Friday, 29 December 2006

2006: A Year in Music [Part 5: Musical discoveries]

Here's where I give you a quick rundown of some of my musical discoveries of 2006. I won't include albums which were released in 2006 in this list as they have been covered in previous posts. But these albums have rocked my world in some way or another this year.

To make this post more interesting, I'll also include a sample MP3 from each album listed. Download them immediately, as they'll only be up for a few weeks!

Rosebuds - Birds Make Good Neighbors (2005)

There's nothing particularly innovative about this album on the surface. Dig a little deeper, and...well it's still not particularly innovative. It's just an indie-pop album, but it's an indie-pop album done particularly well. It's a male/female duo who record music in a similar vein to The Arcade Fire. Some songs remind me of a more upbeat version of Melbourne's Art Of Fighting. Catchy music, some great tunes. Nothing more, but they aren't pretending to be anything more either.

MP3: Rosebuds - Boxcar [Link Removed]

Mike Noga - Folk Songs (2005)

Mike Noga is the drummer from Melbourne-based blues-rock band The Drones. The Drones are an excellent band, but on this album Mike has provided the perfect retaliation to all those stupid drummer jokes by releasing an album of incredibly accomplished self-penned folk songs. What amazes me about this album is that despite the mellow nature of the songs on this album, every song is different enough to make it interesting enough in its own right. Mike is never afraid to let his accent shine through, resulting in an excellent folk album with an Australian twist.

MP3: Mike Noga - The battle [Link Removed]

The Wrens - The Meadowlands (2003)

This album has been an indie critics' darling since its release in 2003. All sorts of superlatives have been used to describe it, with many critics not afraid to call it a masterpiece. It took me many listens to warm to this album -- a few of the songs are lyrically a little too close to emo territory for my liking -- but when it works (like on most of the songs from the second half) it does take you along on an emotional rollercoaster in the catchiest way possible.

MP3: The Wrens - Ex-girl collection [Link Removed]

Gorky's Zygotic Mynci - Barafundle (1997)

I had a few GZM albums before I got this one -- Spanish dance troupe (1999) and How I long to feel that summer in my heart (2001). While I enjoyed those albums in their own right, they are in their essence very simplistic albums when compared with this amazing work. Before I got this album, I always considered GZM to be a bit of a hybrid band that combined the experimental work of fellow Welsh countrymen Super Furry Animals with the melodic songwriting skills of Belle & Sebastian. Judging by the sound of this album, the roots of GZM stem more from the progressive bands of the 70's and the psychedelic bands of the late 60's. This is an amazingly complex album that deserves some overdue recognition. How many bands reached their peak in 1997? A great album from a great year in music.

MP3: Gorky's Zygotic Mynci - Sometimes the father is the son [Link Removed]

The Fall - This Nation's Saving Grace (1985)

I love discovering musical gems from the 80's. That decade has such a bad reputation, but you only have to discover a band like the Smiths to realise that not everything from that era sounds like dated synth-pop. The Fall's music fits into the post-punk category, with leader Mark E. Smith providing all the attitude through his snarling vocals. What makes this album more interesting to me than traditional punk is the groove that the band manage to work each song into; it's addictive stuff.

MP3: The Fall - My new house [Link Removed]

Rod Stewart - Every Picture Tells A Story (1971)

Yes, this is that Rod Stewart. No, he wasn't always a publicity-hunting sellout. This is actually a really solid album from a remarkable vocalist. Proof that even the most daggy artists can be traced back to real talent. Released in 1971, a great year for music, this is the album that contains his hit single Maggie May (which was originally a B-side before a DJ flipped it over and turned it into a hit). Rod Stewart has real soul on this album -- the only sole [sic] he will find thesedays is on the bottom of his shoe.

MP3: Rod Stewart - Mandolin wind [Link Removed]

Richard & Linda Thompson - I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight (1974)

It's great discovering incredibly talented artists many years later. I already had this duo's swansong Shoot out the lights from 1982, and this year I picked up this, their debut album. This is a folk-rock album, alternating between the vulnerable vocals of Richard and the stunning traditional folk pipes of Linda. Richard is also an incredibly talented guitarist. Add some great songwriting into the mix, and you have the makings of one of those classics which never got as much recognition as it should have. The end of the rainbow is quite simply one of the most beautifully melancholic songs I have ever heard.

MP3: Richard & Linda Thompson - The end of the rainbow [Link Removed]

Shack - Waterpistol (1995)

Considered a bit of a "lost classic" from the Britpop era, this is also quite a difficult album to find. I was therefore pretty ecstatic when I found it at a HMV store in London when I was there earlier this year. This is a great British pop album, nothing more, nothing less. Similar in sound to the Stone Roses and the La's, it's a record that is both of its time and timeless.

MP3: Shack - Walter's song [Link Removed]

Bright Eyes - Lifted (or...) (2002)

Bright Eyes (basically a moniker for singer-songwriter Conor Oberst) is an artist that has attracted many critics. I can see why; on the surface he can give the impression of being a fairly self-obsessed whinger. But his critics are missing a very important detail; he is an incredibly accomplished songwriter. He has crafted an album of immaculately written folk-pop songs here, and if it wasn't for an overlong and whiny opening track, this album would be approaching masterpiece territory for me.

MP3: Bright Eyes - Laura Laurent [Link Removed]

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - The Tyranny of Distance (2001)

This is an incredibly top-heavy album, but the first five songs are so fantastic that they almost compensate for the quality of the rest of the album (there are some exceptions on the 2nd half, but there's no doubting that the start of the album is where the shit's happening). So while I wouldn't completely recommend this album, some of those melodies on the first half are so sweet that my list of musical discoveries of the year wouldn't be complete without mentioning this album. Under the hedge is one of the best pop songs I have heard all year -- a great example of a fantastic vocal-driven melody.

MP3: Ted Leo - Under the hedge [Link Removed]

The Libertines - Up The Bracket (2002)

I had the Libertines bundled into the same category as other "nu-rock" bands like the Strokes and the White Stripes, which meant that they really didn't interest me in the slightest. After doing a bit more researching, I realised that many of their fans thought that they deserve better than that. After getting this album, their debut, I have to agree with those fans. What this album has that elevates its over those of their peers is rock swagger. You know that intangible coolness factor that the Clash had on London Calling? This album has that in spades, and maybe having Mick Jones as producer had something to do with that. There's a surprising amount of depth to this album, and its charms reveal themselves over multiple listens. Even if Pete Doherty's life has gone to shambles lately, this album is living proof that the man has genuine talent when he applies himself.

MP3: The Libertines - Up the bracket [Link Removed]

Johnny Cash - American Recordings (1994)

This is the first album in the "American" series that the Man in Black recorded with producer Rick Rubin. It's basically Johnny and an acoustic guitar, and the album is predominantly made up of cover versions (only five of the thirteen tracks are Cash originals). What is apparent in such a minimalistic setting is how powerful the man's voice is -- he is able to convey so much emotion just through his enunciation and tone. I'm not normally a fan of "cover" albums, but this is a special recording.

MP3: Johnny Cash - Redemption [Link Removed]

Pere Ubu - The Modern Dance (1978)

You know how Amazon has that ListMania feature where customers can recommend some of their favourite albums? I saw Pere Ubu come up quite a few times, with their fans calling them one of the more influential art-rock bands of the late 70's. When I saw this (their debut album) at JB Hi Fi, I took the risk. It's a fascinating album with an incredible vibe; the best way to describe it would be a band from the original punk era with a heavy Captain Beefheart influence adding a major avant-garde element. It's weird shit but all the more fascinating because of it.

MP3: Pere Ubu - Over my head [Link Removed]

Camper Van Beethoven - Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart (1988)

My only previous knowledge of Camper Van Beethoven was that Manic Street Preachers had covered their popular song Take the skinheads bowling. I did a bit of research on them and this seemed to be the most popular choice for their best album. Considering my love for discovering lost classics from the 80's, I decided to give it a go. I can now honestly say that it's a gem of an album -- the best way to describe their sound would be a cross between the Go-Betweens and the Pogues. Strange mix? Indeed. This is quirky American underground pop at its best, with not a wasted note on the whole album.

MP3: Camper Van Beethoven - One of these days [Link Removed]

The Feelies - Crazy Rhythms (1980)

"Caffeinated pop" is the term that many people use to describe the sound of the Feelies on this album, and it's a very apt description. This album is now out of print and is therefore very rare, but I was lucky enough to snag a copy of it on eBay recently. This is tense pop music that always keeps the listener on edge, with a definite Velvet Underground influence in the vocals (the singer definitely has the Lou Reed thing happening on many of the songs). It's a fascinating listen from an underground band who were apparently a big influence on Peter Buck from R.E.M.

MP3: The Feelies - Loveless love [Link Removed]

UPDATE: Song links removed.


  1. Keep 'em comin' Jiggy, this is great stuff!

  2. Thanks Matt! I hope you (or at least someone) is grabbing the MP3s. If any of these MP3s can convince anyone to buy an album I have talked about, or at least get into an artist/album, the effort is worthwhile :)

  3. I tend not to download the mp3's (though I have done so a couple of times) as I respect your opinion - if you think something is great and the description sounds interesting then that's good enough for me. I'll go buy the album and try it out for myself.

    But I think the short-lived mp3's are a good idea even if I personally don't make much use of them...

  4. Barafundle is just brilliant. As you know, I'm a big fan of lifted, although paradoxically I still think of it as a patchy album -- nowhere near as consistent as one of his 2005 efforts, I'm Wide Awake It's Morning (an album with the last line being the title of the album in a "not quite the title track" song -- would make a great list :) ), but much more enjoyable. Jiggs and Matt, I must mention My Morning Jacket's At Dawn (2002), got it last week and it's tops. Ahoy Mateys all round.

  5. For me it's the epic sprawl of Lifted which makes it so great, and there isn't a dud in the bunch except the opening cut (which is a real pity).

    Pete, please download the Richard & Linda Thompson, Camper Van Beethoven and Feelies tracks -- I'd be very interested to know what you think of them. I think you'd especially like the sound of CVB...

  6. Ha, see my previous comment!!
    Will get the Thompson's one too.

  7. Oh yeah, also grab the Libertines one as well. And any other MP3 from this page that you haven't heard (will save me writing another comment :)


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