Admittedly this is a bit of a cliched post, but it’s a nice starter for ten, and we all love a list (apart from American serial killer John List – bit of a nasty bastard by all accounts).
1. James Yorkston – When the Haar Rolls in
Hardly surprising that former Fence Collective troubadour James Yorkston makes an appearance on here, considering it was he whom my esteemed contributor Fearghus and I were watching on Friday night (see his review of that show here). However, this is an album as fit for balmy summer days as it is long winter nights, with Yorkston at his most affecting yet, particularly on the album’s title track. Force of habit has caused me to always skip ‘Would you have me born with wooden eyes?’, though. ‘Cos it’s crap.
2. Andrew Bird – Oh! The Grandeur
A far cry from the lyrically-intricate-I-just-learnt-a-new-big-word-so-Ima-use-it-soulless-dirge the Birdman tends to put out these days, Grandeur harks back to the music hall jiving of the ’20s and ’30s, all syncopation and jazz hands. He even makes room for a Jewish funeral march. What larks!
3. The Low Anthem – Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
Ranging from the sweetest harmonies of catharsis to Tom Waits at his growling dirtiest, Charlie Darwin is perhaps, musically, one of my favourites of the last few years. Wait, no, it definitely is, that’s why it’s on the list. Ok, the words aren’t wonderful, but the singing, especially on the first two tracks, makes my many hairs stand up.
4. Leonard Cohen – New Skin for the Old Ceremony
The stalwart of wry misery, Cohen’s fourth album has some of his best lyrics: “You told me you prefer handsome men, but for me you would make an exception.” We can all associate with that. Also, the clarinet on ‘Why don’t you try?’ is irresistible.
5. Dessa – A badly broken code
She’s got a masters degree in Psychology, you know? Well, she sure knows, and uses it to perfection, combining rap, spoken word and some gorgeously-sung hooks in her flow (I’m so white). She’s clever too, some insightful stuff on here. You can’t run on “whisky and risk and ennui and impatience’, though, and she should know better.
I compiled this list by having a quick glance through my itunes, and there’s probably at least 50 more albums I really love too. Maybe more that these, even. Why is it lists are so appealing?
You can follow Neal Wallace on Twitter @nealjwallace