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.

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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.

10 Records in 10 Days: Day Four

14 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.

Having looked back over the first three entries, a theme of being exposed to new musical types and genres appears to be emerging. Day four is no different.


Jurassic 5 – Jurassic 5

I’m not going to lie. Hip hop and rap was never really my thing. Sure, I was exposed to the odd chart bothering track here and there (“Gangsta’s Paradise”, “I Got 5 On It” and the like) but it was never a genre I went delving into properly. From the outside it all appeared to be insanely braggadocious and all about guns, gangs and girls. It just didn’t appeal. Then one evening, I was out with some friends, over at a friend of a friends house, having a low key kind of evening where everyone was chilled out, and then someone put the Jurassic 5 LP on and I was blown away.

I’d never known Hip-Hop could sound like this. The next day I went straight out to my local Our Price (google it kids) and bought my own copy.

I’d soon learn of the influences and pioneers that had come before, but this multi-MC approach was entirely new to me. The feel was more lo-tempo, more relaxed. There were melodies and while the beat was essential, it wasn’t as in your face and bludgeoning as the stuff I had been exposed to previously.

The lyrical dexterity and interchanging vocals was incredible. The harmonies and breathless rat-a-tat flow, “taking four MCs and make them sound like one” was head-spinningly brilliant. More than that though, the whole thing was as infectious as any pop record, with hooks you couldn’t get out of your head. “Concrete Schoolyard” became a firm favourite and the lyrics even infiltrated the lexicon of my university friends. Even the skits and the samples were ingrained into me.

As with each album in this series so far, Jurassic 5 opened up a whole new musical world to me. From here I went back in time and discovered a whole new style of hip-hop and rap music that had been previously hidden from me. The likes of the Sugarhill Gang, Rakim and Nas came into my life all thanks to Jurassic 5.

10 Records in 10 Days: Day Three

13 Feb

Welcome back to 10 Albums 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 two saw me break an implied rule, day three sees me back on the straight and narrow and back into the mid-nineties for one of my teenage self’s absolute favourites and most listened to.


Sugar – Copper Blue

1992 was the year everything was going to change. British politics was coming to a watershed moment, a tipping point following a recession and constant talk of Maastricht and euro-rebels meant that even an politically ambivalent young teen such as I could tell something was afoot. As it was, the changes that came about were not so monumental, the political status-quo was surprisingly maintained and life continued much as it had in the preceding year or two. The changes that did occur were on a much smaller but no less seismic scale.

For this young guy in his formative and impressionable years, a change in friendships brought about an introduction to something new. While I had found Bowie and others like him in the past, my new found friends were focusing on the present and new found sounds from the pages of the likes of Melody Maker and Select magazine. It was through them and these oracles that I found Sugar and a whole new guitar sound.

Copper Blue brought punk to a whole new audience. To my young and uneducated mind punk was about mohawks, safety pins through your nose and screaming incoherent anger set to a discordant and anarchic din that was almost incomprehensible to anyone listening. This was different though; this had melodies and hooks galore, it was catchy and compulsive. It was punk-pop and I loved it.

Bob Mould’s guitars are thick and heady, it was unlike anything I’d heard at the time. It grinds and throbs like a heart made of gears. The drums aren’t so much played as beaten to within an inch of their life, cymbals crash like broken glass as those guitars rev up like a giant American muscle car.

In my older years Copper Blue has become a staple of the car, perfect for driving and singing along to with reckless enthusiasm (the singing, not the driving). The steering wheel is my drum kit and the throaty roar of the car’s engine (I really should get that checked) complements the relentless energy of the guitar riffs.

Each of its 10 tracks is a glorious achievement in the field of infectious alt-rock. It traverses a line so thin that it is barely visible to the naked eye, a line that sits between mainstream friendly pop song lovers and the grungey, flannel shirt wearing ‘cooler’ kids that were just starting to find their way out of the shadows.

While I didn’t wear the flannel and certainly wasn’t a cool kid, Copper Blue saw me start to find my way out of the shadows and into this new world. A world that would soon see me going to my first gig (see Day One) and broadening my musical horizons still further.