10 Records in 10 Days: Day Nine

19 Feb

Welcome back to 10 Records in 10 Days. A Facebook chain-turned 10 day blog series. The concept is simple. ”Post an album a day covering your 10 all time favourite albums. What really made an impact and is still on your rotation list, even if only now and then? Post the cover, no need to explain, and nominate a person each day to do the same”.

We’ve been nominated but rather than post without explanation, we thought it would be more fun to provide a little context. That is just the first of the rules we plan to break in this series. We are also not nominating anyone else (if you want to join in, you are more than welcome to do so) and we are also not adhering to any of the other implied rules either.

For the purpose of this series, we’ll be posting in the first person.

Day nine brings me to an album that really, I could have posted tomorrow.


Pearl Jam – Ten

There are many things I can and cannot do. One that I most definitely cannot do is sing. Listening to Ten, I not only think I can sing, I think I can sing like Eddie Vedder. So I do. Loudly.

It is another of my flat out favourites. It was a vast album at the time of release and it still sounds massive now. Even though the subject matter is heavy (homelessness, depression, loneliness and suicide, for example) each of the songs is absolutely huge.

There is definitely an element of nostalgia in my love for Ten. It was part of my musical sponge period where I soaked up everything, it was a massive hit with all my friends (as it was for so many others – 20 million copies sold) and would remain so long into our later teens and driving years. We would drive along and sing (loudly) to each track.

Despite being released before Nirvana’s seminal breakthrough, it is often derided and accused of riding Nevermind’s coattails. Yet Ten actually serves as a bridge from what went before to the harder, more impenetrable sound of Nevermind. It’s more melodic, more accessible and (whisper it) probably better. Certainly I would argue that, having not had the critical acclaim or hysteria that Nevermind did, the vast majority of Ten’s 20 million sales came from people who liked and wanted to own it. Rather than people who think they should own it.

There’s a reason Pearl Jam were considered one of the biggest bands in the world, and it wasn’t just because of the grunge explosion. Ten is full to bursting with incredible, epic songs. Like most of the albums featured in this series, it has aged well and I don’t think that is just the nostalgia talking.

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10 Records in 10 Days: Day Eight

18 Feb

Welcome back to 10 Records in 10 Days. A Facebook chain-turned 10 day blog series. The concept is simple. ”Post an album a day covering your 10 all time favourite albums. What really made an impact and is still on your rotation list, even if only now and then? Post the cover, no need to explain, and nominate a person each day to do the same”.

We’ve been nominated but rather than post without explanation, we thought it would be more fun to provide a little context. That is just the first of the rules we plan to break in this series. We are also not nominating anyone else (if you want to join in, you are more than welcome to do so) and we are also not adhering to any of the other implied rules either.

For the purpose of this series, we’ll be posting in the first person.

Day eight is an album that is flat out one of my all time favourites, one that makes regular appearances on the stereo and one that I never, ever, tire of hearing.


Air – Moon Safari

Whereas most of the previous seven albums in this series have brought about some grand musical awakening within me, Air’s Moon Safari caused no such epiphany. The impact it had on me was a simple one, I absolutely adored it. As did many, many others, judging by its near ubiquitous nature in 1998 and the several gagillion copies it sold. Yet while many others will have long since lost their copies or filed it away in the section of their record collection marked ‘dinner party tunes’, I still have my original CD and I still play it on a regular basis.

Back in 1998 I was struggling heavily with depression, I was not in the best of places socially and on a slow spiral that would ultimately lead me to dropping out of university and plunging further into a bleak world of my minds making. These are not the times that positive memories are made or in which uplifting musical associations prosper. Yet Moon Safari endures, it’s tranquility and beauty providing me with moments of peace and calm at an otherwise tumultuous time. Even listening now I find myself soothed by the melodies and soft, loungey synths and I’m taken to a place of relative contentment.

That aside, another reason I love this album so much is that it is full of absolutely divine pop songs. There are moments of tenderness, of heartfelt emotion and warmth. The soft lilting vocals of Beth Hirsch help give the tracks both a poignancy and a lullaby quality that could melt even the stoniest of hearts.

Moon Safari is an heavenly, dreamy album that I still love getting lost in and that still sounds as beautiful now as it did on release.

10 Records in 10 Days: Day Seven

17 Feb

Welcome back to 10 Records in 10 Days. A Facebook chain-turned 10 day blog series. The concept is simple. ”Post an album a day covering your 10 all time favourite albums. What really made an impact and is still on your rotation list, even if only now and then? Post the cover, no need to explain, and nominate a person each day to do the same”.

We’ve been nominated but rather than post without explanation, we thought it would be more fun to provide a little context. That is just the first of the rules we plan to break in this series. We are also not nominating anyone else (if you want to join in, you are more than welcome to do so) and we are also not adhering to any of the other implied rules either.

For the purpose of this series, we’ll be posting in the first person.

Day seven takes me back to my primary school years and the first proper album I can remember owning.


Pet Shop Boys – Introspective

I was 10 years old when Introspective was released. At the same time, my listening was dominated by whatever was in the charts, including a lot of very, very cheesy pop (Glenn Medeiros anyone?). Given their success previously, listening to the charts should have exposed me to the Pet Shop Boys but instead it was thanks to a girl at my primary school that I heard them.

The combination of brightly coloured cover and her continual excitement about the music resulted in me borrowing her tape and then buying my own copy. I’m pretty sure this is where my enduring love of synth-pop first began.

Introspective was only six songs long, but the songs and arrangements were incredible. I didn’t appreciate at the time that these were 12” mixes and that the use of orchestration was fairly unusual, I just thought the pop songs and sounds were absolutely amazing. From the very start it was clear this was no “I Should Be So Lucky”. “Left To My Own Devices” begins like some strange hybrid scandinavian opera / Bond theme before breaking down into the most infectious and danceable pop tune around. Immediately the tone was set as Neil and Chris took me into their world.

I felt like I was in some mysterious and special world. I was 10, I had little knowledge of the world around me or how popular the Pet Shop Boys actually were. All I knew was that only a couple of people in my school knew who they were so that immediately made them cool. This feeling was only magnified when I saw Patsy Kensit and Eighth Wonder playing “I’m Not Scared: on Top of the Pops. The notion of cover versions was alien to me and, having heard the Pet Shop Boys version beforehand, I felt like I was in on some great secret that no one else knew.

At 10 years old, there were an awful lot of lyrical references that went way over my head, but I still knew the words, still sang along and still wanted to play the album again and again. The melodies and hooks were something else entirely and I have been a fan ever since.

10 Records in 10 Days: Day Six

16 Feb

Welcome back to 10 Records in 10 Days. A Facebook chain-turned 10 day blog series. The concept is simple. ”Post an album a day covering your 10 all time favourite albums. What really made an impact and is still on your rotation list, even if only now and then? Post the cover, no need to explain, and nominate a person each day to do the same”.

We’ve been nominated but rather than post without explanation, we thought it would be more fun to provide a little context. That is just the first of the rules we plan to break in this series. We are also not nominating anyone else (if you want to join in, you are more than welcome to do so) and we are also not adhering to any of the other implied rules either.

For the purpose of this series, we’ll be posting in the first person.

Day six sees a return to the theme of musical awakenings and my first exposure to the artist who would become my all time favourite.


Prince and the New Power Generation – Diamonds and Pearls

Like most kids in the late 80’s and early 90’s, a lot of my music came from the charts on Sunday night. Listening to and taping the tracks to play back again and again. This meant that, in all honesty, a lot of the music I listened to was not great. I was exposed to a lot of Stock Aitken and Waterman produced cheesy pop as well as songs that got a lot of exposure via the massive hit movies of the day.

So, when I headed on up to secondary school and heard Bowie properly for the first time, my mind was expanded and like a sponge, I started to suck in and absorb everything and anything I could. This lead to me listening to the likes of Belly and Sugar but also anything else my friends were enjoying. This was a period when most kids in my year had access to a walkman and most kids had headphones that could be shared. This meant lots of secret listening in class and at lunchtime and a lot of sharing of tapes.

While most of my friends at the time were experimenting with rock (Guns N’ Roses, Skid Row, Iron Maiden etc) or dance and rave (Prodigy etc), one kid leant me a tape of something entirely different.

Prince was an artist I was aware of, but never really heard before. I missed the highs of Purple Rain and Sign ‘o’ the Times so never really knew what the fuss was about. Diamonds and Pearls would change all that forever.

While to many it marked the beginning of a downward spiral, Diamonds and Pearls was a highpoint in my pop music listening. It was so damn funky, so engaging and, frankly, so enlightening. This heady mix of musical styles, religion and sex was quite the revelation to this early teen at his all boys school.

As I was veering away from pop music, Diamonds and Pearls brought me back in and showed me it could be something so much more. There was funk, there was dance, there was jazz and there was hip hop, all present and to the fore, yet this was still undeniably a pop record. It was music I was familiar with and loved, yet unlike anything I had heard before. Who was this guy and how was he able to make such music, and how on earth was he able to sing the way he did?

I had to know more and set about buying more Prince records over the coming years, learning more about him and falling more and more in love with him. One of the first things I ever looked up online when I went to university (in a computer room, with a fellow student showing me what the internet was and how it worked) was Prince.

Diamonds and Pearls is not the best Prince album, it is not really even my favourite, but it is one of them and it is the one that I have the biggest personal connection with. It had such an impact on me that without it, such a massive part of my musical world would not exist. From the tiny acorn of sneaking a listen at the back of a Chemistry lesson, a massive oak tree of fandom and appreciation grew. It was Diamonds and Pearls that made me fall for Prince, and lead to him being (hands down, with only Bowie close) my absolute favourite artist of all time.

10 Records in 10 Days: Day Five

15 Feb

Welcome back to 10 Records in 10 Days. A Facebook chain-turned 10 day blog series. The concept is simple. ”Post an album a day covering your 10 all time favourite albums. What really made an impact and is still on your rotation list, even if only now and then? Post the cover, no need to explain, and nominate a person each day to do the same”.

We’ve been nominated but rather than post without explanation, we thought it would be more fun to provide a little context. That is just the first of the rules we plan to break in this series. We are also not nominating anyone else (if you want to join in, you are more than welcome to do so) and we are also not adhering to any of the other implied rules either.

For the purpose of this series, we’ll be posting in the first person.

Day five brings a much more recent record than the previous four days. It also brings a record that pretty much kickstarted my whole ‘write about music’ thing.


Delphic – Acolyte

Since its release in 2010, Delphic’s Acolyte has been a permanent fixture on each and every device I own. More than any other album it is the one I love listening on my headphones to the most and it is the one I love to walk to. From the opening bars of “Clarion Call’ and the gentle ebbing build of synth on synth that explodes at the 1.28 mark into a vast, euphoric blit of electronics and beats, I am roused into a sense of energy and powerfulness. It’s my aural Sword of Grayskull.

This is an album that feels ultra modern yet deliciously retro at the same time. Melodic, full of pinpoint accurate electronic attacks on your senses blended with smooth synth-harmonies, Acolyte reaches back into the 80’s and channels the high points of both New Order and the Pet Shop Boys with some of U2’s anthemic pop thrown in for good measure.

No matter how many times I listen, it still reaches in and penetrates soul and positively affects my mood. It’s got to the point now where each of the 10 tracks feels like a familiar friend. I remember previous listens, previous walks through darkness, or snow, or bright sunshine, weaving through the streets of the city, each song a soundtrack to my journey.

The guitars give the sound a frenetic indie-pop feel as they supercharge the synths that flash and fire with laser like precision. It’s a fabulous collection of individual tracks, but more than that it is a superbly crafted album that works as a single holistic entity. Like the best night out you’ve ever had, it keeps building and building to the blissful euphoria of “Counterpoint”, before settling into the chilled out come down of “Ephemera” and “Remain”.

Listening now, again, the feelings are the same as they were when I first heard Acolyte eight years ago. I can’t listen without smiling, without tapping my feet or nodding my head or without bopping along in some form or another.

It’s strange, all the new records I discover now, for all the records I listened to as a kid, for and the impact each one has had, for the memories and the awakenings that they brought, perhaps more than any other, Acolyte feels like it is my album.