We are rapt to have this fortnight’s top ten from the amazingly talented Laura Imbruglia. You can see Laura on her brilliant new show “Amateur Hour”, the first season is out already and thankfully there’s another on the way. You must check it out, it’s gold. Also, on the musical side of things, go on the hunt for a couple of my favourite tunes of Laura’s “When It All Falls Apart (And It Will)” from 2010’s The Lighter Side Of... and “Limerence” from 2013’s What A Treat. Oh and here’s Laura’s top ten.
LIZ PHAIR Exile In Guyville (1993)
This is apparently a song-for-song response to The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street album. I own both albums, but I never really listened for the inter-album conversation. I just love this album cos Liz is such a bad-ass. Her lyrics are funny, brash, sarcastic, brutally honest (see “Fuck and Run”)…all the things I love. Musically, it’s low-fi and rough around the edges – she sometimes sings below what sounds comfortable for her range, which is refreshing. I miss the days before recordings were polished within an inch of their life. I can’t really recommend this album enough – it has 18 songs, which sounds ridiculous, but as far as I’m concerned it’s all killer/no filler and stands up to endless repeated listens. Sadly, nothing else she did comes close to the perfection attained on this album. Indie Queen of the 90s, I salute you!
MAGNETIC FIELDS 69 Love Songs (1999)
If you thought 18 songs sounded like overkill, THIS album has 69 songs (so it’s not just a clever title!). The Magnetic Fields are led by the curmudgeonly, highly intelligent and prolific songwriter Stephin Merritt. His lyrics are simultaneously touching, hilarious and downright dark. Their music sounds from another time really, he’s into the Great American Songbook school of songwriters (George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein – very carefully selected words and rhymes, classy melodies). If you are a person who can’t appreciate musicals, you may not like this music. I’m talking musicals like “Singin’ In The Rain”, not musicals like “Fame” – these songs are classy in an indie pop way. Can you handle that? You should learn. Anyway, this is the album that got me into their music and specifically into Stephin’s wonderful lyrics. The songs are spread over 3 discs, just take it 1 disc at a time so it’s not so intimidating. Before long, you (like me) will know all 69 songs off by heart. I LOVE THIS ALBUM WITH ALL MY HEART.
BOB DYLAN Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
This album bursts out of the gates with “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and it only gets better from there. I love that it kinda covers all the sides of Bobby in good measure – political, romantic, angry, abstract, ridiculous. The musical performances are nice and loose, as Bob’s way of recording is to pretty much record the band as they’re learning the song. It creates a really cool freshness and encapsulates that really cool sweet spot that happens when a band are just starting to gel on a song. My favourite of the tunes is “She Belongs to Me”, although I disagree with the misogynistic-sounding title. I guess it’s a common feeling to want to hold onto the person you love and keep them all to yourself…just sounds wrong! “Love Minus Zero” – also a deliciously gentle love song. I have many of Bob’s albums, but this is the one I always come back to. It makes me swoon.
THE SHAGGS Philosophy Of The World (1969)
Look – this album isn’t for everyone. I can’t even listen to it all in one sitting. But it’s still in my top ten albums, because it’s so amazing to me that it exists in the first place. Not only that, but it actually challenged my opinions about what makes music good and beautiful. This is a band of teenage sisters from New Hampshire, USA in the 60s. Their Dad bought them instruments and paid to record them “while they were hot” (I don’t think he meant “hot” in the sexy way – I hope not). It sounds like 3 people playing 3 different songs at once without listening to each other. The first time I heard the title track, I was filled with anger – how dare they record this racket?! However, the following week, I found myself googling the band and eventually buying the album. The lyrics are simultaneously naive and profound, and it’s actually difficult to play the same melody that you are singing, which is what the lead singer is often doing. I rate them, and I enjoy that their Dad backed them passionately. Frank Zappa called them “better than The Beatles”.
THE TRIFFIDS Born Sandy Devotional (1986)
This classic Australian album sounds like my childhood looks like in my memory. These guys were really good at word-painting, which is when the music and lyrics match each other evocatively. When David McComb sings “Wide Open Road”, the combination of music and words makes me feel like I’m in a car driving through the outback watching the heat rise from the bitumen.
This album is a beautiful time capsule of 80s Australia. I love it.
QUEEN Greatest Hits (1981)
I know, I know, I know, you can’t select a greatest hits album on one of these music nerd blogs! The fact is that this album fucking rules, and it remains the BEST SELLING ALBUM OF ALL TIME IN THE UK. I have Freddie tattooed on my arm, own most of Queen’s albums, and I could sing the praises of Jazz or The Works or actually most of them, cos I love Queen but this album is what sold me on them when I was a teenager. If you don’t own any Queen albums or are unconvinced of their brilliance, for godssake, start here and learn in a nice and concise manner exactly why they’re so beloved. And you know what? I want you to also watch their Live Aid performance on YouTube before you come at me with your “they’re too camp and bombastic” noise. If you already know Queen are wonderful and want to know which albums to check out for more wonder, my fave era is 1975-1985 – so any albums released in that period (A Night At The Opera through to The Works). The earlier stuff is also good, it’s just a bit dungeons and dragons lyrically, which I find kinda dull. The later stuff is a bit naff for my liking.
THE CARPENTERS A Song For You (1972)
I could easily just recommend a Greatest Hits album for The Carpenters too, but this album is actually pretty solid. The cover art also has a classic vibe about it. Side A is all 100% killer, Side B not as strong. I can sing the guitar solo on “Goodbye to Love” note for note, it’s a great time! The title track is heartbreakingly beautiful too. Look, just listen to Side A (the first 5 songs) and if you dig it, get a good compilation of singles. The problem is that this album is missing “Calling Occupants”, “Rainy Days and Mondays”, “For All We Know”, “Yesterday Once More” and a bunch of others. BUT “Song For You” is AWESOME and it’s not on many of the compilations. So you need this album and a tidy “Singles” one – . If you get a compilation that is too exhaustive, you’re gonna have to sift through a lot of dodgy early 80s songs. This one is pretty cool. I was raised on The Carpenters, and Karen is my ALL-TIME fave female singer. If you can’t appreciate a bit of cheese, you need to step back. Sonic Youth covered “Superstar” though, so The Carpenters are totally legitimately cool now.
FLEETWOOD MAC Rumours (1977)
Yeah, totes obvious selection. I DON’T GIVE A SHIT. Have you listened to it? Walking around? Several times every year? In the car? At home? Have you noticed how Mick Fleetwood hits the cymbal a few more times in the second chorus of “Dreams” than in the first one? It’s the little things like that that you notice when you really love an album. I love this album so much. Make sure you get the reissue, cos they added the beautiful track “Silver Springs” onto the reissue, and it always should have been on the album. It was a b-side, and the fans loved it so much that the band eventually added it to newer pressings of the album. Not as a bonus track, they actually added it into the middle of the album somewhere like it was always there. Absolutely dreamy.
DANIEL JOHNSTON Why Me? (2000)
This is a live album, and I love it because it captures Daniel’s great fragility in an unedited manner. I also like the little bits they kept in, like when his mic cuts out for a bit and he keeps singing. It just really moves me. He’s a beautiful pianist, and even though he’s kinda shoddy on the guitar, the purity of his songwriting is what shines through. My fave track on this album is “Silly Love” – it’s really good to listen to when you’re heartbroken. Fragile optimism distilled. If you can’t see past his imperfections to the beauty of his writing, maybe you should go to the doctor and find out if you’re dead inside. If you like what you hear on this, there’s SO MUCH MORE that awaits you – he was really prolific in the 80s. I also love Yip/Jump Music, Songs of Pain and Artistic Vice. If you like his writing, but you really can’t handle the lo-fi nature of his recordings, give Fun a go. And also – buy direct from his website, as his family facilitate it and the money goes into paying for Daniel’s carer I believe (you can buy his art on the website too – I have some – SO THERE!). M Ward does an awesome cover of Daniel’s song “Story of An Artist”, which is actually what made me seek out more Daniel songs.
THE DICTATORS Bloodbrothers (1978)
The word “thrilling” should come with a picture of this record next to it in the encyclopedia. It’s just fucking perfect, what more do you want? The Dictators are a punk/metal kinda band (proto-punk) with melodies and hooks coming out of every orifice. I love the New York sass of lead singer Handsome Dick Manitoba – his lyrics are hilarious and this album just makes me excited, goddamn it! The lead guitarist Ross the Boss went on to found Manowar. I also really love Cheap Trick and found it hard not to include them in this list, but I just think this album is a better collection of songs (and captures the band better) than any Cheap Trick album. Although Cheap Trick Live At Budokan…GET THAT TOO!