Top 100 singles of all time: from Bjork to the Beach Boys

367px-Björk_Rock_en_Seine_2007_by Bertrand

It’s an almost sad feeling as I wrap up this list – bundling in the top 40 in one final swoop – before tomorrow’s grand finale. I don’t even know what was going through my mind as I wrote the original list, beyond how far I agreed (or disagreed) with the traditional entries on such charts. Perhaps what surprised me was how orthodox my tastes are – perhaps simply because those songs are undeniably good – though I hope my more detailed individual postings have entertained, imparted a bit of trivia on your favourite songs, and maybe introduced you to something you hadn’t heard before.

With that in mind, I’m going to skip over the ones you already know well – Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir (which always sounds oddly weedy compared to the bowel-shreddingly heavy version in my head); River Deep, Mountain High; House of the Rising Sun, etc. (my top 40 is dominated by songs from the 60s). I’ll pause to mention Higher Than The Sun, because however many accolades have been awarded to Screamadelica, it still does not have the recognition such an otherworldly, transcendental song deserves.  Continue reading

5 fundamentally flawed albums you need to own

Girl Talk by Gwazda Paris 2007 via Wikipedia

Written for Collapse Board

You may have noticed that we don’t give marks out of 10 here, partly because it renders reviews pointless (you just read the number, not the words) and partly because it’s not fair on the recording itself.  The issue is one and the same: without the context of pointing out exactly what makes it a “good” or “bad” album, you’re doing a disservice to the band, to the listener and to the reviewer. I know why I like something, but if I don’t tell you why I like it, you’re not going to know if you’ll like it too. I could give a metal album 10/10 but if you just plain hate heavy metal, you’re not going to get past the first five minutes. Sure, you save two or three minutes reading the review if you can just get a score, but you waste – what? – an hour? A whole hour of your time struggling through something you were never going to enjoy in the first place because I gave it 10/10 and that means that obviously it must be perfect. I don’t want to waste your time or your money: I’d rather just give a few details about the listening experience and let you make up your own mind.

More problematic still is the 7/10 album. Why is an album less than 10? Because it’s mediocre? Well, that’s unforgiveable, isn’t it? Given the choice between a record that’s been branded “10/10″ and one that has not, you’re not going to bother with the latter, are you? Life’s too short – might as well reserve it for the best. But what about the ones that fail to be “the best” – not because they are boring, but because there’s one big problem marring an otherwise awe-inspiring album? Such as:  Continue reading

National Treasures Mixtape

I’m British like I’m Irish: when it suits me. I view the Royals with the same casual indifference as I view … peas. The Queen is a public servant, and provided she keeps on doing the job well and bringing in more than she costs, I’m quite happy for her to continue.

We’re going to spend the weekend munching miniature cupcakes on the village green with all those neighbours we’ve never said more than two words to. I did buy some tiny Scotch eggs, but I probably ought to have grabbed some sausage rolls, too, while I was at it. Oh well. It’s going to piss down anyway, so the whole thing will likely fizzle out after about half an hour. Why didn’t I buy any Pimms?

Having purchased a tiny Union Jack bowtie (for my baby daughter to wear as a headband) and fully loaded up with cucumber-and-cream-cheese sandwiches I’m about ready for a right royal knees-up. For which we’ll need a soundtrack …  Continue reading

My Funny Valentine (etc)

Lurrrve is in the air. Well, not so much here, as the chocolate souffle was wolfed down in between burping my 12 week-old and sipping low-alcohol wine. But that has its own romance, you know: the “happily ever after”. My valentine message to Him Indoors was “I can’t believe how not sick of you I am” – and I meant it.

So here’s some sizzling songs for those living the fairytale, and those whose handsome prince or princess is currently off somewhere fighting dragons.

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30 day song challenge: day 26 – a song that you can play on an instrument

My form tutor in school taught me how to play this one – Is There Anybody Out There? by Pink Floyd. I had only been practising guitar for a few months – if that – so this was something of a challenge for me. I remember practising it over and over until I was crying from the frustration, my fingers blistered and swollen, and the sheer exhilaration I felt when I finally nailed it. It’s always the first thing I play if I pick up a guitar, which is something I’ve not done in many years.
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Describe your first experience with death

Each time I press “publish” on WordPress, some handy little questions present themselves as ideas for future blog posts. This was one that caught my eye:

Describe your first experience with death. Was it with a family member? Pet?

I can think of several answers to that question.

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30 day song challenge: day 04 – a song that makes you sad

Current status: splitting headache, so I’m going to be lazy and revert to my easy-to-write “30 day song challenge” meme. Ugh. I still feel queasy, too. Not a good day. Shutting up about self, writing about music.

Pink Floyd’s Hey You was my joint-favourite from The Wall with Comfortably Numb. For many years they’ve competed to be my Favourite Song Of All Time: each is absolutely emotionally devastating. They don’t so much tug at your heartstrings as rip them out, stick them through a cheese grater and then pour vinegar all over them. Continue reading

Stayin’ Alive In The Wall

One of my earliest musical memories is of Pink Floyd taking the Christmas number one spot in 1979. Two of the albums I played most in my childhood were The Wall (which I got into when I was ten) and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, which was a permanent fixture in our house. I certainly remember spinning around to You Should Be Dancing when I was five or so. Continue reading

Sax appeal

I had a dream last night in which my friend Matt bought me an oboe. I was distinctly told it was an oboe, though in recollection it looked more like a clarinet. He seemed terribly pleased with himself, and I gamely tried to learn how to play it, knowing all the while that – like whistling – the best I can achieve from any wind instrument is a vague “phoo” sound. Thus, it’s pretty lucky that I never fell in love with the saxophone.

Most of the world fell out of love with the saxophone in the 90s, and it’s taken 20 years for the new Summer of Sax to appear.

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