saturday and Sunday, I would earn enough cash on the weekends to start building a real music collection instead of taping songs I liked off the radio. I spent all my money on mostly British albums and more money on Elvis Costello than anyone else. A teenage word nerd, I was drawn to his verbosity, his lyrical ambition and the way he sounded slightly pleased with himself whenever he’d come up with something really tasty. Imperial Bedroom is my all-time favourite Costello record. Time stops when I listen to “Kid About It”.
Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Kid About It