The Ten Album Tag

You might have seen the Facebook meme “Post the artwork of one of your favourite albums that you still listen to every day for ten days”. I was tagged by my buddy Derek, but as I’d inevitably forget to post something for ten days in a row, I’ll whack ’em all in one blog.

The Facebook post also says “No explanation required” but GUESS WHAT we’re not on Facebook.

Automatic For The People – R.E.M.

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I waxed lyrical about this album here. Still has the same effect on me as it did seventeen years ago.

Oregon – Broadway Calls

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I discovered Broadway Calls when they were supporting Alkaline Trio in Glasgow. It’s the first time I’ve genuinely really enjoyed a support band. Their debut album is still one of my favourite pop-punk records ever.

The Sickness – Disturbed

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“Shout 2000” was playing on repeat when I got my first tattoo and it led me to the rest of the album. There’s not a bad track on it.

Take This To Your Grave – Fall Out Boy

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Call me a purist, but I really don’t like Fall Out Boy’s new stuff. I’m a pre-hiatus person. TTTYG is the absolute pinnacle of Fall Out Boy for me. If you want my high school aesthetic on one album, this is it. I love it.

Good Mourning – Alkaline Trio

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One of the soundtracks of my high school life. It’s dark and creepy and sinister and somehow really sweet in parts. Lyrically glorious.

 

Nevermind – Nirvana

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I was a classic disaffected, miserable teenager, and I discovered Nirvana at pretty much the right time. First Teen Spirit, then “Come As You Are”, but my favourite was and still is “Breed”.

Peter Bradley Adams

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I stumbled across Peter Bradley Adams on one of my first forays into World of Warcraft. It was autumn, the sun was going down, and I was sitting in my bedroom listening to Leavetaking. You know how some songs slam you back into the moment? “I’ll Forget You”, running around a cornfield saving things.

After the Party – The Menzingers

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The Menzingers are one of the best bands around at the moment, and this is a genuinely flawless album. It covers the awkward period around turning thirty, when you’re not young or old and feel lost, and includes “Lookers” –  probably my most listened to song on Spotify.

Heartland – Runrig

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I found this on vinyl in my house and it had an effect on me that very few albums ever had. Listening to “The Wire” on a cold, midwinter evening made all of my hair stand on end. Plus “Cnoc Na Feille” is THE creepiest song ever written. I accept no substitute.

Stunt – Barenaked Ladies

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My mum really started my love for Barenaked Ladies. Stunt is my favourite of their albums – it starts with the classic “One Week” and includes my favourite track, “Light Up My Room”. Everything in between is sweet and irreverent and pretty good fun.

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There you go Derek! If anyone else wants to do this, consider yourself tagged.

Book Spotlight | Guitar Girl by Sarra Manning

Fame never comes for free, and Molly’s about to find out what it costs.

Guitar Girl

Guitar Girl is one of my all time favourite YA books. An underrated classic.

Molly is a seventeen year old who, along with her friends Jane and Tara wants nothing more than to be noticed for something. Anything. Even if you’re as anxiety-ridden a teen as I was, that’s relatable. So they start a band, pick up a couple of rude and aloof boys on the way, and boom. Fame, success and Molly is suddenly, and increasingly reluctantly in the shoes of her grrrl rock icon, Ruby X. I was fourteen when this book came out and I’m pretty sure I was given a copy not long after it was released. Everyone knew my aesthetic, even then.

If you like YA and you haven’t read this book, I would thoroughly recommend it. Molly is badass and vulnerable in equal measure and her narrative is spiky and relatable and warm. It’s the dream of learning three chords on the guitar and changing the world, and the nightmare of losing control of everything you stand for. Plus there are mysterious terribly-behaved boys, the dangerous side of fame and excess, and a song about Hello Kitty. Every box ticked.

On that note, if you want a cool girl band singing songs about relatable shit, may I recommend “Hey Siri, Open Tinder” by Childbirth. You’re welcome.

Swim Until You Can’t See Land.

What if I’m never thrown that rope?/And what if that tear in my side just pours and pours and pours?

Scott Hutchison’s songs are intertwined with miserable nights I’ve spent disassociated from the rest of the world. Yes, I Would when I thought things would never get better. Candlelit when I thought I’d never be loved again. Swim Until You Can’t See Land when I’d come out into the sun like some newborn baby animal, blinking at the future. The Twist when it was all too much.

The songs were a revelation in times of trouble, a twanging cord of kinship between me in my bedroom and this man who was able to articulate every nuance of emotion I was feeling but couldn’t speak.

It’s a lonely experience when you struggle with your mental health. It hurts in places you can’t put your hands on to heal, places you can’t even pinpoint, leaving you chasing ghosts. I’ve spent the past two days thinking about all the times I’ve listened to the same Frightened Rabbit song on repeat because they’ve spun my feelings into a fine silk thread and used it to stitch up my wounds.

I’ve feel like I’ve lost a friend. I never met him, but Scott Hutchison knew me better than I knew myself. He told me what I was feeling when I couldn’t unravel it, helped me lay it out and work through it. I hope that, wherever we go after we die, he is at peace now. And I hope that somehow he’ll know that everyone who listened to Frightened Rabbit carries a tiny piece of his music in their soul. I know I do.

And while I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth.

Ten Songs, Ten Memories

Inspired by Rhianna at Love Forty Down, I’ve compiled a wee list of ten songs that carry particular memories for me. My life has been soundtracked for as long as I can remember, and there are so many songs that pick me up and dump me unceremoniously in places that I’ve been…some that I would rather not be any more.

But we won’t talk about that. Let’s do some fun ones!

Crazy Crazy Nights – Kiss

This was my favourite song when I was about four. I used to sit on the living room floor with my dad’s enormous headphones on my little head, a copy of The Best Rock Album In The World…Ever in my hands. I’d read the track listing trying to match words like Genesis and The Cult and Alice Cooper to the songs, but Kiss were my favourite./

Just The Way I’m Feeling – Feeder

I had a miserable time in high school, so much so that it all kind of blends from day ayo dy. My clearest memory is sitting on the bus on the way home feeling completely numb, summer rain on the window, listening to this song.

Like a G6 – Far East Movement

I was a student when this came out, so naturally it was on in the student union every single night. It’s strange, really, the physical reactions that memories produce. I can’t hear this one without the taste of dry ice and cheap vodka building up on my tongue.

I’m glad I’m a gin drinker now.

Drop The Pilot – Joan Armatrading

When I was little (like, REALLY little) and we had a car with a cassette player and a tape my dad got for free at a Texaco garage. Literally the only time I can remember listening to it was on the way to see my granny and granda in Inverness. It had Tears for Fears, Big Country, Hothouse Flowers and The Commitments on it, but nothing drags me back to sitting in the back seat going up the A9, looking for landmarks like “The Funny Bridge”.

The Wire  – Runrig

I still haven’t recovered from the first time I heard The Wire, sitting in my bedroom one December evening with the rain against the window. This is the most beautiful song in the Runrig canon. It’s an ode to Scotland’s history and it stops my heart.

I couldn’t find a video that did it justice, but you should look it up on Spotify.

The Year One title music from Destiny

Destiny 2 is a crippling disappointment, but for all of the flaws the original game had…the experience of playing it for the first time, the friends I made and the good times we had means that this makes my arms prickle.

One by One – Cher

This was my first favourite song. My dad taped it off the radio for me and I sat with those big headphones on again and listened to it for god knows how long.

I must have been a really easy child to keep quiet. Also you can see that my eclectic music tastes are nothing new.

Star Me Kitten – R.E.M.

The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite was the first R.E.M. song I ever heard, but Star Me Kitten is the one that takes me places. I took a copy of Automatic For The People with me to New York when I was nine and Star Me Kitten with its choir background and soft vocals reminds me of lying on the grass in the sun, and big old houses, and trips to Martha’s Vineyard.

Cotton-Eye Joe – Rednex

Listen, Cotton-Eye Joe is a great song and I won’t hear any argument. I was four when this came out and I distinctly remember dancing about the living room with my sister over and over. And over and over.

My poor mother. No wonder she drinks.

There was a version of the song on the original single that we used to call the “Funny Language One”, and for years I was terrified that we were inadvertently being horribly offensive until I looked it up now that it’s just the verse played backwards. I’m both mortified and relieved.

Cid’s Theme – Final Fantasy VII soundtrack

When I first started going out with Sean, this was his alarm sound on his phone, and let me tell you I still can’t hear the opening bars of this song without my heart doing that awful thing it does when it’s dark and your alarm goes off and you’re wishing for the great hell abyss to swallow you so you don’t have to get out of bed.

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Please tell me what ten songs bring back your favourite memories because I love music. Or tell me your favourite song. Either is good.

Music Spotlight | Genesis – Mama

Can’t you feel my heart?

When I was little, my parents had an CD called “The Best Rock Album in the World…Ever!” It was my favourite. I listened to Crazy Crazy Nights by Kiss over and over. More Than A Feeling was my jam.

There were two songs on this album that gave me the first taste of what music can do, because they were so dark and insidious sounding to my four-year-old brain that they genuinely terrified me. One was Inside by Stiltskin.

The other was Mama.

Originally believed by some people (including the band’s manager) to be from the point of view of a foetus pre-abortion, it’s actually about a young man who has an Oedipal obsession with an older prostitute. It’s been over twenty years since I first heard it and between the sinister drum track, the synth, that laugh and what sounds like Phil Collins having a nervous breakdown halfway through it still makes the back of my neck prickle every time I listen to it.

Here’s the video. C R E E P Y.

Anyway, I know it’s deeply uncool for some reason but I really like Phil Collins. Peace.

Music Spotlight | Grimes – Belly of the Beat

I was introduced to Grimes during the Jukebox Game in the car on the way to GP Liverpool last year. The Jukebox Game is how I like to handle the music choices on long road trips with multiple car occupants: everyone takes a turn picking a song and I man the Spotify account. Dave asked for Belly of the Beat, and I was HOOKED.

I love Grimes’ voice and how she can go from cute to aggressive to plain weird in the space of one song, but Belly of the Beat is ethereal and floaty sounding and a hard shot through my veins speaking right to my soul at the same time.

“And you never get sad, and you never get sick, and you never feel weak…”

Drop into my comments and let’s talk about Art Angels pls.

Disney music: the PBPR Hall of Fame

Disney is universal. Enchanting to children and adults alike. Setting unrealistic expectations for men. I personally am thoroughly disappointed every time I remember that Sean didn’t morph from a large beast to a man before my very eyes.

A big appeal of the Disney movies is the music. Even if you loathe the films (does anyone?) you can’t deny that the music is incredible. Let’s go on a little adventure through some of the best examples.

Tarzan

First things first: Tarzan is the most underrated Disney film of all time. Tarzan should be on every list for everything. It’s got BRIAN BLESSED in it, for the love of god, why isn’t this film HUGE.

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GO-RI-LLA.

It’s also got my favourite soundtrack. The Phil Collins fandom might the most uncool, but please join me in here, because the music is worthy of inclusion in every Disney playlist.

It’s the best. Fight me.

The Lion King

This doesn’t even need any text.

Mulan

Let’s get down to business. (To defeat…THE HUNS.)

Make A Man Out of You is the obvious classic, but the rest are pretty spot on as well. What do we want? (Reply in the comments or I’ll be sad.)

Oliver and Company

Oliver and Company is great. It’s got dogs, a tiny kitten, all of the above starring in a retelling of Oliver Twist. What’s not to like?

If that wasn’t enough to sway you, the dog version of the Artful Dodger is voiced by Billy Joel. Yep. Plus Better Midler is in it. And Huey Lewis sings the song at the start. YEP.

Moana

Obviously.

As well as being the prettiest of the Disney films, this ramped its way up to number two in my all time favourites list. The soundtrack is QUALITY. It’s got Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson singing You’re Welcome. It’s got that weird Shiny song, which didn’t float my boat (heh) at all when I first saw the movie, but it’s grown on me.

This is my favourite, though.

Brave

When you get past the accents of questionable authenticity (“It’s jist ma booooow”) the soundtrack to Brave is AMAZING. I love Julie Fowlis, so imagine how here for Brave I was when I found out she was singing on the soundtrack.

Hercules

Find me a song that’s more fun to belt out than BLESS MY SOUL, HERC IS ON A ROLL, PERSON OF THE WEEK IN EVERY GREEK OPINION POLL. This is Sean’s favourite Disney film, and another one that sadly seems to have slipped into the depths of obscurity compared to some of the others.

Sean will tell me off for not putting Go the Distance in here but I DON’T CARE, the vase/vase line in this makes me laugh.

Movies that I deliberately didn’t feature, before everyone goes “But what about THIS one:

  • Frozen. Overrated.
  • Dumbo. I have a Pavlovian response to Baby Mine in that I crumple into a wreck whenever I hear it.
  • Robin Hood and Pocahontas. NEARLY made it though.
  • Any of the Princessy Classic Ones. Purely because they’ve only got like two songs per movie and that on that basis alone they have flawless soundtracks and it’s not fair.
  • Beauty and the Beast. Forgive me, Angela Lansbury.
  • The Little Mermaid. Forgive me, my sister.

Please flame me and tell me what’s not on here that should be. Thanks!

Hey Kids, Rock & Roll: a love letter to the album that changed my life.

Alright folks, buckle up, to mark the 25th birthday of one of the greatest albums of all time we’re going into the past. It’s going to be like an episode of Doctor Who, but without any green screen.

One of my earliest memories is listening to Michael Stipe singing The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight and thinking that whatever bastardised version of the lyrics I came up with was the title of the song. This carried on until I was nine years old, when I picked up a copy of Automatic For The People and took it the US with a CD Walkman. It was the only CD I brought along on that two week holiday. I only knew that one song. Bit of a leap of faith.

I remember bits and pieces of that trip. The vineyard wedding, the carousel in Martha’s Vineyard. Poison Ivy in the garden. My sister being ill on the last night in the top bunk.

But the whole experience was soundtracked by that album.

It’s hard to underestimate the impact Automatic For The People has had on my life. It sparked a lifelong obsession: I came home and accumulated every single R.E.M. release I could possibly find, starting with the newly released Reveal. I wouldn’t go anywhere without that CD Walkman and a hard black case full of discs, in case I wanted to switch from Green to Fables of the Reconstruction.

There were at least four years where the only albums I ever bought were R.E.M. records.

It was the soundtrack of years where the divide between what was cool and what was not became a gaping canyon, around the time I began to realise that I couldn’t sing or dance or play football. I tested out of primary school spelling tests and won an award for being the most exceptional pupil in my year (I’m not bragging, that’s literally what it says on the certificate) but I fit somewhere between the girls and the boys, accepted by neither. Which when I was nine, was a lonely place to be.

It took a long time – as in, into my late teens and early twenties – before I came to be comfortable with who I was. It was music that took me there, bands that would lead me further down this path that Buck, Mills, Berry and Stipe started me on. Nirvana, Rancid, Green Day, Nine Inch Nails. Bands that have shaped my tastes, my writing, my life. Something to run through my head when times were dark, or just a song that I fell in love with on the first listen and repeated over, and over, and over.

I’m now 26. Those opening notes of Drive still make my arms prickle. I have argued with people until I can feel my pulse in my neck about whether Everybody Hurts is a depressing song. (Have you people even listened to the lyrics?) I’m trying to convince Sean to make a stop in Georgia on our honeymoon to the US so we can go to Weaver D’s. (The diner with the “Automatic For The People” sign that inspired the album title.) It all started, this common thread that has run entwined with my memories and my life, with an Alba portable CD player in an old house in New Paltz, surrounded by unfamiliar street names and sunlight.

I’ve had favourite songs since then. I’ve had favourite albums. But none of them have ever blown the doors in my life open quite like this one, and I’m quite sure none ever will.

So here’s to you, Automatic For The People, in all your jangly baroque glory. You’re still my go-to choice when I need a record I can sit through without skipping a single song, you still set off an abundance of emotions in me, and I’m still finding new things I didn’t know. For an album that’s nearly as old as I am – and that I’ve been coveting for over fifteen years – that’s pretty good going.