Around this time two weeks ago, shortly after posting my review of Basement’s Further Sky EP my half-decade old laptop inexplicably died, and remains dead, sitting on my bookcase waiting for a quick eBay sale after a hard drive wipe. Thankfully I keep all of my music safely backed up on an external hard drive, so I’ve spent the last week or so moving files onto a new laptop, which is incredibly tedious and dull but much more preferable to starting from scratch. It’s times like these when I tend to hate myself for having so much music, because 250GB is purely a number until it comes to sifting through and moving it all. It’s been a long week, but the mammoth job was made slightly easier by music, which may seem ironic considering music was what was making it so painful in the first place. I had my record player, and as I waited for iTunes to locate 34,000 files ten at a time at least I had something to listen to.
Alkaline Trio – From Here To Infirmary When I was around 15 I spent a week working at a music store as part of school-encouraged work experience. It was a shop in my hometown which specialised in instruments (I bought my bass there when I fancied myself as the next Mark Hoppus), and I remember the store having this great sound setup – top of the range speakers and CD players – it wouldn’t be much of a music store if it didn’t. The guy who ran the place particularly loved From Here To Infirmary and during that week I got my first full taste of spirited punk music, primarily from hours of exposure to Alkaline Trio’s third record on a daily basis. Whilst my friends were making coffee for men in suits or keeping five-year old kids under control in primary schools I was soaking in From Here To Infirmary, and it’s still a record I love dearly as a result of that week of work experience – Crawl and Stupid Kid were somehow exactly what I’d unknowingly been waiting to discover at that time. I remember being disappointed when that week ended, but I left with a list of similar artists written by the manager, and I still owe him for that. I’m still not entirely sure my contributions that week merited some sort of reward.
The Dillinger Escape Plan – Option Paralysis I picked up this particular record when I was
on holiday in Holland, from a record shop called Distortion Records (http://www.distortion.nl/). I’d only been buying vinyl for a few months, and I don’t live near enough stores as vinyl-centric as this one, so I remember the place well, because it was the first opportunity I’d had to really ‘explore’ in a record store, I just had to go to another country to do it. I remember the guy who ran the shop leaving for around ten minutes whilst I was in there, and he asked me to look after the store in his absence. Thankfully, the few Dutch people who came in also spoke English. Option Paralysis isn’t my favourite Dillinger record, but I consider it be their most impressive musically speaking. It’s still stunningly chaotic, but it’s also there most thoughtful in a sense. The bands manic aspect has always appealed to me (I remember hearing Miss Machine) as a teen and being floored, but the bands fourth LP sees them step things up a level, and even though I was already five years familiar it still surprised me. Songs like Farewell, Mona Lisa and Widower stand out; I love the piano led backbone of the shape shifting latter, and the former perfectly showcases the insanity I’d come to expect of the band, stretching it out over an electrifying five and a half minutes.
Keaton Henson – Birthdays After the craziness of Dillinger it seemed necessary to tone things down a notch, and bar a few more adventurous songs on Birthdays Keaton Henson’s music is as relaxing as it gets. I hadn’t heard of Keaton until an email from Kaninchen a few months back mentioned him as a comparison, a FFO sort of deal. I went onto YouTube to see if they were right and found his single Sweetheart, What Have You Done To Us – a delicate, humbling track which remains one of my favorites on his second album. I haven’t heard many vocalists like Keaton before, his delivery is very high-pitched, and it complements perfectly the wintery sounds that populate his albums. Often over plucked electric guitars he croons and laments tales of heartbreak and love, with The Best Today and You especially haunting, whilst the record’s B-side throws in a few ballsy rock moments like the towering final minute of Don’t Swim. Birthdays is a truly sublime piece of music, vulnerable with plenty of heart, and it’s a record I’ve listened to heavily since picking it up – magic.
Fuck Buttons – Surf Solar After Fuck Buttons’ debut, Street Horrrsing was repressed earlier this year I was crossing my fingers and praying that their second, Surf Solar would receive a similar treatment. After a year or so of being teased by ridiculous prices on Discogs it finally became readily available again, and I wasted no time in completing my collection. As far as I’m concerned Surf Solar is the best electronic release I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing; it’s an absorbing plethora of sparkling synths and dazzling electronics. Playing it at full volume is like immersing yourself in a warm, digital bath, and it’s a truly staggering release in terms of ambition, and I’ve yet to hear anything from the genre which grabs me in the same way. I remember hearing the radio edit of Surf Solar courtesy of a Rocksound CD in one of their magazines and being hooked by the creativity and craft that Fuck Buttons showed in just four minutes, and I picked the CD version of Surf Solar up from a HMV in Edinburgh along with Jamie T’s Kings & Queens a few days later
Taking Back Sunday – Where You Want To Be This album passed its tenth anniversary earlier this week, and I gave it a spin for just that reason. Musically speaking it’s a big step up from the bands landmark debut Tell All Your Friends, and although I don’t value it as highly as their first, their second is much more mature whilst still delivering brilliant songs which see Taking Back Sunday grow and evolve as musicians. New American Classic is probably my favourite ‘softer’ song from the band, and tracks like A Decade Under The Influence and One-Eighty By Summer are two of their best full-stop. I can always stick this album on when I want to drift and reminisce; it’s one of those albums I strongly associate with being younger. I’m not exactly ‘getting on’ at 19, but Where You Want To Be is one of those albums which holds a fond place in my memory, very much like their debut, which remains one of my favourite albums.
The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead There seems to be a constantly ongoing debate about which record is The Smiths’ best. For the media it’s often Strangeways, Here We Come, but for myself it’ll always be The Queen Is Dead. Another record I picked up whilst on holiday, I bought this in Hull from a record shop situated inside a market hall, named ‘Spin- It Records’ (http://www.spin-it-records.co.uk/main.html) and if I’m right in my research this is one of the earlier pressings of the record, potentially the initial 1986 press, at least according to Discogs and a few forums it is. It’s slightly beat up because of its age, and the record itself skips a few times, most annoyingly during some of Morrissey’s smartest lines on the opener, but nothing dulls the charm it carries. There’s a reason The Queen Is Dead is often acknowledged as one of the best British releases of all time; it’s timeless, and even though it was released eight years before I was even born it still holds up against most modern releases 28 years on.